Subject: The “Slaughter” of the Canaanites Re-visited
Question: Dear Dr. Craig, You are becoming increasingly known as “the apologist who defends genocide and infanticide in the Old Testament”, mainly due to your Q&A response on the question of the Canaanites.
Many people seem to react emotionally, without engaging with the detail of your arguments and without providing their own moral foundations on which their outrage can stand.
However, I’ve been hearing recently that the Old Testament accounts of these killings used exaggerated language. This was mentioned at an apologetics conference I attended recently, and I’m told it’s even in Paul Copan’s new book (haven’t been able to read it yet, however).
In particular, it’s being said that language about “killing all women and children” was typically and culturally “over-the-top”, and that it’s not necessary to interpret the text to mean that they were all *really* slain.
You, however, defend a more literal account: that God did order the deaths of the women and young children.
How have you made sure that you’re not mistaken? Or, to put it another way, is this not an opportunity to avoid burdening yourself with needing to defend the view that God ordered the mass killings of women and children?
It’s a tricky one, and an emotive topic, but I’d love to know what you think especially about these accounts of “exaggerated language”.
Many thanks again,
Dr. Craig responds:
I’ve seen those kinds of responses, too, Peter, and find them disappointing because they fail to grapple intellectually with the difficult questions raised by such stories. Emotional outbursts take the place of rational discussion, leaving us with no deeper understanding of the issues than before we began…
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