Author: Jim F.

Jim Faulconer blogged at Times and Seasons from 2004 to 2007. He currently blogs at Feast Upon the Word and cross-posts lesson material to T&S. Jim is a professor of philosophy at Brigham Young University, where he holds the Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding. He is the husband of Janice Allen, the father of four and grandfather of eleven. His academic specialty is 20th-century European philosophy, particulary the philosophy of Martin Heidegger and some of his French acolytes. Jim's hobbies are playing with grandchildren, cooking (and, therefore, also eating), travel, and New Testament studies, and for none of them is there sufficient time.

OT Lesson 5 Study Notes: Moses 5-7

As always, remember that these are questions for studying the reading assigned more than for planning the lesson itself. Even then, you are certainly going to find more questions here than you can deal with in one study session, though not, perhaps, more than you can deal with in a week. However, that said, the lesson itself has turned out to be more than I could deal with in a week. I had most of the lesson revised by Sunday evening and thought I would be able to finish adding material for chapter 7 by Tuesday or Wednesday. I was wrong, so I’m posting the materials incomplete. Perhaps next time around. Chapter 5  Verses 1-2: How do these verses connect to the story we learned in Moses 4? Given what we studied in the last lesson, what is the point of the last sentence of verse 1? Does verse 2 suggest anything about how the Old Testament prophets understand knowledge? They aren’t squeamish about discussing things that we often would rather not talk about, so it is difficult to think that the use of the word “knew” is just a euphemism. But if it isn’t a euphemism, then how did Moses and other writers of the Old Testament understand what it means to know something? Does that have any implication for what we mean when we say things like “I know the Church is true?” Verse 16: Verses 2 and…

OT Lesson 4 Study Notes: Moses 4; 5:1-15; 6:48-62

These notes focus on Moses 4, giving less attention to the other scriptures for this lesson. However, the other readings are necessary to understanding chapter 4. (The study questions for Moses 4:1-4 were part of the materials for lesson 2. I repeat them here so that they will be convenient.) Note that if Moses 2 tells of the spiritual creation (as is commonly but not universally believed among Latter-day Saints), then chapters 3 and 4 correspond to Moses 2:24-30, the sixth day. That would mean that carrying out the physical aspect of each day’s creation involved considerably more than we see explained in Moses 2. Moses 4 Verse 1: Why does the Lord say “that Satan,” using a demonstrative pronoun, rather than just “Satan”? Perhaps knowing what the word satan means will explain why the Lord refers to this being as “that Satan.” (How would we find the meaning of the word satan?) The Lord’s reference to Moses commanding Satan takes us back to Moses 1:13-15. Why is that reminder here? What does it mean to say that Satan was with the Father from the beginning? Compare the offer, “I will be thy son,” with what happens in Moses 1:19 and 5:13. What do we see? Why does Satan say “I will be thy son” rather than “I am thy son?” Isn’t he already a son of God? Does D&C 29:36 shed any light on why Satan’s request, “Give my…

OT Lesson 3 Study Notes: Moses 1:27-42, Moses 2-3

A reminder about these notes: They are intended to help people study the assigned material for this week’s Sunday School lesson. They are not intended as an outline for how to teach that lesson, though I assume that by studying the material a person might get ideas about how to teach it. And a note about these notes: These questions are for one particular kind of study, not the only kind nor necessarily the best kind. Sometimes we study a book of scripture from cover to cover, learning or reminding ourselves of its overall teachings and how the parts of its story or stories fit together. This kind of study is essential to our understanding the message the scriptures has for us. Sometimes we study chronologically, beginning with the earliest book or section and working our way toward the end so that we understand better the divine history recorded in the scriptures. Other times we study topically, trying to learn the things the scriptures have to say about particular problems or issues. These notes are for close reading, one more way to study. Close reading is helpful for seeing the depth of the scriptures, but it is a way that many of us have not had experience with. So, though I offer these scriptures to help those who wish to do close readings, I don’t suggest that close reading ought to be the only way we study. Now, for the…

Why It Is Sometimes So Hard to Understand the OT

A different idea of history What I say here about the Old Testament will be brief, so brief in fact as to be a caricature. Those who are specialists in biblical studies, are likely to find this woefully inadequate. I plead mea culpa in advance. In spite of that, I think this will do as a brief introduction for lay people like myself. Latter-day Saints believe that, for the most part, the scriptures are literal histories of different groups of God’s people. The word “literal” means “by the letter.” So, when we say that the scriptures are literally true, we mean that they are true in the way described by the letters and words used to write them. In other words, a literally true text means what it says. However, the question remains what we mean by the word “true” when we say that something is literally true. Most of the time “What does ‘true’ mean?” is a question we leave for those with too much time on their hands. Even if we can’t answer the question, we know well enough what “true” means, and we can use the word without difficulty. But when we talk about history, the meaning of the word “true” becomes important. Depending on what we mean by the word, the claim that the scriptures are literally true can mean different things to different people. Since about 1500, the assumption has been that a person could…

OT Lesson 2 Study Notes: Abraham 3; Moses 4:1-4

Abraham 3 Verses 1-19: Why did the Lord reveal these things to Abraham? More important: why did he think it important to reveal them to us? Verse 1: Why is it important that Abraham tell us that he received the revelation that follows through the Urim and Thummim? Verse 2: Assuming that the throne of God is on a planet, why say that the star is near that throne / planet rather than that the throne / planet is near the star? In contrast, we don’t say that the sun is near the earth, but that the earth is near the sun. To what does the word ones in the phrase “there were many great ones” refer? Stars? Why is it important that we know this detail? Verse 3: What does it mean to refer to a star as governing? How can multiple stars govern? What do they govern? When the Lord tells Abraham that the star Kolob governs “all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest” what is he saying? The word kolob may be related to a Hebrew root, klb, that appears to mean “bind,” though the words that follow from that root appear in late Hebrew rather than early. Verse 4: Why is this difference in time between the orders of stars and planets important for Abraham to know? Does “one thousand years” mean “a very long time” or is it…

OT Lesson 1 Study Notes: Moses 1

As the title of this post says, these are notes for studying the lesson rather than for teaching it, though presumably one who studies the lesson will have material from which to teach it.

Studying the Old Testament

What are the scriptures for? How should we use them? How do we use them? “Proof-texting” is a procedure that begins by assuming we know the doctrines and then searches through the scriptures to find something to back up the belief. Because it begins with what we assume we know rather from what the scriptures teach, proof-texting always runs the danger of “wresting” the scriptures. Jesus accuses the Jews of wresting the scriptures by proof-texting in John 5:39. See also 2 Peter 3:16, Alma 13:20, and D&C 10:63. “Wrest” is the word from which the modern word “wrestle” comes, and it means “to twist or wrench; to pull violently.” How do we avoid wresting the scriptures? Read 2 Nephi 25:1. Why didn’t Nephi’s people understand Isaiah? According to Nephi, why do we find the Isaiah difficult? Why do we find the rest of the Old Testament difficult? What does Nephi say is necessary to understanding Isaiah (2 Nephi 25:4)? How might that apply to the Old Testament as a whole. What is the spirit of prophecy? The phrase occurs in the Bible only once, in Revelation 19:10. But it is a very popular phrase with Book of Mormon writers: Jacob 4:6; Alma 3:27, 4:13, 5:47, 6:8, 9:21, 10:12, 12:7, 13:26, 16:5, 17:3, 25:16, 37:15, and 43:2; and Helaman 4:12-23. (It also occurs in D&C 11:25 and 131:5; and in Joseph Smith History 1:73, Footnote 4.) How would the spirit of…

What is the Old Testament?

The version of the Old Testament used by Protestants and Jews today contains 39 books. Catholic Bibles include 9 more books, as well as 2 additions to Daniel and 1 to Esther. At least some of those 9 additional books were used as scripture by Saints of the 1st century AD. For various reasons (mostly historical rather than doctrinal or revealed, I would guess) Latter-day Saints use the same version of the Bible as do the Protestants. The major difference between the Protestant and Jewish Bibles is that the order of the books in each is different. The Protestants arrange the books chronologically, and the Jews arrange them according to the scriptural authority they give the books. (The New Testament is arranged, not chronologically, but according to type: Gospels, history of the early Church, then letters. The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants are arranged more-or-less chronologically.) As you can see in Mike Parker’s chart of the Old Testament (which includes a schedule for reading the Old Testament in a year), Jews divide the Old Testament into three parts, each part less authoritative than the last, though all three parts are authoritative: the Law (or “Instruction,” namely the instruction a parent gives to a child), the Prophets, and the Writings. Scriptures such as Acts 28:23 reflect this arrangement. For other scriptures that also reflect it, see Zechariah 7:12; Matthew 5:17, 7:12, and 22:40; Luke 16:16, and 24:44; John 1:45; Acts 13:15 and…

An Overview of Genesis

It is daunting to be posting anything about scripture when Eric Huntsman is posting alongside. It ought to be daunting in any case, but it is easier to ignore the fact that I am a mere dabbler when my posts stand alone. In any case, I will be posting revised versions of my study questions for the Old Testament Sunday School lessons. I begin with several posts of background. These will all be cross-posted from Feast Upon the Word, a site you should become acquainted with if you aren’t already (and it is the blog daughter of its more important mother site, a site for commentary and explication of LDS scripture, Feast Upon the Word). I will keep insisting on this as I go, but it is important to remember that these are not notes on how to teach a lesson, but study notes on the lesson material. Of course, one could study using the notes, then create a lesson. So they aren’t irrelevant to teaching the lesson, just not intended as lesson materials. Genesis The Hebrew title is bereshit, “In the beginning,” the first word of the text. I. “Genesis” is a transliteration of the Greek title of the book, genesis. Speaking of Genesis, Margaret Barker says: The word bara´ [“to create”] is similar in sound and form to the word for covenant, berith, and the Hebrew dictionary suggests that the root meaning of “covenant” is “to bind.” This similarity of…

Summer Seminar update

For those interested in the BYU summer seminar, I’ve revised the post, adding the titles of and abstracts for the papers.

BYU Summer Seminar

The annual summer symposium, this year “Joseph Smith and His Times,” will be held on Thursday, August 9, 2007. The symposium will feature papers by twelve summer seminar fellows on the theme “Mormon Thinkers, 1890-1930,” covering topics ranging from the influence of Herbert Spencer on Mormon thought to Mormonism and Modernity.

Whose Woods Are These?

We moved into our house on the first weekend of January, 1980. One reason we chose it was that it reminded us of Pennsylvania, where we did graduate work. (The other reason? It was the only house we afford because the seller gave us great terms.)

The ordinary

However well we do in school or our jobs or in our church callings or in any endeavor, most of our lives are and will be ordinary.


My youngest daughter has discovered a trove of photos at her grandmother’s house, and she has been going through them