February 3, 2015

Something exciting happened to the field of biblical studies beginning in the 1960’s. Until that point, most American biblical scholars taught Bible in seminaries and divinity school programs. But during this era, an important development occurred that has had a tremendous impact upon the field: universities began to create Religious Studies programs, and suddenly, instead of talking mainly with theologians, biblical scholars found themselves working closely with faculty members trained in other disciplines within the Humanities. As a result, academic... Read more

February 2, 2015

With its stories of incest, jealousy, faith, and trickery, the Book of Genesis is filled with high drama. But what were these stories meant to do? Is Genesis “history”? Well, certainly not if we define “history” in the way John Bagnell Bury did in his famous inaugural speech as the Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge: History is not a branch of literature. The facts of history, like the facts of geology or astronomy, can supply material for literary... Read more

January 30, 2015

The Book of Genesis tells the story of ancient heroes from Israel’s distant past. It describes the adventures of men and women who struggled to define their relationship to divinity, as well as their place within a hostile world. But were the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob real historical figures? From the perspective of historians, that is a question we simply cannot answer. Unlike other biblical stories, the patriarchal narratives contain almost no connection with known historical events that historians... Read more

January 28, 2015

On December 26th of 2014, I published an essay titled, “How to Save LDS Youth in a Secular Age.” The post gained both positive and negative attention. While I received many kind, thoughtful emails from those who connected with the essay (it was even hosted on BYU’s Religious Education Facebook page), others felt concerned because of the way it encouraged LDS youth who support same-sex marriage not to abandon their faith due to their political position. I recognize that this... Read more

January 28, 2015

In his recent Oxford University Press study, Dr. David F. Holland shares a profound observation concerning the great scriptural paradox within the Book of Mormon: “The Book of Mormon itself reinforces the message that when heavenly light mixes with human messengers, God’s treasure is to be found in earthly vessels. It repeatedly warns its readers not to discard the things of God because of the flaws of men (Mormon 9:31)… The notion that later generations may improve upon the scriptural... Read more

January 27, 2015

The historicity of scripture is not a matter of faith. It is an issue of critical analysis and academic inquiry. On the other hand, the inspiration of scripture, meaning its ability to assist readers access divinity, can never be a matter of critical analysis and academic inquiry. Instead, much like beauty, inspiration is found in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, while critical analysis and academic investigation can enhance faith, they need not destroy it. Speaking personally, I strongly resonate... Read more

January 27, 2015

I’m currently in the process of trying to put together an introduction to a historical reading of the second traditional division of the Hebrew Bible, the Nevi’im or “Prophets.” This collection not only includes books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (the Major Prophets), it also includes “historical” works such as Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. I place the term historical in quotes because while I believe that “historical” works as a helpful literary genre, these books do not contain “history”... Read more

January 24, 2015

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, the truth is... Read more

January 24, 2015

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 material written... Read more

January 24, 2015

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... Read more




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