Today I’m thinking about John 8:1-11, commonly called ‘The Woman Taken in Adultery.’
With luck we should soon be hearing from Professor Royal Skousen, who is the mastermind of the critical text of the Book of Mormon. There is another critical text edition that I would like to see: A critical text of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Various debates about the historicity of scripture have captured a fair chunk of the Mormon intelligentsia (and pseudo-intelligentsia) for the last decade or more. The “Big Issue” of course is the Book of Mormon. This seems to have replaced evolution and the creation story of Genesis as a situs for conflict about the scriptures. Lost in all of this is my question: What are we to make of Adam-ondi-Ahman?
There is a great conversation over at that other blog about that classically difficult story, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Among the many excellent comments, this one from danithew stood out to me: “In my Quranic Studies course today the professor talked about how one of the first things Islamic scholars used to do was look at a test and identify the problems/challenges/dilemmas that were imposed on the reader by the text.” This concept seems as if it would be more at home among the reader-response-flavored lit critics than it would among Islamic scholars, but I am nonetheless intrigued by the idea and I can’t recall it being applied in an LDS setting. I think it has a lot of potential for expanding the (sometimes stale and shallow) practice of likening the scriptures unto ourselves. I think it might be a less-threatening way to introduce a subject to a class that might otherwise be controversial: BAD: “I can’t buy the idea…
Over at Intellectual Exhibitionist, Ryan Bell comments on a topic that I’ve wondered about on occasion: The Joseph Smith translation is not the official bible of the church. So we still rely on the KJV as the official word. This is exceedingly odd to me– we have one take on the Bible that’s the source of direct revelation to the head of our dispensation, and one that comes from a bunch of medieval scholars, and we go with the latter. Weird, but true. Exceedingly weird. I have over the years heard some potential rationales (many of which have come up over at Ryan’s blog): We don’t want our missionaries using “non-standard” scriptures for proselytizing; we don’t know how to deal with the incomplete nature of the JST; plus, the church doesn’t own the copyright. None of these have seemed particularly convincing to me. The church’s partial adoption of the JST (“we’ll put some passages in the footnotes, and a few…
March 26, 2005, will mark the 175th Anniversary of the printing of the Book of Mormon. Our ward is using this event as a catalyst to challenge every member of our ward to read the Book of Mormon. Reading just one chapter per day, the entire Book of Mormon will be finished by its 175th anniversary if one begins reading by next Saturday, July 31. Our sacrament meeting topic for August 8 will be the Book of Mormon, and we will stress the importance of the Book of Mormon and its blessings. To keep the program at the forefront, and to build on the collective preparation, we are going to have several sacrament meetings organized around a theme from that weeks reading. On October 10, the theme will be King Benjamin’s sermon, as Mosiah chapters 2 through 5 were part of that week’s reading.
No, not Nate Oman or David Oman McKay. I’m talking about the country of Oman — in fact, the entire Arabian peninsula. Jeff Lindsay explains over at Mormanity: Some of these photos help demonstrate the plausibility of the place Bountiful in First Nephi, said to be due east of Nahom/Nehhem, which puts Bountiful on Oman. Remember, it’s a place the anti-Mormons have said simply couldn’t be there. (They also denied the possibility of the River Laman in the Valley of Lemuel, and now we’ve got photos of an entirely plausible candidate for that, thanks to the Nephi Project.) Does Oman provide evidence of the Book of Mormon? Check out Lindsay’s site and decide for yourself!
Is this old news? The Church is now offering the Book of Mormon, D&C, General Conference, Church magazines, and certain other materials in MP3 format. The audio site is here. The Church’s website also has some downloads for handhelds, and music downloads. Check out the music player by clicking the name of the song you would like to hear. Pretty cool stuff.
For an explanation of these FHE lessons, click here.
I’ve been thinking about Genesis 27 where, according to the headnote, Rebekah ‘guides’ Jacob in receiving a blessing intended for Esau. Even the Institute manual concedes that this story “is a troubling one in many respects.”
On several occasions, I have asked rooms full of adults if anyone could relate the story of the daughters of Zelophehad to us. No one has ever been able to do it. That’s a shame. This story needs to be brought forth out of obscurity, to grace the flannel boards in Primary, to star in Family Home Evening (it does in the Smith house!), and to take its rightful place in the cozy canon alongside Jonah, Daniel and his lions, and Nephi.
On another thread, BCC contributor and Sunstone editor managing editor John Hatch makes a very interesting observation. He writes: I’ve spoken to plenty of Church members who are more than willing to accept the Adam and Eve story as a metaphor. I recently spoke to a friend who is a bishop who told me he loved Abraham, even though he may not have existed, and if he did exist, the stories the Bible attributes to him most likely didn’t happen. Yet I suspect my friend would be most uncomfortable saying the same thing about Nephi, or Alma, for example.
So now it’s not just the limited geography and the hemispheric models anymore, now there is the Malaysian model. (Link via Dave). The Malaysia idea is certainly novel, and presented as well as I think it possibly could be. The author, Ralph A. Olsen, notes that it avoids a large number of standard Book-of-Mormon location problems, like use of Egyptian, and presence of animals and crops. (For example, he writes that “Wheat, barley, and other cereal grains have long been cultivated in Southeast Asia. There is no evidence of their cultivation in Mesoamerica.”) I’m not convinced.
Prepping a guest lecture for seminary a few weeks ago I was struck with the alignment between Adam’s and Eve’s shrinking from the presence of God after they ate the forbidden fruit, and the shrinking of the wicked from the presence of God at judgment (e.g. 2 Nephi 9). Adam and Eve feel naked, and hide. God calls them forth and rebukes them, confirming that they have something to be ashamed of. They are now to be cast out of his presence entirely. Yet then, after pronouncing curses, he makes clothing for them, as if to say, “Since you’re going out into the world, we’d better at least get you some real clothes!” (Is this Mother acting under the divine plural here?) He confirms they should be ashamed, and yet he specifically intervenes to mitigate their shame, even to bless it after a fashion. Now that he is terrible to them, he goes out of his way to be tender.
My least favorite thing about graduate studies in biblical studies was coming to the realization that there was a multisyllabic, Latin- or Greek- derived word for everything, and that precious few of these words would be found in a standard dictionary. Elder Dallin H. Oaks had an experience with this:
I was inspired by Kristine’s post to think about prooftexts. My nomination is 2 Timothy 3:16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Here it is: What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (Doctrine & Covenants 1:38)
Ars Disputandi, which is a journal on the philosophy of religion, has a review of what looks like a very interesting book using game theory to analyze stories in the Old Testament. Game theory is part of the rational-actor branch of social science. It attempts to understand social interactions by creating mathematical models of different “games” and then deriving the optimal strategy for pursuing those games. The most famous example is the so-called prisoner’s dilemma. (The optimal strategy in a single round game is to rat; in a multi-round game it is to co-operate and punish non-cooperators). So here is an exmple of applying this kind of thing to the Bible.
There is an interesting exchange over at The Metaphysical Elders between The Historian and The Lawyer over the proper interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I am inclined to think that the Historian has the better of the argument, but you can judge for yourselves.
All this talk about scriptures brings up a perennial discussion topic which I think has so far gone undiscussed on Times & Seasons. Does it matter that the language of our scriptures is all based on older English usage which allowed the use of he/him/his to refer to persons of either gender? How about in our hymns?
I don’t get to attend Sunday School often, but yesterday I was able to attend an interesting lesson taught by Logan. The major topic was the great and abominable church. The discussion made me wonder about one thing (which we discussed briefly in class). The scripture talks about removal of plain and precious things from the Book of the Lamb (which appears to be the Bible). I was wondering — how exactly did / does this occur?
I just finished Terryl Givens’s _By the Hand of Mormon_. Its a fun read, though a bit more polemical than I assumed it would be. I think it does make a solid contribution to Book of Mormon studies in its final chapters. Most interesting to me, though, was the summary it provided of Church’s attitude toward and utilization of the Book of Mormon over the past 175 years or so. Givens gives statistics for how often the BofM was cited in church talks, church magazines, etc., before Pres. Benson’s landmark addresses on the topic, and they are astonishing to someone who grew up in a post-Benson Church. What I am interested in, however, is not how the BofM was treated publicly, but how it was treated by the membership, and what contributed to the success of President Benson’s efforts to change that.
I like books. I own lots of them. Far too many of them in fact. Most of my books are on law, philosophy, or history. I also dabble just a bit in biblical criticism. By and large, I can’t stand Mormon commentaries. They tend to be a vacuous collection of GA quotes largely unrelated to the text they are purportedly commenting on. So I have turned elsewhere.
Jim reminds us that next week begins a change in the Gospel Doctrine curriculum. This year’s course of study is, without a doubt, my favorite book in the world, The Book of Mormon. I hope to see a vigorous discussion of Jim’s provocative study questions, but I am going to anticipate him by a week or two with a post about the first verse of the Book of Mormon: “I, NEPHI, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father.” In my humble opinion, this verse does not mean what most of us think it means.
I’ve been thinking about prayer lately and would be interested in other’s ideas about some questions that have been part of that thinking. Specifically these question have to do with the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 7:1-4; 3 Nephi 13:5-14). Here are the verses in question (from Matthew, the longest version, with the differences from the version in Alma marked by underline), each verse followed by a few questions for thought. I’m interested in your thoughts on my questions as well as your own questions.
As I was preparing my Sunday School lesson for today, I hit on the idea of using the phrase, “know the beginning from the end” as the hook for class discussion. It is an odd phrase, though I hear and see it fairly regularly in LDS talks and writings. My point was that by knowing the end (as both final point and purpose), we would understand what came before. Thus, Revelation?the revelation of Christ?is a book about the meaning of human history that we see if we understand the end of that history in Christ. But I ran into trouble when I found out that the phrase isn’t a scriptural one.
I am a Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward and I love the job. I like talking about the scriptures with ward members and usually I have to restrain myself from indulging in my interest in symbols, questions of language and translation, New Testament history, etc. I understand that the class isn’t a scholarly class and I avoid making it one. As I see it, my job is to discuss the Good News with members of the class, not to indulge in my scholarly interests, and I try to stick to the job. However I’m finding it next to impossible to get interested in teaching one lesson on the book of Revelation, much less two.
In a comment to my post below, Paul offers the following from Bruce R. McConkie on the story of Balaam’s ass: “This is a true story, a dramatic story; one with a great lesson for all members of the Church; one that involves seeing God, receiving revelation, and facing a destroying angel in whose hand was the sword of vengeance. It includes the account of how the Lord delivered a message to the prophet in a way that, as far as we know, has never been duplicated in the entire history of the world.” This is one reason to love this blog. Thanks, Paul, for bringing that to my attention. While this definitely gives me pause, I will confess to being as stubborn as a donkey on this topic.
This post picks up on a theme that was touched on in some earlier discussion on the topic of Bible inerrancy. In that earlier discussion, Adam took the position that a presumption of Bible inerrancy was useful, and I am finally writing a response: Balaam’s ass!