Minimalists versus Maximalists and Contemporary Scholarship

For some reason, I have recently received a few messages from readers interested in where I stand in relationship to the “Minimalist vs. Maximalist” debate. For those not familiar with this term, the so-called “Minimalist vs. Maximalist” debates refer to discussions that occurred some twenty to thirty years ago in biblical studies.To answer the question, like all mainstream scholars, I don’t fit into either group. While we will always continue to debate issues concerning Israel’s past, … [Read more...]

William Schniedewind on Scribalism and the Development of the Bible

How did we get the Bible? Back in 2004, UCLA professor of biblical studies and Northwest Semitic languages, William Schniedewind, published his insightful work How the Bible Became a Book. It’s an essential read for anyone interested in this fascinating question. Dr. Schniedewind explores the development of writing in the ancient world of Canaan, and his study sheds significant light on the creation of the Bible.The Hebrew Bible (or Christian Old Testament) is a compilation of scribal m … [Read more...]

Critical Studies Versus Apologetics: My Own Personal Journey

I have a great love for critical scholarship, but like any real love, mine took time to mature. I didn't always feel this way. As an undergraduate student attending Brigham Young University, I majored in History and minored in Near Eastern Studies. I had one graduate program in mind: Brandeis. I wanted to study at a non-sectarian Jewish institution that specialized in historical analysis of the Bible and the ancient Near East.Studying at Brandeis for my MA and PhD was a life-changing … [Read more...]

Teaching the Book of Mormon as Literature

This semester marks the second time I have had the opportunity to teach the Book of Mormon as Literature at the University of Utah. It’s been an incredible experience for which I feel deeply grateful. On occasion, I’m asked the question how someone with academic training in historical readings of the Bible and the Ancient Near came to teach a course on literary analysis. It’s kind of a fun story.In 2013, I was approached by Dr. Robert Goldberg, the director of the Tanner Humanities Center … [Read more...]

Don’t Do Bible (but if you do, do it right) part 3

It’s hard for many Bible-believing Jews and Christians to learn that their sacred book lacks historicity. I get it. Been there and done that. And this is certainly the case for K.A. Kitchen, a brilliant Bible-believing Christian Egyptologist. Kitchen does his best to present the Hebrew Bible as a record filled with historical reliability. For him, historicity is an important part of scriptural authenticity.Speaking personally, I'm certainly not of the opinion that there is nothing at all h … [Read more...]

Don’t Do Bible (but if you do, do it right) part 2

It’s true. Some conservative scholars interested in Bible will pursue ancillary degrees in Near Eastern studies in order to avoid addressing issues that directly challenge their religious faith. I was counseled to do so, and I’ve seen many conservative divinity schools and religious education programs fill their teaching positions in “Bible” with scholars who fit this mold. This explains why on occasion we encounter incredibly brilliant Near Eastern scholars making significant contributions t … [Read more...]

Don’t Do Bible! (but if you do, do it right!)

Many years ago now (in fact, more than I’d like to admit), I was approached by one of my undergraduate professors from Brigham Young University and given some well-meaning advice. I had just begun my graduate work pursuing a Master’s degree in Near Eastern and Judaic studies and this former religion professor was a bit concerned for my spiritual wellbeing.“Don’t focus on Bible,” he said. “Because we’ve yet to have a Latter-day Saint pass through an academic program on the Bible and retain h … [Read more...]

Peter Enns: Reading the Bible Critically as a Spiritual Journey

I'm going to make a confession. No offense to Peter Enns, but his book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It is not the type of book I would typically read. It's not that I don't appreciate this type of book. I do (I've even been working on a somewhat similar project for an LDS audience). It's just that I do a lot of teaching combined with a lot of commuting. This means that my reading time is sacred and when I get it, instead of a religious read, I … [Read more...]