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Useful comments from Ben Spackman


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4 hours ago, bluebell said:

@rongo

This was accidentally attributed to me, but it's to Rongo.

So @bluebell is quoting @Calmwho was quoting @rongo?

 

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If anyone doubts the Church sees value in providing background context to scripture, they should check out Revelations in Context.  Hopefully someday we will have something similar with ancient scriptures.

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If you’re reading the D&C section in isolation from the heading and other tools, or only reading the KJV Old Testament text, you’re simply not understanding scripture as its audience did. We in 2021 are pretty far removed from both settings; we need an explainer of the implicit context. Those historical-cultural explainers are occasionally written-in to the chapter headings,2 but more often, it requires something like Revelations in Context or even Gospel Topics Essays. That kind of context is absolutely necessary to interpret scripture literally. (See here for a D&C example.)

From link.

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My suggested Study Bibles are

  • the NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible,
    • The Kindle version of the notes and essays in this Study Bible is currently on sale for $3.99, with the New King James Version translation instead of the NRSV. That’s not great as translations go, but you can’t beat the price for the notes and essays. I do not own this in kindle, and I have no idea about the utility of whatever format they’ve arranged it in. Rather, I own most of this stuff in Logos.
  • The Jewish Study Bible (2nd ed, Oxford Press), and
  • Robert Alter’s The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (which focuses on literary aspects, which are quite important.)

And that phrase, “goes without being said”? There are two books that explore that idea with a variety of concepts and passages in the Bible.

 

I just bought NRSV for a Christmas present to myself and I am loving it.  Upgrading my bedside lamp so I can spend more time reading it.

Edited by Calm
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Be careful about over reading Moses on the city of Enoch. It doesn’t necessarily say what tradition assumes, as James E. Talmage pointed out in a letter. 
"of course you are at liberty to believe that the removal of Enoch and his city from the earth because of the righteousness of the people meant the taking away of an actual piece or block of the rocky earth upon which the city stood; but I find nothing in Scripture to warrant any such assumption. I understand that Enoch and his city as an expression means Enoch and his people – who constituted Zion, which may be defined in this case as the pure in heart (see Moses 7:18, and compare 20, 23, 69) and these could have been taken in any of several ways, either through death permitted by the Lord, or by translation.”

https://www.facebook.com/bspackman/posts/10102584701723850

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  • 1 month later...

Missed reading Ben for a bit, so may go back, but here is the Exodus link:

https://benspackman.com/2022/03/gospel-doctrine-lesson-13-exodus-1-3-5-6-11-14/#more-334

Some points of interest to me:

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I wrote a paper my first year of grad school that my advisor thought had potential. I never developed it further, but the main idea is that this episode constitutes literary foreshadow. Moses stands in for God (Exodus 7:1), and the Egyptian stands in for Egypt and/or Pharaoh.

Moses sees the Egyptians smiting a Hebrew (Exodus 2:11-12); Yahweh sees Egypt smiting Israel (Exodus 3:7-9, Exodus 5:16).

Moses smites the Egyptian to death (Exodus 2:12); Yahweh smites Egypt (Exodus 3:20).

Moses buries the Egyptian under sand (Exodus 2:12); Yahweh buries the army under water (Exodus 14:28, 15:5).

In spite of deliverance, the Hebrew(s) resent(s)s Moses (Exodus 2:14, . In spite of deliverance, Israelites rebel against Yahweh in the wilderness.(Exodus 14:11-12, Exodus 32:1-8, Numbers 11:1-5, others)

Lastly, they ask Moses “who made you a prince and a ruler over us?” (Exodus 2:14)  As it turns out, God does. Moses is named as a judge and appoints “princes” in Exodus 18:13, 21.

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Like Moses’ mother, Sargon’s mother places her baby in a reed basket, seals it, and sets it adrift on a river. Like Moses, Sargon is then taken from the water by the one who eventually adopts him. Determining the relationship between such accounts is not an easy problem to solve. Could the authors of some of these stories have borrowed the idea from others? Possibly. There is evidence, however, to suggest that it was not uncommon for a child to be abandoned…. While the Moses narrative likely does not depend on the Sargon legend, it may well be that the biblical story attempts to describe the events in Moses’ life in such a way that an astute reader in the ancient world would recognize the “abandoned child” theme and foresee that great achievements are in store for this lonely infant afloat on the river.- Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary.

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Pharaoh– Pharaoh means “the big house,” referring to the king by metonymy, a figure of speech substituting an associated noun for the actual noun.  When “Pharaoh” says this or does that, we should understand it to be analogous to “The White House said today…”  Whether the Hebrew authors understood that metonymy is another question

 

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Posted (edited)

Came across this interesting discussion about JFS and his comments about never getting to the moon and back again…

https://benspackman.com/2021/10/tales-from-the-archive-joseph-fielding-smith-james-fletcher-and-the-moon/#more-6215

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James Fletcher, a Latter-day Saint with a PhD in Physics, who taught at Harvard and Princeton before heading NASA twice, recalled this in an archival interview.

I use to have some difficulty with Joseph Fielding Smith. He came down to California once and he said, ‘It’s not proper that man should land on the moon and it’s against God’s laws.’ And a lot of us around there had been working in the space program, so we said ‘well, better watch out what we say in Church.’ But later when he became president of the Church I took the Apollo 15  astronauts out and visited President Smith. He was tickled to death. He’d forgotten all about those earlier speeches.

 

Edited by Calm
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Posted (edited)

Earlier lesson:

https://benspackman.com/2022/03/lesson-11-genesis-34-37-39/
 

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Before talking about the stories in today’s chapters, let’s introduce a relevant principle. When we get to Exodus 20 in a few weeks, we’ll encounter the idea that God is “a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me” (Exo 20:5). There’s a particular interpretation of this I like, but first let’s counter the context-free “mean Old Testament deity” interpretation by pointing out that in the next verse God is said to “show kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” If we are to understand these as saying that God punishes even the 4th generation of children for the parent’s sin, let us point out that if the parental faithfulness reverberates equally down through not the 4th but thousandth generation. The rhetoric portrays God as 250x more “merciful/kind/loving/loyal” than he is punitive. (It’s hard to translate ḥesed. See this short article on “love” in the Bible.)

However, let’s take a different tack. Some have looked at the first verse from a sociological perspective; parental sins and mistakes often echo down through the lives of their children for several generations because children emulate their parents, not because of divine decree.

I’ve brought up this verse in order to take a closer look at the chain of deception initiated by Jacob and how that reverberates through his children and grandchildren. Not all of these examples are direct, but I believe they are included in the text and made literarily significant in order to demonstrate something like Exodus 20:5. “Deceive, and both you and your children in turn will deceive and be deceived.” So who deceives whom, and with what?

The discussion about the appearance of deception in Jacob’s family history is something I had notice from the first time I read it as a family characteristics almost, that it was a fulfillment of scripture and an inheritance of behavior through learning is something that came later to me.  It is a good story on avoiding justifications for behaviour based on immediate rewards.

To a different blog for more on Judah and Tamar:

https://benspackman.com/2019/10/the-importance-of-earnest-what-judah-and-tamar-have-to-do-with-baptism-the-spirit-and-buying-a-house/

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So as covenant children of God, heirs of the kingdom, if faithful and “victorious” (Gr. nikē), we will “inherit all things.” (*Rev 21:7.) God gives us the spirit as the downpayment on the rest of our forthcoming heavenly inheritance. That is what the “earnest of the spirit” means, which is why the NIV translates it repeatedly as “a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 

The link is broken for the 7 promises chart, here is a working link:

https://byustudies.byu.edu/further-study-chart/17-3-key-themes-common-to-genesis-2-3-and-revelation-2-3/

Edited by Calm
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https://benspackman.com/2022/02/lesson-10-genesis-24-29/
 

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One of the aspects of scripture study as commonly practiced by LDS is the idea of applying the texts to ourselves.  Although we use Nephi’s term “likening” (1 Nephi 19:3 7) to refer to this, we haven’t really understood what Nephi means by it.1 What we do instead, typically, is to approach scripture expecting to find one of two things:

  1. We look for simple models of standards of behavior to emulate. This kind of approach is what Schlimm calls “Searching for Saints,” as this kind of reading

    gives readers what they’ve come to expect from the Bible: stories of saints whom they can imitate in their own lives…. Some people prefer instead to search for ethical principles that undergird the Bible’s stories. This tactic assumes that biblical narratives are not too far removed from Aesop’s fables.

    But if this is what we expect scripture to be doing, then what do we do with saints who don’t act saintly? When the Bible models behavior we don’t want our kids to emulate?

  2. The second thing we tend to look for is simple doctrinal concepts we expect to be there, which we wish to propagate and emphasize, like “you should marry in the covenant” or “Jesus is the god of the Old Testament.”

In short, we’re looking for a connection of some kind. But the Old Testament authors rarely intended either to model ideal behavior or teach simple doctrinal concepts; the Bible wasn’t intended as a tract or catechism, nor as a manual of etiquette and behavior.  Mismatches between expectation and reality tend to result in frustration, and often, in this case, “wresting the scriptures” to make them fit our expectations.  (I’ve written on scripture and expectations elsewhere.)

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Personal identity was heavily connected to immediate family, clan, and tribe, as well as more distant ancestors, and this is one reason why genealogies were important and somewhat malleable; you could “manage your brand” somewhat by which ancestors you included and which ones were left out. Think, for example, of the different things Matthew and Luke are portraying about Jesus in their respective genealogies. (See here for a great series on genealogies and what they were for.)

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Whatever historical kernels remain are extremely difficult to determine, so we study the story as a story, and ask the key question, why would the story be told this way? What is it trying to teach?

 

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https://benspackman.com/2022/02/lesson-09-abraham-11-5-20-genesis-15-17-21-22/#more-232
 

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I’ve always been somewhat disturbed by the apparently cheerful enthusiasm of Abraham’s son at being sacrificed in some translations of the Qur’an. (While Islamic tradition holds that Ishmael was the near-sacrifice instead of Isaac, the son is not actually named.) I wondered, among extremist Islamic sects, does Isaac/Ishmael’s enthusiasm at being sacrificed at God’s command provide a model for martyrdom?

Reading through it and consulting some friends, it’s clear that, in contrast to the Genesis account, the son in the Qur’an knows exactly what’s coming ahead of time and is willing. (This is a good page for working through the Qur’an, if you have any exposure to Semitic languages, plus you can listen to beautiful recitations of the verses you’re looking at, bottom of the page.)

Sura 37:102ff “Then when [Abraham’s son] reached the age of striving, he said ‘Son, I have indeed seen in a dream that I ritually sacrifice you. So, look, what do you think?’ He said, ‘Father, do what you are commanded. God willing, you will find me to be among those who endure to the end.’ Then when they had thus submitted (Arb. ‘aslama) to God’s will, he put him down upon his forehead. We called out to him, ‘Abraham! You have indeed fulfilled the vision! Thus do We reward those who do good. Surely, this was the clear test.”

He includes a link to a perspective of someone abused as a child on the sacrifice of Isaac…something important enough and so beautifully well done imo, I am reposting the link:

https://rationalfaiths.com/child-abuse-sacrifice-isaac/

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As a survivor of childhood abuse, the way we usually teach the story of Abraham is deeply disturbing to me.  Any God that would command someone to harm their child just for the sake of His own worship is not a God I want anything to do with. And is certainly not in line with the loving Heavenly Father that I have a relationship with. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not a God that I know.  He is vengeful and petty and egomaniacal (and he doesn’t seem to care much for his daughters anyway, so I doubt my opinion means much to him.) The Heavenly Father that I know and worship would weep for Isaac, and weep again for Abraham, and weeps for all of us when we believe that this kind of cultish devotion is worthy of children with His divine potential.

If we took this story out of Moriah and placed it in Salt Lake City, Utah, for example, there are few Saints among us who would go to the lengths to defend it that we’ll see in Sunday School. Instead we’d rally behind Isaac just as we rallied behind Elisabeth Smart. We’d campaign for Abraham’s punishment and wring our hands that the pure gospel of Christ had been so distorted. But since it is back in Moriah, instead we’ll try and tell ourselves that there is a lesson here and demand a level of obedience to authority that make all those anti-mormon accusations of “CULT!” hit a little closer to the bone.

I think there is a lesson here, but it’s been hidden in millennia of Christian interpretation that benefits the institution. An organized church benefits from slavishly obedient adherents, not people with the freedom to follow their own personal revelation. That kind of freedom is something we’re so proud of as Mormons, but I think that this story reflects a part of our scripture we’ve ignored, adopting what was already in existence throughout the rest of the Christian world.…

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These two stories do not match up to me. Someone who had been so traumatized by the actions of their father , had a miracle save their life, and ran from home and family for their own safety would not willingly repeat those actions on their own son. I think that this story suffers from the politics and mistranslations and fog of time that account for the King James version of the bible. The “plain and precious things” that have been removed.

I think a Mormon midrash needs to be undertaken to get to the beauty of this story, and to discover what makes Abraham noble. Let me tell you this story a different way….

But the test is not if Abraham will obey, it is a test to see if after all that has happened, after all the years of delayed promises and high expectations, if Abraham will follow the traditions of his fathers or the pure gospel. If he will have faith in the promises that come from every day devotion or the superstitions of the “heathens.” It is a test to see if Abraham is still faithful but not because he nearly kills Isaac, it is a test to see if Abraham can overcome the way he was raised to live a higher and nobler calling – to overcome the abuse in his past and become a man of God.

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God was testing Abraham. He was testing him to break the cycle.

And Abraham passed the test. Because in that moment where he was most “tempted” to sacrifice his son in the way that he had been threatened by his own father, he heard an angelic voice calling to his better nature.

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.”  – Genesis 22:13

He “lifted up his eyes.” Those are powerful words. They are an allusion to the Savior. He lifted up his eyes, he looked to God and lived. He looked to God and saw a symbol of the Savior himself.

In the allegorical language of sacrifice, in that critical moment Abraham looked to God and saw Christ. And through the sacrifice of the Savior Abraham found the strength to break the cycle of abuse….

Abraham is a hero not because he was willing to sacrifice his son, but because despite every instinct, despite how he was raised, despite years and years of sorrow over promises he feared broken, he still chose faith.

Back to Ben:

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Which brings me to my next point, about “sacrifice.” I’ve often heard LDS and others define sacrifice as “giving something up in return for something better.” We use that definition to bias us in favor of making such “sacrifices.” Regarding that idea, one famous scholar of religion quipped, “that’s not sacrifice, it’s a $#!**^ investment plan!”  In the Old Testament, “sacrifice” most frequently means “to ritually slaughter” (Heb. zavach, the -ch like loch or Bach), and the Arabic cognate is what we find Abraham doing in the Qur’an (ḏabach, with  pronounced like the th in “the”). The exceptions are largely the phrases “sacrifice by fire” (Heb. ‘isheh) and “burnt sacrifice” (Heb. ‘olah).

To sacrifice something was to completely lose its use, and gain nothing concrete in return, no quid pro quo. The one exception where zabach seems to lose its concreteness is Psalm 51, which tradition ascribes to David after Nathan the prophet had condemned him for the affair with Bathsheba. Verse 17 reads “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” In other words, true sacrifice or Godly sacrifice consists of a broken spirit and contrite heart, which should sound familiar from 3 Nephi. 

Something I really relate to…

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How do we react when the fulfillment of God’s promises to us seems undermined by God himself in some way? This is not a rhetorical question for me. Both my and my wife’s patriarchal blessings refer to children, and yet 20-odd years into our marriage, no children are present, and medical science is at a loss to explain why, since the all the biology is functioning exactly as it should.


 

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We must differentiate between knowledge as cognition and knowledge as experience. We can agree that God knew ahead of time what Abraham was going to do. But there is ample evidence throughout Scripture that God desires us to act out our faith and worship regardless of the fact that he knows our hearts. God wants us to pray even though he knows what we are going to say and may already have the answer in motion. He wants us to praise him even though he knows how we feel. God asks us to express our faith and love. It is honoring to him for us to demonstrate those things that he knows exist because it pleases him. That is what I mean when I speak of God’s “benefit.” We all know that as much as our parents, spouses, and children know that we love them, it is important that it be said and demonstrated. Cognitive knowledge is not enough and is often less than satisfying.- NIVAC.

 

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He has a link to a discussion on covenants in the above blog:

http://www.mormonmonastery.org/covenant/

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In Hebrew, one does not “make” a covenant. Rather, one “cuts” a covenant (Heb. karat berit), because an animal is “cut” and killed in the covenant-making process. (Joseph Smith seems to have been particularly aware of this, as JST Hebrew 9:17-18 demonstrates. This passage is not included among the JST excerpts in the LDS KJV, but it can be read here.) Normally, the person who brought the animal cut its throat with his right hand and collected the the blood with his left. This blood was the “blood of the covenant,” as in Exo 24:8. When instituting the sacrament, Jesus invoked covenantal/sacrificial symbolism by calling the sacramental wine “the blood of the new covenant.” ( Matt. 26:28.)

In effect, the sacrificed animal stood as a proxy, as a physical representation of what would happen to the covenant-maker if they failed to live up to the terms of the covenant. Scholars refer to this as a “simile curse.” 

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Thus, the Israelites in Exodus 24 bound themselves to follow the Law (Heb. torah or “teaching”) of Moses on pain of death, a very solemn and serious covenant indeed. Given that they almost immediately began to have serious obedience problems, why don’t we have more stories of Israelites being killed for violating the Law? At least two human witnesses were required to put someone to death, according to Deuteronomy 17:6. This rarely happened, at least as written in the Old Testament. Why didn’t God, who is both a reliable witness and sees all, exercise justice and enforce his covenantal right as sovereign? The answer is that God is also merciful and, knowing that his children would not be perfect, provided a way to teach about the atonement and allow the Israelites time to learn and repent.

 

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I can see the arguments against the global flood things and similar things, it just seems awfully convenient way for believers to fit in with the world. We shouldn’t try to fit in, we should try to align with God. we need to always put the gospel first. The Gospel is what matters

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23 minutes ago, SwedishLDS said:

I can see the arguments against the global flood things and similar things, it just seems awfully convenient way for believers to fit in with the world. We shouldn’t try to fit in, we should try to align with God. we need to always put the gospel first. The Gospel is what matters

One does not have to choose between science and religion. It is like applying basketball rules to a card game; the contexts are that different. The bible account is to teach us about WHY we exist and how to be moral, an area of wisdom science ignores!

On the other hand, science teaches us the mechanics of HOW things work, which has nothing to do with religion.

One does not read the bible to fix one's car, nor does one go to science to find the purpose of life.

There can be no conflict; each discipline is it's own independent realm that has nothing to do with the other!

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