But that was the Old Testament

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Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
—Jesus telling people to trash the Old Testament as a whole (Matthew 5:17)

"But that was the Old Testament!" is the claim that God was a mean drunk in the Old Testament but turned over a new leaf in the New Testament (and so Christians need not defend the horrific God of the Old Testament). Similarly, the claim that the law of Jesus superceded the law of Moses is used to absolve Christians of the duty to carry out Mosaic law.

The claim is a favorite tactic of Christian apologists when confronted with the violence and bigotry of the Bible. This claim faces two major problems: first, that the Bible and Jesus themselves disagree; and second that (although the New Testament is much less gruesome than the Old Testament) the New Testament still features violence and bigotry.

Biblical problems with the theory[edit]

[T]he Old Testament is just as inspired as the New Testament and thus an expression of the will of Christ.

Many Christians argue that the law of Jesus "superseded" the law of Moses.[2] However, this seems to contradict a straightforward reading of the Gospels. For example, Jesus frames himself as "fulfilling" rather than "destroying" or "superseding" the law of Moses. He does not clarify this point beyond asserting that the Ten Commandments must still be followed to the letter (Matthew 5:17-19):

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Similarly, Jesus berated people for disobeying the mosaic law (John 7:16-19):

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?

And Jesus states that it is easier for the universe to fall apart than any one piece of the Mosaic law (Luke 16:17):

And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

And the New Testament itself affirms that God (who is literally Jesus (John 10:30)) divinely inspired both the Old and New Testaments (2 Timothy 3:16-17):

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

If the Old Testament were really so irrelevant to the teachings of Jesus, one wonders why Christians bother including it at all in their holy book (especially when it makes up about 75% of said holy book[3]).

The New Testament is still horrible[edit]

Even if we accept that Jesus somehow erased the laws of Moses, both the Old and New Testaments contain violence and bigotry— so Christians cannot use that as an excuse.

Violence vs pacifism?[edit]

Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions[:] all are in the Bible, and occur with a far greater frequency than in the Koran. At every stage, we can argue what the passages in question mean, and certainly whether they should have any relevance for later ages. But the fact remains that the words are there, and their inclusion in the scripture means that they are, literally, canonized[.]
Philip Jenkins,Wikipedia professor of history[4]

Jesus had mixed messages on pacifism. Of course, Jesus famously said to "turn the other cheek" after violence (Matthew 5:38-40). However, he also stated (Matthew 10:34):

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.

In fact, Jesus told his followers to sell their clothes in order to purchase swords (Luke 22:35-38):

And he said unto them, when I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

Random acts of smiting[edit]

Whenever we read… the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize humankind. And, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.
Thomas Paine
See the main article on this topic: Examples of God personally killing people

God isn't quite so trigger happy in the New Testament, at least when it comes to killing innocents and people who really didn't deserve it. However, there are still some killings and of course that whole end of the world thing in Revelation. Most notably in Acts 12:23, Herod was killed for his failure to praise God. Also, it's been pointed out that the New Testament brings us Hell, as we know it. In the Old Testament, once God killed you, he was done with you — but starting with the New Testament, he punishes you for eternity (which means infinite punishment for finite sins).

Intolerance and misogyny[edit]

The New Testament has Saint Paul expressing both fear and contempt for the female. Throughout all religious texts, there is a primitive fear that half the human race is simultaneously defiled and unclean, and yet is also a temptation to sin that is impossible to resist. Perhaps this explains the hysterical cult of virginity and of a Virgin, and the dread of the female form and of female reproductive functions? And there may be someone who can explain the sexual and other cruelties of the religious without any reference to the obsession with celibacy, but that someone will not be me.
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything[5]

In Matthew 5:18, Jesus clearly states, "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." This implies that all of the blatantly homophobic, misogynistic, or otherwise intolerant laws from the Old Testament are still effective.

Unfortunately, The New Testament is also fairly misogynistic. Here are just a few of the more offensive and deeptly unethical passages;

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-1 Timothy 2:15 "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."
  • 1 Corinthians 11:3-1 Corinthians 11:6 "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered."
  • 1 Peter 3:7 "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."
  • Ephesians 5:22-Ephesians 5:24 "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing."
  • Ephesians 6:5 "Slaves,[note 1] obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ."

Second Coming[edit]

Perhaps most importantly, Jesus promises to be extremely violent when he returns in the Second Coming. For example, Jesus is prophesied to personally kill the "kings, captains, mighty men, and their armies" with a sword that comes out of his mouth (Revelation 19:11-21):

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. This is one of the (many) places where many Bible translators have found it convenient to render the Greek "doulos" (pl. "douloi") as "servant", rather than the more accurate "slave". This is the case in the King James version that is used for The RationalWiki Annotated Bible. See also: Slavery in the Bible