A couple of weeks ago I was in the middle of a thread on historical problems with the Hebrew Bible, and somehow ancient forgery intervened — as it does, I suppose — and I got sidetracked.  But I have a couple of more posts on the topic, that are complete “stand-alones” (you don’t need to see what I earlier said to make sense of these) (though hey, why not take a glance?).

In this post: after the exodus in the book of, well, Exodus, and the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, in Exodus, Leviticus, (Numbers), and Deuteronomy, comes the stories of the Israelites taking over the Promised Land (promised by God to Abraham, the father of the nation), by wiping out all the Canaanites who were already there, as found in the book of Joshua — one of the great books of the Hebrew Bible.

Extermination of indiginous populations is not exactly the political policy most of us advocate these days (well, at least not me), but those were different contexts people had different assumptions about what was right.  In this case, as directed by the divinity himself.

In any event, my question here is not about the morality of it all, but the historicity.  Did it really happen?   E.g., with the conquest of Jericho (and the complete extermination of the entire population, men, women, children, and animals):  Did the walls really come a’tumblin’ down?

Here is what I say about it in my college textbook, The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction.


When considering the historicity of the narratives of Joshua, the first thing to re-emphasize is that these are not accounts written by eyewitnesses or by anyone who knew an eyewitness.  They were written some 600 years later, and were based on oral traditions that had been in circulation among people in Israel during all those intervening centuries.  Moreover, they are clearly molded according to theological assumptions and perspectives.  Biblical scholars have long noted that there is almost nothing in the accounts that suggest that the author is trying to be purely descriptive of things that really happened.  He is writing an account that appears to be guided by his religious agenda, not by purely historical interests.  That is why, when read closely, one finds so many problems with…

    Wanna see what these problems are, to decide whether you think they can be solved or not?  Did it all really happen?  You need to keep reading.  But to keep reading you need to belong to the blog.  To belong to the blog you have to pay a small membership fee.  But hey, it all goes to charity.  Do some good for the world.  Do some good for yourself.  Join!