Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

On “Higher Criticism” and the Documentary Hypothesis

January 29th, 2013 by G.

Here are a few thoughts from a layman who has only a nodding acquaintance with the subject:

The documentary hypothesis is not the same thing as higher criticism, let that be said.

  • I don’t trust the motives of folks who push higher criticism. Even the Mormon ones on inspection often either want to loosen the authority of prophets who have read scriptures non-critically; or apologists who think there’s a little bit of argumentative coin to be banked (e.g., the Great Angel); or simply folks who don’t like being associated with a church whose mass is unsophisticated and approaches scripture with a declasse naivety, who hope to shout “fundamentalist” at us long enough that we learn to wipe the snot off our noses and use the salad fork.
  •  Them not being trustworthy isn’t the same as them being wrong. It just means that without a lifetime of my own to devote to scholarship, I am inclined to hold this decade’s certainties at arms’ length. I’ve read and enjoyed a number of things that could have been called higher critical.
  •  Incredulity about miracles and holiness drives a lot of the higher criticism I’ve seen or read. The premises drive the conclusions.
  • From C.S. Lewis

    In the earlier history of every rebellion there is a stage at which you do not yet attack the King in person. You say, ‘The King is all right. It is his Ministers who are wrong. They misrepresent him and corrupt all his plans –which, I’m sure, are good plans if only the Ministers would let them take effect.’ And the first victory consists in beheading a few Ministers: only at a later stage do you go on and behead the King himself.

    In the same way, the nineteenth-century attack on St. Paul was really only a stage in the revolt against Christ. Men were not ready in large numbers to attack Christ Himself. They made the normal first move—that of attacking one of His principal ministers. Everything they disliked in Christianity was therefore attributed to St. Paul. It was unfortunate that their case could not impress anyone who had really read the Gospels and the epistles with attention: but apparently few people had, and so the first victory was won. St. Paul was impeached and banished and the world went on to the next step—the attack on the King Himself.

  • Also from C.S. Lewis:

    First then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading. The specific variant of this that I’ve seen is the ‘look every gift horse in the mouth’ syndrome, where the critics assume that if something fits nicely into a narrative or has potent symbolism, it must be an invention.

  • Bokovoy has a nice little Mormon defense of the documentary hypothesis and of higher criticism. But he inadvertently highlights one of the weaknesses of higher criticism. It is an academic pursuit, not a spiritual one. Its insights are not obviously life-changing. He tries to argue that one sceptic’s assertion that Barabbas was an invention helped him understand for the first time that Barabbas was meant as a type of revolutionary Judaism and a temporal kingdom. But this understanding is obvious and requires no particular scholarship, let alone scepticism. It’s a seminary-level insight.
  • The textual problems and inconsistencies the documentary hypothesis points out are more convincing than the hypotheses it elaborates to create it. One problem with historical scholarship of all kinds is that it does not properly account for the absence of evidence. If the theories we have are the best we can do given our sources, it does not follow that our sources adequately support our theories.
  •   Despite what its well-meaning advocates say, higher criticism and even the documentary hypothesis are at odds with mainstream Mormon beliefs going back to Joseph Smith, like the authorship of Isaiah. Advocates often are disappointingly squirrelly about acknowledging these problems.  Joseph Smith and mainstream Mormon belief aren’t infallible, but they aren’t negligible either.
  • From an Anglican priest:

    Today, however, there are teachers of biblical subjects in universities and seminaries who deconstruct the texts and reconstruct them in line with their own worldviews. The duly deconstructed then reconstructed Christ is a tame individual, with views similar to the collective ‘groupthink’. This is not evidence of the Spirit of God, but the spirit of the age. It promotes scepticism and doubt, including among church people.

  • Not everyone who doubts higher criticism has the same definition of higher criticism. C. S. Lewis, for example, thought it was obvious that Job and Jonah were literary stories, not historical events.
  • Higher criticism applied to the Book of Mormon is just a hoot. The more you show that it’s an ancient text with the flaws and other problems of ancient texts, the more you underline its authority. Which is why most higher critical readings of the book have been by faithful mormons and why those readings have usually had an undertone of wicked sass.
Comments (86)
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January 29th, 2013 16:50:18
86 comments

Zen
January 29, 2013

I agree with a lot of what you are saying about higher criticism, Adam, but if you don’t understand the documentary hypothesis, you don’t understand why the Old Testament has so little of Christ in it, (while Psalms, and Proverbs are far more Christian) and why the OT differs in so many ways from the Book of Mormon. For one thing, the OT is largely, written from the perspective of Judah (J source) and the Book of Mormon is written from the E perspective, hence different prophets quoted and no emphasis on the Davidic covenant.

Now, I don’t think it was all written at different times by different people. The book of Moses comprises the first few chapters of Genesis, but is 3 times longer, showing that a lot was taken out, and possibly paraphrased, leading to unintentional bias and emphasis, ie, J and E. But it has obviously been pared down and paraphrased extensively, considering how little of Genesis we have left. Or even what we have left of the Hebrew Canon. It does not necessarily mean that it was all different authors, but it does give a more active role for the scribes copying them.

Likewise, this explains in detail how we have always preached that there are things missing in the Bible. King Josiah and his priests are highly regarded as bringing religion back, but Jeremiah (who was called a year after Josiah began his purges) has nothing kind to say about the priests. It also gives additional meaning to Jeremiah’s famous condemnation about hewing out broken cisterns.

Don’t get your knickers in a twist about any particular book, eg. Isaiah. We know there have been modifications, if only inadvertent ones, because of the number of changes between the Book of Mormon Isaiah and the biblical text.

In short, I think you are tossing the baby out with the bathwater. Your criticisms are mainly vague with a lot of ad hominem condemnations of anyone who listens to it. I recommend, you either leave off the condemnation, or come back and do it properly.


Michael Towns
January 29, 2013

Adam, I agree pretty much everything you posted here regarding higher criticism. I could make a number of supporting points, but let me point out one thing.

“They seem to me to lack literary judgment”

Absolutely! All you have to do is read Robert Alter’s “The Art of Biblical Narrative” to see how higher critics can’t see the forest for the trees. There are astounding literary correspondences that make it clear that significant portions of the Old Testament, for instance, are best viewed holistically and integrally, rather than hodge-podge compilations.

Now, I am not one to throw out everything higher criticism adds to the discussion, but I’m not convinced they have all the answers, especially after reading Alter’s work.


Quickmere Graham
January 29, 2013

Based on your description here, I don’t think you even know what Higher Criticism refers to, the various schools, theories, approaches, theorists, assumptions, and variety of perspectives the term entails. It basically boils down to you willfully plugging your ears and saying you refuse to listen because you’re afraid of some spooky hidden agenda. Also ironic is the way the Towns fellow refers to Robert Alter to counter higher criticism when Alter’s approach can actually be used precisely to sustain theories of various theoreticians of higher criticism. If there is one thing we Mormons need if we’re interested in taking the scriptures seriously and being able to dialogue with those of other faiths in regards to the biblical text it ismore attention paid, not less, to higher criticism in all its varieties. Clearly Adam G. has a lot to learn if he ever wishes to hop off the donkey, leave the windmills to others, and join in the fun of contemporary biblical scholarship in a faithful LDS setting.


Quickmere Graham
January 29, 2013

On second thought, I see you’ve already poisoned the well regarding the motives of anyone (like me) who wants to “push” higher criticism (even though you’re obviously painfully unaware of what higher criticism even is). I change my response to simply say that you don’t like people who push HC because you’re intellectually lazy. Now that wells have been poisoned on both sides we can do something more productive like have a game of chess.


Michael Towns
January 29, 2013

Wow, Quickmere. Feeling a bit defensive are we?

Let me ask you something: do you view with disdain any Latter Day Saint that simply wishes to read the scriptures by the power of God’s Spirit and apply those sacred insights to his or her life?

Based on your above screed, you seem to feel that unless you drink deep from the pool of higher criticism you’re just an “intellectually lazy” moron with respect to scripture. Hop off the donkey? I’ve never met Adam G. in my life, but I’ve been reading his blog for a long time now. A shallow, callow, superficial dolt he is not.


Zen
January 29, 2013

I think the world of Adam, really I do, but he did “poison the well” and did say he had not sufficiently looked into it.

Perhaps a little later I will write a post and share why I find it of such great worth.


Michael Towns
January 29, 2013

Worth is in the eye of the beholder. I can read Hebrew and Greek, and I find it aids my interpretation of obscure passages of the Bible. I have no problem with higher criticism as an intellectual endeavor. If you want to spend your life deconstructing holy writ only to write erudite and obscurantist articles and books that 0.000000001% of the population will read, go for it.

But as the restored gospel eloquently teaches us, spiritual endeavors coupled with revelation and the Spirit trump academic adventurism. That’s the bottom line. The wisdom of the wise and all that.

I’m sorry that’s too “fundamentalist” for you guys.


Quickmere Graham
January 29, 2013

“I’ve been reading his blog for a long time now. A shallow, callow, superficial dolt he is not.”

That may be true, but it doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of writing something shallow, superficial, callow, or doltish, now, does it? I don’t believe in infallible bloggers. I used to, but I listened to a few podcasts and found out I had been misled all these years.

“But as the restored gospel eloquently teaches us, spiritual endeavors coupled with revelation and the Spirit trump academic adventurism.”

First of all, why should eloquence count for anything? Aren’t we trying to champion awe-shuckism here? More importantly, if we’re looking to Smith as a model, these things aren’t all entirely separable. Although it’s obvious that the “weightier matters of the law” demand attention, no doubt. But we could say that about commenting on blogs and indict ourselves the hell out of here, couldn’t we?


Michael Towns
January 29, 2013

If you actually read his post, Adam brings up very compelling points. An example:

” Incredulity about miracles and holiness drives a lot of the higher criticism I’ve seen or read. The premises drive the conclusions.”

I’ve noticed the same thing. What say you as to this trenchant and un-doltish insight?

Again, as I indeed noted above, I don’t dismiss everything HC has to say. I just find what HC has to say rather irrelevant to my spiritual life. To say the least.


Quickmere Graham (J source)
January 29, 2013

What say you as to this trenchant and un-doltish insight?

I say it indicates that Adam has almost certainly familiarized himself chiefly with apologetic responses to higher criticism which are targeted at certain HC approaches at the expense of taking in a broad view of the diverse overall field. Or maybe he can actually cite the books and journal articles he’s read and defend the view that they are representative enough of the current field to justify his post.

I just find what HC has to say rather irrelevant to my spiritual life.

Good for you. Adam goes beyond calling HC merely irrelevant, though.


Michael Towns (P source)
January 29, 2013

“Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude…”

? James Joyce, Finnegans Wake


Quickmere Graham
January 29, 2013

Oh the irony of quoting Joyce in connection to a blog post that rhetorically relies on the literary judgments of C.S. Lewis…!

[extremely deft sarcasm] (Here’s a tip: he wasn’t a fan.) [/extremely deft sarcasm]


Josiah Seixas
January 29, 2013

When Joseph Smith, Jr. asked me to come to The School of the Prophets at Kirtland and teach them Hebrew, I tried to decline the invitation. After all, who needs the learning of men when you are prophets? But somehow I was still able to teach them to wipe their noses and use the salad fork.

If you look through the comments here, the scholarly consensus is that no higher criticism proponent is as insulting and quarrelsome as Adam G. implies, or shows any inability to offer a sensitive and nuanced reading of the text of the original post.


Michael Towns
January 29, 2013

Quickmere, I really don’t need you to point out the irony. I have actually read both Lewis and Joyce. I like them both and appreciate what each brought to literature.

Josiah….cute! Too bad your caricature is based on a total misunderstanding of my real position.


Some idiot masquerading as a dead sephardic rabbi of American citizenship.
January 29, 2013

Shove your head up your ass!


Michael Towns
January 29, 2013

Easy on the meds, Josiah.


Quickmere Graham
January 29, 2013

I am humorless.

[Edited for fun and profit — Ed.]


Vader
January 30, 2013

Quickmere,

The message I got from Adam’s post was more along the lines of “Potholes ahead! Proceed with caution!” than any brand of Know-Nothingness. But then my sense is that you have not been reading Adam as long as I have.

As for your own comments: I note that you have not offered a single substantive rebuttal of any of Adam’s points. Instead, you have gone after Adam himself for having the effrontery to express skepticism of higher criticism. This is a classical ad hominem.

Like Zen and Michael, I was inclined to post some mild rebuttals to Adam’s criticisms, but you’ve so poisoned the discussion that I no longer want anything to do with it. Which may have been your whole intent. If so, you’re welcome to your petty victory.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

Zen, this isn’t a comprehensive case against higher criticism or the documentary hypothesis. Its not even a non-comprehensive case. These are impressions, not arguments. It should be of interest to someone like you who thinks that understanding it is important to see what the reactions of an intelligent layman are; think of me as a one-man focus group. Take it for what its worth, but namecalling, or even just telling people that they can’t understand the scriptures without it, doesn’t persuade. Neither does the handwaving about stuff like Isaiah. But please don’t think that I’m dismissing you or higher criticism or the documentary hypothesis tout court.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

Quickmere,
you’re an ass. Leave the apologia for higher criticism or whatnot to Zen.

Vader,
I would enjoy reading your rebuttal. To the extent the well is poisoned, I’m sure the filters in your mask can compensate.


Pelekesi
January 30, 2013

Would Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon qualify as higher criticism?


Josiah Seixas
January 30, 2013

There there, Vader. If you have been reading Adam G. for as long as I have, you would know that he sometimes loves a good brawl and that he is no stranger to hyperbole, ad hominem, and the personal barb.

As for substantive rebuttals to his points, I’ll give it a try.

“Despite what its well-meaning advocates say, higher criticism and even the documentary hypothesis are at odds with mainstream Mormon beliefs going back to Joseph Smith”

I do not think this is correct. At a banquet for BYU professors of ancient scripture, an informal poll was taken about their belief regarding the DH. Every single one of them accepts it as the best explanation we have right now for the way the OT came to us. If the BYU religion department isn’t mainstream Mormon, I don’t know what is.

In addition, LDS going all the way back to Joseph Smith have been deeply suspicious of the way a traditional. literalist Christian reads the Old Testament. The 8th article of faith puts it right out there, and 1 Nephi 13 goes even further, making outright accusations of tampering against the redactors of the OT. So I take issue with Adam on this point. Right from the beginning, Mormons have acknowledged that the Hebrew bible came to us in fragments, through redactors and interpreters who may not be entirely trustworthy. Our familiarity with the narrative of the Book of Mormon which got passed around and edited several times gives the latter-day Saints a unique advantage in studying the DH. I think we ought to jump in with both feet, because we have a contribution to make.

There is a reason it is called a hypothesis. Nobody is claiming it is the last word. If we don’t like it, we ought to refute it and provide a different explanation. But until we do, the DH remains the best explanation for the Old Testament. Any serious study of the bible requires the student to have at least a cursory knowledge of the DH.

Of course, maybe that’s really what this is all about. Mainstream Mormons don’t usually take the Old Testament seriously, at least not seriously enough to study it on its own terms.


Some idiot masquerading as a dead sephardic rabbi of American citizenship.
January 30, 2013

Adam: “namecalling doesn’t persuade”

Adam, next comment: “You’re an ass”

Yes, this is the Adam we all know! No ad hominem there!


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

“Mainstream Mormons don’t usually take the Old Testament seriously, at least not seriously enough to study it on its own terms.”

I grant that many Mormons don’t read the Old Testament as much as they should.

What does studying the OT “on its own terms” really mean, though?

I know plenty of LDS who do take the OT seriously, but who don’t necessarily want to spend two years of their lives wading deep into DH minutiae. I’m pretty sure the lessons of the OT can be gleaned without resorting to concern over whether any passage is J or P.

You seem to think that the average LDS joe is missing out because he’s not conversant with DH. I disagree. I also don’t treat, typically, my fellow LDS with disdain because they don’t have a PhD in Biblical Studies.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

SIMAADSRAC,
I left your comment unedited because it made me laugh.
The contradiction it implies is easily resolved. I didn’t call Quickmere an ass to persuade him, I called it because sacred honor compels me to speak the truth.


Josiah Seixas
January 30, 2013

“Barabbas was meant as a type of revolutionary Judaism and a temporal kingdom. But this understanding is obvious and requires no particular scholarship, let alone scepticism. It’s a seminary-level insight.”

No, it isn’t. Show me a seminary teacher who tells the young scholars in early morning seminary that Barabbas didn’t really exist and I’ll show you a guy who will be looking for a job tomorrow.


Ben
January 30, 2013

“I don’t trust the motives of folks who push higher criticism.”
“Incredulity about miracles and holiness drives a lot of the higher criticism I’ve seen or read.”

How do you account for Evangelical scholars who accept a form of the DH, such as Peter Enns? They’re certainly not anti-Bible or incredulous about miracles.

“on inspection often either want to loosen the authority of prophets who have read scriptures non-critically” This is problematic. Are we bound to one reading? Must JFieldingSmiths views be taken as THE Revealed Prophetic View of Scripture? If not, how do you not take yourself to be loosening the authority of prophets? There are many borderline-fundamentalist (in the Protestant sense) Mormons who have an overdeveloped concept of prophetic authority.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

Lol…bringing up the Joseph Fielding Smith boogeyman! I love it!

“There are many borderline-fundamentalist (in the Protestant sense) Mormons who have an overdeveloped concept of prophetic authority.”

Perhaps. I would rather have an overdeveloped one than an underdeveloped one. ;)


SIMAADSRAC
January 30, 2013

Towns, nobody is looking with disdain on LDS who don’t have a PhD in Biblical Studies, and nobody is claiming it takes two years of study to understand the DH. I think your average LDS could pick it up in a week or so.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

Your attempt to disparage my intellect is rather puerile and disappointing.* I wish I didn’t have to do this, but let me show you how big my brain is: I work as an Arabic linguist for the United States military. I help catch bad guys who happen to speak, write, and read Arabic. I can read the Qur’an, quote the Qur’an, read the Hadith, watch Al-Jazeera and comprehend everything I hear. I also know how to read Hebrew, working on Greek and Aramaic, and have Farsi on my long-term plans for acquisition. And I can do it all before breakfast.

*[Ed.–it was puerile and disappointing. It did not make Us laugh, so we deleted it.]


SIMAADSRAC
January 30, 2013

Adam, to boil it down briefly, even though LDS are conservative Christians, I think our suspicion of bible translation as enunciated in the 8th article of faith predisposes us to view the bible more skeptically that most other conservative Christians. If I am reading you correctly, you think higher criticism causes us to be even more skeptical than is warranted. I suspect we disagree on that point.


Quickmere Graham
January 30, 2013

But then my sense is that you have not been reading Adam as long as I have.

My sense is that Adam has not been reading Higher Criticism as long as I have. Thus, the warnings are practically useless against warning in that the warned warner will largely have been ignorant about warnings through the very warning he will have being warned against.

Adam G.: So you edit my comments, you call me an ass, but [substantive point, full of devasting rebuttals and incisive rhetoric, has been deleted. Ass.]


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

“Vader also apparently overlooked the fact that this post was created to criticize David Bokovoy, essentially suggesting he is subversive to the LDS religion. ”

Nope. The post in no way stated or even insinuated that Bokovoy was “subversive” to the LDS religion.


SIMAADSRAC
January 30, 2013

Towns, hot damn!

Here are my credentials. This afternoon I’mma help at buddy who runs a Roto-Rooter franchise. I’m gonna put on my chest waders and get into a septic tank. I will contemplate the way in which the solid p-sewage and the liquid ureic e-sewage have melded into one literal mess.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

“Show me a seminary teacher who tells the young scholars in early morning seminary that Barabbas didn’t really exist and I’ll show you a guy who will be looking for a job tomorrow.”

Great galloping gophers, you people can’t read.

Show me a seminary teacher who needed to be told that Barabbas didn’t exist to understand that the Jews picking Barabbas over Christ is meant to show a preference for a revolutionary, temporal kingdom over a spiritual kingdom that is not of this world.


SIMAADSRAC
January 30, 2013

You’re right, Adam!

I skimmed that sentence and my eye caught “invention”, and I wasn’t careful how I understood you.

You are not an ass.


Vader
January 30, 2013

SIMAADSRAC,

Your post to Adam on “boiling it down briefl” is something I could have posted myself. I find it regrettable that you chose to address Michael Towns the way you did when you can clearly do better.

Quickmere,

You’ve given me no reason to feel such regrets in your case.

Ad hominem is to attack the man rather than his arguments. Which is what I believe you did to Adam. Mere snark doesn’t particularly bother me; indeed, I have indulged on occasion. Snark whose purpose appears to be to conceal the fact that you have made no substantive argument bothers me quite a lot.

Asininity is often in the eyes of the beholder, but I see it too.

Josiah,

I have no problem at all seeing Barabbas as a type of revolutionary Judaism. I can also, and at the same time, speculate that he was the scape goat (in the original Mosaic sense) who was spared being sacrificed but was driven into the wilderness carrying the sins of Israel, while Christ was the Lord’s goat offered as a blood sacrifice. Neither typology precludes Barabbas from also being a real person.


Ben
January 30, 2013

“Perhaps. I would rather have an overdeveloped one than an underdeveloped one.”

Problem is, that creates a very brittle view of prophets. And if it can be shown to be wrong, guess (insert LDS GA here) wasn’t a prophet. I’ve seen too many testimonies shattered due to an overdeveloped sense of prophetic perfection, so I’d go the other way. I was having a conversation with my dad the other day (in his second term as a Stake President), and he remarked that he thought one reason he still believed was that he was a natural skeptic, and didn’t simply believe what anyone told him without weighing it.


SIMAADSRAC
January 30, 2013

The folk wisdom says that people who enjoy politics or sausage should not watch how politics and sausage are made.

Maybe that applies to the bible, too. But since I enjoy that particular sausage, I am highly motivated to find out about the scraps and trimmings and mystery meat that went into the grinder.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

Ben, thanks for your insight. I appreciate it.

I would hasten to point out that nowhere did I suggest anything like “prophetic perfection”. That’s kind of a straw man, frankly. I do not believe in prophetic inerrancy. Just as I don’t believe in scriptural inerrancy.

Testimonies shattered due to prophetic perfection were testimonies built on sand, in my opinion.

You can certainly feel free to “go the over way” if you want to. I would advise caution. After all, at what point do you draw the line? Convenience? Personally held political views? By going too far the other way, you might make yourself susceptible to the kind of rationality that turns disciples into folks that no longer believe anything that comes out of Church leadership.

I know full well that the modern apostles put their pants on, one leg at a time. It’s just that, when their pants are on, they are entitled to a special spiritual endowment that we should absolutely pay attention to.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

And what are the problems with taking a too flexible view of the prophets? Sin, and also falling away.

The implication that you have to embrace the documentary hypothesis or folks will leave the church is just the kind of silliness that has made me dubious about the documentary hypothesis in the first place. I don’t have the time or the inclination or perhaps the ability to recreate all the research for myself, so whether I tentatively accept it or not or even take the time to get more familiarity with it depends a lot on whether its advocates seem like sober, cautious people who make good arguments and are even-handed in their thinking, or if they rush in with bad arguments that try to skirt around difficulties. So far this thread has rather reinforced my prejudices instead of allaying them.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

he folk wisdom says that people who enjoy politics or sausage should not watch how politics and sausage are made.

Maybe that applies to the bible, too. But since I enjoy that particular sausage, I am highly motivated to find out about the scraps and trimmings and mystery meat that went into the grinder.

That’s fair enough.


Quickmere Graham (E source)
January 30, 2013

I guess I’ll go off in a corner somewhere, clutch my copy of Friedman’s translation, and cry myself to sleep.


twiceuponatime
January 30, 2013

There’s more than Ad hominem going on. Most of the critics of Adam are engaging in equivocation.

Higer criticism does not equal all academic study of the scriptures, and to act as if some mild reservations about a few points in higher criticsm somehow means Adam is against studying Biblical languaes or Ancient History or any academic study relevant to the scriptures – well, that’s just silly. Really, so far no one has really given a good rebuttal to what Adam wrote. Instead, they’ve beat up some straw man they found on the side of the road that only bears a passing resemblance to Adam.


Ben
January 30, 2013

I note no one has responded to my counter-questions. One was labeled “bogeyman” though. My point is, is there a point at which one can discount what a given Apostle says on a subject?

If not, that leads fairly directly to infallibility (If you think it does not, I’m interested in how you parse that out.) If not, the next question is, when can one do so, and on what basis?

(if you answer “no” to the first question, what is one to make of strong inconsistencies between General Conference directives?)


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

Ben, my joking about bogeyman aside, you raise good points, and you don’t act like an idiot, which is a breath of fresh air.

I only joked about Joseph Fielding Smith because his and Bruce R. McConkie’s names are always brought up in discussions of this sort. And, when I say “brought up”, I mean they are brought up with severely negative connotations.

Can we not agree that both Joseph Fielding Smith and Hugh B. Brown were both apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ? Both men had opinions. Both men didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues. But both held the apostolic office, which we should respect.

I only bring Smith and Brown up to showcase that I am well aware of the meme out there among some LDS intellectuals that goes like this: Joseph Fielding Smith, bad! Hugh B. Brown, good!


Ben
January 30, 2013

I’d also point out that (IIRC from reading him) literary critics like Alter generally accept the DH, it’s just not what they’re interested in. Literary unity can be overlaid and created from disparate parts. It depends if you think the editors were sloppy cut-and-paste (few critics do) or sensitive to the materials.

(Barton’s work here is very useful, as it directly addresses the apparent disparity between literary approaches and source-critical approaches, Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study.)


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

“My point is, is there a point at which one can discount what a given Apostle says on a subject?”

Absolutely. That’s why the Brethren have taught for decades that when they speak you need to have the Spirit confirm their message to you. The onus is on you for that.

The danger, of course, is by just assuming they if they say something that rubs you the wrong way, you assume it’s the man talking WITHOUT getting a spiritual confirmation of what was presented. Again, the onus is on you for going to God and getting the confirmation. Then you are accountable. But in reality, you are accountable either way, because by automatically dismissing something that you don’t agree with, you are opening yourself up to missing out on serious blessings.

Our true responsibility as it applies to listening to the prophets is not passive, but active.


Zen
January 30, 2013

Well this has turned into quite a storm of lower criticism, hasn’t it?

Adam – I apologize if I came across too tactless. I will try and conserve my tactlessness for those who are more deserving.

Ok, a few points. The glory of God is intelligence. No man is saved in ignorance. et cetera.

No latterday saint has any business being anti-intellectual. That is not to say we ought to accept uncritically everything scholars say, particularly faithless scholars. If I peg Adam right, I would say this is his objection.

Seriously, We of all people believe in the importance of education. Whence cometh this anti-intellect posture? Are we adopting it from the Evangelicals? I certainly hope not.

We believe the Bible as far as it is translated correctly. And I hold a certain amount of venom for those who changed parts or removed them. I appreciate understanding a bit better HOW and WHEN it happened. WHO was doing it and WHY.

My own feeling, is that we are in a poor position to pray for more scripture unless we have really exerted ourselves, in understanding the scriptures we have, in every way, including (but not limited to) scholarly approaches. And darn it, I want more scripture.

One thing I came across while studying these dark arts, was a saying of Jesus not recorded in the scriptures. I will leave you to judge of its worth.
“This world is a bridge. Pass over, but do not build your house here.”


Vader
January 30, 2013

“Vader: If pointing out that Adam’s observations evince no understanding of the diverse subject of HC constitutes ad hominem, …”

Yes, it does. Tell me what’s wrong with what he said, not why he is unqualified to say anything.

I do not think you can say he knows nothing about HC. He obviously knows a little. He obviously does not know a lot. He admits it.

His post was to the effect that what he does know about it raises some concerns in his mind. He stated what those concerns were. You have not adequately addressed those concerns. You have not really tried.

I don’t like Josiah’s tone, especially towards Michael, but at least he is addressing Adam’s concerns. And, embarrassingly enough, saying some things I might myself have said, only more politely.

I once attended a seminar on quantum field theory at a prestigious graduate school. (We Dark Lords are very interested in learning more about forces.) During the seminar, a young student, obviously just beginning his graduate studies, asked a fairly dumb question about one of the Feynmann integrals. The professor proceeded to bite his head off, actually calling him stupid in front of the audience. What did I conclude from that? I concluded that the new student was a new student, and that the professor was an ass.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

“I’d also point out that (IIRC from reading him) literary critics like Alter generally accept the DH, it’s just not what they’re interested in.”

Yes. When I brought Alter up, it wasn’t necessarily to suggest that he debunks the DH. Clearly he doesn’t.

However, what Alter does showcase is the fact that there is more than one way to approach scripture. DH may very well be valid from an sheer academic perspective. But that doesn’t mean it’s valid from a spiritual perspective. Or a literary perspective. Or a seminary perspective!

The notion that I have to accept DH because “it’s true” is the very sort of fundamentalism that some of the folks on here are accusing some of us of doing.

I subscribe to the notion that we, as individuals and as families, can read the scriptures in a variety of ways that will actually give us wisdom and spiritual experiences, and a knowledge of DH becomes irrelevant to that enterprise.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

“Whence cometh this anti-intellect posture? ”

So, believe the DH with all my heart and soul, or I am an anti-intellectual?

*rolls eyes*

Surely you don’t view it in such stark terms, do you? Can one legitimately raise concerns about something without being accused of being a dunderhead? Please. Open inquiry is a hallmark of intellectualism.


Zen
January 30, 2013

The strawman is yours, Michael.

However, I am perfectly willing to beat you with it, if you like.

Stupid logic and fallacies are perfectly good reasons for ‘enhanced interrogation’ in my book.

[Ed. Cool it, you two, or we’ll sic Aunt Agatha on you.]


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

Then clarify your statements, Zen. The ball is in your court. Instead of accusing me of using “stupid logic”, address the issues.


Zen
January 30, 2013

Michael, I did not say “So, believe the DH with all my heart and soul, or I am an anti-intellectual?” nor did I even mention the DH in my posts today.

However, rejecting scholarship because it is by scholars, would have been as ridiculous as Vader rejecting quantum field theory because it is by scholars who sometimes changing their minds.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

“rejecting scholarship because it is by scholars”

Nobody here said anything about rejecting scholarship *because* it is by scholars. You bring a host of assumptions to the table that lead you astray right from the outset of this conversation.


Quickmere Graham (E source)
January 30, 2013

Just to be clear: Criticize the living hell out of the DH and higher criticism in general. But make sure you’re actually familiar with these things before you do, and also consider the fact that you’re speaking from within (and to) a community that already has a heightened sense of skepticism toward these things. Simple skepticism isn’t what we need to preach; if anything, we’d prefer to have more sustained engagement with such things, critical or otherwise.


Vader
January 30, 2013

“I stated it in my original comments: “Based on your description here, I don’t think you even know what Higher Criticism refers to, the various schools, theories, approaches, theorists, assumptions, and variety of perspectives the term entails.” What did you expect, a full treatise on the diverse field of higher criticism? ”

No, I expected you to take one or more of Adam’s points, and tell me specifically why he is mistaken about it.

“I conclude that it’s odd to equate the rhetorical situations of a graduate seminar with a blog. ”

Why? Both are about throwing out ideas for discussion. Both run the risk of having some ass lob a grenade into the discussion. They’re really not so different.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

That’s just it, Zen. If you follow the latest scholarship, it’s not clear. Some say yes, some say no.

Granted, from my cursory and Joseph Fielding Smith-inspired myopic viewpoint (that was snark), the No people are in the minority. Nevertheless, I’ve read Barker, and she does present interesting questions.

But then again, she’s an “independent scholar” and you might not cotton to them types.

Here is a good problem: I wasn’t around in 640 B.C., and neither were you. There is a lot of missing detail.

Also, good or bad from whose perspective? The king’s? The elites? The hardworking poor? Good or bad from OUR perspective?


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

Okay, okay….it’s obvious that we’re generating more heat than light with all of this.

Perhaps, it would behoove us all to lower our shields and disarm photon torpedoes as a gesture of good faith.

Part of the problem is that when people invest significant portions of their life in the study of a thing, it’s easy to get defensive when someone approaches it from a critical stand, no matter how gently put.

So, I’m willing to listen to reasoned arguments. Just don’t call me stupid. I’m kinda like Marty McFly when he gets called a “coward”.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

If you have been reading Adam G. for as long as I have, you would know that he sometimes loves a good brawl and that he is no stranger to hyperbole, ad hominem, and the personal barb.

This was by far your best argument. The kindly fellow-feeling it induced more than halfway won me over. Though I am not jumping into the Doc Hypo with both feet, I will look with more benignity on wizened little clerkish pissants like yourself generally, and more specifically on you, since you apparently have your shriveled corruption of a heart in the right place.

“Despite what its well-meaning advocates say, higher criticism and even the documentary hypothesis are at odds with mainstream Mormon beliefs going back to Joseph Smith”

I do not think this is correct. At a banquet for BYU professors of ancient scripture, an informal poll was taken about their belief regarding the DH. Every single one of them accepts it as the best explanation we have right now for the way the OT came to us. If the BYU religion department isn’t mainstream Mormon, I don’t know what is.

In addition, LDS going all the way back to Joseph Smith have been deeply suspicious of the way a traditional. literalist Christian reads the Old Testament. The 8th article of faith puts it right out there, and 1 Nephi 13 goes even further, making outright accusations of tampering against the redactors of the OT. So I take issue with Adam on this point. Right from the beginning, Mormons have acknowledged that the Hebrew bible came to us in fragments, through redactors and interpreters who may not be entirely trustworthy. Our familiarity with the narrative of the Book of Mormon which got passed around and edited several times gives the latter-day Saints a unique advantage in studying the DH. I think we ought to jump in with both feet, because we have a contribution to make.

Well now, this is the quality of reasoning I would expect from an advocate of the documentary hypothesis. With all due respect to the BYU religion faculty, who I have even been willing to defend on occasion, despite them combining some of the worst failings of the academy with the worst failings of the church bureaucracy, creating an unholy hybrid of self-satisfied stodgy plodding wind, hearing an unverified account that they took an informal poll at some kind of banquet and came to an unanimous consensus (unanimous, forsooth) rather hardens my face more against the whole theory. No, the BYU religion faculty is not mainstream Mormonism. The mainstream can give a rat’s Quickmere Graham about the dochypo. The great majority of the church, present and past, lay and leadership, probably wouldn’t even know what it was.

But that doesn’t matter, because that’s not the point. Your spiritual gift of lack of reading comprehension is firing on all four cylinders. The point is not that mainstream Mormonism has some kind of specific position on the documentary hypothesis or higher criticism, which it thankfully doesn’t. We have no dochypoque clause in our creed, nor do we have to chant Retrocedas, Highercriticismas. How can you possibly have got the notion that I was arguing we did? The mind boggles. No, what I’m saying is that the scholarly consensus, as far as I can tell, has specific details that are inconsistent with things that Mormons do believe. We believe in one Isaiah or, at minimum, that the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon were already written before c. 600 BC. We believe that Moses wrote the book of Moses, which doesn’t resemble what I understand the scholarly consensus would predict as some kind of Genesis ur-text. We believe Adam and Eve existed. Joseph appeared to believe that Paul wrote his letters and that the resurrection and Christ’s claim to sonship weren’t a later elaboration foisted onto pre-existing traditions. If I recall, he also seemed to think that Jonah and Job were real, or at least one of them was. What we believe and what Joseph believed aren’t a straitjacket, sure, and I may be wrong about some of these specific conflicts, but there are real conflicts. Real conflicts require a more sensitive and nuanced approach than just plowing ahead to do whatever it takes to reconcile Mormonism with the scholarly consensus. Sometimes it requires an admission that we’re at an impasse and don’t have a way forward at the moment. Suspended judgment is ok. My impression—impression only, not necessarily a general indictment—is that Mormon advocates for the dochypo and HC are not careful enough with the conflicts for me to trust them. They are dismissive and impatient.

I don’t buy the Eighth Article of Faith argument. Its main assumption is false—a belief in the dochypo is not incompatible with a “literal” reading of the Bible, since one could believe that God directed the process of redaction and so on to bring the text into precisely the form he wanted. Your example of the Book of Mormon would be one example of something like that—we don’t claim its infallible but we do believe that the editing process is part of its inspired workmanship, which is different from the ‘literalist’ fundamentalist belief you abjure about the inspired text that is infallible if you could but recover the autographs. The formal structure of this argument is also false. It’s a variation of “John will marry a girl. Suzy is a girl. Therefore John will marry Suzy.” The fact that Joseph Smith believed there were problems with the Bible doesn’t mean that one specific account of *what* the problems in the Bible are and *how* they came to be is accurate. It could be, but the Eighth Article of Faith doesn’t tell us one way or the other.

There is a reason it is called a hypothesis. Nobody is claiming it is the last word. If we don’t like it, we ought to refute it and provide a different explanation. But until we do, the DH remains the best explanation for the Old Testament. Any serious study of the bible requires the student to have at least a cursory knowledge of the DH.
Of course, maybe that’s really what this is all about.

Why is the DH better than null hypothesis that we simply don’t know, especially when you include spiritual and religious data that is unavailable to the scholarly community? Admitting ignorance is deeply undervalued in historical and literary scholarship generally.

I reject that “a serious study of the Bible” requires knowing the DH. I know a number of people who know nothing about hebrew or greek or the mise-en-scene of the ancient near east or text traditions or poetic forms or parallelism but who read the Old Testament very intensively indeed. That they are engaged in serious study I have no doubt.

Mainstream Mormons don’t usually take the Old Testament seriously, at least not seriously enough to study it on its own terms.

Its just this kind of contempt and dismissiveness for mainstream Mormons that ruins your argument. Mainstream Mormons I know. They are good folks. Between you and them I pick them all day everyday and twice on Sundays.


John C.
January 30, 2013

Okay folks, here we go.

The faults of the Documentary Hypothesis are generally the faults of academia as a whole. It prefers the probable to the improbable and prophecy, miracle, and the supernatural are generally improbable. This doesn’t make higher biblical criticism (or even lower criticism) without value, but it would be foolish to believe everything it tells you to be the objectively true history of the text, those who wrote the text, or the culture that the text purports to describe.

If you are going to bring up concerns with the Documentary Hypothesis (something that actual biblical scholars have been doing for over a century now), then at least have the decency to propose some better explanation of the text as we have it. Alter makes an excellent attempt. I think it does an excellent job in some ways and in other ways it is insufficient. But that’s the thing; it is as much an art as it is a science (actually, much more an art than science). So there you are.

If you do not want to play in the realm of the Documentary Hypothesis, then you really have no entry way to treat the Old Testament as any sort of history of anything prior to the Persian era (possibly even later). Which is fine, if that’s your approach. Many of the most prominent skeptics of the Documentary Hypothesis today (I’m thinking of Van Seters and the Copenhagen school) want to toss it because they argue that the whole Old Testament is ahistorical, a bunch of fairy stories made up to help a slave class feel better about itself and to justify a land grab in Palestine. The parallels with modern anti-Seminitism have been noted and are hotly debated within scholarly circles (see, Poe’s Law happens everywhere, not just on blogs).

If you want a really good overview of the Documentary Hypothesis before dismissing it out of hand, I’d recommend one of Kugel’s books on the subject. Richard Elliott Freedman’s book “Who wrote the Bible” is also good and it is written for a popular audience, but his views are a bit idiosyncratic and don’t necessarily reflect the state of the art anymore. Also he is, from the gossip I’ve heard, a bit of a creepy old guy.

Michael,
I’d be happy to discuss the merits of the argument regarding the DH if you like. I just haven’t noticed you discussing them. Mostly you just seem to be trading insults with folks and engaging in testimony measuring contests. Hardly intellectual fare, except to the degree that intellectuals engage in such all the time. And, to be honest, what I know of Alter is based on talking to people and attending a couple lectures. I haven’t read the book, but I was gravely disappointed in the lecture. As many a commentary has noted, that a piece has been composed for a certain effect does not necessarily mean that its component parts weren’t originally written for some other intent. Of course, it’s all dependent on whether you’ve correctly identified component parts (if they were even there to begin with) and on and on and on.

Finally, as to whether higher criticism should be relevant to your spiritual life: obviously, elements of it were important to Joseph Smith and to many others (I believe that David Bokovoy quotes some general authorities on the subject). Certainly it was important to Elder Talmage, who drew on much of the higher criticism of his day in writing Jesus the Christ, even if he also rejected some of it. Certainly there are any number of verses in the Doctrine and Covenants that encourage education in the liberal arts (and in higher criticism, in particular, to my mind). So as to their value in any individual spiritual life, I’m going to say that while your mileage may vary, scripture does seem to indicate that it isn’t inherently harmful and it is possibly good.

For me, higher criticism is a way to try and access truth. A certain flawed human truth, but flawed human sources are all we ever have outside of direct revelation. To me, higher criticism is spiritually relevant for providing me insight into both what man is capable of and into what will be forever beyond human capability. It is spiritually relevant because it reminds me to think of the ancient prophets as people, rather than as abstract historical notions. Higher biblical criticism is particularly spiritually relevant to me because I want to understand the process of revelation and because I also want to recognize the spirit of revelation (and the more frequent lack thereof) in my own life. Thinking about scripture and about how it changes through time, in terms of how it is interpreted, applied, recorded, and ignored, is useful, humbling, and spiritual for me. Do you have to do it in order to “get” scripture? Of course not. But it is useful and insightful in its own way.


Aaron B
January 30, 2013

I like ponies.

[Ed. – No, you don’t.]


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

JohnC,
if you think you’re disagreeing with me, you ain’t. Which is to say I don’t particularly object to anything you’ve said. I think you’re giving Michael T. not enough credit though.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

“Michael,
I’d be happy to discuss the merits of the argument regarding the DH if you like. I just haven’t noticed you discussing them.”

That’s because I’ve had three people calling me stupid all day.

I do appreciate your posting though, John C.


John C.
January 30, 2013

Adam,
The objections to the DH that you bring up don’t render it entirely beyond recovery for the determine DH-er. As you noted, the Second Isaiah in the Book of Mormon could have been written prior to 600 (I believe that David Bokovoy hypothesizes something like that). The modern Book of Moses could reflect some Ur-Text that the various letters derived from, if you prefer (that would be the Nibley approach, I suspect). Or you could say that Joseph used the Moses story as he had it as inspiration for a dream vision that he then recorded, which renders the historical reality of the vision moot (there certainly other versions of the creation myth within our canon that we don’t consider historical). Whatever Joseph thought, Brigham Young was vocal in disregarding the historical nature of much of the Bible; I don’t bring this up to start a fight between prophets, but to note that this might indicate that well-meaning (and ill-meaning) people can disagree regarding the value of taking the scriptures literally. Joseph also took to himself (or had given to him) the privilege to rewrite all the scripture that he found historically perplexing. I don’t know if this increases or decreases the need to read any particular passage of scripture within its historical context.

The trouble is that there doesn’t appear to be a right way to read, study, or explain scripture in Mormonism (aside from “hand in hand with the Holy Spirit”). We are a practical, ad-hoc religion. Certainly, we hold the right to reject the “scholars” when they are wrong; perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider if they might ever be right or even that our assumptions might be mistaken.


John C.
January 30, 2013

Adam,
To be honest, I rarely give Michael T. any credit, but as I assume that he is opposed to being in debt, I doubt he minds.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

This is problematic. Are we bound to one reading? Must JFieldingSmiths views be taken as THE Revealed Prophetic View of Scripture? If not, how do you not take yourself to be loosening the authority of prophets? There are many borderline-fundamentalist (in the Protestant sense) Mormons who have an overdeveloped concept of prophetic authority.

I leave detecting the irony in this passage as an exercise for the reader.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

John C.,
I am again puzzled that you think you’re disagreeing with me. It galls to be lectured with condescending patience about a point that I never made and never intended to make.


Michael Towns
January 30, 2013

John C.,

You are correct in noting that Brigham Young referring to many things in the OT as “fairy tales”. Or somesuch….I forget the exact the quote. But you are correct in noting that he didn’t view every aspect of Genesis, for example, as historical. Neither do I.

“The trouble is that there doesn’t appear to be a right way to read, study, or explain scripture in Mormonism (aside from “hand in hand with the Holy Spirit”).”

I tend to agree, but, I would submit that the right way to read the scriptures is to simply read them with a prepared and willing heart. I know many that don’t; I have also personally gone through my own scripture reading dry spell.

From hard experience, I’ve learned that trying to read the scriptures in humility is a good way to gain a special spiritual insight into life. Is that the “right” way to read it? Yes, I believe so. Easy to do or teach? No.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

is there a point at which one can discount what a given Apostle says on a subject?

That is an excellent question. I think the standard LDS response is that you can discount an Apostle when later Apostles appear to reject what he said. Like most standard responses, it has quite a bit of merit that our familiarity with it may cause us to overlook. If by discount you mean “reject,” then my answer would be almost never. Where an apostle is contradicted by scholarly consensus, I prefer to withhold judgment for the nonce.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

Criticize the living hell out of the DH and higher criticism in general but . . . consider the fact that you’re speaking from within (and to) a community that already has a heightened sense of skepticism toward these things. “

I think this explains a lot of the reaction in this thread and a lot of how Mormon advocates for this stuff have put me off generally. My guess is that they have a sense of being embattled and unfairly criticized to which they respond by being critical and contemptuous in turn. That would also explain some of the dismissiveness with problems in reconciling this stuff with Mormonism–“don’t give ammunition to your enemies.”


Some idiot
January 30, 2013

“I don’t buy the Eighth Article of Faith argument. Its main assumption is false—a belief in the dochypo is not incompatible with a “literal” reading of the Bible, since one could believe that God directed the process of redaction and so on to bring the text into precisely the form he wanted.”

Well, that’s one way to look at it, but I don’t think it’s a good way. Or maybe what you mean is that God deliberately left errors in the bible so that Joseph Smith could correct them, as part of establishing his prophetic bona fides. I really don’t know what you mean, but if your claim is that most Mormons do not believe that the bible might contain significant errors, I think you are mistaken. And you still haven’t dealt with 1 Nephi 13.

“Its just this kind of contempt and dismissiveness for mainstream Mormons that ruins your argument.”

WhoawhoaWHOA. I also believe that most mainstream Mormons are good folks, But I also believe that most of them don’t take our sacred texts seriously enough. That isn’t exactly a contemptuous message, unless you think that the 7 or 8 sermons we will hear next April in conference, encouraging us to get serious about scripture study are contemptuous.

Just to be clear: Mormons, including you, AG, are good folks. And Mormons, generally speaking, take sacred texts far too lightly. cf. section 20.


Vader
January 30, 2013

I don’t really disagree that Mormons, as a group, do not take sacred texts seriously enough.

The interesting question is whether an interest in higher criticism is necessary or sufficient to demonstrate that someone is taking sacred texts seriously enough.


some idiot
January 30, 2013

That’s a good question, Vader. My answer would be that interest in hc is neither necessary nor sufficient. I would think that somebody who was interested in serious scripture study would at least exhibit a healthy curiosity and willingness to learn about various approaches.

The bigger, more urgent question facing the church, is what to do about the millions of members who are illiterate, and who have no access at all to the texts.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

You are both equivocating AND doing bad at reading comprehension again, SI. Tsk, tsk.

With that deft grasp of texts that has awed and amazed us throughout this thread, you have taken my rebuttal to your claim that you can’t be a serious student of the bible without being hep to the DH as an argument that Mormons don’t need to read their scriptures more, then you’ve turned around and taken the numerous prophetic injunctions to read the scriptures more as somehow having something to do with the DH. Its moot anyhow, now that you’ve folded a losing hand and conceded that HC is neither necessary nor sufficient to serious study of scripture. (Which is not the same as saying that it wouldn’t be of interest or beneficial to many a serious scripture student).

I would like to respond to the first half of your comment but I can’t make heads nor tails of it. I think the fault is not in myself but in the stars, where stars = you (because, emblematic of the deep personal respect in which I hold you, I think of you as a thousand points of light).


Vader
January 30, 2013

Do we really have an illiteracy rate in the Church in excess of 15%?

Regardless, my impression is that the Church has been “doing something” about illiteracy.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

I had no idea illiteracy was such a problem. Much of it abroad?

If there is a new problem I’m aware of, its that our culture is moving away from longform texts that don’t interact.


some idiot
January 30, 2013

Hermano G., while I did say that I do not believe that hc is necessary or sufficient to serious scripture study, I also said that any serious student would have a healthy curiosity and respect for various approaches. I read your original post as saying “I don’t like the DH or HC because I don’t like the people who like them, and I don’t like the influence they might have”. If that bespeaks a healthy curiosity and respect, I’ll eat Pecos Bill’s hat.

If you continue to deride my reading comprehension skills I will be forced to write several paragraphs outlining my awesome brainpower, listing all my achievements to date as well as any I might accomplish in the future. You will learn about my IQ, which is quite high, as well as the fact that I was in honor courses in jr. high school.

Vader, I don’t really know about percentages, but I’d be surprised if the percentage of illiterates among us isn’t somewhere north of 15%. Sons on missions in Latin America and the Caribbean tell me that most of their investigators can’t read, so the missionaries read aloud to them. As we look to the future, I expect this condition to become more and more acute. It is a vexing problem, with no easy solution. Maybe a kind of books on tape with digital technology or something. Maybe instead of giving new members a triple combination when they are baptized, we’ll start giving them a pre-loaded mp3 player. I imagine there are smart people in the presiding bishop’s office thinking about this right now, in fact.


Vader
January 30, 2013

I think it worth acknowledging that not all curiosity is healthy. There is such a thing as intellectual voyeurism. It is not unrelated to the intellectual onanism I have seen way too much of among the self-styled intelligentsia.

I do not know much about higher criticism, though I am at least aware of the E-Y documentary hypothesis in Genesis. Some of Quickmere’s remarks reinforce my superficial impression that it is defined simply by what it is not: Taking sacred texts at face value. That can be a very good thing. It can also be a disaster. The devil is in the details.

I am myself willing to learn more about higher criticism. However, I am not yet ready to pick out colors.


Adam G.
January 30, 2013

Hermano G., while I did say that I do not believe that hc is necessary or sufficient to serious scripture study, I also said that any serious student would have a healthy curiosity and respect for various approaches.

The empirical evidence suggests otherwise. I know people who are suspicious of modern scholarship and not all that curious or interested in higher critical approaches, but yet who study the scriptures quite seriously. My guess is that the folks in this thread who have not shown all that much interest in or curiousity about naive or folk methods of reading the scripture are also probably serious students of scripture. People who are serious students of *anything* using one methodology are more likely, not less likely, to scorn other methodologies. Get to know the Old Adam.

If that bespeaks a healthy curiosity and respect, I’ll eat Pecos Bill’s hat.

Fire up your typewriter and start cranking out your boast paragraphs, because I am about to laugh up my sleeve, or if you prefer and it remains uneaten, Pecos Bill’s sleeve, about your reading comprehension skills yet again.

I never claimed to be a serious student of scripture.


on the illiteracy stuff, the new Church New Testament videos fit your speculation. We shall see.


Michael Towns, narcissist
January 30, 2013

“I think it worth acknowledging that not all curiosity is healthy. There is such a thing as intellectual voyeurism. It is not unrelated to the intellectual onanism I have seen way too much of among the self-styled intelligentsia.”

The best quote of the day.


some idiot
January 30, 2013

[Ed.–quit indulging yourself in being small souled.]


Bookslinger
January 30, 2013

Joseph Smith did talk about “wicked scribes” making changes to the Bible.


Allen
January 31, 2013

“However, what Alter does showcase is the fact that there is more than one way to approach scripture. DH may very well be valid from an sheer academic perspective. But that doesn’t mean it’s valid from a spiritual perspective. Or a literary perspective. Or a seminary perspective!”

Alter’s books don’t show that the DH isn’t valid from a literary POV. What Alter shows is the logic of the composition. The DH addresses the sources themselves.


Allen
January 31, 2013

” Its insights are not obviously life-changing.”

I feel the same way about most Sunday School lessons.

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