Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who Wrote the Book of Joshua?

This post on the authorship of the book of Joshua (part 1) by Robert Hubbard was an absolute delight to read. If commentaries were written like this they would be a whole lot more fun. Zondervan has just released one of the last remaining commentaries in the popular series The NIV Application Commentary. This is the entry on Joshua and is authored by Robert Hubbard who is professor of Biblical Literature at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. The question prompted me to return to a series that I’ve neglected for some time now—the comparison of notes in the major study Bibles.

If you had asked me when I first became a Christian "Who wrote the book of Joshua?" I would have gladly told you. “I know exactly who wrote it. Joshua did. And I know because C. I. Scofield told me he wrote it.” You’ll find no discussion on the authorship of Joshua in the Scofield Study Bible. Simply stated: "Author: Joshua." How do the newer study Bibles compare?

I started with what I knew would be the two most conservative—the Ryrie Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible. Ryrie said that while “some portions were not written by Joshua (15:13-17; 24:29-31)” he is “clearly the author” based on 24:1-26. MacArthur says the “author is not named” but that “the most probable candidate is Joshua.” He also notes that an assistant “could have finished the book by attaching circumstances as those concerning Joshua’s death.”

The Life Application Study Bible could be placed in this category. It notes “Author: Joshua, except for the ending which may have been written by the high priest Phinehas, an eyewitness to the events recounted there.”

The remaining study Bibles were more cautious in their conclusions (listed here in no particular order).

ESV Study Bible: The book is “named for its leading character” but the “book’s author, however, is not explicitly mentioned.” It continues, “While the book depicts Joshua writing (Josh 8:32; 24:26), it does not claim he wrote the book.”

TNIV Study Bible: It is “safe to conclude that the book draws on early sources. It may date from the beginning of the monarchy.” We are “unsure who the final author or editor was.”

NLT Study Bible: “No where does the book of Joshua claim that Joshua was its author. The author or authors remain anonymous.”

Spirit of the Reformation Bible: “Author: unknown.” “It is likely that its final form resulted from a compiler or compilers working with an earlier version of the book.”

The Apologetics Study Bible: The book is “anonymous in its final form.” It is “clear from Josh. 24:26 that Joshua wrote certain portions of it.” “Precisely when the book of Joshua came to exist in its present form is unknown.”
NKJV Study Bible: "The Book of Joshua does not state who wrote it. Joshua himself undoubtedly wrote portions of the book, since 24:26 states, 'Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God."

Archaeological Study Bible: “No one knows for certain who wrote/compiled the book of Joshua or when or where it was written. Scholars have proposed dates ranging from immediately after Joshua’s lifetime to the time of Samuel to the early monarchy and even to the postexilic period.”
It was interesting to note how various Bibles interpreted the role of Josh. 24:26 in the debate. Some like Ryrie said it "clearly" showed Joshua was the author. Others, like the ESV Study Bible said it could not be pressed that far. Most noted that the Jewish tradition attributes the book to Joshua. Of those listed I liked the layout and discussion of the Archaeological Study Bible best (I gave only a small portion of their actual entry.). Though brief (they were all brief) it did a nice job of encapsulating the issues and giving the various options of interpretation.

1 comment:

Robert Hubbard said...

Thanks for this nice survey. In writing my blog comment, I hadn't checked out those sources. One surprise: none of them mentions the theory that my comment was based on. I'll have to reflect on what that observations might mean.