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"Problematic Apologetics": Bokovoy Reviews Callister's "A Case for the Book of Mormon".

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Posted (edited)

" "In reality, biblical prophetic texts are not predictions of the LDS movement. The biblical prophets were not fortune-tellers."

The issue here is a prediction of the Book of Mormon and not the LDS movement.  They are two different subjects.  I would agree that the issue raised by David does not support the BOM well at all.  Biblical prophets were not fortune tellers but prophecy can foretell events in the future.  IT might not be the main role that prophets do but it is an aspect or role they do on occasion. 

 

Edited by carbon dioxide

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4 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

It’s easy to see how this could evolve into a Great Apostacy.

And so it did. ;)

But it started a long time earlier.

The angels on a pin issue was actually whether or not two objects made of allegedly immaterial substance could occupy the same space. So it was really a question about how immaterial immaterial substance was.

They needed immaterial substance to be able to exist in order for there to be the unity of the trinity. And the whole idea of substance itself was a combination of the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle who obviously were not Christians. Talk about it confusion of words. The word substance always refers to a certain kind of material. You can have an oily substance or dry substance or this substance or that substance

But now someone decides that there is a thing called immaterial substance. It happens because you can put the two words together immaterial and substance. But what could it possibly mean?

You don't say a red yellow or a green black but yet there are the two words and since we are used to words naming things then there must be such a thing something green and black at the same time

One confused set of ideas leads very easily two other sets of confused ideas.

Believe it or not we actually see that right here on this board!! ;)

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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4 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Tell it to Joe Smith.  He might have thought that knowing the Hebrew and Greek words for "repentance" had value, if only so that one could understand the Scriptures. Does being a prophet divest one of his intellect.  God gave us brains for a reason:  He wants us to use them.

I’m hardly anti-intellectual, with an advanced degree in music history and children with degrees and doctorates from prestigious schools. It’s one thing to learn a bit of Hebrew and Greek, but quite another to have to get a four-six year degree in theology at the age of 55 or 60 when you are called to a position of authority.

Sincere question: given the availability of multiple online side-by-side translations produced by learned specialists, societies, universities, and seminaries over decades, just how competent would a General Authority have to be to gain personal benefit from a rudimentary working knowledge of ancient languages and theology? What advantages would that provide?

Edited by Bernard Gui
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On 6/15/2019 at 2:29 AM, Robert F. Smith said:

This case of dueling book excerpts actually demonstrates considerable overreach by both men.   If Elder Callister had been well-trained in a Protestant, Jewish, or Roman Catholic seminary, he might have been able to deliver something more than his impressions of Isaiah, and whatever else in the Bible.  David Bokovoy (PhD Brandeis), on the other hand, has the benefit of a fine, secular Jewish education in Bible, and he expresses very well the standard Jewish belief that the prophets only spoke au courant.

As Jewish scholars now admit, long before the beginning of Jewish Christianity, the Essenes were reading about the Suffering Servant in Isaiah as an eschatological Messiah(s), as we can see from the Qumran scrolls.[1]  Indeed, Job, the "Babylonian Theodicy," and Ludlul bel nemeqi likewise deal with the suffering of the Righteous One, all of which may be related to the figure of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, New Testament,[2] and Book of Mormon.

Thus, Nephi and Jacob each read Scripture as applicable to their people in their own time, just as the Essenes and rabbinic Jews tended to do (TB Pesaḥim 10:5).  The first and most important motif to be applied in the Book of Mormon was the full-scale Exodus motif,[3] which has so often been primary for Jews as well.  Second, the eschatological motifs in Isaiah and Micah.  Third, the Vineyard motif (Midrash Sifre Deut 32:9 §312, Lev Rabba 1 (113a).[4]

“For I did liken all scripture unto us” (1 Ne 19:23-24; 2 Ne 11:2,8, Jacob 5:3).

 1QSa/1Q28a 2:11-12, which has God “fathering, begetting” (Hebrew holid) the Messiah of Israel: "when [God] has fa[th]ered the Messiah" 1 Ne 10:17, 11:7,18,21, 13:40, II Ne 25:12-19, 26:3,9, Jacob 4:5,11, Alma 5:27,48-50, 7:11-13, 9:26-27, 12:33-34, 13:5-9; Mormon 5:14; cf. 2 Ne 17:14 (Isa 7:14), 19:6 (Isa 9:6).

4Q541 (4QAaronA/4QAhA) (24 [25] frags dated to ca 100 B.C.; a second copy in 3 frags is 4QTestLevic) frag 9 "He will atone for all the children of his generation, and he will be sent to all the children of his [pe]ople. His word is like a word of heaven, and his teaching is in accordance with the will of God. His eternal sun will shine, and his light will be kindled in all the corners of the earth, and it will shine on the darkness... They will speak many words against him, and they will invent many [lie]s and fictions against him and speak shameful things about him. Evil will overthrow his generation..."; frag 24 "Do [not] grieve for [him]...God will set many things right...many revealed things...Ex­amine and seek and know what the dove (Jonah) sought and do not afflict the weak by wasting or hanging [crucifixion].... [Let] not the nail approach him. So you will establish for your father a name of joy, and for your brothers a proven foundation.... You will see and rejoice in the eternal light, and you will not be an enemy"[5]; cf. Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 (4th Suffering Servant poem), 1 Corinthians 15:13; J. Starcky and E. Puech consider this to feature a Suffering Servant or Suffering Messiah theme.

 4Q246 (4QpsDan Aa, 4QSon of God) Aramaic I "[He] shall be great upon the earth.... and all shall serve [him]...the [g]reat..," II "and by his name shall he be hailed (as) the Son of God, and they shall call him Son of the Most High" Luke 1:31-32,35.[6] 


[1] Israel Knohl, The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Berkeley: U.C. Press, 2000); Michael Wise, The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Christ (S.F.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999).

[2] A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient  Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization, rev. ed., 272-273, citing W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature, 70-89.

[3] George S. Tate, “The Typology of the Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” in N. E. Lambert, ed., Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1981):245-262; S. Kent Brown, “The Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies, 30/3 (Summer 1990):111-126; Terrence Szink, “To a Land of Promise,” in K. P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29 (SLC: Deseret, 1987), 60-72; Szink, “Nephi and the Exodus,” in J. L. Sorenson and M. J. Thorne, eds., Rediscovering the Book of Mormon (Provo: FARMS, 1991), 39-42; cf. Sara Riley, “‘Even as Moses Did’: The Use of the Exodus Narrative in Mosiah 11-18,” paper delivered at FairMormon Conference, Aug 2, 2018, Provo, Utah.

[4] H. Strack & P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, I:874-875.

[5] J. J. Collins, "The Suffering Servant at Qumran?" Bible Review, 9/6 (Dec 1993):25-27,63.

[6] G. Vermes, Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 3rd ed. (Penguin, 1987), 275; 4th ed. ( 121, 332); and in H. Shanks, ed., Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (N.Y.: Random House, 1992), 203-204 (J. J. Collins in BAR, Mar/Apr 1990; J. J. Collins, "A Pre-Christian 'Son of God' Among the Dead Sea Scrolls," Bible Review, 9/3 [June 1993]:34-38,57.  Israel Knohl, The Messiah Before Jesus.

I’d be interested to see @David Bokovoy response. Did you post this on his (Bokovoy’s) FB page?

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1 hour ago, Bede said:

I’d be interested to see @David Bokovoy response. Did you post this on his (Bokovoy’s) FB page?

No, I haven't ever done Facebook.  Don't even know how.  However, I'll email David and mention your request.

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11 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

I’m hardly anti-intellectual, with an advanced degree in music history and children with degrees and doctorates from prestigious schools.

And you have come up with some brilliant ideas about Scripture on this board.  I have praised your work several times.

11 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

 It’s one thing to learn a bit of Hebrew and Greek, but quite another to have to get a four-six year degree in theology at the age of 55 or 60 when you are called to a position of authority.

Sincere question: given the availability of multiple online side-by-side translations produced by learned specialists, societies, universities, and seminaries over decades, just how competent would a General Authority have to be to gain personal benefit from a rudimentary working knowledge of ancient languages and theology? What advantages would that provide?

An M.Div. usually takes about two years.  One could consider it a mission call and concentrate totally on it.  My Grandpa went to Boston Univ Theological Seminary in 1899 for his masters, and had already graduated from Ohio Wesleyan.  Then he began working as a Methodist minister.  That sort of educational preparation would be my first preference for G.A.s  However, why would they pretend to understand biblical texts without such preparation?  Perhaps because they actually believe that they understand such texts with no training at all, which leaves them open to harsh intellectual critique.  In Joseph Smith's day, everybody knew that christian ministers were all well trained in seminaries before licensure as preachers.  That's why Joseph was so anxious to have his Brethren learn that stuff.

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5 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

No, I haven't ever done Facebook.  Don't even know how.  However, I'll email David and mention your request.

Robert,

In my very limited view, formal theological training, especially in the area of Biblical studies, would raise some serious challenges to some of our most fundamental beliefs. While I agree with your suggestion that GA's should have more theological training. I also think it runs the risk of affecting the Church much the same way the RLDS was affected. We only need to look at Dr. Bokovoy's own recent experience to see how his training was viewed quite suspiciously by BYU scholars and how it has affected his own views of scripture. 

Do you think that such formal training of GA's would result in a more liberal view at leadership levels within the Church (I know that's vague but I hope you get my intent) of scriptural interpretation and/or literal scriptural history?  

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10 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

Robert,

In my very limited view, formal theological training, especially in the area of Biblical studies, would raise some serious challenges to some of our most fundamental beliefs. While I agree with your suggestion that GA's should have more theological training. I also think it runs the risk of affecting the Church much the same way the RLDS was affected.

The RLDS problem was that they had never taken Bible or Book of Mormon seriously, so their members had no grounding in actual scholarship.  Thus, at the end of WW II, when a bunch of guys returned with the G.I. Bill, they decided to study at nearby Methodist St. Paul School of Theology.  They took the predictable shallow line taught to them there and applied it to the Bible and BofM, and it was a swift downhill path from there.

10 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

We only need to look at Dr. Bokovoy's own recent experience to see how his training was viewed quite suspiciously by BYU scholars and how it has affected his own views of scripture. 

Some of the CES people at BYU are afraid of real scholarship, and always have been.  Others found Bokovoy well-informed and sagacious, and published together with him, and he frequently lectured at BYU Ed Week to overflow crowds.  Some of his work is among the very best intellectual defenses of the Gospel you will find anywhere.

David E. Bokovoy, "Repetitive Resumption in the Book of Mormon," FARMS Update, #182, in Insights, 27/1 (2007); Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes, Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and
    the Hebrew Bible
(Tooele, UT: Heritage, 2003); Bokovoy, “Ancient Temple Imagery in the Sermons of Jacob,” in William J. Hamblin and David Rolph Seely, eds., Temple Insights: Proceedings of the Interpreter Matthew B. Brown memorial Conference (Orem and SLC: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014), 171–186.

10 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

Do you think that such formal training of GA's would result in a more liberal view at leadership levels within the Church (I know that's vague but I hope you get my intent) of scriptural interpretation and/or literal scriptural history?  

Not at all, and there is no reason why that would be likely.

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2 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

And you have come up with some brilliant ideas about Scripture on this board.  I have praised your work several times.

An M.Div. usually takes about two years.  One could consider it a mission call and concentrate totally on it.  My Grandpa went to Boston Univ Theological Seminary in 1899 for his masters, and had already graduated from Ohio Wesleyan.  Then he began working as a Methodist minister.  That sort of educational preparation would be my first preference for G.A.s  However, why would they pretend to understand biblical texts without such preparation?  Perhaps because they actually believe that they understand such texts with no training at all, which leaves them open to harsh intellectual critique.  In Joseph Smith's day, everybody knew that christian ministers were all well trained in seminaries before licensure as preachers.  That's why Joseph was so anxious to have his Brethren learn that stuff.

There are also the preacher scenes now deleted, but showing the attitude, and we still have the condemnation of the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

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21 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

It’s easy to see how this could evolve into a Great Apostacy.

Good thing we had popes and ecumenical councils, guided and protected by the Holy Spirit, to keep that from happening 😜

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

And you have come up with some brilliant ideas about Scripture on this board.  I have praised your work several times.

An M.Div. usually takes about two years.  One could consider it a mission call and concentrate totally on it.  My Grandpa went to Boston Univ Theological Seminary in 1899 for his masters, and had already graduated from Ohio Wesleyan.  Then he began working as a Methodist minister.  That sort of educational preparation would be my first preference for G.A.s  However, why would they pretend to understand biblical texts without such preparation?  Perhaps because they actually believe that they understand such texts with no training at all, which leaves them open to harsh intellectual critique.  In Joseph Smith's day, everybody knew that christian ministers were all well trained in seminaries before licensure as preachers.  That's why Joseph was so anxious to have his Brethren learn that stuff.

You are too kind!

I can see the benefits of such training, but where does it cross the line with Nibley's concerns?

Quote

The scholar and the learned divine must necessarily get their knowledge from the written word, and then trouble begins. The prophet, on the other hand, who may well be illiterate, gets his knowledge by direct intercourse with heaven. The orientation of the two is entirely different...

Of course, God can choose a learned man for a prophet if he wants to, but we are told in no uncertain terms that such is not the type of man he prefers. To the pagan, Celsus, who made merry over the poor education and bad grammar of the Apostles, Origen replied that the obviously defective education of the prophets was a most powerful argument in their favor, for if they had acquired the learning of the schools then their great gifts of leadership and persuasion might possibly be attributed not to direct instruction from above, but to their years of training. Now, the prophet recognizes the merit of study; there is a spirit in man, Paul tells us, and we know that the spirit of Jesus Christ enlightens every man that comes into the world. The Prophet recognizes the scholar for what he is, but the scholar does not return the compliment. He cannot conceive how anyone could possibly acquire knowledge by any method other than his. The World and the Prophets, 25-27.

Of course, Nibley is talking about instruction in argument, rhetoric, and persuasion. Perhaps training in exegesis and history could enhance the prophetic gift. But he does have a point.

Edited by Bernard Gui
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7 minutes ago, MiserereNobis said:

Good thing we had popes and ecumenical councils, guided and protected by the Holy Spirit, to keep that from happening 😜

Ummmmmmmmmmm.....maybe not.

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2 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

You are too kind!

I can see the benefits of such training, but where does it cross the line with Nibley's concerns?

Of course, Nibley is talking about instruction in argument, rhetoric, and persuasion. Perhaps training in exegesis and history could enhance the prophetic gift. But he does have a point.

I think secular knowledge is like riches (or nuclear power for that matter): "But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted." This tells me that neither riches nor scholarship are the key to the kingdom of God, but potential ancillary helps (or distractions) depending on one's hope in Christ. I think this hope is reflected in the ability to settle spiritual and academic concerns in good faith.

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On 6/15/2019 at 12:48 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

But what does that mean in practice?  Put me in charge, and I would send each called G.A. to an M.A. program in theology (or the like) at a good school (prepaid) such as Harvard or Yale Divinity School, or the GraduateTheological Union at Berkeley, or to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (he could live at the BYU Jerusalem Center).  Men without at least a B.A. could not even be called.  What did Joseph Smith do?  He hired a Jewish scholar and had him teach Hebrew to the Brethren in the School of the Prophets.

It's worth noting that Jesus didn't call his disciplines and later from among the learned rabbis of the area. 

I'm not convinced exegesis is necessarily that important a skill for a GA. If you look at what they do it's rarely scriptural exegesis. I do wish they were a little more theologically sophisticated at times but again I'm not sure that's essential for their duties.

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33 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

It's worth noting that Jesus didn't call his disciplines and later from among the learned rabbis of the area. 

I'm not convinced exegesis is necessarily that important a skill for a GA. If you look at what they do it's rarely scriptural exegesis. I do wish they were a little more theologically sophisticated at times but again I'm not sure that's essential for their duties.

Good point, Clark.  However, at the very least those men knew Hebrew and were intimately familiar with Judaism at the time of their calls.  Moreover, the years they spent under the tutelage of Rabbi Jesus was the best grad school possible.

St Paul was a student of the important Rabbi Gamliel, and Jesus himself was a very sophisticated rabbi.  Neither of them made silly mistakes in understanding Scripture, nor in dealing with polemic attacks.  If the G.A.s are going to devote their lives to the work of the Lord, do we want to them to have degrees in law, or in theology?  Is it more important for them to have an MBA from the Wharton School, or a degree from Wheaton College (Billy Graham's alma mater), or from Boston Univ Theological Seminary (Dr Martin Luther King's grad school)?  Are they simply board members of a very large corporation, or are they ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

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4 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

....................I can see the benefits of such training, but where does it cross the line with Nibley's concerns?

Of course, Nibley is talking about instruction in argument, rhetoric, and persuasion. Perhaps training in exegesis and history could enhance the prophetic gift. But he does have a point.

Well, maybe after their call, they could take up monastic, meditative residence in a cave in Nepal?  I'd say Tibet, but the Chinese might not go along with that.

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5 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

There are also the preacher scenes now deleted, but showing the attitude, and we still have the condemnation of the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

True enough, but I loved how Truman Madsen could mingle with those guys and palaver with them on their own terms.  He garnered respect from a diverse group of fine scholars who called him friend.  I recall also David Riesman of Harvard on his way back to the SLC Airport after a long ago visit to BYU, telling Lou Midgley:  "You don't know it, but Hugh Nibley is your Thomas Aquinas."

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45 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Moreover, the years they spent under the tutelage of Rabbi Jesus was the best grad school possible.

You sure about that? I’m certain there were some very fine universities available that could have really expanded their first century understandings of the world, drawing upon the best available expertise. It could have been a wonderful opportunity versus the small effect and opportunity cost of following around a lowly carpenter’s son.

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16 minutes ago, Judd said:

You sure about that? I’m certain there were some very fine universities available that could have really expanded their first century understandings of the world, drawing upon the best available expertise. It could have been a wonderful opportunity versus the small effect and opportunity cost of following around a lowly carpenter’s son.

There are many tales of Jewish rabbis, few as profound as those about Rabbi Jesus.  His ability to tell parables, or to handle challenges from scribes and Pharisees became legendary.  He may have been a very good carpenter, but his brilliance bespeaks a genius level ability to soak up everything he had learned in synagogue.  He knew his Bible, and some of his comments actually show his familiarity with the Targums.  Having him as your teacher was the best Jewish education you could get.

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Posted (edited)

I tend to side with Bokovoy. My own discussion of the use of Isaiah 29 in the Book of Mormon was published here:

https://www.mormoninterpreter.com/nephi-a-postmodernist-reading/

One of our challenges in the Church is that we have a desire to flatten everything in terms of history. And we have adopted this idea of restoration (even though we have moved beyond it significantly) and reversed it so that we want to believe that everything we teach and practice now is exactly like the historical reality (when it isn't). Part of this comes from a desire to confront the critical view that for religion to be revealed that it cannot be the result of a historical process. There are other reasons. But this is a natural sort of view (and it is reflected in other religious traditions).
I point out with that Isaiah passage (Isaiah 29) in my article linked above:

Quote

In recognizing the earlier text from Nephi being used here, our perspective shifts. We are no longer reading just a commentary on Isaiah. Rather, we are reading a commentary on Nephi’s prophecy. Instead of Nephi’s using his own language to comment on Isaiah, he uses the language of Isaiah to comment on his own earlier text. Nephi understands that his own prophecy is not about Jerusalem (as Isaiah 29 is). He even perhaps recognizes that the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy may never be verified for many of his descendants (they don’t get confirmation of the fall of Jerusalem until the Nephites discover Zarahemla and the Mulekites). In using Isaiah to interpret his own text, Nephi has given them an entirely different framework for understanding Isaiah — one based on the premise of likening the scriptures unto themselves. And this happens not in a rather simple way but in a radical repurposing of Isaiah’s text. What Nephi does in this narrative unit is to give us an example of reading, both by likening the scriptures unto himself and by invoking the spirit of prophecy.

Nephi re-purposing the Isaiah text is an explicit rejection of the idea that Isaiah meant his text to refer to the Nephites. Less comfortable is the idea that we (as modern LDS) regularly liken scriptures unto ourselves, using them in ways that are foreign to their original contexts, even if we are using them to teach contemporary religious truth and gospel principles. But we need to be just as clear that when we do this, we are recontextualizing scripture in ways that create meaning that would be foreign to original authors and audiences. This idea was built into the cultural foundations of early Mormonism and it still remains a popular notion among members of the Church today.

Edited by Benjamin McGuire
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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Good point, Clark.  However, at the very least those men knew Hebrew and were intimately familiar with Judaism at the time of their calls.  Moreover, the years they spent under the tutelage of Rabbi Jesus was the best grad school possible.

St Paul was a student of the important Rabbi Gamliel, and Jesus himself was a very sophisticated rabbi.  Neither of them made silly mistakes in understanding Scripture, nor in dealing with polemic attacks.  If the G.A.s are going to devote their lives to the work of the Lord, do we want to them to have degrees in law, or in theology?  Is it more important for them to have an MBA from the Wharton School, or a degree from Wheaton College (Billy Graham's alma mater), or from Boston Univ Theological Seminary (Dr Martin Luther King's grad school)?  Are they simply board members of a very large corporation, or are they ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I don’t think how they carry out the work is a matter of what we want. I’m sure many of our GAs will say they felt guided and blessed by the Lord in choosing their fields of endeavor, and they tried to balance professional and spiritual devotion. Paradoxically, it seems the Lord was preparing them through their fields of labor for something many express feeling quite unprepared for at the time of their call. While their secular skills are certainly helpful in Church administration, and in some cases can be brought to bear in the spiritual aspects of their ministry, yet other skills (such as those the Lord teaches them in their councils and by the Spirit) are needed in exercising the keys.

I think recognizing the parameters of one’s calling, how to go about his ministry, what talents to cultivate and draw from, and his aptitude in any of these are more a function of temperament and personality than an imposed education, which cannot “fix” that and in some cases may worsen it.  

Edited by CV75

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Good point, Clark.  However, at the very least those men knew Hebrew and were intimately familiar with Judaism at the time of their calls.  Moreover, the years they spent under the tutelage of Rabbi Jesus was the best grad school possible.

St Paul was a student of the important Rabbi Gamliel, and Jesus himself was a very sophisticated rabbi.  Neither of them made silly mistakes in understanding Scripture, nor in dealing with polemic attacks.  If the G.A.s are going to devote their lives to the work of the Lord, do we want to them to have degrees in law, or in theology?  Is it more important for them to have an MBA from the Wharton School, or a degree from Wheaton College (Billy Graham's alma mater), or from Boston Univ Theological Seminary (Dr Martin Luther King's grad school)?  Are they simply board members of a very large corporation, or are they ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Whose opinion matters?

The Master valued the widow's mite far more than the donations of foundations funded by the fabulously wealthy.

Who's to say He doesn't value the folk etymologies found throughout Genesis and Matthew's tendency to find a prediction of the Master's earthly life and mission every time "savior" appears in the law, the prophets, and the writings, as well as Nephi's repurposing of Isaiah?

Is Jacob a wrestler or a sneakthief?

Edited by USU78
Questions require question marks.
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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Good point, Clark.  However, at the very least those men knew Hebrew and were intimately familiar with Judaism at the time of their calls.  Moreover, the years they spent under the tutelage of Rabbi Jesus was the best grad school possible.

Do we know that? 

I agree they hopefully learned from Jesus, but I'm not sure they were as informed as you suggest. Why would a fisherman know Hebrew rather than Aramaic? It's not at all clear to me they all were even literate.

14 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

St Paul was a student of the important Rabbi Gamliel, and Jesus himself was a very sophisticated rabbi.  Neither of them made silly mistakes in understanding Scripture, nor in dealing with polemic attacks. 

Paul definitely was educated and as you note trained under Gamaliel even if in at minimum temperment he seemed more in the Shammai school. He even portrays himself a zealot. (To be fair the Hillel school and the Shammai school shared a lot of foreign policy views even if their tactics differed a great deal)

On the other hand rabbinical exegesis did involve lots of readings that contemporary scholars would call "silly mistakes." So I think one has to be careful here. The rabbinical tradition most likely in play at the time of Paul simply wasn't concerned with "original meaning" the way contemporary scholars worry about. So their style intentionally includes what today we'd call misreadings.  I confess I'd love to have more texts from the early Church particularly dealing with how Peter and Paul or later James and Paul viewed scripture.

2 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

Nephi re-purposing the Isaiah text is an explicit rejection of the idea that Isaiah meant his text to refer to the Nephites

I think it's worth asking whether Nephi's exegesis method was contemporary and common in 6th century Israel. I think though what you point to is a certain ambiguity in what we mean by meaning. In a certain way Biblical scholars are rather caught up in the question of original conscious intent. Secondarily they attempt to ascertain this from the public meaning of a text at a particular historical point. (Itself often highly conjectural) Unfortunately this is often done from a paucity of texts so there's a lot of handwaving for meaning prior to the Hellenistic period - particularly since the purported texts are themselves reconstructed. i.e. the texts are assumed to have undergone heavy redaction and editing which is a very circular theoretical endeavor with again no actual texts to compare with.

Ultimately they're on stronger ground in the Roman era simply because we have more texts to work with from which we can reconstruct belief. But what a text meant at Qumran, among the pharisee tradition, or the later rabbinical tradition is a far step from what it meant to the original author or how the original community would have read it. And of course if the Holy Ghost or God was involved then we have a much thornier problem.

Nephi's exegesis is a very open one in which the text is read typologically as applied to many contexts - various historical political contexts, the context of the ideal eschatological community, the context of the individual and more. To say that Nephi's reading is "an explicit rejection" seems to be problematic in various ways. Did Isaiah mean the text to be read in this open fashion or did he mean it only (as contemporary scholars frequently take it) to describe his surrounding historical context. That question of how open or closed the text one is huge, but it also seems that it is a question that can't be answered from the text of Isaiah. (Particularly when most see little of Isaiah as written by Isaiah - and again once we get into a composite text edited and expanded over 200+ years the very meaning of what Isaiah meant becomes rather tricky)

Put an other way, I think we ought extract the assumptions behind the exegesis of people like Bokovoy and make them rather clear. When he says, "this is what Isaiah meant" what does he mean? Which Isaiah? Which community? And how open or close (i.e. how historically specific) is the text?

Edited by clarkgoble
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3 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Do we know that? 

I agree they hopefully learned from Jesus, but I'm not sure they were as informed as you suggest. Why would a fisherman know Hebrew rather than Aramaic? It's not at all clear to me they all were even literate.

It is not so much "rather than," as both:  If we go with majority scholarly opinion, of course, just ordinary literacy in Aramaic reading would be only about 3-5% in Galilee, and Crossan deems Jesus to have been illiterate (John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, 25-26),* not to mention Hebrew at all.  Which means that stories of Jesus reading Hebrew in a synagogue and then sagely commenting on it are just balderdash.  Emil Schürer and Alan Millard, on the other hand, considered literacy widespread and diffuse in first century Palestine (Schürer. A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ;  Millard, Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus. The Biblical Seminar 69. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001).**  A good place to start for a full discussion is Chris Keith, “Literacy, New Testament,” Oxford Bibliographies, July 24, 2018, online at https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195393361/obo-9780195393361-0177.xml , and DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0177 . 

* Meir Bar-Ilan, “Illiteracy in the Land of Israel in the first centuries c.e.,” Bar Ilan Univ, online at https://faculty.biu.ac.il/~barilm/articles/to_check/illitera.html (less than 3%); Catherine Hezser, “Jewish Literacy and Languages in First-Century Roman Palestine,” Academia.edu, Forthcoming in: Craig Morrison, ed., The Languages of Palestine at the Time of Jesus, Biblica et Orientalia (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 2019), online at https://www.academia.edu/36633693/_Jewish_Literacy_and_Languages_in_First-Century_Roman_Palestine_ .

**  Alan R. Millard, “Literacy in the Time of Jesus,” Biblical Archaeology Review 29/4 (July/August 2003), online at https://www.baslibrary.org/biblical-archaeology-review/29/4/4

3 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Paul definitely was educated and as you note trained under Gamaliel even if in at minimum temperment he seemed more in the Shammai school. He even portrays himself a zealot. (To be fair the Hillel school and the Shammai school shared a lot of foreign policy views even if their tactics differed a great deal)

On the other hand rabbinical exegesis did involve lots of readings that contemporary scholars would call "silly mistakes." So I think one has to be careful here. The rabbinical tradition most likely in play at the time of Paul simply wasn't concerned with "original meaning" the way contemporary scholars worry about. So their style intentionally includes what today we'd call misreadings.  I confess I'd love to have more texts from the early Church particularly dealing with how Peter and Paul or later James and Paul viewed scripture.

By "silly mistakes" I was referring to complete lack of learning.  I did not mean that rabbis and Essenes misread the Holy texts, but rather that their pesher-style or midrashic interpretations were built on very sophisticated traditions.  At this remove, we may smile at their readings and interpretations, just as readers a century hence may smile at our ignorance.  Among scholars, it is relative to the time and place.

3 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

I think it's worth asking whether Nephi's exegesis method was contemporary and common in 6th century Israel. I think though what you point to is a certain ambiguity in what we mean by meaning. In a certain way Biblical scholars are rather caught up in the question of original conscious intent. Secondarily they attempt to ascertain this from the public meaning of a text at a particular historical point. (Itself often highly conjectural) Unfortunately this is often done from a paucity of texts so there's a lot of handwaving for meaning prior to the Hellenistic period - particularly since the purported texts are themselves reconstructed. i.e. the texts are assumed to have undergone heavy redaction and editing which is a very circular theoretical endeavor with again no actual texts to compare with.

Ultimately they're on stronger ground in the Roman era simply because we have more texts to work with from which we can reconstruct belief. But what a text meant at Qumran, among the pharisee tradition, or the later rabbinical tradition is a far step from what it meant to the original author or how the original community would have read it. And of course if the Holy Ghost or God was involved then we have a much thornier problem.

Nephi's exegesis is a very open one in which the text is read typologically as applied to many contexts - various historical political contexts, the context of the ideal eschatological community, the context of the individual and more. To say that Nephi's reading is "an explicit rejection" seems to be problematic in various ways. Did Isaiah mean the text to be read in this open fashion or did he mean it only (as contemporary scholars frequently take it) to describe his surrounding historical context. That question of how open or closed the text one is huge, but it also seems that it is a question that can't be answered from the text of Isaiah. (Particularly when most see little of Isaiah as written by Isaiah - and again once we get into a composite text edited and expanded over 200+ years the very meaning of what Isaiah meant becomes rather tricky)

Put an other way, I think we ought extract the assumptions behind the exegesis of people like Bokovoy and make them rather clear. When he says, "this is what Isaiah meant" what does he mean? Which Isaiah? Which community? And how open or close (i.e. how historically specific) is the text?

Of course.  Moreover, Isaiah is less an individual in that context (although he was certainly a highly literate member of the royal court of King Hezekiah) than the head of a long tradition or "school."  And the wonderful poetry of the prophets leaves their words open to a wide variety of interpretations by later readers.

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Clark:

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Nephi's exegesis is a very open one in which the text is read typologically as applied to many contexts - various historical political contexts, the context of the ideal eschatological community, the context of the individual and more. To say that Nephi's reading is "an explicit rejection" seems to be problematic in various ways. Did Isaiah mean the text to be read in this open fashion or did he mean it only (as contemporary scholars frequently take it) to describe his surrounding historical context. That question of how open or closed the text one is huge, but it also seems that it is a question that can't be answered from the text of Isaiah. (Particularly when most see little of Isaiah as written by Isaiah - and again once we get into a composite text edited and expanded over 200+ years the very meaning of what Isaiah meant becomes rather tricky)

I think you have moved to a tangent - which is interesting - but not really about what I am discussing. Whether or not Isaiah meant for his text to be read in different ways doesn't change the question of whether or not Isaiah could have envisioned the reading that occurs. As I point out, from the other direction, Nephi is quite clear that his reading is foreign to the original audience. Nephi's audience (according to Nephi) does not resemble Isaiah's audience (which is true regardless of which model of Isaihan authorship you accept). And by extension, Nephi also makes the explicit suggestion that he intentionally prevents his audience from getting closer to Isaiah's audience and closing the gap so to speak - this is part of what I detail in the essay that I linked:

Quote

Writers assume a certain amount of knowledge on the part of their audience. Where they believe that this knowledge will not be present, they must provide it. Nephi shows a keen awareness of the necessity of knowledge for understanding. He discusses it with us (his hypothetical audience) when he explains his reasons for his inclusion of Isaiah. In fact, Nephi and Rabinowitz describe this awareness in very similar ways. First Rabinowitz:

    If historically or culturally distant texts are hard to understand, it is often precisely because we do not possess the knowledge required to join the authorial audience.11

Nephi, in similar fashion, tells us this:

    Now I, Nephi, do speak somewhat concerning the words which I have written, which have been spoken by the mouth of Isaiah. For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews. (2 Nephi 25:1)

Nephi describes for us this body of necessary knowledge since without it Isaiah is hard to understand. This situation can be mitigated; Rabinowitz tells us that “even such things as the belief structures of a society must often be ‘explained’ to the reader before he can fully understand the text.”12 And Nephi suggests that his own understanding comes from this sort of experience and learning; he tells us:

    I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews. … but behold, I, of myself, have dwelt at Jerusalem, wherefore I know concerning the regions round about. (2 Nephi 25:6–7)

If Nephi is aware that certain knowledge is necessary to understand Isaiah, and is in possession of that information, then he as an author would be expected to provide that knowledge so that his text too could be understood. Rabinowitz explains that a novel dealing with the political environment of the 1960s might achieve its intended “sense of impending doom only if the reader knows that John F. Kennedy will be assassinated when the events of the novel reach 22 November 1963.” The effect would be lost on an audience unfamiliar with that history, and if the author anticipated this in an audience, he would need to “rewrite the book accordingly.”13 Nephi, on the other hand, while recognizing this issue, takes us in the opposite direction:

    For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; … But behold, I, Nephi, have not taught my children after the manner of the Jews. (2 Nephi 25:2, 6)

My point is that we routinely (whether consciously or not) understand texts within our own experience. We liken scripture unto ourselves in this way. There is nothing wrong with this. Where the problem occurs is when we read a text, understanding it in a certain way informed by all of the things that we bring to the text when we read it, and then make the claim that this is, in fact, exactly what its original author intended when he wrote the text. Very few LDS readers would ever make the distinction that you suggest that it is okay for us to take interpretive liberties with the text because that is what the prophetic author intended for us. Rather, most LDS (at least most that I know) assume that the Book of Mormon has a determinate meaning, that they understand that meaning, and that this is exactly what the book's ancient authors intended for the text to mean. Nephi's writings seem to be cognizant of this issue, and he seems to embrace it in his model of likening scripture.

Ben

Edited by Benjamin McGuire
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