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Last Call for Faith and Knowledge Conference Submissions

October 12, 2012 | no comments
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CALL FOR PAPERS – OCTOBER 15: THE FOURTH BIENNIAL FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE CONFERENCE WESLEY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY WASHINGTON, D. C. FEBRUARY 22–23, 2013 Read more »

NYC Institute Announcement: Psalms and Israelite Poetry

September 5, 2012 | 8 comments
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NYC Institute Announcement: Psalms and Israelite Poetry

I didn’t think I’d be able to teach again in Fall, but my schedule changed and then I was asked. And so, I announce an Institute class to be held Tuesday nights at 8Pm at the Union Square building in Manhattan, on Psalms and Israelite Poetry. Class begins next Tuesday, Sept. 11th, and will continue through the 1st week of December (anticipated.) Why study Psalms? A few reasons, which I’ll elaborate on in the first week’s intro. Psalms was the most translated Old Testament book into Greek during the early NT period, and the most popular book at Qumran... Read more »

Mormon, Helaman, Fiction, and History: Short Notes

August 31, 2012 | 4 comments
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Mormon, Helaman, Fiction, and History: Short Notes

We had some interesting discussion in Gospel Doctrine class on Sunday, focused on Helaman 2. Helaman’s servant was joining Gadianton’s group. From my view, he wasn’t infiltrating, but joining for personal gain… until he learned what their higher goals were, at which point he bails out by killing Kishkumen and fleeing to Helaman, who sends out (the army? what? there’s no object in the sentence) to catch them.  11 But behold, when Gadianton had found that Kishkumen did not return he feared lest that he should be destroyed; therefore he caused that his band should follow him. And they took... Read more »

Why Translations Differ, Part 6: Putting It All Together. Mostly

August 27, 2012 | 4 comments
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Why Translations Differ, Part 6: Putting It All Together. Mostly

To summarize the first five parts of the series (linked below) and apply what we’ve learned to the original question- Translations can vary for multiple reasons: 1) Different underlying texts (MT vs DSS) and influence of the versions (LXX, Targums, etc.) 2) Different understandings of the text on the grammatical and syntactic level 3) Different understandings of the text on the semantic/word level 4) Differing philosophies of how to best express one’s understanding of 1, 2, and 3 in English Translators must examine, weigh, and make decisions on each of these issues before actually getting on to providing a... Read more »

The War Chapters- Three Brief Notes

August 15, 2012 | 2 comments
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The War Chapters- Three Brief Notes

A few quick references for the War Chapters- While unlikely to make its way into the average Gospel Doctrine class, I’d call attention to the covenant/curse ritual in Alma 46:21-22, with its symbolic actions or “simile curses.” Very briefly, covenanters called down curses on themselves for violation of the covenant, but blessings for keeping it.  Further discussion of this passage (here), cursing (previous post of mine, here), and covenants (here). I wanted to dissertate on curses, so it holds interest for me, and for people interested in covenant in general. In a paper I worked on for a while... Read more »

Midterm answers, final part

August 15, 2012 | 2 comments
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Here is the last of 3 sections of answers to the Book of Mormon exams I gave at BYU several years ago. (Original post, answers part 1, answers part 2) 27) Joseph Smith, responding to the question “What are the fundamental principles of your religion,” replied, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” (TPJS, 272) In the Book of Mormon,... Read more »

Book of Mormon Midterm Answers, part 2

July 26, 2012 | 4 comments
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Since these take a long time to write up, and the answers can be fairly dense, I’ve broken up the answers further. (Edit: Here is the original post without any answers, and answers part 1.) 18) On the back of this paper, provide a brief outline of 2 Nephi. Outlining is a tool useful at several levels of the text (book, chapter, verse), that can help one see logical connections in the text. Faulconer has an explanatory chapter on it here, and here’s what my quick sample outline of 2 Nephi looked like. 19) Who took a transliteration of... Read more »

Book of Mormon Midterm Answers Part 1

June 27, 2012 | 9 comments
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I posted the questions last week. It’s taken me much longer than I thought to hunt down my references/handouts/links, so I’m breaking the answers into two parts. 1) Nephi says several times that knowing “the things of the Jews” can help us understand Isaiah. Similarly, the “things of the Jews” can help us understand the Book of Morm on. Briefly explain two specific examples of “things of the Jews” that help us understand either Isaiah or the Book of Mormon. (4 pts.) We talked about lots of these in class. What’s interesting to me is immediately after declaring “the... Read more »

Book of Mormon Midterm

June 23, 2012 | 20 comments
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Book of Mormon Midterm

We’ve arrived in early Alma, and so, as I did for my BYU New Testament class I taught, I provide here some questions taken from the midterms and finals of the two Book of Mormon classes I taught in 2004 and 2006. Both sections covered 1 Nephi-Alma 29, but one was a freshman section and one an RM section. These exams were open-scripture, but as with the New Testament exam, open scripture certainly did not equate to easy. I wanted to test if students were reading, thinking, and able to make use of the critical-thinking and other skills we... Read more »

The Lord is My Goatherder, I Don’t Want Him: Why Translations Differ (Part 5)

June 9, 2012 | 29 comments
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The Lord is My Goatherder, I Don’t Want Him: Why Translations Differ (Part 5)

The Lord is my Goatherder, I don’t want him; he hauls me up the mountain; he drags me down to the beach. Surely we all recognize the 23rd Psalm there, from the infamous first translation into Tlingit. Sounds a bit off, doesn’t it? Read more »

Reading the Bibles: Why Translations Differ (Part 4)

May 11, 2012 | 7 comments
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Reading the Bibles: Why Translations Differ (Part 4)

This is the third of four categories explaining why translations differ. 3) How does the translator resolve ambiguities on the word-level? Hebrew writing did not indicate doubled letters (which are significant) or vowels until the 8th/9th century AD*, when Jews who had memorized the pronunciation of the traditional text came up with a system (three, actually) of indicating the pronunciation in the text with marks above, below, and inside the consonantal text. That, again, is a thousand-year gap. Scholars vary in how much weight to give the vowel-pointing (niqqudot, or just “pointing”), but at times, greater sense can be... Read more »

Reading the Bibles: Why Translations Differ (Part 3)

May 11, 2012 | no comments
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Here is the second of four categorical reasons why translations may differ. 2) How does the translator parse the mechanics (syntax, etc.) and disambiguate the text on the sentence and paragraph level? (NB: This is a very simplified presentation of complex subjects.) Biblical Hebrew is very different from English. Like many other ancient languages, it has no formal punctuation, no capitals, and word order can vary. Consequently, it’s not always easy to figure out if this word belongs to end of this phrase or the beginning of that one. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one sentence ends and... Read more »

Reading the Bibles: Why Translations Differ (Part 2)

May 10, 2012 | 3 comments
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Before looking at the two sample passages in detail,  I want to familiarize you with some basic information about the Old Testament text and translation issues. And in the last part, I’ll make some suggestions about how to approach the text like this when you haven’t studied Greek or Hebrew. I’ve divided these into four semi-artificial headings, too long to all go in one post. 1) What are they translating from, and (1a) how much is the translation influenced by the versions? Translators must choose a base text from which to translate.  Until the discovery of the Dead Sea... Read more »

Reading the Bibles: The Problem (Part 1)

May 8, 2012 | 11 comments
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Reading the Bibles: The Problem (Part 1)

I received the following from an educated friend, and got permission to respond via blogposts.  Slightly edited, he asks- >>As someone without training in the original languages, how can I evaluate alternate translations of scripture? Here’s what motivates this question: I’ve been reading Grant Hardy’s Reader’s Edition of the Book of Mormon, which I love. I’ve been working through Nephi’s Isaiah chapters, and, as I started working through 2 Nephi 19/Isaiah 9, I decided it was time to check alternate translations. I have several: a 4-in-1 that includes KJV, New Life Translation (NLT), New International Version (NIV), and New... Read more »

Misattributed Quotes of Note: Henry Eyring (Sr.) on Babies, Bathwater, and Authority

May 5, 2012 | 16 comments
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Misattributed Quotes of Note: Henry Eyring (Sr.) on Babies, Bathwater, and Authority

This wisdom is often attributed online to Elder Henry B. Eyring, but none provides a source.  It was Henry Eyring Sr., non-Apostle and brilliant prolific scientist who gave this nugget of wisdom. However, Henry Eyring Jr. apparently took the lesson to heart, as he has said similar things. And perhaps he quotes his father somewhere.  “There are few ways in which good people do more harm to those who take them seriously than to defend the gospel with arguments that won’t hold water. Many of the difficulties encountered by young people going to college would be avoided if parents... Read more »

Reading Tom Wright’s New Testament Commentary for Everyone

April 25, 2012 | 24 comments
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Reading Tom Wright’s New Testament Commentary for Everyone

Writings on the scriptures often comes from one of two perspectives. 1) Devotional-but-clueless, i.e. the author is able to read/write devotionally on a passage because they don’t know any other way to read it. They don’t address context or difficulties or objections or avoid pitfalls, because they’re completely unaware of them. It’s often trite and shallow (and I don’t think you necessarily need length to have depth, lead to reflection, or inspire.) Lest I be misunderstood, it is entirely possible to be devotional and clueless, but still meaningful,  I just think it’s rare and find little value in spending... Read more »

Conference Plug: Mormons and the Internet

March 27, 2012 | one comment
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Want to be discussed, dear reader? Engage in naval gazing? Hear voices and see faces of names you’ve only read and intellectually crushed on? A reminder of the conference to be held at UVU on Thursday and Friday and appropriately live-streamed over the internet, featuring various luminaries from all corners as John Dehlin (of Mormon Stories), Joanna Brooks (various), Ardis Parshall (Keepapitchinin and others), Scott Gordon (of FAIR), David Charles (of Patheos), James Faulconer, Patrick Mason, Jana Reiss, and others. Joanna Brooks and Jana Reiss will be doing readings on Wednesday, and it’s not clear if those will be... Read more »

What Happened Last Thursday at Institute: l’Affair Botte Goes Local

March 14, 2012 | 7 comments
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What Happened Last Thursday at Institute: l’Affair Botte Goes Local

(I’m jumping because of the Bott stuff, but will still put up my 2 posts on Genesis 2-4 and Creation/temples post.) Instead of beginning on the Flood on Thursday as planned, I decided to take 5 minutes to talk about the mark of Cain in Genesis 4, and the curse on Canaan in Genesis 9. We never got to the flood, but ended up having a wonderful (I think) 2.5+ hour conversation about the priesthood ban, the eisegesis and various theories it engendered, the role and fuzzy definitions of tradition, policy, and doctrine in the Church. We also covered... Read more »

Institute Report: Genesis Week 5 (corrected)

March 6, 2012 | 8 comments
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Institute Report: Genesis Week 5 (corrected)

(We’re a few weeks behind here on the blog. I hope to catch up. Most important for my students: We WILL have Institute this week, contrary to what I said last Thursday.) Tonight we finished off Genesis 1 and introduced the second creation account in Gen 2. Had a few more people, so I started by recapping Walton’s theory of functional creation (references in previous post.) Seven days It’s long been noticed that days 1-3 parallel days 4-6. Walton argues that days 1-3 create three primary and basic functions, while 4-6 create functionaries that either carry out those functions,... Read more »

Brief notes on Laman, Lemuel and Cursing

February 11, 2012 | 13 comments
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Brief notes on Laman, Lemuel and Cursing

(Corrected!) I hope it’s not too late to post this, and equally that it will still be useful in this quick and dirty form. Though long, I’ve included the scriptural passages for quick skimming, since I doubt they’re familiar. We’re familiar with blessings in the Church- patriarchal blessings, blessings on the food, blessings of health, etc. But blessings have a counter-part that Israelites were just as familiar with and we have no background for: cursings. I wanted to write a typology of curses for my dissertation, but it turned out my advisor’s advisor (three generations of UChicago!) had already... Read more »

Institute Report: Genesis Week 4

February 6, 2012 | 13 comments
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Institute Report: Genesis Week 4

This week, we continued talking about Enuma Eliš and Genesis 1, beginning with a review of some of the similarities we talked about last week. Similarities– 1) Opens with temporal clause. 2) pre-creation darkness 3) precreation cosmic waters 4) wind/spirit 5) division of the waters to create space for human existence 6) a solid “roof” created to restrain the cosmic waters from reentering that space. There are also stark differences, which generally fall under the category of semi-polemical monotheistic reinterpretation. That is, while Genesis shares with Mesopotamia (as well as all the other ancient Near Eastern cultures we know of)... Read more »

Institute Report:Genesis week 3

February 1, 2012 | 10 comments
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Institute Report:Genesis week 3

(updated!) Attendance down a little this week; I know one student had a date, the weather was poor (no one likes to travel in the rain), and so on, but I also heard that last week was too much for at least one person. But, I felt this week went quite well, and we finally got into Genesis itself. As per the syllabus, class today was divided in two parts. And due to my own schedule and time commitments this week, I’m afraid my notes here are much rougher, less complete and posted later than I’d wish. I. Tools... Read more »

Institute Report: Genesis Week 2

January 24, 2012 | 10 comments
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Institute Report: Genesis Week 2

I was gratified to see most of the class come back, but we’ll see if it happens again. (Update: Here’s the tentative syllabus for the next few weeks.) I was really apprehensive about today, for two reasons. First, the material in this lesson was largely groundwork for the next few weeks, and really shouldn’t stand on its own, because you don’t see the payoff. Time constrained me, though.  Second, this is some of the most tentative material I’m working with, and I’m hesitant about some of it. I’m still working it out in my own mind, but this seems... Read more »

The Standard Packet, the Book of Mormon, and Critical Thinking at BYU

January 20, 2012 | 23 comments
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The Standard Packet, the Book of Mormon, and Critical Thinking at BYU

Perhaps due to the authoritarian structure of the Church, students at BYU (more than elsewhere?) come to college expecting Pure Truth to be bestowed by The Authorities (i.e. professors) on those less enlightened (i.e. students), instead of learning how to engage data and arguments. I’ve often distributed a collection of readings and articles to students in my Institute and BYU classes. These help introduce and reorient students towards a broader perspective of LDS intellectual engagement, approaches, and critical thinking. Essentially, this is accomplished through stories, historical/doctrinal/cultural engagement, scholarly engagement and explicit guidelines. My “standard packet” has varied a bit from... Read more »