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Latter-day Biblical Literalism (Part II) Guest Post by David H. Bailey

Science

It should be abundantly clear that the Bible was never intended to be a rigorous scientific treatise in our modern sense.  Talmage, for instance, wrote, “The opening chapters of Genesis, and scriptures related thereto, were never intended as a textbook of geology, archaeology, earth-science or man-science.”  Nonetheless, many today insist on a literal reading of the Genesis, holding that the earth (or even the entire universe) was created a few thousand years ago over a 6-day (or 6,000-year) period, that there was no life or death on earth prior to this, and that species are unchanged since creation.  Needless to say, these notions are at odds with modern science, and lead to the blasphemous notion that God has planted evidence to mislead us.

Some LDS church authorities, mostly in the 19th and early 20th century, have taught literal readings of Genesis, but by no means have LDS leaders been unanimous in this regard.  Brigham Young, James E. Talmage, John A. Widtsoe, B. H. Roberts and David O. McKay, among others, all argued for a creation over eons of time in keeping with modern science. 

It is useful in this context to ask why the creation scriptures should be read so literally, when no reasonable person insists that we read passages such as 1 Sam. 2:8, Psa. 93:1, 104:5 or Ecc. 1:5 in the same way.  These four passages, among many others many that could be listed, affirm the geocentric cosmology of antiquity: the earth is flat, has four corners, is set on a foundation of pillars, and is immovable, with the sun and other heavenly bodies moving on transparent spheres above the earth.  Such passages were the foundation of the persecution of Galileo and others over Copernican astronomy during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Readers who have studied mathematics may be amused by 1 Kin. 7:23 and 2 Chr. 4:2.  These verses describe the baptismal font in the court of King Solomon’s temple as being “round in compass,” 10 cubits from “brim to brim,” and 30 cubits in circumference.  In other words, the mathematical constant pi (the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter) is exactly 3.00, not 3.14159… as students now learn in school.  Even today, some writers are unwilling to accept the simple and obvious conclusion that these measurements were only rough approximations, and that the Bible is mistaken on this very minor point.  For example, (without any scriptural justification) that the measurements of the diameter and circumference were taken at different positions in the vertical profile of the pool: http://www.apologeticspress.org/abdiscr/abdiscr33.html.

Violence and War

The Old Testament was written long before our modern anti-violence ethic (and even before Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament), and thus it is not too surprising that a fair amount of war and violence are recorded there.  Some well-known examples include the account of Simeon and Levi, two of the sons of Jacob, “boldly” slaying all the males of Shechem and spoiling the city (Gen. 34:20-28), and the account in Num. 31:7-18 of the Israelites, under Moses’ command, killing all the Midianites except for young virgin females, which they took for wives.  In a similar vein, 2 Kin. 2:23-24 describes how 42 “little children” (which according to LDS doctrine are not accountable for sin) were savagely attacked by bears for teasing the prophet Elisha about his baldness.  Must we accept these accounts at face value?

The Law of Moses

The writers of the Old Testament established a surprisingly sophisticated written law, setting forth principles for an orderly, moral and God-fearing society.  Indeed, much of the Law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, remains entirely relevant today.  But even allowing that the ancient Israelites required a strict law, some points of the Law were very punitive.  For instance, Exo. 21:15-17 instructs that if a young person smites or curses his father or mother, he or she “shall surely be put to death.”  Death by stoning is also prescribed for a “stubborn or rebellious son” (Deu. 21:18-21) and for a young woman found not to be a virgin on her wedding night (Deu. 22:20-21).  Prohibitions also apply to eating shellfish (Lev. 11:10), sowing fields with “diverse seed” (as is done in virtually every vegetable garden today) and even wearing a garment of mixed fabric (Lev. 19:19).  The New Testament does not set these prohibitions aside.

Along this line, illegitimate children, as well as persons with Ammonite or Moabite parentage, were banned for ten generations in Deu. 23:2-3.  Many biblical scholars now believe that Deuteronomy was not literally written by Moses (1200 BC or earlier), but instead was compiled much later, possibly in the days of King Josiah, about 620 BC.  One item of evidence here is to note that the Israelites living in the tenth century BC were completely unaware of the restriction given in Deu. 23:2-3, since the prophet Samuel anointed David, whose grandmother was Moabite (Ruth 4:13-17), to be Israel’s second king.  These provisions of the Law of Moses were rejected by the prophet Ezekiel, who taught that children are not to be held responsible for the sins of parents or ancestors (Eze. 18).

Women

In the Old Testament, Miriam, Deborah, Huldah and Noadiah, were prophetesses.  In the New Testament, Mary and Mary Magdalene were central in Jesus’ life and ministry.  The Apostle Paul acknowledged notable contributions of several women in the early church, including Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Julia and Junia (Rom. 16:1-16).  Paul also declared, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28).

But in other passages, we read of sexist roles and attitudes that no reasonable person would endorse today.  For example, in Num. 5:12-28, we read that if a “spirit of jealousy” came upon a man, or if he for any reason suspected that his wife may have been unfaithful, he was entitled to require that his wife undergo an ordeal by poison, administered by the local priest.  If his wife died in the process, then she was presumed guilty of adultery, but if she recovered then she was judged innocent.  There was no similar provision for a woman who suspected her husband of being unfaithful.

The New Testament does not fare much better in this regard.  Here we read that a woman is to “learn silence with all subjection” (1 Tim. 2:11-14), and to “keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak” (1 Cor. 14:34-35).  If these two verses are taken to be the literal word of God, then the LDS Church (and almost every other Christian denomination) is acting in error by permitting women to pray, speak or teach in church meetings. 

With regards to the first passage, the consensus of biblical scholars is that 1 Timothy was not actually written by Paul.  With regards to second passage, scholars suspect that it was a later addition, since it does not appear at this location in the earliest manuscripts.  Both passages sharply conflict with what Paul wrote just three chapters earlier (1 Cor. 11:5), where women are permitted to pray, teach and even prophesy in church meetings.  They also conflict with the passages mentioned above in Rom. 16:1-16 and Gal. 3:28.

Slavery

The ancient Hebrews’ were proud of their heritage as escapees from slavery in Egypt.  However, both the Old Testament and New Testament condone rather harsh treatment of slaves.  For example, in Exo. 21:20-21, we read that so long as a slave survives “a day or two” after being beaten by his or her master, then the master is not to be punished.

Predestination

The passages Rom. 8:29-30 and Eph. 1:5,11 have been cited by those who question the notion of free agency.  Historians Will and Ariel Durant noted that Luther and especially Calvin took these biblical passages to “ruinously logical conclusions” in their stern doctrine of predestination, resulting in “the most blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense.”  Some LDS authorities have suggested that “predestinate” in these verses should be read “foreordain” (a reading that I prefer) but this interpretation is a clear departure from the text as it appears in virtually all translations, including the King James. 

Treatment of Jewish People

Many biblical scholars now believe that following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the early Christians adopted antagonistic attitudes towards the Jews, which are reflected in some New Testament passage, including Matt. 27:22-25, Luke 23:18-24, and John 8:44.  With regards to Matt. 27:22-25 and Luke 23:18-24, where “all” of the people demand Jesus’ death, it is important to note how this conflicts with Matt. 21:7-11, which tells of Jesus’ triumphal arrival in Jerusalem just a few days earlier.  At that time, a “very great multitude” of the Jewish people of Jerusalem greeted Jesus as he arrived, with many shouting “Hosanna in the highest.”  Further, we learn in Matt. 26:56 and Mark 14:50 that when Jesus was arrested, his disciples all “forsook him, and fled.”  In other words, none of Jesus’ immediate disciples and apostles, who would have been immediately recognized and possibly put to death, were present during Jesus’ trials, so that the accounts we have of these events are at best second-hand.  From these and other considerations, scriptural and historical, the consensus of modern biblical scholars is that at most only a few Jewish leaders were involved in Christ’s trial and crucifixion, certainly not the main body of the Jews in Jerusalem. 

In any event, passages such as “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matt. 27:25) fly in the face of fundamental principles of justice, and conflict with other biblical teachings (e.g., Eze. 18), which ban punishment of children for the sins of parents or ancestors.  Unfortunately, these passages have been cited for centuries by Christians as justification for cruel treatment of Jews.  This persecution reached a tragic climax in the 20th century with the Nazi holocaust.

Conclusion

The Bible is the foundation of all Christian faiths, and a large portion of the Bible is common to Christian, Jewish and Islam faiths.  Hundreds of millions draw comfort and spiritual enlightenment from its pages.  It contains some of the world’s greatest literature.  The Book of Job, for instance, has no peer in its exploration of the meaning of human suffering.

But the claim that the Bible text is the inerrant word of God, or anything close to this position, is indefensible.  None of this means that one must abandon fundamental doctrines of God or salvation.  But it does mean that modern readers must avoid the extremes of biblical literalism that permeate the modern evangelical world today, and which sadly are heard even among some Latter-day Sasints.  As Paul declared, “… the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6).

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17 comments to Latter-day Biblical Literalism (Part II) Guest Post by David H. Bailey

  • It means that we are left unavailable to trust the bulk of the Bible because how do we conclusively know what is crap and what isn’t? We (as LDS members) accept the Bible, as canonical scripture as far as it is translated correctly, but for anyone who’s examined the evidences, we know that it wasn’t translated correctly.

    Mormons dismiss with ease the Journal of Discourses because maybe some notes were summarized as opposed to directly quoted but hey, at least it’s more accurate than a universal flood or God making Adam from Play-doh or even Adam chilling with dinosaurs in Missouri.

    As far as the Book of Job having no peer, I’ll take Elie Weisel’s “Night” over Job any day…at least I know it actually happened.

  • Chris Maloy

    I have to say I really like these post. They are very thought provoking.

    I need to reiterate my question from part I. If we believe the Bible to be the word of God as long as it is translated correctly then and it is not translated correctly then can I dismiss the Bible as being the word of God?

  • rick

    Good write-up, David. However, it seems that you have stated a problem, not offered a solution.

  • Peter LLC

    I’ll take Elie Weisel’s “Night” over Job any day…at least I know it actually happened

    Wiesel himself seems to have a slightly different point of view:

    “Things are not that simple, Rebbe. Some events do take place but are not true; others are, although they never occurred.”

  • DB

    In my comment to part 1, I stated that your argument was illogical and meritless (well I didn’t say meritless then but I am now) because you provided no connection between the errancy and literalism of the Bible. I thought it might be in part 2 but it’s not. Again, your argument is that the Bible contains errors (but this time without even examples of errors) and therefore cannot be literal. Where’s the connection? How does one logically make that conclusion? You made the conclusion but where’s the logic?

    Clearly, you’re trying to argue that the account of the creation in Genesis is not literal. I will infer from this that you also conclude that the accounts of the creation in Moses, Abraham, and in temple ceremonies are also not literal since all of those accounts give the same basic story with little deviation. How does anything you wrote in either part 1 or part 2 provide any evidence that these accounts were not intended to be literal? I’m not trying to argue one way or the other myself; I’m just saying that you’re not either.

    I agree with you that neither the Bible nor any other book of scripture was ever intended to be a scientific treatise either modernly or anciently. However, you’re taking a lot of commonly held beliefs about the account of the creation in Genesis and relating them to text that doesn’t even exist. No account of the creation claims that the earth was created in six days. Please go back and read them; it’s just not there. The idea of no life or death prior to the creation has no scriptural basis whatsoever. The doctrine of no death prior to the Fall of Adam comes from 2 Nephi 2, not from Genesis, which says nothing about life or death prior to the creation. And where in the scriptures does it say anything about species being unchanged since creation? The sources of these ideas are not any of the accounts of the creation so please don’t claim that they are.

    Are you arguing that because certain parts of the Bible are clearly allegorical (even if they were not always universally recognized as allegorical) that no other part can be viewed as literal? Or, that because certain parts are allegorical that the account of the creation cannot or should not be literal? Or, that because certain parts are allegorical that other parts might also be allegorical? I’m really confused about your argument in paragraph 3. It appears to be either illogical or irrelevant. And what’s your deal with ancient Israelite mathematics? Did they understand geometry and pi? Did they have standardized units of measurement? Was there any standardization for a cubit? So what if some people believe they are literal, exact measurements? I believe they are literal, inexact measurements. Were the measurements wrong? Only if the ancient Israelites had an understanding of geometry and had standardized units of measurement. Otherwise, the measurements were not wrong (if there is no standardization for a cubit then it’s quite easy for a perfectly circular object to be ten cubits across and thirty cubits around). I’m just not sure what you are trying to argue here.

    Yes, there is a lot of violence in the Old Testament. How does support your argument that errancy equals non-literalism? Yes, the Law of Moses was strict, didn’t always make any sense, and was not always uniformly followed. How does that support your argument that errancy equals non-literalism? Yes, women were not always treated equally with men (anciently or modernly) and the accounts in the Bible are consistent with historical attitudes toward women. What’s your point? And where in the Bible does it claim that the letters to Timothy and to the Corinthians contain the literal word of God? The Bible claims they were written by Paul and not even as any type of revelation. I don’t know why you even included that line. So what if the Israelites were once slaves themselves and then condone slavery? That just means they were hypocrites. What does that have to do with errancy or literalism in the Bible? What do your sections on predestination and the treatment of the Jews have to do with errancy equaling non-literalism? How do any of these sections support your thesis in any way? I honestly have no idea why you even put them in.

    Anyway, my conclusion is that your arguments from both parts 1 and 2 just don’t hold water. Are the accounts of the creation literal or non-literal? Based on what you’ve written, I have no idea (I do have my own ideas but they’re not based on anything like this). Will there be a part 3 that will finally make sense of all this?

  • DB

    Chris,

    You are free to do and believe whatever to want. If you dismiss the Bible as the word of God, that’s your choice. If you accept the Bible as the word of God, that’s also your choice. The Articles of Faith do not dictate what individuals believe, only what is the doctrine and position of the Church. However, your question does not appear to be a sincere desire to know whether the Bible should be accepted, but rather an excuse for dismissing it. If you sincerely want to know if the Bible, whether in whole or in parts, is authentic scripture, that is for you to determine on your own through study and prayer. You can’t find your answer on the internet. However, if you’re simply using the errancy of the Bible as an excuse to dismiss it, then you’ve already made your decision and there’s no reason to keep asking.

  • Chris Maloy

    DB,

    The articles of faith all start out … We Believe. The dictate exactly belief. So at least be honest enough to not try and maneuver yourself out of what is said (UNLESS you are not taking the articles of faith literally).

    Yes, I am free to believe whatever I want, that is why in part I of this discussion I stated the possibility that the Bible is not a correct book of God and should be used and handled like we do with the Apocrypha.

    Please don’t try to assume what you know or think about me. Especially when I clearly stated my point in part I. You are not adding light to this conversation by calling me insincere when I stated outright that I think the Bible is wrong.

    The point of a discussion is to get people together with different mindsets, experiences, and understanding and talk about your points (hoping that a better understanding of what is true will unfold).

    Just because you don’t want to discuss an idea that seems uncomfortable to you doesn’t mean I haven’t prayed and asked or thought about these things. My answer just seems much different than yours DB and I want to know why. What am I missing or maybe it is something you are missing. IT IS CALLED DISCUSSING.

    I will happily invite myself out of this discussion if it bothers the author. Then you can discuss your ideas amongst those that are the same like-mindedness. Then I have to wonder what the purpose of discussion is at all.

  • DB

    Very well Chris. I will state what I believe and then you can honor us likewise.

    I believe that there were men who lived upon the earth named Adam, Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, etc., who were prophets of God. In other words, they were men who held the priesthood, held the keys of the priesthood, communicated directly with God, and were chosen by God to teach his gospel and lead those would follow those teachings. I believe that many of these men recorded the communications they received from God, their understanding of the gospel, and the histories of their dealings with God and His followers. These written accounts are scripture. Through the years these written accounts were passed down from generation to generation and may have been originally recorded and re-recorded on a variety of mediums including metal, stone, and paper. Many of these were maintained, re-recorded, and passed down from prophet to prophet at times and at other times were maintained, re-recorded, and passed down through groups of men who were not prophets. Because of this, the integrity of the original recordings as passed down through the generations is impossible to know. We know from historical records that the Bible in its current form was compiled by committees of the early Catholic Church. The men who did this were certainly not prophets so again the integrity of the original writings and the inclusion of all known or accepted scripture is impossible to know. The Bible created by the Catholic Church was passed down through generations by hand copying the text onto paper until the printing press was created so again, the integrity of the Bible as created by the early Catholic Church is impossible to know.

    I believe that the Bible we have today is not an exact reproduction of the scriptures as originally written by the prophets but I believe that much of it is close enough to the original that it maintains its value as scripture. Is it translated correctly from the original writings of the prophets? I believe most of it is not an exact translation but I believe much of it is a close translation. Do I believe that it is the word of God? I believe that it contains enough of close translation to the original scripture to still be considered scripture and that the parts containing communication from God to His prophets are close enough to still be considered the word of God. To what degree it contains the pure word of God, I do not know, but I accept it as scripture knowing that there are fallacies in the text.

    If you would like a definitive answer to your question, then no, we cannot dismiss the Bible as the word of God because it is translated incorrectly. However, such a black and white answer to your question would do it no justice since the Bible is very gray. Although it is not a perfect translation and we really don’t know to what degree it is mistranslated or to what degree each part of it is mistranslated, it is still scripture, albeit imperfect scripture. For this reason, the Bible cannot be relied upon solely to understand the gospel and the Plan of Salvation but should be used in conjunction with other books of scripture to understand these things. Were we to dismiss the Bible, we would lose what we have of the word of God as given the great prophets of the ancient world and our knowledge of God’s dealing with ancient man. That would be a travesty.

    This is what I believe. Does it answer your question? That is for you to decide based on your own belief because no one can answer that question for you. Now, what do you believe?

  • Chris Maloy

    DB,
    Your last comment to me was very good. I felt it was very thought provoking and honest. I do not agree with some of the conjecture, but that is the point of discussion.

    It is hard to debate via blog post so I am going to try and avoid that, but since you asked me to share my thoughts then I will be glad to mention my line of thinking. I do not have the time to include a lot of reference and research because I am at work at the moment and my lunch break is limited.

    Before I begin I would like to include some justification. The reason I get so frustrated when I come to sites like this, is because the missionary work only goes one way. If someone with a contrary way of thinking or belief joins the discussion it gets shrugged off as going on an emotional tirade, being insincere, or way out in left field. It immediately shuts me out of any conversation. It seems no one listens to anyone anymore. Where is the learning in that? There is no challenge to defend a concept and it actually isolates guys like me from groups like these blogs. If these blogs are only open to people with the same ideas about things, then I can’t see the effectiveness of it.

    I am not the missionary for the anti-Bible society. I came to a specific blog in which the topic was about the errors and following the literal interpretation of the Bible to address and share my thoughts.

    My thoughts:
    In the simplest answer possible, I think the Bible is not the word of God and that individuals that make life decisions based on it should take extreme care. More than 1/3 of the world holds the writings in Bible as those from God’s own mouth and often times erroneously influence cultures, politics, and thinking.
    I am not saying that we can not learn good values from it, but when a book is used into the understanding of the mind and will of God then we need to be very honest about its origins (because of the profound impact it has on other people’s way of thinking and influence).

    Your thoughts on the words from holy men leave me a little uneasy. Even with a few generations the Mormon Church had prophets who preached doctrines like the Adam God theory, the idea that if you were more privileged in the pre-existence you were born white, that the garden of Eden is in Missouri, and that as you become more righteous you begin to turn more fair (white) and delightsome. We all look back on those years and say … “Well they were products of their culture” and that was only a few decades ago. Now imagine a book that has two-thousand years (and more) of cultural differences.

    There are several translations of the Bible, each one saying things a little different (sometimes in contradiction). Why don’t we use the Gnostic Bible? It has some of the older translations.
    Who got to pick which books became part of the Bible? Where those men like Isaiah? Or did they just have a unifying agenda in bringing the new found craze for Christianity together. What were the checks and balances of this book binding? There was no Internet to discuss things on. Who were the experts … my guess -> is those in charge hired their own experts.

    Concerning the text, how do we know that some of the stories and prophets you claim existed even existed? There is a strong chance that creative Hebrew priest made up some of the stories, people, and lessons. Some of the so-called authors and prophets of the Bible may just be creative elaborations from real people or events. The Pharoahs were famous for having histories written about them to make them look more god-like than they really were (almost magical).

    I am not in this discussion to undermine your belief in Adam, Moses, Abraham, and Isaiah as men who held the priesthood and talked to God, but there is a good chance that some of them didn’t even exist.

    The History Channel did a very good series called Banned From the Bible that showed some of the crazy stories that got thrown out, why other books got included (during the council of Nicene and at other times), and influence of the MANY discoveries we have found in the last decade. You can find this series on youtube if you are interested.

    I am actually appreciative of your honesty in saying the Bible is not translated correctly. I agree. I am not sure what you base your statement of it being a close enough translation to be the word of god on. Prayer maybe, and that is fine for you, but that is not very scientific and doesn’t solve the problem for all of us.

    Your point as to why we cannot dismiss the Bible as the word of God is crazy to me. We don’t include lots of sacred writings in our cannon (like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Qu’ran, the Gnostic writings, Book of Mary Magdalne, Apocrypha, … you get my point). You can dismiss them, but the King James Version is something you can’t let go of. I can respect your belief, but I am in this discussion because some of us can let them go. If you really don’t want to loose what we have of the word of God to ancient prophets then why do you hold your Bible in higher esteem than the above mentioned books. Why not give them all equal time and attention. You see the contradiction.

    Once again I thank you for asking me what I believe. I have said nothing of values, or doctrine. That can be another discussion. There are plenty of books out there that teach values much more applicable to our day, which are better than the Bible.

    Great discussion so far and I would like to hear more of your thoughts if you have them.

  • Mike Parker

    For example, in Num. 5:12-28, we read that if a “spirit of jealousy” came upon a man, or if he for any reason suspected that his wife may have been unfaithful, he was entitled to require that his wife undergo an ordeal by poison, administered by the local priest. If his wife died in the process, then she was presumed guilty of adultery, but if she recovered then she was judged innocent.

    This ancient concept is perhaps best illustrated by the following dialogue:

    “So, logically….”

    “If she…weighs…the same as a duck…she’s made of wood.”

    “And therefore?”

    [beat]

    “A witch!”

  • DB

    Chris,

    I feel like we’ve hijacked this post. Hopefully, SteveP and David H. Bailey will forgive our extended discussion and I do look forward to more posts from both. Here are a few thoughts I have concerning your last comment.

    It appears that you are basing your beliefs on the Bible (at least in part) on scientific evidence and scrutiny. If this is true then you might as well toss out the Bible (and all other scripture for that matter). I have argued in this blog recently that faith in scriptures or any other spiritual matter can be neither gained nor lost through intellectual inquiry. The evidence of the truthfulness of spiritual matters cannot be discovered through scientific inquiry so searching for it through those means will only leave you lost.

    Is there a chance that any part of or the entire Bible is just made up? Of course there is. I don’t think that true faith in anything can be gained until one recognizes this possibility. I also think that many people refuse to accept this as even a remote possibility and thus never gain the faith that they could if they did accept it as a possibility. That tiny particle of doubt will be there, even if it’s ignored and unacknowledged, and will impede spiritual growth until it is acknowledged, accepted, and dealt with.

    I believe that there are valid books of scripture that are not included in the standard canon. The scriptures even write of other books so who are we to deny that they exist. I believe there have been many books of scripture written that we have no idea even exist or existed. I believe that there are books in the Bible that are not scripture. Psalms and the Song of Solomon are the first to pop into my mind as the most obvious. I think of the epistles of Paul more as general conference talks than scripture. There could be a great discussion on why we accept certain books as canon when they are clearly not scripture and why we don’t accept others that are but that might be better suited to another blog since this one deals specifically with science and faith. One reason is given in D&C 91 – it’s not necessary to accept them. D&C 91 tells us that the Apocrypha is true and mostly translated correctly but we don’t need it. I think that’s the main reason for not including many books of scripture. Does that mean we can’t read them and gain spiritual insight from them? Of course not. And why include books that aren’t scripture? I think it’s because of culture and to maintain standardization. We should all know that the Bible is not just a book of scripture but one of the greatest forces driving our culture. Changing it or deviating from it may create more problems than sticking with it. Is it necessary to toss out the books that aren’t scripture? No, it’s not necessary. Is it more beneficial to just keep them in there recognizing that they aren’t scripture or are only pseudo-scripture? Probably. Why does the Church accept only the KJV as the standard english version of the Bible? Probably just for standardization. If no versions of the Bible are translated correctly, then wouldn’t it just be best to go with the one that is generally accepted as the gold standard? Sounds reasonable to me. Here’s another question for thought: We know from D&C that Joseph Smith specifically questioned the veracity of the Apocrypha but did he inquire of the Lord about any other section? If he did or had, what kind of answer did he or might he have received?

    I believe that the Book of Mormon, the D&C, and the Pearl of Great Price are the most correct books of scripture we have and that they were intended specifically for our generation. I also believe that the Bible is scripture but not as correct as the others, contains books that are not scripture, and does not contain all of the books of scripture that it could. However, it is scripture, it does contain valuable teachings from ancient prophets that are not contained in other books of scripture, and we are better off with it than without it.

  • I believe that there are books in the Bible that are not scripture. Psalms and the Song of Solomon are the first to pop into my mind as the most obvious.

    Interesting. I’d keep much more of the Psalms than the Torah which I think is unarguably more composite and probably highly influenced by the scribes putting together the scriptures after the exile.

  • Gary

    Most of your examples illustrate that we should not accept as true, but instead we should reject certain biblical teachings. That is not the same thing as demonstrating that we should intepret certain passages such as the creation narrative figuratively.

    Mormons are in a difficult position. We are certainly comfortable intepreting certain passages figuratively, and we are comfortable rejecting passages which are untrue, or which are no longer true. However, we also believe in certain bedrock doctrines about the creation and the fall, and we believe in living prophets who speak for God and whose teachings are authoritatve. And many of these modern prophets have in fact taught that Adam and Eve are actual historical figures, that the Garden of Eden was an actual garden located in what is now Missouri, that all human beings are literally descend exclusively from Adam and Eve, that the fall of Adam and that the expulsion from the Garden brought physical and spiritual death into the world.

    For a Mormon, it is not enough to accept that the Bible is not a science text, and that the creation story of Genesis should be understood figuratively. That is the easy part. To the extent that evolution is inconsistent with these literal doctrines, Mormons must then not only figure out how to intepret their scriptures in a non-literal way, but they must also figure out how reconcile this with their belief in these doctrines and their understanding of what it means to be a modern prophet purporting to speak for God.

    Mormon scientists who demonstrate that science proves that the biblical creation story is not scientific are just picking the low lying fruit. That is not hard. The hard part is reconciling what we know from science with our other doctrines, which are not exclusively, or even primarily based in Genesis.

  • “In a similar vein, 2 Kin. 2:23-24 describes how 42 ‘little children’ (which according to LDS doctrine are not accountable for sin) were savagely attacked by bears for teasing the prophet Elisha about his baldness. Must we accept these accounts at face value?”

    If you follow the footnote for “little children” it reads “HEB youths (not little children)” and so your understanding of the story is false, not the story itself. Clearly it was spiteful teenagers who were killed.
    You know, it’s funny, but I seem to remember my Book of Mormon corroborating much of what is in the Bible, including the accounts of Moses (1 Ne. 17, etc.) and even going so far as to say that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures are a witness that the Bible is true (1 Ne. 13:39-40). Also, Joseph Smith taught that God did in fact lead his people into war, when he wrote “God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill;’ at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’…Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is” (TPJS p. 256). If you find those things distasteful, it doesn’t follow that they are untrue. It is unreasonable to doubt the Bible to the level you are suggesting when other scriptures ratify it in so many other places.

    “when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Not at Mormon Organon!

  • David H Bailey

    DB: If you re-read my articles, you will see that I state my intent and conclusions very carefully: sweeping claims of biblical inerrancy, and insistence of highly or completely literal interpretations of biblical scriptures, as taught by many (certainly not all) in the evangelical community, and which is also taught by some (certainly not all) in the LDS community, is untenable — not only from modern biblical scholarship, but even, in many cases, from a careful reading of the text itself. A more flexible approach is required if one wishes to obtain valid insights.

    That’s all I’m saying. Your numerous assertions about what I am “really” saying or thinking are not true, nor are they reasonable interpretations of what I wrote.

  • DB

    I agree with you that there are errors in the Bible. I agree with you that people who claim that the Bible is inerrant are fools. Ok, so you never actually said that but I bet that’s what you were thinking. I do disagree with you on some particular examples of errors and inconsistencies, which I’ve already pointed out, but my main disagreement is your usage of biblical errors as an argument for non-literalism. I also agree with you that the Bible is not completely literal, but that conclusion cannot be made from the argument that factual errors mean that a biblical passage is figurative. I would like to see better arguments for why certain biblical passages are figurative.

  • Steve Dupaix

    Thank you, Dr.’s Bailey and Peck, for the scholary and well reasoned presentation of your material. The amount of factual information presented, devoid of agenda other than a real desire for truth and knowledge, is both appreciated and applauded.

    So many in both science and religion today want to stake out the moral or intellectual high ground to the detriment of others and self, learned and unlearned, society and individual. There is a place and, indeed, a need for both at the table. In stark contrast to the acrimony found in the positions and activities of many evangelicals and fundamentalists as well as in many professional scientific communities and journals (I personally subscribe to and read Physics Today, Nature, Scientific American, and several others and am quite dismayed at the intellectual Spanish Inquisition approach towards scientists of faith), your reasoned approach allows an individual to assess the information relatively unbiased, draw his own conclusions, and move forward with his faith, education, and / or enlightenment.

    Our world needs more scientists and academicians of your caliber, intellect, grace, restraint, and faith.

    To those who read and are confused or befuddled by the lack of a clear statement of religious or philosophical direction or path or who are offended by what they percieve to be an attack on the fundamentals of their faith, I would suggest that it is your personal responsibility to find the true meaning and purpose of the scriptures in relation to your salvation and exaltation. To accomplish this, I would suggest the following:

    1) Ponder the gift and power of agency that is granted to all men – “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet”

    2) Consider and act upon the opportunity and necessity of individual investigation of the words and creations of God – the most powerful use of that agency – “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated — and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated”

    3) Culminate that investigation in the same manner as Joseph Smith – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

    4) Stop and listen for the response and, once received, act upon it and grow in faith, knowledge and wisdom – “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

    Remember, faith is not a destination but the nourishment needed for the journey; knowledge is not a quest but the result of personal intellectual and spiritual struggle; Wisdom is not granted so much as earned from the bittersweet experiences of life.

    “The treasures of both secular and spiritual knowledge are hidden ones — but hidden from those who do not properly search and strive to find them…. Spiritual knowledge is not available merely for the asking; even prayers are not enough. It takes persistence and dedication of one’s life….” – President Spencer W. Kimball

    “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened”

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