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

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5 hours ago, CV75 said:

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.  

Well, then, perhaps we need a group of supernumerary scholars to assist the Brethren.  We could call them "Assistants to the Twelve."  How does that sound?

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37 minutes ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

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.

While I very much agree with what you say here, I wonder how we can claim a restoration without actually knowing what the original authors intended when they wrote a text?

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37 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Well, then, perhaps we need a group of supernumerary scholars to assist the Brethren.  We could call them "Assistants to the Twelve."  How does that sound?

I don't think they can fix temperament and personality either... but if a GA retains a consultant at his own expense to coordinate a full vetting of his apologetic publications by independent "disciple scholars" I think that would be a wise and responsible thing for the author to do. I see things like the thread's subject book (and talks) as entirely the GA's responsibility, and feedback (preferably sooner than later) on a work that takes this much effort is essential for perfecting a scholarly defense and learning from possible (preferably prevented) mistakes. So I see a role for personal scribes and not necessarily a new ecclesiastical order.

I think the trend for individual/home-based, Church-supported learning will actually help people in authority (Sunday School teachers and GAs), if they are trained and embrace the approach, to take more care in what they share their of their personal insights and understanding, and how.

Edited by CV75
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2 minutes ago, nealr said:

As a matter of fact, Elder Callister did avail himself to scholarly review and feedback before publication. He met with John W. Welch, Matthew Roper, Stephen Smoot, and myself, and we circulated the draft to a few others. He also received review from Kerry Hull, separate from our involvement. Feedback, including critical review of parts we felt needed to be revised or discarded was provided. I was, frankly, impressed with Elder Callister's humility through the whole process as he listened carefully to what we had to say, asked questions, and even sought out further reading material, which we gladly provided. 

As tends to happen, not all our feedback was accepted and incorporated into the final product. We could not (and would not, even if we could) force him to make changes, and if he still felt good about including something after discussing it with us, that was his choice. After all, the book ultimately represents why Tad R. Callister believes the Book of Mormon is true, not why I or anybody else thinks so.

But whatever else might be said about Elder Callister or the book, he cannot rightly be accused of failing to get informed scholarly feedback.

Thanks, Neal.  I stand corrected.

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On 6/14/2019 at 4:15 PM, cinepro said:

GA Tad Callister recently released a book titled "A Case for the Book of Mormon" wherein he tries to make a defensive case for the book.  Part of the book was recently published at LDS Living:

7 Ways the Bible Prophesies of the Book of Mormon

David Bokovoy, a biblical scholar who is familiar to many of us, has taken to his Facebook page to share his thoughts.  I'll post them here for those who are Facebook averse. 

After reading his comments, it occurs to me that LDS leaders might be interpreting certain things in the Bible in way that is biased towards LDS teachings and might not be supported by a more objective reading of the text and context...:ph34r:

As his reply to this OP controversy, my friend David Bokovoy has kindly allowed me to quote another excerpt from his new book forthcoming from Oxford University Press:

Quote

Another way of looking at the appropriation of biblical prophecy in the LDS tradition is that LDS sources actualize prophetic material for the religious community.  This reflects the general use of prophetic texts both within Judaism and within the larger Christian tradition.  Within these traditions, prophetic material is often used creatively to link the past with the present.  This process occurs within the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. . .

Like New Testament authors, Jewish theologians continued this tradition through the production of later texts that adapted and added onto preexisting “biblical” sources. For example, the Dead Sea Scroll community at Qumran produced a type of biblical commentary known as Pesharim that interpreted earlier material in light of the community’s history. Their Pesharim illustrates that Jews living at the time of Jesus were not concerned with identifying the literal, historical meaning of scripture. Instead, they were more interested in producing creative reinterpretation that explained contemporary religious views. Developing out of this same religious environment, early Christian authors adopted and recontextualized prophetic material as messianic prophecies pointing to Jesus.
Another parallel to this process appears in the writings of the first century Jewish historian Josephus. In his twenty volumes of history titled, Jewish Antiquities, Josephus created a new rewritten Bible of sorts by quoting portions of the Septuagint verbatim, and then adding both new material and his own commentary directly to the account.  This same time period produced the Hellenized Jew, Philo of Alexandria, who combined Jewish texts with Platonic philosophy.  Through this effort, Philo created new religious material based upon biblical sources.

This method of using biblical literature (including the prophets) can be seen as similar to the work Joseph Smith performed in creating a new expanded canon based upon the Bible.

This pretty much fits with what I have said in this thread, and David said that he has no problem with my evaluation.

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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This method of using biblical literature (including the prophets) can be seen as similar to the work Joseph Smith performed in creating a new expanded canon based upon the Bible.

This leaves the strong impression that Joseph authored the Book of Mormon, which is of course the only acceptable view in the academic community, but nevertheless extremely unlikely. Rather than appealing to the academic community, Bokovoy would be better served in the long run appealing to God, which is also the accurate approach.

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12 minutes ago, tkv said:

This leaves the strong impression that Joseph authored the Book of Mormon, which is of course the only acceptable view in the academic community, but nevertheless extremely unlikely. Rather than appealing to the academic community, Bokovoy would be better served in the long run appealing to God, which is also the accurate approach.

How do you know he hasn't appealed to God? 

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16 hours ago, nealr said:

As a matter of fact, Elder Callister did avail himself to scholarly review and feedback before publication. He met with John W. Welch, Matthew Roper, Stephen Smoot, and myself.

So which of the four of you had the educational/professional background to provide better criticism of the problems that Bokovoy points to? I don't mean this as a criticism of any of you, but rather this seems indicative of a lot of apologetic "peer review" that largely involves passing something among friends and then publication regardless of whether or not criticisms are addressed.

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4 hours ago, the narrator said:

So which of the four of you had the educational/professional background to provide better criticism of the problems that Bokovoy points to? I don't mean this as a criticism of any of you, but rather this seems indicative of a lot of apologetic "peer review" that largely involves passing something among friends and then publication regardless of whether or not criticisms are addressed.

Welch and Roper are solid scholars. Welch is a Book of Mormon expert (more so than Bokovoy, probably by a long shot). Rappleye and Smoot are just kids--give them time. 

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On 6/17/2019 at 1:54 PM, Benjamin McGuire said:

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.

Well I think my points were central to that latter question. At minimum the question of how open a text is entails certain aspects to envisioning the readings. Even if this conception is perhaps exceedingly vague. But more to the point, it suggests a problem with the tendency of many scholars to want to read a text only in its own time. Now of course there are often reasons for this. Say with Daniel where it seems the historic allusions are pretty direction up until the time of Greek imperialism and then thereafter diverge. I think with Isaiah things are a bit more complicated, even if one points to particular forms of texts as say post-exilic.

The problem becomes what texts did Isaiah produce? What proto-texts did he produce (if any) that were then significantly reworked? It's there that I think things are a bit of a mess.

The other big problem is that even if you index your interpretation to a culture (say contemporary with Isaiah) you have the problem that what a particular individual believes isn't determined by what the typical reading in that culture would take a text as implying. Put an other way, as a practical matter we can say very little about Isaiah's beliefs or how he read his own texts. (And in many cases even what his own texts were)  While one might say that means any claim of Isaiah's intents are wrong (whether by a scholar or a relatively uneducated popularizer) the other approach is to raise the possibilities of what Isaiah thought and simply recognize we should treat them with some skepticism. That, effectively, is what scholars giving exegesis of Isaiah are doing. I'm not entirely convinced it's wrong to allow for the possibility of Isaiah having more insight than the typical scholar is apt to give him. (Again here noting the differences in interpretation between more secular and more conservative scholars here even within academics)

On 6/17/2019 at 1:54 PM, Benjamin McGuire said:

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:

I think that's a bit more complicated than you make out. (At least in this thread and in the linked to Interpreter article - I'll confess I don't remember all your positions from other threads)

Going to the Interpreter paper you're primarily focused on narrative theory. As you note with your discussion of 2 Nephi 25:6–7, Nephi is familiar with a semiotic code for reading the texts of Isaiah. It's not necessarily the case that this code was known and used by Isaiah, although it's certainly a possibility. It definitely appears to have been a code used for exegesis in the community in Jerusalem that Nephi (and presumably Lehi) were a part. You suggest that Nephi is doing something novel here in his reading. However a quite reasonable, and I'd argue more likely, take is that Nephi is engaging in a pesher (interpretive translation) to explain Isaiah to his actual audience (in the sense of Rabinowitz in your discussion).

Now things are a bit more complicated since whatever process produced the English text is itself partially a pesher but also a very loose translation parasitic on the KJV text and possibly 19th century theological phrases. That is the text in the English translation was undoubtedly significantly transformed. But to keep things simple we'll bracket that issue.

Getting back to the main issue, you assume that when Nephi "did liken all scriptures unto us" that this is a novel interpretive strategy. A kind of pure utility reading. I'm not at all convinced that's what Nephi means although it's certainly a possibility. An other possibility you didn't address in your paper is that the interpretive code Nephi was familiar with entailed a typological reading that of necessity included applying the types to the individual. That's what Nephi does applying the prophecies of salvation from Assyria and Babylon to the individuals' spiritual salvation. The Kings of these nations typologically become the devil and his armies acting on an individual level both in terms of ones immediate spirituality as well as ones cosmological travel from birth to judgment. One can read this as Nephi doing a creative interpretive dance with the text - an extreme deconstruction. Or one can read this as Nephi merely applying the "learning of the Jews" and applying some hermeneutic rules he'd been raised with.

When you say, "Nephi is quite clear that his reading is foreign to the original audience" I just find myself quite skeptical.

Now there are some obvious counter-arguments here particularly for the relatively complex cosmology of the devil. Many see that as primarily due to Persian influence upon Judaism and anachronistic of the Book of Mormon. Some apologists defend this by suggesting this is a novel theology by Nephi. I'm more skeptical. First off there are some elements we can find in Canaanite pantheons and myths. (Mot, Leviathan, etc.) However the closer parallels are Egyptian. Again speculative I admit, but we know Nephi's religion is somewhat at odds with Josiah's reforms and there are many indications of contact with Egypt. Of course if this is a reading of Isaiah that arises from whatever variant of Judaism Lehi was a part, that doesn't entail that Isaiah was. However it at minimum shapes how to view the pre-exilic hermeneutics of Isaiah. (Again acknowledging the problem of the nature of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon translation and its transfiguration due to the influence of the KJV text that likely changed the text Nephi was dealing with)

On 6/17/2019 at 1:54 PM, Benjamin McGuire said:

My point is that we routinely (whether consciously or not) understand texts within our own experience. We liken scripture unto ourselves in this way.

We of course can't escape our starting from our own experiences. Even contemporary scholars publishing in peer reviewed journals are ultimately doing that. The question is always what experiences? To assume we read only from our regular day to day life experiences is of course false. Scholars are reading from a set of experiences that include study of history and a certain hermeneutic approach to history and more particularly texts.

It's certainly the case that what gets called "fundamentalism" or "literalism" assumes the author reads the text the way their naive historical engagement with the text does. But that seems a bit of a tangent. No one here is defending that view. (I've no idea how often Callister falls prey to that having not read his book - but I'd certainly acknowledge it as a problem) Assuming that this is what Nephi is doing seems deeply problematic to me. Certainly he's interpreting out of his experience - but without knowing what that experience is I'm not sure we can say too much. I rather doubt he is engaging with a naive hermeneutic of the type characteristic of most naive readings. If only because he espouses knowledge of this learning of the Jews suggesting he'd been educated in a particular class of exegetical rules. The semiotic code with which he reads Isaiah. 

On 6/17/2019 at 1:53 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

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.

More or less all I mean is that what a text means brings with it a lot of presuppositions. When someone says what Isaiah means that in turns carries with it certain assumptions about what the question even means. Assumptions a scribe in Roman Palestine or Egypt would undoubtedly not share with contemporary scholars. Fundamentally they are asking different questions.

Edited by clarkgoble

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2 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

.........................The problem becomes what texts did Isaiah produce? What proto-texts did he produce (if any) that were then significantly reworked? It's there that I think things are a bit of a mess.

.................Going to the Interpreter paper you're primarily focused on narrative theory. As you note with your discussion of 2 Nephi 25:6–7, Nephi is familiar with a semiotic code for reading the texts of Isaiah. It's not necessarily the case that this code was known and used by Isaiah, although it's certainly a possibility. It definitely appears to have been a code used for exegesis in the community in Jerusalem that Nephi (and presumably Lehi) were a part. You suggest that Nephi is doing something novel here in his reading. However a quite reasonable, and I'd argue more likely, take is that Nephi is engaging in a pesher (interpretive translation) to explain Isaiah to his actual audience (in the sense of Rabinowitz in your discussion).

Now things are a bit more complicated since whatever process produced the English text is itself partially a pesher but also a very loose translation parasitic on the KJV text and possibly 19th century theological phrases. ................................

We have to go back at least to Early Modern English phrases.

2 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Getting back to the main issue, you assume that when Nephi "did liken all scriptures unto us" that this is a novel interpretive strategy. A kind of pure utility reading. I'm not at all convinced that's what Nephi means although it's certainly a possibility. An other possibility you didn't address in your paper is that the interpretive code Nephi was familiar with entailed a typological reading that of necessity included applying the types to the individual. That's what Nephi does applying the prophecies of salvation from Assyria and Babylon to the individuals' spiritual salvation. The Kings of these nations typologically become the devil and his armies acting on an individual level both in terms of ones immediate spirituality as well as ones cosmological travel from birth to judgment. One can read this as Nephi doing a creative interpretive dance with the text - an extreme deconstruction. Or one can read this as Nephi merely applying the "learning of the Jews" and applying some hermeneutic rules he'd been raised with.

Typology is of prime importance.  As Jesus  himself said in John 3:13-14 (New Jerusalem Bible ),

"As Moses lifted up the Snake in the desert,
So must the Son of Man be lifted up,
So that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him." 

Christ on the Cross is here the antitype based on the type in Numbers 21:8, and Moses need not have been aware of that deeper meaning of his Bronze Serpent (Neḥushtan) which he lifted up so that believing Israelites might see it and be cured of the bites of fiery serpents (Numbers 21:6-9, Deuteronomy 8:15, Wisdom of Solomon 16:5-7; 1 Nephi 17:41, 2 Nephi 16:2-7, 24:29, 25:20, Alma 33:19-22, Helaman 8:14-15), and the antitype is Jesus being lifted up on the Cross that all who believe on him might have eternal life (John 8:28).  Hebrew saraf "fiery" = Isaiah 6:2-6, 14:29,30:6 seraf, a kind of winged serpent or dragon (2 Nephi 16:2-6, 24:29). 

As Northrop Frye comments:

Quote

This typological way of reading the Bible is indicated too often and explicitly in the New Testament itself for us to be in any doubt that this is the "right" way of reading it -- "right" in the only sense that criticism can recognize, as the way that conforms to the intentionality of the book itself and to the conventions it assumes and requires.  Frye, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981/1982), 79-80.

If the Holy Spirit confirms to someone that this is indeed the meaning intended even at the time when Moses lifted up Nehushtan, then that is really the end of the discussion.  Indeed, Jesus revels in claiming direct fulfillment of a host of OT prophecies.  How would a secular scholar know that?  He couldn't.  Not without the Holy Spirit.,

2 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

.............................. there are some elements we can find in Canaanite pantheons and myths. (Mot, Leviathan, etc.) However the closer parallels are Egyptian. Again speculative I admit, but we know Nephi's religion is somewhat at odds with Josiah's reforms and there are many indications of contact with Egypt. Of course if this is a reading of Isaiah that arises from whatever variant of Judaism Lehi was a part, that doesn't entail that Isaiah was. However it at minimum shapes how to view the pre-exilic hermeneutics of Isaiah. ............. Scholars are reading from a set of experiences that include study of history and a certain hermeneutic approach to history and more particularly texts.

.................................. he espouses knowledge of this learning of the Jews suggesting he'd been educated in a particular class of exegetical rules. The semiotic code with which he reads Isaiah. 

Thus, when reading about unquenchable fire in Isaiah 66:24 (which is not in the BofM) and its citation by Jesus in Mark 9:46,48, one has to ask about its application to the OT concept of She'ol, to which it seems alien.  Yet the BofM is explicit in adopting an Egyptian concept of Hell Fire -- 2 Nephi 9:16,19,26, Jacob 3:11, 6:10, Mosiah 3:27, Alma 12:17, 14:14 -- and even the strongly Egyptian notion of a Final Judgment (Book of the Dead,  spell 125).

See Book of Mormon Central, “Why Does Jacob Choose a ‘Monster’ as a Symbol or Death and Hell? (2 Nephi 9:10),” KnoWhy #34, Feb 16, 2016, online at https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/why-does-jacob-choose-a-“monster”-as-a-symbol-for-death-and-hell

Book of Mormon Central, “Why Does the Book of Mormon Warn that a Lake of Fire and Brimstone Awaits Sinners in the Afterlife? (2 Nephi 9:16),” KnoWhy #446, July 3, 2018, online at https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/why-does-the-book-of-mormon-warn-that-a-lake-of-fire-and-brimstone-awaits-sinners-in-the

2 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

More or less all I mean is that what a text means brings with it a lot of presuppositions. When someone says what Isaiah means that in turns carries with it certain assumptions about what the question even means. Assumptions a scribe in Roman Palestine or Egypt would undoubtedly not share with contemporary scholars. Fundamentally they are asking different questions.

There is also the possible esoteric nature of Isaiah, which the ordinary reader might miss:  Michael Golder says that the eight sections of Isaiah correspond to the annual festival sequence in the Psalms.[1]  It is also asserted that Joel, Nahum, and Habakkuk are cultic, liturgical, ceremonial poetry.[2]  What is it that we might be missing?

[1] Michael Golder, Isaiah as Liturgy (Ashgate Publ., 2004).

[2] Cf. the chiastic Babylonian (Seleucid) temple rites in Pritchard, ANET 3rd ed., 331-342, discussed by Shea, Origins, 5:9-38 (Joel arranged as prose - poetic ritual - prose).

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Clark writes:

Quote

The problem becomes what texts did Isaiah produce? What proto-texts did he produce (if any) that were then significantly reworked? It's there that I think things are a bit of a mess.

I would agree with this. I think for all intents and purposes that we can isolate Nephi's experience of the Isaiah material he had from whatever the historical antecedent was. Unless we want to get bogged down in the debate over meaning and how texts acquire meaning, and who owns that meaning so to speak, it's not an issue. I accept the idea that authors write to audiences, and the assumptions that authors have about their audiences influence what they write. At the same time, when we get to Nephi, all of the same issues apply to Nephi as apply to us (or to Nephi's descendants) when we talk about reading Isaiah. Would you agree that Nephi understood the text that he had as a text written by Nephi, and not the text that we look at as a composite work? In any case, you also note this

Quote

However a quite reasonable, and I'd argue more likely, take is that Nephi is engaging in a pesher (interpretive translation) to explain Isaiah to his actual audience (in the sense of Rabinowitz in your discussion).

And as I point out, I don't think Nephi is engaging in a pesher on Isaiah. Because he isn't explaining Isaiah (at least not in the parts that I deal with in my essay). Rather, he starts with his own prophecy, quotes his own material, and then uses Isaiah as a commentary on his own text. In otherwords, rather than Nephi's material becoming a pesher on Isaiah, Isaiah becomes a pesher for Nephi's material. It is possible that it is the other way around, but the structure in the parts I deal with don't really follow this line of thinking. In any case, either because he uses his own prophecy to interpret Isaiah, or because he uses Isaiah to interpret his own prophecy, the necessary part of this (Nephi's prophecy) would be unavailable to Isaiah's (even as a composite work) audience. And the conclusion is that those readers of Isaiah who have no knowledge of Nephi or Nephi's prophetic statements could not have understood the Isaiah material in the way that Nephi is presenting it to his people. They could not have come up with the same pesher (if it is a pesher). Nephi's use of Isaiah is more cannibalistic than merely interpretive. He completely recontextualizes it. And this is why I can say with some personal certainty that Nephi's reading would be foreign to the original audience of Isaiah (this is different from saying that the way of reusing the Isaiah material would have been foreign).

And finally -

Quote

It's certainly the case that what gets called "fundamentalism" or "literalism" assumes the author reads the text the way their naive historical engagement with the text does. But that seems a bit of a tangent. No one here is defending that view. (I've no idea how often Callister falls prey to that having not read his book - but I'd certainly acknowledge it as a problem)

And the part from the OP quote from Bokovoy:

Quote

As is well known, the word Ariel is a poetic name for Jerusalem. But in Hebrew, the term also means “altar hearth.” Callister recognizes the fact that this constitutes a judgment speech against Jerusalem. And for Callister, the prophetic connection with the BofM is established in verse two which refers to a people “like Ariel” who will experience a siege similar to the one Jerusalem endured. Thus, according to Elder Callister, this reference to a people “like Ariel/Jerusalem” refers to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon.

There certainly has been some support for this idea in this thread (even if most of the participants don't support it). I was merely trying to phrase the issue in a different way. How many of the first readers of Isaiah (prior to Nephi) would have been able to understand Isaiah in the way that Callister does?

Ben M.

Edited by Benjamin McGuire

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Robert F. Smith writes:

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We have to go back at least to Early Modern English phrases. 

Language is not broken into such discrete slices as Skousen suggests that it is.

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17 hours ago, Bede said:

Welch and Roper are solid scholars. Welch is a Book of Mormon expert (more so than Bokovoy, probably by a long shot). Rappleye and Smoot are just kids--give them time. 

My point isn't whether or not they are scholars, it is whether they have the particular expertise required to make critical recommendations. On that, I would say Smoot is probably the most-qualified among the four, though even there his background and training is not in the Bible.

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On 6/17/2019 at 5:17 PM, nealr said:

As a matter of fact, Elder Callister did avail himself to scholarly review and feedback before publication. He met with John W. Welch, Matthew Roper, Stephen Smoot, and myself, and we circulated the draft to a few others. He also received review from Kerry Hull, separate from our involvement. 

It doesn't appear to me that any of the scholars you mention, are qualified to comment on the type of issues Bokovoy has mentioned is likely referring to when he says "There is simply no way to sustain Elder Callister's reading that the text refers to a people who will be destroyed like Ariel/Jerusalem. And we can do the same thing with every single example he provides of the Book of Mormon fulfilling biblical prophecy. "

That's quite an indictment if you think about it.  In every single example he provides, Bokovoy is saying there is simply no way to sustain his reading.  If you all availed yourself, one must wonder how they were all missed.  

With that said, and before I give off the entire wrong impression, I'm certain there are scholarly perspectives that each of you were able to contribute to his work.  of course, none of those contributions, it seems, really address the issue and further issues that Bokovoy is himself addressing.  

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22 hours ago, the narrator said:

So which of the four of you had the educational/professional background to provide better criticism of the problems that Bokovoy points to? I don't mean this as a criticism of any of you, but rather this seems indicative of a lot of apologetic "peer review" that largely involves passing something among friends and then publication regardless of whether or not criticisms are addressed.

Well I jumped the gun.  I see the point I wanted to raise was already raised.  Well stated, narrator.  

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3 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

Unless we want to get bogged down in the debate over meaning and how texts acquire meaning, and who owns that meaning so to speak, it's not an issue. I accept the idea that authors write to audiences, and the assumptions that authors have about their audiences influence what they write.

Right and one of my objections comes down to saying the above is unavoidable. While assumptions about audience shape what an author writes, the author has at best imperfect knowledge of their audience. Throw in the composite author issue and things get unavoidably complex.

3 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

And as I point out, I don't think Nephi is engaging in a pesher on Isaiah. Because he isn't explaining Isaiah (at least not in the parts that I deal with in my essay). Rather, he starts with his own prophecy, quotes his own material, and then uses Isaiah as a commentary on his own text. In otherwords, rather than Nephi's material becoming a pesher on Isaiah, Isaiah becomes a pesher for Nephi's material.

Well there's a lot of Isaiah in there particularly in 2 Nephi. There we have expansions in the Isaiah texts quoted. We can interpret those as a variant underlying text Nephi has access to, a pesher by Nephi, or even pesher or midrash like changes during the translation to English. (And since I think the English text is typically a paraphrase of the underlying text I think that unavoidable)

There's certainly an element of prooftexting (broadly construed) in Nephi. Whether that supporting function means extensive divorcing of the text from its meaning in the text Nephi has seems much more complicated a question. I think the pesher passages along with Nephi's stated comments about hermeneutics as well as that typological aspect to the text suggests it's more complicated.

If you're interested I'd love to get into the nitty gritty, although I'll also fully admit my limits here. I'm not even a Hebrew speaker. My points are less about particular exegesis than more general semiotic problems to the text. But it does seem to me that many of these elements are high level enough in the text that exegetical nuance won't come into play in too problematic a fashion.

3 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

And the conclusion is that those readers of Isaiah who have no knowledge of Nephi or Nephi's prophetic statements could not have understood the Isaiah material in the way that Nephi is presenting it to his people.

Well one can accept that claim without accepting the basis for why you are making that claim. I think Nephi's audience is ignorant for sure. They're largely unable to read Isaiah and get anything out of it. I don't think that entails Nephi cannibalize the text for a deeply acontextual use. (Again here going by Nephi's own purported hermeneutic training and not making a claim of whether that entails Isaiah(s) held to the same hermeneutic processes)

3 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

And the part from the OP quote from Bokovoy:

Again just to be clear, I've not read Callister so I'm just not commenting on that. I don't know his argument here at all. I'm more referring to Bokovoy's later broad claim: 

"In reality, biblical prophetic texts are not predictions of the LDS movement. The biblical prophets were not fortune-tellers. Instead, they were highly perceptive political and social critics concerned with everyday problems that affected their own time and community. "

That just seems unsupportable although I fully agree it is a typical assumption of contemporary scholars in the field - particularly more secular ones. At best one could argue that there's no unambiguous prophecy in the Old Testament suggesting that any portrayal of such is a result of textual modification. They would then make an argument from silence after saying that.

Edited by clarkgoble

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7 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Typology is of prime importance. 

I agree, although it is also frequently heavily neglected - particularly the type of typological reading Nephi and Jacob engage in.

7 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Christ on the Cross is here the antitype based on the type in Numbers 21:8, and Moses need not have been aware of that deeper meaning of his Bronze Serpent (Neḥushtan) which he lifted up so that believing Israelites might see it and be cured of the bites of fiery serpents (Numbers 21:6-9, Deuteronomy 8:15, Wisdom of Solomon 16:5-7; 1 Nephi 17:41, 2 Nephi 16:2-7, 24:29, 25:20, Alma 33:19-22, Helaman 8:14-15), and the antitype is Jesus being lifted up on the Cross that all who believe on him might have eternal life (John 8:28).  Hebrew saraf "fiery" = Isaiah 6:2-6, 14:29,30:6 seraf, a kind of winged serpent or dragon (2 Nephi 16:2-6, 24:29). 

 

The nature of Moses' religion is a mystery. The place of the bronze snake is something scholars simply don't agree upon with a wide range of interpretations given. It seems clear the underlying texts and narratives have been heavily redacted and edited to fit what post-exilic priests wanted to defend. My guess is that Moses' type of Judaism was radically different in many ways from what we have in the Hellenistic period.

Given that, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out the symbols of Mosaic religion were fairly different and perhaps more full. Certainly that's what the Book of Mormon portrays. Is Moses' rod more akin to the Rod of Asclepius? Or the Sumerian Ningishzida? Or is it tied more to Apophis or some localized syncretic form of Egyptian-Canaanite religion? Hard to know.  It's hard to make the type/anti-type type of analysis without having that knowledge (IMO). I rather like the idea that it was tied to Apophis with evil's origin being tied to Ra's birth. That in turn seems to have a bit of an echo of our own cosmology of the war in heaven. We know that at least some rites involved creating an effigy of Apophis to ward him off. It could be that the raising of the serpent was symbolic more akin to a scape goat originally and that the serpent, rather than being a type of Christ directly represented Christ's conquest of the scape goat.  It's a repetition in a way of the battle of chaos or YHWH over the Leviathan.

Later, as the texts get redacted the origins get lost so the symbols get transfigured. 

But who knows. This to me points directly at the problem of the semiotics. We don't even know what the pre-exilic texts were and we know the texts were being transformed by the Deuteronomist and Priestly traditions.

7 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Indeed, Jesus revels in claiming direct fulfillment of a host of OT prophecies.  How would a secular scholar know that?  He couldn't.  Not without the Holy Spirit.,

Exactly!

7 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Thus, when reading about unquenchable fire in Isaiah 66:24 (which is not in the BofM) and its citation by Jesus in Mark 9:46,48, one has to ask about its application to the OT concept of She'ol, to which it seems alien.  Yet the BofM is explicit in adopting an Egyptian concept of Hell Fire -- 2 Nephi 9:16,19,26, Jacob 3:11, 6:10, Mosiah 3:27, Alma 12:17, 14:14 -- and even the strongly Egyptian notion of a Final Judgment (Book of the Dead,  spell 125).

I also fully agree. Jesus is in a tricky spot. Of course we don't know how much the veil of forgetfulness had thinned for him. (One can make compelling arguments either way) If there actually were prophecies of him that had been distorted, how should he react? Is he doing illegitimate proof text? Or is he more using texts in a legalistic fashion that's completely acceptable within his tradition. This gets at the point of the open text I raised with Ben. It's not even clear the scholars are asking the same questions or engaging in the same types of hermeneutics here as Jesus is.

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3 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

Language is not broken into such discrete slices as Skousen suggests that it is.

What do you mean?

2 hours ago, stemelbow said:

It doesn't appear to me that any of the scholars you mention, are qualified to comment on the type of issues Bokovoy has mentioned is likely referring to when he says "There is simply no way to sustain Elder Callister's reading that the text refers to a people who will be destroyed like Ariel/Jerusalem. And we can do the same thing with every single example he provides of the Book of Mormon fulfilling biblical prophecy. "

Again we need to be careful in asking what type of hermeneutics are acceptable in reading the text. 

Beyond that though it's hard to see Smoot not having the necessary background here. At minimum he's a Hebrew reader familiar with the text. Even if he might not be familiar with the particular passages and their debate, he has the background to be able to look them up and critique Callister in terms of that. For the rest I'd assume they don't have the skill, although they may well have been critiquing other aspects of the text. Again I've not read Callister, but I assume he's doing more than just Isaiah exegesis.

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Posted (edited)

(Double Post -- sorry)

Edited by clarkgoble

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54 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

I agree, although it is also frequently heavily neglected - particularly the type of typological reading Nephi and Jacob engage in.

 

The nature of Moses' religion is a mystery. The place of the bronze snake is something scholars simply don't agree upon with a wide range of interpretations given. It seems clear the underlying texts and narratives have been heavily redacted and edited to fit what post-exilic priests wanted to defend. My guess is that Moses' type of Judaism was radically different in many ways from what we have in the Hellenistic period.

Given that, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out the symbols of Mosaic religion were fairly different and perhaps more full. Certainly that's what the Book of Mormon portrays. Is Moses' rod more akin to the Rod of Asclepius? Or the Sumerian Ningishzida? Or is it tied more to Apophis or some localized syncretic form of Egyptian-Canaanite religion? Hard to know.  It's hard to make the type/anti-type type of analysis without having that knowledge (IMO). I rather like the idea that it was tied to Apophis with evil's origin being tied to Ra's birth. That in turn seems to have a bit of an echo of our own cosmology of the war in heaven. We know that at least some rites involved creating an effigy of Apophis to ward him off. It could be that the raising of the serpent was symbolic more akin to a scape goat originally and that the serpent, rather than being a type of Christ directly represented Christ's conquest of the scape goat.  It's a repetition in a way of the battle of chaos or YHWH over the Leviathan.

Later, as the texts get redacted the origins get lost so the symbols get transfigured. 

But who knows. This to me points directly at the problem of the semiotics. We don't even know what the pre-exilic texts were and we know the texts were being transformed by the Deuteronomist and Priestly traditions.

Exactly!

I also fully agree. Jesus is in a tricky spot. Of course we don't know how much the veil of forgetfulness had thinned for him. (One can make compelling arguments either way) If there actually were prophecies of him that had been distorted, how should he react? Is he doing illegitimate proof text? Or is he more using texts in a legalistic fashion that's completely acceptable within his tradition. This gets at the point of the open text I raised with Ben. It's not even clear the scholars are asking the same questions or engaging in the same types of hermeneutics here as Jesus is.

From an early age, I think it dawned on Him that He was different, had a peculiar self-image and was treated so very differently in His schooling (Luke 2:46-49) that it was fairly natural for Him to draw these conclusions from the text by virtue of His holy bias.

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On 6/18/2019 at 10:10 AM, the narrator said:

So which of the four of you had the educational/professional background to provide better criticism of the problems that Bokovoy points to? I don't mean this as a criticism of any of you, but rather this seems indicative of a lot of apologetic "peer review" that largely involves passing something among friends and then publication regardless of whether or not criticisms are addressed.

 

What does that have to do with anything? Did I say any of us were better qualified than Bokovoy on this issue? I was correcting Robert's mistaken assertion that Elder Callister did not have anyone look at it. That's it. I didn't say we were better than Bokovoy. I did not even say we disagreed with Bokovoy, though you seem to be assuming we did.

I have no doubt that if you really want to go line-by-line through Callister's book, you could find a whole host of individuals who might be better equipped to give feedback on individual topics. But I am entirely confident that those of us who were consulted were entirely capable of providing adequate feedback on the gamut of issues Callister discusses in his book, including the topic of Isaiah 29. I'll stress again, that we were candid about our criticisms and things we thought need to be changed or removed. As tends to happen, not all our recommendations were followed. That was Callister's prerogative. Folks who were not involved would do well not to make assumptions about things they simply have no knowledge of.

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8 hours ago, the narrator said:

My point isn't whether or not they are scholars, it is whether they have the particular expertise required to make critical recommendations. On that, I would say Smoot is probably the most-qualified among the four, though even there his background and training is not in the Bible.

Were you this concerned about Welch's particular expertise when you had him write the foreword of Bokovoy's book, Authoring the Old Testament?

Welch has more relevant expertise than you seem to think. His actual academic training may not be in biblical studies, but he's spent decades involved in the field at places like SBL, and he has a decent smattering of publications in non-LDS biblical studies venues (more than Bokovoy has, to my knowledge, though I'll admit I may not be aware of all of Bokovoy's more recent publications). I know I've randomly happened upon citations to Welch's work in non-LDS publications much more frequently than I have to Bokovoy, and I've been in the room with big name biblical scholars who had good things to say about him. And Welch was the co-editor of a volume on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, which included an essay on Isaiah 29 in the Book of Mormon--an essay folks might want to get familiar with before assuming things about what kind of feedback we "apologists" might have given to Elder Callister. 

I'd think all that constitutes at least some sort of relevant "professional" experience, no? I am not saying Welch is better qualified than Bokovoy, but I would suggest you aren't really giving Welch enough credit. 

Edited by nealr
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8 hours ago, stemelbow said:

It doesn't appear to me that any of the scholars you mention, are qualified to comment on the type of issues Bokovoy has mentioned is likely referring to when he says "There is simply no way to sustain Elder Callister's reading that the text refers to a people who will be destroyed like Ariel/Jerusalem. And we can do the same thing with every single example he provides of the Book of Mormon fulfilling biblical prophecy. "

That's quite an indictment if you think about it.  In every single example he provides, Bokovoy is saying there is simply no way to sustain his reading.  If you all availed yourself, one must wonder how they were all missed.  

With that said, and before I give off the entire wrong impression, I'm certain there are scholarly perspectives that each of you were able to contribute to his work.  of course, none of those contributions, it seems, really address the issue and further issues that Bokovoy is himself addressing.  

As I already said to the narrator, I never claimed were better qualified than Bokovoy on this issue. I'll also say again, not all our feedback was incorporated. I am not going to go into details about what we disagreed with, but I'd suggest not assuming you know what we did or did not tell him about Isaiah 29.

Honestly, at the end of the day, I really don't care if people think Elder Callister should have gotten feedback more better people than us or whatever. I was simply correcting the assertion that Elder Callister didn't have any scholars at all. If people really want to believe we are just apologetic hacks who weren't really qualified to give Elder Callister good advice, that's y'alls prerogative.

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