We’ve all got babies to kill
September 27, 2014 § 145 Comments
I could be wrong, but in my understanding Augustine and Aquinas were primarily concerned with whether the Israelite conquest of Canaan was justifiable at all: with jus ad bellum. After all, on its face it was a war of conquest, and wars of conquest are morally wrong.
Just conduct during war, jus in bello, is clearly – and is formally recognized by the Church as – an entirely distinct subject.
At least one Church Father though has directly addressed accounts of killing infants in the Old Testament and how they are to be interpreted. Here is Origen on the “dashing of babies” in Psalm 137:
And in this way also the just give up to destruction all their vices, so that they do not spare even the children, that is, the early beginnings and promptings of evil. In this sense we understand the language of Psalm 137 … For, “the little ones of Babylon” (which signifies confusion) are those troublesome sinful thoughts that arise in the soul, and one who subdues them by striking, as it were, their heads against the firm and solid strength of reason and truth, is the person who “dashes the little ones against the stones”; and he is therefore truly blessed. – Origen, Contra Celsum, translated by Frederick Crombie, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to AD 325, edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1989)
So according to Origen, Old Testament accounts of killing infants refer metaphorically to destroying heresy and vice in ourselves in its infancy; and the weapons of destruction are reason and truth.
In that sense, we should all be dashing the heads of infants against the rocks.