I've read some of the higher criticism and don't really appreciate or like it.


At 10:51 PM 11/06/2002 -0700, you wrote:

There was, in the most recent conference, a reference to the Pentateuch (although
not by that name) as being by Moses, or written according to what had been passed
down to him, so we already know that the Bible wasn't inerrant and hasn't come to
us as originally revealed by God -- that's pretty clear doctrine. I think where
people get in a tizzy is over some of the modern critical tools some Biblical
scholars use, roughly although inaccurately known as higher criticism. To the
extent that HC seeks to de-spiritualize the Bible it is clearly wrong, but
several GAs such as John Widstoe and B. H. Roberts pointed out that we can make a
lot of use of the technique.

I like the way Kevin L. Barney, a well-known LDS apologist, put it in his
article. I'm going to give a link to a draft of this (I need to clean it up
cosmetically, as it's up there basically how my scanner scanned it), and say that
I like his approach. But one needs to read the *whole* article -- if you only
read parts you're in danger of coming away with an incorrect impression.

And that's all I'll say on the matter. As the history of BYU has shown, as soon
as these tools are introduced to those students who are not yet equipped to
handle them properly, some of them lose their faith. And I'd hate to be the means
of that happening here to anyone.

Also, here's one of Widstoe's tract used in the European Mission in the 1920s,
30s and 40s. He had 20 tracts, written by various GAs, but the authors' names are
not on the tracts, so we don't know who actually wrote this. They were used to
standardize discussions with non-members and are the precursors of today's formal
discussions. But this particular explains that technique and results are two
different things:

The Bible
Centennial Series-Nineteen

The results of all sound scholarship are welcomed by Latter-day Saints. Higher
criticism is not excluded. To us, however, the most certain fact, the best
authenticated and the most demonstrable, is the existence of God. This knowledge
can not be laid aside in any human research, especially in Biblical

>From the beginning of the human race the Lord has spoken to and inspired his
children on earth. Truth has been among men from the first day. He thus speaks
and inspires men today. At various times men have been moved upon to commit to
writing the eternal truths revealed to them pertaining to man's existence. Thus
have come the holy scriptures.

The Text

The scriptures have been given by God and under his direction; but in the
language of man. It has always been so. In this day, the Lord speaking to Joseph
Smith said, "These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in
their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to
understanding." That is, the Lord does his work in our behalf through earthly
instruments. Naturally, therefore in outside form there may be many errors, but
in inner substance the eternal truth is preserved for those who can read the
language understandingly. This doctrine has been stated in unusual beauty by
Moroni, one of the prophets of the Book of Mormon. "Thou hast also made our words
powerful and great even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we
behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear
lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words." In such manner has come the text of
the scriptures.

As these early manuscripts, before the days of printing, were copied by hand,
often by unbelievers who did not respect the text, errors and changes crept in.
When we say we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it has been
translated correctly, we refer to all changes, in all transcriptions and
translations, back to the very original manuscripts. The Church, therefore, is in
full harmony with the avowed purpose of the higher critics.


The scriptures contain the most precious truths of humanity. They give the most
complete exposition of God's law for human conduct and destiny. Without them, the
earth would be poor indeed.It was part of the purpose under which man dwells on
earth that the plan of salvation, with its included principles, should be
revealed to men from the beginning. The scriptures are as a gift from God. They
not only contain the story of man's own devices; but of the dealings of the Lord
with his earthly children. Thus our Father in heaven is better understood.

Accepting the existence of God, and the doctrine that the gospel truths were
deliberately taught to men, it can not be believed that the Lord would allow
these precious gifts to be wholly lost, and thus leave the children of men at any
time without a witness for him.

Throughout the ages, therefore, amidst all the vicissitudes of time, the holy
scriptures have been preserved, and though mutilated by careless men, they yet
bear amid their human imperfections and errors, the message of God's nature and
of man's relationship to Deity, and of the eternal and glorious destiny of
mankind.The scriptures have never been wholly at the mercy of man.

Making and Contents

The Bible story represents long periods of time. It is made up of many books
written by many hands. In these respects it is like the Book of Mormon. We do not
always know with certainty the authorship of the books. It may be that through
the years the authorship of collections of writings may have been credited
erroneously, or in default of knowledge, to the outstanding writer of the day.It
tells the history of a people which by its own actions passed through periods of
progress and degeneracy. The manner in which the Lord dealt with these people is
everywhere set forth. Its teachings are universal, and may be applied to any
people in any land in any time.

The Bible is not a treatise on science. Naturally, the knowledge of the day is
reflected in the telling of the story; but the events recorded deal
primarily with principles of conduct before the Lord and before man, which are
independent of mere secular knowledge. The Bible is not read well, unless the
manner and the purpose of its making are kept in mind.

Literary Form

As in all good books every literary device is used in the Bible that will drive
the lesson home. It contains history, poetry and allegory. These are not always
distinguishable, now that the centuries have passed away since the original
writing. The ideas in the Bible, the fundamental, constant ones, are true; the
vehicle is human and often confusing. Much needless discussion has come about
because critics would not separate the message from its form of presentation.
Latter-day Saints strive to read the Bible intelligently. Brigham Young asked the
pertinent question: "Do you read the scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as
though you were writing them, a thousand, two thousand or
five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the
men who wrote them?" That is the only way by which the variety of the Biblical
style and form may be understood; but the essential moral doctrines presented are
clear without such scholarship, to every reader.

The Spirit of Criticism

Higher criticism is not feared by Latter-day Saints. New facts with regard to the
Bible are eagerly sought. Suggested inferences are respectfully considered and
accepted or rejected, as they merit. Least of all do Latter-day Saints accept
every new hypothesis of Biblical origin or history. We distinguish carefully
between facts and inferences and claim the right with other intelligent people to
determine for ourselves the weight or probability of the truth of any presented

The only worthy criticism, whether of the Bible or of any other human possession,
is one that seeks for truth. There is a class of students who always seek for the
errors in things. Such negative critics become menaces, for they find the errors
inherent in all human works, and fail to note the truths. The positive critic
searches for the truth in the book or science or man he studies; naturally, he
discovers the errors as he moves along; but, out of his search comes a balanced
judgment. It is by our strength, not by our weakness, that we are to be judged.
We are not concerned with "the mistakes of Moses;" we need to understand his
successes, if we are to know how and why Israel entered the holy land.

Destructive Biblical criticism leads nowhere. Constructive Biblical criticism
enhances greatly the joy of reading and studying the Book of Books. All knowledge
should be applied in the study of the Bible, but the labor should be approached
as a search for truth, and with prayer for truth. Thus bidden, truth always

[incidentally, GAs have been unanimous in condemning what Widstoe, or his author,
calls "destructive Biblical criticism," as am I fwiw]

Gary Smith wrote:

> Originally it was written by Moses. However, we do not know how many
> iterations it has gone through since then. How often was it translated
> and retranslated by Jewish scribes. Which version was found by Josiah's
> people in the temple?
> There were different versions of ancient writings, depending on whether a
> person was from Judah or Israel, for example. We have what are now
> considered the written traditions of J and E (Jehovah and Elohim). Some
> LDS scholars suggest that the Brass Plates of Laban may have been the "E"
> source, as it would have come from the land of Israel and speaks of
> prophets that were concentrated there. Instead of pushing the law of
> Moses and the Yahwist/Jehovah-ist belief system, it tends toward the
> Elohim belief system: high places and altars for worship, personal
> revelations to individuals rather than a societal religion that imposes
> revelation on the individuals, etc.
> Both Hezekiah and Josiah tried changing the Yahwist religion into one of
> centralized temple worship, removing all other places of worship.
> Meanwhile, the nation of Israel/Ephraim stayed loyal to the ancient
> tradition of high places and altars (like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob used),
> and building two specific altars with gold calves. I have surmised
> through my studies that these calves may have been representative of
> Elohim, who like Baal, was represented by a bull anciently (power,
> reproductive ability, etc).
> While much of ancient Israel believed Jehovah and Elohim had a consort
> (female wife), later Yahwists rejected this idea.
> So there were many ideas floating around. All of these beliefs found
> their way into the Bible, with only the Yahwist belief, modified by a
> later Priestly form, strongly surviving into the post-Babylonian exile
> period. After 500 BC, the prophets were based on a temple-centric
> religion and taught from that form. Christ and his apostles actually
> broke somewhat from the Yahwist format, returning to the ancient form
> (Christ praying in the wilderness, infrequent visits to the temple except
> for Passover, Mount of Transfiguration, etc).
> So, it is as complicated as Marc puts it. Interestingly, the BoM supports
> the idea of it being complicated. The Brass Plates show another version
> of the scriptures, with additional prophets (Zenos, Zenoc, etc) and a
> different viewpoint (Joseph vs Judah). Lehi and Jeremiah also preach
> against the Yahwist religion of the day. Jeremiah praises the Rekhabites,
> a tribe of Israelites that lived in the wilderness and worshiped as the
> ancients did, and condemns the way temple worship turned out.
> We see this same thing occur with the Dead Sea Scrolls, as their Teacher
> of Righteousness condemns the False/Wicked Priest for usurping the
> priesthood and temple authority. They go to the wilderness to worship in
> purity. I see a trend....that continues today.
> K'aya K'ama,
> Gerald/gary Smith gszion1 @juno.com http://www
> .geocities.com/rameumptom/index.html
> "No one is as hopelessly enslaved as the person who thinks he's free." -
> Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
> JWR:
> Deuteronomy was written by Moses, just as the rest of the Pentateuch
> was. It was not part of a "strange and complex historical soup." --JWR
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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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