Faith and Doubt / Rethinking Christianity

The God of Abraham vs. the God of Jesus

Are there two Gods in the Bible? Comparing the biblical God of the Old Testament to the God that Jesus called Abba is difficult. The representation of God in the Old Testament as compared to the New Testament seems to indicate two entirely different Gods, not one in the same.

A depiction of Abraham, the leading patriach i...

The God of the Old Testament is wrathful, vengeful, tyrannical, and violent. He condones violence, injustice, stoning, sacrifices, and annihilations of people including women and children. He demands strict obedience of his laws and issues severe punishments when those laws are violated; whereas the God of the New Testament is loving, kind, giving, and merciful. He longs for reunion with his creation and is gracious in providing his divine love and mercy. Except for the teaching of the hell doctrine this God has no resemblance to the OT God at all.

These depictions are not of the same God regardless of how adeptly written apologetics try to convince me that they are.

The two variations of God once troubled me. But once I concluded the bible was not inerrant I began to understand the varying portrayals of God for what they are, which is merely expressions of “God” as he is seen through man’s eyes. The God of the bible, in either the OT or NT, is the personification of what the writers and storytellers believed him to be. It is the same as how God is represented in articles, movies, books and blogs today. In every instance God is a representation of how the writer perceives him, either as loving and just or wrathful and vengeful.

Current writings about God always include content that expresses variations of God is, God wills, God says, God wants, God does, God needs….all from the imagination and perspective of the writer. One writer expresses that God has condemned or convicted him, another writer expresses that God has empowered her, while still others write about how God has been merciful, loving and just or has given them specific revelation of some kind. This is no different than how the biblical writers wrote about their God and explains why God is differently portrayed in the testaments. The OT writers lived in the harsh times of early civilization. They saw God as vengeful and wrathful as evidenced in the survival hardships and social brutalities that they endured. In the NT, writers saw a different God, one who loved, and was merciful toward them during times when the ruling hierarchies marginalized them. The God we write about today is very different from either of these Gods. He is personal to us, and we equate him to a benefactor, a friend or a parent.

As for all of the “will of God” assigned to him: Is it likely that there were homophobic writers projecting their own disdain for homosexual sex as a loathing by God? Most likely. Is it possible that kings who thought themselves in communion with God and who wanted to conquer and destroy an opposing tribe claimed it was God’s mandate? Probably so. Does any of this mean that God commanded, willed, or even approved such acts? Who really knows. What is known is that since humans have believed in God and have had the ability to write they have claimed God’s will equal to their own.

All believers have their own impressions and discernment of who and what God is and eagerly share this personfication of God with others. But we don’t label him as the projection of our assessments and impressions; rather we express the attributes of the God we design as the gospel truth…because to us it is.

In summary I am not suggesting that the bible, or the differing versions of God, does not have spiritual value. The bible has a considerable value in teaching how people throughout the ages have utilized their beliefs and faith in the supernatural to direct their lives. I can learn about patience and perseverance in the story of Job. I can learn about rising from despair in the story of Joseph. I can learn about being compassionate toward others in the stories of Jesus. And from it all, I can learn that God is to each what he is needed to be.

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12 thoughts on “The God of Abraham vs. the God of Jesus

  1. Shalom, I’ve read your post but for me there is no difference between, as you put it, the God of the old and of the new testament. He does not change, and also remember it was He who revealed Himself to man,not the other way around.

    Many blessings

    • I agree with RootedMessiah. God is and will always be the same. That doesn’t mean that different aspects of God don’t manifest at different times. Sometimes I’m angry and sometimes I’m patient and passive. It doesn’t mean I’m not me.

    • My point with this post was toward the failure of faith that is caused when someone begins to realize that these two depictions of God are not equal and especially the atheist argument of a barbaric OT God not worthy of being considered real. I would hope there remains room to explore spirituality and the existence of God once consideration is given to how people’s experience of God affects the way they portray him, and perhaps that portrayal is not entirely accurate.
      Many blessings to you…I appreciate your reading this post and expressing your own point of view.

  2. Moreover, the OT Elohim conflicts with himself well enough as is. There are some verses where he sounds very much like our more warm NT version, and then others where actions and even direct statements outright contradict himself. Claiming they are different revealed aspects isn’t a good justification unless you’re willing to cede outright evil as a possible “aspect.” If I say I’m a kind person but then am well-accused of a cold-heart murder, I’m either not a kind person or you’ve got the wrong guy. There’s an extent at which things become mutually exclusive, and the varying depictions of God cross that well enough. Of course one can make the argument that we just don’t know all the details and so we can’t judge because we’re only human and god is god, but we do have to judge, and thank god he gave us the faculties to do so lest we end up indeed following wrathful and unhealthy gods.

    All that said, it seems very easy to me to understand the OT as a book massively filtered through the mire of humanity. Israel’s crusades and conquering seems superbly like selfish conquest justified by the name of god, and many of god’s curses easily seem like misunderstandings of natural events. Still, there are moments where what god is supposedly saying actually sounds like God. I do like those moments.

    Pardon the rant.

  3. The guy above me explained things beautifully. The OT God is extremely unpredictable, and changes his mind frequently and sporadically. He is held by back from destroying man a number of times by certain individuals, and sometimes nothing holds him back. On the other hand, he embraces and helps people that really come to him and ask for it, and is referred to as loving and merciful, etc.

    Here’s a quote from the Gita that fits both portrayals of the Lord our God:

    “I am the same to all beings. I favour none, and I hate none. But those who worship Me
    devotedly, they live in Me, and I in them”

  4. Very good post. I think the problem comes when people claim to be speaking for God at all. If God is truly the creator of an infinite and vast universe, then He is also infinite.. I personally believe He is beyond our scope to understand completely, but I also believe that if He did create this universe then He would want us to live in harmony within it. That is just my opinion though.

  5. If you buy into the JEDP source paradigm there are at least two Gods in the OT alone, ‘Jahweh’ and ‘Elohim’ (with the latter often interpreted as plural).

    But it’s always seemed to me that the god of Abraham was quite different to the god of Moses.

    Abraham’s god is a classic ‘agricultural and trading’ god who demands sacrifice for rewards or to avoid punishment.

    Moses’ god is more like one of those mountaintop fire gods who proliferated around the Mediterranean following the explosion of Santorini (which was believed to have caused the ‘seven lean years’ foretold by Joseph’s dream analysis). He has an aspect as a war god who demands that his followers slaughter his enemies (e.g. the Midianites) and expects to be rewarded with pillage for bringing victory (in the case of the Midianites it was a share of the underaged virgins who were the only ones exempted from the divinely ordained genocide).

    When you consider the variation in time and culture of the likely sources of what was to eventually become the bible it would be pretty surprising if there was only one god in there.

    • True. There are many gods portrayed in the bible depending on the culture who wrote about him. The point you make about Abraham’s god being different from Moses’ god is a good example. And both of them are different from Jesus’ god, and also Paul’s god, and the god of the early church fathers right down to the loving parental and prosperity granting god of Christians today.

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