In a previous post, I discussed the efforts of some Christians to defend the Bible by trying to explain some of the difficult passages found in the Biblical text. One of the issues raised by my post was the effort some Christians make to defend the traditional views of authorship of biblical books.
One thing I often emphasize to my students is that just because the name of an individual appears in the title of a Biblical book, it does not mean that that individual wrote that specific book. Take for instance, the books of Samuel. In our English Bibles, we have 1 and 2 Samuel. In the Hebrew Bible, the book of Samuel is one book. In 1 Samuel 25:1 we read: “And Samuel died.” If Samuel died in Chapter 25:1, who wrote 1 Samuel 25-31? Who wrote 2 Samuel? For sure it was not Samuel.
We may use the book of Joshua as another example. In Joshua 4:14 we read: “That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses.” The author of Joshua is already announcing in Joshua 4:14 that Joshua was dead when the book of Joshua was written. As for the authorship of Joshua, John Calvin wrote:
“As to the Author of this Book, it is better to suspend our judgment than to make random assertions. Those who think that it was Joshua, because his name stands on the title page, rest on weak and insufficient grounds.”
Some Christians defend the integrity of the Bible by defending traditional views of authorship. Another way by which some Christians defend the integrity of the Bible is by arguing for the traditional dates of events or the traditional dates for the composition of a Biblical book. Some people believe that the older the writing, the more authority and authenticity that book carries.
Take for example, the date of the Exodus. Based on a single verse in the Bible, the Exodus is dated to the 15th century B.C. 1 Kings 6:1 reads: “In the four hundred eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD.”
The 480 years of 1 Kings places the date of the Exodus around 1446 B.C., although archaeological evidence and the mention of Pithom and Rameses in Exodus 1:11 place the date of the Exodus in the 13th century B.C. Here is where the theological divide occurs: Those scholars who accept the 15th century date for the Exodus are generally classified as conservatives. Those scholars who accept the 13th century date for the Exodus are generally classified as liberal.
When conservative scholar James K. Hoffmeier wrote an article, “What Is the Biblical Date for the Exodus?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50 (2007): 225-247, in which he defended the 13th century date for the Exodus, he received an immediate response from Bryant G. Wood with his article, “The Biblical Date for the Exodus is 1446 BC: A Response to James Hoffmeier,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50 (2007): 249-258. Conservatives who emphasize the 13th century date for the Exodus are considered to have departed from the teachings of Scripture.
In this post I want to emphasize the defense of traditional dates for the composition of biblical books. In his book A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), a book that has been translated into many languages and influenced many people in many countries, Gleason Archer wrote:
The prophecy of Joel has been dated all the way from the ninth century to the fourth century B.C. by the various schools of criticism, conservative and liberal. But on the basis of internal evidence, the most reasonable estimate is in the minority of King Joash, during the regency of Jehoiada, the high priest, about 830 B.C.
Archer then proceeds to offer three categories of evidence for a 9th century composition for the book of Joel. Here I am listing only evidence number two. Archer wrote:
There is a distinct evidence of borrowing, as between Amos and Joel. For example, both Joel 3:18 and Amos 9:13 contain the promise, “The mountains shall drop sweet wine.” While Joel might possibly have quoted from Amos, the contextual indications are that it was the other way around. Another example is found in Joel 3:16 where in the midst of a prophetic discourse he says, “The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem.” This same verse appears at the beginning of the prophecy of Amos, and it may fairly be inferred that Amos was using it as a sort of text from which he developed his first serrnon. On this basis, then, Joel must have been written earlier than Amos, that is, earlier than 755 B.C.
Let me quote the two texts in Joel and Amos Archer mentioned:
Joel 3:18; “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk.”
Amos 9:13: “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when … new wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills.’”
Joel 3:16: “The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem.”
Amos 1:2: “The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem.”
In light of this evidence of borrowing, Archer wrote: “While Joel might possibly have quoted from Amos, the contextual indications are that it was the other way around.”
It is convincing, right? Not necessarily.
What Archer did not say is that Joel quotes from Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah Ezekiel, Nahum, Jonah, Malachi, Zechariah, and Obadiah (see my article “Joel 3:10 [H 4:10] : “Beat your plowshares into swords,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 14 : 125-130).
Here are the passages Joel quoted from other biblical books:
Amos 1:2 = Joel 3:16 [H 4:16]; 9:13 = 3:18 [H 4:18].
Micah 4:3 = Joel 3:10 [H 4:10].
Isaiah 2:4 = Joel 3:10 [H 4:10]; 13:6= 1:15; 13:10 = 2:10; 2:31 [H 3:4]; 45:5,6,18,21=2:27; 51:3 = 2:3; 52:1 = 3:17 [H 4:17]; 63:3 = 3:13 [H 4:13]; 66:18 = 3:2 [H 4:2].
Jeremiah 30:3; 33:15; 50:4, 20 = Joel 3:1 [H4:1].
Zephaniah l:7 = Joel 1:15; 1:14-15 = 2:2; 1:16 = 2:1.
Ezekiel 30:2-3 = Joel 1:15; 32:7 = 2:10; 2:31 [H 3:4]; 36:11 = 3:17 [H 4:17]; 36:35 = 2:3; 39:29 = 2:28 [H 3:1]; 47:1-12 = 3:18 [H 4:18].
Nahum 2:10 [H 2:11] = Joel 2:6.
Jonah 3:9 = Joel 2:14; 4:2 = 2:13.
Malachi 3:2 = Joel 2:11; 4:5 [H 3:23] = 2:11; 2:31 [H 3:4].
Zechariah 14:2 = Joel 3:2 [H 4:2]; 14:8 = 3:18 [H 4:18].
Obadiah 10 = Joel 3:19 [H 4:19]; 11 = 3:3 [H 4:3]; 15 = 1:15; 3:4 [H 4:4]; 17 = 2:32 [H 3:5].
It is hard to imagine that all these prophets believed that Joel was so important that they all quoted from him, including Amos, as Archer stated in his book. However, the truth is more complex that Archer intimates. Just because Amos follows Joel in the canonical order of the prophetic books, it does mean that Amos was written after Joel.
All these quotations clearly demonstrate that Joel’s writing was highly influenced by the writings of past prophets. As I wrote in my article (p. 126), “These quotations, sometimes part of a verse, sometimes a theme or an idea contained in the verse, represent a later form of prophecy in which prophetic sayings were reinterpreted to a new generation in order to describe the ways and judgments of God. This readaptation and reinterpretation of the ancient prophetic traditions suggests a post-exilic date.”
I think Archer’s argument for a 9th century date for Joel is misleading because he provided only partial information to prove his point. To defend the integrity and the authenticity of the Bible by providing partial or misleading information is wrong and it does not convince people who are already critics of the Bible. There is nothing wrong with Christian apologetics. However, those who want to defend the Bible should be sure that their arguments are based on solid evidence.
Study # 1: Defending the Bible
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary