One thing that struck me while reading the Bible straight through during a 20 month (supposedly one year) period was how saturated it is in violence. The levels of violence are truly mind-boggling, from Jael hammering a tent peg through an enemy's head to mass slaughter, genocide, murder, mass murder, rape, child sacrifice (this is after Solomon, when the Israelites have lost their moorings), mutilation ... the head reels after a time.
Most, if not all, of the revered figures in the Old or First Testament, are violent: Moses murders a man, Saul slaughters the Amalekites, David kills people for insbordination at the slightest provocation, slaughters his enemies, has his friend killed so he can marry his wife ... Elijah kills the 450 priests of Baal .... To be a player, a leader, as opposed to a prophet or observer like Isaiah, almost inevitably seems to involve hair-raisingly barbarous behavior.
And then, in the New Testament, it stops. Jesus is clearly a player, not a prophet, and is explicitly embedded in a Moses-David-Elijah narrative. He's seen as the second David, the new Messiah. Yet he is nothing like anyone who came before. I don't think I "got" this fully until I read the Bible straight through. People often point to Jesus' throwing the moneylenders out of the Temple with a whip of knotted cords as proof that he was willing to engage in violence, but this action is nothing, nothing!!, in comparison to do his predecessors. Not one person is killed and nobody, apparently, is serioulsy injured. In fact, it's possible nobody was injured at all. Jesus scares people and knocks over tables, scattering a crowd. After the bloodbath of the Old Testament, this is like tapping someone on the shoulder and asking them politely to leave to room.
So in the New Testament, we get a new thing. Jesus' story, at the end of his life, is saturated in ultra-violence, but none of it is his doing. He is the willing sacrificial victim, modeling a new way of confronting violence and oppression. After his death and resurrection, his followers are also dogged by violence. We especially remember Stephen's stoning. Paul is pursued in violent ways. But as we proceed through the New Testament, we see the newness. Rather than being preoccupied with violence and how to protect and defend against violent aggressors (which is what most of the Old Testament is about, with the Jehovah God central to that protection), the New Testament shifts to focus on building a nonviolent community based on love, equality, integrity, compassion and imitation of Christ. The violence is out there, but it becomes increasingly peripheral to the concerns of this new community living a new covenant. It's not through the New Testament, but through other historical accounts that we learn that Paul is beheaded, Peter and Andrew apparently crucified, many ordinary Christ followers killed by the state in gruesome ways. These are not the central concerns of the New Testament writers. They are concerned with how to live out Jesus' gospel of love. It is stunning.
How did this happen? If you have read the Bible straight through, have you had illuminations?