Some thoughts on scripture study for adults and youth

George Cattermole, “The Scribe” public domain.


A friend asked me about teaching youth about scripture study recently. I happened to have some notes I’d collected, so I wrote it up here. These are things I think LDS adults should know and model to the youth. I’ve grouped them under three logical, progressive headings. Now, I think the Church does a great job getting us to read scripture, and to apply scripture in spiritual and practical ways, but not always how to understand or interpret scripture very well. Continue reading “Some thoughts on scripture study for adults and youth”

Group study: Recycling an old suggestion

My old bookshelf

My old bookshelf

 I have more thoughts on group and family study to supplement replace our lost hour of Church, but in the meantime, this post (originally 2011, reposted last year) might be helpful. 

I plug modern Bible translations one way or another in virtually everything I write and teach. Now that you have two or three translations, how do you integrate them into your family study or teaching? Here’s one suggestion. Continue reading “Group study: Recycling an old suggestion”

Gearing Up For Isaiah

My picture, from the Kidron Valley.

Yes, everyone’s favorite book is upon us. I’m not sure there’s any sarcasm there; I know lots of Mormons who love Isaiah, and even have an uncle who memorized the entire book (in the KJV.) The next 5 Gospel Doctrine lessons cover Isaiah, so I wanted to plug a few things.

Of all the books, Isaiah benefits most from both deep connections to the spirit and being able to read in context. I don’t talk much about the former, it’s not really quantifiable, and I’m instinctively distrustful of people who claim personal revelation for their idiosyncratic understandings of Isaiah. That seems to be wielding personal revelation like some kind of manipulative “trust me and buy what I’m selling” tool. So, a focus on the latter.

If you haven’t yet, my Sperry paper on reading the OT in context might be helpful, get yourself a second Bible translation, and then get informed about why it’s different from your KJV.

The Maxwell Institute has a book entirely free called Visualizing Isaiah, which illustrates the material culture, geography, history, and so on.

I think Joseph Spencer at BYU is doing great work on bringing Isaiah to a lay level right now. Check out his book, his recent LDS Living piece, and his recent podcast with LDS Perspectives.

Note that his book is focused on Isaiah as seen through Nephi’s eyes, which is not quite the same as reading Isaiah through Isaiah’s eyes. Nephi bluntly tells us in the former Scripture Mastery passage of 1 Nephi 19:23 that he’s not providing a literal, contextual reading of Isaiah as much as adapting it to the spiritual needs of his own people.

That Nephi is not telling us what Isaiah “really meant” shouldn’t be a surprise.

Nephi “gave, not a literal, but an inspired and interpreting translation. And in many instances his words give either a new or greatly expanded meaningto the original prophetic word.” “Keys to Understanding the Bible” in Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, ed. Mark L. McConkie, 290-291.

Nephi is doing what all practical interpreters and preachers must do, namely

make the past relevant to the present —to find some practical lesson in ancient history, or to reinterpret an ancient law in such a way as to have it apply to present-day situations, sometimes at the price of completely distorting the text’s original meaning.”-Eerdman’s Dictionary of Early Judaism, “Biblical Interpretation.”

I don’t think Nephi “distorts it completely” but it’s a twist, certainly. (See this paper and this summary for what he and Jacob may be doing with Isaiah.)

So although Spencer’s book talks about Isaiah through Nephi’s eyes, it’s still useful.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right), and follow Benjamin the Scribe on Facebook.

Raymond Brown on Understanding and Teaching Complicated Historical Issues

Raymond E. Brown SS, was a Catholic priest and Bible scholar, known for his Introduction to the New Testament, his volumes in the Anchor Bible Commentary series, and other academic and semi-popular works. He also wrote a popular book called 101 Questions on the Bible which has some really great stuff. As you might expect from the title, he presents this in Q&A format.

Several questions address the nature of scripture and genre, but also how to teach and preach passages where there is a large difference between scholarly understanding and popular traditions. (Virtually all the italics are mine.) Continue reading “Raymond Brown on Understanding and Teaching Complicated Historical Issues”

Some quick and short book notes

My image.

As is my wont, I’m excited about a few books, two popular and two more academic.

First, Peter Enns has a new book coming early next year, How the Bible Actually Works: In Which I Explain How An Ancient, Ambiguous, and Diverse Book Leads Us to Wisdom Rather Than Answers—and Why That’s Great NewsEnns is one of my favorite authors, an academic who can also write for normal people. In fact, my Mom’s been reading his Genesis for Normal People and loving it. (Enns has been on the Maxwell Institute Podcast a few times and spoken at BYU.) For a content summary from the publisher, see here.

Second, Kyle Grenwood’s edited collection, Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the Ages should appear in the next month. Greenwood’s book on science and cosmology in the Bible is on my top 10 list for the early chapters of Genesis.

A claim is often made like “Christians have always interpreted Genesis literally until science came along!” There’s a lot wrong with that claim, which I’ve written about…somewhere. I can’t find my own darn post. Greenwood’s volume will not be the first to tackle the various interpretations of Genesis throughout the ages, but I hope will do it well and in an accessible and popular way. It’s no good for academics to know this stuff if it doesn’t filter down to popular discussion and debate. Continue reading “Some quick and short book notes”

A Christmas Plug

The Real St. Nicholas

The Real St. Nicholas

One of the best ways for laypeople to learn about the history, text, interpretation, archaeology, and lands of the Bible is through reading Biblical Archaeology Review. In spite of the name, it’s not just about archaeology. It used to have a sister magazine called Bible Review which was more focused on text and interpretation, but they’ve been combined. BAR (the frequent acronym) contains writings by scholars (Jewish, Christian, LDS, nothing particular) written for laypeople, so it’s meant to be accessible and up-to-date.  It also means that you’ll see things that challenge, things written from different worldviews or religious presuppositions, and, often, rejoinders by other scholars who disagree. So you’ll also learn to recognize good scholarship and quality argument.

I’ve pulled out three Christmas-y articles to show the kind of thing they do. First, Hebrew Bible scholar William H.C. Propp writes a tongue-in-cheek piece about relating Christmas and Santa Clause to asherah, the ancient mother goddess/tree/grove that Israel sometimes worshipped. The title riffs off an ancient inscription which some read as “Jahweh and his asherah.”

As it turns out, Propp was also “principal bassoonist of the North Coast Symphony Orchestra of Southern California and conductor of the La Jolla Renaissance Singers.” His musical life (and Jewish upbringing) contributed to another Christmas piece, with some history and critique of Handel’s use and abuse of the Hebrew Bible in writing The Messiah. This is article two.

Article three focuses on the how December 25th came to be celebrated as Christmas.

All three can be downloaded from here. Check out BAR. And if you’re interested in St. Nicholas, read this post.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.


Old Testament Resources Part 3: Paradigm Changers

George Cattermole, "The Scribe" public domain.

George Cattermole, “The Scribe” public domain.

I’ve put together a collection of samples from these books.

First, note that LDS Perspectives is beginning a string of Old Testament-related podcasts, today with Philip Barlow (author of the excellent Mormons and the Bible), Cory Crawford the following week, and then me talking about what’s going on in Genesis 1, Moses, and Abraham. Continue reading “Old Testament Resources Part 3: Paradigm Changers”

Old Testament Resources Part 2: Bible, Translation, and LDS Tradition

Public domain,

Public domain

This is the second in a series of posts about resources for study and teaching the Old Testament in 2018. If you feel overwhelmed by the information below, I recommend going back to the first post, a shortlist of five books to give you a leg up, without lots of discussion to cut through. Future posts will provide resources on “paradigm changers,” the JST, history/culture of the Old Testament, the early chapters of Genesis, creation/evolution, how to profitably study, take notes, teach, etc. Continue reading “Old Testament Resources Part 2: Bible, Translation, and LDS Tradition”