Posts for Oct, 2007.

10/29/2007 7:42:00 PM

Yahweh is a Warrior

Posted Monday, October 29, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Military Issues   Comments: None
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This is another helpful introduction, this time as to how a pacifist can read the OT. Millard Lind, a Mennonite, sees the Exodus as the primary event in relation to war in the OT. The patriarchs are presented as peace loving people, so that means J was probably done during a time of weakness, such as the time of the Judges. The Exodus was a great and powerful act of God that influenced all the rest of history. The Israelites did not do anything, but simply trusted God, who worked a miracle and killed the Egyptians. This sets a pattern which Lind sees as foundational: God does the miracle, and the Israelites need only to trust him. When there is fighting, the fighting only occurs after the victory has already been won.
The kingship is the great downfall of Israel, since it involved (with David) the rise of standing army and "wise men," but declined to trust Yahweh like they used to. Daniel continues on the tradition as he should: Yahweh acts and his people trust, in contrast to the fighting Maccabees. Jesus also continues this tradition, in contrast to the zealots. The point for us today, although it is not stated as such, is that Christians should not fight, but only trust God, who will do a great act.
A central problem with the book is that Lind ignores texts that do not fit his thesis. A key text is the battle with the Amorite kings, which do not involve miracle, but are clearly pre-monarchic. He says that they are relevant to his point, but they seem to me to directly go against his point.
He assumes critical scholarship throughout the work (there is a foreword written by David Noel Freedman), although he does argue strongly for the historicity of the Exodus, since he sees that as historically foundational for Israel's view of war.
I appreciate much of what Lind argues for: God is indeed the divine warrior. But I don't see it solving as many problems. First, there are just too many battles where the Israelites do indeed fight. Second, even if God is the one doing the miracle, he is still killing people. As I read somewhere that I don't remember: regardless of who killed them, there are still dead Egyptians on the shore. Do pacifists serve a violent God?
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10/25/2007 12:58:00 PM

Holy War in Ancient Israel, by Gerhard von Rad

Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Military Issues   Comments: None
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This is the classic book on holy war in Ancient Israel, although I am frankly somewhat mystified as to why it has achieved classic status. But I do not mind, since it has been translated into English due to its popularity. Von Rad presents his somewhat complicated view of how holy war functioned in ancient Israel. His view is highly indebted to form criticism, since he views holy war as an institution and desires to see how it functioned in various places.
1. The ancient form of holy war was conducted by the 12 tribe confederation (amphictyony is the technical term), and the key aspects to holy war were that it was undertaken under a confederation obligation (an obligation which was from God, and so the war was a holy war) and that it was a defensive war. The wars were conducted with a high level of ritual and were fought by militias. Charismatic leaders (prophets) led them. The people actually fought, but they fought with a psychological strength gained from believing this was the war of God.
2. With the monarchy everything changes. Saul raises a professional army, which replaces the militia. Solomon adds military technology such as the chariot. Holy war is replaced by government war done by professionals, who are not interested in ritual, although the change is gradual.
3. The prophets react against this eventually and raise the idea of holy war again, especially seen in Isaiah. Israel does not need to fight, they need to trust God. But the ritual aspect of holy war is left behind and not developed. Eschatological holy war is found in the prophets. Prophets take the place of holy war in a certain sense.
4. After 701, when the professional army is crushed by the Assyrians, everything changes again. With no viable economy the only way to defend the nation is through a militia. This is the age of the Deuteronomist, who brings back many of the ideas of holy war, which we can see in the book of Deuteronomy as well as the stories of the Deuteronomic History (Joshua through 2 Kings).
5. By the time of Josiah, a professional army is raised again, but after it is defeated by Egypt, war in Israel ends.

While von Rad does have a fascinating way to tie all the loose threads together, his work is highly based on critical methodologies. There have been several reactions to his work which remove some part of the construction he made, such as doubting the existence of the 12 tribe confederation or not seeing holy war as an institution. While he does have some helpful ideas along the way, I'm not sure von Rad is all that helpful for evangelicals who are more highly committed to the text than von Rad. But it is still the classic work, so you have to read it. 
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10/23/2007 7:52:00 PM

God is a Warrior

Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Military Issues   Comments: 2
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This book by Longman and Reid is a helpful overview to the specific topic of the divine warrior. The great strength of the book is its descriptive ability of how war plays a role in how God interacts wit his people and how his people are to live. After a short overview of the history of research, the book is divided into two section: OT and NT. The OT contains chapters on the wars of faithful Israel, the war against unfaithful Israel, the day of the Lord, the war of God against chaos, and the comparison of battle in the Bible to the ANE. The NT contains the new Exodus as the new conquest, Jesus as the slain but triumpant warrior, Paul's discussion of the powers, Paul' talk of holy warriors, and Revelation and divine warfare.

The detriments of the book are twofold. Longman makes too many generalizations. For example, he claims that the ark was always present, even when the text does not mention it. He says that the early loss of the ark and selective historiography cut out the ark. (41) He also says that the plunder always belonged to the Lord, recognizing that some narratives do not match this reality. (46) He does recognize that some diachronic factors are at work, but doesn't detail what they might be. (47)
Second, he seems to find what he is looking for, particularly in the NT. While he does highlight some important points, some of them are stretched.

While the book is quite good in describing the motif, it does not do anything with the motif, sadly. What does this mean for a biblical view of war? Some concluding thoughts would have been nice.

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10/14/2007 8:48:00 PM

The Future of Research


Posted Sunday, October 14, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
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A friend of mine recently told me about a new add-on for firefox called zotero. It is simply an amazingly helpful add-on! It has two primary functions. One, which I have not used much yet, is to make a bibliography. You can import book, articles, lectures, web pages or whatever you want into the program, and then it will give you a bibliography in whatever format you want. I think that this will have problems for me when I try it, but at least it gives a good start. It doesn't even have SBL yet, which is the required formate here at Wheaton. But the other function is very helpful. After you upload items, you can arrange them in various categories and you can add notes to them. That way, as you are doing research, you can add notes about the book and then mark the notes according to topic. You can also attack various items to each entry, such as snapshots of web pages, pdf files, and any other type of file you want. Items can be uploaded from places like Amazon, ATLA, and worldcat, or you can just type in the correct info yourself. The files are stored in the firefox directory and can be backed up very easily, as well as transferred to other computers if you would like using a flash drive. Overall, this is a very helpful program! If you are doing any kind of study at all, I would recommend using this program.
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10/13/2007 7:03:00 AM

The Problem of War in the Old Testament

Posted Saturday, October 13, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Old TestamentMilitary Issues   Comments: None
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The best introduction to the literature on war in the Old Testament easily is The Problem of War in the Old Testament, by Craigie. Not only is it easy to read, it is short (just over 100 pages), and easily available on Amazon for only a few dollars.  I would recomment this book to anyone interested in the topic. He provides a great introduction to the data about God as Divine Warrior and to the war texts of the OT, as well as previous research on the issue. 

All that being said, I'm not sure that Craigie actually offers a viable solution to the problem. Here are some of the main points of the book.

1. War is always fundamentally evil.

2. God can be called  the Divine Warrior because of accomodation to human language.

3. The OT contains so many stories about war because Israel was a state and states must fight. 

4. For a final conclusion about war he proposes a position between just war and pacificsm. He finds arguments against both sides compelling and so does not go with either side.  He says it is a matter of mystery, like divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

But I am not sure these are all that helpful. I agree that war often is evil. But is it fundamentally evil? The divine accomodation point is the weakest point for me. Sometimes this kind of language is used. But we don't see God being called the divine murderer. Or the divine rapist. Or the divine thief. As far as epithets, there doesn't seem this kind of process. His final conclusion is also unhelpful. I agree that the issue is difficult, but someone must say something about the topic, and appealing to mystery I think does not work in this situation. But perhaps my feelings on these things will change as I continue to study. 

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10/6/2007 7:32:00 AM

Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology

Posted Saturday, October 06, 2007 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Book Reviews   Comments: 1
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The posting has been slow recently becuase life has been getting busy. I haven't been doing any writing, so I have little to show what I have been doing, but the amount of reading that I am doing is simply enormous. Some of the books will have reports written on them, so some of them might make it on here in the future. I'm also doing a fascinating project for Daniel Master (for whom I TA) making a list of all the times Ashkelon is mentioned anywhere up until about 1900. He wants the list since he is the dig director for Ashkelon. But not only is there the reference, there is also a paragraph context needed. So I am putting my search skills up for a serious test trying to find the random Egyptian papyrus and Crusader conquest testimony. But it is quite interesting.

 The review included here is for another volume in the Cambridge Companion series: Evangelical Theology. They define evangelicalism much more broadly than I am used, a trend that is becoming familiar to me at Wheaton. In the past I have associated evangelicalism with ETS: inerrancy. But a phrase that seems almost a technical phrase is used on occasion here: "big-tent evangelicalism." This includes non-inerrantists as well as inerrantists. There are some interesting articles here, including another fine piece by Vanhoozer. The strength of the book is its world-wide focus and so it is helpful to understand what is going in the rest of the world. 

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