Stupid Redactors: Response to Matt Flannagan

Matt Flannagan has just posted a response to some quick and cursory criticisms I made of his position on the Canaanite genocides in the introduction to my review of Douglas Earl’s book. As Matt himself notes, “as a review, much of it was addressed to the specifics of Earl’s book. However, in the introduction Stark offered a critique of Wolterstorff’s position and made reference to my defence of it.”

Thus, my criticisms of Matt’s position weren’t very substantial in length, but Matt has written a sustained response. Perhaps he would do better to wait for my forthcoming critical review of Paul Copan’s book before he gets too far ahead of himself, but that’s just some friendly advice.

Here are the three premises of Matt’s position, as articulated by Matt in his blog post:

First, the so called genocide accounts in Joshua 1-11 are part of a broader context which includes both the rest of Joshua but also other canonical books, such as the book of Judges. When one reads the whole sequence one observes that while early passages in Joshua describe Israel exterminating the inhabitants, later passages in Joshua and Judges proceed on the assumption this never literally happened. Taken literally these accounts of the conquest contradict each other.

Second, this contrast is fairly obvious. Whoever “edited the final version of these writings into one sequence” was not “mindless” and would have noticed “the tensions and contradictions – surface or real”; therefore, they cannot have intended to affirm both as literally true.

Third, while Judges appears relatively “down to earth”, a careful reading of Joshua shows it to “be full of ritualistic, stylised, accounts, formulaic language”. This final point suggests that Joshua is the non-literal figurative one and Judges is the more literal account.

Moving into his discussion of the brief comments I made in my review of Earl, Matt writes:

[Stark] seems to clearly grant the first premise; he accepts that, taken literally, the first half of Joshua contradicts the second half and the book of Judges. Stark also appears to grant the third premise or at least some of my supporting argument for it; . . . he stated that Lawson Younger ”has shown definitively that the conquest narratives follow a basic ancient conquest script, replete with exaggerations, [and] hyperbole.”

In his review Stark defends Younger’s contention that Joshua is such an account against Earl’s criticisms. He also grants that the gods destroying the enemy with a meteor or hailstones is a common “literary motif” and is “exaggerated.”

As best I can tell, Stark takes issue with Wolterstorff’s second premise. He summarises it as,

The hyperbolists say that, since the author wasn’t stupid, the contradictions indicate that the language of total destruction is not to be taken literally. If it says in one part of the book that an entire population was killed, but that population is still alive later on, then it is clear that the earlier statement was hyperbolic in nature, not to be taken literally.

In response he argues,

Earl argues that the book of Joshua is composite in nature. The first half of the book, chapters 1-12, was written by the Deuteronomistic historian, but chapters 13-22 were written by the Priestly writer. Chapter 23 returns again to the concerns of the Deuteronomistic historian, and according to Earl, chapter 24 (the final chapter) represents a more generic summary.

If Earl is correct that Joshua is two-part composite, that sufficiently explains the contradictions between the summaries of military victories. The latter half of Joshua does not contradict the former in order to provide a cue to read the earlier statements as hyperbolic; they are contradictory because they represent two different sources with two different agendas.

Stark suggests Wolterstorff’s second premise is undermined by the fact that the final form of Joshua combines or draws upon two different sources. The authors of these sources had different agendas and contradict each other. This explains the contradictions without suggesting the author mindlessly wrote an obviously contradictory narrative. Each author wrote a coherent narrative, it is just that their narratives contradict the account of the other author, but none of them blatantly contradicted themselves.

Now, Matt says that my response here is a “non-starter based on a failure to grasp Wolterstorff’s point.” So here’s Wolterstorff’s point:

Those whose occupation it is to try to determine the origins of these writings will suggest that the editors had contradictory records, oral traditions, and so forth to work with. No doubt this is correct. But those who edited the final version of these writings into one sequence were not mindless; they could see, as well as you and I can see, the tensions and contradictions – surface or real – that I have pointed to. So what is going on?

Matt continues:

Nothing in this comment is undermined by noting that Joshua is a composite document and that the redactors of the final form drew on different and contradictory sources. Wolterstorff, in fact, grants that this may have been the case. His point is that the redactors of the final version choose to put both these sources side by side as part of a single book within a series. And these redactors were not, mindless or stupid, and so the redactors of the final version could not have intended to affirm both accounts of the conquest as literally true.

So, Matt’s contention is that because the redactors weren’t stupid, they obviously didn’t see these texts as contradictory. How Matt knows they weren’t stupid is beyond me.

I’m of course joking. I don’t think they were stupid either. I’ll respond to this argument below, after Matt makes it a couple more times. But first, Matt continues:

Even if the authors of the redactors’ sources were internally consistent and disagreed only with each other, this is beside the point. Wolterstorff is not talking about the authors of the sources; he is talking about the redactors who combined different sources into a single narrative sequence. These redactors would be contradicting themselves if they intended both accounts to be literally true.

So there’s the full argument. It’s all right if the redactors’ original sources actually contradicted each other. What matters is that the (inspired?) redactors wanted to affirm both potentially contradictory sources, but only one of them literally, the other one hyperbolically.

Now, Matt contends that:

to actually address Wolterstorff’s second premise Stark needs to argue that the final redactors did put both these sections together in an obviously contradictory narrative intending to affirm both as literally true. The redactors were either stupid or they missed the blatantly obvious contradictions in front of them. This is an extremely uncharitable contention.

I suppose it would be, but it’s not my contention. And no, Matt is not correct that I “need to argue that the final redactors did put both these sections together in an obviously contradictory narrative intending to affirm both as literally true.”

What I actually need to argue, or rather just state plainly so that perchance it may be understood, is what any scholar who works in source criticism is already aware of. Matt, Copan, Wolterstorff, and other apologists keep making this claim incessantly that the redactors wouldn’t put two contradictory texts together unless they were stupid. This is a false dichotomy.

What source critics understand is that (1) ancient redactors weren’t as bothered by these sorts of contradictions as we moderns are, and (2) for the most part their M.O. was to faithfully preserve their source material, allowing contradictions to stand. (They hadn’t heard about the doctrine of inerrancy yet.) So a few tiqqune sopherim (pious scribal alterations of the text) notwithstanding, scribes were interested in preserving their source material intact.

Redactors compiled source materials not as a modern would, in order to weave a seamless, consistent narrative, but rather to bring together various traditions into one body. Their reasons for doing this were often political. As one people with one set of traditions came together with another people with another set of traditions, redactors would combine the traditions so that the new unity of the two peoples is reflected in the new unity of their various traditions. This political motivation is seen especially in the combination of traditions from the Yahwist and the Elohist, reflecting the period after the fall of the Northern Kingdom when many Israelites migrated south to live among their Judean kinsmen.

This is abundantly clear all over the Hebrew Bible, perhaps nowhere more so than in the flood narrative. The flood narrative preserves two separate accounts of the flood, spliced together in a loose chronological order, each of which reflects a very different account of the flood. They are contradictory, but they stand together in one composite narrative, contradictions intact.

Now look at the two flood traditions from the Yahwist and the Priestly Writer. Take a few minutes to read the composite, final form of the flood narrative first (download here), and then take a few additional minutes to read the two sources as source critics have teased them out, side-by-side (download here). Come back when you’re done.

Now, as is clear from the reading, if the redactor of these two traditions thought the texts weren’t contradictory, then he really must have been stupid! But source critics don’t think the redactor was stupid. The redactor’s purpose was not to combine the sources into a coherent, internally consistent narrative, but rather to combine the narratives in a way that allows them to maintain their distinctiveness while at the same time uniting them. Redactors cared about their source material, not because they thought it was “inerrant,” but because the source material reflected the traditions of the peoples. When the post-exilic redactor compiled these two flood narratives, he was doing so on behalf of two traditions both of which continued to be represented by the inhabitants of a post-exilic Judea.

So much for this uninformed false dichotomy which posits either a consistent composite text or a stupid redactor. I hope I never have to read that argument again.

Now Matt continues with an admirable yet humorous attempt to try to trip me up in my own logic. I’ll quote it at length just in case the reader thinks I’m caricaturing his argument:

Stark can only make this argument by engaging in special pleading because throughout his review he works on the assumption that the author of a literary unit does not author an obviously contradictory narrative. Consider one example: Stark notes that in Judges 20-21 the Israelites “proceeded to massacre every last woman and child in the land of Benjamin.” Stark argues this language cannot be hyperbolic because,

[In] the second half of the story. The Israelites decided to show mercy on the tribe of Benjamin, not desiring to blot them out forever. The problem they face, however, is that there are only a few hundred remaining men (the soldiers who escaped), who no longer have wives and children. Why? Because the slaughters were not exaggerated.

Stark here argues that if one reads the first half of the story hyperbolically it will contradict what is said in the second half, and so for this reason one cannot read it hyperbolically. Note this inference utilises the same line of argument Wolterstorff does; it assumes that an author does not juxtapose an account or battle in the second half of a narrative when it obviously contradicts what they have said in the first half.

Matt is really stretching to find some way to trip me up. He of course ignores the fact that the second half of the account in Judges clearly states that the Israelites had killed all the women and children (which is really the only point that needs to be made). But Matt ignores that and tries to distract attention by positing an inconsistency in my reasoning. Of course, Matt’s attempt to do so is based on a fundamental error.

Here is my contention: my contention is that an author of a single literary unit wouldn’t contradict himself.

Here is what my contention is not: my contention is not that a compiler of two contradictory sources wouldn’t let any contradictions stand.

Thus, Matt’s attempt to paint me as a “special pleader” I think just reveals that Matt hasn’t thought this through all the way.

The account of the slaughter of the Benjamite civilians in Judges 20-21 was written by a single author, and is a single literary unit. A single author wouldn’t contradict himself in the same literary unit. That would be stupid.

The book of Joshua, on the other hand, was written by multiple authors, over a period of centuries. In a conversation I had with him at SBL/ASOR Atlanta, Lawson Younger concurred on this point and used the term “rolling narrative” to describe Joshua, and affirmed that the composition of its various components took place over a long period of time.

So when one component of Joshua contradicts another component of Joshua, those are real contradictions. It’s just that the redactor wasn’t concerned to smooth them out, because that’s not what redactors did.

Therefore, since Matt and Copan have already conceded that the book of Joshua is composite, they can no longer argue that the contradictions in the text are evidence that one statement is hyperbolic while the other is literal. They can still make that argument in other ways if they wish (all of which I’ll address in my review of Copan), but they can’t do it in this way, because the argument from redactional stupidity is, what’s the term, oh, a “non-starter.”

Now Matt says he’s going to write a part two. I welcome it, although, as I said, he may want to wait until I release my critique of Copan, because I’ll probably address anything he’s going to say in part two in that review, since Copan and Matt are recycling essentially the same arguments.

Blessings on all of your heads.

11 thoughts on “Stupid Redactors: Response to Matt Flannagan

  1. All right. I’ve opened up the comment thread for this post, per a request. Please keep comments civil and substantive, friendly banter notwithstanding.

  2. Note that I expanded this post significantly in my review of Copan’s book. See pp. 210-217. Also note that the subsequent criticisms of this post on Matt Flannagan’s blog (in the comment thread of the post linked to above) are quite wide of the mark. I never said that redactors were merely archivists or librarians. That’s a mischaracterization of what I’ve said. Also, I’ve offered criticisms of Canonical Hermeneutics in my book, The Human Faces of God, in chapter nine. But that doesn’t mean I reject the canon. In fact, I argue for the preservation of the canon in chapter ten. Finally, there is no reason why divine discourse must be limited to the final canonical product, and no reason why inerrancy is necessary for divine discourse to take place. I have argued that divine discourse can take place even through the various arguments that are held up in tension within the canon. If God can send a “lying spirit” to Ahab, if God can give “bad commands” to Israel to punish them (Ezek 20:25-26), if God can give Abraham a command God doesn’t intend for Abraham to keep, then there is no reason why God cannot work through bad biblical theology to speak to us, to test us, to challenge us to struggle to find God in the mess. As I’ve argued in The Human Faces of God, scripture is just as messy as salvation history, and for precisely the same reasons.

  3. Thom I appreciate the review you wrote. I think what people like Copan will find hard to deal with is higher criticism. You write as someone who knows a lot of it. But I am not familiar with the arguments for it myself to a great extent. What would you recommend as a resource for grounding the argument in fact. I see how some of the argument is correct but I don’t see why some other things are true. I think that James Barr’s contention that it is grounded in literary taste is a very subjective argument. I know fundamentalists will try their hardest to deny anything like that in spite of the facts but I am a firm believer in presenting the facts.

  4. Johnny,

    Thanks for your comment. A very accessible introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis is Richard Elliott Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible?. That will lay out the landscape for you quite well. One of the best introductions to the Hebrew Bible available is John J. Collins’s Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. That will show you very clearly what critical scholars are saying, and introduce the reasons they’re saying it. For more in depth arguments, you’ll have to turn mostly to scholarly monographs and journal articles.

    After you’ve read some introductory books (like the ones I’ve suggested above), I would also commend you to read the very important works by Frank Moore Cross: (1) Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic and (2) From Epic to Canon. Those are more scholarly and a little dense, but they are seminal for understanding the background of Israel’s theology and how it developed. I’d also commend you to Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God, and also his Origins of Biblical Monotheism.

    If you’d like more suggestions on particular (more specific) subjects, I’d be happy to offer some as well. Just let me know.

  5. Thom you seem to miss the argument here you state

     

    Matt,
    Copan, Wolterstorff, and other apologists keep making this claim incessantly that the
    redactors wouldn’t put two contradictory texts together unless they were
    stupid. This is a false dichotomy.

    Also
    towards the end you say

    So
    much for this uninformed false dichotomy which posits either a consistent
    composite text or a stupid redactor.

     

    But
    neither I nor Paul or Wolterstorff do claim that. We did not
    claim that a sensible non stupid redactor would not put together an obviously
    contradictory narrative, what we said was they would not do this and affirm it
    as literally true.

    It’s
    hard to see how this is a false dichotomy, If it were then there must be a
    third option which is compatible with these two options. Which means it must be
    possible for someone to (a) literally claim both that Joshua killed everyone
    and also that he did not and to  (b) do
    so intelligently. That seems to me absurd.

    Your
    examples do not really do this,

    You
    state

    What
    source critics understand is that (1) ancient redactors weren’t as bothered by
    these sorts of contradictions as we moderns are, and (2) for the most part
    their M.O. was to faithfully preserve their source material, allowing
    contradictions to stand. (They hadn’t heard about the doctrine of inerrancy
    yet.)

    The
    problem is that if they did not care about contradictions and did not consider
    the texts inerrant then that suggests they were not intending to affirm the
    accounts as literally true. In which case my argument is correct, and the
    suggestion you propose is not a third option but simply a variant of one of the
    two horns I suggested.

    If
    on the other hand your suggestion is that they did not care about
    contradictions and did not think the text was inerrant but nether the less
    affirmed the texts as literally true. Then I fail to see how that shows they
    were not saying something obviously stupid. Imagine someone who affirmed  that it was literally true that   (a) when
    an army wiped out every single person in a village the people were not killed
    and continued to live on but also told you they (b) knew (a) was not literally true
    but did not care.  I doubt you would
    consider that sensible. There is no viable third option here.

    Your
    suggestion that they had political motivations does not really change things
    either, the fact you have political motivations for affirming that Joshua
    killed everyone and also that he did not, hardly means you are being sensible.
    If someone claimed they believed that when an army wiped out everysingle person
    in a village the people were not killed and continued to live on, we would not
    really think this was somehow sensible if they added they had political reasons
    for affirming this.  

    Your
    welcome to say that the authors in constructing an incoherent narrative were
    doing something other than affirming it as literally true. But then you can’t
    claim the authors of Joshua were affirming Joshua literally commanded Genocide. 

  6. Matt, 

    We waited eight months for that? All you’ve done is further display that you can’t fathom that an ancient redactor would have an aesthetic different than your own. That a redactor must be intending to present a perfectly consistent narrative (literally or figuratively or a combination of both) is an assumption you bring to the text, one that is without warrant among those who work in ancient texts. Furthermore, all you seem to care about is what the final redactor wished to affirm, as if he were the only “inspired” author that matters. But scholars who work in these texts are more concerned with what the various sources wished to affirm and how those sources were altered as they were transmitted and compiled. That two sources in Joshua contradict one another does not mean that one source is intended to be read hyperbolically by a hypothetical redactor, and the other more literally. I’m sorry, but this discussion does not merit much of my time. 
    All the best in your endeavors. 

  7. Thom,  that again
    misses the point entirely and attacks a straw man. You state

    “ That a redactor must be intending to present a perfectly consistent narrative
    (literally or figuratively or a combination of both) is an assumption you bring
    to the text, one that is without warrant among those who work in ancient
    texts.”

    But as I pointed out in my response above the issue was not a
    redactor intends a consistent narrative whether literal or figurative. My point
    is that a sensible redactor cannot in constructing such a narrative be
    intending to assert both that Joshua that everyone was killed and also true that
    they survived in large numbers. The assumption I bring is that ancient near
    eastern people would not sensibly and seriously assert that that if an enemy
    wiped out their village and killed every last man and women they would survive.  I suspect that no matter how they differed
    from us they would have a pretty good idea that this was not a sensible thing
    to affirm.

     

    You then add

    ”. Furthermore, all you seem
    to care about is what the final redactor wished to affirm, as if he were the
    only “inspired” author that matters. But scholars who work in these
    texts are more concerned with what the various sources wished to affirm and how
    those sources were altered as they were transmitted and
    compiled.”

    Actually the question I
    was addressing is whether the bible teaches that God commands Genocide.  The word bible is a term used to refer to the
    list of canonical books accepted by Christians as the word of God. So, given
    this was the question, I focused on looking at what the author(s) of the
    Canonical text are affirming with it. 
    Paul is doing the same thing he is addressing criticisms of new atheists
    that the bible teaches that God commands Genocide.  Your welcome to change the subject if you wish but that means your not actually addressing the questions we raise, your ignoring it.

    As to your reference to what “
    scholars who work in these texts” are concerned with. First, you don’t speak
    for all biblical and theological scholars, its true some source critics are
    concerned with this but they are not the only “scholars” that exist nor is
    their view universal. To continually present your view as the “scholarly” one
    and insinuate that others really just are ignorant is really not compelling
    argument. But second, the fact that some scholars are asking different
    questions to the ones I am asking does not show that my answer to the question
    I was asking is mistaken, all it does is that they are addressing a different subject.

    Finally you state

    That two sources in
    Joshua contradict one another does not mean that one source is intended to be
    read hyperbolically by a hypothetical redactor, and the other more
    literally.

    That would be a valid criticism if my argument was that
    because two sources contradict one is meant to be taken literally and the other
    hyperbolically. But of course that’s not what I argued. What
    I argued, as I point out above, is that if an intelligent person juxtposts two
    accounts one which states Joshua killed everyone was killed and  another which states that they survived in
    large numbers. Then the person cannot be using these texts to affirm both those
    claims as literally true.

    All your response shows Thom, unfortunately, is that you consistently
    misrepresent other peoples arguments, and then dismiss straw men you have
    created often by contending “scholars” agree with you, or that the others are
    somehow ignorant of scholarship.  And
    then saying things like “ Or by boldly asserting the scholarly position is X.  and that “this discussion does
    not merit much of my time.” Its pretty easy to dismiss caricatures that you
    have invented, what takes scholarly work is addressing the arguments people actually
    make. 

  8. Matt, 

    This will be my last exchange with you, ever. You’re too high strung, and it’s just no fun. Neither is your position very interesting to me. 

    “But as I pointed out in my response above the issue was not a redactor intends a consistent narrative whether literal or figurative. My point is that a sensible redactor cannot in constructing such a narrative beintending to assert both that Joshua that everyone was killed and also true that they survived in large numbers.”

    Duh. 

    “The assumption I bring is that ancient near eastern people would not sensibly and seriously assert that that if an enemy wiped out their village and killed every last man and women they would survive.”

    Duh again. 

    “I suspect that no matter how they differed from us they would have a pretty good idea that this was not a sensible thing to affirm. ”

    Right. So read what I wrote again, and realize that I didn’t misunderstand you at all. 

    “Actually the question I was addressing is whether the bible teaches that God commands Genocide.  The word bible is a term used to refer to the list of canonical books accepted by Christians as the word of God. So, given this was the question, I focused on looking at what the author(s) of the Canonical text are affirming with it. Paul is doing the same thing he is addressing criticisms of new atheists that the bible teaches that God commands Genocide.  Your welcome to change the subject if you wish but that means your not actually addressing the questions we raise, your ignoring it.”

    Sigh. No, Matt. The point is that the redactor is not an author in the same sense that, say, J, E, P, or D is an author. By compiling traditions, redactors weren’t always trying to “affirm” something with a narrative. This is a point I just don’t think you’re going to get. “The Canonical text” is a construct you bring to the text, that controls (and frequently distorts) the way you read various texts within the Bible. In reality, there are different voices within the canon, saying different and often contradictory things. Just because R put together two contradictory sources, one which says that Joshua killed everybody, and one which says that he didn’t, doesn’t mean that R must be wishing to affirm one or the other, or even some third position. Obviously, Dtr wanted to affirm that Joshua killed everybody. And obviously P wanted to affirm that he didn’t. (Make no mistake, both Dtr and P affirm that Yahweh ordered genocide.) But regardless, just because R spliced them together doesn’t mean R had an agenda to affirm either Dtr’s or P’s version of the story, or even some third. You simply don’t know, and you claim that R intended for the Dtr material to be read hyperbolically because it’s convenient for you. I’ve addressed all the hyperbolic arguments at length in my review of Paul’s book, and none of them, even when granted, can be taken to indicate that Yahweh didn’t order a genocide. I’m not going to respond further to your attempts to portray me as negligent, when you have yet to respond to the extensive arguments I’ve made. That would just be silly of me. 

    “As to your reference to what ‘scholars who work in these texts’ are concerned with. First, you don’t speakfor all biblical and theological scholars.”

    Sorry, I didn’t realize I had claimed to do so. 

    “its true some source critics are concerned with this but they are not the only ‘scholars’ that exist nor is their view universal.”

    No, it’s true rather that the vast majority are concerned with this, and that a minority of conservative scholars try to navigate around such discussions. And nothing in scholarship is universal, but that has little significance here. 

    “To continually present your view as the “scholarly” one and insinuate that others really just are ignorant is really not compelling argument.”

    Good thing I didn’t make that argument then! Wouldn’t want you to find me not compelling. 

    “But second, the fact that some scholars are asking different questions to the ones I am asking does not show that my answer to the question I was asking is mistaken, all it does is that they are addressing a different subject.”

    Or it shows that you haven’t yet learned to ask the right questions, because you haven’t learned the basics of the field into which you’re trying to peek your head in service of your apologetics. 

    “That would be a valid criticism if my argument was that because two sources contradict one is meant to be taken literally and the other hyperbolically. But of course that’s not what I argued.”

    I know that’s not what you argued, Matt. Nor did I say that was your argument. If you were a little less sensitive about being “misrepresented,” I think you’d realize that I’m speaking to a larger issue, raised by your position, to which you seem to be blind. But, you have stated in the past that since the sources would be literally contradictory, and since a redactor isn’t stupid, you think that lends weight to a hyperbolic reading. That is a fallacious assumption, one that misunderstands what ancient redactors did. I just don’t think you’re going to get it, so there’s really no use you continuing to engage me on this issue. 

    “What I argued, as I point out above, is that if an intelligent person juxtposts two accounts one which states Joshua killed everyone was killed and  another which states that they survived in large numbers. Then the person cannot be using these texts to affirm both those claims as literally true.”

    No one is claiming that’s what R is doing, of course. The point you’re making here is a part of a cumulative case you want to make, but it really has no significance. It borders on a tautology. Regardless, what you want to follow (for various reasons) is that R didn’t intend the totalizing language literally. That just doesn’t matter. But you can’t conclude from that that “the Bible doesn’t teach that Yahweh commanded genocide.” Besides the fact that P’s account still describes genocide (genocide isn’t always total, Matt; in fact it usually isn’t), the fact is that the Bible teaches both that the genocide was a total success and that the genocide was a failure. Regardless of R’s intentions, both accounts are in the text and both are what “the Bible” teaches. If you want to believe that the Bible isn’t going to teach two contradictory things, that’s fine. That’s a presupposition you hold based on a particular brand of faith to which you subscribe. But the texts themselves do not support that position. Your position in fact does violence to the texts. 

    “All your response shows Thom, unfortunately, is that you consistently misrepresent other peoples arguments, and then dismiss straw men you have created often by contending ‘scholars’ agree with you, or that the others are somehow ignorant of scholarship.”

    Well, I didn’t in fact misrepresent your arguments. You just haven’t understood what I’ve written, which really isn’t my fault. As for “scholars who agree with me,” and “others’ ignorance of them,” you can take that as an appeal to authority if you like. Or you can take it as it’s actually intended: as a challenge for you to step up your scholarship and engage with serious redaction critics when making your arguments about what ancient redactors would or wouldn’t do. You can continue to whinge about the fact that I’ve called you out for displaying your unfamiliarity with the field, or you can take responsibility for your work and actually address the arguments of those who would find your statements about redactors either so obvious as to be totally useless, or too confused to merit serious response. 

    “And then saying things like ‘ Or by boldly asserting the scholarly position is X.  and that ‘this discussion doesnot merit much of my time.'” 

    Well, the broad consensus among redaction critics is what I’ve outlined in the post above, and more fully in my Copan review, so I don’t think there’s anything really “bold” about my assertion. Neither is there anything bold about my stating that this discussion does not merit much of my time. That’s just the truth. Truth is, I have better things to be doing with my time, and likely so do you. I’m frankly tired of repeating myself to you, and tired of hearing you repeat your complaints that I’ve misrepresented you and that I spend most of time making cocky appeals to authority/majority. 

    “Its pretty easy to dismiss caricatures that you have invented, what takes scholarly work is addressing the arguments people actually make.”

    Good. So when are you going to get started? (Don’t answer that. That was rhetorical.)

    Matt, I’m sure you’re a great guy and fun to be around in person. I have nothing against you. I lost interest in this discussion a long time ago. I’m not going to engage you on this or any subject anymore. My time is better spent watching Nikita on Netflix, which, admittedly, is not a very good show. But don’t take that personally. And don’t be too upset if you think I’m still caricaturing you. Here’s all you really need to know: I don’t care about this conversation with you, and you are free to engage in your general enterprise without my interference. As is Paul. I hope you both save lots of souls, sell lots of books, and live many years. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think conversing with you is beneath me or anything; it just doesn’t contribute to my general happiness, and doesn’t tend to produce any revelations of any value to either of us, despite sincere effort on both sides. So, I’m done. 

    It’s just that we’ve been over this stuff before, months and months ago, but you seem to have forgotten. It’s also that I’ve written so much in criticism of your and Paul’s position(s), this nibbling at the edges you’re doing isn’t going to cut it. It took you eight months to get around to nibbling at one small part of one edge, so by the time you’d get around to coming up with a comprehensive and substantive response to my criticisms, I’ll have forgotten what the topic was. I’m just letting you know: this is too little too late. I’ve moved on, as have the vast majority of those who’ve read our exchanges. Obviously you’re going to continue to work on this stuff. Good for you, seriously. I’m not. 

    I sincerely wish you the best. Don’t take my sarcasm as an indication that I harbor ill will. I don’t. Look, I’m not in a pissing contest with you. I just think your position isn’t properly informed (at worst) and uselessly obvious (at best). I hope we can leave it at that. Let’s agree not to try to figure out whether we agree or disagree. Agreed? (That was rhetorical.) 

    Peace,
    Thom

  9.  

     

    Thom

    It’s interesting that after demanding others respond to you ,
    when they do you say you’ll never talk to them again.

    First, saying “duh” is not a rebuttal.

    Second, you state

    .

    No, Matt. The point is that the redactor
    is not an author in the same sense that, say, J, E, P, or D is an author. By
    compiling traditions, redactors weren’t always trying to “affirm”
    something with a narrative. This is a point I just don’t think you’re going to
    get. “… Just because R put together two contradictory sources, one
    which says that Joshua killed everybody, and one which says that he didn’t,
    doesn’t mean that R must be wishing to affirm one or the other, or even some
    third position. Obviously, Dtr wanted to affirm that Joshua killed everybody.
    And obviously P wanted to affirm that he didn’t. (Make no mistake, both Dtr and
    P affirm that Yahweh ordered genocide.) But regardless, just because R spliced
    them together doesn’t mean R had an agenda to affirm either Dtr’s or P’s
    version of the story, or even some third.

    I have addressed this before, if you claim that the composer
    of the final text was not affirming anything, or the you don’t know what he was
    affirming, then you can’t claim that the final form of the text affirms that
    God commands Genocide. The meaning of a text is what the author of that teach affirms with it.

    If the bible affirms that God commands
    Genocide then the bible is a literary text that affirms
    something. If the bible is not a literary text that affirms something it does
    not affirm that God commanded Genocide.

    In response to this you state

    But you can’t
    conclude from that that “the Bible doesn’t teach that Yahweh commanded
    genocide.” the fact is that the Bible teaches both that the genocide
    was a total success and that the genocide was a failure… Regardless
    of R’s intentions, both accounts are in the text and both are what “the
    Bible” teaches.

     

    That does not follow, this commits the fallacy of composition
    assuming that because something is true of the parts its true of the
    whole.  If one text in a collection of
    texts affirms P it does not follow the whole collection affirms P. A little
    first year logic would help you here. If source critics don’t understand logic that’s not my problem.

     

    Thirdly you state ” Or it
    shows that you haven’t yet learned to ask the right questions, because you
    haven’t learned the basics of the field into which you’re trying to peek your
    head in service of your apologetics. “

    Actually it’s a matter of logic that if a person affirms “the
    bible teaches that God commands Genocide” then the question to ask in
    addressing it is whether the bible teaches God commands Genocide.

    It’s sadly predictable that when I point out you that ignoring
    this question and answering a different one is fallacious. you respond by
    trying to denigrate my credentials. We could in fact discuss what Paul and my academic credentials are and compare them with yours if you wish, but I don’t think you want to go there.

    Besides above you just did address the topic of “does the
    bible teach God commanded Genocide” so if that shows a lack of scholarly
    understanding it means you must lack this understanding.

    So far we have you claiming (a) the bible is a construct and those who compose it did not teach anything identifiable (b) the bible teaches that God commaned Genocide and (c) real scholars don’t address the question of wether the bible teaches Genocide. This is incoherent nonsense.

    Fourthly you claim you did not misrepresent me and then say

    But, you have stated in the past that since the sources would be literally
    contradictory, and since a redactor isn’t stupid, you think that lends weight
    to a hyperbolic reading.

    and

    The point
    you’re making here is a part of a cumulative case you want to make, but it
    really has no significance. It borders on a tautology.

    Apart from the fact that you don’t understand what a
    tautology is, the premise in question is not a culmilative case argument. It’s
    a deductive argument, a disjunctive syllogism in fact. A disjunctive syllogism
    is not a tautology either. All you show is again you don’t misrepresent others
    position.

    In fact despite all the comments about the stupid redactor argument in fact in this thread you have essentially conceeded it. 

    Finally , pointing out another
    person is commiting a strawman is not,  whining, nor is it ignoring your argument. To
    point out it commits a straw man is to rebut your argument. Your welcome to
    think that misrepresenting anothers position, pretending a scholarly consensus
    supports you, counts as a substantive rebuttal it does not

  10. “It’s interesting that after demanding others respond to you, when they do you say you’ll never talk to them again.”

    Yeah, real interesting. That must tell you a lot about me. 

    “First, saying ‘duh’ is not a rebuttal.”
    Good, because I wasn’t rebutting you. I was agreeing with you.  “I have addressed this before, if you claim that the composer of the final text was not affirming anything, or the you don’t know what he was affirming, then you can’t claim that the final form of the text affirms that God commands Genocide. The meaning of a text is what the author of that teach affirms with it.”

    #facepalm”If the bible affirms that God commands Genocide then the bible is a literary text that affirms something. If the bible is not a literary text that affirms something it does not affirm that God commanded Genocide.” #double-facepalm”That does not follow, this commits the fallacy of composition assuming that because something is true of the parts its true of the whole.  If one text in a collection of texts affirms P it does not follow the whole collection affirms P. A little first year logic would help you here. If source critics don’t understand logic that’s not my problem.”

    Ugh. Matt, I find it astounding that you continue to wail about how I misrepresent you, and you can’t even comprehend or accurately respond to a single one of my positions. “Actually it’s a matter of logic that if a person affirms ‘the bible teaches that God commands Genocide’ then the question to ask in addressing it is whether the bible teaches God commands Genocide.” Uh-huh. OK. “It’s sadly predictable that when I point out you that ignoring this question and answering a different one is fallacious. you respond by trying to denigrate my credentials. We could in fact discuss what Paul and my academic credentials are and compare them with yours if you wish, but I don’t think you want to go there.”I said nothing about your credentials, Matt. Stop misrepresenting me. Boo-hoo. 
    “Besides above you just did address the topic of ‘does the bible teach God commanded Genocide’ so if that shows a lack of scholarly understanding it means you must lack this understanding.” 

    Yes, right, Matt. That makes total sense. My bad. “So far we have you claiming (a) the bible is a construct and those who compose it did not teach anything identifiable”

    hahahaha. I’m sorry, but I’m actually laughing out loud. Yeah, that’s not what I said at all, but you’re right, I’m the one who invents straw men and attacks them. 

    “(b) the bible teaches that God commaned Genocide and (c) real scholars don’t address the question of wether the bible teaches Genocide. This is incoherent nonsense.”

    You’re right. It is is incoherent nonsense. That’s why none of these are my arguments. This is really sad, Matt. I admit, I came close to saying (b), but what I meant by that and what you’re taking it to mean are two very, very different things. Of course, I came nowhere near saying either (a) or (c). But two points for effort. Fourthly you claim you did not misrepresent me and then say
    But, you have stated in the past that since the sources would be literally
    contradictory, and since a redactor isn’t stupid, you think that lends weight
    to a hyperbolic reading.andThe point
    you’re making here is a part of a cumulative case you want to make, but it
    really has no significance. It borders on a tautology.”Apart from the fact that you don’t understand what a tautology is, the premise in question is not a culmilative case argument. It’s a deductive argument, a disjunctive syllogism in fact. A disjunctive syllogismis not a tautology either. All you show is again you don’t misrepresent others position.”

    I agree that I don’t misrepresent others’ positions. (Or did you mean to say that I do misrepresent them?) Of course, what you’re showing is that you can’t grasp a damn thing I write. First, yes I do know what a tautology is, and it’s not my fault you don’t recognize what I was talking about. Second, I didn’t say it was a tautology; I said it borders on one. (Again, please read what I actually write.) Third, what I was identifying as (almost, but not quite) tautologous is an argument which basically amounts to: an intelligent person would not do something unintelligent. Fourth, I didn’t say the premise WAS a cumulative argument. I said it was PART OF a cumulative argument. (Again, read what I actually write.) You and Paul both make cumulative arguments about how to read the conquest narratives. So while I agree that the single premise is a disjunctive syllogism, that doesn’t negate what I actually said, which is that it plays a role as part of a larger cumulative argument.  “In fact despite all the comments about the stupid redactor argument in fact in this thread you have essentially conceeded it.”

    I have no idea what this means, but I’m sure it means something significant to you. (That’s not a request to know what you mean.)
     “Finally , pointing out another person is commiting a strawman is not,  whining, nor is it ignoring your argument. To point out it commits a straw man is to rebut your argument. Your welcome to think that misrepresenting anothers position, pretending a scholarly consensus supports you, counts as a substantive rebuttal it does not”

    You’re welcome to think that the above “paragraph” counts as English, but it doesn’t. Regardless, I’m not going to try to persuade you that you’re a whinger. That’s something you can take up with your mother. But in order to rebut my argument by pointing out I’ve made a straw man, you’ll have to actually understand my argument, which you clearly don’t. 

    First, I don’t have to pretend that a scholarly consensus supports me. It does in fact. But that’s different from saying that I’m right because the consensus supports me. That’s a claim I’ve not once made, despite your repeated claims I’ve made such claims. 

    I hope you are able to recognize that this very sad, very tired string of misrepresentations of my statements and arguments does not constitute a substantive rebuttal, but I doubt you’ll be able to do so. 

    Matt, this is why I’m not going to engage you. Not because I don’t want good, substantive engagement with people who disagree with me, but rather because I don’t want really poor engagement from somebody who can’t even construct a sentence, let alone comprehend one somebody else has written. 

    If Paul responds, I’ll respond to him, probably. Maybe. But as for you, please, do us both a favor, and give up. Or just keep your lame attempts to “get me” to your Facebook page and your own blog, so I can watch Nikita in peace. 

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