A Click-Bait Listicle: Seven Things You Didn’t Know about Genesis chapter 1!

genesis-hebrew2I hate click-baity listicles, especially the ones that make you click for each new picture. So I figured, why not do a click-baity listicle? These are just as likely to help you lose weight as any of those others, even if I don’t offer “this one weird trick.” So, here you go. Continue reading “A Click-Bait Listicle: Seven Things You Didn’t Know about Genesis chapter 1!”

Old Testament, the Blog in the Upcoming Year, and News

My image.

My image.

Coming back to the Old Testament means I’ve been at this solo blog thing for a while, and I have a lot of prewritten material to work with. In the next year, I’ll be reposting and updating all of my Old Testament Gospel Doctrine posts, so they should appear as “new” posts in your feed and on the blog. If for some reason you get ahead of my updating/resposting, a google search for Benjamin Scribe Old Testament Lesson X or using the blog index (link at the top of every page) can get you to the old post you’re looking for. I also anticipate writing some new posts. Continue reading “Old Testament, the Blog in the Upcoming Year, and News”

“Reading the Old Testament in Context” Fireside in San Antonio Tx, Nov 11

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 9.55.57 PMMy Oct. 8 fireside in Claremont will be repeated in San Antonio, Tx on Saturday November 11 at 6pm, in the chapel at 6240 UTSA Blvd, San Antonio, 78249.  It’s on “Reading the Old Testament in Context” and is a version of my Sperry Symposium presentation which will be in Provo, October 28. The firesides and presentation are an adapted form of the 25-page paper I submitted for Sperry, so the paper has some things the presentations won’t and vice-versa. I’ve decided to take that paper, and will just post it in sections here as blogposts, starting in mid-November.  Continue reading ““Reading the Old Testament in Context” Fireside in San Antonio Tx, Nov 11″

Repeat of “Reading the Old Testament in Context” Fireside, in Rochester MN

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 9.55.57 PMMy Oct. 8 fireside in Claremont will be repeated in Rochester MN on October 22. (Flyer) It’s on “Reading the Old Testament in Context” and is a version of my Sperry Symposium presentation which will be in Provo, October 28. The firesides and presentation are an adapted form of the 25-page paper I submitted for Sperry, so the paper has some things the presentations won’t and vice-versa. So I’ve decided to take that paper, and will just post it in sections here as blogposts, starting in November.  Continue reading “Repeat of “Reading the Old Testament in Context” Fireside, in Rochester MN”

Fireside Oct. 8 on Reading the Old Testament in Context

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.34.46 AMIf you live in the Los Angeles area, I’ll be giving a fireside on October 8, entitled “Reading the Old Testament in Context.” Flyer (PDF).

As you might guess, this presentation is oriented more towards understanding the Old Testament, reading it like an Israelite or a Hebrew scholar, than devotional or personal application readings of the Old Testament. Those aren’t entirely separate categories, but I assume most Mormons are experienced in the latter and not so much in the former.

I will talk about becoming a “competent reader” (a quasi-technical term) and introduce four kinds of context, moving from the simplest to the most complex. For each of these, I have numerous examples from the Bible, modern parallels to help drive the point home, and study suggestions/questions.

  • Textual Context– By this I mean we need to read what comes before and what comes after a line or verse, especially across verse and chapter boundaries. Those divisions are largely medieval impositions on the ancient text and sometimes break up stories or sections. If you start a book or movie in the middle of one section, and then end randomly in the middle of another, you’re not really getting the whole story as it is meant to be communicated.
  • Historical Context– This includes elements of the historical setting which are relevant. Because the Old Testament authors spoke to their contemporaries who shared this knowledge, they did not provide explanations about or identify people, places, customs, laws, or events. These things went without being said, but modern readers need them to be made explicit in order to understand
  • Linguistic Context– What should we know about language of the Old Testament to better understand it? This includes aspects of both Bible translation from Hebrew/Aramaic into English and usage characteristics of Hebrew. I single out three: poetry, paranomasia/wordplay, and allusion.
  •  Literary Context– This is the most complex section, where I introduce the idea of genre. We experience this natively today, with books, movies, restaurants, which all come in different kinds, each with its own conventions and expectations; You know what kind of clothes to wear and what kind of food to expect if I say “burger joint,” you know the conventions and truth-claims of the Romantic Comedy genre. But we rarely understand that this kind of thing applies to scripture as well.  I talk about the Bible as a library of different kinds of writings, a collected edition or anthology of different genres, set off by genre markers. I drill down into the historical genre, arguing that modern expectations of historical writing are largely journalistic ideals (i.e. verbatim quotes, neutral reporting, a priority on historical accuracy), but ancient history-writers did not remotely follow these conventions. What were the conventions of ancient history-writing? I cover much of the same ground as in my LDSPerspectives podcast and elsewhere on the blog, but more formally and organized, with citations and examples.

I’ll make the text of this available one way or another in late October or early November, as part of my gearing up for Old Testament in January. I have several things in mind for the blog, so check back. In the meantime, listen to the podcast and watch my screencast about the rediscovery of the world of the Old Testament.

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.

On Elder Hamula

You have likely heard that a member of the 70 was recently released and excommunicated. Elder Hamula was the mission president of a member of the bishopric who spoke in the ward I visited today. He reminded me of two things.

First, I have sometimes wryly remarked that perhaps Mormons would be less inclined to put Church leaders on high pedestals if they fell from them more often, since the last Apostle excommunicated was Elder Richard R. Lyman in 1943. In all honesty, I’m quite surprised this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. George Q. Cannon saw a silver lining in such excommunications.

Do not… put your trust in man though he be a Bishop, an Apostle or a President; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone; but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. … Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him and not in any man or woman

– Elder George Q. Cannon, as quoted and elaborated on here by a LDS historian. My underline.

So, let’s not speculate, but refocus our faith where it ought to be.

Second, I just feel bad for the guy. The only thing worse than making serious mistakes is having it publicly known that You Really Screwed Up. Whatever you yourself do, in person, on the internet, etc. take thought. How would you feel if your words or actions were known publicly? I can’t find it at the moment, but on my mission, I found a teaching from Joseph F. smith to the extent of “never do anything in private that you would be ashamed of in public.”

There but for the grace of God go you and I.

My LDS Perspectives Podcast on Genre

Ben contemplates his words, at Petra.

Ben contemplates his words, at Petra.

I was interviewed last year for the LDS Perspectives podcast, which I recommend. Therein, I allude to a lot of different books and papers, linked below. I also cited John Widtsoe on genre, from his 1930 book In Search of Truth available online here Widtsoe said,

“As in all good books every literary device is used in the Bible that will drive the lesson home. It contains history, poetry and allegory. These are not always distinguishable, now that the centuries have passed away since the original writing.”

Here is further reading that I alluded.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. 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.

Free Book! and It’s a Good One!

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 1.24.43 PMI’ve often had Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible on this or that list of books I recommend. It’s April’s Free Book of the Month at Logos (link). If you’ve read my previous posts about Logos (link #1, #2), you know that entry-level Logos is free and like a supercharged Kindle, runs on Mac, PC, ios, and Android. It’s what Infobases or Gospelink could have been. Continue reading “Free Book! and It’s a Good One!”

How to Use Greek and Hebrew: New and Improved

genesis-hebrew2I’ll get back to my Transitional Mormonism and Tradition, but I was really excited about this development. 

I’ve seen several bad uses  flagrant abuses of original languages recently by people who don’t actually know the languages. They’re typically relying on Strong’s Concordance, which can be used legitimately (see my article here, the section called “original language resources”) but 99% of the time, Strong’s is abused by people who just don’t know better. They use it as a lexicon, as a guide to meaning, but this is highly problematic. If you read something citing Strong’s to establish what a word means, you can be fairly certain the authors have not actually studied Greek or Hebrew, and I strongly recommend not giving that source any scholarly weight or authority in Gospel Doctrine or Seminary.

I am terribly pleased to inform you that there is a new technology-assisted way to move directly from the KJV to legitimate scholarly Greek and Hebrew tools. And it’s free! I’ll provide a description, then walk through the steps to get it, demo some things on video, and then make some suggestions.

Logos just released the free version of its new engine, Logos 7 for Mac, PC, iOs, and Android. Logos is like a supercharged Kindle on steroids, which I use as my research library. I buy all my academic and popular books in it when possible. Back in 2000, I started using it because there was a screaming deal on the Anchor Bible Dictionary (which has been cited in General Conference!) With the upgrades and free resources now provided in version 7, the Basic engine will let you jump directly from the KJV to a decent basic Hebrew/Greek lexicon, included.  Moreover, it comes with both a decent Bible Dictionary and Study Bible, free (both produced by Logos.)

You will need to create an account, but the basic engine is indeed free. You will probably get marketing emails trying to get you to buy a package of books and higher-level functionality. You don’t need to do this, but if you’ve got the cash, go for it. BTW, once you create an account AND fill out a marketing thing, Logos gives you $20 credit every year on your birthday.

How to Get the Free Stuff

  1. Go here to get the free engine. It should ask you to create an account.
  2. It will download an installer file, which will then download the rest of the program and (I believe) the free resources. After downloading and installing, it will draw some processing power to index the new books.
  3. If you don’t see them in your library after everything downloads and indexes, here are the links to some free stuff you should have.
    • Lexham Bible Dictionary
      • Lexham is one publishing name Logos uses (Faithlife being another.)
    • Abridged BDB
      • This is the Hebrew lexicon, a simplified version of the $20 100-yr old lexicon most first-year Hebrew students buy, named after its authors
    • Faithlife Study Bible
      • Essays, introductions, visuals, diagrams, and verse-by-verse notes.
  4. Logos also does a free-book-of-the-month, with one free and one related for $1.99. This month, two books by N.T. Wright.
  5. Other free books are here. Pick up the Greek New Testament, SBL edition, Lexham English Bible, Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs, and perhaps the Classics, Arabic, or Civil War And 19th Century America collections.
  6. Other books and series go on sale regularly, with both monthly sales and specials, and you can get steep discounts on Pre-publication or Community Pricing.

Supercharge your Old Testament study for $70

Things to learn to take maximum advantage of the free stuff

    • Learn the Hebrew alphabet and vowels here. Hebrew alphabet intimidates more than it is actually difficult. Practice the consonants with Psalm 119 in our KJV. It’s a Hebrew alphabet acrostic, so the letters are printed there.
    • Both BDB and CHALOT will use some unfamiliar but important terminology for verbs. You should learn what qal, niph., hiph, etc. mean or you won’t understand the range of meanings in the definitions for verbs. This is a decent introduction to this vocabulary.

Things I’ll point out in the screencast demo 

  • Note the scripture pop-ups.
  • Lock panes to scroll together.
  • Corresponding Words visual filter. (Only in the KJV or other purchased interlinears. I don’t do much with this in the demo, so click the link and watch their video.)
  • Link Bible to a lexicon! This and the KJV interlinear are the key to cutting out Strong’s.

(I recommend watching 1080p so you can read the text.)

Logos has an active forum free of theological discussion (where I am the resident Mormon),  a good wiki, and lots of how-to videos linked within the wiki.

So, go forth and download, but remember to keep some intellectual humility! You still don’t know the languages, you’re just using much better tools.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. 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.

The Blog in the Coming Year and D&C

From BYU Special Collections-

From BYU Special Collections

I’ve agonized a bit over how to handle D&C this year. Here’s what I have decided and why.

If you compare my posts from the last few months to virtually any of my Old Testament posts, you’ll notice a distinct difference in length and quality. I’ve not been very happy with what I put out for the 2nd half of the Book of Mormon; I’ve taught that half much less, and so had far fewer blog-ready notes. I’ve also been wrestling with challenging coursework and papers, which do not allow much luxury time to overcome my note deficiency to write posts I’m happy with.

For the D&C and my next semester of coursework, I have even fewer notes and anticipate even less time. Consequently, I’m not going to try to write a weekly post on D&C lessons. The quality won’t be there, which would only increase my stress as I tried to crank out a weekly post in a timely way. I bet several wards are already into D&C lesson 2 or so.

What I will do is write on D&C occasionally, interspersed with my normal topics of LDS history, scripture, science, and Genesis. I have a few rough drafts of posts (both D&C and other) that can go up without too much effort, and then I anticipate slowing to 2-4 posts a month.

During my winter break, and now that family has returned home, I’m making a sustained Herculean attempt to finish my Genesis 1 manuscript and get it submitted in January. I have managed to set aside everything but writing for the next 20 days, so wish me luck.

Lastly, it is the season of gratitude. For all of you have supported me and my research by making Amazon purchases through my book links (that is, if you go to Amazon through here, I get a small referral credit. You just shop like normal though) or by donating directly to help me cover tuition (get an autographed copy of my book, once published!) I am deeply grateful.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year