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Stumbling across the unlabelled Annals of Tiglath-Pileser I

No day out to the British Museum is complete without an aimless wander around the Enlightenment Gallery. Artefacts from antiquity fill the shelves, tourists stoop over treasure-filled display cabinets, and books centuries old bare their fading, waxy spines behind glass. The opulent setting transports the weary tourist to the glory days of empire, exploration, and advancement (/waves hands furiously over horrors perpetuated in this era). Continue reading

Joshua 10 and 11: Genre and hyperbole

In Jos 11:4 the northern coalition of Canaanites came to fight the Israelites with “a great army, in number like the sand on the seashore.1 Now, pretty much no one on earth would take that description at face value. According to a group of researchers at the University of Hawaii2, there are roughly 7.5×10^18 grains of sand on all the beaches of the earth. That’s 75,000,000,000,000,000,000, or, seventy-five quintrillion grains. Even if we restrict ourselves to just the beaches of Canaan, taking that phrase at face value would demand a Canaanite army of billions upon billions. Continue reading

Joshua 10 and 11: Genre, repetition, and redundancy

In the previous post we saw how the language of annihilation in Joshua 10 and 11, far from being something unexpected, was actually a common feature across ancient Near Eastern conquest accounts. This time we’re going to look at another feature we noticed a couple of posts ago: the text’s repetition and redundancy in the way it records the Israelite conquest of Canaan. We’ll see how it too is a common feature in ancient conquest accounts. Continue reading

Biblical literature has two dimensions: historical intentionality, in which the author assumes certain shared information with the original readers; and literary intentionality, in which he encodes a message in his text. Authors either address (prophetic and epistolary literature with a present historical thrust) or describe (historical narrative with a past historical thrust) background situations. In both of these cases there are “shared assumptions” between the author and the original readers, information not found in the text, data that they knew but we do not. While semantic research and syntactical analysis can unlock the literary dimension, background study is necessary in order to uncover that deeper level of meaning behind the text as well as within it.Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Rev. and expanded, 2nd ed.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 158–159.

Joshua 10 and 11: Genre and Annihilation

In the previous post we looked at some features that we saw were common to both Joshua 10 and 11. We concluded that those features mark the chapters out as being something quite different to ordinary war reports or historical narrative. Instead of military history we found two highly formulaic accounts that follow a definite and distinct pattern. In the next few posts we’ll look at what these features tell us about the genre of these chapters by investigating comparative literature. Continue reading

Like much of our theology, our exegetical practices in most cases have been passed on to us by teachers who learned them many years earlier. Unless both our teachers and we ourselves have kept up, it is all too likely that our exegetical skills have not been honed by recent developments. Hermeneutics, linguistics, literary studies, greater grammatical sophistication, and advances in computer technology have joined forces to demand that we engage in self–criticism of our exegetical practices.D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (2nd ed.; Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996), 20.

Joshua 10 and 11: A closer look

In the previous post we saw that as well as being flatly contradicted by the archaeological evidence the Southern and Northern Campaigns of Joshua 10 and 11 don’t line up with the rest of the conquest accounts in Joshua, Judges, and Samuel.

We concluded that before trying to understand how the archaeological evidence fits with the text, we first need to understand why the texts don’t fit each other. Continue reading

Michael Licona recites the Sermon on the Mount in the area it was originally given.

Joshua 10 and 11: The Problem

Joshua 10 and 11 contain the accounts of the Southern and Northern campaigns describing the conquest of Canaan. Though they make for exciting reading, these chapters present the careful reader with a number of problems. Continue reading

As readers, we want to place ourselves in front of the text (and allow it to address us) rather than behind it (and force it to go where we want). The reader’s background and ideas are important in the study of biblical truth; however, this must be used to study meaning rather than to create meaning that is not there.Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Rev. and expanded, 2nd ed.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 29.

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