Reading the Scriptures Jesus Read: An Old Testament Intro for HS Students who didn’t Get It

Having messed up the audio recording of this fireside the first time, I repeated it over Zoom for some Seminary teachers.


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Here’s the recording, followed by links to things I mention and a few bits from the Q&A.

Books mentioned

For more of my Old Testament recommendations, see these posts. On Bible translations in particular, see the articles listed here, especially the three from Religious Educator.

On literal interpretation, see this post, this post with a D&C example, this one on interpretation in general, and this one. On reading the Old Testament in context, see my longer Sperry Symposium presentation.

On Nephi and non-contextual interpretation.

On sensus plenior (the “fuller sense”) see here.

On genre, this is the best place to start, I think, then check out all my posts tagged genre. 

On particular genres, like “myth” see my post here; on Jonah and parable, the collected links here. On history and fiction, see here and here.

On Hebrew poetry, see the Ensign article here (and Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry)

On 1st Nephi 1, see here.

From my memory of the Q&A (not recorded)

Is there a particular study Bible or commentary written with women in mind?

There is at least the Women’s Bible Commentary, I have a copy, though I haven’t been entirely through it.

On the basis of her other scholarship (but caveat lector I haven’t read this one) Tikva Frymer-Kensky’s Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of Their Stories.

What has all the ancient Near Eastern material discovered in the last 100 years taught us? The short answer? LOTS. See my presentation here.

Lastly, if you’re looking to understand the early chapters of Genesis, creation, and science, check out my syllabus here.

Particularly for teachers and parents, I want to acknowledge that reading this material will do several things. On the one hand, it will greatly increase your understanding and appreciation of the Old Testament! Many puzzling things will become less puzzling! Along with that understanding, however, will come some challenges to comfortable traditions, and even tensions, as you realize that there is a gap between what scripture says and what Church manuals want you to get out of it. There are several reasons for that gap.

  1. We are not sola scriptura protestants. That is, we are not based on “scripture alone,” but on the authoritative interpretations of scripture by living prophets and their implementations of scripture, doctrine, and policy. We often think and act like sola scriptura Protestants, but we are much closer to Catholics in this respect.
  2. Church teaching tends to focus on core doctrinal aspects, practical application, and discipleship, not contextual understanding.
  3. The authors of manuals, even on the Old Testament, are not chosen for their knowledge of history, Hebrew, etc. In other words, they may simply not know there’s a gap between what they think scripture is saying and what they write in the manual.
  4. Preachers and teachers in every religious tradition have to adapt the static words of ancient texts to modern needs and understandings; the challenge to the preacher has always been to render ancient teachings applicable and relevant to current times and issues.
  5. In the LDS doctrine of line-upon-line, and progressive revelation, we should not expect that ancient peoples knew what we know or lived how we understand we should live.

If you’d like to see my other presentations or podcasts, see here.


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4 thoughts on “Reading the Scriptures Jesus Read: An Old Testament Intro for HS Students who didn’t Get It

  1. I just finished watching your presentation. Well done, sir! I feel it covered everything you have presented on your blog, clearly and concisely – nothing left out. Just when I wondered if you would bring up x, there it was. Thank you for providing this. It will be a great jumping off point for my family study. Hopefully Gospel Doctrine teachers find it and incorporate it into lessons (but for that to happen, you’ll have to change the video from unlisted to public, of course.) I especially enjoyed the example of Nephi writing with his own hand. It’s a great illustration of really, really thinking about what we take for granted (in this case, details that don’t matter a jot or tittle to us, but that meant a great deal to him, considering the painstaking task of scratching characters onto metal). If more people will really listen to what you say here, we might have better discourse as we ponder what to do about what we read.

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  2. Well crafted, Ben. I feel this would be appropriate for teens and adults. I hope people use it in January.

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  3. Thanks for the info, Ben. I hadn’t heard of “Misreading Scripture Through Individualist Eyes.” Just ordered me a copy.

    I would add to your list of OT titles Judith Klitsner’s, “Subversive Sequels in the Bible.” It’s short but packed many good insights.

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