January 22, 2015

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... Read more

January 20, 2015

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 historically reliable... Read more

January 20, 2015

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 to their specific fields while ignoring and (worse... Read more

January 19, 2015

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... Read more

January 18, 2015

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... Read more

January 15, 2015

So why is it wrong to refer to biblical authors as “historians”? After all, they told stories about the past and made use of both oral and written records to make it come alive. So what’s wrong then, with saying that they were writing history? The matter really comes down to this: What were biblical authors trying to do? Were they trying to present a correct scientific analysis of past events? Or were biblical authors trying to do something else?... Read more

January 14, 2015

Today is January 17th, 2015. This day marks an important one in human history. 50 years ago today, the greatest singer-songwriter of the modern era recorded one of the most beloved Rock songs of all time: “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Video Version from the film “Don’t Look Back.” And so, today I remind readers that they don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows, don’t follow leaders, and of course, watch the parking meters. And since this... Read more

January 13, 2015

As an instructor teaching classes in Bible and even the Book of Mormon at the University of Utah, I have frequently had to address the genre of scripture with my students. The topic is an important one in Religious Studies. Back in 2003, University of Chicago Egyptologist Robert Ritner published an article in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies on a segment of the Joseph Smith papyri used to produce the LDS Book of Abraham. Even though I am grateful... Read more

January 12, 2015

I have a smaller class this year, but I’m pleased to announce that the Book of Mormon as Literature course will be taught again this semester at the University of Utah. The course is labeled as CLCS 4900-01. We meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7:15-8:35 PM in room 114 of MBH. This course in Mormon Studies is sponsored by the Tanner Humanities Center. We will again use Grant Hardy’s Reader’s Edition of the Book of Mormon as our primary... Read more

January 11, 2015

I have long admired Hugh B. Brown. His famous “God is the Gardener” speech delivered at BYU is one of my all-time favorite sermons. President Brown was a strong advocate for the position that as long as men and women remain humble, there is room for diversity of thought within Mormonism. I felt that this quote would serve as a nice follow-up to my post concerning Mormonism as a cerebral religion. On this subject, he once famously declared: “I admire... Read more

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