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Book Review: “Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament, Volume IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth” edited by N. Scott Amos

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture series focuses on sharing insights from Reformation theologians on the Bible. Here, we’ll take a brief look at the commentary on Joshua, Judges, and Ruth

Joshua, Judges, and Ruth have an enormous number of issues that need to be addressed for any reader no matter when they lived. The introduction to this volume shows that several of the topics Reformation-era theologians were interested carry into today- the place of women, creation and providence, sacraments, and more. Reformation theologians also were more focused on some of these than modern theologians are, giving insight in ways that are often unexpected. 

The book of Joshua has many theological issues that continue to be debated to this day. The promise of the land to the people of Israel is seen by some of these Reformers as a conditional promise (eg. the English Annotations which note that the promise is given “if they would wholly follow the Lord their God….” (7)). The Reformers often provided highly figurative interpretations of passages throughout the Bible. John Mayer’s linking of Joshua to Jesus sees the crossing of the Jordan as a kind of baptism (20-21). Rahab was particularly controversial among the Reformers–should she have deceive to assist the Israelites? Is she an acceptable role model? Was she a woman of faith? Theologians from Philipp Melanchthon (Lutheran)  to Cardinal Cajetan (a counter-Reformer) weigh in on these topics. And again, this is one of the great strengths of this series and of each commentary in it. Readers will get numerous opinions from a range of theological perspectives, giving insight into the debates of the Reformation and the range of theological visions presented during that period.

Judges presents its own series of difficult questions. Jephthah’s apparent sacrifice of his daughter is approached from many directions, whether chastising him for making a foolish vow (Calvin) or noting that Rabbinic interpretation differs from most Christian interpretation of the passage (Johannes Brenz, 363). Other theologians try to make what Jephtah vowed non-literal (eg. Konrad Pellikan, 363-364). Once again this passage remains debated to this day and the multiplicity of voices from the Reformation can help guide that interpretation. Deborah is another hotly debated topic, as Reformers note her leadership or try to avoid the implications of the same. 

Ruth’s primary division of opinion–though there are many–is around Naomi’s plan for Boaz. Did Naomi plan for Ruth to seduce Boaz, or was something else going on? Most of the Reformers either play with euphemism here or are either unaware of or ignore the potential implications of Ruth 3. This section of the commentary is especially interesting, as the Reformers try to reconcile the passage with their expectations of the biblical text. 

The commentary has moments like this throughout the text, set alongside passages that clearly draw out the theological positions of individual Reformers. It, like the other works in this series, is an excellent read. It will lead you to delving back into the Scriptures yourself as you read the Bible alongside some of the major (and minor!) theologians of the Reformation Period. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Joshua, Judges, Ruth is a must-read for anyone interested in this field. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.


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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)



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Sunday Quote!- Reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture

jd-earlEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture

Douglas S. Earl’s The Joshua Delusion is an attempt to approach the Old Testament in such a way as to understand it as Christian Scripture. For Earl, what this means is reading Scripture in a way that reflects Christian teaching in the New Testament. Moreover, it may mean that we need not read the Bible the same way contemporaries read it. One of the criteria Earl suggests is the notion of “fittingness” in our reading of Scripture:

[F]or a Christian reader of a biblical text ‘fittingness’ is a criterion for interpretation that relates both to what the text was originally trying to achieve, and to how it is received and used in the canon of Scripture, and subsequently in the Christian tradition. (103, cited below)

Thus, the original intent is set alongside a canonical perspective of reading the Bible, and ultimately set against Christian reading of the Bible. This has wide-ranging implications for how Earl suggests we read the Old Testament, including, often, undermining the historicity of the text in favor of a more allegorical reading.

The Joshua Delusion is a challenging read in many ways. Ultimately, I think Earl takes his position too far–to the point that it becomes difficult to see exactly how interpretation ought to be done. Moreover, his thesis allows Christians to effectively dismiss the original intent and meaning of the text. Is that a truly plausible way to read the Bible? It seems to me that if a view entails the rejection of how a text may have originally been intended, that means that we have lost a deeply important aspect of interpretation. Of course, Earl anticipates this objection and responds to it, thus leading to an engaging book. Interested readers ought to check the book out.


Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!


Douglas S. Earl,  The Joshua Delusion (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010).


Sunday Quote!- Mythical Wars in the Bible?

hwb-tecEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Mythical Wars in the Bible?

I was reading through Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem and was surprised to come upon an essay which essentially argues that the narratives in Joshua were mythical retellings of the entry into Israel:

…Deuteronomy 7:1-5 is incoherent if read literally, for the command to kill all the inhabitants of the land is followed by an exhortation against intermarriage with them. In other words, in a “mythological” sense, Deuteronomy 7 itself encourages not so much annihilation of Canaanites as radical separation from them and their idolatrous practices–exactly as Joshua 23-24 exhorts. (163, cited below)

The essay was by Douglas Edwards, whose argument is essentially that Joshua does not recount actual events but rather a mythology with a specific purpose to show that God’s goal of placing Israel in the promised land was fulfilled. It’s an interesting perspective which helps make sense of some pointers in the narratives (and the fact that Judges follows Joshua with discussion of people who were allegedly exterminated in the prior canonical book).

However, I’m not convinced we may categorize the narrative as being a mythology, for it seems to have some clear historical claims about how, when, and where Israel entered into Canaan. Indeed, there are other essays in the same book which do not dehistoricize the text while also not putting forward genocide in the Bible.

What do you think? How do you interpret the texts which some take to mean genocide occurred in the Bible? How might one maintain Earl’s view and inerrancy, or can one not do so?


Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Book Review: “The Myth of Religious Violence” by William T.  Cavanaugh– I review the book which has led me to discuss the ways the category of religion is used to stigmatize the other and also forced me to rethink a number of issues. I highly recommend this book.


Douglas Earl, “Holy War and Hesed” in Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013).


Really Recommended Posts 12/13/13- Bonhoeffer, Creationism, Feminism, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneThe Really Recommended Posts this week are really wide-ranging. I hope you’ll enjoy this smorgasbord as much as I did. We feature Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology, creationism, feminism, intelligent design, the conquest narratives in the Bible, and more! Check them out, and, as always, let me know what you think!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a New Testament Pastoral Theologian– Bonhoeffer is, I admit, one of my favorite theologians. I only wish he had had more time upon the earth to develop more systematic works than he did write. I’m Lutheran too, which makes me gleeful at the broad appeal Bonhoeffer has demonstrated. In this post, Joel Willitts explores the way in which Bonhoeffer did theology. It’s a fascinating look at the development of his theology.

Multiple Lines of Evidence Support an Ancient Earth– The charge is often made from young earth creationists that dating methods don’t work. What about when those dating methods correspond across independent and multiple lines of evidence? It seems this presents a major challenge to the young-earth paradigm. Check out this post for a summary of several related points.

Was There an Exodus & Conquest– Two of the biggest challenges to the OT narrative are directly related to the historical accounts of the Exodus and the Conquest narratives. That is, did these even happen? Here, there is a post which briefly summarizes the issues and evidences related to these events.

“Darwin’s Doubt” with Stephen Meyer (and Eric Metaxas) [VIDEO]– A fairly lengthy video in which Eric Metaxas discusses intelligent design with Stephen Meyer. I found this video to be highly informative and also really entertaining. Metaxas is clearly a great speaker, and he keeps the discussion going and interesting throughout. Meyer, of course, is also a great speaker and it is worth hearing his discussion of these ideas.

thoughts on being a “Jesus Feminist”– What does it mean to be a Jesus Feminist? Can Christians be feminists and follow Christ? Check out this reflective post on what it means to be a Jesus Feminist.

Rescuing Songs of Christ’s Birth from Christmas– Should songs of Jesus’ birth be sung only during the Christmas season? Here, compelling reasons are offered as to why these songs are appropriate year-round.

The Advent Project– A pretty sweet deal: Biola University, one of the best schools out there (not biased at all ;)), has a series of Advent devotions going up daily available on their site. Each has a work of art, a music selection(s), and a brief reflection upon the coming of Christ, the incarnate God, into our lives. I’ve been following them as they go up and have enjoyed them all. Check them out for an excellent way to meditate on the meaning of Christmas.

Bible Difficulties 3: Joshua 6:21-24

The Bible has been compared to an anvil–no matter how hard people beat on it, it remains firm, it stands strong. I love this comparison, and I have my own to offer. The Word of God is like a sword being forged. It is under attack by others, who beat on it with hammers, trying to destroy it, yet in all their attacks, the Word only gets sharper, and its blade more keen. The Word stands.

This post is the third in a series I’ve been working on which discusses Bible Difficulties–hard passages in Scripture. Other posts in the series can be accessed here.


One of the most commonly-cited difficulty with Scripture is the charge that God commands wicked actions. I’ve offered other defenses of such charges before (see here and here), but here I’d like to examine one specific case (and I will likely do so in the future as well). Today I’ll discuss the case of Jericho found in Joshua 6:21-24 (found in  context here).

These verses say: “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… Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house.” (Joshua 6:21, 24).

Why is this passage difficult?

Surely this is a hard truth! Men, women, children, and animals are destroyed due to God’s command.


There are a number of ways commentators address these verses and others like them. I’m going to outline my own view, which is a synthesis of many others.

Most importantly is the idea that the entirety of Scripture witnesses of God’s relationship to man. This is made specific in the revealed incarnation of God into the person of Jesus. Thus, verses like these should be seen in light of the whole of Scripture. More on this in a bit.

The second most important point is that God is, necessarily, sovereign. Sovereignty implies that God is in absolute control of the universe. This point is so important because it is the case that God has created all living things and has sustained them by His grace. Thus, all things owe each second of their lives to Him. We don’t deserve anything, only God deserves anything–which is our adoration, thanksgiving, and praise.

Now, before getting into a Scripture-in-context argument, we can examine this individual case. The charge is (essentially) that  God is unjust for allowing and endorsing the total destruction of Jericho, including women, children, and animals. Geisler and Howe make the fivefold argument, found in The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, that

1) The Canaanites were far from innocent. The Canaanites abhorrent immorality is described in Leviticus 18, which includes descriptions of such Canaanite practices as child sacrifice (see Leviticus 18:21, 24, 25, and 26). These people were not walking around minding their own business. They were a dangerous, defiled nation (Geisler, 137).

2) God had given Palestine more than 400 years to repent, starting with the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:16. The people of the land, however, had not repented (137).

3) In regards to killing everyone, including women and children, the fact of the matter is that they were part of a people whose depravity was such that anyone who came in contact with it was polluted (see Leviticus 18 once more). Geisler and Howe further put forward the controversial view that children who die before the age of accountability go to heaven (they cite 2 Samuel 12:23 for this) and so God was being merciful by bringing them to Him rather than having them condemned for eternity (138–I am not endorsing the latter part of this argument, but I think it was worth repeating here).

4) God’s sovereignty means that He who has created life may also take it (138).

5) The threat of such a vile, violent, and corrupt people meant they must be eradicated so as not to lead astray God’s chosen people, who had already shown themselves susceptible to such apostasy (138).

I think that Geisler and Howe make a fairly credible defense here, though I think a high understanding of Christology can enhance the defense further. The Lutheran Study Bible commentary about “Divine Warfare” states that “Satan and man’s sin started warfare… Christ’s divine warfare [his death and resurrection] achieves victory and salvation… divine warfare [is] God’s just punishment [for] human sin… the Church’s warfare is spiritual… a Christian view of warfare must distinguish Law from Gospel” (376). These points combine to show a Christian understanding of such passages:

As I mentioned above, Christ can be seen as the key to understanding even these passages. Paul, in the book of Romans, writes that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). There is no one righteous, not even one (3:10). Thus, all deserve death and punishment similar to that of Jericho. However, God, in His mercy, sent His Son to die once for all sinners, thus opening salvation to all who believe. This is by faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, when viewing a difficult passage such as this, as Christians, we can see a distinction between Law and Gospel. God’s Law is evident in His Just dealings with sinners–the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)–while also remembering that God’s mercy is in all things, for “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23b).

Further, one very important point to make in all matters like this is that the Christian understanding includes the belief that all things have eternal relevance. Things that happen in this life have repercussions for the next. As such, any understanding of temporal suffering should take into account God’s plan of eternal salvation for all who believe.


Geisler, Norman and Thomas Howe. The Big Book of Bible Difficulties. Baker Books. 1992.

The Lutheran Study Bible. Concordia Publishing House. 2009.


The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

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