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  1. What they're pointing out is that the points of contact with Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Acts suggest that the Longer Ending was composed after those works began to circulate together—i.e., in the second century. As Darrell Bock puts it, "That the traditional longer version (16:9–20) contains mostly a combination of the other Gospels’ endings . . . suggests its secondary character" (Bock, 386). For example, Mark 16:12 ("After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking back into the country") seems to presuppose familiarity with Luke's Emmaus account. This suggests that "the verses were probably written at the beginning of the second century" (Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel according to Saint Mark [Black’s New Testament Commentary; London: Continuum, 1991], 389). Anyway, we seem to be the last two people in the thread arguing about a relatively minor point, so it's probably time to move on. If you want to believe that the Longer Ending is derived from traditional material independent of the Gospels, go for it. I'm just pointing out that most NT scholars disagree with that position. Those are commentaries I own, most of which are in digital form (via Logos Bible Software). Addendum: Raymond Brown, one of the greatest NT scholars of the last half of the 20th century, had this to say about the Longer Ending: "The material resembles resurrection accounts found in Matt and Luke-Acts (and perhaps in John [for Mary Magdalene]), but whether the copyist who composed it drew directly from those Gospels or simply from similar traditions is uncertain" (Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament [New York: Doubleday, 1997], 148n58). I was holding that back because it didn't help my case, but there it is. You're in good company.
  2. Sure, there are people out there who think it's possible that the author of the Longer Ending could have used oral tradition. But this generally requires backdating it into the first century, as Yang does here. Notice that Yang doesn't actually engage any of the evidence for a second-century date. He simply declares that he thinks "it cannot be guaranteed whether the LE's author really knew the four gospels and composed the LE by using them; it is possible that he might have used other (oral) traditions that other gospel authors used in order to recount their Appearance story." Well, yes, that's true. It's not guaranteed that the Longer Ending was composed in the second century. But that's where the preponderance of evidence points: "Perhaps part of a longer work something like a gospel harmony, Mark 16:9–20 was very likely composed in the second century C.E. and was attached to Mark’s Gospel by someone who thought the text needed a better ending, especially in light of the promises about a resurrection appearance in Galilee in Mark 14:28 and 16:7. A major theme in the first part of the Longer Ending is the disbelief shown by the Eleven regarding the reports about appearances of the risen Jesus (see 16:11, 13, 14). The third section (16:14–18) is noteworthy for the risen Jesus’ discourse about proclaiming the gospel to 'every creature' (or, 'all creation'), his insistence on faith and baptism as necessary for salvation, and the list of 'signs' that will accompany those who believe: exorcisms (see Mark 6:7, 13), speaking in new tongues (Acts 2:6; 1 Cor 14:2–5), handling serpents (Acts 28:3–5), drinking poison without harm (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39), and healing through the imposition of hands (Mark 6:13; Jas 5:14–15)" (John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Mark [Sacra Pagina 2; Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002], 463). "The parts of the Longer Ending not accounted for in this list are those which go beyond the resurrection appearances as such to describe the subsequent preaching and activity of the church. Thus in v. 16 we have a summary of a basic baptismal soteriology, which has the flavour of Johannine dualism (and possibly draws on the baptism element in Mt. 28:19–20), in vv. 17–18 some of the ‘signs’ which are related in Acts are summarised, and v. 20 is virtually a summary of the whole book of Acts in a nutshell. In the whole of the Longer Ending the only element which is not easily accounted for on the basis of familiarity with the other gospels and Acts is the emphasis in v. 18 on handling poisonous snakes and drinking poison: the former perhaps reflects the single instance of (involuntary) snake-handling in Acts 28:3–6, but the expectation of these two activities as regular ‘signs’ is the one distinctive contribution which the Longer Ending makes. In all other respects vv. 9–20 have something of a ‘secondhand’ flavour, and look like a pastiche of elements drawn from the other gospels and Acts. . . . For these reasons, the almost unanimous conclusion of modern scholarship is that both the Shorter and Longer Endings, in their different ways, represent well-meaning attempts, probably sometime in the second century, to fill the perceived gap left by the ‘unfinished’ ending at 16:8, in the case of the Longer Ending by drawing eclectically on what had by then become the familiar traditions of the post-apostolic church" (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text [New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 2002], 686–687). "Like the shorter (additional) ending, the longer ending was appended to Mark because 16:8 seemed to be a deficient conclusion in comparison with those of Matthew, Luke, and John. It was composed by the adaptation of ideas and motifs from Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Acts. It affirms that one of the three women who discovered the empty tomb, Mary of Magdala, also received an appearance of the risen Jesus. It is perhaps implied that it was this appearance that enabled her to overcome her fear and report to the disciples. The first appearance account (vv. 9–11) is a partial harmonization of (extended) Mark with John 20. In both texts, Mary is the first one to see the risen Lord. Unlike the longer ending, John 20:8 speaks about the belief of 'the other disciple' (ὁ ἄλλος μαθητής), although the statement in v. 9 qualifies his belief. The second appearance account (vv. 12–13) is, in effect, a partial harmonization of Mark with Luke, since it summarizes the story of the appearance at Emmaus in Luke 24:13–35. The third appearance account is the most distinctive, although it also had its literary models. It harmonizes Mark with Matthew, Luke, and John insofar as it, like them, presents an appearance of the risen Jesus to the eleven remaining disciples of the inner circle" (Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark: A Commentary on the Gospel of Mark [Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007], 817–818). "Overall, 16:9–20 gives the impression of being a compressed digest of resurrection appearances narrated in other Gospels (John 20:14–18; Luke 24:13–43; John 20:27–29; Matt 28:18–20; Luke 24:50–51; Acts 1:9–11). Theoretically, to be sure, the resurrection narratives in the other Gospels could be expansions of the notices in Mark 16:9–20. But Mark is generally more detailed than Matthew and Luke in the passages that all three share. By contrast, the narratives in 16:9–20 are sketchy, and at least one of them, the story of the appearance to two travelers 'in another form' (Mark 16:12–13), is so compressed that it would not make sense to readers who did not know Luke's Emmaus story (Luke 24:13–35)" (Joel Marcus, Mark 8–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary [Anchor Yale Bible 27A; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009], 1090). "The longer text of 16:9–20 looks mostly like a summary of the ends of the other Gospels. It has an appearance to Mary Magdalene, who, when she tells the story, is not believed (vv 9–11). This echoes John 20:11–18 and Luke 24:11. Jesus appears to two as they travel to the country, and when they return, they are not believed (vv 12–13). This looks like an allusion to the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13–35), but with a different end. Appearing to the eleven, he rebukes them for their lack of faith and gives them a commission to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He notes that signs will accompany their message (vv 14–18). This echoes Luke 24:38–41 and/or John 20:19, 26. The commission is a variation on Matthew’s commission in Matt 28:19–20. The remarks on salvation are like John 3:18 and 36. The mention of tongues points to Acts 2:4, 10:46, whereas serpents and poison look like Acts 28:3–5. The laying on of hands for the sick parallels Acts 9:17 and 28:8. Then Jesus is taken up into heaven to sit at God’s right hand (v 19). This is an allusion to Acts 1:9–11 and the Peter’s speech context at Acts 2:32–36" (Darrell Bock, Mark [New Cambridge Biblical Commentary; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015], 382–383).
  3. Unfortunately, that PDF isn't the whole book (I wish!). But quite a bit of it is available on Google Books.
  4. Thanks for this. I hadn't heard of Guelaguetza before. I probably should have included the rest of Brant Gardner's discussion. Here is his full comment: Gardner's qualifier, "in the same sense that we see in the New Testament," is important here. I assume he wouldn't disagree with your comments.
  5. Kelhoffer's book is 530 pages long, with over half of it dedicated to attempting to reconstruct the Sitz im Leben of Mark 16:17–18. So it's not as though nothing can be said about those verses. Kelhoffer considers the possibility that they derive from a first-century oral tradition, but ends up concluding that the verses fit better into a second-century context. You may disagree with that conclusion, but we shouldn't suppose that there is no evidence to consider or that all arguments are equally valid.
  6. So, if I understand you correctly, you're saying that you don't have any evidence that the Longer Ending drew on an independent body of oral tradition that survived into the second century, but you don't see that as a problem because, in your view, all positions are "equally valid" since there is no "proof" for any of them. In that case, all of the scholarly arguments on this subject can be thrown in the bin, as none of it makes any difference.
  7. If the scholarly consensus is correct that the Longer Ending was composed in the second century CE, that hardly counts as evidence that it conveys authentic words of Jesus from a century earlier. You and webbles seem to be implying that the author of the Longer Ending drew on an independent body of oral tradition that survived intact into the second century. Where is the evidence for that? For what it's worth, James Kelhoffer, who has written the most influential study of the Longer Ending of the last 20 years, notes that "the thesis that the LE's miracle list ever existed in an oral form is suspect, for it is dubious that the second and fourth couplets—γλώσσαις λαλήσουσιν and χεῖρας ἐπιθήσουσιν ('in languages they will speak' and 'hands they will lay on')—would be intelligible as spoken statements" (Kelhoffer, Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and Their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000], 202). I think this is a stronger position. The reality is that the Book of Mormon ascribes a number of statements to Jesus that he almost certainly didn't utter. For example, 3 Nephi 13:13 has Jesus ending the Lord's Prayer with "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen," which is clearly based on KJV Matthew 6:13. As Thomas Wayment candidly admits, "the passage . . . is not defensible on historical grounds as belonging to the most original text of the New Testament." He continues: "Initially, it may seem simple enough to propose that the Book of Mormon preserves a second historical event where the prayer was repeated in a new setting with different wording and potentially new meaning. That would be possible, theoretically, although such a solution would create difficulties in explaining how a late Byzantine (fourth to fifth centuries AD) passage from a Greek text made its way into the Book of Mormon historical setting. Strangely, in this situation the Book of Mormon would be the first text to record the reading, and then one would have to suppose that Byzantine copyists came up with the exact same reading several hundred years later" (Wayment, "Textual Criticism and the New Testament," 665). Then there is the absurdity of other aspects of the Sermon on the Mount being transferred to a New World context. As Brant Gardner points out in his book, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, Mesoamericans would not have understood the reference to debts (there was no monetized economy); bread (there was no bread, or even tortillas); pigs (there were no pigs); lamps (there were no lamps); or doors that could be knocked (Mesoamerican doors were made of fabric). Indeed, "the majority of the text continues to depend upon Old World culture" (Gardner, 191–192), which suggests to me that we're looking at something other than a straightforward translation of Jesus' words.
  8. Actually, N.T. Wright doesn't hold that the Longer Ending "traces its origins to teachings of Jesus from the post-Resurrection ministry." In fact, he specifically states that "the command about the necessity of baptism for salvation (verse 16) and the list of wonderful deeds the apostles will do (verses 17–18) look as though they are a summary of some aspects of later church life" (Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003], 618).* I think it is unlikely that Mark 16:15–18 preserves any authentic sayings of Jesus given its late, secondary character. Is this a problem for the Book of Mormon? Yes and no. As Thomas Wayment observes, "if textual criticism is the only tool that can be brought to this discussion, then the Book of Mormon text will continually appear anachronistic as a historical document because its original text cannot be compared against the Greek New Testament productively." He therefore recommends "a nuanced approach to the way the Book of Mormon engages ancient texts, both the Old and the New Testament": ________________________________________ * Compare R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 2002), 686–687: "The parts of the Longer Ending not accounted for in this list are those which go beyond the resurrection appearances as such to describe the subsequent preaching and activity of the church. Thus in v. 16 we have a summary of a basic baptismal soteriology, which has the flavour of Johannine dualism (and possibly draws on the baptism element in Mt. 28:19–20), in vv. 17–18 some of the ‘signs’ which are related in Acts are summarised, and v. 20 is virtually a summary of the whole book of Acts in a nutshell."
  9. I've now spent over 25 years sorting through arguments for and against the Book of Mormon. It remains a puzzle to me. Whatever its origin, I consider it a marvelous work and a wonder. I think it holds up well as scripture. There is power and beauty in it. I’ve seen it bring people to Christ and change lives. It is "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). I believe it contains truth to live by. Yet I don't believe that it's historical. I accept the arguments for the book's narrative and literary complexity. As Grant Hardy has written, "Not only are there more than a thousand years of history involving some two hundred named individuals and nearly a hundred distinct places, but the narrative itself is presented as the work of three primary editor/historians. . . . These figures, in turn, claim to have based their accounts on dozens of preexisting records. The result is a complex mix that incorporates multiple genres ranging from straightforward narration to inserted sermons and letters to scriptural commentary and poetry. It requires considerable patience to work out all the details of chronology, geography, genealogy, and source records, but the Book of Mormon is remarkably consistent on all this. The chronology is handled virtually without glitches, despite several flashbacks and temporally overlapping narratives; . . . and the narrators keep straight both the order and family connections among the twenty-six Nephite record keepers and forty-one Jaredite kings (including rival lines). The complexity is such that one would assume the author worked from charts and maps" (Understanding the Book of Mormon, 6–7). Then there are the chiastic structures, the seemingly carefully constructed intertextual allusions, and so on. All of which seems to point away from Joseph Smith as author. But his subsequent prophetic career and scriptural productions show that Joseph Smith was not your average unlettered rustic. He continued to create scripture, freely revising and expanding biblical narratives. He continued to dictate lengthy revelations with coherent themes and seamlessly interwoven biblical allusions. He presented himself, and wrote himself into scripture, as a great seer, one who could “know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come,” who could, through his faith, “work mighty miracles [and therefore become] a great benefit to his fellow beings” (Mosiah 8:17–18). Joseph Smith presented the Book of Mormon to the world as a miraculous translation of an ancient American record. Perhaps he believed that. Samuel Brown suggests that Joseph Smith may have experienced the translation of the Book of Mormon as a series of panoramic visions, and that he may have begun having such visions as early as 1823. I find Brown's arguments persuasive, and think Joseph believed he was translating an ancient record, speaking in the voice of ancient prophets and seeing what they saw. Hyrum Smith wrote a letter to his grandfather during the translation of the Book of Mormon in which he said that, if he was deceived [about the Book of Mormon], then God was his deceiver. I can't help but feel this way myself. If the Book of Mormon is a fraud, then I believe it's an inspired one. I can't make sense of it as history but it speaks to me as scripture.
  10. This reminds me of my initial encounter with Bushman. Shortly before my mission, sometime in the early 1990s, Time or Newsweek ran a short article on the Church and Bushman was quoted. I thought, "Where'd they find this anti?" I don't even remember what he said, just that my pious teenage self was scandalized by it. Several years later, after my mission, I read his Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism and loved it. The seer stone stuff was a shock, as were the other people in Joseph's environment having similar visions of deity, but the book ended up building my faith and enlarging my testimony of Joseph Smith. In the late 1990s, I met him in person. I spent the better part of eight weeks sitting at his left elbow in a summer research seminar at the now-defunct Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Bushman was then at the pinnacle of his career, a respected senior scholar at Columbia University. Yet he spent that summer, as he had spent and would spend many others, mentoring young Latter-day Saints. Every discussion opened with a prayer, which Bushman himself often offered. There's an old saying that "no man is a hero to his valet"—the idea being that the closer you get to a "great" man, the less impressive he appears. I had the opposite experience with Richard Bushman. He was the embodiment of a disciple-scholar. His biography of Joseph Smith, a cultural biography published 60 years after Brodie's by the same publisher, was written primarily for a non-Latter-day Saint audience to challenge the dominance of No Man Knows My History. Bushman tried to make Joseph Smith's life and revelations intelligible to non-Latter-day Saints, while also trying not to alienate Latter-day Saint readers. Predictably, he didn't entirely succeed. Some insiders have found the book to be too critical of Joseph Smith, while some (most?) outsiders have found the book not critical enough. An example of the latter is this comment from Kurt Andersen: "Rough Stone Rolling is the recent definitive biography of Joseph Smith. Its author, Richard Lyman Bushman, is a Columbia University history professor emeritus and a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in which he has served as a clergyman. His ancestors knew and followed Smith and his apostles across America in the 1800s. 'What is most interesting about Joseph Smith,' Bushman writes in a sentence of breathtaking understatement, 'is that people believed him.' Bushman never really answers the question he raises. How can he? One of Smith's disciples said that he and Smith spoke to John the Baptist in Wayne County, New York, and with Jesus Christ near Cleveland. Two others said they too, alongside Smith, met with angels. Bushman reports all these as factual events" (Kurt Andersen, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, a 500-Year History [New York: Random House, 2017], 71). Bushman is held up for ridicule here. We are meant to laugh at the absurdity of Christ appearing to anyone "near Cleveland." And on the other side Bushman is derided as "a wolf in sheep's clothing" and as a fomenter of apostasy whose scholarship is a sham. (BTW, if you want to know Richard Bushman's opinion of Joseph Smith, read his essay, "The Character of Joseph Smith.") William Clayton once said of Joseph Smith: "The more I am with him, the more I love him; the more I know of him, . . . [the more I] am sorry that people should give heed to evil reports concerning him." That has been my experience with his biographer as well.
  11. Thanks, Robert. I saw and responded to this post last February. I'm not disputing that R. Reitzenstein and J. Weiss thought that the triad "faith, hope, and love" in 1 Corinthians 13:13 pre-dated Paul. You're right about that. But Nibley made a different claim in the Church News article. In reference to Moroni 7:45 // 1 Corinthians 13:4–7, he wrote: "For the whole passage, which scholars have labeled the 'Hymn to Charity,' was shown early in this century by a number of first-rate investigators working independently (A. Harnack, J. Weiss, R. Reizenstein) to have originated not with Paul at all, but to go back to some older but unknown source: Paul is merely quoting from the record." (see p. 71 in this 2011 reprint)
  12. Yes. I also like the story David Hackett Fischer tells: Fischer memorably called this "the fallacy of the lonely fact." I mentioned my experience fact-checking Nibley not to make any broad claims about Nibley's work but rather to counter the notion that fact checkers have "never found anything that Nibley made up or intentionally misquoted." In fact, as I was fact-checking my own fact-checking, I found another source that Nibley misrepresented. In Since Cumorah (1967), Nibley cites "A. von Harnack, in Journal of Biblical Literature, 50 (1931), pp. 266ff" as an example of a scholar that "has shown the really ancient background . . . of the well-known 'Pauline' formula, 'faith, hope, and love'" (128). I looked up the issue of JBL. It turns out to be an article by Nils W. Lund called "The Literary Structure of Paul's Hymn to Love." It doesn't mention Harnack or an ancient background for the formula "faith, hope, and love." Lund (like Harnack) sees Paul as the author of 1 Corinthians 13. Nothing in the citation supports Nibley's claim. I get that Nibley was using 3x5 note cards and a primitive filing system, but these aren't small mistakes. That said, I agree that we need to keep a sense of perspective and a sense of charity (which was missing in my earlier post). Some of Will Bagley's and D. Michael Quinn's works have faced similar criticism. I don't consider their scholarship to be worthless because there are problems with some of their claims and some of their sources. The same is true of Nibley. Having never written anything of consequence myself, I am mindful of the words of Teddy Roosevelt: "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
  13. [Sorry, was trying to edit. Forgot how the new board software works!]
  14. The only Nibley claim I have ever checked turned out to be made up. It wasn't just sloppiness. Sloppy was spelling Richard Reitzenstein's name wrong. Nibley completely misrepresented the scholarship he was citing.
  15. Samuel M. Brown wrote an entire essay parsing Lucy's statement. It's worth a read: https://ensignpeakfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Reconsidering-Lucy-Mack-Smith’s-Folk-Magic-Confession.pdf He reads Lucy's statement (against Quinn) as disavowing the family's involvement in "folk magic." But he also thinks that Lucy was dissembling. He writes, for example, that "it seems likely that at some point Joseph Jr. and Joseph Sr. used magic circles as part of their treasure hunting activities" (5) and that "the Smiths almost certainly believed to some extent in the efficacy [of Abrac triangles and magic circles]" (7). His conclusion: "That Lucy denied her family’s involvement in deprecated folk religion does not mean the Smiths were not involved in activities that their critics called 'magic.' But it does suggest that they saw folk rites as distinct from honorable religion and were publicly embarrassed by these rites" (9).
  16. I was wondering about this too. It turns out others did make that connection. Richard Van Wagoner assembles a surprisingly large number of accounts in Natural Born Seer:
  17. This story comes from Joseph Knight Sr: https://www.byustudies.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/17.1JesseeJoseph.pdf Richard Bushman provided a brief but vivid description of Knight's account in an essay several years ago:
  18. I hope you're right. I spent the last half hour looking for a letter of Quinn's that I remember reading in Sunstone. I finally found it. He closed with this: I've never forgotten this. In one of his books he wrote the following dedication: "To my mother, a sixth-generation Mormon, whose love for Mormonism and her faith in its essentials continue strong despite the difficulties of her own experience and her awareness of the 'weaknesses of men.' Thank you for nurturing that love and faith in me." D. Michael Quinn's love and faith also continued strong despite the difficulties of his own experience—to the end, it seems. May he be welcomed home with open arms.
  19. Of the two, I think Compton is generally seen as more careful and judicious in his use of sources. His book won the Mormon History Association's Best Book Award and is cited, albeit only once, in the Church's essay on plural marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo. Van Wagoner is not antagonistic, but he uses more questionable sources than other writers. He knows they're problematic but tends to bury this information in the endnotes (see this critique for some examples). Both authors have a naturalistic outlook that colors their presentation. Latter-day Saints wanting to get a believing historian's perspective will need to look elsewhere (Bushman, Fluhman, etc.)
  20. I took it in the context of the verse he cited from Alma 32 about experimenting upon the word and exercising a particle of faith, even if it's no more than a desire to believe. The rest of the passage in Alma talks about "let[ting] this desire work in you" and "giv[ing] place, that a seed [of faith] may be planted in your heart." To give it place means that we "do not cast it out by [our] unbelief." I think this language of yielding ("let...", "give place...") is important. A friend and someone I have long admired wrote an account on another board that illustrates what "choosing to believe" can look like in practice.
  21. I liked the talk. I was never a big fan of President Nelson's talks when he was a member of the Twelve. But, as president of the Church, he's consistently delivered powerful, memorable conference talks. Today's was no exception. As a doubter, I welcomed his suggestions for increasing my faith. I appreciated his emphasis once again on the need for spiritual "work" to gain personal revelation. And on the need for humility and patience, to "give place, that a seed may be planted in [our] heart," and allow the Lord to lead us. I am sure I have been falling short on that front. I didn't feel judged by the line "stop increasing your doubts by rehearsing them with other doubters," because I mainly increase my doubts by rehearsing them with believers I'm sure some people will use the talk to "bash" doubters, since it takes for granted that doubt is bad and belief is good. It also takes the view that belief is a choice. A doubter, then, is one who does not choose to believe. In my own case, I see my doubts as arising out of honest seeking. I cannot simply choose to believe in, say, the historicity of the Book of Mormon. That would not be an intellectually honest position for me, as I see the evidence. But I also recognize that I may be wrong. I take seriously Paul's admonition: "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings" (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20; compare Jacob 6:8).
  22. I don't reject the supernatural altogether. I want to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, so I don't discount the possibility of resurrected beings per se. I'm just skeptical that there were Nephites. What do I think happened on September 21, 1823? Joseph said in his 1832 history that he was praying for forgiveness (having fallen into "transgressions and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul") and the Lord "shewed unto me a heavenly vision." I suspect that's what it was: a nighttime vision or dream. Given the teenage Joseph's interest in buried treasure and lore about the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, I think it's quite plausible that he believed he was visited by the spirit of an ancient American who was the guardian of a treasure buried in a nearby hill (believed to be an Indian burial mound). But having stood in a replica of the cramped, low-ceilinged bedroom where the encounter allegedly took place, I'm skeptical a heavenly being was physically present in the room that night. For one thing, there's nowhere to hover, even for a person of middle stature.
  23. I haven't read any of these, but I'll chime in anyway My dad read the one by Helen Castor and enjoyed it. I read a short one years ago by Mary Gordon, in the Penguin Lives series. I liked it but have nothing else to compare it to. From the reviews I've read, Castor's book is a straightforward work of history, well told (Castor is a medieval historian who specializes in telling women's stories), whereas Harrison's book is more interpretive and idiosyncratic (Harrison is a novelist and memoirist). I also highly recommend the movie that Rory mentioned, The Passion of Joan of Arc, by Carl Theodore Dreyer. The dialogue is taken from the transcripts of Joan's trial. It's unforgettable, particularly with the soundtrack by Richard Einhorn.
  24. I don't know if it is relevant. I just thought it was worth noting that these verses were inserted years later by Joseph Smith. They were not part of the original revelation.
  25. I think Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are probably fictional. Elijah may be as well. Elias, an otherwise unattested prophetic contemporary of Abraham, appears to be an invention of Joseph Smith. The view that the patriarchal narratives contain "substantial historicity" was largely abandoned by biblical scholars and archaeologists over 40 years ago. It is now common for textbooks to discuss the late, legendary character of the stories and basically dismiss their historical reliability. Lester Grabbe, for example, notes that the patriarchal stories have "no direct external confirmation, either epigraphic or literary" "except for Jacob/Israel, the references to the patriarchs are attested in Israelite tradition only late. Apart from the Genesis texts, Abraham and Isaac are little mentioned." "the patriarchal narratives in Genesis in their present form reflect a later time, with many anachronistic details" (Grabbe, Ancient Israel, 52–53) J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes, in A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, essentially write off Genesis to Joshua as "folk traditions" and start their historical investigation with the Book of Judges. William Dever has likewise recently noted that the pentateuchal narratives (including all of Genesis) are "largely useless for historical reconstruction." He continues: "Some of the events narrated in Genesis may have some historical basis, but there is no direct archaeological corroboration. Indeed, the patriarchal stories as they now stand combine so many diverse elements from so many periods that the narratives cannot be dated or placed in any one archaeological phase or historical era. . . . These stories are part of a late literary construct, an attempt to create a prehistory and an identity during the monarchy, one that is beyond our reach. The story is more cultural memory than history" (Dever, Beyond the Texts: An Archaeological Portrait of Ancient Israel and Judah, 120). In a similar vein, P. Kyle McCarter and Ronald Hendel note that "the men and women who appear in Genesis 12–50 are less accessible as historical individuals than as typological prefigurations of the later Israelites and their neighbors. In many cases, they are eponyms; that is, persons from whom the names of the later groups were supposed to be derived" (McCarter and Hendel, "The Patriarchal Age," in Ancient Israel, ed. H. Shanks, 4). Konrad Schmid writes: "It does not seem possible any longer, by literary-critical means, to get behind the national-historical form of the Jacob cycle we now have, which is intended to equate Jacob with Israel and Esau with Edom, with Laban consequently standing for Aram" (Schmid, The Old Testament: A Literary History, 59). Later, he observes that the Isaac traditions are likely older than the Abraham traditions and that "the present genealogical sequence of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as grandfather, father, and son is probably a basic reflection of the transformations in the political significance of these figures: with the fall of the Northern Kingdom and the dissolution of the sanctuary in Bethel the originally important figure from central Palestine, Jacob, gradually declined in significance in contrast to the Judahite figures of Abraham and Isaac, so that Jacob ultimately took his place at the end of the relational sequence" (85). According to Schmid, the Joseph story was originally a separate novella probably composed during the exile (perhaps in Egypt), and the "overarching patriarchal narrative containing Genesis 12–50" was "created in the exilic period by means of the redactional joining of these existing cycles plus the Joseph narrative" (123).
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