Joshua Retold: Synoptic Perspectives
A review of Graeme Auld's, "Joshua Retold: Synoptic Perspectives," by Dr. Richard Hess.
Auld, A. Graeme. Joshua Retold: Synoptic Perspectives. Old Testament Studies. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998. Hardback, x + 179 pp. ISBN 0 567 08603 8.
Auld’s acceptance of the challenge to write the International Critical Commentary on Joshua led him to publish a collection of his earlier studies on that book. This is indeed a welcome volume for those who wish to examine the careful arguments and always innovative positions that Auld takes. He considers issues of textual criticism, philology, greater relations with the other “historical” books of the Old Testament, and, in a completely new essay at the end (along with one previously published), he reviews recent study on Joshua.
Overall, Auld makes clear his view that the Septuagint text of Joshua is to be preferred to the Masoretic Hebrew. This conclusion is arrived at repeatedly in his articles on textual criticism, which tend to focus on the town lists of Joshua 13-21. Further, as his work on Kings and Chronicles suggests, Auld takes the view that often the text of Chronicles should be preferred to that of Joshua regarding its antiquity. This leads him to argue for the priority of text critical work over history geography in these texts. Indeed, he has a point as text critical studies must logically predetermine any textual source that is to be used for historical purposes. However, the ambiguous nature of the argumentation, while recognized by Auld, yields for him firmer conclusions about the lack of reliability of Joshua’s Masoretic Hebrew text than many scholars would wish to assume.
These presuppositions are carried into the philological discussions. Thus, for example, Beth Anath is not the correct name of the place in Josh. 15:59. Instead, the Septuagint’s alternative reading should be followed. This would eliminate the occurrence of the deity Anath here and would do away with theories about a sanctuary to Anath in the text. In another article Auld observes that the verbal root in the command to “subdue” the earth in Genesis 1:26-28 is similar to its usage in Joshua and elsewhere. It carries the idea of universal rule.
Auld stresses ambiguity in determining which of the parallel passages in Joshua and Judges should be dated earliest. Elsewhere, he prefers Chronicles as an earlier source than Joshua. Thus there emerges a significant consistency in Auld’s major theses, despite the many years separating the essays in this collection.
The final two chapters review recent studies on the book of Joshua. As a result the reader is given the opportunity to see the importance of the text critical issues for this book. Indeed, there is little doubt that the relation of Masoretic Hebrew and the Septuagint Greek of Joshua is one of the most significant problems in Old Testament textual criticism. They are different and how that difference is to be explained has not been satisfactorily answered. The Dead Sea Scroll fragments further complicate the situation, with a third set of variant readings and different positioning of some key cultic texts in the book.
It is the contribution of Auld to identify some of the major textual and interpretative problems in this volume. Although his well argued and innovative suggestions regarding solutions will not always carry the conviction of the majority of scholars, they do highlight the unfinished business that remains for future commentators (Auld being one of them) to address.
Richard S. Hess
Professor of Old Testament