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”

Genre… and the Temple

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

If you follow me, you know I talk a lot about the importance of recognizing genre in scripture: podcast here, Sperry symposium here, posts here, here, etc.

Evolution is also a topic I address with some frequency, such as here (a BYU guest lecture) and here (in context of “what prophets know”).

I also talk a lot about Genesis, how and why it’s historically been misread (e.g. my presentation here and accompanying post here), as well as the parallels in Moses and Abraham (last year at the Joseph Smith Papers conference and this year at FAIR, transcript not up yet.)

And I’m writing a book on Genesis 1 where I tie a lot of this stuff together… but I’ve left a lot of hardest writing for last, including my chapter on the temple. So, let’s talk.  Continue reading “Genre… and the Temple”

A Sacrament Meeting Sermon on Forgiveness

Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge; Screencap from the Muppet Christmas Carol

We’re in a new ward, and with the new meeting changes, talks sermons are assigned 6-8 minutes length. I was in the anchor spot, and so prepared to stretch or compress my remarks. I tend to prepare an outline (so there’s plenty of ad-libbing), with my stories, scriptures, or anything I want to read printed in full, so there’s no fumbling between papers or flipping through scriptures looking for the right page. One other speaker and I were on the stand early, the other came in about 10 minutes after Sacrament began. I spent those ten minutes reorganizing an expansion out to about 20 minutes, then had to contract when said speaker appeared. Here’s my written adaptation of remarks I made after I introduced us to the ward. Continue reading “A Sacrament Meeting Sermon on Forgiveness”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 48: Zechariah, Malachi

Malachi, by Duccio di Buoninsegna. (Public domain, via wikimedia.)

Malachi, by Duccio di Buoninsegna. (Public domain, via wikimedia.)

Merry Christmas, all.  I hope it’s been a productive year working through the Hebrew Bible, which was the only scripture for the first Christians. With the shift in Sunday meeting organization next year, I have no plans to do anything differently. I’ll continue posting NT lessons and perhaps some other things, on a weekly basis.

Several of the aspects of Zechariah have already been treated, such as water flowing out from the temple and future prophecies in general. All I would add is this wisdom from Elder Maxwell. Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 48: Zechariah, Malachi”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 46: Daniel 2

My picture, from the Kidron Valley.

(The second post on New Testament resources is available. More coming)

Today we focus on Daniel 2, a vision.  The story goes like this.

In King Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd year, he has a dream. (According to Daniel 1:1-2, Daniel and friends don’t get carried off until Neb’s third year, although they’re present here.) Either he can’t remember what it was like many of us or he’s being unreasonable. Either way, he demands all his wise men tell him both the dream itself, and the interpretation. When they can’t, he wants them all killed for incompetence. Daniel hears about this and offers to interpret, which he does, thus saving everyone.

The content of the dream involves a statue representing various political/national entities, and a stone cut out of the mountain, which smashes them all.

Easy enough, right?
As it turns out, the books written just on Daniel 2 could fill an entire library.  Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 46: Daniel 2”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 45: Daniel 1,3,6 AND Esther 3-5, 7-8.

Today we are rushing through  Daniel AND Esther, although next week is devoted solely to Daniel 2. What’s interesting is how the comparison between Daniel and Esther actually serves the manual’s purpose, which is to “help class members have the courage to live according to gospel standards.” How so? 

Daniel doesn’t hide his Jewishness, even being a bit extravagant, while Esther is apparently able to pass, to fly under the radar as a non-Jew. Significant, perhaps, that

“noticeably absent [in Esther] is any mention of God or of religious observance (prayer, Jewish dietary restrictions, traditional modesty, and endogamous marriage).”-The Jewish Study Bible.


“there is no mention of Jerusalem, the temple, the law or the covenant as is found in other postexilic books.Unlike the book of Daniel, which also is set in the court of a pagan king, there are no prayers, apocalyptic visions or miracles….Esther shows no concern for the dietary laws when taken into the court of a pagan king, she conceals her Jewish identity, and she pleases the king in one night more than all the other virgins. When she risks her life for her people, she does so only after Mordecai points out that she herself will not escape harm even if she refuses to act.”- Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, & Writings “Esther, Book of.”

Thus, Esther seems quite assimilated, by comparison to Daniel. (Some have wondered if this is the reason Esther is the only book that has not been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls biblical texts.) Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 45: Daniel 1,3,6 AND Esther 3-5, 7-8.”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 44: Ezekiel 43, 44, 47

First, in keeping with NT preparation, note that the Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary is on $1.99 kindle sale.


Just as the Book of Ezekiel opened with a cryptic vision (1:1 “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God…, wheel within wheel”) so too does it close with one. The final eight chapters (40-48) constitute one long vision of a different sort than the first. Ezekiel is now fifty (the prescribed year of retirement for priests, according to Lev 4:3), and has spent half his life in Babylon, among a foreign language, culture, and religion. As a former priest, he is very familiar with temple and cosmological symbolism. He knows that the temple is a virtual mountain that one ascends to meet God, as mountains are the meeting place between heaven and earth, between mortal and immortal. Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 44: Ezekiel 43, 44, 47”

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 43: Ezekiel 18, 34, 37.

Parental Advisotry

I’m pretty sure I’m not joking here.

Before I get to Ezekiel, note that I have put up my first post of recommended NT resources, a shortlist of Top Five books. I hope January will bring many positive changes in how we study the New Testament, and I’m trying to do my part.

Up until this point, prophets have largely been “northern” or “southern,” but this post-exile thing is a whole new ballgame. Ezekiel is the first of the classical prophets to be prophesying in Babylon. Ezekiel is a priest or had been before he was forcibly removed to Babylon at age 25, c. 597/6 BCE.  After being in Babylon five years, Ezekiel receives his calling as a prophet to preach to the exiles, and the temple is destroyed roughly five years later (587/6 BCE). Ezekiel records it in chapter 24.


In the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, write down this date, this very date. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. And utter an allegory to the rebellious house and say to them, Thus says the Lord God…

Continue reading “Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 43: Ezekiel 18, 34, 37.”