Review: Joshua (AOTC)

9783256Pekka M. A. Pitkänen is a senior lecturer for the Open Theological College at the University of Gloucestershire. Pitkänen received an M.Div. in Theology from Chongshin University, Seoul, South Korea, and a Ph.D. in Old Testament studies from the University of Gloucestershire. Pitkänen is the author of A Commentary on Numbers: Narrative, Ritual, and Colonialism in the Routledge Studies in the Biblical World series, Central Sanctuary and Centralization of Worship in Ancient Israel: From the Settlement to the Building of Solomon’s Temple, and the present commentary on Joshua in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series.

Joshua: Apollos Old Testament Commentary is a moderately sized volume overflowing with rich analysis. Pitkänen has a keen interest in reading Joshua in a post-colonial world (p. 74-99), while also paying significant attention to literary form, structure, narratological features, archaeological research, history, and the broader Ancient Near Eastern context. Pitkänen begins with a generous introduction that explores standard introductory issues, including other related matters that prove useful for contemporary readers (e.g. the problem of war, conquest, and genocide in Joshua). The introduction is full and should be read carefully. Pitkänen is conservative on historical questions, but some readers will sense a strange discomfort as Pitkänen is forced wrestle with situations of suffering violence and ethical cleansing—especially as application is applied to the American Puritans.

The commentary proper is technical and denser than some others in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series. This is by no means a detractor to the usefulness of the volume, but it does set a standard for the target audience. Pitkänen appears less concerned with biblical theology and the message of Joshua, and more concerned with issues related to historicity and literary make-up. Pitkänen provides a translation of the Hebrew text (with some comments on the LXX), notes on various aspects of the text and translation, form and structural observations, a verse-by-verse commentary, and explanation. Pitkänen offers meaningful interaction with the New Testament as it becomes applicable, and does well to display similarities of Joshua within the Torah. Pitkänen is detailed in his approach and shines in the verse-by-verse analysis. Readers will also appreciate the dozen excurses found throughout the commentary, which allows Pitkänen to explore various aspects of archaeology, structural matters, and important themes (e.g. herem).

Joshua: Apollos Old Testament Commentary by Pekka M. A. Pitkänen is a unique and refreshing commentary with enough controversy to keep readers interested. Pitkänen’s sensitivity to a post-colonial reading of Joshua is distinctively paired with a detailed examination of important issues concerning a historical and literary approach to the book. It should be noted that Pitkänen is not the most engaging commentary to read. This could be a result of Pitkänen’s deficient emphasis on the biblical theological issues or the overall style of the volume. That said, engagement does not provide sufficient means for measuring the usefulness of a commentary. Pitkänen is useful and should be consulted often alongside Butler (WBC), Woudstra (NICOT), and Hess (TCOT).

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