In this unit students will examine how biblical scholars, theologians, and Christian communities have understood then responded to questions raised about the Bible's portrait of a so-called dark side of God; for example, in stories about the conquest of Canaan, acts of divine vengeance against transgressors, and incidents of sexual brutality. These stories continue to be highly problematic for many people, both within the church and by its critics. This unit will critically engage and evaluate ways of making sense of this troubling God of the text, and reflect on how a biblical meta-narrative with Christ at its centre continues to challenge and inform Christian responses to questions about divine and human violence.

Unit code: BS9041L

Unit status: Approved (Major revision)

Points: 12.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Biblical Studies

Proposing College: Australian Lutheran College

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Learning outcomes


Critically analyse biblical texts relating to divine violence in the light of their cultural, historical, literary, social and religious contexts


Apply a range of relevant methodological approaches to the interpretation of biblical texts relating to divine violence


Interpret biblical texts in the light of a Christ-focused biblical meta-narrative


Engage contemporary conversation about the nature and legacy of stories involving divine violence from an informed perspective

Unit sequence

Postgraduate elective


This unit uses teaching strategies (eg engagement with online learning materials, including audio/video, tasks, forums, and synchronous and asynchronous discussion with lecturer) which encourage student engagement and participation in a variety of learning tasks and opportunities which foster deep learning.

Indicative Bibliography

No required textbook. Key readings supplied in META Unit resources.

  • Boyd, Gregory A. The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament's Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017
  • Copan, Paul. Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2014.
  • De Villiers, Pieter, and Jan Willem van Henten. Coping with violence in the New Testament. Studies in Theology and Religion 16. Leiden: Brill, 2012.
  • Earl, Douglas S. The Joshua Delusion? Rethinking Genocide in the Bible. Cambridge: James Clarke, 2011
  • Gilmour, Rachelle. Divine Violence in the Book of Samuel. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2021.
  • Juergensmeyer, Mark, Margo Kitts, and Michael K Jerryson. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013
  • Orchard, Helen. Courting Betrayal: Jesus As Victim in the Gospel of John. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 1998.
  • Schroeder, Joy A. Dinah's Lament: The Biblical Legacy of Sexual Violence in Christian Interpretation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.
  • Seibert, Eric A. The violence of scripture: overcoming the Old Testament’s troubling legacy. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2012.
  • Thomas, Heath A., et al. eds. Holy war in the Bible: Christian morality and an Old Testament problem. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Students respond to unit content; submit responses to questions; articulate their position on topics; identify questions that remain unanswered or limitations and disagreements or counter-arguments.

1500 33.0

An essay that identifies, describes, and critically assesses at least two ways of reading and interpreting biblical texts which present God as violent.

2500 67.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Prof Albert Haddad on 24 Aug, 2022

Unit record last updated: 2022-08-24 15:06:38 +1000