Introduction
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1 Introduction The Fragmentation of the Book of Joshua Two significant developments in biblical scholarship have con­ verged to influence the reading of Joshua in the past century. First, a shift has occurred from the dominance of theories that more or less appended Joshua to source critical readings of the Pentateuch to the view that Joshua forms part of a larger Deuteronomistic History (DtrH). G. von Rad’s classic essay “The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch,” published in 1938, exemplifies the former approach at its best.1 In his reading, the book of Joshua served as closure for the story begun in the Pentateuchal books. Its origin in Solomon’s nationalistic renaissance resulted in a focus on Israel’s conquest of and claim to the land, and perhaps most importantly, on Israel in the land. This perspective soon fell by the wayside, though, when in 1943 Noth published his theory of the Deuteronomistic History, envisioning it as a brilliant, one-man project undertaken in exile. While other Deuteronomistic redactional theories preceded Noth,2 the strength of his proposal lay in "Israel served the lord" 2 offering critical readers a momentary glimpse of a creatively composed whole: a persuasive synthesis that inspired a reconceptualization of the compositional history of the historical books of the Hebrew Bible. Although Noth’s grand synthesis has been modified in many of its dimensions and even dismissed by some, it continues to reign supreme among critical scholars as the overarching framework for reading the books from Deuteronomy through Kings. With this development, then, the book of Joshua was swept up into a new context that shifted scholarly views of its relationship to the books before and after—not to mention the setting of its composition and ultimately the meaning of the stories it tells. A second major development in twentieth-century biblical scholarship , which took place in the realm of trowels rather than texts, had bearing on scholarly readings of Joshua—that is, the floruit of the archaeology of the Levant. Even as Noth’s theory came into print,­ archaeologists—Americans in particular—were attempting a grand synthesis of their own, wedding “dirt archaeology” with their explorations of the biblical text.3 These discoveries would bring about another shift in scholarly readings of the historical books. As a result of these excavations, a new sort of data about the settlement of the land of Israel began to emerge, data based on reconstructed artifacts and occupation levels rather than texts. Confident dates and clear biblical parallels put forward by early enthusiasts were challenged as newer excavations reassessed the same evidence with better techniques—and different assumptions about how the Bible and the stuff in the dirt should be related to each other. Some archaeological readers of the Bible began to look to artifacts as the primary evidence by which to describe and explain the history of Israel. The clash between Garstang’s and Kenyon’s interpretations of the evidence at Jericho is iconic of this tension.4 At the same time, it shows how far a reliance upon archaeological evidence had already made inroads into both archaeologically and textually focused assessments of the biblical stories. As a consequence of these discoveries and developments, nearly any scholar who reads and analyzes the biblical text relies upon a critical reconstruction of Israel’s history whose evidential basis lies to some degree outside the text that introduction 3 he or she is reading, setting Israel’s history per se at a distance from Israel ’s telling of it. This book is written toward a concern that has been recognized and addressed by other scholars as well: that these historical excavations into both text and soil, concerned as they are with reconstruction, have neglected Israel’s stories as a finished literary product, and have thereby missed some of what they say as stories rather than as sources of evidence. B. Child’s distinction between “witness” and “source” summarizes this contrast from a theological angle: “To hear the text as witness involves identifying Israel’s theological intention of bearing its testimony to a divine reality which has entered into time and space. Conversely to hear the text as source is to regard it as a vehicle of cultural expression which yields through critical analysis useful phenomenological data regarding Israel’s societal life.”5 What Childs conveys in distinguishing between these two different approaches to the text is essentially two possible stances of the reader in relation to the text. When the...


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