Biblical Canons and Cognitive Dissonance

“Scripture cannot be broken” said Christ. And tradition has spelled out the canon. And so I accept the biblical canon like a baptist fundamentalist, though as a cradle protestant I have mixed feelings about the “apocrypha” or deutero-canon (the non-hebrew books added to the old testament during the Greek era). The story of Susannah and the Elders though, is an extremely nice response to the Greco-Roman mores evident in the Rape of Lucretia. They come to opposite conclusions about Act vs. Reputation. In other words, it’s a guilt-culture ethics rejecting a shame-culture ethics. Shame cultures tend to favor suicide as the way of keeping up your family/clan’s reputation, and guilt cultures don’t, which of course I think is better.


OK, enough rambling.

I don’t have a problem with Genesis either. I don’t have a problem with the “unscientific” stuff as when you take into account (1) future scientific discoveries and (2) the constraints of communicating true scientific facts into 3,000 year old hebrew with no word for “hydrogen” or “quantum” in the first place–it might turn up it’s all just been mis-portrayed in translation.

I don’t have a problem with all the polygamy and sexism of the patriarchs–the biblical narrator never celebrates or condones it, it feels more like a formal statement of the bald facts on the ground. The biblical authors aren’t pushing for that behavior, they are just describing what is already there in the culture.

But I do have a problem with Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. It seems to fly in the face of everything else I know about God. It contradicts everything else about the Character of God in the Old Testament (and of course the New Testament too).

I’m not going to scrap the biblical canon over it. I’m not going to buck tradition over it. But by God, it cannot be what it appears, because by God’s own morality, what it appears as certainly is wrong.

I guess we’ll figure it out when we get to heaven.



4 thoughts on “Biblical Canons and Cognitive Dissonance

  1. I think Kevin taught on Joshua in Sunday School a few years back — I either wasn’t there or wasn’t paying a lot of attention (clearly being a supportive wife). Anyway I do remember him wrestling with this topic, so he might have something to say about it.

  2. Woa. Military history is one of those things you can’t assume immediate omniscience on. I’m going to say war is one of those things being “black and white” about judging others or generalizing is one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make. No, I am not saying you can’t have a just cause. But just because the Bible doesn’t give you one, doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. Why start assuming God or Joshua have to give a full description to You so that you would feel more comfortable? On the contrary, if the reasons were very specific, I think it would be even easier for people to try to compare and make reasons for why they could create a just war.

    I think both God and Joshua and the Israelite people are shielding the facts so that people wouldn’t start doing this again. Yes, it looks shady on their part. But nowhere does it say “They didn’t do trade with us so we…” or “Their skin color looked awful so…” or “they were just idol worshippers so…” What if they were zombies that were creating atom bombs or being suicide bombers or were using biological warfare? It might not have been something ordinary that they could explain without making it appear as if they were condemning lepers or something. I don’t think either God or Joshua just didn’t feel like sharing his sandwich that day. There were plenty of friendly nations they made pacts with–what makes you assume these nations were friendly? Don’t be a hypocrite. These verses don’t give anyone permission to do anything except their own conscience (God told me to do…) or their own reasoning, (which they have to make sure is consistent). Remember that Joshua had Moses’ law, judges, priests, and a whole ton of soldiers to give account to. This wasn’t machine guns or atom bombs or gasing–this was every individual having to fight against another individual. Furthermore, this was a fledgling nation that was ready to turn their back on this God any time things looked sketchy.

    I don’t think Joshua was a dictator that could convince his men to lay down their lives for some whim or meaningless commands. Most likely the people writing down the scrolls were so PTSD about it, or their kids new so much about it, that they preferred to not talk about it at all. Is this some sort of “Darwinian survival of the fittest?”–if only Joshua or Darwin could give a good description of who was more fit in order to survive–and they didn’t. Darwin wanted to empower the man/individual to create his own destiny or purpose, Joshua wanted to protect the law (that others wrote before him), society (that had their own traditions for more than a hundred years), and faith (involving prophets and priests). Who had more to lose and more to be held accountable to?

    Furthermore, if Israel did meaningless genocides that they didn’t feel was important for their survival, don’t you think they would try their hand again whenever something was “uncomfortable” for them? Yet they were prone to joining gods and making peace pacts–just the opposite. Also, if it was a “our race is best” or “other races should be exterminated” don’t you think Israel would have been on the offensive like the Mongol hordes? Yet Israel throughout all its history has been more times on the defensive than offensive. Look at all the ex-violent nations today, Mongols, Vikings, etc.–there’s usually drinking problems, depression, or obsession related to those races that have a “past” that they need to justify. Jewish scholars even during Jesus’ time didn’t suffer from the normal signs of a compromised and creepy nation. In fact, they were great communicators, dream-interpreters, and intellectually building Persia, Babylonia, etc. wherever they went. These were men with a strong faith that didn’t need to conquer in order to justify their logic.

    How do I say this politely? Most people that accuse Jews of “world domination” have more violence in their history than the several thousand years of Israel’s existence? And most people are referring to the negative effects of ideological socialism in their country without defining the ideology as something corrupt by itself? And socialism is supposedly the most “equal” of all religions?

    I would follow a blood-smeared Joshua any day to those arm-chair dictators drinking sherry or handsome turban-wearing “prophets” promising eternal rewards. Joshua knew what he was up against.

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