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Bible Review 20:2, April 2004

A God of Love and Justice

Jesus has more in common with the God of the Old Testament than popular belief has it.

By Mary Joan Winn Leith

Bible Review

Permit me, please, to indulge in a rant. The assertion that the God of the Old Testament is a God of Justice and the God of the New Testament is a God of Love is an insidious cliché that must be abandoned immediately.

The insidiousness of this phrase relates to its seemingly neutral, descriptive tone. On the surface, it seems somewhat plausible to many people. After all, most people are aware of such (in)famous Old Testament stories as God’s total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18–19 or passages like Deuteronomy 20:16–17, where God commands the annihilation of the Canaanites. And even the most casual Christians can usually call to mind the New Testament’s gentle Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) and his commands to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) and “love your enemy” (Matthew 5:44). The beautiful, youthful Jesus of the limpid eyes, soft brown hair and white robe so familiar to Western European and American Christians1 provides an obvious contrast with the stern, white-bearded, old man conventionally associated with God in the Old Testament.

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