I’ve been asked to give a series of three 1-hr lectures on the Bible in French, to be held at three different LDS chapels in Paris, beginning in mid-June. (Yes, we’re currently in Paris, where man can live on bread alone. Quite happily, too.) These lectures will be open and advertised to the public, as a kind of open-door/public education thing. They’re still to be finalized and scheduled, but I’m trying to narrow down my topics, which will not be Mormon-centric.
- Old Testament
- Period between the OT and NT, sometimes called the Inter-testamental period, or 2nd temple period (term which also includes the New Testament time under that term)
- New Testament
- Transmission/translation process
- Reading/interpreting the Bible today
roughly speaking, the New Testament involves less than 100 years of history, two cultures (Greco-Roman and Israelite/Judaic), and a few languages (Greek, and to a lesser extent, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin). By contrast, the Old Testament covers more than 1000 years of history (not counting the deutero-canonical Apocrypha written in the 400 years between the two testaments), multiple cultural influences and languages (Egyptian, Assyrian/Babylonian, Hittite, “Canaanite”, Persian, and Greek) and nearly 3.5 times the amount of text as the New Testament.
- Talk about other cultures, contexts, and languages
- roughly 1000 years of history
- Hundreds of thousands of documents
- Amarna letters, Ugarit, Assyrian/Babylonian, etc.
Or, covering more or less the same territory, but done as more of a backwards-looking RE-discovery of the world that gave us the Old Testament.
- Discovery of Babylonian, Assyrian, Ugaritic, etc.
- Like a timeline?
- Point is to show the Bible in discussion with its context, and the rediscovery’s impact on our understanding and interpretation
- The OT and NT read quite differently in many ways. Players (Rome instead of Egypt/Babylon/Assyria/Hatti/Persia), socio-political context (scribes, pharisees, tax collectors, sicarii,) languages, concepts ( Father/Son/Holy Ghost? works/grace? Messiah(s)? ), lots of differences.
- When you turn the page from Malachi to Matthew, you skip 400 years of history, during which all the transitional changes took place. I’d like to highlight some of them, taking a historical approach, and probably talking about the Dead Sea Scroll community.
- I think of this period as roughly equivalent to that covered by Thomas Alexander’s Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890-1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986). During that period we had the major transition from the early LDS church to what we know today-; out with polygamy, public doctrinal speculation, and cultural isolationism, in with Word of Wisdom, major temple-related shifts, becoming mainstream Americans instead of isolationists, priesthood formalization (see Hartley’s article here) and so on.
- Genres and how we got it, i.e. oral tradition/letters/apocalypses>scribal preservation.
- Rough contemporaries, e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Philo.
- LXX and Targums
- Greco-Roman context
Transmission and Translations
- Basically, the history of the Bible from the early post-NT period to today
- Vulgate, LXX, Targums,
- Scribal traditions and hand copying
- printing press, early translations into English, French, German
- Controversies, with Luther, Geneva Bible, etc.
- I’m more familiar with the relevant English Bibles, but I can adapt for a French context fairly easily.
Reading the Bible Today
- I’ve taught a number of classes, firesides, YSA conferences and such on how to read the Bible.
- Context and tools
- questions to ask
- “One of the most important things to remember is that the Bible was not written for us today. It was for people who shared the culture and language of the author. Since we do not, we won’t fully understand without making some kind of effort. You can visit a foreign country without reading any guidebooks or speaking the language, but it’s not going to be as fun or as meaningful as doing a little homework or having a native guide.”