A Different Kind of ‘Likening’

September 8, 2004 | 16 comments
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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 that God would want Nephi to violate a major commandment.”
GOOD: “When we read that the Spirit tells Nephi to kill Laban, what challenges does it place on us as readers of this story–and how do we resolve them?”

So, now that we have a new tool, let’s trot out our favorite dead horses and see what we can do with them: Judah and Tamar, Nephi and Laban, Abraham and Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s identity in Egypt, Rebekah and the blessing.

I’m too pregnant and tired to think right now, so I’ll be heading over to www.geosense.net to waste some time and cultivate my feelings of ignorance, and leave it to y’all to get the ball rolling. I’ll add some comments tomorrow, maybe.

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16 Responses to A Different Kind of ‘Likening’

  1. Kaimi on September 8, 2004 at 11:46 pm

    “so I’ll be heading over to http://www.geosense.net to waste some time and cultivate my feelings of ignorance”

    And with those words, Julie — bless her pregnant little heart — connects Kaimi with yet another great way to waste time. I would thank you for the tip, but I don’t have time, as a pressing game of Geosense awaits me. If I hadn’t misplaced Denver (of all places!) last time, I would have broken 500 for the first time.

  2. Jim F. on September 9, 2004 at 12:12 am

    I don’t want to toot my own horn–okay, yes I do–but this is a version of what I talk about when I talk about allowing the scriptures to ask questions of us. But this is, unfortunately for me, a clearer way to make the point.

  3. danithew on September 9, 2004 at 6:14 am

    “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.�

    The first word “test” should read text. That was my error in the original message. :) Thanks for noticing.

  4. danithew on September 9, 2004 at 6:54 am

    It took me a little bit of time but I was able to find the term that the professor spoke about and a definition:

    Mas’ala: Literally means “an issue, problem or question”. In Islamic jurisprudence, it refers to a rule, or regulation. The plural of mas’ala is masa’il.

    This definition can be found at:

    http://www.as-sidq.org/glossary.html

    When the Islamic scholars examine a text they might ask what the masalah (sing) or the masa’il (plural) of the text is/are.

  5. Kim Siever on September 9, 2004 at 11:12 am

    ” I would have broken 500 for the first time.”

    You’re not serious are you, Kaimi?

    I played it for the first time just now and I scored 2466. Throughout the game, I was over 500 several times. I missed a number of places, so was below 100 several times as well.

  6. Kim Siever on September 9, 2004 at 11:16 am

    Oh, those points were for the World Map. I just tried the US map and got 7308 as a final score and one city gave me over 1700 points.

    Pretty good for a Canadian, eh?

  7. Jonathan Green on September 9, 2004 at 11:26 am

    By including that link to Geosense, you have ruined any chance I had of having a productive day. Now, about reception studies and the Book of Mormon…nevermind, I’ve got to get back to the Europe map.

  8. Mark B on September 9, 2004 at 11:42 am

    I saw you there at 2:30 a.m. Kaimi. Wonder how productive your day is today??? I of course am sufficiently old that I can stay awake all night and sleep all day and still be as productive as ever.

    By the way, why am I always 51 km off? Except for Da Nang, Vietnam, which I managed to nail. Must be those pictures from the Daily Herald of the Marines wading ashore in 1965 that have stuck in my head all these years.

  9. Kaimi on September 9, 2004 at 11:51 am

    Kim,

    I meant a 500 average. (5000 total, for the round of ten). My geography isn’t _that_ bad. :)

    Fortunately, I tried a few times this morning and went over 500 twice. :D

  10. Kaimi on September 9, 2004 at 11:53 am

    I keep losing points whenever Canada, Russia, Australia, or China comes up. I mean, who knows where Winnipeg is anyway? Or Vladivostock?

    Meanwhile, if it’s some city in Ireland or Ecuador that I’m not really sure about, I can just click the middle of the country, and still be no more than a few hundred kilometers off.

  11. danithew on September 9, 2004 at 2:34 pm

    I think Esther could have taught Tamar a thing or two. :)

  12. Bryce I on September 9, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    Re: geosense

    No fair! European political geography has changed quite a bit since I last stared at a map.

    Jonathan–

    Check out dookeyhead’s monthly high scores on the US map.

  13. Julie in Austin on September 9, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    danithew–

    please expand.

    others–

    and to think I was happy when I started breaking 4000. at least now I know which continent Surinam is in.

  14. danithew on September 9, 2004 at 3:43 pm

    Julie, that was just a dumb joke based on the reactions to Esther in an earlier post. It’s nothing serious.

  15. danithew on September 9, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    Here’s the link to Kaimi’s post some time ago about Esther, a post where he talked about the lessons one could learn from the story of Esther.

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/wp/index.php?p=926

    If I recall, in the comments on this post, Esther’s moral character came into question with some saying she was an immoral sexual manipulator and others saying she was simply a victim of her time and culture, perhaps an instrument in the hands of God to save the Jewish people. Tamar is known for using questionable tactics (dressing up as a prostitute and acting the part of a prostitute) in order to fool Judah into helping her conceive. So I was trying to riff off of that a little and assumed others would get the “inside joke.”

    Also, after all the GeoSense comments I was trying to sort of dredge up some comments/reaction that began to approach one of the “dead horses” brought up by this request:

    So, now that we have a new tool, let’s trot out our favorite dead horses and see what we can do with them: Judah and Tamar, Nephi and Laban, Abraham and Isaac, Abraham and Sarah’s identity in Egypt, Rebekah and the blessing.

  16. D. Fletcher on September 9, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    I played Geosense twice, just now. I got 2566 and 3870.