Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me!

Red brick store in Nauvoo, where the first endowments were done on May 4, 1842.

Edit: I’ve added this syllabus to the main menu at left, and simplified the url for easy access, to http://BenSpackman.com/syllabus

May 4th holds significance in LDS history: it’s the day Joseph Smith introduced temple ordinances in the upper room of the red brick store in 1842. The temple ties together a number of questions, like: Continue reading “Interpreting Scripture, History, Science, and Creation: A Free Course by Me!”

Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE

Melvin Cook, famous chemist and ardent LDS young-earth creationist, thought scripture should be interpreted literally, e.g.

My analysis is intended to be strictly literalistic; in my view, intellectual honesty requires literalism in the interpretation of the scriptures.

President Joseph Fielding Smith also made repeated statements about the necessity of reading scripture literally.

I agree with them. But I’ll go one better and do something they never seem to have done: I’m going to define the term “literal.” Continue reading “Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE”

Science and History as Myth and Fiction: Exploring Some Common Labels

(Originally published in 2010 elsewhere) Most people know the genre of “parable” because they’re in the Gospels, but “myth” is poorly understood and the term carries a lot of negative baggage. Like “literal” you have to be very careful throwing around the term without defining it. One simple definition of myth is that myth is worldview in narrative form. That is, it’s a way of explaining one’s conception of how the world works in everyday language or story form. Continue reading “Science and History as Myth and Fiction: Exploring Some Common Labels”

Robert Alter, at BYU and on deep sale

Robert Alter is an emeritus professor of Hebrew, Literature, and Jewish Studies at UC-Berkeley. He recently completed his entire translation and commentary on the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament, in traditional Christian terms). It’s a lovely 3-volume hardcover set retailing for $125. However, Amazon

currently has it for about $65, with a checkbox coupon for another $21 off. This is a screaming deal on the magnum opus of a wonderful scholar, Continue reading “Robert Alter, at BYU and on deep sale”

BYU Studies, Evolution, and Faith: Some Clarification (Updated!)

We recently put forth an open call for abstracts for a special issue of BYU Studies dedicated to biological evolution, LDS faith, and practice. I am the guest editor overseeing the non-scientific submissions and as such, would like to emphasize a few things from the call that seem to be getting overlooked. Update: Please note, we have extended the abstract submission deadline from February 1 to March 1Continue reading “BYU Studies, Evolution, and Faith: Some Clarification (Updated!)”

The 1950s: A Fundamentalist Shift

Several scholars have identified a LDS shift in the mid-20th-century towards a kind of fundamentalism. In 1980, for example, Leonard Arrington reflected in his journal on the

[emergence] at BYU in the 1950s…. particularly in the College of Religion [of] A sort of Mormon Fundamentalism like Protestant Fundamentalism [which] Emphasizes Biblical literalism, rejects the Higher Criticism [in biblical studies, and] the law of evolution… Continue reading “The 1950s: A Fundamentalist Shift”

Revelation 22, Curses, and Copy Protection

A medieval scribe. Jean le Tavernier, Public Domain

I first wrote this over 15 years ago, reposted it somewhere else, and both locations have now disappeared from the online ether. So, given that we’re studying Revelation right now, I thought I’d repost it, slightly edited but uncorrected or updated, and complete with my younger, brasher style.

What’s the best LDS response to the idea that Revelation 22:18-19 closes the canon? Continue reading “Revelation 22, Curses, and Copy Protection”

Come Follow Me: Revelation 1-2, 12

The final book! We’ve almost made it through! The end is nigh!
First, a note on names. This is the book of Revelation (singular) not the book of RevelationS (plural.) It’s a really common mistake in Hollywood and elsewhere, like the “books of the Bible” tie I have, above The title Revelation comes from Rev 1:1, with that ambiguous “of” preposition. “The revelation of Jesus” can mean “a revelation that is about Jesus,” “a revelation from Jesus,” or “the revelation belonging to Jesus.” Continue reading “Come Follow Me: Revelation 1-2, 12”

Come Follow Me: 1-3 John

1 John opens reminiscent of both the Gospel of John (thematically) and Luke/Acts (in contrast). That is, the vocabulary and ideas resemble John (the Word of life made visible, eternal life, light/darkness, etc). But the point-of-view contrasts Luke. Whereas Luke says he had to investigate and talk to witness, because he wasn’t a firsthand eyewitness himself, 1Jo 1:1 and 1Jo 1:3 strongly imply the opposite for the author (authors?) of 1 John. Note the plural “we” there, present from the first verses onwards. Is this a rhetorical “we” or a real “we”? Continue reading “Come Follow Me: 1-3 John”

Come Follow Me: 1-2 Peter, Jude

These three epistles are usually grouped with James and the three epistles of John, together called the Catholic Epistles. Greek katholikos means “universal”, and so they are sometimes called the General Epistles, since they’re written universally, to everyone, in general. Once again, there’s not really an overarching theme, so we’re going to play thematic wack-a-mole. Find something significant you like and expand on it. Continue reading “Come Follow Me: 1-2 Peter, Jude”