As I've described in reviewing Mark Heim's book Saved from Sacrifice a Girardian reading of the Old Testament is developmental in nature. Specifically, the OT is a story that begins in a pagan and sacrificial mode (where YHWH is tribal war god) that increasingly introduces an ambivalent note about the nature of sacrifice and divinely-sanctioned scapegoating violence. Early in the OT sacrifice is ubiquitous. But by the end with the prophets the claim is increasingly made that YHWH doesn't want sacrifice and blood. YHWH desires "mercy and not sacrifice." In this we see how the bible is critiquing its own narrative with the prophets questioning the logic of the Levitical/priestly tradition.
For Christians this developmental trajectory--disentangling God from violence--is completed in the life of Jesus. When God becomes finally and fully revealed in Jesus of Nazareth YHWH is revealed to be non-violent and enemy-love is found to be at the heart of the Kingdom ethic. Jesus completes the critique of sacrifice started by the prophets.
At the start of the Theology and Peace conference Michael Hardin introduced a handy way of sorting through all this, all the disparate voices in Scripture speaking to violence and victimage. How to sort it all out? Michael suggests that there are three types of victims in Scripture and discriminating between them helps the reading I describe above come through more clearly. The following diagram illustrates Michael's recommended hermeneutic:
like the concubine in Judges 19.
The other voice within the scope of sacrificial violence Michael calls "the victim in travail." This is the voice of victims calling out for revenge and retribution. We hear this voice most clearly in the imprecatory psalms. We also see it in the blood of Abel. This victim represents a moral development as the biblical reader is asked to identify with the victim and this perspective-taking allows us to see the violence as wrong, evil, and undeserved. This is progress. However, this voice doesn't allow us to escape the cycle of violence as it is accompanied by the call for revenge. The logic of lex talionis--"eye for eye and tooth for tooth"-- here perpetuates the cycles of sacralized violence. As Jesus says, the one who lives by the sword dies by the sword.
In sum, there are two sorts of victims that stand within the cycle of violence. The first victim is the sacrificial victim, the scapegoat. These victims, being scapegoats, are often silent. But when they do speak they agree with their punishment. The second victim is the victim in travail, the victim who knows their punishment is undeserved but who continues the cycle of violence by seeking retribution. In both cases God is used to justify violence, against the self or against others.
In contrast to these victims is a victim who stands outside of the dynamics of sacralized violence. Michael calls this "the gospel victim." The gospel victim is the forgiving victim. Jesus is the prototype here, the victim we killed but who returns to us with forgiveness in the resurrection-event. This action of the gospel victim allows us to stop the cycle of violence. Beyond Jesus we see examples of gospel victims in Joseph and Stephen.
The hermeneutical tool here is to sort out, among all the victims in the bible, the voice of sacrificial religion versus the voice of God's revelation. That is, there is a lot of violence in the bible, much of it attributed to God. How to make sense of it? In this Girardian reading the voice of God, the voice of God's revelation to us, is found in the voice of the gospel victim, in the revelation of Jesus. Michael's "three voice" hermeneutic, then, is at root a Christological hermeneutic. We read the violence of the bible through the lens of Jesus--the gospel victim. Where the voice of the text aligns with the voice of the gospel victim we have a case of God's revealed truth. When, however, the violence in the text doesn't align with the voice of the gospel victim we have an example of sacrificial religion. And while there are many texts of this nature, the key is not to equate those passages as instances of God's revealed truth, which we know to be clearly and decisively revealed in Jesus. These instances of sacrificial violence in the bible exist as the necessary backdrop that allowed Israel and the early Christians to untangle God from pagan and violent origins.
Beyond hermeneutics, Michael's model is also a nice way to describe the cycles of violence in the world and how, in the ethic of Jesus, we are called to "come out" from that violence. The call is to not be sacrificial victims or victims seeking retribution, buying into or perpetuating more violence in the world. The call is to be like Jesus, to be the gospel victim offering love, grace, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation to the world.
You can connect with more of Michael's work at Preaching Peace or his book The Jesus Driven Life.