One of the most difficult but important things we can do as Mormons who are alerted to the complexities of cultural differences and sacred writings is to learn how to share in church settings insights we’ve gleaned from our studies. We have a dual challenge: (1) to try to be as faithful as possible to the scriptural text and the context in which it was written and the people who lived in those places and times, while (2) still honoring in some way the Christian and LDS overlays that have become deeply ingrained in ours and others’ faith journeys and worldviews—framings and understandings that can only generally handle grafting in a few new pieces at a time.
In this episode, panelists Jana Riess, Philip Barlow, and Carrie Miles join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for an exploration of the Old Testament, paying particular attention to this delicate dance of faithfulness to both text and communities. What important framings might we offer as teachers or class members that can help open the discussion beyond just literal readings or approaches that assume that ancient Israelite rituals, temples, and practices were really just like ours of today, that these ancient peoples were essentially “proto-Mormons,” hardly different at all from us in their doctrines of God and sense of what things mean? What riches does the Old Testament possess that would be wonderful to convey even if they might complicate current LDS assumptions?
This is a rich discussion that might take a couple of listenings to really mine. Please do listen and share your ideas and comments in the section below!
Links (items mentioned in the episode or from readers):
E. A. Speiser, Genesis: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 1
Everett Fox, trans. The Five Books of Moses, Schocken Bible, Vol. 1
John Goldingay, “For Everyone” series on various books of the Bible
David A. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity (focuses on New Testament but many of the family systems are same as in Old Testament times)
Kenneth E, Bailey’s books on Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes and Paul through Middle Eastern Eyes
The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (5-volume set), Abingdon Press (prices vary greatly but widely available)
Raymond E. Brown, The New Jerome Bible Commentary
The Jewish Bible: Tanakh (Jewish Publication Society translation)
From listener Ron Tenney (with his comments):
This is a wonderful text with easy to follow topical discussions. I like it because it confronts many of the controversies of the Bible with openness yet provides a reasonable “faithful” interpretation of the text.
Jonathan Burnside, God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible
This is a pretty technical book that explores modern laws as seen as influenced or as an outgrowth of Old Testament biblical law.
The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter
Amazing commentary on the text of the Books of Moses with extensive footnotes.