Presented in a condensed version as the opening lecture and inaugural lecture as Professor of Old Testament by Prof. Dr. Koert van Bekkum, at the official opening of the academic year atthe Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, September 27, 2021.
One of results of the decline of the domination of Christianity and the increase of plurality of religions and worldviews in present Western societies is that Bible readers come in closer contact with the religious plural backgrounds of the biblical texts. This inaugural lecture takes a look at Joshua 24 and asks for the relevance of the biblical chapter for Christian theology in this context. In highlighting the importance of undivided loyalty and dedication to YHWH as a matter of life and death, Joshua 24 uses the veneration of God by Abram and Jacob as an example. The chapter tells about God’s commitment to Israel and his magnificent acts in history. Joshua also warns the people of Israel not to turn to other gods, thus looking into the future of Israel’s idolatry in the books of Judges, Samuel and Kings. The way Joshua 24 is connected to other passages in the story from Genesis to 2 Kings is explored by studying patterns of literary connections. The lecture also relates the chapter to its religious historical background as it has come to light in archaeological research at Tell Balata and Mount Ebal. One of the most striking elements of the hermeneutic of Joshua 24 is that it combines an exceptionally serious call for undivided loyalty to YHWH with flexibility and restraint in dealing with a diversity in religious forms. For today, this implies an invitation to look in a curious and appreciative way at the otherness of others. What is God, who is sovereign, doing in the lives of our fellow human beings? At the same time, an approach in line with Joshua 24 diminishes in no way the exclusive claim of religious dedication and undivided loyalty, invites people to be open about their deepest convictions, and presents a criterion for the open interreligious conversation that is increasingly part of modern Western society.
Van Bekkum, Koert. “But as for Me and My House, We Will Serve YHWH.” Joshua 24 and Christian Theology in a Context of Religious Plurality. Leuven: Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, 2021.
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