Joshua by Pekkam Pitkanen

Joshua is the latest volume of the Apollos Old Testament Commentary. It follows previous volumes in how it is laid out – the author provides a translation of the chapter / section, then provides notes on the text; next he discusses the Form and Structure; then comes comment and finally explanation.Pitkanen’s focus in this commentary is strongly towards the form and structure of the book, it’s historical context and relationship to extra biblical contexts. I often found that the form and structure section was far longer than time spent explaining the meaning of the text and it’s application. Also, there are12 lengthy excursus, the majority of which deal with archaeology and form and structure.

It is a sad and all too common feature of more modern commentaries that so much time is taken discussing the issues of historical context and other ancient literature to the neglect of explaining what the biblical text means and how we can apply it to ourselves. Pitkanen continues that trend and this is frustrating.

When Pitkanen does get to his explanations, I was a little disappointed at their shallowness. One example will suffice. Joshua 6 is a key part of the book of Joshua. Pitkanen writes in the explanation section “The narrative is rather genocidal in character and it is therefore a bit difficult for modern tastes. But the material is part of the conquest of Canaan and, more specifically, the beginning and first fruits of it, and that would explain the emphasis placed on the narrative. Perhaps, if one believes in God’s judgment, one can say that belief in him saves one from it. And yet even this is a bit simplistic.”

He does not engage with this question of `genocide’ despite raising it. He places it on the table and then leaves it alone. I felt that too much was left out of the commentary and explanation that could have been and should have been included.

My guess is that Pitkanen and I are from different theological positions. I approach the text from a belief that the Bible is the true and unquestionable word of God, and so my response to his commentary will come through this lense.

Many may find this commentary useful. I did not.


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