Blog Archives

The Old Testament and Why Bible Translations Differ: My Religious Educator Article

December 18, 2013 | 11 comments
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The Old Testament and Why Bible Translations Differ: My Religious Educator Article

BYU’s Religious Studies Center publishes The Religious Educator, a little-known LDS journal that deserves wider recognition. Read more »

God, the Necessity of Scholars, and the Old Testament: A Long Post and a Short Announcement.

December 15, 2013 | 25 comments
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God, the Necessity of Scholars, and the Old Testament: A Long Post and a Short Announcement.

Among laypeople, one sometimes finds a distrust of scholarship as it applies to the Bible, particularly if that scholarship runs against a traditional interpretation, or if tells you an obvious face-value reading you favor doesn’t really mean what you think it does. LDS have competing traditions towards serious scripture study. On the one hand, we are not a Bible-based (or even Book of Mormon-based) religion, where doctrine comes primarily through exegesis and interpretation. No sir, we’ve got prophets! We make an end run around all that stuff. We don’t believe you must attend college and be trained for the ministry... Read more »

The Old Testament, Scripture, Apostles, the Priesthood Ban, and Theological Diversity: Calibrating Our Expectations

December 12, 2013 | 45 comments
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The Old Testament, Scripture, Apostles, the Priesthood Ban, and Theological Diversity: Calibrating Our Expectations

(I’m probably cramming too much into this mishmash of a post, but frustration over certain conversations has collided with academic stress and lack of time to refine it. I may regret it, so consider this a preview, a beta.) The expectations we bring to reading scripture can radically affect our reading, our faith, and our communities. One frequent assumption, traditional in many religions, is that revelation (and scripture, as a subset of revelation) must be monolithic, unified, in harmony, univocal, internally consistent. This is not the case, and it is not an accident. Let’s back up, though, particularly as we... Read more »

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Reading and Resources!

December 4, 2013 | 53 comments
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Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Reading and Resources!

December has finally arrived! For the last six months, I’ve felt like Old Testament is just around the corner. Finally we’re into the last loose stretch of D&C and I can put up the first Old Testament post. With the cyclic return to the Old Testament comes the perennial question, how do I make sense of this? Where should I turn to read “out of  the best books”? Look no further, friend, for here is a scattered list. (I’ve been even busier than anticipated, and just don’t have time to polish or add images.) First, though, a note. All the books... Read more »

Hodayot: A Dead Sea Scroll Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013 | one comment
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Hodayot: A Dead Sea Scroll Thanksgiving

  One of the non-Biblical texts from the Dead Sea cache is known as hodayot or the Thanksgiving Scroll or Thanksgiving Hymns  (or 1QHa and 1QHb, for you scroll groupies). It is so named because of the repetition of the line ‘odeka ‘adonai  “I give thanks to You, O Lord…” The scroll is lengthy, nearly thirty columns, and fragments of seven copies have been found. Alas, the text is quite fragmented, and not terribly exciting to read, so I’ll link to Wikipedia instead of the text. While these poems/hymns/psalms “resemble the biblical psalms in many ways, these poems show a... Read more »

On Missions, Books, and Seriously Going Off the Deep End, Plus a Paean to my Second MP (U: Now with pics)

November 7, 2013 | 28 comments
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On Missions, Books, and Seriously Going Off the Deep End, Plus a Paean to my Second MP (U: Now with pics)

I was always somewhat bookish, even before my mission. Read more »

Happy Young-Earth-Creationist New Year!

October 23, 2013 | 29 comments
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Happy Young-Earth-Creationist New Year!

According to Bishop Ussher and his famous calendrical calculations, on Oct.23 4004BC, God said “let there be light” and created the Earth. That makes today the Earth’s 4004+2013=6017th birthday, and a new year. Read more »

A Series of Announcements; or, Be Excited, Be Very Excited

October 13, 2013 | 34 comments
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A Series of Announcements; or, Be Excited, Be Very Excited

Forgive the personal indulgence. I realized that I had been participating in the online LDS world for 10 years, and I had some things to say of a personal and public nature. Read more »

The Bible in Jacksonville

August 4, 2013 | no comments
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The Bible in Jacksonville

I wrote some lectures on the Bible to present in Paris, although due to scheduling and communication conflicts, only the first was actually delivered. I’m now scheduled to do two of them in Jacksonville, FL in the next two weeks. These will be held at the LDS Chapel on 440 Penman Rd. in Jacksonville. The first is next Sunday at 7PM (flyer below), the second (similar to my presentation here) will be Friday the 23rd, same time and place. Given that I speak English slightly better than French, these will probably be a bit more spontaneous and expansive. If... Read more »

“Rediscovering the World of the Old Testament”- A Report

June 20, 2013 | 13 comments
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“Rediscovering the World of the Old Testament”- A Report

As noted a few weeks ago, I gave my first of three lectures last night, on the Rediscovery of the World of the Old Testament.   It was open to the public, and although several groups of an inter-religious nature were invited (apparently the local ward has had some contacts and activities with them before), I think most of the 30-odd in attendance were LDS. I prepared about 35 slides, with a projecteur, divided into three parts. 1) Why “Rediscovery”? In short,  the full “World of the Old Testament” was lost. We had nothing but the Bible. It was akin to having... Read more »

The Philosophies of Men… Mingled with Monopoly (updated)

June 1, 2013 | 37 comments
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The Philosophies of Men… Mingled with Monopoly (updated)

Something insidious infects our children from the moment they’re born. It’s unstoppable. It surrounds us, burrows in deep, far below our conscious minds, and like a computer virus, writes subtle programming that dictates our worldview, our attitudes, and assumptions, shaping our very reflexes… Read more »

Giving lectures in Paris on “The Bible from Yesterday to Today”- Help me narrow my topics.

May 13, 2013 | 8 comments
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Giving lectures in Paris on “The Bible from Yesterday to Today”- Help me narrow my topics.

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. Each lecture must be freestanding, because we’re not going to get the exact same group each time, though... Read more »

Books! A small timely plug (updated!)

April 5, 2013 | 2 comments
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Books! A small timely plug (updated!)

As you know, we are to study out of the best books, which entails reading. President Hinckley once lamented, “I confess that I am constantly appalled by the scarcity of my knowledge, and the one resentment I think I carry concerns the many pressing demands which limit the opportunity for reading.” Read more »

Everything is a Remix, Genesis Edition: Intro

April 3, 2013 | 5 comments
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Everything is a Remix, Genesis Edition: Intro

In this recent post (which I plan to revisit in the near future) and others, I mentioned the discovery of various ancient Near Eastern texts related to Genesis, such as Enuma Elish. The relationship between these accounts and Genesis has never been definitively settled, though dominant interpretive trends have been clear. At first, German scholars such as Friedrich Delitzsch, driven largely by Protestant bias against the Hebrew Bible and a good bit of anti-Semitism, seized on them as the original sources of Genesis, assuming the relevant bits had been taken more-or-less whole cloth from the Israelites neighbors. This undermined longstanding assumptions of their originality or uniqueness,... Read more »

And when they had sung an hymn…

March 31, 2013 | 5 comments
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Mark 14:26 records “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” Sometimes people have asked, did they have a hymn book? What did they sing? Israelites did indeed have a hymn book; it was called the Book of Psalms, and certain Psalms were sung on different occasions. Some were sung as one ascended to Jerusalem for certain feasts and holy days, others at the crowning of a new king, others in the temple/tabernacle to accompany certain sacrifices. Notably, the Psalms for Passover were referred to as The Hallel, Psalms 113-118. Hallel should... Read more »

Study Genesis and the Gospels through Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, this weekend only (updated)

March 23, 2013 | 9 comments
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Study Genesis and the Gospels through Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, this weekend only (updated)

One issue that appears repeatedly when studying scripture is dealing with conflicting accounts and multiple perspectives. We have four Gospels that vary in detail, several creation stories, both inside the Bible (Gen 1-2:4, 2:4ff, and the scattered watery Chaoskampf account), and outside (Genesis accounts, Book of Moses, Book of Abraham, Temple), as well as two conflicting accounts of Israelite history (Samuel-Kings vs. Chronicles), and two interpretations of the destruction of Ammonihah (Alma 16-17 vs 25, see Grant Hardy’s article). Our modern tendency is to treat all of these, and indeed nearly all scripture, strictly as history, although bad or... Read more »

Genesis vs. Science: Background, Readings, and Discussion

March 18, 2013 | 22 comments
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Genesis vs. Science: Background, Readings, and Discussion

One of the problems that crops up with Genesis is its proper context or genre, what background it should be read against. That is, modern western English readers have a particular worldview with various questions and issues. When they read Genesis, they naturally place it into that setting, and read it against that background, which creates conflict. It’s as if we’ve summoned an expert witness to trial, only to surprise her with questions far outside her area of expertise. Although she gives strong indications to that effect, the judge forcefully says, “Just answer the questions please!” The lawyers seize... Read more »

With apologies to President Kimball, Shorten Your Stride! Or, thoughts on running, scriptures, and pushing metaphors too far.

March 15, 2013 | 11 comments
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With apologies to President Kimball, Shorten Your Stride! Or, thoughts on running, scriptures, and pushing metaphors too far.

As I lie in bed before falling asleep, the mental inventory of the day can take a toll, inevitably a combo of Jesus’ “these you ought to have done without leaving the others undone” and Paul’s  “I do not act as I mean to… the good things I intend to do, I never do.” 1 Among all the other omissions and commissions of modern life, it’s very healthy to have at least one personal victory each day. If that personal victory turns out to have mental, physical, and emotional benefits such as running does, so much the better.  I’ve become much more... Read more »

On Scripture Changes and the Bible Dictionary(s)

March 2, 2013 | 13 comments
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I’ve had this post half written for a while, and one of the changes in the new LDS scriptures has prompted me to emerge from my cave to finish it. The introductory section to the Bible Dictionary has been rewritten with some interesting twists. The old version is still available at the “classic” scripture site, classic.scriptures.lds.org.  The  oft-ignored disavaowal of the BD as an official position or revelation therein remains, I’m happy to report, as does the statement that the BD represents (light) scholarship, and is subject to scholarly revision. It seems few people know that the original BD was a revision of the Cambridge... Read more »

One Day, The Past’s Future May Seem Just This (Un)Weird

February 2, 2013 | 5 comments
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One Day, The Past’s Future May Seem Just This (Un)Weird

It’s always fun to read computer/science/tech magazines from the 80’s, and see just how far things have come in 30 years, and what predictions were way off. Even more so from the 1950s. Sometimes the things they herald as bizarre and never-going-to-happen have come to be so taken for granted that I can seem really old for talking about VCRs, and having to look in the newspaper to find out movie times.  It strikes me that such is also the case with the Church, in some ways. But really, I just wanted to post the below image, made with... Read more »

Guest post: Failure, by Nate Curtis

January 9, 2013 | 15 comments
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Guest post: Failure, by Nate Curtis

No one sets out on a path with the intent to fail. In late 2009 I took the last major hike with my father before he died.  We decided to do the Tapeats Creek/Deer Creek loop, a trail in the Grand Canyon that we had done several times over the years, and is considered by many to be not only the most difficult hike in the Grand Canyon, but among the hardest hikes in North America. It was the first hike my father had done in the Grand Canyon when he was 14 years old, and it was the... Read more »

Writing about Genesis: Status Update

December 2, 2012 | 9 comments
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Writing about Genesis: Status Update

 Last year in September, I posted some thoughts on a book project dealing with the early chapters of Genesis. A good number of my (too rare) posts since then have dealt with those chapters in certain ways: Problems of language and culture (1, 2),  issues of translation (six parts so far, begin here), the structure of the first creation account, and my posts from teaching a Genesis Institute class (start here). I started researching the book and doing some initial writing. Here’s a very quick update. Read more »

Pre-storm Report from NYC (updated)

October 29, 2012 | 13 comments
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Since I live in NYC, I’ve been following the weather and news pretty closely from various sources.  I left work early yesterday, and it was closed down today. All transit has been shut down, evacuations taking place, and the Ward/Stake communications network is in place. I live up a hill, so I’m not worried about flooding. I went for a short walk this morning to pick up a few more supplies, and the reactions vary broadly. Some places are boarded up and closed, others open like usual. Fewer people are out on the road, but I saw three runners... Read more »

Winning the mini-mini-Lottery: What would you do?

October 27, 2012 | 11 comments
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Winning the mini-mini-Lottery: What would you do?

I sat in a comfy chair downtown reading my iPad for two hours, and received $175 in Amazon credit for my troubles. That’s nice work, if you can get it. Even better is getting paid four figures to fly to France on a private G5 and take four naps a day for a week. (Yes, I’ve done that too, but napping on a rigorous schedule is much more difficult than it sounds.) Read more »