In Defense of Commentaries

September 26, 2007 | 67 comments
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Let’s say that you learned to cook by watching others and that you’ve never picked up a cookbook or seen a cooking show. Could you become an excellent cook? Of course you could. But you would be limited by the repertoire of your mentors. And you’d also be the inheritor of their mistakes–and you probably wouldn’t even realize that they were mistakes.

Similarly, most Latter-day Saints interpret the scriptures without reference to commentaries, especially commentaries written by non-LDS biblical scholars. This constitutes a missed opportunity to expand one’s repertoire of scriptural understanding and to avoid perpetuating the mistakes of one’s progenitors. I cannot take credit for for this position or the cooking analogy; Elder Oaks said,

Latter-day Saints know that learned or authoritative commentaries can help us with scriptural interpretation, but we maintain that they must be used with caution. Commentaries are not a substitute for the scriptures any more than a good cookbook is a substitute for food. (When I refer to “commentaries,” I refer to everything that interprets scripture, from the comprehensive book-length commentary to the brief interpretation embodied in a lesson or an article, such as this one.) [Dallin H. Oaks, “Scripture Reading and Revelation," Ensign, Jan. 1995, 7]

He goes on to note that commentaries are much less valuable than the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I agree completely. But I think his cookbook analogy is just about perfect. Of course you can cook without one, but if you are little bored with Wednesday night=porkchops, then a new cookbook can jump start your culinary adventure. The best cooks don’t adhere slavishly to cookbooks or regard their authors as demigods, but consider them as jumping off points for their own creativity and adventures. I would hope we could regard commentaries the same way. Unfortunately, LDS culture assumes that non-LDS commentaries will contain so much material that is contradictory to the Restoration that they will not be worth reading or, worse, they will destroy faith. This simply isn’t the case. I’ve read dozens of commentaries and I’d wager that less than 2% of the material contradicts LDS teachings (and: if you don’t read about Genesis 3, substantially less than that!). The majority of the text will enrich your understanding of the scriptures and help you realize new insights that will enhance your appreciation of the text and bolster your faith in the essential truths of the gospel. I’d like to give some examples of the kind of material that you’ll find in a good commentary. (My examples focus on Genesis 4-5 only because that’s what I’m working on right now.)

Identification of Echoes of Other Scriptures

When the Lord God is speaking to Eve after the fruit has been eaten, he says, “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3:16). In the very next chapter, using almost identical language, but speaking to Cain, the Lord says, “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Genesis 4:7). What did the author want you to understand by presenting those two statements of the Lord in virtually identical language? What do these two stories have in common–and how are they different? (In fact, there is a whole list of ways in which Genesis 4 appears to be an amplification of Genesis 3. It encourages us to ponder connections between the coat of skins and the mark of Cain, between the forbidden fruit and not having regard for the offering, etc.)

Alternative Translations

In the KJV, Genesis 4:7 reads, “sin lieth at the door.” ‘Lieth’ makes me think that sin is lounging around, present, yes, but perhaps taking the afternoon off. A good commentary will tell you that “crouching” is a much better translation and that there is a cognate word in Akkadian that refers to a type of demon. What an evocative image! I could share that with a class (of any age level or experience), ask them to visualize sin “crouching,” and then ask them to think about what the Lord is warning Cain (and, by extension, us) about. We could discuss how we protect ourselves against something that is crouching in wait for us.

New Insights

Genesis 4:17-24 presents Cain’s genealogy (i.e., of descendants). They are known for creating new technology. (Or: for inventing civilization: cities, music, metalworking, domesticating animals, etc.) Of course, Cain’s line is suspect. What does this tell us about Genesis’ view of human creations? How is that relevant to our understanding of human accomplishments?

Another example: while there is great disagreement among the extant ancient versions over the numbers used as the ages in Genesis 5, the majority have Methuselah dying either in the year of the flood (!) or 14 years later. Which is more likely: That he is part of the unrighteous who dies in the flood or that he is on the ark but not mentioned?

Patten Recognition

We pretty much skip Genesis 5 because we all know genealogies are boring. (This would be a good example of one of the errors that we can inherit by only learning through mentors!) The comparison of Adam’s line through Cain (chapter 4) and Adam’s line through Seth (chapter 5) is instructive and can easily be used for devotional purposes. In each case, there are ten generations given with the final generation listing three sons. Cain’s line, as noted above, is known for human accomplishments. Nonesuch is mentioned in Seth’s line. What is highlighted there is the begetting of the next generation (important enough that the age of the father is always noted). In other words, the unrighteous line creates things while the righteous line creates people. Special attention is given to the seventh person in each line (which makes sense because the number seven is often symbolic of completeness). In Cain’s line, Lamech boasts of violence and taking lives. In Seth’s line, Enoch is one of the few who (apparently) do not have their life taken. Why? Because he “walks with God.” In Genesis 4-5, the genealogies are not boring lists of names and dates but rather carefully structured narratives designed to make theological points. If you haven’t realized this, it is because your mentors had no idea how to cook Thai food.

Identification of Common Misperceptions of Non-LDS Theology

A common apologetic used to support the 19th-century LDS practice of polygamy is that “it’s biblical.” But most commentaries will point out that the fact that (1) Adam and Eve are designed to by monogamous and (2) polygamy is first practiced by the clearly wrong-headed Lamech in Cain’s line is evidence that it is never God’s preferred path for humanity, but rather something that was tolerated by God. (So if you feel the need to bash Christians, you ought to at least do it with arguments they won’t instantly find spurious.)

There’s more, of course, but I hope I’ve given you a feel for what you will (and won’t) find in a major commentary. One important point: note that everything above (OK, probably not the polygamy bit) has devotional application. Another unfortunate myth among LDS is that “bookish” learning is somehow unrelated to devotion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The entire point of noting that “crouches” is a better translation that “lieth” isn’t to impress your class with your cribbed knowledge of Hebrew but rather to open a discussion about the nature of sin and what we need to do to protect ourselves from it. In this case, the devotional aspect simply won’t happen properly without the ‘book learning’ because we don’t react the same way to something lieth-ing as we do to something “crouching.”

Now for some recommendations. The following series have one volume per book of scripture (with a few exceptions where they combine shorter books). They are all top-notch.

Anchor Bible Commentary
Word Biblical Commentary
New International Commentary on the Old Testament
New International Commentary on the New Testament
New Cambridge Bible Commentary (a little lightweight but a good starting place)
Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary
A Continental Commentary
Expositor’s Bible Commentary (kinda lightweight)
The New Testament Library
anything written by Ben Witherington
The New International Greek Testament Commentary (very dense)

When I study a book, I pick 2-3 commentaries from the list above and then read them (along with the text of course!) one chapter at a time.

Added bonus: if you do this, you’ll have all sorts of interesting things to say in Sunday School (as a teacher or student) and you might become part of our last, best hope for improving teaching in the church. But that’s a topic for another post.

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67 Responses to In Defense of Commentaries

  1. Matt W. on September 26, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Julie, for those of us with limited funds, what online commentaries do you recommend?

  2. David Clark on September 26, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    I very much enjoyed your post. I too enjoy reading the scholarly literature on biblical studies. I am a beginner at this, so I have not yet ventured into commentaries, though I will shortly. Thank you for your recommendations on which commentaries are of high quality.

    Please allow a small nitpick. You have this line in your post: He goes on to note that commentaries are much less valuable than the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While true, I think that constantly juxtaposing scholarly work and the guidance of the Holy Spirit sends the wrong signal to most Mormons. The conclusion most draw (at least I did until recently) was something like, “Well the Spirit is more important, I don’t have a lot of time with work, kids, calling etc., so I’ll just stick with what is most important, the Spirit.” I would rather say, “The Holy Spirit is valuable in understanding the scriptures. Commentaries are valuable in understanding the scriptures.”

    I’ll be honest here. Up until a short while ago I had stopped scripture study for the most part. What got me excited about studying it again was starting to read the scholarly literature on the Bible. It opened up a new world for me and got me reading the Bible. So for me the scholarly stuff was instrumental in my getting excited about the scriptures. I think that was the point of the cooking analogy, it helps you to spice it up.

    Also, I have found very little in the way of contradicting Mormon doctrine as well. Finally, you can find a lot of false doctrine in badly taught Sunday School classes, but I still attend.

  3. Julie M. Smith on September 26, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Matt W., http://www.nextbible.org is top notch. Constable’s stuff at http://www.soniclight.com is very lightweight but better than nothing.

    David, I agree with you. As long as we don’t say that commentaries are *more* important than the Spirit, we’re good. And: your third paragraph is _exactly_ what I want to get at with this post. To me, people who think the scriptures are boring but won’t/don’t read commentaries are akin to people who complain about their cell phones when they have no idea how to operate them. (A group which includes me, but I digress.)

  4. Ben S. on September 26, 2007 at 8:32 pm
  5. Ben S. on September 26, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    “everything above (OK, probably not the polygamy bit) has devotional application.”

    It’s difficult for me to see the devotional aspects, sometimes, and I still have this “devotional is a dirty word” instinct. But I recognize that this is something I need to refocus on in my teaching.

  6. Julie M. Smith on September 26, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Ben S., I had forgotten your post! You said everything I wanted to. I promise I didn’t mean to crib!

  7. Julie M. Smith on September 26, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    Ben S., I think ‘devotional’ is a dirty word only when the text is used inappropriately–when the devotional material is based on prooftexting or is anachronistic or contracontextual or what have you.

  8. Ben S. on September 26, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    It’s a theme that bears repeating.

  9. Kevin Barney on September 26, 2007 at 10:59 pm

    Well said Julie (and Ben). I totally agree.

  10. Ray on September 26, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    Excellent.

  11. Rick on September 27, 2007 at 12:07 am

    I appear to come from a different generation, or from a different lineage of mentors at least. I have several of the commentaries that are listed here, but the one I have found most generally useful is Dummelow’s One Volume Bible Commentary. I also enjoy all of Edersheim’s books, and those by FF Bruce. Am I missing something?

  12. Pesach Chummitz on September 27, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Julie M. Smith, the Anchor Bible Commentary is generally quite good, but there are some stinkers in there. The one on John’s Revelation is infamously bad. This goes with any multi-volume series with multiple authorship, not all are created equally. The JPS TC has also added Jonah and Esther since the original set on the Pentateuch.

    Matt W, local libraries typically have some smattering of all of the above, also check local used book stores and EBay and you can find these at very reasonable prices instead of new.

    David Clark, the Spirit is invaluable in understanding the Scriptures, but the Spirit’s abiding is contingent upon our own righteousness and God’s expediency. Commentaries are dependent upon neither of those, and are therefore much more convenient. Naturally, the quality of commentaries is variable and sometimes dubious, but they are easily put in hand when the Spirit is fleeting.

  13. Julie M. Smith on September 27, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Rick, I think you might find it interesting to pick up one of Ben Witherington’s New Testament commentaries. After reading it, you will be in a position to decide whether you have missed something. I would say yes, because what you’ve read does not reflect the literary, sociological, and rhetorical approaches used to interpret the scriptures by the most recent generation of biblical scholars.

  14. Ben on September 27, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Pesach, there are now 9 volumes in the JPS Torah commentary, those you’ve mentioned + Haftarot (by Michael Fishbane) and Ecclesiastes (by Michael Fox)

    The Jewish reading cycle goes through the Torah every year in 52 divisions, and each division consists of two parts. First there’s the Torah portion, followed by the haftarah (pl. haftarot) which is a reading from one of the prophets or historical books. Consquently, the haftarot commentary covers large and important chunks of the rest of the OT.

    I believe President Hinckley used Dummelow’s One-Volume Bible Commentary on his mission, but I can’t find my source.

    Rick, I think the attitude to commentaries turned cold (colder?) during the McConkie/JFieldingSmith days.

  15. Mike Parker on September 27, 2007 at 11:04 am

    My recommended commentaries, FWIW:

    Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible (Margaret Barker did the chapter on Isaiah), ISBN 0802837115
    The Oxford Bible Commentary, ISBN 0198755007
    The Jewish Study Bible (Ben S. turned me on to this one), ISBN 0195297512
    And the notes in the NET Bible (www.nextbible.org)

    A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants by Stephen Robinson and Dean Garrett, 4 vols., ISBNs 1573457841 / 1573458511 / 157345852X / 1573458538

    The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-By-Verse Commentary by Richard Draper, Kent Brown, and Michael Rhodes, ISBN 1590381874 (I’m a particular fan of this one because it is not fundamentalist or dogmatic on the creation/evolution issue, and it rejects the Cain/Ham-Blacks connection)

  16. David Clark on September 27, 2007 at 11:32 am

    the Spirit is invaluable in understanding the Scriptures, but the Spirit’s abiding is contingent upon our own righteousness and God’s expediency. I agree, and that’s why I said what I said. The dichotomy in Mormon culture so often becomes should I 1) use the Spirit to understand the scriptures? or 2) should I use scholarly resources to understand the scriptures? The problem is that the dichotomy is false and #1 is impossible. Humans do not “use” the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit uses people. And it uses us when God sees fit to do so, which is just what you said. The dichotomy is false because one should seek the guidance of the spirit _and_ seek the best scholarly work when studying the scriptures.

    When I program computers I should (and do) seek the guidance of the spirit, but I also study technical publications. If I were to say I program computers by the Spirit, everyone would laugh me to scorn. But that is what I do in a sense. It’s just that in social discourse it is acceptable for me to leave out the Spirit part and tell people that I can program computers because of all of the books I have read. Anyone who is religious and a computer programmer will attest that one of the times they prayed most fervently is when they were past schedule, over budget, the stupid code wouldn’t compile, and when it did, it had bugs galore. Yet, it is socially acceptable to leave that praying part out, even amongst believing LDS.

    In LDS culture it is socially acceptable to say that you study the scriptures by the Spirit, which is true, but true in the exact same way as me programming computers by the Spirit. So why do so many believers leave out any “scholarly” study of the Bible? The Bible is full of strange people doing strange things and scholarly research is invaluable in knowing why they did what they did and what it means. It is also helpful in seeing subtle teachings that you may have missed. Chapter 1 of Alter’s “The Art of Biblical Narrative” does a good job of arguing that scholarly (in his case literary criticism) supports and illuminates religious truths in the Bible.

    The Spirit is very helpful in purifying and sanctifying me and letting me feel God’s love, not so helpful in figuring out why the books of Genesis and Joshua are so weird. Of course you can argue that knowing about the weird stuff is unimportant. But if you are going to do that, why not take the argument to its logical conclusion and just git rid of the scriptures completely, since the Spirit is the most important guide; surely it could work without the scriptures?

    Anyway, I feel better now that I got that off of my chest. Perhaps I just have a persecution complex because in all honesty the vast majority of LDS membership is neutral to hostile when it comes to scholarly research on scripture. I’m not arguing that everyone needs to go out and buy the full Anchor Bible reference set, just that church member should be encouraged to seek scholarly research if it interests them and stop being hostile to those of us who do. In any case I don’t mean to offend anyone, if I did, my apologies.

  17. Chelsea on September 27, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Great post!

    David: \”Humans do not “use” the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit uses people. And it uses us when God sees fit to do so.\”

    This is so well put, and true.

    I have experienced the Spirit aiding me in my study of the scriptures, sometimes out of the blue, but mostly when I\’m putting in a sincere effort to understand what the scriptures are really saying. This is impossible without using commentaries. IMO if you\’re trying to study the scriptures (especially the Bible) without outside scholarly references, you\’re not really taking them seriously.

  18. Mike on September 27, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Has anyone ever used the HarperCollins Biblical Commentary (James Mays)? I saw it the other day and I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts regarding it.

  19. Julie M. Smith on September 27, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    Mike, I have it. It is better than nothing, but I don’t believe that any one volume that covers the entire Bible really can do justice to anything that it covers.

  20. Jacob M on September 27, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    the Spirit is invaluable in understanding the Scriptures, but the Spirit’s abiding is contingent upon our own righteousness and God’s expediency

    Humans do not “use” the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit uses people. And it uses us when God sees fit to do so

    I would like to point out that we are supposed to seek the Spirit as we study the scriptures. That means to me, that if we are doing the scripture study right, the Holy Spirit will (and I emphasize, will) be there. I think one of our purposes on earth is to be able to learn when the Spirit is attending us, and learn to keep it with us. Now, I know there might be times when, like Jesus, we might have a withdrawl of the Spirit for a specific purpose or a specific test, but those times are the exception, not the rule. The rule is to “always have [His] spirit to be with [us].” Seems to me that means that God expects us to have the Spirit with us always, not just to use us when He sees fit. If you wanted to say that the commentaries help you have a greater communion with the Spirit, perfect, and I’d agree with you 100%.

  21. Mike on September 27, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    I agree Julie; I was just wondering if anyone had used it and had any comments regarding it.

  22. Ben on September 27, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Mike, I have an electronic edition. It’s not bad. Since individual chapters on different books ( Genesis, Exodus, etc.) are written by different scholars, the quality varies from chapter to chapter. I’ve seen the Genesis section by Kselmen recommended by reputable scholars like John Collins.

  23. Adam Greenwood on September 27, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    IMO if you\’re trying to study the scriptures (especially the Bible) without outside scholarly references, you\’re not really taking them seriously.

    So every single Mormon needs to use commentaries? That’s going way, way, way too far.

  24. Ray on September 27, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    #23 – and is the height of elitism, if you stop and think about the implications for those who either don’t have access to the commentaries (language, geography, technology, limited language skills or education, financial, etc.) or whose lives are such that it is a HUGE sacrifice simply to carve out the time to read just the scriptures for a few minutes each day. I know people inside and outside the Church who don’t own a single commentary yet take their scriptures much more seriously than some of the Divinity School students with whom I studied who owned more commentaries than I cared to read

  25. Julie M. Smith on September 27, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    Adam and Ray, I completely agree with both of you. I believe that people who have a sincere desire to understand the scriptures and do everything they can to reach that goal will be richly blessed by the Lord. There are some of us for whom “everything they can” includes reading commentaries, but I think we are in the minority. My post was addressed to bloggers and my thought is that if you have the time and resources to read blogs, you have the time and resources to expand the horizons of your scripture study, which may (or may not) include reading commentaries. The only thing I would ask of all Saints is that they don’t disdain commentaries.

  26. Ray on September 28, 2007 at 12:08 am

    I agree with that completely, Julie. I should have mentioned before my other note how much I appreciate the post itself.

    A related note: Some of the best things I have ever read about the scriptures were either commentaries or books by authors of other religions. Albert Nolan’s “Jesus Before Christianity” (a Catholic priest) and Jaroslav Pelikan’s “Jesus through the Centuries” are not commentaries, per se, and neither is “Jesus, the Christ,” but they are wonderful examples of the overall issue I think you are addressing – understanding the scriptures through the scholarly analysis of scriptural writings in their own place and time and cultural context.

    Also, for those young ‘uns still in school (not BYU), I would recommend highly (where possible) taking religious courses taught by the most well-respected non-Mormon teachers / theologians at the college or graduate school you are attending. I had the privilege of taking courses taught by Harvey Cox and Francis Schüssler Fiorenza – and they each were amazing experiences. I got a lot better understanding of the apostasy (unintended by the teachers, of course – *grin*), but I also was able to see important things in a different light and come to appreciate much more deeply the portion of the Spirit available to all good and sincere men and women. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for any other academic experiences I had.

  27. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 10:55 am

    So every single Mormon needs to use commentaries? That’s going way, way, way too far. I would hope the original poster was being hyperbolic to make a point, that is more Saints need to look at scholarship on the scriptures and stop disdaining those who do.

    One of the ironic things about being a Mormon is that there isn’t much of a place for those whose talent it is to seriously study the scriptures. It’s ironic because in every other religion on planet Earth it is highly valued. In the LDS church legal, managerial, construction, outdoor recreation, and accounting expertise are highly valued and put to good use by the church. For those of us (like me) who don’t have those skills you can start to feel left out and feel like you don’t have much of a place.

    There is another way in which scripture knowledge is not valued. When the church needs legal expertise they hire competent legal counsel. When they need to put up a web site they hire experienced IT professionals. When they want to do advertising they hire a public relations firm. When they need accounting and auditing they hire CPAs. But, if scriptural expertise is ever needed, like to write manuals or be in charge of seminaries and institutes, any John Doe will do, no expertise is needed. Take a look at the BYU religion department’s roster of professors. A very large percentage don’t have Ph.D.’s, they have Ed.D.’s. And those that have Ph.D.’s are very often in something unrelated to Hebrew, Greek, ANE studies, religious studies, etc. Looking at their publications it sure looks like doing scholarly work is not valued at all.

    Anyway, my point is I just wish that two thing would happen. First, that more Mormons take the scriptures seriously by looking into scholarly research. Second, that there be more of a place for those who do.

  28. Julie M. Smith on September 28, 2007 at 11:04 am

    David Clark,

    As much as I wish there was a niche (let’s go all out: a highly paid and respected niche) for biblical scholars in the church, the other side of that coin is that there is something to be said for our commitment to the idea that everyone can understand the scriptures.

    At the same time, I do think that there is a change in the midst where newer CES/BYU are more likely than their predecessors to have academic training and my hope is that as people see the fruit of that tree, more of them will desire it.

  29. Ray on September 28, 2007 at 11:10 am

    David, I understand your concern, and I don’t mean to sound flippant (not do I mean to direct this at you, personally) – not at all, but my answer is simple:

    There IS a place for scriptorians in the Church. It is in Gospel Doctrine class, Priesthood meetings, Primary and Sunday School callings, Semimary (especially Early Morning Semiary outside of the Utah-belt), Releif Society, HT and VT, ward and stake positions, etc.

    One of the most frustrating aspects of serving in a bishopric is when you have members who know the scriptures inside and out but who refuse to accept a “lowly” calling. It is *so* aggravating. A minister who joined the Church last year is our 14-15 year old Sunday School teacher, and he is wonderful. There isn’t a better place for a Biblical scholar like in, imo.

  30. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 11:12 am

    JMS,
    I understand completely where you’re coming from. Carry on.

  31. Ray on September 28, 2007 at 11:12 am

    like *him* – Wow.

  32. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 11:16 am

    David Clark,
    the problem is that scriptures are our spiritual authorities. I think its indisputable that scholarship can add a lot to private scripture study but the trend towards increased scripture scholarship among the Saints is also very dangerous to the degree that it creates a scholarly, professionalized spiritual authority that is alternative in some ways to the priesthood. I hope that people seek learning about the Bible out of the best books but that we continue to believe that the only thing that can mediate between us and God when reading the scripture is priesthood authority.

  33. Ben on September 28, 2007 at 11:46 am

    David and Adam: I think the issue you’re getting at is discussed in HP’s old post about scholars and prophets.
    http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com/2007/04/26/scholars-and-prophets/

  34. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Julie,

    At the same time, I do think that there is a change in the midst where newer CES/BYU are more likely than their predecessors to have academic training and my hope is that as people see the fruit of that tree, more of them will desire it.

    I sincerely hope you are correct. I have not seen any evidence that the newer CES/BYU people have academic training. Perhaps I have not been watching for long enough. After reading “Mormons and the Bible” by Barlow I got the impression that academic training in scriptures was more common in the early 20th century than it is now. Perhaps that was a wrong impression. I hope you are right.

    Ray,

    There IS a place for scriptorians in the Church. It is in Gospel Doctrine class, Priesthood meetings, Primary and Sunday School callings, Semimary (especially Early Morning Semiary outside of the Utah-belt), Releif Society, HT and VT, ward and stake positions, etc.

    Yes, those are all good places for people with knowledge of the scriptures to serve. My problem with your argument comes from my experience as a church member and as a ward clerk. Having sat in on bishopric meetings I can honestly say that knowledge of the scriptures was never mentioned as something worthwhile in those being called to those callings. In fact all too often bishoprics have the idea that putting people in those callings who have little knowledge is ideal as they will learn on the job. Also, having lived in several wards in several states I have NEVER seen a ward where church lessons are given priority. If anything needs to be shortened to make room for meetings, anouncements, planning etc. it is always the lesson. What does that say to the poor teacher who planned for the lesson? Simple, that what they did was not as important as other things going on. Which was my point to begin with.

    Adam,

    I think its indisputable that scholarship can add a lot to private scripture study but the trend towards increased scripture scholarship among the Saints is also very dangerous to the degree that it creates a scholarly, professionalized spiritual authority that is alternative in some ways to the priesthood.

    I would submit that there are already alternate sources of authority in the church. Whenever the church hires legal counsel and gives some power of attorney to them, or hires an accounting firm and gives them auditing authority, or empowers programmers to create a web site for the church they are delegating authority not on the basis of priesthood but on the basis of expertise. Almost nobody sees any problems with this. I think something similar might be workable with scriptural scholarship.

  35. Kyle R. on September 28, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Don’t priesthood authority and scholarly learning already provide a healthy balance of – not alternative so much as complimentary – authority? Priesthood authority or even just the spiritual insights that come to ordinary LDS or other readers of the scripture can keep scholarly learning from so effectively deconstructing the scriptures as text or history that the main point of them gets lost. Equally, it’s surely not beyond a priesthood authority to – in all innocence – use a scriptural passage completely out of context in order to illustrate an otherwise genuine and valid point. He would presumably be grateful to learn that the passage does not – in its actual historic, linguistic or textual context – actually support that point, so that he could find a passage that did.

  36. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    Legal authority, accounting authority, and etc. are not spiritual authorities. Interpreting the scriptures is.

    Further, in a church context legal authority, accounting authority, etc., is dependent on delegation from priesthood authority. My local unit follows certain accounting procedures and takes certain legal precautions because the church has told it to do so. The church asked certain legal and accounting figures to give it advice and then it decided what portion of their advice to pass on. Scripture scholarship doesn’t work that way.

  37. Julie M. Smith on September 28, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    To add to #36, I think that the church needs formal legal (or whatever) advice to function but it doesn’t need formal scripture advice. Actually, the last thing we need is The Official LDS Commentary on The Book of Judges, because then any interpretations diverging from its contents are de facto unorthodox. It would do more harm than good! Let’s just stick to encouraging those with the time and inclination to learn from a variety of the really excellent secular sources that are out there, and preserve the ability of their children to learn from the even better sources that will exist in 30 years.

  38. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Scripture scholarship doesn’t work that way.

    The argument is untenable as the church has already decided that it works that way in a large number of contexts. How else do you explain the existence of CES and the religion departments at church owned schools as anything other than delegating some authority in teaching and interpreting the scriptures? My point is why not treat them like the other instances where authority is delegated, that is delegate on the basis of expertise? I have no church calling because I am a seminary teacher, I am not set apart, I am not sustained, and CES makes it painfully clear to you to treat being seminary teacher as a volunteer position, not as a calling.

    Legal authority, accounting authority, and etc. are not spiritual authorities. Interpreting the scriptures is. If we were Lutherans then you would have a point. The issue is much more muddled for Mormons.

  39. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Actually, the last thing we need is The Official LDS Commentary on The Book of Judges

    Agreed, but seeking expertise does not necessarily entail that the expertise becomes official policy or doctrine.

  40. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Though I do have to admit that Mormons have a predilection to make things de facto official that shouldn’t be, so it would probably happen just like you said.

  41. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    If we were Lutherans then you would have a point. The issue is much more muddled for Mormons.

    If we were Sola Scriptura Lutherans or something I wouldn’t have a point. Scriptural authority would be all there is. Its because Mormons recognize priesthood and revelatory authority in addition to and in some senses superior to scripture–i.e., because “the issue is much more muddled for Mormons”–that scriptural authority based on secular knowledge becomes problematic.

  42. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Let’s just stick to encouraging those with the time and inclination to learn from a variety of the really excellent secular sources that are out there, and preserve the ability of their children to learn from the even better sources that will exist in 30 years.

    Amen.

  43. Ardis Parshall on September 28, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Kyle R (35) may be surprised to see me say this, but I think he has it exactly right. Scholarship can inform scripture studies (how many times have I had a flash of insight from reading Julie’s posts that hadn’t/couldn’t come to me in my devoted but amateur scripture reading?), and reading by the spirit puts the life, the “why it matters,” into the study.

    David Clark, there really is a huge difference between inspired scripture and the tax code, even though many of the skills for understanding them may overlap. It’s bizarre to equate the spiritual and moral authority of a servant of God with the assignment given to a computer geek to design a website. We all think our pet fields are among the most important and that when we’re good at them we deserve more respect and reward than we get, but (pardon me) you seem to go a little further than most in that direction.

  44. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    If we were Sola Scriptura Lutherans or something I wouldn’t have a point. This is not related to the discussion, but this is not what you originally said, you said Evangelicals or something, and left out Sola Scriptura. While this does not affect your argument I do get uncomfortable when others can edit and I cannot.

    In any case it seems a non sequiter to claim that a Lutheran ,who claims authority sola scriptura, wouldn’t have a point in saying, quoting you, “Legal authority, accounting authority, and etc. are not spiritual authorities. Interpreting the scriptures is.”

  45. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    There’s lot of things I’ve said that Lutherans could quote, including subsidiary arguments I’ve made in this discussion. Lutherans would not agree, I suspect, that scholarly authority in the interpretation of scripture is a problem because it interferes with priesthood authority. Which is my point.

  46. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    We all think our pet fields are among the most important and that when we’re good at them we deserve more respect and reward than we get. I don’t think that. Writing software is one of the most unimportant things in the world, totally unnecessary in the eternal scheme of things. If you get right down to it everyone’s paid job is unimportant, except for farmers. My point was not that authorities are equivalent but that authority has been delegated.

    I also don’t see how arguing for respect for scholarly based research on the scriptures got turned into my wanting more recognition for what I do since I stated early on that I am a beginner at looking into scholarly reasearch, that’s why I said “I am a beginner at this.” Who knows, in the end I may completely suck at this and might be undeserving of any recognition or reward no matter what.

    It’s bizarre to equate the spiritual and moral authority of a servant of God with the assignment given to a computer geek to design a website. I agree, and I never said that nor intended for that conclusion to be drawn.

  47. Ardis Parshall on September 28, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    My apologies, David Clark. I think your points may have been obscured in the back and forth responses to limited pieces of your original comment. Sorry to have added to the confusion.

  48. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Ardis, Not a problem. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify what I probably said unclearly in previous comments.

    I think the problem can best be summarized as follows. Many people see a firm ontological distinction between prophetic authority/scripture and scholarly learning. Indeed, until recently I did so as well. However, I have begun to consider the distinction much more fluid than I had in the past. Here are some reasons why:

    1) The KJV bible which is scripture in English had to be translated by somebody, and it wasn’t done by a prophet. True, we have the JST, but my understanding is that it is not official doctrine. All translation is interpretation, and that interpretation is done by scholars.

    2) Every other language uses a different Bible translation which will necessarily have a different interpretations since it was done by different scholars. Yet that Bible is still held to be scripture by LDS. Scriptures read differently in other languages. Even the Book of Mormon in Spanish reads differently in Spanish, nothing major, but the experience is different. My point is that there is no 100% gold standard, prophetically produced, version of the scriptures in existence. We don’t have a version of Koranic Arabic in our theology.

    3) Punctuation and capitalization matters in how you interpret a text. Yet the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Book of Mormon all were originally one long run on sentence with no punctuation. The punctuation and capitalization were done by scholars and typesetting experts, not by prophets. Yes, Joseph Smith did correct some of the punctuation in the Book of Mormon, but my understanding is that most of it is still the original work done by the typesetter.

    4) We hold hymns to be somewhat like scripture, in that it is considered somewhat authoritative. Yet, who writes hymns? Some lyrics are done by prophets and apostles, but most are not. I know of no hymn in which the music was written by a prophet or apostle, but by a skilled musician, a musical scholar of sorts.

    5) Some of the authors of the Book of Mormon were not prophets and freely admitted their unrighteousness. Granted they didn’t say much of value but they had posession of the scriptures and were entrusted to do with them as they saw fit. My point is that scriptures are not always entrusted to prophets 100% of the time.

    6) The fact that we even have a Bible is due to generations of copyists continually re-copying worn out Bibles. Some did a good job, some didn’t. The problem is this, in many cases it’s hard to know which ones did a good job and which ones did not. The whole field of textual criticism tries to sort this out.

    7) The KJV was the culmination of decades of translations, re-translations, and attempts to find a better biblical text. Still, the base text they used, the textus receptus is a very late manuscript (it didn’t even have a complete copy of Revelation in Greek) and further discoveries, by scholars, have produced earlier manuscripts which correct the textus receptus. By the way, this is total speculation on my part, but my guess is that Mormon and Moroni faced a similar problem when editing the Book of Mormon.

    8) The authorship of the gospels is up in the air, but they were probably not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. That’s why it’s the gospel according to Matthew, not the gospel of Matthew. The point is that it’s pretty obvious that they were written by believers, but were they prophets in the sense that we understand prophets? Also, since somebody wrote them down, it’s also obvious that they were in the tiny minority of persons who could write well enough to write a lengthy manuscript, i.e. they had some sort of scholarly training (well, whatever passed for scholarly training back in the day).

    OK, I’ll stop rambling. My point is that the scriptures did not just drop from heaven in a ziploc bag one day and they are not produced, transmitted, translated, and typeset by 100% prophetic inspiration from start to finish. Whether we like it or not the scriptures we have are the product of prophetic inspiration and scholarly activity, so I think rigid ontological categories are not warranted. I hasten to add I am not trying to usurp prophetic authority, just arguing that there is a place, and an important one, for both help in producing and understanding the scriptures.

  49. Ray on September 28, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    David, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly” pretty much sums it up. In that light, commentaries add additional layers of “translated correctly” issues. Again, I love being able to see how others read the scriptures, but, ultimately, I need to reach my own conclusions – specifically because it still ends up being “as far as it is translated correctly” – and that foundation includes the very first recorders of the accounts. (If it is flawed even in the first recording / translation, then we are interpreting from an interpretation of an interpretation.) In that light, while commentaries are wonderful to add perspective and alternatives, the insight of the Holy Ghost always will mean more to the individual reader – even if multiple readers are inspired to read the same passages slightly differently.

    Investing individual scholars in the Church with anyting like an aura of infallibility is done too often on the local level. I don’t want it done systematically.

  50. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Investing individual scholars in the Church with anyting like an aura of infallibility is done too often on the local level. I have yet to see that done at any level of the church. Indeed, scholars are most often seen as completely fallacious by virtue of their being scholars. Your comment, In that light, commentaries add additional layers of “translated correctly” issues, only underscores this opinion, that the commentaries done by scholars, necessarily add problems and solve nothing.

  51. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Ray, a couple more thoughts. I think most Mormons see We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly as assigning translators, copyists, etc. malicious intent. I.e. those stupid scholars messed up the Bible, who needs them. However, all ancient texts suffer wear and tear in transmission across the ages. This may just be an acknowledgement that that happens and that given the technology of the times nothing could be done about it. It is not necessarily an indictment of scholarship.

    A final thought. Mormons are front and center when it comes to asserting translation problems in the Bible. Yet, we assume that translating the Book of Mormon into other languages is an error free process. The problem is that the prophet did not translate the Book of Mormon into Vietnamese, he relied on a translator. To what extent do readers in other languages read the Book of Mormon incorrectly? I am NOT arguing that there is some essential flaw I know of. I am just pointing out that we carelessly toss around translation as an issue for the Bible while failing to recognize that as a church we face the same problem with the Book of Mormon and languages other than English.

  52. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    And for anything other than private use, I would much rather Vietnamese members treat their scriptures as printed as authoritative instead of relying on educated persons to tell them how they should really be understood.

  53. Ray on September 28, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    David, #50 – Don’t quote the first part of a comment and ignore the second part – or the main point of the whole.

    “Indeed, scholars are most often seen as completely fallacious by virtue of their being scholars.”

    You’ve never been in a Gospel Docttine class where someone asks a tricky question, there is silence and the teacher says, “Bro./Sis. Whatever, will you answer that?” I have in every ward I have attended – and it often is the person who not only can quote chapter and verse, but also provide the background – the assumed “scholar” in the group. I agree, however, that there is a general mis-trust of “non-Mormon” scholarly perspectives. (Deseret Book, for example, sells plenty of books that are loosely considered to be “commentaries” by LDS authors.)

    Also, and I do not mean this to be directed at you personally, I have found that very well-educated, very articulate people *often* speak with a tone of condescension or with a vocabulary that annoys those who hear them. True story: I used to sell instructional technology to educators. My manager told me one day to lower the cognitive level of what I said to people in that job – that educators tend to feel threatened by those who use words they don’t understand. “In that light” (*grin*), I have found that many average Joe/Jane members are turned off NOT by someone who is a scholar, but rather by someone who can’t or doesn’t speak their language – whose tone sounds condescending or whose statements they can’t understand. There is BIG difference.

    I think you are wrong about most Mormons’ view of translation problems. I think most Mormons would agree that incorrect translations are at least three-fold: simple translation errors, sincere but uninspired attempts to make meaning clearer and intentional alterations to support dogma. That’s just my experience, however. I can’t back it up with any scholarly evidence.

  54. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    And for anything other than private use, I would much rather Vietnamese members treat their scriptures as printed as authoritative instead of relying on educated persons to tell them how they should really be understood. And if their translation is bad, what then? I don’t know if this is correct or not, but this page claims a mistranslation or misprint made the Book of Mormon look like it was teaching the doctrine of transubstantiation. Let’s assume it’s true. On your argument, it’s printed and authoritative, now what?

    I also never said that people should allow others to show them how they should read their scriptures, and seeking information in scholarly sources does not force you to assume they are correct.

    In any case, you already are relying on somebody educated to assist you in understanding the Bible unless you read ancient Greek and Hebrew. If you do, my hat is off to you.

    Furthermore, let’s suppose that you understand ancient Greek or ancient Hebrew because you are an ancient Greek or Hebrew. The chances are slight that you can read your scriptures because the odds are you are illiterate. So someone reads you the text. Then of course because you are illiterate you can’t understand some of the words. So you have to ask someone to explain what it means to you. What about those people? They can’t rely on a printed authoritative text, somebody “educated” has to help them out.

    Your arguments assume a level of technological development, education, and availability that does not universally hold today and certainly did not hold universally in ancient times.

  55. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Don’t quote the first part of a comment and ignore the second part – or the main point of the whole. I try to quote pithy parts which reflect an overall summary of the original post. If you feel I did not select a representative sample my apologies and feel free to correct me.

  56. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    You’ve never been in a Gospel Doctrine class where someone asks a tricky question, there is silence and the teacher says, “Bro./Sis. Whatever, will you answer that?” I have never had that experience, I am glad that you have. The fact that the person who knew all the answers was in the audience and not teaching tends to reinforce my point that people are chosen for teaching positions not on the basis of knowledge but on something else. There is nothing wrong with that.

    There IS a place for scriptorians in the Church. It is in Gospel Doctrine class, Priesthood meetings, Primary and Sunday School callings, Semimary (especially Early Morning Semiary outside of the Utah-belt), Releif Society, HT and VT, ward and stake positions, etc.

  57. David Clark on September 28, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    I try and leave conversations on a positive note. Thank you for the chance to think out loud and provide a sounding board. If I have offended anyone please accept my sincerest apologies. Julie, thank you for writing a wonderful post. I look forward to using your suggestions in purchasing a few commentaries, I think I will start with the Joshua volume from the Anchor Bible series. Your institute students are very lucky to have you as a teacher, much more lucky than are my seminary students.

  58. Ray on September 28, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    David, I think we agree much more than we disagree. That’s why I don’t like having “pithy” parts taken out of context and critiqued. Look at these (not-so?) “pithy” parts of the same paragraph from the same comment:

    “I love being able to see how others read the scriptures.”
    “Commentaries are wonderful to add perspective and alternatives.”

    From an earlier comment of mine:

    #26 – “Some of the best things I have ever read about the scriptures were either commentaries or books by authors of other religions.”

    “I would recommend highly (where possible) taking religious courses taught by the most well-respected non-Mormon teachers / theologians at the college or graduate school you are attending . . . [to be] able to see important things in a different light and come to appreciate much more deeply the portion of the Spirit available to all good and sincere men and women..”

    Now, compare the message in those quotes to: “Your comment, ‘In that light, commentaries add additional layers of “translated correctly” issues,’ only underscores this opinion, that the commentaries done by scholars, necessarily add problems and solve nothing.”

    I never said nor implied that. In general, I agree with you as to the benefit of commentaries. I was addressing a completely separate issue – the idea that anyone who doesn’t use commentaries (“scholarly references”) isn’t taking the scriptures seriously. That’s hogwash and inherently offensive hyperbole.

    Fwiw, using commentaries *does* add additional layers of “translated correctly” issues. I recommend them knowing that full well, but also recognizing that they are valuable assets, nonetheless.

    It seems our central disagreement is how we see scholars and teachers being treated in the Church – and, since that disagreement is experientially-based, I don’t think we are going to reconcile it.

  59. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    And if their translation is bad, what then? I don’t know if this is correct or not, but this page claims a mistranslation or misprint made the Book of Mormon look like it was teaching the doctrine of transubstantiation. Let’s assume it’s true. On your argument, it’s printed and authoritative, now what?

    Ask the leadership if that’s a doctrine we believe in. Pray. Study. Seek input from scholarly sources. #4 is good but optional.

  60. Jonathan Green on September 29, 2007 at 7:12 am

    Dave Clark, I think you raise some interesting points. What I think you’re observing is that Mormonism behaves very much like other textual communities in that it is not constituted by its texts, but rather by a shared attitude towards those texts and an agreement concerning authoritative interpreters. The Mormon textual community consists, more or less, of those who acknowledge the four standard works as scripture and the authority of the prophet and general authorities as interpreters.

    This creates the potential for friction between the textual community, on the one hand, and both individual scripture reading and other textual authorities, on the other, including scholarly ones. I think your concerns are primarily about how the tension between community interpretive authority and external scholarly authority is institutionally resolved. Personally, I’m predisposed to the embrace and extend approach (hiring more religion professors with religious studies Ph.D., for example), but there are other options. I think the point of Julie’s post was to point to some of the ways to resolve the same tension on a personal level.

  61. Y Stephenson on September 29, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    I am reminded of a story that went around some years ago. A Catholic, a Jew and a Mormon were conversing. They asked each other who they would go to if they had a question about a particular teaching and wanted a definitive answer. The Catholic said he would go to the priest. The Jew said he would ask the Rabbi, and the Mormon said, “Well, in my opinion.” And that is how we resolve most these things.

    The more I read the scriptures the less I desire to read commentaries. It has been my experience that there is a tendency to use commentaries as a means of avoiding reading the scriptures. Some people use the spirit as an excuse for not reading the scriptures. Probably more of us fall in that category. Sometimes when I teach I feel really insecure because I know a good portion of the class hasn’t read the text and they are depending on me to come up with a definitive interpretation, if you will. I don’t think this is a reasonable expectation. At some point whatever study method a person finds most valuable though, the finial interpretation must come from the spirit. But, some kind of study must come first.

  62. Julie M. Smith on September 29, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    “It has been my experience that there is a tendency to use commentaries as a means of avoiding reading the scriptures.”

    I may misunderstand, but I think by “reading” you mean “grappling with” or “trying to understand for oneself.” I don’t disagree, and that’s part of the reason that I suggest reading 2-3 commentaries, because that’s likely to give you 4-5 possible interpretations for each issue that arises, which means that you still have to do your own thinking.

  63. Kyle R. on September 30, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    #43 Not surprised at all, Ardis. Your logic is always fairly reasonable. To me the whole point of life is the opportunity to learn from others, often people you don’t expect to, which always goes both ways. I’m wondering if the slight tension between spiritual and scholarly authorities in the LDS context isn’t some kind of vaguely class thing, and thus the tussel over authority between them boils down to just that: authority. That and perhaps language. Because even spiritual authorities – however inspired – can be pedantic and concerned with ‘realpolitik’. And scholarly authorities – however pedantic and themselves ideologically driven – can be inspired and inspirational. The final word in a debate isn’t always the best or truest one.

  64. David Clark on October 1, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Julie,

    This is unrelated to your original post, but I don’t really know of a better place to ask this. How do you use the JST in your institute classes? Not the book of Moses, that’s canonical, but the parts that the English language version of the scriptures includes as small footnotes and larger chunks just after the Bible Dictionary and in some triple combinations in other languages.

    My understanding has always been that these have an ambiguous status, something less than canon, but still included in the canon. People like to hang their hats on them, and if they are canon then that’s fine. But the church does not seem to be in any hurry to produce versions of the Bible which contain the many smaller revisions found in the footnotes. I don’t even know if that is even possible given that the JST revisions only make sense if you are using the KJV, which other languages necessarily do not use. For home study I tend to prefer the NRSV (which makes following the JST footnotes really hard), but for seminary teaching I of course use the KJV. This compounds my trouble in knowing how to use them.

  65. Julie M. Smith on October 1, 2007 at 11:56 am

    David, I posted on the JST here:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2929

  66. Robert C. on October 1, 2007 at 8:15 pm

    Fun discussion and great recommendations Julie, thanks.

    I think so-called Biblical Theology has gotten short-shrift so far in this discussion. I’m in the middle of the first chapter in Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament which I think does a fantastic job of giving an overview of Biblical scholarship and the reasons that interpretation has traditionally taken a back-seat to historical-critical exegesis, esp. in terms of how modernistic, scientific-method type thinking has taken precedence over a more faith-ful approach to the text (i.e. having faith that the text is actually saying something meaningful, and trying to figure out that meaning, rather than just trying to demystify the text…). This is a horrible summary of his critique, but hopefully conveys the sense of what he says.

    I think the sources Julie mentions do a great job in terms of exegesis, but a frequently dismal job in terms of interpretation, and I think this is a big reason many members often get turned off in terms of scholarly commentaries. Of course historical-critical issues are important to consider, but esp. for members who don’t have a lot of time, I think many of these commentaries are a bit overkill since they don’t ever get around to addressing the meaning of the text (or theological implications) very well. Other authors, besides Brueggemann, that I’d be more inclined to recommend would be Robert Alter, Brevard Childs, Gerhard von Rad or even Karl Barth who seem to get at what I think are the more interesting issues (i.e. interpretation rather than just historical and textual background). I’d love recommendations of more work by such interpretive authors if anyone has suggestions.

  67. Julie M. Smith on October 3, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Robert, thanks for your comment. I have to admit that I’ve never read a work of OT *theology*, except for a few of feminist theology, which usually include quite a bit of exegesis.

    Based on my experience reading NT theology, however, I find it very frustrating, as the author usually treats the text as if the exegetical issues were settled to everyone’s satisfaction. I find myself thinking, “But wait! You can’t just say X and move on! There’s ten different theories as to what X could mean!”

    At the same time, it is ridiculous to hold theology hostage to exegesis, which will never, ever be “settled” to everyone’s satisfaction. So I’m not quite sure how to get out of that conundrum, but I am interesting in reading the book you mentioned.

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