Believers Church Bible Commentary
Product Code: 9567
Binding Information: Paperback / softback
Size: 8.50 x
Publication Date: 5/2/2012
Active Pub. Title
In an age of fear and insecurity, in which ethnic nationalism continues to give rise to conflict and war, we dare not avoid critical engagement with biblical texts that have been used to justify colonialism, conquest, occupation, and ethnic cleansing. Building on the idea of Scripture as dialogue partner, Matties advocates for the book of Joshua even as he engages in a difficult conversation with it.
In his commentary, the twenty-fifth volume in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series, Matties calls for
an openness to the unexpected in the book of Joshua. He suggests that reading Joshua carefully will open windows into how and why we read Scripture at all.
"Most Palestinian Christians approach the book of Joshua with trepidation because of the way it has been used by Christian and Jewish militants to destroy the Palestinian people. Matties' commentary is helpful, as he examines the text in light of Jesus' message of liberation and reconciliation."
—Naim Ateek, director of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem
"Joshua is troubling, especially to those for whom divinely commanded warfare and conquest are major stumbling blocks to their reading of the Bible. Matties takes up the challenge, letting the text have its say while inviting readers to an often difficult conversation."
—Tom Yoder Neufeld, professor of religious studies, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo
"Gordon Matties is not led by the usual debates over historicity and violence, though these and other issues are addressed. Instead, he conducts an irenic and introspective reading that seeks points of connection with modern individuals and groups."
—Douglas A. Knight, Drucilla Moore Buffington Professor of Hebrew Bible, Vanderbilt University Divinity School
"Gordon Matties approaches the book of Joshua, which has been used to justify some of the most reprehensible behavior in Western history, precisely the way a peace church scholar should—starring it square in the face. This work brilliantly illustrates why we need a Believers Church Bible Commentary series."
—Daniel Smith-Christopher, professor of theological studies, Loyola Marymount University
"Matties invites readers to enter a conversation marked by hermeneutical hospitality, giving Joshua its say as well as providing opportunity to listen to other biblical texts. A masterful treatment!"
—Lynn Jost, professor of Old Testament, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary
"Matties engages in theological interpretation of Joshua in ways that make this difficult book relevant to modern readers without anachronistically forcing a peace tradition theology on the text."
—Ray Person, professor of philosophy and religion, Ohio Northern University
"Be prepared for surprises. While some commentaries offer definitive answers, Matties encourages dialogue—with other biblical texts, with the early Church Fathers, Origen, and with Tolkien and modern films."
—Elmer A. Martens, professor emeritus of Old Testament, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary
"A careful scholar, sound theoretician, and sensitive interpreter, the author brings many years of teaching and research to this rich and evocative volume."
—Keith Bodner, professor of religious studies, Crandall University
"Attentive to the often negative legacy of Joshua, Matties provides profound insight, and exemplifies a commitment to both Scripture and community that reflects the peace church tradition at its best. Sometimes resources for peace can be found in the most unexpected places."
—W. Derek Suderman, assistant professor of religious studies, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo
A FREE preview chapter of Joshua
I begin this commentary with a precious hope that you, the reader, will take Eugene Peterson's advice to heart: "I recommend reading commentaries in the same way we read novels, from beginning to end, skipping nothing" (2006:54). I do not think much can be gleaned from the book of Joshua by dipping into it in midplot as though somehow a gem might be extracted from the ore. The story as a whole is the thing with which I have occupied myself. The work of commentary writing, and reading, must ultimately be an act of love that is not simply interested in "a quick look, get a 'message' or a 'meaning,' and then run off and talk endlessly with their friends about how they feel" (55).
The commentary focuses on the literary and theological charac¬ter of the book of Joshua. In the commentary proper, I have not paid attention to the questions, which are important for some readers, of the date of the "exodus and conquest" or of the date of composition of the book of Joshua. For general reflection on those topics, please consult the essays located near the back of the commentary [Archaeology and Joshua; Composition of Joshua; Models of the Settlement]. A more comprehensive introduction to the interpretive stance taken in this commentary can be found in my 2009 article.
During the revision of the final drafts, I read Chris Hedges's War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. He writes, "War is a drug. . . . It dominates culture, distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it." It raises "fundamental questions about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of our place on the planet" and it "exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us" (3). In an age of fear and insecurity, in which ethnic nationalisms continue to give rise to conflict and war, we dare not avoid critical engagement with biblical texts that have been used to justify colonialism, conquest, occupation, and ethnic cleansing. In this commentary I suggest that the book of Joshua is not a conquest account even though it incorporates several conquest accounts into its narrative. I advocate for the book of Joshua even as I engage in a "difficult conversation" with it.
I am indebted and grateful to numerous scholars whose influ¬ence is pervasive. Especially notable are Girard, Hauch, Hawk, Mitchell, Person, Polzin, Rowlett, and Younger (see bibliography).
I am grateful to Canadian Mennonite University for a full year sabbatical leave in 2003–4, during which I was able to complete the first draft of the commentary. Revisions and the writing of the topical essays continued during the summers between teaching, administrative duties, study tours, film festivals, and other smaller writing and editing projects. My wife, Lorraine Matties, patiently read and commented on the manuscript. Doug Miller, the OT editor of the commentary series, brought wise and perceptive insights to bear in countless ways. I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to his careful attention to my work. David Garber, Herald Press copy editor, paid extraordinary attention to detail. I am also grateful to Raymond Person, Doug Enns, and the members of the Editorial Council of the commentary series—all of whose encouragement and suggestions were invaluable. Of course, the shortcomings of the commentary are entirely my own.
Unfortunately, as with any work that has taken a long time, the research must end and the final product must be submitted. Because of that, I regret not having been able, at this late stage of my work, to engage excellent new books by Douglas Earl (2010a, 2010b), Daniel Hawk (2010), J. Gordon McConville and Stephen N. Williams (2010), and Pekka Pitkänen (2011).