The Year of Mercy (2): Mercy in the Old Testament

Ronald D. Witherup PSS

The first article of this series dealt with basic biblical vocabulary of mercy.? This article narrows the discussion to explore in greater depth an Old Testament perspective on mercy. Ronald D. Witherup PSS is Superior General of the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice.

Many people are troubled by passages in the Old Testament that seemingly reflect anything but a merciful attitude. If mercy is so important in the Christian tradition, then why does the Bible seem so filled with violence and vengeance? Here it is helpful to recall that this is not a new viewpoint. Already in the early Church, a heretic named Marcion (ca. 85 ? ca. 160) forcefully promoted the idea that the image of God found in the Old Testament contradicted the message of love and mercy found in the New Testament, especially in the portrait of Jesus in Luke?s Gospel. So he rejected outright the Old Testament. The Church strongly condemned this view and insisted on retaining the Old Testament as the authentic ?Word of God,? along with the New.

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