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Spring 1995 · Vol. 24 No. 1 · pp. 57–70 

Reading Rahab’s Story: Beyond the Moral of the Story (Joshua 2)

Response by Lynn Jost 24/1 (1995): 71–73.

Gordon H. Matties

We are inundated with news of ethnic cleansing and nationalist movements. We lament the dispossession of indigenous people. And so we read the book of Joshua reluctantly, wishing perhaps to say, simply, that “the ideology of Joshua . . . must be acknowledged as alien and superseded” (Habel, 91).

Proposes a transformational reading of narrative in addition to reading for “principles” and “historical reconstruction.”

Our horror at escalating violence is not tempered by finding that “The Battle of Jericho” is now available for play on Nintendo, and is for sale at the local “Christian” bookstore. Now, in addition to reading, one can participate actively in the story. I wonder if the Nintendo version has Joshua and his people winning every time? Is there a risk of failure? What options does the player have? What if things do not turn out well when the king’s agents come to interrogate Rahab? What if they see through her clever lie? In other words, what if the outcomes of playing the game are not always predictable?


Nintendo doesn’t come close to virtual reality, but it may lead us to ask whether reading the story of Rahab and the spies (Joshua 2) is not something like an interactive game in which the reader takes some responsibility for the outcome. That means, for example, that interpreting {58} the story may not simply involve digging out of the story some transportable principles by means of certain hermeneutical methods. What if we cannot always apply the right rules of interpretation and come out with gems ready to be appropriated? What if we can on longer plunder the text for whatever we wish to use?

Those questions lead me to suggest that biblical narrative must be considered an interactive medium of communication. Like an interactive game, what happens in the reading often depends on the predispositions, the character, and the assumptions of the reader (or reading community) (Fowl and Jones). The “usefulness” of narrative is discovered in the reading, not simply by looking for abstract principles that can be applied elsewhere. The disposition of the reader toward Scripture determines what ones hears; the character of the reader determines how one responds. This is essentially what the categories of 2 Timothy 3:16 imply; Scripture is useful for formation. And formation involves both a constructive (teaching and training in righteousness) and a critical (reproof and correction) effectiveness (Sanders).

I think most of us expect the Bible to make sense in those ways, but we are often at a loss when it comes to reading strange texts like Joshua 2. We want Scripture to say something that we can apply or use in our situation. Because we have those expectations, the question of how to read Rahab’s story is important. But could not the Rahab story be just fine if we left it alone? If we did not expect too much of it? Or could we make do if that story were not in the Bible at all? Or if the book of Joshua with all its violence were not part of the canon? Have we not effectively done without Joshua all these years?

Evangelical hermeneutics has answered the problem by suggesting a two-pronged approach to dealing with biblical narratives. First, discover the underlying, supracultural principle that can be applied or contextualized in our setting; and second, look for situations today that are analogous to those addressed in the text. As Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard write: “Having found the principle(s) that led to the specific application ‘back then,’ we seek to translate the principle(s) into appropriate and corresponding applications ‘now.’ ” (424) (See Osborne, 336-38; Klein et al,, 20, on the topic of analogical learning from narrative; see also chap. 11).

But why do we need general principles? What if we find conflicting principles in different narratives? Because we wish to find coherence within the Bible, we harmonize by applying principles of interpretation. How then do we adjudicate not only between competing principles and diverse perspectives within the Bible, but among principles by which to create coherence? One of my goals in this paper is to offer a model that allows for transformational reading, but is not limited either to finding {59} principles hidden in the text, or to reconstructing the history behind the text.

These are my main concerns. 1) A question: Why do we need the book of Joshua if everything else we need (e.g., for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness) can be found elsewhere in Scripture? 2) A thesis: The narrative defies attempts to plunder it by appropriating it to our agenda. Yet it is clear that we do have an agenda. Therefore, the narrative will always require re-reading, since no single application can replace the story. The story always calls for revision of our conclusions, or always evokes more than our appropriation can encompass. 3) If we do plunder the text for principles and concepts, then let us at least acknowledge that these applications must always remain provisional. 4) We need a more holistic approach to application that allows the text more freedom, and hence makes a place for the Spirit’s work in the prophetic community of believers.


Finding principles and identifying analogous situations is probably what we do when we read any narrative, biblical or otherwise. But we do so intuitively and experientially. Most of us find significance, or application, in narrative literature because we find ourselves identifying with or being repulsed by something in the story. Interpretation of narratives works for us, in part, because we have been schooled in the necessary habits of reading. But we are usually not aware of different kinds of meaning that may lead to a similar variety of applications. For example, kinds of meaning can be based on genre identification, grammatical analysis, plot development, characterization, narrative point of view, intra-textual allusion, and so on. What we find applicable, then, is usually closely related to what we have come to expect, to what we have been taught to see, or to the analytical tools we have been taught to use. All of the tools and all of the expectations can lead, in some measure at least, to application. Let me illustrate.

Norman Gottwald, by working with historical and sociological tools, posits that tribal Israel (or premonarchic Israel) was quite unlike the Israel of which we read in the books of Joshua and Judges. Beginning with the assumptions of historical analysis he discovers an Israel behind the text, one that the text obliquely alludes to. Like Gottwald, most historians of ancient Israel assume that the settlement in the land was more complex than the books of Joshua and Judges depict. Most, like Gottwald, rewrite Israel’s story by crafting a new, reconstructed narrative. The biblical story is retold and left behind. {60}

My problem with Gottwald’s method, however, is not a problem of application. Gottwald carefully applies his reconstructed tribal Israel. He argues that Israel’s radically egalitarian social reality ought to be modelled by the people of God. Gottwald’s historical reconstruction is, in fact, applicable. But the application is not an appropriation of the biblical narrative. It begins with a re-writing of the story. It assumes that the real story is behind the text. And it is that re-written story that provides the starting point for application.

The historical interests that Gottwald’s approach represents are helpful, however, in showing us the complexity within historical and narrative literature. As Whitelam reminds us, “One of the major questions facing the discipline is how to read the text as serious literature while at the same time acknowledging and understanding the social and political processes that have shaped and been shaped by the text” (1989: 29), I agree.

For example, comparative analysis of ancient Near Eastern warfare texts demonstrates how important comparative genre analysis is (Younger). Joshua shares common literary style, language, structure, and theological assumptions of other ancient Near Eastern warfare texts. The Mesha Inscription, for example, illustrates not only common style and compositional conventions, but a common theology as well.

And Chemosh said to me, “Go, take Nebo from Israel!” So I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, taking it and slaying all, seven thousand men, boys, women, girls and maid-servants, for I had devoted them to destruction for (the god) Ashtar-Chemosh. And I took from there the [. . .] of Yahweh, dragging them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel had built Jahaz, and he dwelt there while he was fighting against me, but Chemosh drove him out before me (Pritchard, 320).

James Hoffmeier’s comparison of Joshua 1-11 with Egyptian annals demonstrates that the Israelite writers probably borrowed “the Egyptian daybook scribal tradition for recording military actions” (176). Moshe Weinfeld offers additional corroboration by comparison with Greek foundation stories, showing similar patterns throughout the Mediterranean world (23-51). We can assume that the Israelite historian’s “historiographic method is to write past history in the form and style of contemporary historical texts” (Van Seters, 11-12).

We should be aware, therefore, that much lies behind the present narrative; some of that can be instructive for understanding meaning. I referred to Gottwald in order to demonstrate that application can derive from the tools of historical analysis. Historical tools will always be a valuable component in interpretation. But scholarship is not united even on the compositional history of Joshua, let alone any unanimity about the author’s intent.

Our interest here, therefore, is in what lies in front of the text and what {61} the text authorizes and the kinds of response it evokes from readers. We will not avoid matters that lie behind the text. We will listen carefully from within a variety of possible historical contexts (or possible locations of hearing the narrative). And we will imagine what kind of vision the text invites us toward. Reading and interpretation, therefore, reflect a conversational mode that looks both backward and forward--backward as a function of memory, which provides fuel for the imagination that looks forward. Embodiment of biblical truth in the present, therefore, stands at the place where memory and imagination meet.

Fostering a Social Memory

My approach also assumes that the narrative fosters a specific kind of social memory that serves, within the covenant community, to construct identity and critique idolatry (cf. Sanders). Narrative need not be imitable in order to function as a dimension of social memory. It need not, in other words, be applicable (nor even present us with universalizable principles or concepts). The narrative must, however, remain part of the community’s memory bank (the biblical canon).

What is the function of memory and recollection in the context of the communal recitation (or canonical retelling) of the story? I suggest that the whole book of Joshua is about social memory (both in terms of the text itself, and the ritual actions it represents and invites) (Connerton). The idea of social memory helps us to understand how the book of Joshua functions as sacred text. Specifically that will involve recognizing the liturgical framing device of the book; conquest and community formation at the beginning and the end of the book are portrayed liturgically (or cultically). Recognizing the function of narrative in the context of social memory, therefore, is distinct from historical reconstruction, which demands autonomous critical judgment (Connerton, 13). Social memory shapes identity, and only tangentially is social memory useful for historical reconstruction (Connerton, 14).

What characterizes my approach is a desire to treat the text of Joshua as a narrative that has a function (not dependent on the needs of modern historians). That purpose reflects the struggle of “memory against forced forgetting” (Connerton, 15) in the face of state power that defined identity and reality differently. In King Josiah’s time (late 7th century B.C. and shortly thereafter), or during exilic and postexilic periods, social memory represented by the Joshua story embodied an alternative over against the regimes within which the community lived. Joshua is not only an ideal figure (to be emulated), but a figure who stands as a perpetual critique of established ways of defining power. (On historical narrative as protest {62} literature, see Williams). The “narrative world” presented by the book of Joshua offers a way of reflecting on identity and shaping covenant commitment in the midst of competing loyalties. The narrative offers a worldview, a presentation of reality, that “provides a basis for the creation of a new community out of the remnants of the people scattered and dislocated by the exile” (Mullen, 97). Could it be that the entire book of Joshua also offers a critique of what we have all along assumed it condoned: violence and warfare? (cf. Stone).

Evoking a Response

Just as historical contexts are always provisional, so also readerly contexts are never identical. We must be ready, therefore, to offer a variety of likely interpretations of the text along with a variety of points of entry by which the text may be embodied. The function of commentary, therefore, is not to pronounce meaning or application, but to evoke a response to the narrative. Its first goal is not to distill principles from the narrative, nor to offer analogous situations. It is to present the story world in such a way that readers can enter that world imaginatively in order to be engaged in the dynamic conversation that the text itself evoked among its ancient readers. The commentary cannot predict the outcome. But it can try to facilitate a conversation.

To summarize: The greatest danger in applying narrative is plundering it, by which we kill the text and render it mute. Once we have the principles, why bother with the text? Or if we can find the principles elsewhere, why do we need this particular text? Are there so many principles, buried in those many biblical narratives, that need to be discovered? For these reasons we should not exclude questions concerning what lies behind the text. But we should be aware that just as Gottwald’s rewriting of the story avoids interpreting the narrative, so also discovering principles hidden in the narrative may well blind us to the more subtle and transformative functions of narrative. Could we instead . . . embrace the possibility that the text is not a static entity to be interpreted, to be plundered? Perhaps the text is a voice that keeps on needing to be heard afresh. Perhaps application of a text requires endless rereading such that the narrative itself becomes that of which Moses might say, “Not with our ancestors . . . but with us, who are all of us here alive today” (Deut. 5:3 NRSV). In other words, each generation must take responsibility for its own appropriate reading (appropriation) of its narrative. How might such rereading work? {63}


I use the example of the Rahab story because it helps to get at other matters we sometimes worry about with respect to reading Joshua, or any biblical narrative for that matter. And I use the example because the New Testament clearly refers to Rahab: as a model of faithfulness (Heb. 11:31), or of good works (James 2:25), and as an ancestress of Jesus (Matt. 1:5).

The New Testament writers use one of the most common and straightforward ways of appropriating narrative literature. This is essentially what we all do when we read any narrative account in which characterization is important (like fiction, for example). We discern between good and bad characters. Or in the story of King David, the character is ambiguous, which serves to highlight both the irony in the story and the wonder it evokes as we read it carefully.

Even though the three NT references to Rahab are highly instructive, they are not enough in themselves. In saying that I mean two things. First, those three NT references do not say all there is to say about the story in Joshua 2. And second, the NT references drive us back to the story, since we are eager to hear more about Rahab. In what follows I shall offer several examples of applying the Rahab story (and its difficulties).

According to the “principle approach,” the Rahab story teaches that it is all right to lie in the service of a greater good. The application? If you were hiding Jews during the Second World War and a Nazi officer knocked on your door, you would deny the fact that you were hiding Jews. Does this example work as a valid appropriation of Joshua 2? Or is Joshua 2 even necessary as a source for this principle?

We learn, too, that narratives are expendable if they do not fit the agenda at hand. One author utilizes “the Jericho Principle” in support of his theological perspective on spiritual warfare today (Eastman). But Rahab’s story is never mentioned in the book. Why not?

When I spent a sabbatical year in Jerusalem a few years ago, I gave several presentations on Joshua to the Mennonite workers in Israel and the West Bank at their annual retreat. In that setting some of the workers were working primarily among Messianic Jewish congregations, and others were working primarily among Palestinian Arabs (both Muslim and Christian). One group, I was told, read Joshua before going out to share the Gospel with Israeli Jews. The other group, the Palestinian Christian community, did not read Joshua at all.

One participant in that meeting, a worker in Gaza, told a story of a woman who was killed, accused of being a prostitute and a collaborator with the Israelis. The group went on to discuss how Rahab would have been perceived as a collaborator. How odd, someone suggested, that faith {64} comes to a collaborator. And concerning spies someone added: Could it be that Israel in exile might have had to cut a lot of deals to survive? And what do we make of the fact that both Rahab and the spies bypass the royal establishment? The question of application was not raised as a matter of deducing principles from the text, but of observing what actually goes on in the story, and then finding one’s place in the story by discovering connecting points.

Case Study: Mennonite Brethren Study Guide

Consider now the Mennonite Brethren Bible Study Guide on Joshua, written for adult Sunday school classes for December 1992 to February 1993. On the first page we read that “Christians today look to the Bible to provide relevant, applicable illustrations of how to live in the Kingdom of God.” The “Introduction” offers a spiritualized reading of Joshua. The book of Joshua shows the power of a people led by a strong, faithful leadership conquering the powers of sin and the enemy. It illustrates what happens when a person allows Christ to take control of his or her life, It also illustrates what happens when that is not done completely; when unconquered elements remain to come back and haunt us (p. 1).

This study guide is more helpful when it goes on to illustrate “Faith at Work” in Joshua 2, thereby picking up the reference to Rahab in the book of James. The exposition highlights the risk involved by the men and by Rahab. It notes that her action of protecting the men precedes her confession of faith. And it observes that the story does not conform to several aspects of Deuteronomic law: the command to kill all the inhabitants, and the command not to make covenants with them.

The Study Guide finds one principle elucidated by the story. Rahab “acted out the implications of her inner convictions” (p. 8). What is remarkable about Rahab, however, is not simply her faith (and this is where the Study Guide seems to move beyond the reference to Rahab in James), but the fact that “Rahab’s faith and Israel’s faith (represented by the spies) [are] inter-acting in a kind of theological dance” (p. 8). From this, and from the observation about the story not following Deuteronomic law, the Guide draws a theological observation: “God is a God who breaks through boundaries of human ‘in-ness’ and ‘out-ness’, even if God’s own law is used to create them” (p. 8).

The Study Guide recognizes that the story functions as a complex reinterpretation of Deuteronomic legislation about who is in and who is out and what to do to preserve the distinctions. The Study Guide goes so far as to connect Rahab’s story with the visionary Galatians 3:28 and its hope that there would be “neither Jew nor Gentile.” In this way, says the Study {65} Guide, the spies’ faith was exemplary: “they took the risk of accepting God’s action beyond the borders of familiarity” (p. 9).

The Study Guide asks questions for discussion like these: (1) By what criteria do we assume someone is a mature believer? (2) Like the spies, we are called to cross racial and social barriers even though the law suggests otherwise. The Study Guide suggests that entering the land involves “a fine balance” between separation from Canaan and welcoming those like Rahab. (3) Our faith may require risky action even where tradition might have to be challenged.

Those are good and helpful observations. They might evoke stimulating discussion in a Sunday school class. But do we need this text to do that? Would not reading the Gospels be enough? What does this narrative add that we cannot find elsewhere in Scripture along the lines of this Study Guide’s application? I suggest that such questions push us to become alert to what we expect biblical narratives to do. It could be that allowing the Rahab story to have its say will require an openness to the narrative that explodes the categories by which we tend to construct and consume apparently objective meanings apart from interactive response implied by the model of conversation with the text. And if reading is a conversation, then other voices may well challenge our readings and push us to become self-critical of our understanding.

Viewed in that way, the Rahab story is a window that both reflects who we are and that offers an entry into the landscape of God’s hopeful future. Or, to change metaphors, this story must be read in its setting as one voice within a larger biblical conversation. And it invites us into that conversation. Since all conversations are dialogues in context, the following points offer readers appropriate entry points into the story.

  • What is the function of a spy story here? It reminds us of the spy story in Numbers, with the ominous conclusion, “The Lord will not be with you" (Num. 14:43).
  • Why the reference to Shittim? It reminds us of the gruesome story of Israel’s apostasy and God’s judgment (Num. 25:1-5). Shittim is the place where Israel “began to play the harlot.”
  • This makes Rahab a significant figure as a prostitute. The combination of motifs leads us to wonder whether the story is not beginning on a very bad note. We find, however, contrary to expectation, that Rahab demonstrates a reversal of all that we had anticipated. Beginning with her civil disobedience and hospitality, and continuing with her confession and covenant making (including her use of covenant language and her affirmation, against all other loyalties, of the cosmic rule of Yahweh), Rahab’s story depicts a model of divine operation. As an outsider she is the model that judges all that follows in the Joshua story. She, like the trans-Jordan {66} tribes in chapter 1, invites the reader to initiate a redefinition of covenant loyalty.
  • The narrative is therefore not simply a statement of fact. It depicts an unlikely and ironic scenario in order to offer an alternate model of faithfulness in covenant and to challenge narrow and limited perceptions of God’s character and purpose.
  • The narrative is “christomorphic” in that it presents not only the character of God in the words of Rahab’s confession, but it embodies its content in her own action. In her act of hospitality, she reverses the violence that we might expect (because her story reminds us of the stories in Genesis 19 and Judges 19).
  • The radical monotheism of Rahab’s confession, embodied in Rahab’s own response to Yahweh’s acts, offer a paradigm of God’s faithfulness intended for all people.
  • Rahab’s story begins to lead readers to ask questions about the identity of Yahweh’s community. She, together with the transjordan tribes, offer counter-models of what one might anticipate. Both are “outsiders,” yet both act in exemplary ways. Readers might ask whether these characters present a paradigm through which the entire book of Joshua might be read.
  • In these respects, Rahab’s story is also paradigmatic for interpretation. Joshua 2, which narrates the first encounter with Canaanites, violates Deuteronomic instruction (to exterminate the Canaanite population, and not to make treaties with them). Could it be that the book of Joshua is itself offering a critique of the very violence that it narrates? Could it be that Joshua subordinates the violence to Torah, to divine instruction? Or that it subverts assumed definitions of what constitutes inclusion or exclusion into Yahweh’s peoplehood?

What do we say, then, of Rahab’s story? That this narrative embodies more than it teaches? Is its power in its ability to engage the imagination? Do we venture to discern principles or to offer analogous contexts in which the story should be heard? And when it has been reread, how will it be embodied afresh? Will readers learn to wonder? Will they rediscover how common expectations can be reversed? How hospitality toward strangers is Rahab’s salvation? How one person’s confession can save many?


So far I have offered three parts to an argument. 1) I have pled for taking it easy on narratives. Let us not assume that our application is going to be limited to insights gleaned from plundering the narrative for principles that can be applied in analogous situations, 2) I suggested that reader {67} interest (and expectation) and reader competence are important not only for understanding but also for opening up a range of possibilities for appropriation. 3) I have offered examples of appropriation of the Rahab story.

But let me add that the Rahab story makes no sense as Scripture except as it participates in what we might call the macro-narrative. We can speak about that relationship in two ways. First, this narrative makes sense in its context in Joshua, which is part of the Grand Story of Genesis to Kings, It must also be read in the light of the conquest motif in the Gospels (e.g., Swartley), the conflict motif of Ephesians, and cosmic battle in Revelation.

Second, without working assumptions of what the Bible as a whole is for, the Rahab story is as malleable to personal whim as an Aesop’s fable without its “moral.” Rahab’s story makes sense and can be properly appropriated because we have made some decisions about what it does as a narrative. It has been placed at the beginning of the book of Joshua, which makes us ask about foreigners “in the midst of Israel,” a theme that echoes throughout the book of Joshua. The last chapter of Joshua echoes this one in that Rahab, the exceptional outsider (Polzin’s term), is the first to make a confession. The story encourages us to reflect on Rahab’s daring act of civil disobedience. It focuses the question of what it means to be a member of the people of promise (ethnicity, geography, or confession and covenant loyalty).

I think Rahab is indeed a model for the ancient historian. By its skillful irony, reversals of expectation, and inner-biblical allusion, the Rahab story presents us with a paradigm that shares in the dynamics of the Bible’s macro-story, and offers embodied insight into the trajectory of God’s purpose. And it does so from the prophetic perspective of protest, which offers us criteria by which to evaluate difficult aspects of Joshua’s narrative (like divine involvement in warfare) (cf. Goldingay’s suggestions for evaluation of diversity in the OT, chap. 4, “Can We Affirm Some Viewpoints and Criticize Others?”).

But these observations are not principles that can be applied through contextualization in analogous situations. They lead into reflection on identity, character and divine purpose. Understanding Rahab’s story may help us, then, to say more about what biblical narrative literature is for. Why should we read narratives? What place do narratives have in the canon? Here I offer three presuppositions about what the Bible is for, and then six working assumptions. I consider these as reflecting the interpretive process that can be discerned within Scripture itself.

What is the Bible for? We revisit 2 Timothy 3:16 and offer these answers: {68}

  • The Bible is the document that the believing community through time has discerned and affirmed by the guidance of God concerning the vision of God’s cosmic purposes (cf. Hanson, 9, 530-35). This will be expressed in terms of different modes of knowing and through different kinds of documents (genre).
  • It expresses and shapes the identity and vocation (or mission) of the people of God in changing social contexts, and in continuity with God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ (cf. Brueggemann).
  • It offers us ways of imagining, through the empowering presence of God’s Spirit in the prophetic community, the adaptable direction of God’s purpose into an uncertain future (cf. Sanders).

Six Working Assumptions

  1. Application that is in continuity with the Bible’s own tradition of interpretation assumes an eschatological trajectory. It must be oriented toward the future. No single application is exhaustive. And every application must be scrutinized in the light of that eschatological vision.
  2. Applying Scripture is a product of a dynamic conversation with God. The Bible itself models this process of reinterpretation as much as it offers us content of what to believe and what to do. The process is this: Discerning God’s will by identifying from Scripture the direction of God’s cosmic purposes for liberating, reconciling and restoring a broken creation.
  3. Scripture shapes our identity (who are we?) and our mission (what ought we to do?).
    • Most often we view Scripture as a static rule book rather than as a source for beginning conversation with God from which to begin the process of adaptable prophetic discernment that is empowered by God’s Spirit in the community of faith.
    • Most often we assume that how things are now must conform to how things were then rather than thinking that how things are should conform to how God intends for things to become.
    • By contrast, Scripture reflects an invitation to covenant relationship. Obedience is a response that arises out of gratefulness. Scripture, by this analogy, offers us not in the first instance “what has been set at Sinai,” but rather, “what does covenant relationship with God invite us to be about today in the context of our culture, but in continuity with God’s purposes as known in Scripture (from the past)."
    • Jesus affirmed that knowledge of Scripture is relational (John 5:39). This is the intent of Deuteronomy and the history that follows it, as I have argued from Deut. 5:2, “Not with our ancestors, but with us.”
  4. Scripture offers us patterns (or models and paradigms) that help to shape our worldview and invite us to transformation and response.
    • We discover paradigms or models of God’s changing initiatives, consistent with God’s character, interacting with a vision of God’s purposes for cosmic restoration and reconciliation. {69}
    • We find models of changing human responses to God’s recreating and redeeming initiatives. But these responses are always partial, coloured by parties, ideologies, economies and social structures.
    • To take the conversation image further, Scripture does that by means of constructive and critical interaction, helping us to construct a worldview, and criticizing our idolatrous and self-seeking and self-centered interpretations.
    • We assume, then, that God takes initiative in similar ways now, and calls people to discern appropriate covenant responses now.
  5. The Process
    • We begin with our lives in the world, then
    • Starting with Jesus as the covenantal centre (John 5:39, a relational, dynamic centre), and
    • In keeping with the vision of God’s cosmic redemptive purpose,
    • We are empowered for obedience by prophetic discernment through God’s Spirit in the community (John 14:26). Authentic and valid interpretation (and application) is life transformed and lived congruently with God’s design.
  6. We know in part (1 Cor. 13:12). And we appropriate Scripture in part. This stance of transformative dialogue allows the text to remain free from our idolatrous ideologies, and allows us to be challenged by what we cannot master.


  • Brueggemann, Walter. The Bible Makes Sense. Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 1977.
  • Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  • Eastman, Dick. The Jericho Hour: The Church’s Final Offensive. Orlando, FL: Creation House, 1994.
  • Fowl, Stephen E. and L. Gregory Jones. Reading in Communion: Scripture and Ethics in Christian Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdermans, 1991.
  • Goldingay, John. Theological Diversity and the Authority of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s, 1987.
  • Gottwald, Norman. The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel 1250-1050 B.C.E. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1979.
  • Habel, Norman. “Conquest and Dispossession: Justice, Joshua, and Land Rights,” Pacifica: Australian Theological Studies 4/1 (1991) 76-92.
  • Hanson, Paul D. The People Called: The Growth of Community in the Bible. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1986.
  • Hoffmeier, James K. “The Structure of Joshua 1-11 and the Annuals of Thutmose III,” in Faith, Tradition and History: Old Testament Historiography in its Near Eastern Context, pp. 165-79. A. R. Millard, J. K. Hoffmeier, D. W. Baker, eds. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994.
  • Klein, William W., Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Dallas, TX: Word, 1993. {70}
  • Mennonite Brethren Bible Study Guide: Joshua, (Vol. 59, No. 2, 1992-1993). Mennonite Brethren General Conference Board of resource ministries, 1992.
  • Mullen, E. Theodore, Jr. Narrative History and Ethnic Boundaries: The Deuteronomistic Historian and the Creation of Israelite National Identity. SBL Semeia Studies. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1993.
  • Osborne, Grant R. The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991.
  • Polzin, Robert. Moses and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomistic History. New York: The Seabury Press, 1990.
  • Pritchard, James B., Ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1955.
  • Sanders, James. “Hermeneutics,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume, pp. 402-407. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1976.
  • ———. Canon and Community: A Guide to Canonical Criticism. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1984.
  • Stone, Lawson G. “Ethical and Apologetic Tendencies in the Redaction of the Book of Joshua,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 53 (1991) 25-36.
  • Swartley, Willard M. Israel’s Scripture Traditions and the Synoptic Gospels: Story Shaping Story. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994.
  • Van Seters, John. “Joshua’s Campaign of Canaan and Near Eastern Historiography,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 2 (1990) 1-12.
  • Weinfeld, Moshe. The Promise of the Land: The Inheritance of the Land of Canaan by the Israelites. The Taubman Lectures in Jewish Studies. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993.
  • Whitelam, Keith W. “Israel’s Traditions of Origin: Reclaiming the Land,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 44 (1989) 19-42.
  • Williams, James G. “History-Writing as Protest: Kingship and the Beginning of Historical Narrative,” Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture 1 (Spring, 1994) 91-110.
  • Younger, K. Lawson, Jr. “Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series, 9 Sheffield, JSOT Press, 1990.
Gordon H. Matties is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Concord College, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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