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Explanation for "Nephi and His Asherah"


Bill Hamblin

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Dr. Peterson,

I am not sure why using your short paper is any different than your long version. I used the link Hamblin provided. If you can post the long version or provide a link for it and I will read it and give you my thoughts on it.

Thanks for responding, even if it was the short version you gave me. :P I just gave you the list of problems I had with your paper. Really it was very interesting, even if I was unpersuaded by it.

I am,

Zeitgeist

Procedamus in pace.

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Kevin Graham wrote: Grego asserted that she was, but she wasn't.

If that's what you remember after reading my comments, I think you missed some points. (And did I really say that?)

Any response as to why Asherah MUST be a virgin for the connection?

Also--are you sure that "condescension of God" refers to Jesus, and not to the Father? With Mary, "the love of God" is also a literal type of thing. The fruit is born(e) from that love, is Jesus. Memories of Mary, rose of Heaven...

Another fun verse: Luke 1:42 and she lifted up her voice with a loud cry, and said, Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb.

(As an aside, What does Mary have to do with "love of God"? Is the "finding favor with God" nothing more than "you're a good girl"? And is the "handmaid" just a servant?)

Symbols. I've already explained "in malo" and "in bono". If you have time, I would suggest looking into more literature for better understanding of symbols and their many ways of use.

I think it would help if you would just step back a moment, come up with the argument, present it clearly, stop stretching things (like four verses grouped closely in Revelation or so being the same thing as being "all over the Bible"), and stop giving so much weight to some things (like you fault Daniel Peterson for the lack of connection, and your touche' is basically "Romans and 1 Nephi are almost the same!").

What kind of prophet doesn't read the scriptures? Of course he read the Bible. If I had seen God and Jesus Christ last night, I can assure you I wouldn't be online right now. I
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Which, if any, of these NT verses equates/ equate "love of God" with the personage Jesus Christ, in a way that appears in 1 Nephi? (IOW, which verse could JS have used to make his connections)?:

LU 11:42 But woe unto you Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and every herb, and pass over justice and the LOVE OF GOD: but these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

JOH 5:42 But I know you, that ye have not the LOVE OF GOD in yourselves.

RO 5:5 and hope putteth not to shame; because the LOVE OF GOD hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.

RO 8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the LOVE OF GOD, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2CO 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the LOVE OF GOD, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

2TH 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the LOVE OF GOD, and into the patience of Christ.

1JO 2:5 but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the LOVE OF GOD been perfected. Hereby we know that we are in him:

1JO 3:17 But whoso hath the world`s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the LOVE OF GOD abide in him?

1JO 4:9 Herein was the LOVE OF GOD manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him.

1JO 5:3 For this is the LOVE OF GOD, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

JUDE 1:21 keep yourselves in the LOVE OF GOD, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

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1 Nephi 11:18 : 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon says version: ...the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God... not the mother of the Son of God.

I've been stewing on this same question for a while. It seems to me that the later addition to the original text (which DP uses in order not to go chasing rabbits at every point along the trail to the Mother) actually works worse from DP's perspective. If we have the Woman being the mother of haEloheim (or haShem), which is probably how the Hebrew/modified Hebrew of Nephi would have read, then we aren't talking about the One G-d here, but rather a G-d, which works in English translation just fine either as Mother of G-d (notwithstanding its RC flavor) or Mother of the Son of G-d (which gives such glee to the anti-RC evangelical countermopologists).

I, accordingly, propose the original version of the verse actually serves Herrn Professor Doktor Petersons thesis better than the later.

And the same goes for

1 Nephi 11: 21 : 1830 editon of the Book of Mormon ...the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father... not the Son of the Eternal Father.

An ancient book doesn't worry whether it's Osiris or Horus that we're talking about when we talk of "Eternal Fathers" and such.

USU "Sinatra said, Dooby Dooby Doo" 78

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I am not sure why using your short paper is any different than your long version.

You and Mr. Graham seem to be under the impression that the thousands of words that are in the long version but not in the short version are mere fluff, or gibberish, or, perhaps, recipes for fondue, and that they contribute nothing to my argument in terms of either evidence or analysis or support. Why read the Divine Comedy or War and Peace when the Cliff's Notes version would be just as good? Why read the entire novel when a Reader's Digest condensed version is ready to hand? What difference would it make?

If you can post the long version or provide a link for it and I will read it and give you my thoughts on it.

The long version was published in what we in the trade call a "book," a portable non-electronic BiO-Optical Knowledge device. It is not on line.

H

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== You and Mr. Graham seem to be under the impression that the thousands of words that are in the long version but not in the short version are mere fluff

Just a note. I never said it was fluff, and I already conceded in my first post that the evidence I am looking for might have appeared in the book. However, I doubt it. If I am going to condense a longer argument into a short summary for popular consumption, I am going to provide the footnotes that will make the short argument as strong as possible; the ones that truly hit home. I suspect that if Dan had uncovered evidence that would dissuade me, then he would have provided it in the shorter rendition, or at the very least, somewhere within this exchange. For example, Asherah's presumed virginity and association with a white tree. If these cannot be supported beyond the vague reference of an isolated scholar who says this "may" be the case, then it really isn't worth entertaining as a foundation to work from. Especially since it appears that, on the whole, scholarship in general rejects these as characteristics of Asherah.

For me, without evidence supporting these two crucial points, I see little reason to interpret the narrative as a reference - even a cryptic one -to an ANE fertility goddess. There are other explanations that are far more plausible, I believe. But ultimately that's all any of us are doing. We're speculating.

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If I am going to condense a longer argument into a short summary for popular consumption, I am going to provide the footnotes that will make the short argument as strong as possible; the ones that truly hit home.

If you are going to condense a longer argument into a short summary for popular consumption, you are going to get as much into that short summary as the word limit will allow, but no more, and you're almost certainly going to cut the footnotes as much as possible so as to allow more words for the main text.

I suspect that if Dan had uncovered evidence that would dissuade me, then he would have provided it in the shorter rendition, or at the very least, somewhere within this exchange.

I didn't write the short summary with you specifically in mind. And I haven't given this issue any real attention, or re-read either article, for several years now. Whatever evidence is in the long version is in the long version. It's publicly available, still for sale, and can be read by anybody who seriously cares to do so.

For example, Asherah's presumed virginity and association with a white tree. If these cannot be supported beyond the vague reference of an isolated scholar who says this "may" be the case, then it really isn't worth entertaining as a foundation to work from.  Especially since it appears that, on the whole, scholarship in general rejects these as characteristics of Asherah.

As I've already noted, neither "Asherah's presumed virginity" nor her possible association with a specifically white tree is in any sense "foundational" to my argument.

For me, without evidence supporting these two crucial points,

Neither point is crucial.

I see little reason to interpret the narrative as a reference - even a cryptic one -to an ANE fertility goddess. There are other explanations that are far more plausible, I believe. But ultimately that's all any of us are doing. We're speculating.

I presented an argument. But not the one you've been addressing.

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If you are going to condense a longer argument into a short summary for popular consumption, you are going to get as much into that short summary as the word limit will allow, but no more, and you're almost certainly going to cut the footnotes as much as possible so as to allow more words for the main text.

Naturally. I am just saying why I thought it would be OK to go ahead and tackle the online version. I am not criticizing you for condensing it.

Bill seemed to have thrown down a gauntlet with this thread and a link. I highly doubt he expected the participants to go buy the book and then return to the thread whenever they finished reading it.

I didn't write the short summary with you specifically in mind. And I haven't given this issue any real attention, or re-read either article, for several years now. Whatever evidence is in the long version is in the long version. It's publicly available, still for sale, and can be read by anybody who seriously cares to do so.

Of course you didn't have me in mind. But I was the first person to offer critical feedback, and I suspect that if your published version contained evidence that would have mattered to me, you would have provided already. You haven't, so I think it is safe to say that is because the longer version doesn't provide it. I own the book and I read the article in its entirety years ago. So ultimately, it doesn't make a difference in my case.

As I've already noted, neither "Asherah's presumed virginity" nor her possible association with a specifically white tree is in any sense "foundational" to my argument.

They seems to be crucial points for some people who think these are adequately supported in your article.

Neither point is crucial.

For me it is. Everyone has their own standard of evidence. I think I am safe company here. I know Barker has spoken "favorably" of the article, but so have I. You can probably do a search n this forum and find a few positive notes I made on your article.

I presented an argument. But not the one you've been addressing.

I'm not convinced of your argument, but that doesn't have to mean it is due to my misunderstanding it. I understand what you're arguing, but we both interpret the text differently. I don't think the text will bear the weight of your interpretation.

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Bill seemed to have thrown down a gauntlet with this thread and a link. I highly doubt he expected the participants to go buy the book and then return to the thread whenever they finished reading it.

Bill surely couldn't have imagined that there was no difference in coverage, evidence, analysis, or documentation between a lengthy original article and a condensation that is a mere fraction of the size of the original. But I'll be happy to ask him, if I need to do so.

I suspect that if your published version contained evidence that would have mattered to me, you would have provided already. You haven't, so I think it is safe to say that is because the longer version doesn't provide it.

You can assume and suspect whatever you like. The fact is that I finished writing both articles a number of years ago, and haven't re-read either one since. I haven't taken the time to read back through the lengthy original article to see whether I can find something to appease you. I haven't even flipped through its pages, though I finally found my copy of it. Nor, since this thread began, have I so much as picked up a copy of the issue of the Journal in which the condensed form appears.

You can take my failure to spend much time on this issue for this thread as proof of what is or is not in the original article, but there would seem to be several gaps in the reasoning required to do that.

As I've already noted, neither "Asherah's presumed virginity" nor her possible association with a specifically white tree is in any sense "foundational" to my argument.

They seems to be crucial points for some people who think these are adequately supported in your article.

You may or may not be right on that. I have no idea. I've done no polling. But neither "Asherah's presumed virginity" nor her possible association with a specifically white tree is in any sense "foundational" to my argument.

Neither point is crucial.

For me it is.

Then you're dealing with another argument, not mine.

I presented an argument. But not the one you've been addressing.

I'm not convinced of your argument, but that doesn't have to mean it is due to my misunderstanding it. I understand what you're arguing, but we both interpret the text differently. I don't think the text will bear the weight of your interpretation.

You don't think that the text will bear the weight of your interpretation of my interpretation. I've pointed out several times, though, that your interpretation of my interpretation doesn't accord with my own. The fate of your interpretation is, on the whole, of no consequence to mine.

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The complete version of Peterson's "Nephi and His Asherah" is online at FARMS if you are a subscriber. Look under the "Books (Subscribers Only)" link. It's in the book "Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson."

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Dr. Peterson,

Why did you publish a short version than? Are you saying readers of the JBMS are getting just a "dumbed" down version? What does this say about who you think reads the JBMS? Next time it comes out I will skip buying it, if it isn't going to have anything of substance. I am not sure why but you come across particularly nasty in your response to me? Bad day? If it was something I said, Iam not sure what it was that wuold cause you to be so upset? People's thoughts and cirticisms were asked for regarding your paper (including your short one, as it was the one linked to.) I offered my opinion regarding it. You don't have to take it personally.

How are my criticisms not relevant to the long version, whereas they apply to the short version? I have read the long version years ago, but honestly skipped over it rather quickly because I found it uninteresting at the time. I wouldn't mind reading it again. I am more interested in it now.

Really I wanted to share my opinions and thought some discussion would be interesting. John 16 is an intersting chapter, thanks for pointing it out.

I am,

Zeitgeist

Alea iacta est.

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Why did you publish a short version than?

Because I was asked to do so, and because I hoped that reading the short version would lead more people to the longer one. Think of it as a trailer.

Are you saying readers of the JBMS are getting just a "dumbed" down version?

They got a much shorter version. If the much shorter version lacked nothing at all compared to what was in the much longer version, that wouldn't speak very well of the much longer version, would it?

What does this say about who you think reads the JBMS?

It says that I think that, while they're in the act of reading a magazine, they're not reading a book.

Next time it comes out I will skip buying it, if it isn't going to have anything of substance.

Of course, I didn't say that the Journal or my article contains nothing of substance.

I am not sure why but you come across particularly nasty in your response to me?  Bad day?  If it was something I said, Iam not sure what it was that wuold cause you to be so upset?

I wasn't and am not "upset." When and if I'm ever upset, you'll know it.

I do, however, think it positively absurd to suggest that a quite long article and a quite short condensed version of it can somehow cover a topic equally thoroughly.

People's thoughts and cirticisms were asked for regarding your paper (including your short one, as it was the one linked to.)  I offered my opinion regarding it.  You don't have to take it personally.

I'm sorry that the humor bothered you. I should probably have been nasty.

How are my criticisms not relevant to the long version, whereas they apply to the short version?

Perhaps you didn't notice: I don't think they applied to the short version, either.

I have read the long version years ago,  but honestly skipped over it rather quickly because I found it uninteresting at the time.  I wouldn't mind reading it again.  I am more interested in it now.

I hope you'll enjoy it.

Alea iacta est.

Et sicut in Adam omnes moriuntur, ita et in Christo omnes vivificabuntur.

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Anybody else get the Proverbs lesson yesterday in Gospel Doctrine? When our teacher listed Prov 3 (18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.) and we had a brief discussion on it, I kept silent, but ran this entire thread through my noggin'.

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Anybody else get the Proverbs lesson yesterday in Gospel Doctrine?  When our teacher listed Prov 3 (18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.) and we had a brief discussion on it, I kept silent, but ran this entire thread through my noggin'.

Hey, USU78, your Sunday school class is one week behind the rest of the whole Church! (Or my Sunday school class is a week ahead.)

Anyway, did you see my post? The same thing happened in my noggin when that same passage was read from Proverbs a week ago. I, too, was silent. I, too, posted on it the day after. Have you read it?

Great minds do indeed think alike. Cowardly spirits do indeed remain silent alike.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Et sicut in Adam omnes moriuntur, ita et in Christo omnes vivificabuntur.
I speak spanish, so i understood this. What language is this in?

It's a long-dead ancient tongue once spoken by the rulers of the civilized world, a forgotten language known as Latin.

In terms of this thread and the one concerning "if/and" constructions in the Book of Mormon, perhaps this phrase would be appropriate: Vae victis.

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Et sicut in Adam omnes moriuntur, ita et in Christo omnes vivificabuntur.
I speak spanish, so i understood this. What language is this in?

It's a long-dead ancient tongue once spoken by the rulers of the civilized world, a forgotten language known as Latin.

In terms of this thread and the one concerning "if/and" constructions in the Book of Mormon, perhaps this phrase would be appropriate: Vae victis.

As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

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In his response to my last post, Bill Hamblin tries to do two inconsistent things. He attempts to defend the DCP "Asherah" article "on the merits" while also claiming that, in terms of its methodology and approach, the article is doing "exactly what" other scholars and academics are doing. Something Hamblin calls "contextualizing symbols." The response ignores my criticism that the article doesn't once address the issue of authorship and that it also adopts a naive, "Sunday school" approach to the text. The very same approach Hamblin then adopts, while defending it.

The Sunday-school approach to religious narratives like those in the Bible and BoM is about as far from a scholarly, academic approach to a text as one can imagine. The former approach is perfectly fine for the religious instruction of children, or for discussions among people who are using the text to obtain personal religious/doctrinal guidance or spiritual insight. (Who wants some "scholar" interrupting an inspiring religious or doctrinal discussion with questions about what "approach to the text" is being assumed in that last comment, or what "authorship model" people are using?) But a Sunday-school approach to narrative texts is equally incongruous, and oblivious, in an article, book or forum that presents itself as academic or scholarly.

What I'm referring to as the Sunday-school approach to a religious narrative text doesn't consciously adopt any literary theory or model of authorship at all, of course, and isn't expected to; it isn't "designed" for scholarship or critical inquiry. It assumes that the text is a record or report of events in the past that happened pretty much exactly as they were written down. Written down when and by whom isn't a matter of focus or concern. Under this approach people simply read a narrative involving dialogue, like the Eden story, for example, as if there had been a tape recorder present, from which a transcript would have been generated. (The "voicing" of the narrative isn't raised or considered either, of course. That's not expected in Sunday-school discussions.) So when God and Adam converse, or God and one of the patriarchs are the interlocutors, for example, the narrative simply reports what each of them said. No one need ask what literary tools or devices, or what rhetorical, thematic, or other compositional strategies underlie or inform the narrative. Whether an interlocutor says "I want a bowl of porridge" or "You will rue the day ever you set foot in this city," statements are usually just assumed to be an accurate report of what the speaker (if presumed to be a historical person) actually said.

As I've noted before, "oddly" enough that's the aggressively naive "approach to the text" adopted in the opening, 1 Nephi 11 section of DCP's Asherah article. The article's "analysis" of the text proceeds as if there simply were no theory-affected or model-dependent issues of textual construction, authorship or interpretation (or anything else) to consider or inform such an inquiry. Even when, at verse 11, the author Nephi interrupts the ongoing, supposedly verbatim "report of what happened" in his vision that occurred some 20 or 30 years earlier, in order to address the reader directly with an explanatory comment about something he "knew" at the time, the article simply omits it, and never once mentions Nephi in his role as the composer of the text.

Consistent with the article's presentation of the text as if it were the transcript of some celestial tape recording made atop the mountain to which Nephi "was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord," from which DCP can reliably discern Nephi's individual, sequential thoughts, when offering its one-sentence "BoM historicity" argument, in comic deadpan, the article invokes an imagined, agent-less "inclusion" of the Asherah-symbol.

The inclusion in 1 Nephi of two authentically preexilic religious symbols (Asherah and Wisdom) that could scarcely have been derived by the New York farmboy Joseph Smith from the Bible strongly suggests that the Book of Mormon is, indeed, an ancient historical record in the Semitic tradition.

Note that DCP's speculation about what Nephi was actually "thinking" during his vision stops short of claiming that, unless Nephi had in fact "grasped" the Asherah connection just how and when DCP imagines he did, as the text's author he would not (or perhaps could not) have composed the text as he did. Again, here are the verses the article relies upon, with the supposedly critical language in bold text:

[8] And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.

[9] And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.

[10] And he said unto me: What desirest thou?

[11] And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof -- for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.

[12] And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.

[13] And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

[14] And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

[15] And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

[16] And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

[17] And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

[18] And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

[19] And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!

[20] And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

[21] And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

[22] And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.

[23] And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.

DCP does not claim that it was only because Nephi in fact made the "Asherah connection" just as the article proposes he did, namely, at the time (verses 21-22) and for the reason (only when Nephi successfully "grasps" the connection between the "tree" and the fact that the virgin is the "mother of .... the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father") that Nephi then became able to answer the angel-guide, as he does at verse 22. Nor does DCP argue or even suggest that he is able to discern or divine what Nephi was thinking, or what mental connections between ideas or symbols he made, or didn't make, at the time he later composed the account of his vision. In short, the article doesn't even argue for, much less establish, any causal connection between DCP's speculation about exactly how and when Nephi "grasped" something during his vision, and the actual language of the text. If DCP's speculation is "correct," notice, every word and sentence in the foregoing verses would be exactly the same. If his speculation is "incorrect," on the other hand, every word and sentence of the text would also be exactly the same.

So if DCP's speculation were indeed "insightful" and "correct," what would follow? Twenty years or so after being "caught away" by the Spirit of God, while composing his narratives, Nephi would have found a certain authorial task exceedingly easy, even effortless in its execution. Which task would that have been? The task of somehow "finding," without authorial forethought, plan or purpose, a telling, perfect symbol to "include" in the text, even while taking no thought at all of cultic shrines, consorts, or any other cultural trace of those who had lived, blind and unrepentant, in justly-smitten Jerusalem.

In my next post, I'll illustrate and explain how Hamblin attempts to defend the merits of the DCP argument by adopting the very same naive, "Sunday-school" approach to the text. I'll then explain why that approach is fundamentally different from the type of approach we find in scholarly or academic articles regarding comparable religious texts, such as the one Hamblin mentions: the Book of Revelation.

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Addictio's pejorative reference to the purportedly "Sunday School" approach to the Asherah passage taken by my article is little more than rhetorical posturing and an attempt at intellectual-status one-up-manship. Not every serious scholarly reading of a text needs to be source-critical, or redaction-critical, or whatever. Exegesis of other sorts is also academically legitimate. A recent type of biblical criticism, for example, is now called "canonical criticism." It places greater emphasis than many other methods (which are more akin to dissection) on the final form of the canonical text. It is far less interested in the stages of development that led up to the writing of the text.

As far as Nephi's brief first-person account of his own experience goes, and once the possibility of the text's authentic antiquity and authorship is granted, I don't think it merely na

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I agree completely with what Professor Peterson has said. There is nothing in Addictio's claims that merits further response. He is simply wrong in his characterization of my position.

PS This is the first time I've ever been accused of taking a "Sunday School" approach to anything. How refreshing.

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