The abstract of Hofreiter’s DPhil thesis on the subject, published by OUP, reads:
The thesis investigates the interpretation of some of the most problematic passages of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, i.e. passages involving the concept or practice of herem. The texts under consideration contain prima facie divine commands to commit genocide as well as descriptions of genocidal military campaigns commended by God. The thesis presents and analyses the solutions that Christian interpreters through the ages have proposed to the concomitant moral and hermeneutical challenges. A number of ways in which they have been used to justify violence and war are also addressed.
For the patristic and early medieval eras the thesis aims to be as comprehensive as possible in identifying and analysing the various interpretative options, while for later periods the focus lies on new developments. In addition to offering the most comprehensive presentation of the Wirkungsgeschichte of herem texts to date, the thesis offers an analysis and critical evaluation of the theologico-hermeneutical assumptions underlying each of the several approaches, and their exegetical and practical consequences. The resulting analytical taxonomy and hermeneutical map is an original contribution to the history of exegesis and the study of the interplay between religion and violence.
The cognitive dissonance herem texts cause for pious readers is introduced as an inconsistent set of five propositions: (1) God is good; (2) the bible is true; (3) genocide is atrocious; (4) according to the bible, God commanded and commended genocide; (5) a good being, let alone the supremely good Being, would never command or commend an atrocity. If proposition (4) is assumed, at least one of the deeply-held beliefs expressed in the other four must be modified or given up.
The introduction is followed by four diachronic chapters in which the various exegetical approaches are set out: pre-critical (from the OT to the Apostolic Fathers), dissenting (Marcion and other ancient critics), figurative (from Origen to high medieval times), divine-command-ethics,(from Augustine to Calvin) and violent (from Ambrose to Puritan North America). A concluding chapter presents near contemporary re-iterations and variations of the historic approaches.