- 1 Samuel 21 tells of the young fugitive David–the future king–as he desperately seeks asylum. Psalm 34 is a poem about that specific experience–the same people and places are mentioned. Go ahead and read them together–the connection is clear, and illuminates both. But in the edition of the Bible I use, they’re separated by 321 pages.
- 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17 not only tell the same story, they use nearly identical language to do so. Clearly, the Chronicles version was written later and used the Samuel text as a basic source. Reading them together makes that obvious, but it might be harder to spot if you go in the standard order, which puts 136 pages between them.
Bring up the book of Genesis and you’ll likely end up in a discussion about the Creation and the Fall, and maybe Noah’s ark. This must reflect the memories of readers who started the book and didn’t get far. Consider who the star actually is in each of its 50 chapters:
Obviously, the hero of Genesis is Abraham, whose tale is the focus of wholly 15 chapters. Second place is his great grandson Joseph, who dominates 13 chapters. Jacob is next, getting nine chapters. Noah–he of the ark–is in a distant fourth place, with only five chapters (and the last of those is really just a genealogy of his descendants).
To put it another way, the super-famous legend stories, those about Adam and Eve and about Noah, roughly comprise just 1/5 of the whole book. The other 4/5–everything from chapter 11 onward–focus on four generations of the patriarchal family: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
It’s almost like those famous early chapters, like most origin stories, are mostly obligatory background to lay a foundation for the more important material about the covenant stories that really shaped God’s people.
While reading Judges 11, I reviewed some notes from one of my favorite books of pop analysis on the Bible, James Ferrell’s The Hidden Christ: Beneath the Surface of the Old Testament, where he draws parallels between many figures there and Jesus Christ. Ferrell notes the following about Jephthah, the protagonist of Judges 11:
- He was hated and expelled by his people
- The people turned to him when they were in distress
- When the people turned to him, he became their deliverer
- He subdued the enemy on behalf of the people who had made him head and captain over them
This pattern of comparison with Jesus is clever and valid, but as I read the chapter, I was much more impressed with the character of his unnamed daughter, and the story of her sacrifice. Consider these points of similarity–the sacrificed person:
- Obediently agreed to be a sacrifice in accordance with the plan of their father (Judges 11:30-31, 36)
- Was sacrificed in a way reminiscent of a “burnt offering” (11:31)
- Was sacrificed as part of the salvation and deliverance of Israel (11:32-33, 36)
- Was the “only child” of the father (11:34)
- Was sacrificed despite their loss causing the father great anguish (11:35)
- Was sacrificed to satisfy the demands of justice (11:35)
- Immediately before the sacrifice, solemnly went out from the people to a mountain area with their closest associates (11:37)
- Was morally pure (11:37)
- Inspired the behavior of those who followed (11:39-40)
- Had their sacrifice memorialized in a regular ritual (11:40)
It’s not especially relevant here to debate whether her sacrifice was literal or metaphorical (the LDS Institute manual, however, opts for metaphorical), but either way, her position as a Christ figure is strengthened:
- If her sacrifice were literal–and she died–her symbolism for Jesus is obviously much more graphic. Even Abraham didn’t actually have to kill Isaac!
- If her sacrifice were metaphorical–and she was put in perpetual service in the tabernacle in some way, for example–then her life of selfless, consecrated service still directs us to think of Jesus.
Jephthah’s story certainly has strong elements that remind the reader of Jesus, but I think the lesson is stronger–more focused on the atonement–if he stands in for God the Father, and his loyal, anonymous daughter is a symbol of Jesus Christ.
If you’ve never read the book of Judges in the Bible, you’ve missed this little gem in chapter 3:
17 And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man.
21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:
22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out.
So, not only is this king assassinated, but the text makes it as pathetically undignified as possible. We have to be told of the king’s obesity, with the lovely detail that the sword sank into his guts up to the hilt, so that Ehud couldn’t even pull it out again.
And then that bit about “dirt,” a delightful euphemism telling us that when he had been impaled trough the intestines, this king’s last act on earth was to soil himself as his bowels released.
These details are here, and they’re here for a reason. The only thing I can think of is that the author really wanted to humiliate the memory of this king who’d held Israel captive for 18 years (Judges 3:14), perhaps as an illustration of God’s power to deliver his people and punish those who oppose him. Can there be any other reason for including these unsavory details?
There are a lot of audio Bibles on YouTube, for various translations, but some are better than others. I just finished one of the more dense sections of the Old Testament by reading along with the excellent dramatized audio at the minimalist-named Biblical channel. I’m surprised they have so few views–it’s really great work.
Today is International Day of the Bible, and that got me thinking about Nephi and his love for the Bible. Not only does he absolutely adore Isaiah–he cites, paraphrases, or comments on nearly a fourth of that prophet’s book–but consider this:
In 1 Nephi 17, he tries to teach his brothers about faith, essentially–he corrects their complaining about their lot in life by comparing it to previous precedents. Notice how detailed his metaphor is–Nephi clearly believes their situation is deeply analogous to that of their ancestors’.
Not only does he make several specific references to Old Testament material in one place, he writes that all into his record for future readers, for us–he expects us to be well versed in Bible stories, too!
Here are six references in 1 Nephi 17 to specific stories from four different books of the Bible, with the Biblical books to which he refers added in red:
29 Yea, and ye also know that Moses, by his word according to the power of God which was in him, smote the rock, and there came forth water, that the children of Israel might quench their thirst. Exodus and Numbers
40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made… Genesis
41 And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished. Numbers
I’ve always thought of the bread and water of the sacrament–the body and blood of Jesus–as emblems of his death only. That makes sense–the ordinance is to commemorate the Atonement.
But lately I’ve also been focusing on how it could direct us to his life, as well as his death.
The prayer on the water says, “the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them” (D&C 20:79), that second part explicitly directing us to think of Lord’s infinitely painful sacrifice that last night and day of his life.
The prayer on the bread, however, only mentions “the body of thy Son,” with no added description like there is on the water.
Indeed, the first two of the three Biblical synoptic gospels (John does’t mention the Last Supper), inspires this: both mention the body of Christ, without any further explanation, but then also mention the blood of Christ, with the overt follow-up about it being shed as a sacrifice for us:
26 ¶And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
I heard this contemporary cover of “Nearer My God To Thee” on Mormon Channel radio last week and loved it.
Also, I found these three videos to be very helpful in picturing the detailed directions for making the tabernacle, priestly clothing, etc. in Exodus 25-30. The narration isn’t from the King James Version, but it’s easy to tell what’s what. In fact, the updated terminology also helps clarify the KJV text.
The first video covers Exodus 25 (0:00-5:27), Exodus 26:15-30 (5:27-7:07), and Exodus 27:1-8 (7:07-8:09)
The second video covers Exodus 27:9-21 (0:00-2:30), and Exodus 28:1-43 (2:30-9:08)
The third video covers Exodus 30:1-10 (0:00-1:56), and 30:17-33 (1:57-4:30)
It’s been more than 20 years since the episode of The Simpsons aired where Bart and Lisa have to play Bible Bombardment with the Flanders family, leading an exasperated Ned to demand of the Simpson children, “Don’t you know anything? The Serpent of Rehoboam? The Well of Zohassadar? The Bridal Feast of Beth Chadruharazzeb?”
I don’t recognize any of those references, so I finally decided to look them up, and…nothing. I can’t find them in the Bible anywhere. Clearly, Ned Flanders is such a serious scholar that he knows about secret parts of the text that the rest of us can’t find.
*sigh* This is even more disappointing than when I saw Pulp Fiction and went home to look up Ezekiel 25:17. Alas, it’s not even close to the real thing.
As I continue to work on a single timeline integrating all the scriptures of the LDS Church, I’m still worried about how to split up Ether and match it with the Old Testament. In my draft from last year, I have the Jaredite character Lib congruent with King David, and the end of the Jaredite record running well into the Nephite timeline.
Today, I started over on that. My basis for this revision is to start with the very popular and well-supported theory that the Jaredite city of Lib (and the king its named for) is actually the historical Olmec city of San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo flourished from about 1400-1200 BC.
Also, the Book of Omni is actually unclear about how long the Mulekites were established in the Western hemisphere before they met Coriantumr.
For the sake of convenience, I’m dating the meeting of Coriantumr at about 550 BC, and, based on the San Lorenzo theory (and also for convenience), dating Lib at abut 1350.
(There will be lots of estimating and rounding here, since none of this can be precise, and since the splitting and mixing of Ether into the Old Testament will have to still consider creating a coherent narrative. Take all of this with a grain of salt–this is much more speculation than science, after all.)
A few weeks ago I had to drive out of state alone, and found this dramatized reading of the Book of Psalms on YouTube. I like the voice, as well as the peaceful, yoga/spa music in the background. I listened to most of this on the drive, and it was very pleasant. I should do this more often.
There are some audio files of the Book of Mormon on YouTube–the only really decent voice is on the church’s own version, and none of them have music. Alas, who will meet this need?
Genesis 19 is one of the most sordid, controversial chapters of the Bible. As such, it’s not often seen as a fount of wisdom.
Yet, a perfectly timely spiritual message is in this narrative.
Before “the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire,” an angel warned Lot to take his family and “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17)
Was Lot’s response to act like Peter and Andrew, who, upon being called to the ministry, “straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matt. 4:20)? Or like Alma, who was abused and rejected as a minister in one city, but after leaving was instructed by an angel to go back and persist, so “he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah” (Alma 8:18)?
No. Lot’s immediate instinct wasn’t obedience, but quibbling and negotiation: “And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord…. I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die” (19:21-22).
Not only did he decline to follow the angel’s clear counsel, he proposed following his own inclinations: “Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.” (19:20)
I heard you on the radio last Monday talking about Mormonism. I tried calling in but the lines were busy. I tweeted you on Tuesday asking to talk about it, but you haven’t responded yet–maybe you’re busy?
At any rate, I thought this post might be a good way to open a dialogue, if you’re OK with that. Feel free to respond to any and all of the items I discuss here, or proceed as you see fit. I look forward to a friendly and respectful, but candid and productive discussion!
I didn’t hear the entire program, as I was driving around and running errands at the time, but I think I got the gist of it; certainly, I heard enough to be able to address what I think your major points were.
First, I want to offer some general observations, in the form of questions, about what I heard you say on the radio. (I’d love to hear your actual answers to these questions, please–they’re not meant to be merely hypothetical!) Then I’ll cover a few of the biggest specific issues you raised.
10 questions regarding general observations
1. You invited Mormons to call in and discuss your teachings, and this leads me to wonder: have you engaged many Latter-day Saints in conversation about your claims regarding us? Have any of them had the equivalent education and training in their religion that you’ve had in yours? Do you feel you have a solid understanding of what LDS answers to your objections are?
What have their responses been? Have you found any of those responses compelling at all?
If not, doesn’t it strike you as odd that a religion with so many adherents should be incapable of adequately explaining *any* of your claims? Might that seem to indicate the presence of confirmation bias on your part?
Do you ever address these responses in your presentations on Mormonism? If not, why not?
2. If you have not sought out responses from qualified Latter-day Saints, why not? Shouldn’t someone who professionally teaches about the perceived negatives of another group seek out responses and even rebuttals from that group as assiduously as possible as part of their own preparation? Wouldn’t that bolster your credibility and, frankly, be the most civil thing to do?
3. What have been the primary sources of your education about Latter-day Saints? What would say are your top five sources? Continue reading
Some anti-Mormon critics have pointed out that the Book of Mormon uses specific and unique phrases from the Bible several dozen times. They’re wrong, of course.
The Book of Mormon uses specific and unique phrases from the Bible several hundred times.
This amazing presentation by a BYU scholar at a recent conference on the complex language of the Book of Mormon goes into this. There’s no concrete explanation for how this phenomenon is to be accounted for: for the faithful, we don’t know exactly how so many of these non-quotation uses appear in the Book of Mormon; for the critics, since there’s so much subtlety and deep understanding evident in the phrasing (and it in no way helped any hypothetical hoax), there’s no way to simply write this off as lazy copying.