Famed atheist Richard Dawkins has said, “The God of the Old Testament is a monster.”1 Even Christians have had this stereotype. Jesus is gentle and meek. He turns the other cheek and is all about love and forgiveness. But God in the Old Testament, or “Yahweh,” was a different cup of tea. He is always “smiting,” a King James word for striking. He smites Pharaoh with plagues, he smites Sodom with fire, he smites Miriam with leprosy, and he smites the Assyrians with a death angel for starters.
How do we respond to Dawkins? To answer, “True, but we believe in Jesus now,” is really lame. Christians claim Jesus and Yahweh are one in the same in nature. Jesus radically proclaimed, “He who has seen me has seen the Father”2 So in Christ’s words He is identical in nature and in action with Yahweh. Let’s dust off our thinking about this. What are the things Jesus has done? Did Yahweh do those same things?
Consider What Jesus Did
Pick a random incident from the life of Jesus. One of the dramatic ones was the raising of Lazarus, who had been dead for three days. In the Gospel of John it is recorded that, “Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out…”3 Did Yahweh ever raise someone from the dead in the Old Testament? Yes, there’s the lesser known story of the resuscitation of a widows son. “The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived!”4 Okay, that one checks out, but are there more?
In another widely-known story, “About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.”5 Yahweh had not done that. How could He, not being in human form? But a parallel can be drawn. “So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!”6 Equally impressive, I must say.
Think of other events:
Jesus famed “Sermon on the Mount”; Yahweh spoke His law to Moses on Mount Sinai…
Christ drove the merchants out of the temple shortly before His crucifixion; Yahweh stirred up young King Josiah to purge the temple.
Is there anything in Jesus’ life like Dawkins’ “monster” of the Old Testament, the smiter of nations? Dare we forget the vision of Jesus in Revelation? “Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.”7
With the help of a friend, my list now stands at seventeen. There was either the same act or a parallel one in the Old Testament. For example, Yahweh did not make water into wine, but He did bring water out of a rock!
Author Philip Yancey writes, “Jesus offered a long, slow look at the face of God… We no longer have to wonder how God feels or what he is like…”8One Unique Event
Importantly, I did find one thing that is unparalleled in the Old Testament. Jesus rose from the dead never to die again. Only a human being could have died, a requirement for resurrection. Yahweh, revealing His Christlikeness, has promised that we too will rise from the dead if we trust in the Son, Jesus Christ. So let’s get our thinking straight. As one author says, “In God is no unChristlikeness at all.”9
1 - Richard Dawkins, “Darwin’s Rottweiler,” Newsweek, by Lisa Miller, Sept 26, 2009
2 - John 14:9 (New American Standard Bible or NASB)
3 - John 11:43-44 (New Living Translation or NLT)
4 - I Kings 17:22 (NLT)
5 - Matthew 14:25 (NLT)
6 - Exodus 14:22 (NLT)
7 - Revelation 19:15 (NASB)
8 - Philip Yancey, “Disappointment With God,” (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, 1988) p. 124
9 - Ibid, quoting Michael Ramsey, p 124