Defending the Bible: The Date of Joel

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 [1987]: 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

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

This entry was posted in Book of Joel, Hebrew Bible, Joel, Old Testament and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Defending the Bible: The Date of Joel

  1. anthony says:

    >good post. will share with my students who were generally brought up to believe authorship being tied to the name of the book.


  2. >Dr. Mariottini,I do not think you are heterodox because you do not hold to Mosaic authorship. I actually believe that there are mosaic traditions, but that whatever Moses wrote has been edited through the centuries. I am not against that at all! I actually never understood why Archer wanted to defend a really early date for Joel. As this article notes, at the very conservative, nothing really hinges on the date for the book except for the referents. Blake


  3. >Claude,Thanks for continuing to debunk bad scholarship. At the risk of being picky, you may want to re-word this passage to be more intelligible (emphasis added):”Just becomes Amos follows Joel in the canonical order of the prophetic books, it does mean that Amos was written after Joel.”-JAK


  4. >Anthony,Thank you for your comments. I hope your students will enjoy reading my blog.Claude Mariottini


  5. >Blake,I agree with you. This is what I tell my students:Moses wrote many laws and historical narratives which are present in the final form of the Pentateuch. Most of the Pentateuch could be considered a code of law unto which other laws were added at a later date which reflect the Mosaic spiritThe Pentateuch is known as the book of Moses because it represents a collection of laws, historical facts, and traditions of the past that reflect the spirit of Moses, the founder of the nation.As for the reason Archer defended the ninth century date, maybe it is because this is the traditional date accepted by most conservatives scholars. However, other conservatives accept the possibility of a post-exilic date for Joel.Thank you for your thoughtful comments.Claude Mariottini


  6. >Justin,Thank you for your comment and for your correction. It is amazing that, even after reading and rereading what I wrote, I missed that mistake. Thank you for your sharp eyes.Claude Mariottini


  7. Nate says:

    >This is an interesting discussion, but I am much more interested in the debate over the dating of Exodus that you touched upon. Isn’t it a very different argument to say the actual date of Exodus doesn’t match with the date derived from the text, versus the argument over when books were written, which ultimately hinges on tradition rather than the Word of God?


  8. >Nate,You have a point. It is different because the early date of the Exodus is derived from a biblical text.Maybe at some time in the future I will write a post on the date of the Exodus.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


  9. Anonymous says:

    >I’m confused a little at critique of only the second of Dr Archer’s 3 points of support for the date of authorship on the grounds that HE cites selectively.


  10. >Friend,The problem is that Archer was not citing selectively. If he were, he would not say that Amos quoted from Joel. Since Joel quotes from Jeremiah, Obadiah, and other prophets, it is evident that Joel was written many years after Amos.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


  11. C Bovell says:

    >Professor Mariottini,Thank you for your recent posts. I think your analyses do a very good job of bringing to light just how nervous many believers are that the Bible is not going to end up being what inerrantists want/need the Bible to be. They really want/need the Bible to be some kind of security blanket for them. Yet they do not realize that this is a most unhealthy development in these believers’ spiritual formation. Some writers call it bibliolatry, but I think it’s more like a psychological addiction to scripture, as it were. Scripture becomes idealized to the point that some believers over-commit themselves to scripture and do not proceed as circumsepectly as they might have.


  12. >Carlos,I visited your blog and discovered that you wrote a very interesting book that I am interesting reading. I will try to include your books to my list of books I am planning to read this summer.You mentioned Don Dayton in your recent post. Don was my colleague here at Northern Seminary. Don is a student of the evangelical movement and his statement deserves consideration by all to take Lindell’s position.Claude Mariottini


  13. Jerry says:

    >Dr. Mariottini,I just came across this article, and like an earlier respondent, I appreciate your attempt to debunk bad scholarship.However, there is more than the 1 Kings 6:1 passage to support an early date for the Exodus from Egypt. How do you respond to Jephtha's statement to the King of the Amorites in Judges 11:26? He said, "For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon." It is difficult to get a 300 year occupation by Israel of those lands between a late date for the Exodus and the time of the Judges.Is it possible that Exodus 1:11 refers to later names for the cities built by the Israelite slaves? Under your hypothesis of the Pentateuch being put into its final form by a later redactor, this would not be impossible, would it?Respectfully yours,Jerry Starling


  14. C Bovell says:

    >Professor Mariottini,I recalled us talking last year and thought I would ask if you had any feedback to offer on my book, Inerrancy and the Spiritual Formation of Younger Evangelicals.Blessings,Carlos Bovell


  15. >Carlos,I am sorry but I never read your book.Claude Mariottini


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