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Category: creation

REVIEW: Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis–Deuteronomy

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.

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“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets”

“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets”

The more I think about and have studied how Prophecy is used in the scriptures, and how our Living Prophets and apostles execute their calling, I have come to see some very strong parallels, which perhaps should (and could) lead us to a different understanding than how we usually think of “Prophecy” and “Fulfillment of Prophecy”, and even ‘historical’ scriptural/religious narratives. It also makes clear how each member of God’s Kingdom is able to participate to a degree in receiving the prophetic vision.

The way we are accustomed to thinking of it is in terms of a prophecy being when a Prophet literally sees forward in time, and may actually see the people and names and clothing and vehicles of a latter day, and writes it down in his own language.

When the literal ‘historical’ event that they saw happens, that prophecy is said to have been ‘fulfilled’.

Personally, I think we miss the mark when, in viewing what are generally understood of Isaiah’s writings said to be about the latter-days we envision him actually seeing airplanes, iPhones, our modern dress and buildings, etc, and specifically talking about us of the 21st Century – which, frankly, the people in 6th century BCE Judah couldn’t have cared less about.

A study of the textual history of Old Testament scriptures shows that there have been layers upon layers of redaction and revision. Pieces of an ‘Older Testament‘, and older versions of Israelite theology and imagery can be seen, but, based on the context of other material, it seems out of place, confusing, and without any real explanation.

Why was history rewritten? Was any of it valid, or authorized, or understood as part of the prophetic/priestly calling? Certainly there were alterations that were done for political and other socio-religious purposes. But why was this viewed as okay? Why are such practices viewed today as generally falsifying history? How can the answers to these questions relate to the LDS text known as the Joseph Smith Translation, and even what is presented in our Temple Drama?

These are some the aspects I want to explore, in a view of Dispensations in a way in which we are not generally accustomed to thinking of them.

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