Faculty Publications and Presentations

A Canonical-Critical Study of Selected Traditions in the Book of Joel

David D. Pettus, Liberty University

Document Type


The book of Joel presents a myriad of problems to the honest interpreter. For example, the inability to date firmly the book makes it exceedingly difficult to find an original meaning for the work. In addition, the failure of scholars to come to a consensus on the connection between the locust plague and the Day of Yahweh theme in the book exacerbates the interpretive problems further. This dissertation is an attempt to elucidate the meaning of the book of Joel by focusing on the Day of Yahweh and its subthemes in the book via the methodology of canonical criticism. Canonical criticism claims to offer a way out of the single original meaning impasse in interpreting a text. Brevard Childs solves the single meaning dilemma by transferring the authoritative meaning to the canonical meaning of the final form of the text as shaped and passed on by the believing community. James Sanders rejects any single meaning in the tradition process as normative and wants to catalog all the meanings and the hermeneutical process each believing community used to arrive at each meaning. When Sanders's method is applied to several stages of the book of Joel, it reveals a developing understanding of the Day of Yahweh in Joel by the believing communities from preexilic through intertestamental times. The Day changed from one of covenant curses (exemplified by the locust plague) to an eschatological Day when a teacher of righteousness would precede the apocalyptic salvation of Judah. Although the canonical-critical method offers some fresh understanding of Joel by focusing on canonical readings, it does not solve the hermeneutical dilemma because it is dependent on historical-critical method as well for its readings of the book. Further, Sanders's method merely replaces the difficulty of finding the original meaning of a text with the problem of choosing between several hypothetical meanings of a text.