What is Helpful To Know about Biblical Scholarship before I Dive into the Old Testament?

LDS Perspectives Podcast has interviewed several scholars of late about the history of Biblical scholarship and the current state of the field, including how LDS ideas about the Bible fit into the broader field. These podcasts, taken collectively, are a great way to bring us up to speed and will help us to approach the Old Testament better informed about what it is that we are actually reading this year.

I’d suggest starting with the interview with Ben Spackman on Misunderstanding the Bible. He focuses on the importance of understanding the different genres of the books we will read in the Old Testament. When I learned, for example, that the book of Job was a poem, it all of a sudden made sense to me. Trying to read it as actual history never felt right and I could never accept that the unnamed author of the text was somehow privy to a conversation between God and Satan who were bargaining over Job’s soul. Once I understood it was a poem, I could read it the way it was intended. It still teaches correct principles, but I don’t have to be concerned about whether it actually happened or not. Why didn’t I ever learn this in Sunday School? Understanding genre is crucial to understanding the Old Testament.

Next, Phil Barlow, a friend of mine and a wonderful scholar and Latter-day Saint who holds the Arrington Mormon Studies Chair at Utah State University, does an interview on Higher Biblical Criticism. Barlow explains what that actually means (spoiler: it doesn’t mean that those who engage in it are critical of the Bible). Barlow teaches us about the history behind Higher Biblical Criticism and situates Mormonism in a broader context. In short, we have nothing to fear from it and much to learn.

Cory Crawford then teaches us about the Documentary Hypothesis in his interview. It is a great way to learn about the history behind the hypothesis which is simply a scholarly explanation for where the first five books of the Old Testament come from. These books are sometimes called the Books of Moses, but scholars argue that they are written much later than when Moses was alive.

Finally, Ben Spackman does a second interview regarding his research on understanding Genesis 1. He has a book in the works on this topic and he shares some of his insights with us in this podcast.

These podcasts are a wonderful way to bring us up to speed on Old Testament scholarship before we dive into a study of the text this year.

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