Category Archives: Doctrine

“Listen, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.” Does the Bible Teach Radical Monotheism?

Deuteronomy 6.4-9, also known as the Shema because the first word of the passage in Hebrew is the imperative shĕma‘, meaning “Listen,” is probably one of the most well known passages in all of biblical literature. In Jewish tradition this passage is frequently recited as a prayer, a practice that goes back at least to the early rabbinic period [1]. The broader Judeo-Christian tradition, moreover, has often taken the first verse of this passage as a statement of Israel’s (and its own) radical monotheistic faith. This verse reads: “Listen, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.” However, this common Judeo-Christian interpretation which claims that Israel maintained a radical monotheistic stance, or a belief that there is only one G/god in existence (in this case, Yahweh, the God of Israel), has been subject to severe criticism by modern biblical scholars.

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Creation in Genesis 1-3 (Part 2b–Literary Analysis)

In the last segment I discussed where certain literary and narrative divisions exist in Genesis 1-3. For instance, I previously noted that the narrative section which begins in Genesis 1.1 most likely ends at Genesis 2.4a. Additionally, I noted one crucial literary feature of this first creation account, namely that it is broken into seven one-day intervals (i.e., a one week period). Furthermore, I briefly noted that there is a further significant literary division between days one through six which describe God’s physical creative activities (each of which ends with the formulaic phrase “(And) there was evening and there was morning, day…”) and the seventh (and final) day which is the pinnacle of the account and which describes God’s sanctifying the seventh day. Having noted these literary markers and narrative boundaries, I shall now further explore other literary devices which structure the first creation account’s six creative days, and analyze their implications concerning Israelite beliefs about creation.

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Creation in Genesis 1-3 (Part 2a-Literary Features)

In addition to analyzing specific grammatical forms (as was done with the preposition bereshit in part one of this series), it is also crucial when interpreting a text to properly identify its narrative boundaries and to examine the literary forms and techniques which structure it and give it meaning.[1] I thus intend to provide here a brief analysis regarding some of the literary features which indicate narrative boundaries and which provide structure and meaning for the creation narratives of Genesis 1-3. The implications of these literary features concerning Israelite beliefs about creation will be discussed further in the next segment. Continue reading

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Creation in Genesis 1-3 (Part 1-Introduction and Temporal Clause)

In this series of posts I intend to look at ancient Israelite concepts concerning creation by exploring two important biblical creation texts—Genesis 1.1-2.4a and Genesis 2.4b-3. Continue reading

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An American Prophet

Mormons are not the only prophetic tradition in America. The African American spiritual community also has its own prophetic roots, and Martin Luther King, Jr. is the paradigmatic figure from that tradition. It is true that these two traditions define prophetic leadership differently. For Mormons, today even more so than in our past, the prophetic mantle is held by right of institutional authority. The prophetic responsibility is to testify to the world of Christ, and to teach the faithful. This vision of prophesy hearkens back to ancient prophetic schools which saw prophesy as a vocation, and moreso in recent times, as a tool for the preservation of traditional social values. In the African American tradition, the prophetic tradition takes the role of charismatic cultural critic, especially around issues of injustice. This tradition hearkens back to a biblical tradition of speaking out against authority in the hopes of transforming society.
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The Piety of Errant Scriptures

The errancy/innerrancy debate in biblical theology is often framed in terms of levels of “belief” in the Bible. The errancy position holds that the Bible is not a perfect document that represents the direct word of God in every minor (and even some major) instance. It admits human involvement in the production and transmission of the text. In inerrancy position holds that the Bible is the perfect word of God. Though there are many different subtlties in the various versions of these two positions, they actually rest on the same set of assumptions.
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Myth, Modernity, and Mormonism

The category of “myth” is arguably the most important for evaluating the Bible in the last few hundred years. The very earliest critics of the Bible employed the category of “myth” in evaluating the stories and histories recorded there. D. F. Strauss (Das Leben Jesu, 1835) employed the term for making sense of the life of Jesus, among the first to suggest that the gospels were not literal history.

Besides the difficulty in identifying and defining myth, the most important interpretive problem comes in trying to figure out how to understand the significance of myth. In sum, is myth a good thing or a bad thing? Basically, two different options emerged that dominated 19th c. biblical studies.
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