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.

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 did: I’m going to define the term “literal.” Continue reading “Literal Interpretation of the Scriptures: Why We Need MORE”

Translation and Context: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, Isaiah and Job at Ugarit

Communication involves not just words, but the context, culture, and worldview in which they are embedded. Simple translation of words alone, reading words alone, however “clear,” will fail to communicate the entire message, because this kind of information is tacit and unstated. Sometimes we can tell we’re missing an intangible something, but most often we can’t even tell that, illustrated extensively in Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes.

Here are some modern examples. Continue reading “Translation and Context: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, Isaiah and Job at Ugarit”

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”

Revisiting Temple Preparation

Elder Bednar in General Conference talked about the spread of temples throughout the world, as well as doubling the number of available languages of the presentation of temple ordinances. This got me thinking again about something I think about from time to time: the state of our collective temple knowledge and how it affects our temple experience.

Since I have a lot of links below, let me summarize with these three bullet points. Continue reading “Revisiting Temple Preparation”

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 (see here for my FAIR talk transcript, and here for a fireside video.)

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”