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Bill Hamblin

Do Bible authors "add to" or "take away from" biblical texts?

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What Bokovoy said.

What Maklelan said.

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Bill,

I'm afraid we're dealing too much in generalities. I've started a separate thread that will help us explore some specifics with regard to the JST.

You say it is not. But in point of fact, JS is doing precisely what earlier Jewish and Christian exegetes have always done. And, from your perspective, inerrant NT exegetes consistently approach the NT in this way. If Matthew was not an inspired interpreter of the OT, then how does what he does to Mark and to OT quotations differ from what JS does to biblical texts? You simply have been redefining the passage in Revelation is criticizing to fit your theological assumptions and presuppositions.

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David,

None of what you wrote here had anything to do with the issue from my perspective. Later writings giving apparently different theological positions from earlier ones (e.g., Jeremiah supposedly disagreeing with Exodus) is an interesting issue, but it isn't what I mean by someone altering scriptural texts.

Hello Rob,

As I see it, the

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David,

None of what you wrote here had anything to do with the issue from my perspective. Later writings giving apparently different theological positions from earlier ones (e.g., Jeremiah supposedly disagreeing with Exodus) is an interesting issue, but it isn't what I mean by someone altering scriptural texts.

I think Chronicles certainly qualifies as alterations of scriptural texts. Much of Samuel and Kings were copied verbatim, but much was also altered, including adding Levites where there were no Levites, taking out offending narratives, copying texts from various psalms and pasting them into speeches by various people, changing who said what to whom, and a wide variety of other alterations. Clear ideological concerns are discernible in the alterations as well.

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None of what you wrote here had anything to do with the issue from my perspective. Later writings giving apparently different theological positions from earlier ones (e.g., Jeremiah supposedly disagreeing with Exodus) is an interesting issue, but it isn't what I mean by someone altering scriptural texts.

Well, I can assure you that what I wrote in fact has everything to do with your perspective and presents serious problems for your approach.

Not only did I document a major theological change in the Bible, but specifically one instance (and there are many, many more, including Maklelan's reference to the work of the Chronicler), of the author of Deuteronomy 7 intentionally altering the meaning of Exodus 34:6-7 to match a new theological agenda.

In contrast, you've suggested that Joseph Smith's work in the JST is not legitimate because Joseph "changes the meaning of the text to suit [his] theology or religious agenda," and that this sort of endeavor is somehow incongruent with the Bible and the revelatory process.

Hence, my post illustrates that that your argument is high problematic, to say the least.

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I look forward to a response from Rob, but I want to throw a few pennies in the pond. In line with David's thoughts above, Bernard Levinson has investigated the problems of canonization and innovation. For him, the very idea of "canon" is one of the distinctive advancements of major religious traditions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Religions don't typically burst onto the scene with a full, authoritative set of scriptures to read. Text can be used to found, ground, and then even change a developing religious community, the Bible is no exception whatsoever. Canon helps keep things together, but it also raises interesting problems

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David,

I don't have time to go into this topic at length (I have way too many irons in the fire as it is), but I disagree with your understanding of how the different OT passages are related. For example, I see no evidence that Deuteronomy 7:9-10 is claiming to quote, let alone misquoting, Exodus 34:6-7. Here are the two texts:

"Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.'" (Ex. 34:6-7)

"Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face." (Deut. 7:9-10)

The verbal parallels between these two texts are simply not enough to sustain the claim that Deuteronomy is quoting Exodus, let alone the claim that it is deliberately misquoting it. Nor do I see any contradiction in the teachings of these two texts.

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Life,

Thanks for your comments. I'm afraid they cover such a vast field of issues that I cannot hope to do justice to them in a single-post response. In this post, I'm going to restrict myself to offering a broad overview of my understanding of the canon of Scripture.

My position is that the Judeo-Christian theological notion of canonicity, though of course one can and should speak of developments of this idea in the postbiblical era, is rooted in the Hebrew Bible's concept of a divine covenant, which adapted the familiar cultural convention of ancient suzerain-vassal treaties. Meredith G. Kline is a biblical scholar and theologian (in the Reformed tradition) who developed this approach to the subject. This approach accepts the Pentateuch as largely Mosaic in substance and origin, while of course allowing for post-Mosaic elements (e.g., the obvious concluding narration of Moses' death) and editing. I realize that some of our Mormon sophisticates here will think me hopelessly ignorant and obscurantist for taking this view, but I hold to it in full awareness of the conventional scholarly arguments against it. (Hey, on this point I have the LDS Church's own official doctrinal instructional materials on my side!) The book of Deuteronomy is a covenant renewal document that restates the stipulations of the covenant "treaty" between God and Israel in terms relevant to the people as they enter the land. My view is that the book of Deuteronomy was put in final form after Moses but faithfully reported what Moses said to the people prior to his death.

The "canon" remained "open" to the inclusion of works that built on the covenantal foundation of the Torah. The historical books extended the covenant's narration of the ongoing relationship between God and Israel and evaluated Israel's conduct according to the standards of the Torah. The wisdom literature expounded on the stipulations and the sanctions (the blessings and curses) of the covenant, and corrected misunderstandings that arose on those subjects. The prophets functioned primarily as God's prosecuting attorneys, bringing suit against both the northern and the southern kingdoms for their violations of the covenant, and expressing God's intention with regard to the future disposition of those kingdoms' peoples in regard to the covenant. One of the themes of these "covenant lawsuits" was God's intention to reconfigure his covenantal relationship with his people, pointing forward to the new covenant. Although such configuration would mean significant changes, these changes would be consistent with God's stated intentions in the first covenant, building on what the Mosaic covenant did well but superseding it with regard to what the Mosaic covenant could not do. I may mention two key factors: the interiority of the new covenant (the Spirit changing hearts from the inside rather than simply imposing laws from the outside) and its expansion to include people of all nations (in fulfillment of God's stated intention that Abraham's seed would bring blessing to all the peoples of the earth, Gen. 12:1-3). As the Hebrew prophets had announced, these changes would be effected through the work of a key figure who was to arise, variously described as a Davidic king, an anointed one, a divine figure like a son of man, a suffering servant of YHWH, and even God himself come down to redeem his people.

The emergence of that figure, Messiah Jesus, was the culmination and climax of divine revelation (Heb. 1:1-2). By his death and resurrection he became the mediator of the prophesied new covenant. Jesus prophetically announced the end of the old covenant and divine judgment on the Jewish religious establishment coming within a generation in the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, which took place in AD 70, no more than forty years later. Jesus' authorized representatives, the apostles, were responsible for proclaiming the fulfillment of God's ancient promises in Jesus the Messiah and guiding his followers through that process of reconfiguring the covenant and the covenant people from the national Mosaic covenant centered on Torah as an external guide to the transnational new covenant centered on Messiah and the interior transformative work of the Spirit. The authoritative, publicly disseminated writings of these apostles and their associates recounted the acts and words of Jesus Messiah as well as the crucial events in that covenantal reconfiguration process of the first generation, explaining how the new covenant fulfilled and yet differed from the old Mosaic covenant. With the dissemination of this corpus of texts providing authoritative interpretations of the new covenant, the "canon" did not so much "close" as it climaxed. That is, with the revelation of Jesus, the inauguration of the new covenant, and its articulation in the permanent form of written texts from Jesus' authorized representatives, the body of authoritative writings by which God's people were to live faithfully in their covenant with God came to a natural state of completeness. That completeness, that definitive climax focused on the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus the Messiah and his sending of the Holy Spirit to make effective the new covenant, led quite properly to the recognition in retrospect of an end to the production of canonical scriptural writings. The authors of the latest of those writings themselves instructed the members of the new covenant community to remain faithful by remembering and faithfully adhering to what Messiah and his apostles had revealed and instructed (2 Timothy 3-4; 2 Peter 3; Jude).

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Hello Rob,

The verbal parallels between these two texts are simply not enough to sustain the claim that Deuteronomy is quoting Exodus, let alone the claim that it is deliberately misquoting it. Nor do I see any contradiction in the teachings of these two texts.

Let us now forget the specific issue at hand, Rob.

Since you recognize that biblical authors quite regularly added to or took away from previous scriptural texts, your argument is that unlike Joseph Smith, when biblical authors altered previously written scriptural texts, biblical authors did not change the meaning of the earlier documents to suit their new theology or religious agenda.

As a refutation of your argument, however, I provided a specific instance when a biblical author makes an allusion to a previous scriptural text and provides an exact opposite statement reflective of a new theological development. Exodus 34 states that God

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David,

You wrote:

Let us now forget the specific issue at hand, Rob.

I'm guessing that should say "not" rather than "now." wink.gif

You wrote:

Since you recognize that biblical authors quite regularly added to or took away from previous scriptural texts...

You are attributing to me a view that I did not express and in fact denied. I recognize no such thing. I have repeatedly denied that they do this.

You wrote:

As a refutation of your argument, however, I provided a specific instance when a biblical author makes an allusion to a previous scriptural text...

Now you are modifying your earlier statement without admitting as much. Your earlier claim was that Deuteronomy misquoted Exodus ("the author of Deuteronomy 7 who intentionally misquoted the divine attribute discussion in Exodus 34:6-7"). Now you say that you refuted my argument by showing that Deuteronomy "makes an allusion" to Exodus.

You wrote (with some emphasis added):

As I illustrated, the doctrine of transgenerational punishment eventually lost favor with biblical authors, so that by the time of the author of Deuteronomy 7, the author could make an allusion to Exodus 34, discussing God

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I'm guessing that should say "not" rather than "now." wink.gif

Yes, indeed. It is a typo. I make them on occasion.

You are attributing to me a view that I did not express and in fact denied. I recognize no such thing. I have repeatedly denied that they do this.

My mistake then. I thought you had recognized the fact that Matthew and Luke add to and take away from not only Mark, but also the OT. That your specific criticism of Joseph Smith adding to and taking away from previously written scripture was that in the process he changed the original meaning of such sources.

Now you are modifying your earlier statement without admitting as much. Your earlier claim was that Deuteronomy misquoted Exodus ("the author of Deuteronomy 7 who intentionally misquoted the divine attribute discussion in Exodus 34:6-7"). Now you say that you refuted my argument by showing that Deuteronomy "makes an allusion" to Exodus.

I'm not modifying my statement at all. Like many other biblical scholars including Michael Fishbane, I maintain that Deuteronomy cites Exodus 34, yet transforms its earlier view of transgenerational punishment. I've simply added onto my argument, explaining that this technique of changing the way earlier scripture would be interpreted by latter readers is fundamental to the book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 7 makes no such declaration.

Thanks for sharing your opinion. It's one I'm forced to reject.

This is a claim concerning the purpose of Deuteronomy that I reject.

You do realize that in terms of biblical scholarship, that clearly places you in the minority.

I have shown, in rebuttal, that Deuteronomy 7:9-10 does not come close to quoting Exodus 34:6-7, sharing only a very small verbal element in common with that text, and that Deuteronomy 7 does not even discuss the idea of transgenerational punishment, let alone deny it.

You haven't shown that at all. You've claimed that the only thing in common between the two passages is a very small verbal element and in so doing ignored both the historical development of the biblical rejection of transgenerational guilt and the purpose of the book of Deuternomy.

You went on to offer another example, but I'm spread too thin as it is, so I'll stop here.

No worries. As we've seen throughout this thread, there's simply no way for you to successfully address the inconsistency in your criticism of Joseph Smith for doing the exact same thing with scripture that biblical authors did.

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David,

You wrote:

Thanks for sharing your opinion. It's one I'm forced to reject.

Naw. You've got free agency, after all. wink.gif

Seriously, what I missed was any explanation of how the two texts disagree with one another. Merely waving Fishbane's name at me is nothing but an appeal to (academic) authority. I explained why I didn't see a contradiction. Would you care to explain why you do see one?

Regarding my rejection of the view that Deuteronomy represents a late revisionist take on Israelite history, you wrote:

You do realize that in terms of biblical scholarship, that clearly places you in the minority.

Yup, I've already said so in another thread (responding to you, as I recall).

You wrote:

As we've seen throughout this thread, there's simply no way for you to successfully address the inconsistency in your criticism of Joseph Smith for doing the exact same thing with scripture that biblical authors did.

How you can continue to make this claim, when, as I pointed out and you accepted, you didn't even state my criticism correctly, I just don't see.

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