About

Benjamin the Scribe takes its inspiration from Nehemiah 8:8. When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem  after 70 years in Babylon, Aramaic had become their native language and they could no longer understand their Hebrew scriptures. Scribes arose to bridge this gap in understanding.

They read aloud from the scroll, from the Torah of God, translating and explaining the meaning, so [the people] understood what was read.

As an undergrad, Ben set aside his medical aspirations after falling in love with the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. He spent a semester in Jerusalem and graduated BYU in Near Eastern Studies before pursuing graduate work in Semitics at the University of Chicago (Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Assyrian, Babylonian, Ugaritic, and others).

After a MA and several frustrating years in pursuit of a PhD, he shifted to taking a support role in his wife’s pursuit of a PhD, while working part time and taking pre-medical courses. In 2016, he formally returned to academia as a PhD student at Claremont, studying history of religion and science, with a focus on the interpretation of Genesis, fundamentalism, creationism, and religious opposition to evolution. He is currently writing a book on the challenge of scripture, creation, and Genesis 1.  Click here if you’d like to learn more about his studies and help pay his tuition.

Ben’s teaching experience includes several semesters at BYU as well as nearly a decade as a volunteer Institute teacher. He has published in BYU Studies, Religious Educator, Religion & Politics, and with the Maxwell Institute, blogged for a decade at various places (See Ben’s Other Writings). He participates regularly in academic conferences, speaks at firesides, guest lectures, etc. Below are some of his more important pieces.

You can support Ben’s work by buying the books he links to on Amazon.  (I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com) You can also support his research directly via the PayPal button with a one-time or monthly donation.


Greatest Hits

  • “The Rediscovery of the World of the Old Testament” Screencast, fireside
    • Being able to read ancient texts contemporary with the Bible has greatly changed our understanding of the Bible.
  • “Why Bible Translations Differ: A Guide for the Perplexed” Religious Educator 15:1 (2016) PDF
    • I explain four aspects of Bible translation which explain why translations differ why LDS should make use of multiple translations, and how.
  • “The Israelite Roots of Atonement Terminology, ” BYU Studies 55:1 (2016) PDF 
    • I look at the different meanings of “atone,” “redeem,” and “save” in an Old Testament context, and what those meanings imply for our understanding.
  • “Ben Carson, Science, and Seventh-day Adventists.” Religion&Politics; Link ; A follow-up at the Times&Seasons blog.
    • This is a short history of young-earth creationism and its relationship to Seventh-day Adventism.
  • “Truth, Scripture, and Interpretation: Some Precursors to Reading Genesis,” FAIR Conference, July 2017.Text;  Audio.  References and follow-up 
    • I examine some assumptions we make in interpreting Genesis and give some interpretive reasons why we shouldn’t expect Genesis to be scientific. One of those is the very important concept of accommodation, found in the Bible, Christian and Jewish history, the Book of Mormon, and LDS history.
  •  “Mormonism as Rough Stone Rolling: Towards a Theology of Encountering the World,” Maxwell Institute Summer Seminar paper, July 2017. (Not yet posted)
  • Scripture, like libraries, movies, and restaurants, is made up of different kinds. When we misread the genre, we misunderstand scripture, and this has led to serious problems.
  • “Early LDS Attempts to Reconcile Scripture with Science: Pre-Mormon Pre-Adamites and Intellectual (In)Dependence,” Mormon History Association Conference 2017; Draft textBlog summary and discussion
    • Widtsoe, Talmage, and Roberts all worked to reconcile science with religion, particularly fossils, evolution, and the age of the earth. I argue they drew on long non-LDS intellectual tradition.
  •  “Reading the Old Testament in Context,” October 2017 Sperry Symposium at BYU.Screencast, links, and discussion
    • I look at four important kinds of context in reading the Old Testament, and how the average Joe can access this information easily.
  • “What’s Going On in Genesis 1,”LDS Perspectives podcast. Podcast and transcript
    • This is a riff on the topics from my book.
  • “The Scientific Deformation and Reformation of Genesis: How Science Messed it Up, but Also Fixes It,” February 2018 Mormon Studies Conference at UVU; Video  (no Powerpoint slides);   Blogpost with paper summary, video link, Powerpoint slides, references, and discussion
    • I examine the history of one critical assumption driving biblical interpretation, creationism, and opposition to evolution, i.e. concordism. I then explain how the rediscovery of ancient Near Eastern creation texts have undercut this modern assumption which is quite foreign to the world of Genesis. Finally, I look at why Mormonism missed this shift.
  • March 2018, “An Essay on the Nature of Prophetic Knowledge” Link; Follow-up link
    • I don’t like the terms “fallibility” or “infallibility” but this is my attempt at explaining how revelation and prophetic knowledge mesh with the humanity of prophets.
  • “Prooftexting and Understanding the Bible as a Missionary Tool,” LDS MissionCast Podcast link. 
    • How do concepts of authority in Catholicism and Protestantism affect the role of scripture? Understanding this can help us do better missionary work and engage in more productive conversations with others.

Ben can be contacted at BenjaminTheScribeBlog@gmail.com

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