Gary Smith wrote:

> And I think that Marc and I would agree. The point we are making, is we
> need to be careful not to go too far in the other direction, either.  We
> are not like the evangelist Christian movements out there who are literal
> Biblicists. We realize that the Bible is not perfect (see the AoF that
> says we believe it as far as it is translated correctly). Figuring out
> which points are literally true and which are just symbolic is not an
> easy task. One thing I use is if I find it in the other scriptures (like
> the Red Sea dividing), then I'm fairly certain it is historical. However,
> I also realize that the early Jewish scribes had hidden agendas. We know
> this, because our prophets have told us that they cut things out of the
> scriptures, changed things, etc. It is also very possible that they may
> have tried to "enhance" the story of Israel's origin somewhat, we just
> don't know.  Things changed in the Israelite religion over the centuries.
> At first, worshipping in high places was a good thing (the Tabernacle was
> at the high place in Gibeon, for example), but later Jewish kings and
> priests sought to consolidate power by destroying the high places of
> Jehovah and insisting people could only sacrifice and worship at the
> Jerusalem temple. This was a partial attempt to get people living in the
> Northern Kingdom to defect and move to Judah. This obviously was somewhat
> successful, as we have people like Lehi (from the tribe of Joseph) living
> near Jerusalem.

This is in fact exactly the political side of the so-called "Josian Reform" --
Josiah wanted to consolidate power in Jerusalem, and although *all* the "high
places" including the site of the temple of Solomon were by that time desecrated,
he declared that from that point on the only true temple would be in Jerusalem,
that Bethel, Dan and so on, were to be considered pagan (and in fact they
eventually became what we later know of as "Samaritan" sites -- one sees echoes
of that ancient emnity in the NT). For us LDS this is a step backwards and in a
way represents an excising of a "plain and precious truth." After all, as we'll
all soon be learning about in GD, when Jeremiah's advice wasn't heeded and the
Assyrians swept down over Jerusalem, he was taken, against his will, to Egypt.
But not to the traditional Jewish refuge there, Alexandria, but to Upper Egypt,
to what we now call Elephantine, an island, near which the Nag Hammadi scrolls
were, coincidentally, found not long after the DSS scrolls were found. It so
happens that the outlines of an ancient Jewish temple have been found on
Elephantine, so clearly Josiah's "reform" was wrong in at least some of its
details. That it rewrote the Torah with the issuing of a document scholars think
is the precursor to the modern Deuteronomy (which was later finished by Ezra
after the Exile), is also part of this strange and complex historical soup.

It's why I keep harping on the difference between secular and scriptural history.
I know it's difficult for many people -- and if this represents some kind of a
threat to you, than just ignore it. Don't worry about and consign it to "the
egghead corner of the foyer". But for those who are interested, realizing that
not all questions are meaningful is a step towards a deeper understanding of the
scriptures. I don't mean to keep banging my own drum here, but my example from
our own GD class last Sunday about Isaiah's winepresses is an example. It's not
that the history isn't important, but to get the real message you have to
transcend the history. History as we understand it today is a secular discipline,
and to pull scripture down to that level is to commit the same error the
so-called "New Mormon historians" do -- those who believe the BoM is not
"historical" in the sense that they believe Joseph Smith made it all up. We have
no idea how much comes filtered through Joseph Smith's mind. Clearly the Jacobean
language was not in the original as that is an artefact of English, for instance.
Some seize upon that as a sign that Joseph Smith aped the KJV. I say it's a sign
we should transcend the historicity and read the book for its message. To me the
issue of historicity is whether there was genuinely an ancient record (which I
believe there was), not how Joseph Smith translated it. For us to get bogged down
in modern historical approaches is to play the same game as the anti's who make
such ridiculous accusations as the BoM can't be authentic because the ancient
Lehites didn't speak French (the word "adieu" is found in the modern English
text). Gimme a break!

A study of how he "translated" the Book of Abraham is instructive in this regard,
but that's a subject for another day.

> We constantly see the kings of Israel rejecting the prophets. Yet much of
> the Old Testament was written by the scribes of the kings. Clearly, there
> was opportunity for tampering. We just don't know how much was done, and
> so must accept the "history" by faith, until our modern prophetic leaders
> tell us otherwise, such as Elder McConkie telling us that Eve really
> wasn't made from Adam's rib.

Why the different, parallel histories, too? Why did Chronicles have to be written
when we already had Samuel, Judges and Kings? An interesting question, as
Chronicles appears to reflect a post-Exilic view.  For those who are really
interested in this, I'd recommend reading Kevin Barney's article on the
documentary hypothesis which was in a recent Dialogue. Kevin's a good friend of
mine and is a dedicated LDS apologist who kindly gave me permission to reprint
his article on my website:

And for those less interested, but still interested in, say, some of the literary
methods Isaiah used, a short but very insightful article by a non-member is also
on my website: Luis Alonso Schökel, “Isaiah”, in Robert Alter, Frank Kermode;
eds. The Literary Guide to the Bible (Cambridge MA: Harvard University
Press,1987): 165-183. Luis Alonso Schökel is associated with the Pontifical
Biblical Institute.  After a
short introduction by myself (15.1), Schökel's actual article starts at 15.2

Marc A. Schindler
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada -- Gateway to the Boreal Parkland

“The first duty of a university is to teach wisdom, not a trade; character, not
technicalities. We want a lot of engineers in the modern world, but we don’t want
a world of engineers.” – Sir Winston Churchill (1950)

Note: This communication represents the informal personal views of the author
solely; its contents do not necessarily reflect those of the author’s employer,
nor those of any organization with which the author may be associated.

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