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)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , ,
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.

Leave a Reply