Several days ago, certain parties wishing to paint a positive picture of Islam while seeking to diminish Christianity touted a study showing the Bible was much more violent than the Qur’an. Tom Anderson, a software engineer, admitted he did the study because of all the debate on whether violence is a normal part of Muslim teachings. He put the complete NIV Old Testament (OT), NIV New Testament (NT), and Quran (1957 English) texts through a text analysis software he created that categorizes words based on the eight emotions of “Joy, Anticipation, Anger, Disgust, Sadness, Surprise, Fear/Anxiety and Trust.”
His program showed killing and destruction appear 2.1% of the time in the Koran, 2.5% of the time in the NIV NT, and 5.3% in the NIV OT. Anderson added the disclaimer he was not trying to prove or disprove Islam is comparatively more violent and said the three texts were not the complete body of teachings and customs that made up Islam, Judaism, or Christianity.
Conservative columnist Robert Spencer pointed out some other considerations overlooked by Anderson in the study, namely:
- The English version of the Quran can hide the real meaning behind some of the words.
- Anderson’s program looked at the words themselves, not the context to determine if believers were actually being told to carry out violence as is done “many times in the Qur’an (2:191, 4:89, 9:5, 47:4, etc.).”
- In our postmodern world, it’s obvious there are Muslim armed groups around the world who promote and justify the use of unjustified violence with the Koran whereas Christians and Jews don’t have groups that do that with the Bible.
I believe we must first get an understanding of what violence is. It’s defined for our purposes here as “Behavior or treatment in which physical force is exerted for the purpose of causing damage or injury.” Careful consideration shows violence is neutral. It can be used for good purposes or evil purposes. As to determining what purpose is good or evil, it’s best to rely on the inherent universal morals of right and wrong present in all of us by God’s design, though this is denied by some of us.
Saying one book is more violent than another book, therefore, does not automatically mean it’s a bad thing, as is presumed by the headlines on this story around the Internet. We must ask ourselves, just as Mr. Spencer does in #1 and #2 above, what the context is for the use of violence and what the word really means within that context. The Bible relays events that happened, telling us what good guys did or what the bad guys did. Sometimes good guys have to use violence to defend against and/or carry out true justice against the bad guys. Isn’t that why most of us who see violent movies, like the most recent Star Wars, root for the violence carried out by the good guys to stop the bad guys? In this fallen universe of ours, we inherently know that’s what is unfortunately called for sometimes.
Anyone who says they are against all violence–that all violence is bad–is really lying and is most likely a hypocrite. People will cringe and won’t like me or this post for saying that. What we need to determine above all is if the violence is used as a last resort for good. The Koran calls for violent persecution of the just and is not tempered with a just mercy in the parts that were written under Muhammad during his Medina years. The Bible praises violence used for good and condemns violence used for evil. That’s why Jesus was commended for his incident with the moneychangers in the temple; why the Antichrist, the devil, and all who follow them will get what’s coming to them; and why the Hebrews 11 “hall of faith” includes violent heroes praised for the violent things they did for God (they “subdued kingdoms” and “waxed valiant in fight”) to counteract Satan. And God was just enough to name the specific evils, such as human sacrifices to false gods, murder, and rape, that were punished by violence.
Yet, for all the violence in the Bible, it was always tempered with taking any and all avenues available to avoid it if possible because God prefers mercy (Matt. 12:7) and peace (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
Samuel Osborne, ‘Violence more common’ in Bible than Quran, text analysis reveals, The Independent, February 10, 2016.
Robert Spencer, New study claims that the Bible is more violent than the Qur’an, JihadWatch.org, February 10, 2016.