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God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I: Wolterstorff’s Argument for the Hagiographic Hyperbolic Interpretation

January 7th, 2011 by Matt

Around this time last year I wrote two posts Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites I and Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites II. These posts attracted a fair amount of attention and debate. I got offers to publish my ideas in several upcoming books and present them before both the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) and the Society for Biblical Literature in November 2010. Since the original posts I have corresponded with various people and I have modified and refined some of the ideas. This three-part blog series is a modified version of what I presented to the EPS last month. These posts supersede and update what I wrote in a year ago.

Joshua at AiOne of the most perplexing issues facing Christian believers is a series of jarring texts in the Old Testament. After liberating Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites arrived on the edge of the Promised Land. The book of Deuteronomy records that God then commanded Israel to “destroy totally” the people occupying these regions (the Canaanites); the Israelites were to “leave alive nothing that breathes”. The book of Joshua records the carrying out of this command. In the sixth chapter it states “they devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys”. In the tenth and eleventh chapters it states that Joshua “left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.” The text mentions city after city where Joshua, at God’s command, puts every inhabitant “to the sword”  “totally destroyed the inhabitants” and “left no survivors.”

If one takes these passages literally they record the divinely-authorised commission of genocide. But genocide surely is morally wrong. In the light of this, critics of Christian theism often ask a rhetorical question; how could a good and loving God command the extermination of the Canaanites?

One response which goes back to the patristic era is to suggest that the strict, literal reading on which this rhetorical question is based is mistaken. Recently, several, protestant scholars have suggested a hyperbolic reading of the relevant passages.[1] Perhaps the most detailed is that proposed by Nicholas Wolterstorff. Wolterstorff suggests,

“[T]hat the Book of Joshua has to be read as a theologically-oriented narration, stylized and hyperbolic at important points, of Israel’s early skirmishes in the Promised Land, with the story of these battles being framed by descriptions of two great ritualized events.  The story as a whole celebrates Joshua as the great leader of his people, faithful to Yahweh, worthy successor of Moses.  If we strip the word “hagiography” of its negative connotations, we can call it a hagiographic account of Joshua’s exploits.”[2]

In this series I will defend Wolterstorff’s position. In this post I will sketch, adapt and defend Wolterstorff’s argument. In Part II, I will argue that external evidence from comparative studies in Ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts gives considerable support to Wolterstorff’s position. Finally in Part III I will look at two implications of this position.

Wolterstorff’s Argument
Wolterstorff’s contention is that “a careful reading of the text in its literary context makes it implausible to interpret it as claiming that Yahweh ordered extermination”. It is important to note what he means by context. Here, it is clear that Wolterstorff is advocating a canonical approach. He notes that,

“Joshua as we have it today was intended as a component in the larger sequence consisting of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and I and II Kings…  I propose that we interpret the Book of Joshua as a component within this larger sequence – in particular, that we interpret it as preceded by Deuteronomy and succeeded by Judges.”[3]

Joshua comes after Deuteronomy and before Judges. Wolterstorff points out that these books should be read as a single narrative. When one does this, however, several issues are apparent. Joshua 6-11 summarises several battles and concludes with “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions.  Then the land had rest from war”[4] (Joshua 11:16-23). Judges, however, opens with a battle that occurs after Joshua’s death; it states,

“After the death of Joshua, the Israelites inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?”  The Lord said, “Judah shall go up.  I hereby give the land into his hand.”  Judah said to his brother Simeon, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites; then I too will go with you into the territory allotted to you.  So Simeon went with him.  Then Judah went up and the Lord gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand; and they defeated ten thousand of them at Bezek.” [Judges 1: 1-4]

Taken literally, Joshua states Joshua conquered the whole land and Judges states that much of the land was unconquered.

Similarly, Joshua affirms he exterminated all the Canaanites in this region. Repeatedly it states that Joshua left “no survivors” and “destroyed everything that breathed” in “the entire land”, “put all the inhabitants to the sword”. Alongside these general claims the text identifies several specific places and cities where Joshua exterminated everyone and left no survivors. These include Hebron (Josh. 10:40), Debir (Josh. 10:38), the hill country and the Negev and the western foothills (Josh. 10:40). In the first chapter of Judges, however, we are told that the Canaanites lived in the Negev (1:9), in the hill country (Judg. 1:9), in Debir (Judg. 1:11), in Hebron (Judg. 1:10) and in the western foothills (Judg. 1:9). Moreover, they did so in such numbers and strength that they had to be driven out by force. These are the same cities that Joshua 10 tells us Joshua had annihilated and left no survivors in.[5]

Similarly, Joshua 11:23 states that “Joshua took the entire land” and then “gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions”. Consequently, the conquered region is the same land that is later divided between the Israelite tribes. When the text turns to giving an account of these tribal divisions only a chapter later the allotments begin with God telling Joshua, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over” (Josh 13:1). Moreover, when one examines the allotment given to Judah we see Caleb asking permission to drive the Anakites (Josh14: 11) from the hill countries and we also hear how Caleb has to defeat Anakites living in Hebron and, after this, marches against the people “living in Debir” (Josh 15:13-19). Similarly, it is evident with several of the other allotments that the people have yet to drive out Canaanites entrenched in the area and that the Israelites were not always successful in doing so.

We read, for example, that the Ephraimites and Manassites “did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim” (Josh 16:10). Similarly, in Chapter 17 it states “Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely” (Joshua 17:12-13). We hear that “Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory, so they went up and attacked Leshem, took it, put it to the sword and occupied it. They settled in Leshem and named it Dan after their forefather” (Joshua 19:47). Here we see the same land said to be subdued and conquered by Joshua in battles where he exterminated and left alive nothing that breathed; this land is yet to be occupied by the tribes of Israel and is occupied by Canaanites, often heavily armed and deeply entrenched (17:17-18).

Kenneth Kitchen notes that a careful reading of the earlier chapters makes it clear that Israel did not actually conquer the areas mentioned at all. Kitchen notes that after crossing the Jordan the Israelites set up camp in Gilgal “on the east border of Jericho” (Joshua 4:19). He notes that after every battle in the next six chapters the text explicitly states that they returned to Gilgal,

“The conflict with Canaanite city-state rulers in the southern part of Canaan is worth close examination. After the battle for Gibeon, we see the Hebrews advancing upon six towns in order, attacking and capturing them, killing their local kings and such inhabitants that had not gotten clear, and moving on, not holding on to those places. Twice over (10:15, 43), it is clearly stated that their strike force returned to base camp at Gilgal.  So there was no sweeping take over and occupation of this region at this point. And no total destruction of the towns attacked.”[6]

Kitchen goes on to note,

“What happened in the south was repeated up north. Hazor was both leader and famed center for the north Canaanite kinglets. Thus as in the south the Hebrew strike force defeated the opposition; captured their towns, killed rulers and less mobile inhabitants, symbolically burned Hazor and Hazor only to emphasis its end to its local supremacy. Again Israel did not attempt to immediately hold on to Galilee: they remained based at Gilgal (14:6).”[7]

Kitchen notes that the first “real indication of a move in occupation beyond Gilgal comes in 18:4.” This is after the first allotment of “lands to be occupied are made” and as we saw above the Israelites did not find occupying these allotments easy. He concludes, “these campaigns were essentially disabling raids: they were not territorial conquests with instant Hebrew occupation. The text is very clear about this.”[8]

Finally, the account of what God commanded differs in the two narratives. Joshua states “He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded (Josh 10:40) and “exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses (Josh 11:20b ). However, when the command is retroactively referred to in Judges 2:1, no mention of genocide or annihilation is made; instead we hear of how God had promised to drive them out and had commanded the Israelites to not to make treaties with them and to destroy their shrines. This silence is significant in the context. If God had commanded genocide then it is odd that only the failure to make treaties was mentioned.

Therefore taken as a single narrative and taken literally, Joshua 1-11 gives a different account of events to that narrated by Judges and also to that narrated by the later chapters of Joshua itself.

Wolterstorff raises a further point,

“Those whose occupation it is to try to determine the origins of these writings will suggest that the editors had contradictory records, oral traditions, and so forth to work with.  No doubt this is correct.  But those who edited the final version of these writings into one sequence were not mindless; they could see, as well as you and I can see, the tensions and contradictions – surface or real – that I have pointed to. So what is going on?”[9]

Wolterstorff’s point is that, regardless of what sources or strata of tradition are alleged behind the final form of Joshua, the redactors who put these books into a single narrative would have been well aware of the obvious contradictions mentioned above. Moreover, these redactors were not mindless or stupid. They obviously would not want to affirm that both accounts were a true literal description of what occurred. Yet they chose to put next to Joshua in the canon a book which began with a narration at odds with a literal reading of the early chapters of Joshua and they chose to juxtapose the picture of Joshua 1-11 with the later chapters I mentioned above. The redactor cannot therefore be asserting that both accounts are literally true.

I think Wolterstorff is correct here. However, his position could be substantially strengthened on theological grounds. In Divine Discourse Wolterstorff provides an interesting and rigorous analysis of the notion that Scripture is the word of God. Central to his analysis is that “an eminently plausible construal of the process, whereby these books found their way into a single canonical text, would be that by way of that process of canonization God was authorizing these books as together constituting a single volume of divine discourse.” [10]

This understanding of Scripture provides the theological justification for reading the text as a single series and hence determining what the author of early chapters of Joshua teaches by examining what is affirmed in Judges and later passages of Joshua.[11] Moreover, if the primary author of Scripture is God, then obviously the primary author of the final canon text is an intelligent person who is unlikely to have deliberately (or accidentally) authored an obviously -contradictory narrative. Hence, even if the contradictions were not obvious to the redactors, and I think Wolterstorff is correct that these apparent contradictions would have been,[12] they would be evident to God. Seeing the process whereby the redactors incorporated these books into a “single canonical text” constitutes God authorising them, this process cannot have involved  the redactors affirming as literally true two contradictory accounts.

It may be contended that an appeal to divine authorship in this way begs the question, however, I think this is mistaken. As I understand the objection, the sceptic who claims that God commanded genocide is offering a reductio ad absurdum; he or she starts by assuming that whatever God commands is right and that Scripture is the word of God, and then derives from these assumptions the absurd conclusion that genocide is not wrong. The question then is whether, granting these assumptions, such a conclusion does, in fact, follow. If Scripture is a unified divine discourse, the sceptic’s conclusion need not follow, for another assumption of the sceptic – that all accounts were intended to be taken as literal – is not evidently true.[13]

Therefore the picture of total annihilation of the Canaanites and complete conquest of their land, and the picture put forward in Judges cannot both be taken as literal descriptions of what actually happened.

At this point Wolterstorff raises a further issue about the type of literature Joshua appears to be. He notes that the early chapters of Judges, by and large, read like “down- to- earth history”. However, “Anyone who reads the Book of Joshua in one sitting cannot fail to be struck by certain stylistic features in the narrative.  One is “the highly- ritualized character of some of the major events described”.[14]

“The book is framed by its opening narration of the ritualized crossing of the Jordan and by its closing narration of the equally- ritualized ceremony of blessing and cursing that took place at Shechem; and the conquest narrative begins with the ritualized destruction of Jericho.”[15]

A related ritualistic feature is the “the mysterious sacral category of being devoted to destruction.”[16] Most significant is the use of formulaic language,

“Anyone who reads the Book of Joshua in one sitting cannot fail to be struck by the prominent employment of formulaic phrasings. … Far more important is the formulaic clause, “struck down all the inhabitants with the edge of the sword.”

The first time one reads that Joshua struck down all the inhabitants of a city with the edge of the sword, namely, in the story of the conquest of Jericho (6:21), one makes nothing of it.  But the phrasing – or close variants thereon — gets repeated, seven times in close succession in chapter 10, two more times in chapter 11, and several times in other chapters.  The repetition makes it unmistakable that we are dealing here with a formulaic literary convention.”[17]

Thus Joshua itself appears to be full of ritualistic, stylised, formulaic language. It therefore looks like something other than a mere literal description of what occurred. In light of these facts Wolterstorff argues that Judges should be taken literally whereas Joshua is hagiographic history; a highly-stylised, exaggerated account of what occurred, designed to teach theological and moral points rather than to describe in detail what actually happened. Wolterstorff provides the example of North American morality tales of the noble puritan or Washington crossing the Delaware. These are idealised, exaggerated accounts of the past designed to teach a moral lesson, not accurate accounts of what actually occurred.

In Part II I look at Ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts.


[1] Alvin Plantinga “Comments on Evan Fales’ Satanic Verses: Moral Chaos in Holy Writ” a paper presented to My Ways Are Not Your Ways: The Character of the God of the Hebrew Bible” Conference at the centre for Philosophy of Religion, University of Notre Dame, Friday 11 September 2009; Paul Copan “Yahweh Wars and the Canaanites:  Divinely Mandated Genocide or Corporate Capital Punishment” Philosophia Christi 11/1 (2009)  and Chapter 16 of Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament (Baker Books: forthcoming 2011); Christopher Wright The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 2008) 87-88; In his latest discussion on the issue, William Lane Craig states “I’ve come to appreciate that the object of God’s command to the Israelis was not the slaughter of the Canaanites, as is often imagined. The command rather was primarily to drive them out of the land. The judgement upon these Canaanite kingdoms was to dispossess them of their land and thus destroy them as kingdoms.” See Divine Command Morality and Voluntarism at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7911 accessed at 29 October 2010.
[2] Nicholas Wolterstorff “Reading Joshua” a paper presented to My Ways Are Not Your Ways: The Character of the God of the Hebrew Bible” Conference at the centre for Philosophy of Religion, University of Notre Dame, Saturday 12 September 2009.
[3] Nicholas Wolterstorff “Reading Joshua” Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham in  Michael Bergmann, Michael J Murray and Michael C Rea (Eds) (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010 forthcoming).
[4] All Scripture quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated. At certain points I will quote from other translations when I think they capture the literal wording more accurately in a manner that is important for my argument.
[5] In addition to these general claims about exterminating populations, Joshua 11:21-22 states “Joshua came and wiped out the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah.” This happens after Joshua is already said to have killed the inhabitants in these areas in Josh 10:30-40. Josh 11:21 states that no Anakites were left living in Israeli territory after this campaign. In Judges 1:21 the text explicitly states that Anakites are in Hebron.
[6] Kenneth Kitchen On the Reliability of the Old  Testament (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003) 162.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Wolterstorff, Supra n 3.
[10] Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim That God Speaks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 295; see also “Unity behind the Canon” in Christine Helmer and Christof Landmesser (Eds) One Scripture or Many? The Canon from Biblical, Theological, and Philosophical Perspectives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) 217-232.
[11] Plantinga notes “an assumption of the enterprise is that the principal author of the Bible—the entire Bible—is God himself (according to Calvin, God the Holy Spirit). Of course each of the books of the Bible has a human author or authors as well; still, the principal author is God. This impels us to treat the whole more like a unified communication than a miscellany of ancient books. Scripture isn’t so much a library of independent books as itself a book with many subdivisions but a central theme: the message of the gospel. By virtue of this unity, furthermore (by virtue of the fact that there is just one principal author), it is possible to “interpret Scripture with Scripture.” If a given passage from one of Paul’s epistles is puzzling, it is perfectly proper to try to come to clarity as to what God’s teaching is in this passage by appealing not only to what Paul himself says elsewhere in other epistles but also to what is taught elsewhere in Scripture (for example, the Gospel of John)” Alvin Plantinga Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 385.
[12] Wolterstorff notes that the phrase “he killed all the inhabitants with the edge of the sword” occurs at least 12 times in Joshua 6-11 in close succession. Judges on the other hand affirms 7 times in close succession that the Israelites failed to drive the Canaanites out, finishing with the Angel of Bokim rebuking them for failing to do so. Similarly in Josh 13-18 it is hammered repeatedly that the land is not yet conquered. Hence these are not subtle contrasts. They are in Wolterstorff’s words “flamboyant” so it’s unlikely an intelligent redactor would have missed this.
[13] I am grateful to Zachary Ardern for helping me to develop this point.
[14] Wolterstorff, Supra n 2.
[15] Ibid. The ritualised nature of the narration is also stressed by Duane Christensen, Deuteronomy 1:1-21:9 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001).
[16] Wolterstroff, supra n 2; the phrase “devoted to destruction” (herem in Hebrew). That reference to the herem serves a figurative or rhetorical function is also noted by Christopher Wright “Now we need to know that Israel’s practice of herem was not itself unique. Texts from other nations at the time show that total destruction was practised, or at any rate proudly claimed, elsewhere. But we must also recognise that the language of warfare had a total rhetoric that liked to make universal and absolute claims about total victory and wiping out the enemy. Such rhetoric often exceeded reality on the ground….” in The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 2008) 87-88. At the other end of the spectrum minimalist scholar Thomas  L Thomson writing on the use of herem in the Mesha stele notes  the “use of the ban at both Ataroth and Nebo are clearly part of the totalitarian rhetoric of holy war rather than historical considerations.”  “Mesha and Questions of Historicity” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament Vol. 22, No. 2, 249.
[17] Wolterstorff, supra n 2.

RELATED POSTS:
God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part II: Ancient Near Eastern Conquest Accounts
God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part III: Two Implications of the Hagiographic Hyperbolic Account
Sunday Study: Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I
Sunday Study: Joshua and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part II
Did God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?

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42 responses so far ↓

  • This is an excellent first post. Wolterstorff’s book is essential reading.

    I’m going to try to think more deeply about your argument not from a theological/philosophical perspective, but from a linguistic perspective. Can these words and these phrases (in Hebrew, Moabite, Aramaic…and any other ANE languages you use that I’m familiar with) carry the meaning that you interpret them as having? Unfortunately, today I don’t have time, but will try my best to help think through the issue on that end and assist (or critique) your argument as best as I am able!

    Also, is there any way to subscribe to comments?

  • Flotsam and jetsam (1/7)…

    Matthew Flanagan has begun posting a revised version of his argument regarding the genocide of the Canaanites. Today’s post argues that Joshua should be read as hagiography rather than literal history….

  • I’d be fine with this interpretation, except for the parts where God is commanding total annihilation.

    You seem to be saying that the ‘total annihilation’ part is hyperbole, but the ‘God commanding’ part isn’t.

    Or is it that God commanded something not quite so harsh?

    Could it be that you’re ignoring any verse where God is being quoted and therefore cannot be hyperbole?

    Perhaps you’re downgrading, “And God commanded..”(and such) to, “Joshua(or whoever) had the distinct impression that God wanted..”?

    Perhaps you’re saying that using the language, “God commanded..”, or, “God said..”, and such, was itself hyperbole!?

    If they didn’t kill everyone and everything, if that’s simply hyperbole, then it follows that God didn’t ‘really’ command them to wipe everyone and everything out.

    Isn’t that a bit of a problem?

  • Hey pboy,
    I think he’s saying that God is using hyperbole in the command and that the people would have understood it as such.

    It similar (though not perfectly analagous) to me being the coach of a basketball team and telling them to “destroy” their opponents. I’m using it figuratively and the team takes it figuratively. They then proceed to win by thirty points and a newspaper the next day says that I “told them to decimate their opponents and they did.” It means that both the original speaker and the intended audience understood it as hyperbolic, figurative language.

    Now, a society reading the paper two hundred years from now may not understand the idiom, and wonder why a coach would ever say such a thing, think that we were a very bloodthirsty society and wonder how the team actually survived to play another week (or why the newspaper would report that they were killed when in fact they were not).

    So in this situation (if it’s a correct interpretation…and I’m not sure at this point), both God and the Hebrews are communicating via hyperbole and figurative speech…and they both know such to be the case.

  • “It similar (though not perfectly analagous) to me being the coach of a basketball team..”

    Yikes, Kyle!

    I can see why you would ‘qualify’ your analogy as ‘not perfect’ there.

    Hyperbole implying bloodshed where there is no actual bloodshed, compared to, hyperbole implying complete destruction meaning, ‘a bit less than’ complete destruction.

    I was thinking along the lines of the history of the Iraq war put in ANE terms.

    “And God commanded G.W.Bush to smite the evil dragon Saddam!”

    But I can see why, as a believer, you’re not likely to want to throw the ‘baby'(Jesus?) out with the ‘bathwater'(genocide).

    I think that the, “Aww, come on! They were just exaggerating!”, defence is a nice touch, but it does seem invite speculation about how much ‘couching in term of’ was going on, since here, we’re willing to concede that some of it was.

  • pboy,
    The question is straightforward and can be rather well analysed using cultural, linguistic and philosophical tests. Try to think of it as such. As I said, I’m not yet convinced but am open to the interpretation presented here if that’s where the evidence for correct interpretation lies.

    The analogy is not the same of course, but we use similarly hyperbolic language all of the time, including war time situations. It’s very common for my wife to say, “If you don’t leave the university until 5:00pm it will be hours before you get home,” when in fact it will be thirty to forty minutes as opposed to fifteen. It’s common for me to tell my kids that they have to eat “every last ounce of food on their plates,” when in reality I just want them to eat some and they know that’s the case. There are “literally countless” situations when we use hyperbole to mean something greater than what we actually expect.

    Thus, for God to say “totally destroy” them or “leave no survivors” when in fact, he wanted them to defeat the enemy army decisively but not literally kill their wives, children, donkeys, etc. wouldn’t be unexpected according to normal linguistic circumstances in our day and possibly (what we are deciding) in ancient days. Such non-literal use of language by God would only be an instance of the accomodation he is already doing by using human language. He accomodates himself to speak with man, and further accomodates his speech to use common human linguistic phrases (if this is the case).

  • Matt, I’d like to see you and Thom Stark debate this matter to try and pin down where you disagree. Stark explains that all the boasting of sacking the cities which were never actually sacked forms something of a national origin myth, probably from Josian reform days: “The literature reflects the attempt of rising empires to express their hegemony through origin stories that crystallize their present-day claims to power. These origin myths present the young nation as an unstoppable force, specially empowered by their deity whose strength far outstrips that of the other tribal deities. The myths serve to crystalize and legitimize the nation’s rise to power. I believe the preponderance of the evidence shows us that this is precisely what is going on in the conquest narratives.” (The Human Faces of God by Thom Stark, p. 147)

    Stark concludes by asking: “How it is possible to affirm that God committed genocide and that God is good — that is a mystery. Whether it is a profound mystery or a convenient one is up to you to decide.”

    For more info see here and here.

  • Still, Kyle, you seem to be missing my point that if the Ancient Near Easterns spoke in hyperbole, going to war with a tribe is the same thing as exacting God’s command to go war with a tribe, the second version being just a tad ‘hyperbolic’

    You know, much like every Bush-lover in North America would imagine that he was doing God’s will to attack Iraq.

    Certainly if I lived in those days and was the war leader of a tribe with their own God, I’d make it a point to say that God had had a word with me, you know, on the side, and told me to wipe the infidels out.

    Seems like we’re talking through the skin of the bubble that you guys are in.

    Surely you would agree with me if it were anyone else’s GOD that we were talking about?

  • Since the language attributed to God, and the descriptions of conquests likewise, are common in descriptions of battles found in other Ancient Near Eastern sources (Matt will cover that next), no, neither Kyle, nor myself, would interpret such language literally if found in other sources.

  • pboy,
    We’re simply trying to understand the text and you are trying to be (a)theological. Maybe you should sit back and try to understand the culture and literature that we’re talking about here. Hopefully we can all come to an agreement about what the text is attempting to say before we start drawing conclusions about what we think it means in a modern context (which is what you are doing…or even worse…psychologizing about what you would have thought and done in that context).

    The topic isn’t whether or not God commanded them to kill people (which he surely did from our perspective, and which he surely did from the literary perspective). The topic is how the authors are using the language to describe events behind the text, what the actual commands would have entailed to the authors and their readers, and only then it has to do with how we appropriate that for today.

  • “Maybe you should sit back and try to understand the culture and literature that we’re talking about here.”

    NOW it’s time to try to ‘understand’ the ‘literature’ that we’ve used to defend our rolling over every culture we’ve come across for the past umpteen hundred years??

    If you say so Kyle.

  • Certain Guinean tribes believed that befriending, betraying and eating other tribesmen was a good practise.

    Certain South American tribes believed that cutting the hearts out of other human beings was an appropriate form of worship.

    Certain ancient peoples believed that burning their children to death in metal statue furnaces was an appropriate form of worship. Stopping such practises was one of the justifications Rome gave for destroying Carthage.

    Rome itself believed that setting men fighting to the death in public displays was an appropriate form of entertainment.

    Christianity has seldom effectively been spread by the sword. However kingdoms composed of Christians have made war against other nations, for land, for wealth, sometimes because their religious practises were disgusting.

    I haven’t heard of God’s instructions to the Israelites, in their attacks on the Canaanites, being used to justify Christian’s “rolling over other cultures”. They’d not be particularly appropriate texts. Augustine’s theories on just war would be far more useful.

    Basically you’re making the claims, show that these particular texts were used to justify “rolling over other cultures” and that the cultures didn’t deserve to be “rolled over”.

  • Jason, what is wrong with you? Can’t you understand plain English? Here you are on a Christian Philosophy site deliberately taking what I say out of context for no reason at all.

    Sure your last couple of sentences agreed with your first four, but your first four had nothing to do with what I said.

    I mean, really? What do, ‘Certain Guinea tribes..’, have to do with the Western civilization rolling over other cultures?

    I agree that it had absolutely nothing to do with God, if that is what you’re saying, but there’s no doubt in my mind that you and I could cite good Godly reasons for the Americas becoming Christianized if we wished.

    Now this has EVERYTHING to do with the Christian attitude that ‘we are right and everyone else is wrong’ just as much as the spread of Islam is to them.

    The take over of North America is still couched in terms of ‘us Christians fleeing from tyranny to be free to practice our religion’, and to Hell with the natives, right?

    I guess the same could be said about Joshua and the Hebrews fighting the Canaanites, so what? But YOU’D rather believe it was a simple land grab in the first case and God’s WILL in the second?

    “Basically you’re making the claims, show that these particular texts were used to justify “rolling over other cultures..”

    Yea. Sure. Of course. What else? When it comes to other, more recent wars, you vehemently deny that it has ANYTHING to do with God and claim that it’s simply land grabs!

    There’s that having cake and eating it too thing again.

  • Since you’ve not shown any specific evidence that these specific texts were used to justify Western nations rolling over anything, rather a list of rather vague and unsubstantiated claims, there’s nothing to respond to.

    I listed the practises of a number of peoples that might have used as justification for introducing a more civilised religion to them.

    Missionaries brought Christianity to New Guinea, putting a halt to those practises.

    Spanish soldiers, in addition to their quest for gold, were opposed to the religious practises of the Aztecs, and were assisted by Indian tribes who were equally opposed to it, generally because it was their people on the chopping block.

    When they had the political power to do so, Christians stopped gladiatorial combat because it disgusted them.

    These are the sort of impositions of Christian culture that you complain about, and they were done for very good reason. Because Christian culture is better than what they had.

    As for the Americas, what of it? I’m not American, and generally I could care less why they do what they do. If you believe that the native practises were better than the way we live today, go and live that way. If you are willing to live under the rule of law, with access to modern medicine and technology then don’t complain about the means by which it came to you.

    I’m sure that making up Godly reasons for doing stuff is possible, but I prefer to work with documented facts. I leave making stuff up to atheists.

  • Pboyfloyd,
    1. When reading any literature no sensible interpretation postulates that every phrase is literal, nor is it sensible to postulate that every phrase is figurative. Most Genre’s contain a mixture of both. In this context I argued that the reference to total anhilation is hyperbolic. This is because the redactor of the final form goes on to inform us that they were not literally wiped out, hence the context suggests a non literal reading. The context does not permit us to say the same thing about the claim that God issued a command to the inhabitants, as I note above. While Judges and latter Joshua do tell us that the inhabitants were not literally wiped out, they also state that God had commanded them to drive the local inhabitants out and engage in military combat against them.
    2. You ask If they didn’t kill everyone and everything, if that’s simply hyperbole, then it follows that God didn’t ‘really’ command them to wipe everyone and everything out.Isn’t that a bit of a problem? I agree God did not command them to literally wiped everyone and everything out, no that’s not a problem. The fact that Gods commands recorded using in a hyperbolic rhetoric is not a problem as far as I can tell.

    3. You go on to state in response to Kyle that “Hyperbole implying bloodshed where there is no actual bloodshed, compared to, hyperbole implying complete destruction meaning, ‘a bit less than’ complete destruction.” This however seems to confuse the fact that the same kind of language is used to describe different situations with the claim the words have a different meaning. Take the basket ball game example, when the coach says “decimate” and “destroy” your opponents he is telling them to win. Similarly in a military context the claim “they totally destroyed them” means only that they defeated them in battle. In both cases the word has the same meaning, it refers to victory. Of course winning in war is different to winning a basket ball game but that does not mean the phraseology has a different meaning.

  • ”I think that the, “Aww, come on! They were just exaggerating!”, defence is a nice touch, but it does seem invite speculation about how much ‘couching in term of’ was going on, since here, we’re willing to concede that some of it was.”

    If I had simply stated ““Aww, come on! They were just exaggerating!” this might be relevant, but I offered the first part of an argument that the text is hagiographic hyperbole, normally when some one offers an argument for a conclusion, the way to refute it is to actually address the argument. Summarising it in sarcastic terms is not really an argument at all.

    But I note your own response refutes its self you state “ is a nice touch, but it does seem invite speculation about how much ‘couching in term of’ was going on, since here, we’re willing to concede that some of it was.”. I note here you refer to the post as a “nice touch, and refer to “couching” obviously these terms can’t be literal, the blog post does not touch anyone. Nor can one literally “couch” language, these are all figurative idioms. Does it follow that know I may have to concede your whole comment sentence is just a metaphor or fiction. After I concede some is.

    The argument “some is” therefore “all is” is a bad argument. I have good evidence some people are criminals it does not follow everyone is. I have evidence some things are living beings, it does not follow everything is. Similarly, one can gain I think good evidence that some parts of the OT are figurative hyperbolic and so forth. It does not follow that all of it is. Bad inferences don’t become good ones because your attacking the bible.

  • Pboy writes “NOW it’s time to try to ‘understand’ the ‘literature’ that we’ve used to defend our rolling over every culture we’ve come across for the past umpteen hundred years??”

    In the post above I stated “One response which goes back to the patristic era is to suggest that the strict, literal reading on which this rhetorical question is based is mistaken.” (emphasis mine)

  • “Since you’ve not shown any specific evidence that these specific texts were used to justify Western nations rolling over anything, rather a list of rather vague and unsubstantiated claims, there’s nothing to respond to.”

    Now you’re denying that the Bible is a template for Christians?

    Joshua et al kicked the ‘Hell’ out of the locals living on the land given to them (Josh et al) by God.

    Christians kicked the ‘Hell’ out of the locals in North and South America who were living on the land ‘given'(after the fact it WAS/IS a ‘given’ in both senses) to them by God!

    Christians kicked the ‘Hell’ out of the locals in Australia, in Africa etc. etc.

    Now, I don’t care that this was simply land grabs at all. There are very eloquent Christian apologies which claim that wars aren’t ABOUT religion, or that religion isn’t the cause of wars, D’Souza and Vox Day for example.

    But the fact remains that when the dust settles the ‘Christian Nation’ which remains standing couches their new ownership in terms of God giving them the land.

    The pre-war propaganda is about the disgusting heathens and so on and the post land grab is couched in terms of it being God-given.

    All that I was saying that given the hyperbole which Matt is claiming in these texts, which I agree with, why doesn’t this land grab by Joshua and his tribes amount to the same thing!??

    Given this admitted hyperbole, God doesn’t really have to show up at all, just like he didn’t ‘actually’ show up in later land-grabs.

    “As for the Americas, what of it? I’m not American..”

    What a cop out, you’re not a New Guinean or a Roman or what not either.

  • ““One response which goes back to the patristic era ..”

    Matt, I agree with you, I was responding to a comment.

  • Matt, you say, ” When reading any literature no sensible interpretation postulates that every phrase is literal..”

    I agree Matt. I hope that you might agree with me that Christians talking about their God-given land is hyperbolic.

    God didn’t actually stick his face through the clouds and say to the first settlers of the Americas, “I give you this land!”, or anything ridiculous like that, right?

    Nevertheless we are quite aware of what it is that they are saying when they say this.(well, more or less)

    Why is it that the books can’t be interpreted in this sensible way? You know, especially since we seem to be willing to address the genocidal parts sensibly?

    I understand that there is fair enough reason to establish that in the cases where total genocide is called for, that the surprise reappearance of supposely ‘gone people’ indicates hyperbole.

    But modern hyperbolic notions of ‘God-given land’ seem to indicate just as strongly that the Hebrews were doing the same thing, don’t you think?

    Seems reasonable to me, since modern hyperbolic notions of ‘God-given land’ don’t somehow negate the existence of God in any way, isn’t that right???

    Can you even admit to seeing my point here?

  • pboy,
    I hope you realize that your reasoning in this thread is non-linear to say the least. You start out and say:

    “NOW it’s time to try to ‘understand’ the ‘literature’ that we’ve used to defend our rolling over every culture we’ve come across for the past umpteen hundred years??”

    This claim contends that “our” nations (I’m assuming you’re American from what you’ve said thus far) have used this literature (the Joshua texts) “to defend our rolling over every culture we’ve come across.”

    You were then asked to give an example of when this passage (or similar conquest passages) have been used to justify such land grabs, wars, etc.

    You throw out some insults, but only attempt to deal with the challenge by saying:

    “The take over of North America is still couched in terms of ‘us Christians fleeing from tyranny to be free to practice our religion’, and to Hell with the natives, right?”

    Of course, this doesn’t answer the challenge since you have given no evidence that the “take over” of North America was justified using Joshua or biblical conquest narratives. You then give your own narrative using derogatory language (those of us who are “Native American” descent don’t like much being called “natives”).

    But then your final response (apart from the insults) has now moved to whether or not Christians use the Bible as a template for their lives. Of course they do, but that’s not at issue. Furthermore, they (at least attempt) to interpret the texts in light of context/genre, etc. and know that the situation in Joshua is radically different from the situation of American history.

    Then, you talk about Australia, South American and other places that were colonized by Christian civilizations…but you never once show how the conquest narratives were used “to defend our rolling over every nation we’ve come across.”

    I hope you see how you are only evading the challenge. You made a claim and were challenged to give any evidence that such a claim is true. You’ve now thrown out plenty of insults, and attempted to change the topic (or at least evade it), but have yet to give any evidence that your claim is true. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make your claim come across as very convincing.

    Furthermore, it has nothing to do with the topic at hand. So once again, I encourage you to try to think about the actual content of this post and attempt to discuss whether or not the interpretation that Matt suggests has warrant, in its original context.

  • Now Kyle, that’s not true. I started out to say, “If they didn’t kill everyone and everything, if that’s simply hyperbole, then it follows that God didn’t ‘really’ command them to wipe everyone and everything out.

    Isn’t that a bit of a problem?”

    I finished my last comment with, “But modern hyperbolic notions of ‘God-given land’ seem to indicate just as strongly that the Hebrews were doing the same thing, don’t you think?

    Seems reasonable to me, since modern hyperbolic notions of ‘God-given land’ don’t somehow negate the existence of God in any way, isn’t that right???

    Can you even admit to seeing my point here?”

    YOU changed the idea that the Ancient Near Easterns spoke using hyperbole to ‘God spoke to the Ancient Near Easterns using hyperbole!’

    Kyle said, “I think he’s saying that God is using hyperbole in the command and that the people would have understood it as such.”

    Compare to, “Thus Joshua itself appears to be full of ritualistic, stylised, formulaic language. It therefore looks like something other than a mere literal description of what occurred.”

    I don’t imagine that Matt or Wolterstorff are trying to say that only verses where God is speaking is using this style, do you?

    “This claim contends that “our” nations (I’m assuming you’re American from what you’ve said thus far) have used this literature (the Joshua texts) “to defend our rolling over every culture we’ve come across.”

    Now I AM claiming that Christians use the entire Bible in support of their claims that they live on God-given land, are you denying that they feel that the Bible supports these common assertions???

    And the REASON that this supports my view isn’t that Christians necessarilly imagine the Book of Joshua specifically gives a template for nation building or land-grabbing, although I’m sure that some interpret their God-given land to correlate to Joshua’s God-given land too, is that the modern usage of God-given land is hyperbolic, from my perspective, essentially meaning ‘stolen’.

    You say, “You then give your own narrative using derogatory language (those of us who are “Native American” descent don’t like much being called “natives”).”

    Well, Kyle, my wife is a member of the Tsheshaht First Nation here and would be offended if I called natives ‘indigenous’, so I guess you can’t please everyone. Those of ‘her’ do, in fact, like being called natives, so you’ll just have to translate ‘native’ to ‘indigenous’ or whatnot or not be so thin-skinned or whatever.

    The question remains, all ‘affront’ hopefully aside, “But modern hyperbolic notions of ‘God-given land’ seem to indicate just as strongly that the Hebrews were doing the same thing, don’t you think?

    Seems reasonable to me, since modern hyperbolic notions of ‘God-given land’ don’t somehow negate the existence of God in any way, isn’t that right???

    Can you even admit to seeing my point here?”

  • Pboyfloyd,
    Did I ever say that only the passages where God is speaking are hyperbolic? No. Did I ever say that Matt or Wolterstorff were saying that? Nope, nor did I change the subject as should be obvious to anyone who has read the article and my comments thus far.

    You may have noticed that the title of the post is “God and the Genocide of the Canaanites.” As the first paragraph makes clear, the topic deals with passages where God says that the Hebrews should “totally destroy” the inhabitants of the land. The purpose of the paper is to analyze the social and linguistic constructions in light of their context to see whether or not the people interpreted God’s commands literally or hyperbolically. Thus my comment that you claim was my changing the subject was actually a summary statement of what the article intends to say.

    Obviously, you are not interested in discussing this as your comments thus far are only loosely related to the actual topic, and I have no desire to discuss whether or not Christians have used the “whole Bible” to defend their “rolling” over other nations, as that has nothing to do with this post.

    As such, I don’t have time to keep up with the discussions in these comments as they are proceeding thus far (and have no interest in them as they continue to evade Matt’s points). Therefore, I’m out until the next post. Adios.

  • “Can you even admit to seeing my point here?”

    Kyle, (what you said)

    Guess I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then. What I thought.

  • pboyfloyd,
    Okay, your demeaning attitude wins (the whole “I didn’t think so” bit). I’ll answer your question even though it doesn’t deal with the content of the post directly. I will not respond further to this thread no matter what insults come flying my way, so let ‘em rip.

    You ask, “But modern hyperbolic notions of ‘God-given land’ seem to indicate just as strongly that the Hebrews were doing the same thing, don’t you think?”

    The answer is no. The fact that certain cultures do things in certain ways does not have a bearing on how other cultures do things. It would be easier to think that people and cultures are uniform, but that isnt the case. Attitudes and actions today cannot be read back into vastly separated historical cultures.

    I am uncomfortable wearing my shoes in my house from years of life in China and Malaysia. That cultural artifact has no bearing on how Americans feel when they where their shoes in the house. Most Americans do not think twice about wearing shoes indoors. It’s a different culture, different societal values, history and traditions and lots else. You can’t assume different cultures have the same values and preferences.

    Whenever you displace the two cultures by 3500 years it gets much more complex. So no, just because certain modern cultures use the biblical text (or have) to justify political action does not give any evidence to the effect that in the specific historical situation in Hebrew culture, with different values, three and a half millennia ago would have done things similar. It amounts to speculation and would need actual evidence to support it.

  • Kyle, what does all that falderol about shoes have to do with religious people today speaking in hyperbole being the same thing as the people who wrote the stories in the Bible speaking in hyperbole???

    Now if you’d just said that you didn’t see my point, I could have just read that as, ‘you don’t want to see my point’.

    I can understand that.

    I almost feel sad for you imagining that you feel that I’m being so abusive and insulting and so on, but I don’t think you really feel that way. I think it’s a pose, because when I explained about the supposed insult you felt over calling First Nations people natives, you just dropped it like it wasn’t useful to you anymore.

  • pboy,
    I truly want you to understand what I’m saying (and why I see your comments as secondary to the content of the post), so I will try one last time.

    As for the “natives” comment. It was only one brief phrase in my comment. All I said was that we don’t much like being called “natives.” I thought this might be new information to you and assist you in future comments. That is a typical colonialist term that offends many people.

    You are the one who made a big deal of it in your response to my brief sentence. You say, “I almost feel sad for you imagining that you feel that I’m being so abusive and insulting and so on, but I don’t think you really feel that way.” This is a perfect case of projection on your part. I never said you were abusive (nor implied it). I merely mentioned that some people of my background don’t like the term. Calm down and go back over the comments, I’ll think doing so will make it clear that you are reading more into this than is there.

    As for the rest, I see your “point.” You are saying in effect, “Doesn’t the fact that people use the Bible to justify immoral actions today give us reason to think that they probably did something similar back then?” I responded by showing that you can’t assume people have the same societal values, cultural norms, traditions, et. al. across modern cultures. Here is how my illustration would look using your language, “Isn’t the fact that I feel uncomfortable wearing shoes in my house reason to think that other humans, say in America, living today would feel uncomfortable wearing shoes in their house?” Obiviously, this is failed logic. I would need to show evidence that they have similar values and traditions.

    Now, I think I’ve already made this clear, but displacing the two cultures over three millenia only makes things more complex. I cannot say, “Doesn’t the fact that I enjoy a drink after dinner give reason to think that people living in Ancient China enjoyed a drink after dinner?” It doesn’t. Nor does it make sense to say, “Doesn’t the fact that we justify our political actions by saying it is God’s will give reason to think that the Hebrews justified their actions by saying it was God’s will?” This is every bit as faulty reasoning as the example of the shoes and the drink after dinner.

    As for saying that you are insulting, in this thread alone you have consistently used degrading language, you’ve accused believers of living in a bubble, you ask questions like “what is wrong with you? Can’t you understand plain English?” You “feel sad for” me. You also consistently have accused people of saying things that they didn’t say in this thread, and have even accused me of not telling the truth. I’ve gotta say, I think you’ve given some pretty good evidence that my claims of you being insulting are justified. So why don’t you just cut the rhetoric and join us in having a regular conversation, okay? I’m more than game if you are.

  • Kyle you could go even further, and apply the logic this way:

    Today in NZ courts appeal to principles of justice to derprive people of their freedom ( by incarerating them).

    In the USSR courts appealed to justice to deprive people of their freedom. (by putting them in Gulags)

    Therefore its clear that when the USSR were depriving people of their freedom they were just doing the same thing as NZ courts were today.

  • Kyle, you say, ” I see your “point.” You are saying in effect, “Doesn’t the fact that people use the Bible to justify immoral actions today give us reason to think that they probably did something similar back then?””

    Not quite. I’m agreeing with Matt that they spoke in hyperbole, and likely didn’t kill every single member of each tribe, but were making their point that the previous owners of that land had been utterly defeated and that the land now belonged to Joshua and his tribes.

    So far this is on topic, yes? We’re on the story of Joshua, the supposed genocidal commands, the evidence for hyperbolic language(to support their claim to the land).

    All that I’m suggesting is that couching this in terms of, “God commanding..”, is a bit more hyperbole. Not only have they utterly defeated everyone with a claim to the land, God himself approved.

    Now compare this with America today, and Christian leaders talking about their land. They too couch it in terms of God giving them that land. They say that they are a Christian Nation and God gave them the land.

    But this is hyperbole. Americans don’t have any actual covenant with God at all. They may have felt that God was on their side in their quest to clear the land of the indigenous population too!

    So it’s a parallel story. European settlers fleeing from religious oppression, settle in a new land which they claim God gave to them, is exactly the same thing as Joshua and his tribes fleeing religious oppression(The Hebrews could not hang out in a land where the leader considered himself a god, right?),.settle in a new land which they claim God gave them.

    The second parallel is that, in both cases, there were those pesky locals to dislodge.

    Of course we don’t read stories of God HIMSELF commanding the utter destruction of the locals in the case of the take-over of the Americas, it would be a bit too hyperbolic Nevertheless, they are more than happy to declare the U.S.A. a Christian Nation which God gave to them.

    Now the only reason that I can see to have to believe, word for word, the stories, including the Book of Joshua, would be that they wre inspired by God, that kind of thing.

    But this post, emphasizing the way that the Ancient Near Easterns used profound language to make their point, is exactly the same as Christians today using profound language(our God-given land) to make the exact parallel point!

    American Christians didn’t need God to personally tell them that the land was theirs, they simply use hyperbolic language, therefore, neither did the Hebrews, who were simply prone to using hyperbolic language to make their point.

  • Pboy,

    The problem is I think its pretty clear the authors of the torah did not consider the claim God had made a convenant with Isreal, was hyperbole, there is no internal evidence from within the OT of this, nor is there the external evidence from ANE literary trophes that I will present in my next post.

    Your suggestion is that in another culture, with a different language and different literary conventions, thousands of years after Joshua(the US) a similar story was told that was considered hyperbolic by americans, but as Kyle has pointed out this is not evidence that the story of the covenant is hyperbolic as its to far removed culturally, linguistically and so on to provide any evidence of the sort I refered to.

  • [...] my previous post, God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I: Wolterstorff’s Argument for the Hagiographic Hyperb…, I expounded and adapted Nicholas Wolterstorff’s argument for a hagiographic hyperbolic reading [...]

  • I don’t see a problem there Matt. Americans will say loudly and proudly that their country, their land was given to them by God, and they don’t imagine for a second that they’re speaking in hyperbole at all.

  • [...] this, see Matt Flannagan’s various posts providing what I see as good reason to see the ‘total destruction’ language as a [...]

  • [...] posts I have explored and defended Nicholas Wolterstorff’s argument for this conclusion. In God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I: Wolterstorff’s Argument for the Hagiographic Hyperb…, I elaborated on, appropriated and expanded Nicholas Wolterstorff’s case for understanding Joshua [...]

  • God and the Genocide of the Canaanites…

    Students in my CHR 101 class might appreciate this discussion from Mike Flanagan of the book of Judges and the morality of God’s commands to “exterminate” the Canaanites before we delve into the Settlement of Canaan next week….

  • [...] article was a revised version of a paper I presented in Atlanta in November last year (my God and the Genocide of the Canaanites series gives a good overview of my position). Around the same time I presented this paper, Thom [...]

  • [...] who on considering Paul Copan’s work in Is God a Moral Monster? and Matt’s blog series God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I, Part II and Part III, asked [...]

  • [...] raises an important issue. In God and the Genocide of the Canaanites I, II and III I defended Nicholas Wolterstorff’s take on the Canaanite massacre in “Reading [...]

  • [...] Flannagan—specifically his three part series on the apparent genocide in the Old Testament (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Additionally, Dr. Flannagan has analysized Saul’s experience in 1 Samuel 15 [...]

  • WHAT EXACTLY IS THE METHODOLOGY EMPLOYED BY INERRANTISTS WHENEVER THEY DEFEND THE “INSPIRED” TRUTH AND ACCURACY OF PARTICUAR PASSAGES OR STORIES IN SCRIPTURE?

    AND, DOES THEIR METHODOLOGY HAVE LIMITS AS TO WHAT IT CAN AND CANNOT DEMONSTRATE THE “INSPIRATION” OF?

    WHAT EXACTLY ARE THOSE LIMITS?

    Inerrantists admit the possibility of so many different explanations (both in the historical realm and in the realm of imaginary invention that involves positing an endless array of improbable “harmonizations” of “difficult” passages with other biblical passages or with history or science) that one might as well take nearly any ancient book, from Homer to the Epic of Gilgamesh, and assert its “inerrancy” using the same “methods.”

    And, is it true or is it not that depending on the situation or circumstances such things as mass slaughter, slavery, conbinage, polygamy, incest, executing married women who are discovered not to be virgins on their wedding night, animal sacrifice, and circumcision were all parts of God’s wonderful plan (some considered damn essential in that time and place), but when the situation or circumstances changed, such things were no longer part of God’s plan, and/or no longer considered essential?

  • The Flannagans on the nonliteral reading of the genocide order…

    The Flannagans are pretty conservative theologically, and this is their anti-literalist response to the genocide problem….

  • [...] within the specific ANE context (see Matt Flannagan’s “God and the Genocide of the Canaanites, Part I, Part II, Part III”), and some argue for both (see Paul Copan’s “How Could God Command [...]