The Bible and genocide: the Catholic perspective

This is from the blog of Fr. Angel Sotelo, a Catholic priest who has a parish in California. He is also a popular Catholic apologist at DOMINUS PARS HÆREDITATIS MEÆ. Here in reply to a questioner, he discusses how Catholics today deal with passages in the Bible that depict God commanding genocide.

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Categories: Bible, Christianity, God

25 replies

  1. Of course God calling for genocide was just symbolic. That’s why the Crusades were just imaginary.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. you are a very naughty wolf for saying that


  3. You seem to suffer from tunnel vision on this topic.


  4. I doubt if this is the official Catholic perspective. They seem to have a wide spectrum of beliefs like the C of E.


  5. Spencer would argue that the crusades were defensive. I think he wrote a book about it.


  6. No. I take a literal view of the bible.


  7. You don’t address the problem of death occuring through other ways and means. Neither does the Koran, or Islam. It’s a simplistic view through the lens of belief or unbelief.


  8. I think the genocide order is 50% likely to be metaphorical,because in antiquity it was the custom to exaggerate a lot.The Egyptian pharaoh would write he had destroyed his enemy in a battle,not true.

    I am Catholic,there is “Bearing False Witness:Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History” by Rodney Stark(non-Catholic but Christian)(2016),great book.


  9. Now this is interesting. I wonder how prevalent this view is within Catholic circles and I wonder WHEN this view first came into being. Was this view just reactionary to modern sensibilities or has it been around back in the days when the Church did invade, torture and plunder others.

    Also seems as though they are hanging their hat on the lack of perceived historicity in those accounts. The same has actually happened for the resurrection of the many saints accounts in one of the Gospels (Matt off the top of my head). Christians are beginning to take that story figuratively. I did ask a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary about this and he said he is agnostic on it; he doesn’t know whether to take it literally of figuratively.


  10. To Mr Snow:
    There has always been discussions with different views in Christian history.The Catholic church has made mistakes,but there are views that are false.

    One is that it was oppressive in most of its history,another that it was powerful.

    The Inquisition and killing heretics didn’t appear until the 13th century,1,200 years after Jesus.The other Christian churches never killed people for heresy.

    Peter Abelard(1079-1142),after St Thomas Aquinas(1225 – 1274),the greatest medieval philosopher,was excommunicated.Considered a heretic,thrown out,but nobody said to kill him.

    There is also this:Pope Paul III in 1537,in the papal bull “Sublimis Deus”(The sublime God)(June 2,1537) condemned slavery in general.

    A papal bull is only used for the most formal or solemn of occasions,it has the pope’s signature.The 1537 one condemned the enslavement of the Amerindians by the Spaniards.Because of it Spain created the “New Laws of the Indies”(1542) that forbade Amerindian slavery.

    But the papal bull also condemned slavery for all:

    “By our Apostolic Authority decree and declare by these present letters

    that the same Indians and ALL OTHER PEOPLES,even though they are outside the faith…….should not be deprived of their liberty or their other possessions……and are NOT to be reduced to SLAVERY,

    and that whatever happens to the CONTRARY is to be considered NULL and VOID.”

    Few critics of the Catholic church know this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thomas Aquinas said that the apostate is killed.


  12. God is a righteous God. He is merciful. He is just. He will not tolerate that which he hates forever. His specific commands for His people to engage in the destruction of their enemies were just that. When his appointed hour came, he could have destroyed his killers in an instant. This is his world. I concern myself personally with trying to obey him rather than demanding he explain himself


  13. To Mr Nadir:

    Yes,sadly Aquinas was for killing heretics,apostates.There are 3 kinds of Catholics:those who are indifferent,the traditionalists,and the reformers.I am for reform:that women can be priests,priests should be able to marry,lift the ban on contraception,eliminate some doctrines like the Immaculate Conception,the Assumption of Mary,etc.

    It can happen,already the doctrine of limbo has been rejected,and that of a literal fire in hell.

    St Aquinas was AGAINST SLAVERY and SERFDOM,this appears in Rodney Stark’s book “Bearing False Witness:Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History” by Rodney Stark(non-Catholic but Christian)(2016).

    But also here,in this Christianity Today article by Stark(2003):

    Stark wrote:

    “It is significant that in Aquinas’s day, slavery was a thing of the past or of distant lands. Consequently, he gave very little attention to the subject per se, paying more attention to SERFDOM, which he held to be REPUGNANT.

    However, in his overall analysis of morality in human relationships, Aquinas placed slavery in opposition to natural law, deducing that all “rational creatures” are entitled to justice.

    Hence HE FOUND

    NO NATURAL BASIS for the ENSLAVEMENT of one person rather than another, “thus removing any possible justification for slavery based on race or religion.”

    Right reason, not coercion, is the moral basis of authority, for “one man is not by nature ordained to another as an end.”

    Here Aquinas distinguished two forms of “subjection” or authority, just and unjust. The former exists when leaders work for the advantage and benefit of their subjects.

    The unjust form of subjection “is that of slavery, in which the ruler manages the subject for his own [the ruler’s] advantage.”

    Based on the immense authority vested in Aquinas by the Church, the OFFICIAL VIEW view came to be that slavery is SINFUL.”


    • Richard

      you say:

      “I am for reform:that women can be priests,priests should be able to marry,lift the ban on contraception,eliminate some doctrines like the Immaculate Conception,the Assumption of Mary,etc.”

      Did you not know that the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary have been infallibly defined by the Church?

      Your reform is just not feasible


    • Serfdom and consequently slavery could be legitimized by the concept of “God’s mandate” that is I think explained somewhere by Paulus.

      The Catholic Church has done much reform especially beginning from 1965 and this reform will be going on further and further.

      From a Muslim point of view I find this reform to be more honest than Muslim tries of reform. An evil example of this is Atabek Shukurov who has been around the last two years very actively. He thinks that he discovered an old hidden way of Islam that miraculously fits perfectly into liberal secularism.

      I am against these modernists. We need to take the old juristic books and implement them.


  14. If a child or infant dies, whether before or after birth, because of something that could not have been prevented by any human endeavour is Allah guilty of infanticide?


  15. Greetings Paul:

    I am not a scholar,so I can be corrected,but I think you mean that because of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility(1870),then the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception(1854) and Assumption of Mary(1950) can’t be rejected.

    The Immaculate Conception was proclaimed in a papal bull Ineffabilis Deus (1854)which defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

    Notice a papal bull was also used in 1537 to condemn slavery for all.Ex cathedra means,according to Vatican Council I(1870):

    ” When, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, (the Bishop of Rome)

    defines a doctrine concerning faith

    or morals to be held by the whole Church.”

    Pope Paul III was speaking ex cathedra in the 1537 bull.

    I have read surveys show most priests don’t believe many Catholic doctrines.I was hoping this pope would change things,he only talks.A true reform priest as pope would make many doctrines optional,not obligatory for all Catholics.

    From memory,one can correct me,I know the Blood Libel appeared in the 13th century,in England,I believe.

    The libel said Jews would kill a Christian child to mix his blood with unleavened bread during Passover.From the 13th century on several popes,Iike 7, issued papal bulls condemning the Blood Libel,Google it for details.

    Critics think the Catholic church was always against reason.There is a book by Catholic scholar Brant Pitre called “The Case for Jesus”(2016),similar to ,but more concentrated,that Lee Strobel’s “The Case for the Real Jesus”(2007).

    Reform Catholics,that includes priests,don’t hold that everything in the Bible is accurate.The idea that we all descend from 8 people who survived in an ark,after a universal flood,a few thousand years ago,is an error in the OT.

    But what impresses,illuminates, all Christians,of all doctrinal beliefs,is Jesus.He is the reason one can accept the basic ideas of the Bible.

    Pitre argues against Bart Ehrman’s belief that the Synoptics(gospels of Mark,Luke and Matthew) are post 70 AD.Lee Strobel’s book,if I remember well,never mentions it.

    Pitre argues that the Synoptics have Jesus saying he is God,according to Jewish culture.Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus was divine,not God,but a god(divine being,like an angel but higher).In the Synoptics Jesus at a minimum says he is divine,a divinity.

    Personally,I accept Mormons and JWs as Christians,you don’t have to believe in the Trinity to be a Christian,a Messianic/person who accepts Jesus as the Messiah.They don’t believe in the Trinity or that Jesus was God.


  16. I forgot to add that Bart Ehrman and Brant Pitre agree that Jesus in the Synoptics(Mark,Luke,Matthew) says he is divine.

    Pitre say God,Ehrman says divine,but not God.Ehrman states it in “How Jesus became God”(2014).

    In this article by Ehrman,he says:

    “These Gospels do indeed think of Jesus as divine. Being made the very Son of God who can heal, cast out demons, raise the dead, pronounce divine forgiveness, receive worship together suggests that even for these Gospels Jesus was a divine being, not merely a human.

    But in a different sense from John.”

    But they disagree on when the Synoptics were written.


  17. Richard, thanks for that insight.


  18. And, I was recommended to read Pitre by a gentleman who emailed me. I didn’t acquire the book but have it in mind as possible future reading. In a way, I’d rather purchase and read a book by a Catholic apologist than an evangelical


  19. Greetings Yahya:

    Brant Pitre directly contests Ehrman’s ideas about the Synoptics and John.Some chapters are:

    “Were the Gospels Anonymous?”

    Technically speaking, no.Pitre gives a list on page 16 of the 27 earliest manuscripts of the gospels that we have, and have the first page.

    They are from the 2nd to 5th century.All have the name of the author:”The Gospel of Mark,or Luke,etc”.

    We would have more but Roman emperor Diocletian started a persecution of Christians that lasted from 299-312, and hundreds of gospels were burned,and 3,000 Christians killed.

    Otherwise we would have dozens of gospels from the 2nd century or earlier.

    Other chapters are:

    “Are the Gospels Biographies?”

    “The Dating of the Gospels”


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