Friday, November 29, 2013

What's Fair to Ask Joel?

James Crenshaw asks the most pressing question of Joel in the most real way possible, saying:

“…that YHWH is ‘merciful and compassionate, patient and abundantly loyal’…flies in the face of reported facts [yet to seen in Joel 1-2]… [the threat of locusts upon God’s people and creation, and the nearness of the Day of YHWH]…both threats directed against the Judean population originated in its own deity… How dare the prophet appeal to the very one bent on punishing his possession?”

He states that his position will be:

"I propose to entertain the possibility that modern scholars have joined the ranks of Job’s friends in being too quick to associate calamity with guilt in the book of Joel.  The ambiguity lies instead in the divine character as perceived by persons who attributed all events to divine causation.”  

He proposes this, because it seems his method draws Joel out of its context, namely the Book of the Twelve, saying:

“In times of trouble, whether deserved or undeserved, turning to YHWH was the appropriate response inasmuch as he alone could remove the adversity.  Joel’s invitation therefore does not necessarily impute guilt to the unfortunate victims of circumstance.  Perhaps the prophet’s silence on this issue registers his own inability to pinpoint any culpability on the part of the Judeans commensurate with their misery.”

I can't keep from wondering if these questions are fair to ask Joel.  As a "chapter," per se, of the Twelve, is it really of historical-critical accuracy to treat Joel alone?  

I wonder: While it is always possible to ask what Joel’s authorial intentions were, those who stand at a later date and who stand in a tradition that has never possessed Joel as an independent work must wonder if such questions are fair to be asked of Joel?

I appreciate the raw honesty Crenshaw has brought to the discussion, but his method may be leading to some blind-spots.  Nogalski's commentary on Joel, as a recommendation from me, brings sanity and a good method to this question.  He sees Joel as a continuation of Hosea (I would suggest Joel as a continuation of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, according to the LXX order, and the generations of locust in Joel 1), and Joel ending with, still, and unanswered question so far as the repentance of the people of YHWH goes.     

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