REVIEW: Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis–Deuteronomy

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Can a faithful Latter-day Saint accept the possibility that what are commonly called the Books of Moses were not actually written by Moses? Why would we want to? Would this necessarily undermine scriptural authority, and go against what is seen as clear modern revelation?

These are important and relevant questions for Mormons! And now, for the first time, they are properly addressed in a faithful, and easy to understand manner.

In this book, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis – Deuteronomy, the first of a Trilogy exploring the authorship of the Old Testament canon in general (and also the first in an exciting new series of ‘Contemporary Studies in Scripture’ by Kofford Books) David Bokovoy ( a PhD in Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East with an MA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University – and also currently serving as an LDS Youth Seminary Teacher) presents what I can unconditionally note is one of the most important books ever written for study and appreciation of the Old Testament from a faithful LDS Perspective.

Many LDS members, if they have been exposed to bits and pieces of secular biblical scholarship, including Higher Criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis, see such a departure from how they are used to experiencing the Old Testament that they either immediately discard the new knowledge, or allow it to create cracks in their faith.

David Bokovoy beautifully demonstrates how neither of these reactions are necessary, and that an accurate understanding of mainstream biblical scholarship, far from decreasing one’s faith, can add immeasurably to one’s appreciation of not only the formation and writings of the Old Testament, but also its relationship to scriptures of the Restoration, such as the Book of Moses and the rest of the Joseph Smith Translation, the Book of Abraham, and even the Book of Mormon itself.

You do not need to be a Biblical Scholar to appreciate or understand this book – to the contrary, it was designed for those who have no previous understanding of Biblical scholarship! It is very much an introduction. However, it can also serve a secondary purpose of helping those who are familiar with scholarship find helpful approaches and models for encountering Modern scriptural texts in that light.

This is a book that can undoubtedly change how you see the Old Testament, and will likely create a need to adjust  perspectives and paradigms. This is a good thing! It will also increase understanding and relevance of the modern scripture which has the voice of God explaining that scriptures “were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.” (D&C 1:24)

I HIGHLY recommend Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis – Deuteronomy.  I’ve found it a deeply satisfying, intellectually stimulating, and , believe it or not, a very, VERY faith promoting book. Really top notch stuff.

I repeat: this is one of the most important books on Mormon scripture to be published recently. And there’s been a lot of groundbreaking works on LDS scripture coming out of late. If it seems like I’ve been praising every book I’ve reviewed lately, and proclaiming its importance, this is only because these last few years have been a really wonderful time for thoughtful, ground-breaking works on Mormon scripture, history, and culture. This book, like much of what has been pouring out of Kofford Books, is one of those, and has the potential to radically expand understanding and appreciation for not only the Old Testament, but scripture in general. It’s really that good. Read it. Share it with your friends. Discuss it.

[Just in case there is a question, unlike some of the Kofford titles I have reviewed in the past, I obtained this book through individual purchase by myself, and was not provided a review copy. To get your own copy, I suggest purchasing it through Deseret Book, to show the company that there is indeed a need and demand for books such as this. Normally I would provide a link to my amazon account to allow for credit to be granted from click-through purchases, but having this book promoted through Deseret I see as far more beneficial than the extra couple bucks of store credit I might otherwise get through click through purchases from Amazon.]

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