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chad

Good article. I am in the middle of a exegesis class on Joshua at Asbury Seminary and it was nice to read on a subject that I understand.

I think that alot of the narrative historical application of Joshua can be easily understood by looking at the narrative fabric of joshua-kings, expecially from a post-exilic framework.

Thanks for sharing with us.

JohnFH

You are at a fine seminary, Chad, with excellent teachers.

Though I was hoping you were taught that Joshua-2 Kings makes sense, in a first edition, in pre-exilic times, and, in a second edition, in exilic times.

G. Kyle Essary

I enjoyed the post, but you really could have ended it after "what a dumb question." After all, the revelation contained in Joshua is obviously factual, just not in the historical sense.

Justin (koavf)

John,

There is a lot to say about your post, but I would simply like to point out that the idea that the bombing of Dresden was in any way tactical or justifiable is unconscionable. I do not agree with the assessment that bombing Hiroshima and especially Nagasaki were necessary, but I can imagine how someone can have that position. I cannot see the justification for the destruction of Dresden.

-JAK

G. Kyle Essary

I don't want to imply that Joshua doesn't contain historical traditions and (authentic) cultural memories, because I happen to believe that there probably was a "historical Joshua" or someone similar to inspire the memories. The point is simply that historical categories aren't capable of bringing proper understanding and reception to divine revelation, whether or not the content "actually happened." When modernity started associating truth with correlation between event and record, we lost much of the power of the text.

JohnFH

Justin,

I have no reason to doubt your judgment on the bombing of Dresden, and I would love to think that the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were misguided. But, based on what I've read, it would seem to be a case of hindsight being 20/20.

With respect to the Dresden bombing, note the following discussion:

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Was_the_bombing_of_Dresden_justified

JohnFH

Positivistic historical categories are not sufficient to contain "history" in the sense of Thucydides, Gibbon, or Ken Burns. How much less, divine revelation.

Simon Holloway

I don't think that the "elision" (as you put it) of conquest material in Chronicles amounts to the assumption that the land was won without a fight. On the contrary, it merely amounts to the author's disinterest in the means by which the land was acquired. Their apparant familiarity with Samuel would suggest their awareness of the various problems that existed post-conquest and, one might assume, with their awareness of the various conquest traditions as well.

That said, I think that the issue of Joshua's historicity is a largely unimportant one. I'm inclined to subscribe to the view of T.L. Thompson, even if I don't accept his conclusions. The Hebrew Bible comprises a collection of literature, and needs to be appreciated as literature first and foremost. Questions regarding its relation to 'real history' (which is a nebulous concept, and one that might best be done away with) are fated at the outset.

Unless you believe that the Israelites were Canaanites, you're forced to acknowledge their conquest of the land of Israel. Whether that happened quickly, slowly, successfully, or at all like it is described (contradictorily) in Joshua and Judges is a question that relates very little to an understanding of the texts in question.

This is not to disagree with you at all, by the way, but merely to expand upon your assertion that this is a "dumb question". On that score, I agree.

JohnFH

It's the genealogies in 1 Chronicles that add new information with respect to the narrative of Genesis-2 Kings that need to be considered. For example, the presentation of Shelah's descendants in 1 Chr 4:21-23 gives the impression that this line remained in Canaan and did not go down to Egypt and become slaves. See also 1 Chr 7:20-29. These texts are hard to square with relevant texts elsewhere, though of course the Sages tried, and on occasion I would guess they harmonize correctly.

It's not the historicity of specific conquests reported in Joshua that, from a historian's point of view, are of the greatest interest (nor do we usually have sufficient data to say much either way; on this score, Thompson often goes overboard).

It's the whole question of the role of herem in warfare of the time, not just in Israel, but in Moab and South Arabia. How warfare in that sense related to particular religious conceptions, and how that is both like and unlike Neo-Assyrian theory and practice of war.

Not just in Joshua, of course, but also 1 Sam 15.

These are questions that a minimalist like Thompson can ignore. I might wish I could, but I'm a hard-boiled middle-of-the-roader on historical questions. I don't have that luxury. See the following post:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2010/02/a-critique-of-minimalism-walter-dietrich-reviews-john-van-seters.html

Mike K

John, I appreciate that you are forcing readers who are dismissive of the Hebrew Bible to confront the same difficult issues of violence in the New Testament or the violence and oprression that props up our comfortable modern society today. Just a couple of thoughts. I recently heard a sermon series on Joshua at a church, but the one way that it seemed like the pastor was able to navigate the difficult issues Joshua raises was almost by allegorizing the text and giving it an existential ring( taking the step of faith to cross over the Jordan or fighting spiritual powers, etc). I wonder if you would find this a potentially valid reading, especially in the sense that the "biblical Canaanites" have somewhat of a mythical quality as related to the Nephelim or mythical giant offspring of the sons of god and daughters of men (Gen 6:1-4; Num 13:32-33), though when the Israelites are about to defeat them in Joshua they no longer seem pictured as scary giants but rather it is now the Caananites who fear Israel and her God? Also, since you mention Deborah's song as supporting the "internal revolution model", I wonder if you could share your thoughts on Norman K. Gottwald reading through a Marxist lens of early Israel as anti-imperialist internal peasant revolt against oppressive Canaanite and Egyptian domination. Thanks John.

terri

Ah....there's nothing quite like the smell of condescension in the morning

Well, being the person who asked the "dumb question", which originally earned me an acknowledgment that it was a "great question"...I must say that I am stupefied....which will fit me nicely into the category of people who ask "dumb" questions.

I don't see how this question is irrelevant, especially in the context of the "texts of terror" conversation occurring.

Maybe to scholars it does seem irrelevant. But Christianity is not made up of scholars, but of average people trying to understand God and his relation to them in their everyday lives.

It's not irrelevant because this incident is explained as very real, historical fact in churches everywhere. And many pastors and leaders explain it in those very literal, bare facts to their willing listeners.....leaving them with the task of reconciling this very frightening picture of a God who actively advocates and commands "scorched earth" policies.

I wonder how many of those average people would feel relieved to know that this story was considered by many, seemingly conservative, scholars to be an aggrandized exaggeration of events that may have happened sometime in Israel's history?

All of a sudden, trying to justify the violent attributes of God loses its force.....because the stories they are based on might not even have happened.

Trivial, I know, to all you ivory tower OT buffs......but hugely important to all of us dumb, average people.

G. Kyle Essary

terri,
Calling it a "dumb" question is probably a little harsh. Yet neither of us are living in ivory towers. Let's not forget that John and I are both pastors and neither of us would be classified as "liberal" by those in the biblical guild...heck, we're both evangelicals.

What you're going to have to deal with is the fact that whether or not the historical details are accurate in a 21st century sense, the text is still the God's Word, and you cannot simply brush it aside. Instead, you must determine why it is God's Word and therefore what it means. My point above is that regular history can't get to the issue because it's incapable.

So what if the story is totally fictitious? These texts are still "God-breathed" according to 1 Timothy and Christian leaders ever since. That's the point being made...we have to transcend the simplistic question, because as pastors, the question we have to deal with are much more challenging, difficult and exhilarating to those of us in the Spirit.

terri

GK

I'm not an inerrantist...so appealing to presuppositions about Scripture doesn't work for me anymore. That's a whole 'nother conversation.

What frustrates me is the acknowledgement that something might be purely figurative, but that it is OK to label it as God's Word and use it as a definition of his divine character.

I understand the idea of transcendent truth and poetry and song, and metaphor. I was an English major, though you wouldn't know it from typos, and I completely am on board with story and narrative conveying truth of some sort.

However, when people read a novel that is incredibly touching and true in its transcendent content, they aren't foolish enough to suppose that if they start investigating the characters in the novel that they might somehow run into the actual persons. They might run into people with similar characteristics, or circumstances, but they are not going to find a "real" person.

And people reading novels are in on the fact that it is a novel, not a documentary and that the "truths" contained in the novel are an expression of the author's thoughts.

The situation regarding Joshua is quite different. The vast majority of people reading it aren't "in" on the premise that its a "story". The people teaching the "story" don't reveal it as such. Not only do they not reveal it as such.....but when they teach, by appealing to it as the Word of God they make it not only a description of real events, but a description of the most "real" reality that there is.

Describe me as one of those "modern", "binary" people on whom poetry is lost if it makes you feel better in dismissing what I am saying.

You see, I am only interested in trying to find out what is "true".....as I think most people are.....and in ways that I think most people understand words like "truth", "real" and "factual". So, reading tripe about how most of you don't believe Joshua is true and yet it really is true, without revealing the method of how you got there to the average people trying to understand and make sense of it, just makes me throw up my hands in frustration.

In the background I hear Pontius Pilate asking "What is truth?"

I'l be out of town for several days working instead of spending way too much time commenting....so if there are wonderful answers and responses to my comment, my lack of reply won't be because I'm ignoring them.

JohnFH

Hi Terri,

This sort of misunderstanding often happens in online discussion. You didn't ask the question that starts this post off. At least, I didn't hear you asking it. I've come to know you as a literate reader of the Bible, attentive to the genres in which its parts are written. I read you (past tense) as having already determined (correctly, in my view) that Joshua is a literary and not merely a historical work (as if there is such a thing, in literature, as a pure historical work).

Your questions were (and are) of another kind, above the pay grade of the "dumb question" I start off with in this post, a question which nonetheless needs to be addressed.

Silently as I wrote the post, I said to myself ("no, Terri, I don't mean you; the question is purely hypothetical, a straw-man question if you wish"). I almost added that comment parenthetically into the post, but didn't, because your concerns were not uppermost in my mind when I wrote the post.

The questions I hear you asking are important. I was trained to read the Bible both as a believer and as a historian. When I preach on Joshua, I may, very parenthetically, point out that the book is history in about the same sense as our talking about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact and John Winthrop is when we explain to ourselves why we are here and what values we have. Or I may not. It is self-defeating to constantly remind yourself of the limits of a particular genre you are reading if the goal is to let its truth claims wash over you in full force, which is what excellent preaching is all about.

Another example: the book of Job. The genre of this book is the same as a novel more or less. At least, that's how I understand it. Once again, however, it is self-defeating to read it and constantly remind oneself that it is "just a story." That's because it is not. It is a story that encapsulates our story. It is a story that is absolutely true.

To return to the book of Joshua. One of my points is: if some of the specific instances of herem (targeted "no-mercy" proscription of entire villages in war) recounted in the book of Joshua didn't happen under the historical Joshua's leadership, it changes nothing.

It does not follow that the book of Joshua is a piece of fantasy. On the contrary, it stands to reason that the Israelites, in securing the land they received as a promise from God, practiced herem in the process. As did the Moabites and the Sabaeans in their attempts to secure territory they regarded as theirs to take, as we know from discovered texts.

The grave moral problems the book of Joshua poses cannot be bypassed with the suggestion that the book recounts things that didn't happen. It recounts things that did happen, albeit in a schematic and chronologically collapsed sort of way.

If that is the case, readers of Joshua all, scholars and non-scholars alike, have the unenviable task of making sense of it *as is,* no dodges allowed. As we try to do that, I think we first have to give the history of war a long hard look and stop pretending.

The book of Joshua is our story, and we need to face up to it. Some of us would literally not be in existence if Dresden had not been fire-bombed and Nagasaki and Hiroshima utterly decimated. Instead of the men and families who built the military hardware of the Nazi war machine, instead of the men, women, and children of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, our fathers and/or grandfathers would have lost their lives in a longer, drawn-out war. At least, those targeted genocidal acts were undertaken on the assumption that by so doing, the war would be shortened with a great deal less of loss of life and limb, on our side certainly, and perhaps on all sides.

Here is a current comparison. Some of us supported Obama for president. Some of us supported McCain. I expect McCain would have followed the same strategy as Obama has in the AfPak theatre. In the last year, the Obama has ramped up the practice of the use of "precision" half-ton bombing of "high-quality" terrorist targets. Under Obama, there have been more targeted assassinations in a year than there were in the 4 years previous (or something like that; I don't know the exact figures). Even if that means killing women and children in the bargain, over and over again, this is what we are doing.

The blood of many innocent women and children, I submit, is on our hands. Not just the blood of terrorist leaders.

Our approach: we drop a bomb from heaven and annihilate an entire household. We risk nothing.

The approach in the Iron Age; a group of volunteer soldiers risked everything in an attempt to "make an example" by destroying utterly one or more strategic targets, in the hopes that then the rest of the enemy would be driven away from fighting altogether.

None of the texts we have, in the Bible and beyond, recount attempts at proscription that failed. (Actually, I think Joshua and Judges do, implicity.) But of course attempts often failed, with great loss of life on both sides.

We've tried to solve that problem in our own day by bombing from heaven. But what if by so doing we loosen the constraints on ourselves, and kill with greater indiscrimination than we otherwise would?

I don't think the question is purely hypothetical. I know the military and even some of our famously ethical politicians, ponder these matters. In fact, adjustments were made in the recent battle for Marjah. The result: more 18 and 19 year olds from Wisconsin and Florida with their heads or legs blown off. There are trade-offs.

Note well: literally almost no one is willing to even talk about these things openly. We are a nation in denial. The book of Joshua forces us to look ourselves in the mirror, or ought to.

I have to run some errands before I can get back to this thread. Till then.

JohnFH

Here's another way of posing the problem. Is it better to "protect God" from our emotions and calculations, or bring them into God's presence?

The trouble with the first option is that we then handle our enemies according to whatever seems right in our eyes at the moment, with God safely in heaven and humankind in control on earth.

Even if one's God is not a person of awesome benevolence, but nothing more than an abstract principle of justice, this option is basically extra-legal in concept, if that makes any sense.

The second option is fraught with other dangers. As soon as we bring our decision-making into God's presence, we are implicitly asking for approval, condemnation, or something in between. That's how the ancients did it. That's how it's done in our day, too, to a large extent. How about in war?

Perhaps we don't reason that taking out a whole household of people in order to take out one of their number is "making an example." But of course it is.

Does God, or at least our sense of justice, compel us to do these things? Allow us to do so? Discourage us from doing so?

If and only if we have wrestled long and hard with these questions, I submit, are we in a position to read the book of Joshua with understanding.

JohnFH

Mike,

I see we are on the same page in many ways. Yes, I'm familiar with the usual sort of dodgy way Joshua is preached. Basically all one is left with is, "Be strong and of good courage" in the face of threats, and "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." On occasion, perhaps the majority of time in citing these passages in preaching, it may make sense to thus benefit from them at very high levels of abstraction only, and leave the meaty problems alone.

Here I'm pushing the envelope. I think that's my responsibility to do so as a biblical scholar. I hope the method and purpose are clear.

Methodologically, I'm trying to read Joshua as a mirror in which to see the contours of our contemporary ethical dilemmas. The purpose: to force us not to give ourselves a free pass, do not go to jail, collect $200 card in our own practice of war.

We like to think of ourselves as advanced in the domains of war and peace relative to the ancients, and certainly relative to the book of Joshua. Having read a bit of military history, I object to our ingrained sense of moral superiority in the strongest possible terms.

Nor is the default alternative in our society, the "let it be" and "practice random acts of kindness" mentality, which is only possible in the first place in the shadow of empire, a true alternative.

As for Judges 5, I read that passage with Frank Cruesemann while a student for a year in Germany, at the Kirchliche Hochschule Bethel. Cruesemann gave excellent reasons for seeing the poem as a mirror of conflicts of the type anthropologists study: clashes between tribal "egalitarian" societies whose own authority structure was termed "regulated anarchy" by Sigrist, and urban, highly stratified, city-states.

In short, I think Gottwald gets a number of things right. However one-sided his model is, it remains a vast improvement relative to the wishful thinking of the peaceful infiltration model - though I don't doubt that that was a factor in Israel's ethnogenesis as well.

A final note. My deepest reason for thinking through the book of Joshua is the understanding that an interpreter of a text - it doesn't matter which, the Bible is the text that interests me in particular - must be a servant of the word:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2010/01/why-a-scholar-must-be-a-servant-of-the-word.html

G. Kyle Essary

terri,
Who's talking about inerrancy? What I was saying was that "historical" or not, the Christian and Jewish communities have always seen the text as inspired. Pastorally, dealing with the issue of justifying "skipping" this passage over against the church of every age would be a much more difficult issue than dealing with violence in the text.

Such a move (making oneself the arbiter of which parts of canon are inspired over/against the church universal) brings all types of new questions about epistemology, anthropology and even Christology (for Christ surely read Joshua as inspired). This may seem an easier task at first, but it's surely as difficult in the end.

terri

John

OK. Maybe I took the "dumb" question thing too personally. It seemed as if the post was merely a copy and paste of your original response to me on the other thread, so it sort of felt like a jab in my general direction.

I read your blog because I think you have some interesting things to say, even if I don't agree with you. Oftentimes, I like very much the ideas you discuss and then wind up completely surprised at where those ideas take you, because I often end up somewhere altogether different facing the same ideas.

So....when I argue, it's because I'm trying to understand how idea A got you to point B, when idea A naturally leads me to point C....and how could it be anything other than C, at least in my mind?

When you discuss Joshua, what I hear is a discussion about war and humanity and acceptable losses and justifications we make unto ourselves. It's valid discussion and certainly interesting....and I acknowledge that we are not morally superior.

Where I get lost is the attempt at taking that angle and then reinforcing the idea that God wants it that way, that it's a part of his character that we mustn't dilute or explain away.

Now...if one were to take the angle that what we think of "God" is mostly a human construct and that when the Book of Joshua talks about God commanding the Israelites to wipe out a group of people, it is merely the Israelites reading what they wanted into the situation...then I can understand where you're coming from and where you're going.

But I'm not sure that's what you mean.....because if it were....it would undermine the authority of the "texts of terror" that you are trying to preserve in the first place.

Evangelical Christianity tries very hard to present a well sketched-out picture of God, giving the impression that we'd recognize him if we bumped into him on the street and that we know all of his hobbies and interests and what makes him happy and what makes him angry, or sad.

And that's how I see Joshua...it doesn't simply present a God who happens to be on the side of the Israelites....it presents a God who told them to go fight it out in the first place.

If that's due to them anthropomorphizing God's will to match their own.....then my immediate reaction is to reject it. If I suspect that it's simply convenient wish fulfillment on the part of the Israelites....why would I want to perpetuate it?

JohnFH

You are very good, Terri, at understanding where I am pushing the envelope. This is going to be a long reply, but you will notice it is still not long enough to get to the bottom of the questions we are discussing

First of all, do you ever nail the problem when you say:

"Evangelical Christianity tries very hard to present a well sketched-out picture of God, giving the impression that we'd recognize him if we bumped into him on the street and that we know all of his hobbies and interests and what makes him happy and what makes him angry, or sad."

In fact, all versions of Judaism and Christianity try very hard to get God right. It would be wrong if they didn't.

At the same time, passages like Job 28 and Isa 55 should counteract our attempts to claim to understand everything.

Job 28 in context says that really bad things happen to us the purpose of which we cannot expect to fathom. Isa 55 in context says that really good things happen to us, perfect gifts which exceed our wildest dreams.

It follows that God exceeds our ability to grasp his motives or understand his calculations on both ends: his destructive, alien work (Isa 28), and his work of salvation; the latter is so unmerited that it causes problems of its own (Luke 15).

So far, so good, you may say. But that doesn't mean you are ready to accept the notion that one and the same God

(1) brought the flood upon the earth;

(2) ravaged his own land and destroyed his own temple and allowed his own people to be decimated by the Babylonians;

(3) ordered the Israelites to proscribe the indigenous inhabitants of the Promised Land (as part of a campaign to drive them out, per Deuteronomy 20 and elsewhere and as reported in e.g. Joshua 10);

(4) commanded the Israelites to capture Amalekite villages and proscribe their inhabitants, man, woman, and child and everything that might have provided others with sustenance (in retaliation, per Deut 25:17-19 in 1 Sam 15);

5) saved all created species from extinction, including that species which not just Genesis but clear-eyed Greens know should be eliminated for the sake of the others;

(6) restored the people to their land, a veritable resurrection from the dead (Ezek 37); and

(7) gave the ex-slaves of Egypt a bounteous land of their own and protected them from their mortal enemies.

In the face of all this, you may well want to say - it is my first reaction as much as anyone else's: "I want nothing to do with this God."

But that doesn't work either. Then we are left with a world whose Creator and Sustainer must be an evil beast and with a belief in a Redeemer who must pop out of nowhere, a complete rupture with reality as we know it, who any case must be as elusive as Godot or buried somewhere in the deep recesses of our souls.

That plays itself out as Marcionism and Gnosticism whose track record is not encouraging quite apart from the seven devilish ideas that take the place of the original devilish idea of the OT in their mental schemes.

It is at the core of what the Bible presents as revelation that the same Power who created heaven and earth and called it good allows his creation to be threatened to one inch of its life over and over again and who also, through detours and delays, redeems all of creation and its history day by day and promises surpassing palingenesis.

All of this sucks big time, as my teenage daughter would say, but is awesome at the same time.

Most of all it just sucks if, as Abraham Lincoln found out during the War that he prosecuted that anything less than total war against the enemy (external or internal, it does not seem to matter) was not going to lead to victory.

It is this utterly black conclusion which is the premise of texts of terror in the Bible such as 1 Sam 15. So Lincoln dismissed his timid generals and found others who would ravage and burn and show no mercy. Only in this way was an endless and inconclusive Civil War brought to a bloody, filthy conclusion.

See Stanley Hauerwas, “Why War is a Moral Necessity for America or How Realistic is Realism?” CTR 6 (2008) 51-70 (link in my Obama War and Peace post).

You also say: "I acknowledge that we are not morally superior."

Indeed. We are not. Lincoln and Sherman were like Joshua, not like the liberal Saul. In 1 Sam 15, it is Saul who anthropomorphizes God. Saul is genuinely surprised that God's prophet condemns him because he had compassion on the Amalekites and showed consideration to his own soldiers and wanted to show consideration to God in a way that was more humane than God had suggested through herem.

1 Sam 15 and especially 16:1 stick in my craw in more ways than I can count. This God who never changes his mind (15:29) but keeps on changing it (16:1). Was not Samuel right furthermore to relent and forgive Saul (15:31), rather than God, who did not (16:1)?

Like it or not – this is the God the Bible presents us with, and this is the God who redeems us. I am perfectly fine if someone says, “In that case, I prefer to be unredeemed.”

That’s pretty much Ivan’s response in the Brothers Karamazov. To that kind of response, I can only listen, and finally, embrace the person who so responds.

At the same time, I can only continue to embrace the only God I know, not only in the pages of the Bible, but in life.

If we choose instead to disentangle the Power who created all that it is and who is the Lord of the chaos and destruction we call history in which the seven seals are continually being unsealed and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse continually run amok [Revelation 6] from the Power incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen, the fierce and gentle one, the wounded Healer, I think we are left with absolutely nothing at all, with nothing but pious, ineffective, and sickly-sweet sentiment.

The fierce Lion of Judah, the slain Lamb, is, according to the book of Revelation ,the one who unseals the seven seals of the chaos we call history. And that is of a piece with the God of Israel. The only way to get away from all that is to go all the way with John Shelby Spong and have the iconoclastic Jesus marry the stunningly beautiful Mary Magdalene, have a dozen blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids, and live happily ever after. Never died on a cross and never was raised from the dead. We know the storyline from Hollywood: it’s all there in Pretty Woman, though the sequel with the kids is still in production.

Truman 1

Truman 1,

I understand the idea behind saving the lives of others by having the best warriors fight to determine the battle. I think it is a great idea but I don’t think that other tactics such as murdering prisoners of war is okay. I realize that war itself is not human but I think that by doing this is taking it too far. Eisenhower bombing Japan is also a tactic that I find very inappropriate and inhuman. As soon as Eisenhower did this act it was no different than a terrorist act that occurs in our country. In s sense Eisenhower’s decision did shorten the war and save many lives so there another side to his action and I do respect his reasoning.

True Grit 2

There is a fine line between some act of war that is just and one that is unjust. War brings casualties and destruction that is never good but may have been done with the right intentions. It’s hard to know what would have happened if Eisenhower didn’t bomb Japan and end the war. I agree with Truman 1 with that I respect his decision because making war decisions are not easy.

Nell 3

I think that war is a necessary thing at times, but I would agree that there are boundaries within war that just should not be crossed. As John said to say something is right or necessary is to say God requires it. In that sense I think war tactics like murdering prisoners of war or bombing entire countries (innocent women and children) are tactics that are not needed. On the other hand though, you need to protect yourself and in cases of war your country. If we did not bomb Japan no one can say what would have happened. Maybe they would have bombed us? Situations like that are not as clear cut in my opinion, but that is why I am not in a position to make decisions like that because for me it is simply too difficult. I give credit to those who are in those positions because it is not easy.

Shawshank Redemption 3

First of all, I would like to point out to Truman 1 that Eisenhower did not bomb Japan, he planned D-Day. FDR was the one who planned the bombing and Truman was the the one to give the order to drop them after he took over for FDR when he died. Eisenhower was actually opposed to the bombing of Japan. He did not think it was necessary and he believed that Japan was close to surrendering anyways. I think you should read up on WWII events before you use them to make a point.

I do not agree with the "scorched-earth" tactics unless they are necessary, but it's hard to tell if and when they are actually necessary and I think that is why so many people are against using them. "Isn't it shameful that God is conceived of as requiring scorched-earth tactics? To which I would respond, Isn't it more shameful to engage in scorched-earth tactics *without* being convinced that such is the right thing to do?", I agree completely with this statement. I don't think people who have never been in a war should judge the decisions of those who have been. The best people to make decisions about war are the people who know how it works and understand it. I don't think anyone could even begin to understand war when they have never been involved in one.

Shawshank Redemption 4

First, I would like to respond to the post by saying that there is no such thing as a "dumb question". With that said, I found this passage to be very insightful.It’s virtually impossible to find high school and college students unable to say a thing or two about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. By the same token, it’s virtually impossible to find high school and college students able to say a thing or two about King Philip and his war." This is very true in my case. I actually had to look up King Phillip and his war, while when asked about the Mayflower, we were taught this in second grade and it has stuck with me ever since. And I also agree with SR 3 with the fact that if you haven't been in a war, you can't judge what they are doing in the war. Only the people in the war know what it is like. We should not judge their actions.

Truman Show 2

I understand that it is hard for some people to imagine killing women and children in war, as in 1 Samuel 15. It would be a horrible act to fulfill but they were following orders by God. You see what happens to Saul when he doesn’t obey the command, but those tactics in war today are not commanded by God. What do we do? In order to win a war and come home with the least amount of casualties you unfortunately do have to follow a “no-mercy” policy. It’s hard to stomach but nothing about war is pretty. When I was in Iraq a couple of marines in another unit were giving candy to children when a young boy threw a grenade and took their lives. This doesn’t mean that all of the children are bad but it really complicates feelings and thoughts of the other marines who lost their brothers. God warns us about the terrors of war and having a king but we failed to listen in most cases but when he told us to go to war in Joshua 11 he mentioned that Israel’s enemy would be slain. That is a very strong word and it seems to me that God has a very specific, violent orders when it comes to war. Perhaps it was easier when he commanded us but now we battle at our own will.

Ben Smith

Hi John,

I'd like to thank you once again for this post - it's the only decent argument I've heard against the views of someone like you-know-who. Not that it would satisfy them, of course... but then, that's God for you.

Ben Smith

And also... the fact that all the peoples under Herem were descended from the Nephilim bloodlines speaks of a wider purpose as well.

Breaker Morant 2

I believe that asking if the Book of Joshua is fact or Fiction is like asking if you believe in Jesus. That might be a little off, but the idea is that something's in the Bible are stories, while some of it is fact. It is all about how you read and interpret the Bible, as well as what denomination you are because some teach the stories differently. Also, the Bible is a collection of stories that was compiled several hundred years after the supposed time that some of these events and conquering took place, so the likelihood of us finding any historical or archaeological evidence is like a needle in the haystack because they could be talking about many places.

It is good to question things, I am not trying to say that is bad, but some things have no answer, or will never be answered because we were not alive in that time. For all we know, this book could be similar to the Journal of Christopher Columbus, from someone who was with the main character at the time, but not written by him, so the point of view and the overall point not expressed as it would have been had it been a genuine first account.

Shawshank Redemption 3

Asking if the Book of Joshua is Fact or Fiction is like asking if the bible is fact or fiction. You can't just take one book out of context and expect it to make scene! That is why I am Glad that JohnFH includes the books of Numbers, Judges 1 Samuel, and so on. It puts the book into context. There are many stories in the bible or Strange things that happen that people could look at as a myth. For example the whole story of Moses! People could say well your God is so great why doesn't he save you? Joshua is alike in the fact that God is so great how he could let these horrible things happen! This ties into the discussion that we had in a previous class about Israel needing to learn a lesson. God doesn't intervene because this is what has to happen for the world / or the people to get to where they need to be with God. There are horrible stories all over in the bible not just about war. There is murder and torture and slavery war is not the most horrible thing in the bible and if the stories of war are “fiction” then why isn’t the whole Bible.

Shawshank Redemption 3

Asking if the Book of Joshua is Fact or Fiction is like asking if the bible is fact or fiction. You can't just take one book out of context and expect it to make scene! That is why I am Glad that JohnFH includes the books of Numbers, Judges 1 Samuel, and so on. It puts the book into context. There are many stories in the bible or Strange things that happen that people could look at as a myth. For example the whole story of Moses that leads up to this story! People could say well your God is so great why doesn't he save you? Joshua is alike in the fact that God is so great how he could let these horrible things happen! Why did he leave them in the desert to wander around, why would he let them go to war? This ties into the discussion that we had in a previous class about Israel needing to learn a lesson. God doesn't intervene because this is what has to happen for the world / or the people to get to where they need to be with God. There are horrible stories all over in the bible not just about war. There is murder and torture and slavery war is not the most horrible thing in the bible and if the stories of war are “fiction” then why isn’t the whole Bible.

Dead man walking 4

I agree with Truman show 2, as much as everyone hates to admit it, war is a brutal barbaric form of fighting combat. The question of is the book of Joshua fact or fiction? Doesn’t it really matter, because it describes passages of wars centuries ago and we still are fighting wars today. We still cross the same issues they did in these times. How haven’t we learned from these examples from the Bible? I guess how can you make rationale decision when the matter comes down to the simple idea of kill or be killed. In survival mode the natural human instincts take over, but we still question our actions of what may right and what may be wrong. The book of Joshua should be looked at as a warning or lesson of what challenges that may be encountered on the field of battle.

True Grit 5

Good article, I personally believe all to be fact in the bible. The part of this that stands out most to me is the fact that why God issued men to kill entire cities. But those that sit there clearly don’t read every story. God use his people the people he called to faith in him to destroy all evil. Did God not command Noah to build an ark to destroy those who rejected God and lived in sin? God hates sin most of all and refuses to let those be in his present that partake their entire life in sin. So of course God could use tactics to destroy cities that falsely worshiped idols. God is just in every action that he commands us and our faith calls to trust him in every judgment he makes even if we not agree with it because he gives us mercy if we follow and trust him.

Pulp Fiction 1

Do I believe the Book of Joshua is fact or fiction? I believe it is fact. It really is a dumb question, come to think about it. Why would anyone make something up in the Bible in the first place? Sure, there are chapters and versus that are misunderstood and found to be unimaginable, but who are we to judge? The Book of Joshua is a story contained in a book of many stories. Perceived as not true or true, if you take the time to read the Bible, I would say you’re a believer. Why read it if you don’t think any of the stories or passages are true? It would not make sense to even continue with the reading. Being a believer I say the Book of Joshua is true, not only because I am a Christian, but the fact that it’s a story in the Bible. It’s very believable that Joshua’s crew stole thirty silver coins and this is something that would happen in today’s world as well. It’s a simple form of greed and it’s what we live with every day of our lives.

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