Scripture as Literature of Faith Crisis

In the many narratives of faith crisis that one hears these days, a common theme is resistance to the idea that the Sunday School answer of “read the scriptures” will do much good. “Don’t you understand that the scriptures got me into this mess in the first place?” people ask incredulously, especially as they’re troubled about questions of Book of Mormon historicity, the character of the Old Testament God, or a number of other concerns. [Read more...]

Genesis 12: Abram and Sarai’s Misadventures in Egypt

Genesis 12 is the first Old Testament chapter that focuses entirely on the life of Abram. It describes his and Sarai’s departure from Haran and journey to the land of Egypt. The LDS Church’s Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual does not assign this chapter in Sunday School, except as an “additional reading” to Lesson 8. Its exclusion from the formally-assigned chapters saves the curriculum writers from having to come up with “How-can-you-apply-this-to-your-daily-life?”-type questions for passages like this one:
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The Wrestler

KJV Genesis 32:22-30 reads as follows: [Read more...]

Archival dross: Lies, damned lies, and ancient history

Recent complaints from Iran that the British Museum is unreasonably delaying the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder reminded me of this old post. Beware everything you ever read about the Cyrus Cylinder.

I have been reading Bruce Feiler’s Where God Was Born. In it, Feiler travels the Middle East in search of the foundational places of the Bible. It’s enjoyable enough if a little preachy — most of the people he meets (rabbis, imams, priests, scholars) seem to have consistently and improbably eloquent defenses of religious universalism on their lips. It’s also very Old Testament-centric, unsurprising given Feiler’s Judaism. Mormons will enjoy his conversation with an LDS soldier on top of the ziggurat in Ur, although he commits the unforgivable “Church of the Latter-day Saints” mistake. [Read more...]

Eden: Hebrew Bible Back Row 2

Many readers will remember my Back Row series on the Doctrine and Covenants. I wanted to continue writing about the scriptures connected with Sunday School, but the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is far more complex than the Doctrine and Covenants, and I’m just an interested amateur. So I’m calling in reinforcements. This week, I’m joined by Kiskilili from Zelophehad’s Daughters, as well as Ronan, John C., and Kristine all from BCC. (Because the documents are all complicated and in some ways different, this series will focus on Hebrew Bible texts discussed in Sunday School, with Pearl of Great Price and JST texts referred to when they are of interest for the Hebrew Bible but not placed at the center of attention.)

JNS: This week’s Back Row discussion focuses on Genesis 2-3, the Hebrew Bible reading for the fourth Sunday School lesson this year.  Here, we’re asked to talk about one of the most-interpreted narratives in human history, the Adam and Eve narrative.  To get things started on the right note, I’d like to make the popular point that the narrative is about Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. [Read more...]

The Scriptures Won’t Save You

LDS people place a lot of confidence in the scriptures.  We believe that the answers to most of our questions and challenges can be found in the pages of the canon.  If you are faltering in your faith, you need to read the scriptures more.  If you are struggling with temptation, read the scriptures more.  If you are experiencing difficulties of any kind in your life, you will find guidance in the holy scriptures.

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Creation: Hebrew Bible Back Row 1

Many readers will remember my Back Row series on the Doctrine and Covenants.  I wanted to continue writing about the scriptures connected with Sunday School, but the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is far more complex than the Doctrine and Covenants, and I’m just an interested amateur.  So I’m calling in reinforcements.  This week, I’m joined by Seraphine and Kiskilili from Zelophehad’s Daughters.  (Because the documents are all complicated and in some ways different, this series will focus on Hebrew Bible texts discussed in Sunday School, with Pearl of Great Price and JST texts referred to when they are of interest for the Hebrew Bible but not placed at the center of attention.)

JNS: The Old Testament begins with a slight surplus of creation narratives.  Chapter 1 and the first three verses of Chapter 2 tell one complete story of the creation of the world and all life.  Chapter 2 begins a basically different story that continues into Chapter 3 (and therefore beyond the confines of this Sunday School lesson).  So let’s quickly acknowledge two familiar explanations for the excess of creation.  First is the Documentary Hypothesis, which I think convincingly argues that the two Hebrew Bible creation stories were drawn from different texts and then placed side by side in the Book of Genesis.  Note, among other classic evidences for this argument, that God in Chapter 1 is named God, whereas in Chapter 2 he’s named the LORD/YHWH.

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BCC Papers 5/1: Cranney, Josephus

Josephus and Joseph: A Brief Comparative Study of Mormon Scripture and the Antiquities of the Jews.

by Stephen Cranney [Read more...]

Book Review: Women of the Old Testament

The Old Testament is a fairly intimidating source of scripture as it was produced thousands of years ago by a culture that is greatly foreign to our own. The strangeness of the Old Testament text and cultural milieu is likely particularly potent for women who approach the text. Among the few things that we can say with confidence regarding the culture of Ancient Israel is that it was misogynistic. Therefore, Camille Fronk Olsen’s recent book Women of the Old Testament is best considered as a good introductory text to help teachers, particularly those interested in applying scripture to women’s lives, tackle this very difficult work.
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A Holiday Visit to Sodom and Gomorrah

Nothing like an all-destructive act of divine carpet bombing to kindle the holiday spirit. I actually debated putting off the conversation to a less celebratory time, but time, it seems, is the one luxury which we currently lack. You see, it turns out (so I’m told, by people who really seem to know what they’re talking about) that God destroys societies that embrace and normalize homosexual relationships. Since we appear to be on the brink, as a civilization, of making precisely that mistake, I figured better safe than Sodom. So, let’s get to brass tacks: why did God destroy the cities on the plains, and what might it all portend for a society (ours) where the gay agenda is spreading and taking root like a crop of rainbow dandelions? [Read more...]

Jehovah and the World of the OT

When the book Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament came out, Julie at T&S posted a very positive review, and I followed that up with my own (see “Finally!” FARMS Review 19/2 [2007]). A couple of months ago Julie and I had the chance to meet one of the coauthors of that book, Eric Huntsman, and found him to be as delightful a person as he is fine a scholar. [Read more...]

Ultimate Church Fighting, or, Ol’ Shiz Lost His Head in the Heat of Battle

by Matt Page

by Matt Page

In any Sunday school class, in a typical LDS ward, it is common to hear members of the Church share their feelings about certain passages of scripture that have helped them on their spiritual paths, strengthened them in times of need, and given them comfort or peace when life was stormy all around them. It is also common to hear comments about various quotes from past and current prophets which have had similar effects on the lives on members of the Church. What is less common is a careful analysis of who, among all the ancient prophets and righteous men and women in the scriptures, would be most likely to emerge victorious in a no-holds-barred fighting competition. I hope to rectify the dearth of attention given to the octagon right now.
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Mormonism’s Satan and the Tree of Life: Part 2 (Job and the OT)

(Part One here.)

The “satans” of the Old Testament

Some elements of the LDS characterization of Satan find fascinating analogues in the Old Testament, particularly in the story of Job. In Job, as in Mormon accounts of the premortal councils and the Fall, God grants astonishing liberty for the testing of his children. In all cases, God’s work is not frustrated. For Job, his trials lead ultimately to the fountains of divine wisdom; in the Fall, Satan’s efforts to forever limit the progress of Adam and Eve do not succeed, and instead play perfectly into God’s hands, roundly advancing His beneficent purposes.

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Everything I really needed to know about relationships, I learned from the Old Testament

A partial list of things the Old Testament teaches or suggests about sex, marriage, and relationships:

1. Kidnapping and rape are perfectly acceptable ways to find a wife. (Judges 21: 16-23; Deut. 22:28-29)
2. Don’t underestimate the benefits of visiting prostitutes. (Joshua 2) [Read more...]

Doing the Works of Abraham

Mormon history often has an “I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it” quality for faithful Latter-day Saints. So much, it often seems, depends on the interpretive strategy of the historian that readers’ own perspectives are hard to change with anything other than direct reference to surprising or under-considered primary sources. Indeed, during the aftermath of the Hofmann forgeries, even primary sources — especially surprising ones — were suspect for many Mormons. Fortunately for us, that time of historical nihilism is largely past, but the broad skepticism of many Mormons that things were ever substantially different than they are today seems to persist. [Read more...]

Weird OT: Euphemisms (‘Uncovering the Feet’)

Kevin Barney studied classics at BYU, where he worked as a teaching assistant to S. Kent Brown. He has published a couple of dozen articles on Mormon scripture, and is currently working on a book to be entitled _Footnotes to the New Testament for Latter-day Saints_, which is scheduled to be published by Covenant later this year. He practices tax-exempt finance law in Chicago.

When Ronan introduced this series at BCC, he mentioned euphemisms as a possible topic, so I would like to follow that lead.

There are some topics that inherently have the potential to offend the squeamish: genitalia, nakedness, sexual intercourse, homosexual acts, excretory functions, death, possible affronts to God, and so forth. There are several possible strategies to soften these types of topics. One could simply avoid them altogether; one could dance around them with some sort of circumlocution; or one could euphemise them. That is, one could use a mild, delicate or indirect subsititute for the offensive word or concept. (Of course, in the case of one’s enemies, one could go the other direction and employ a dysphemism, which is the opposite of a euphemism, such as Beelzebub “lord of the flies” for Beelzebul “Baal the prince.”) [Read more...]

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