As Part Two looks intensely at the Bible, it can be difficult to find our way into these texts because of the linguistic and cultural issues that separate us from the ancient world. What you have described here as making you queasy or uncomfortable is an excellent example. As James puts it, we can feel as if we’ve stumbled into the middle of a heated conversation without knowing who the parties are or what they’re so worked up about. So we will be starting to read the Scriptures through the eyes of the Forgiving Victim, just as St. Luke teaches us to do. By the end of this Part we will have discovered that biblical scholarship is less frightening than it might seem and we will have acquired a bit more confidence to dabble for ourselves in these biblical texts without being scared of them.
Our journey through the Scriptures will allow us to glimpse the great Jewish discovery of monotheism. It’s odd for us to realize that the great prophets of old would have seemed to their contemporaries more like atheists than like devout followers of a familiar religion. But the discovery that God is not like anything that is, called into question all the religious structures of the day. The defining appearance of God to Moses at the bush that burns but is not consumed reminds us of the Emmaus theophany in which a man both dead and living is communicating with us. Slowly we are being made aware that everything that is, ourselves and all of creation, is a function of a being who is not in rivalry with any of it. What does it mean to worship a God for whom death is not and for whom Creation comes from nothing? These questions will guide us as we continue to journey with the Forgiving Victim.
Using Joshua 7, we will follow Jesus as our living interpretative principle. Joshua’s soldiers have just taken Jericho where God placed everything under a “ban”. This means there was to be no looting; everything the soldiers found was to be burned or destroyed. The lottery is the ancient equivalent of a witch hunt in which group morale is restored by finding someone to blame. The lottery organization is the only function of the word “God” in Joshua 7. The group unites against the victim – unanimity minus one. It works even better if the victim agrees to be sacrificed or if his protests are drowned out by a wailing chorus. ?
The Lord’s burning anger started at the same time as loss of morale, and it ends when morale is restored through the sacrifice of Achan. There is nothing divine about this process; it is a very human phenomenon. Consequently, we are right to be queasy about the incident. The figure of Christ in the story is Achan, the one who is held to be guilty and sacrificed. ? Joshua 7 and the Emmaus story are the same story told from two different perspectives: the first is from the point of view of the persecutors and the other is from the point of view of the victim.
The moment the victim’s story is heard, it reveals the other story to be a lie.
Does all this make sense Andrew?