Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Josh and Caleb Chapter 4: The Return, Episode 02

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Director's Commentary: I've been listening to Karen Armstrong's lovely book, The Bible, which approaches the history of scripture as a sort of biography. In many ways, I find it more comforting than our pastor's recent sermons on the Bible, which were a rudimentary introduction to Bible study for lay people. While I applaud the intention, he wasn't telling me anything I hadn't read or heard before. Nevertheless, wanting to be on track with where the rest of the congregation is, I've been focusing some of my reading on either the study of scripture, or in this case, the book itself. Armstrong's history of the development of the Judeo Christian texts included two thoughts that put my mind at ease somewhat regarding re-posting Josh and Caleb. The first was that consensus among Biblical scholars of the Jewish scriptures is that Israel's invasion of Canaan likely didn't happen, so I'm working in mythic space. Second, the presence of violence in scripture is a testament to the way the Judeo Christian texts present the warts-and-all picture of the development of the Bible and the people who call it sacred. Accordingly, we can view the texts advocating violence as moments when we missed the point, which is some of what I was doing with Josh and Caleb. What started as an adventure will end with ambivalence about how things play out. So while that isn't where I was at when I wrote it, I'm glad to be reflecting on it again, in light of where my journey has taken me. I guess I'm thinking of Josh and Caleb as midrash, the Judaic "reading between the lines" of scripture.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really enjoying this series, which I've never had the chance to see from beginning to end. Keep it up!

    Regarding the wars of Joshua, I quite like John Howard Yoder's pointed comment on the gap between Christian and Jewish biblical interpretation:

    "Centuries of Christian anti-Semitism have established the pattern of thinking that the Jewish faith was warlike and Jesus was peaceable, so that Jesus’s announcing a peaceable kingdom was the reason that 'the Jews' rejected him. That misreading is a source of continuing confusion in Christian thought. It is made all the more confusing when we remember that Christians, at least since the fourth century, have not been peaceable, whereas Jews have never been violent from the second century until this one."

    As a pacifist, Yoder emphasizes how Christian pacifism stands in continuity with the development of the OT (from Judges through Jeremiah, the Davidic kingship and standing military is revealed as a failure to trust Yahweh) and with later rabbinic thought (which is also pacifist.) If he's right, then it's mostly Christians who use the conquest of Canaan to legitimate our own violence.