THERE ARE TWO CONTRASTING MODES OF studying scripture's basic historical
aspects-its date and authorship, the historical veracity of events
described in it, and the existence of ideas and practices in the
periods in which they are claimed to have existed. These are the
traditionalist and historical critical modes. They have different
ideological proclivities and tend to generate different conclusions
and are thus components of discrete research paradigms if not of
larger world views. As a consequence of this, movement from one
mode to the other is not a simple choice of research strategy. Transition
can only really come from a "conversion experience" in
which an individual, upon perceiving the deficiencies of one framework
and the overwhelming strengths of the other, is catapulted into
the perceived stronger mode of thinking.
I had such a "conversion experience." I grew up a traditional
Mormon and decided to pursue a career in Near Eastern studies so
as to contribute to the "defense of the faith" along traditionalist
lines. But during my university preparation I found that many of
the traditional historical assumptions that I held did not make
sense against the evidence that I was encountering. The process
of transformation was slow, but by the end of my graduate education
I had come to own the critical framework. Adopting this mode has
brought some tactical woes,1 but its benefits in providing
an understanding and appreciation of scripture and history have
made these difficulties negligible. Criticism has allowed meaning
and sense to surface in texts and events which were only partially
elucidated in the traditionalist perspective. Above all it has been
a spiritual journey and experience of the highest order, one that
I would not choose to undo.
In this essay I wish to describe the evidential essence of my
pilgrimage to criticism as I experienced it during my undergraduate
and graduate educations. I will first summarize the characteristics
of the traditionalist and critical modes. I will then describe some
areas of evidence and some of the critical considerations that convinced
me of the legitimacy of the critical orientation. In this discussion
I will also describe responses and perspectives that I developed-i.e.,
"post-critical apologetics," so to speak-that gave me
continuing appreciation of my religious tradition.
The Traditionalist And Critical Mode
BEFORE I actually describe the two modes, I need to make it clear
that I am not talking about methods of study, but rather intellectual
attitudes and orientations toward texts. The closest I come to speaking
about method, below, is in describing what textual evidence is most
important in making conclusions about basic historical issues about
the text. Still, even in this, I am speaking about something more
abstract or at a greater "distance' from the data studied than
specific methods. Moreover, while particular methods may be associated
with one or the other mode, the modes are not to be equated with
these methods. I should also note that in the descriptions that
follow I am not distinguishing between the two modes from the point
of view of inherent or basic rationality. It is true that those
with one orientation may call the other illogical; but each mode
attempts to satisfy the demands of reason within its own research
paradigm. This is one of the reasons why people do not readily flock
from one mode to the other.
The traditionalist mode looks at scripture's historical aspects
 --its composition, date, accuracy of events, and chronological
placement of ideas and practices-in terms of what a particular religious
tradition has determined or come to believe to be the case about
these matters. The scriptural text is read uncritically: what the
work claims on the surface with respect to historical aspects is
accepted for the most part as the historical reality. Moreover,
in this mode there is little review of what qualifies for evidence
in historical study. Sometimes when traditionalist study is undertaken
systematically or in depth, certain peripheral traditional views
and assumptions are modified to harmonize with or support central
tenets.2 Nevertheless, conclusions in many respects are predetermined.
All this indicates that the ideology of the traditionalist approach
is conservative. It preserves preexisting ideas and practices. (I
do not mean to imply here that conservatism is a negative feature.)
In contrast to the traditionalist mode, the historical critical
mode ("critical" having to do with proper discernment,
not unfair or purposefully negative judgment) determines the historical
aspects of scripture through evaluation of the contextual evidence
exhibited by a text rather than through surface or external claims.
While it acknowledges that these claims may be helpful in formulating
hypotheses about the basic historical aspects of the text, it realizes
that what a text claims or what external parties claim about a text
is not necessarily correct. This leads to a second defining element
of the critical mode: a willingness on the part of the researcher
to acknowledge the possibility that historical matters may be different
from what is claimed by a text and the tradition surrounding it.
While research cannot be carried out without some guiding hypotheses,
presuppositions, and enabling prejudices, a critical scholar is
prepared in the back of her or his mind to modify, even radically,
conclusions and hypotheses about basic historical matters. Thus
the critical framework, and here is the third defining feature of
the orientation, is a mode of open-ended inquiry. No conclusion
is immune from revision. Revision comes by continual review of one's
own conclusions and the review of others' differing conclusions
which the framework encourages and tolerates. Review is also required
for assumptions about what counts for evidence and how evidence
is to be understood. The requirement of review is related to the
notion, mentioned above, that external claims-be they scholarly
or nonscholarly-about a text are questionable. In contrast to the
conservatism of the traditionalist mode, the critical mode has a
liberal or at times even a radical or anarchic ideological tendency.3
But the critical mode can operate within a larger conserving and
community-supporting context (my so-called "post-critical apologetics"
that I adduce below will suggest something of this).
The main objection of traditionalists to the critical mode is
that it requires denying supernatural elements and discounting the
evidential value of mystical and emotive-spiritual experience. Theoretically,
the critical mode does not require such a humanistic coloring. All
it requires is a willingness to subject to critical review all historical
questions as well as presuppositions about what counts for evidence
and how evidence is construed. But it is true that the critical
mode as used, for example, by biblical scholars has resulted in
conclusions with a rather humanistic coloring. The question here
is whether this is the fault of the mode or whether is it indicative
of the truth behind the evidence. I would suggest the latter. This
certainly does not mean that there is no divine element, but it
may be that it operates differently than what we have come to expect
The main theoretical recommendation for the critical mode is that
it is consistent: it treats all media of human discoursesecular
and holy-in the same way Scripture, whatever might be said about
its inspiration, is a vehicle for human understanding-it speaks
to us in our own language-and thus it seems fallacious to exempt
it from critical analysis. The traditionalist mode is less than
consistent in its tendency to immunize scripture or claims about
historical aspects of scripture from critical study.5 It
is for these reasons that James Barr, a noted biblical scholar,
has argued that historical study is by nature critical; any operation
that does not have the critical element is not historical.6
The Shift From Traditionalism to Criticism
THOUGH the critical mode may be more attractive theoretically,
this attractiveness will not by itself move a traditionalist to
accept this mode of study, especially with its threat of a turn
in a humanistic direction and its nonconservative ideological cast.
The critical mode has to force itself on a traditionalist by showing
that it makes better sense of evidence than the traditionalist approach
in several key matters. I want to review here three areas of critical
observations that I made during my years of university training
which compelled me to acknowledge the validity of the critical approach.
I will add some constructive afterthoughts in each case to show
that ultimately the critical approach can enrich the religious tradition.
What I  say here is only a sampling of the evidence responsible
for my transformation. Furthermore, though I discuss these matters
separately, the different ideas were all developing at the same
time and mutually influenced each other.
The "Gospel Throught The Ages"
One of the views that I was drawn to accept was that the "gospel"
was not the same in all the ages. I discovered that Israelite and
Christian religious traditions as found in the Old and New Testaments
were phenomenologically-in fundamental belief and practice different
from one another and different from our religious tradition today
True, each subsequent manifestation of the tradition grew out of
the earlier traditions and, therefore, the subsequent manifestations
shared many formal and ideational traits with earlier ones. But
the passage of time and the different circumstances in which later
adherents lived led to an evolution and change in religious ideas
One place where this notion of religious difference and development
became clear to me was in my study of the biblical cult, i.e., matters
pertaining to temple and temple worship in ancient Israel.7
I found that the traditional explanation that Israelite sacrifice
typologically represented the death of Jesus did not make sense
in view of the complexity of the sacrificial system of the Hebrew
Bible and the general purpose of sacrifice indicated by that text.
The evidence, found mainly in the priestly legislation of the Pentateuch
(Leviticus and parts of Exodus and Numbers), showed that there were
several types of sacrifices each with divergent goals: some for
praise, some for thanksgiving, some for rectification of the noxious
effects of one's impurity or sin on the sanctuary, and some for
the rectification of damage done to what is holy The theory or perspective
that held these diverse sacrifices together was that they were gifts,
specifically food gifts, to the deity to respond to or induce his
blessing or to appease his wrath. It was not the slaughter or death
of the animal, but the presentation of fat and meat pieces to the
deity on the altar as a type of meal that was the focus of the rites.8
This view was corroborated by the fact that cereal offerings accompanied
(and sometimes substituted for) the animal offerings-this was the
bread portion of the meal. Wine was also offered in libation, the
beverage portion of the service (cf. Numbers 15:1-16). Further evidence
for this was also found in Psalm 50 which implicitly recognized
the fact that sacrifice was a meal by rejecting (and rightly so
in the biblical context) a literal understanding of the rite as
such.9 This rationale of sacrifice was confirmed in part
by the significance of sacrifice among Israel's neighbors, much
of which chronologically predates the phenomenon in ancient Israel
and suggested, by the way, that Israel came by its practice through
its Near Eastern ancestors an neighbors. In the non-Israelite context,
offerings were also meal gifts to appease or induce the action of
the gods.10 In sum, the ancient Israelites had a different
view of the meaning of sacrifice than we did. The view that it represented
Jesus' death seemed to be an imposition on the text. Thus ideas
about the meaning of sacrifice were not the same in all the ages.
A similar question arose in connection with another aspect of
my cultic study, that of ritual purification. When I systematically
studied practices of purification in the Old Testament, it became
clear that baptism, which Mormon tradition and scripture said existed
in pre-Christian antiquity, was no where to be found in that ancient
text.11 There were ablutions for removing ritual impurity
arising from certain conditions pertaining to death, sexual matters,
and disease. And the idea of washing and sprinkling of sinners,
based for the most part on the purification of persons from ritual
impurity, occurred as a metaphor. But there was no actual sin-removing
ablution which functioned as a means of entry into the covenant
community Now to say that baptism was not practiced because it was
not attested was certainly an argument from silence. But the silence
took on significance in view of the fact that the Bible spoke frequently
about-even prescribed in detail-other sorts of ablutions. The silence
was also significant in that baptism would have had been a major
initiatory rite de passage, much like circumcision. But whereas
the Old Testament was peppered with clear references to circumcision,
it had none regarding baptism. This evidence led me to the conclusion
that baptism, for the purposes we supposed, was probably not practiced
in ancient Israel. This then provided an example of  where Mormon
and Christian practice, not just ideas, differed from those of our
more remote religious ancestors.12
Confirmation of the notion that religious ideas and practices
evolved came through study of Mormon history itself which evidenced
a clear evolution of ideas and practices within its short one hundred
and fifty (now sixty ) year history it seemed that if there could
be an evolution of ideas and practices over a few decades, such
as in the identity and nature of God,13 the organization
of the Church,14 the practice of baptism,15 in the
priesthood and related practices,16 and in temple work and
doctrine,17 so there could be-even must be-changes and developments
over the centuries of Israelite, Christian, and Mormon traditions.
I developed a post-critical apologetic response to this conclusion
so as to be able to observe some sort of continuity and identity
between the biblical and Mormon traditions despite their phenomenological
differences. My argument was that though these religious traditions
did not always manifest identity of practices and ideas in form
and content, varying and different practices and ideas in these
traditions did manifest some identity in function. In comparing
practices or ideas and looking for similarity therein, one was to
search for and compare the common goals in the religious traditions
and how the traditions achieved these goals rather than to search
for exact similarity in practices and beliefs. Thus in the case
of Mormon baptism, I compared to it the practice of circumcision
in the Hebrew Bible that, like baptism, was a sign of membership
in the covenantal community; I compared purgation and reparation
sacrifices in the Hebrew Bible that, like baptism, rectify personal
evil in some way, and I compared Old Testament ablutions for removing
ritual impurities that, like baptism, reflect an interest in purifying
moral impurity.18 To the matter of Israelite sacrifice I
compared the practice of prayer in Mormon tradition, which has similar
goals. Just as in the case of prayer, biblical sacrifice was offered
to praise and thank God for blessings, to request further blessings,
and to effect repentance.19 Sacrifice was thus a form of
concretized prayer. In sum, for me, the continuity of the biblical
and Mormon traditions came to lie not in common practices and beliefs
but in common goals amid diverse practices and beliefs. Scriptural
and religious history began to make much more sense from this perspective.
I could deal with the evidence without having to resort lamely to
notions of scribal conspiracy or knowledge withholding sin to harmonize
the disparity that existed between ancient and modern traditions.
AT the same time that I was rethinking the matter of the sameness
imagined to be found in religious phenomena and ideas, I was rethinking
traditional assumptions about the phenomenon and nature of prophecy
in the Bible and other Mormon scripture. The traditional view was
that prophets are able to see far into the future and do so with
clarity This did not seem to be sustainable upon critical study.
A good example of what I discovered is found in the prophetic
works pertaining to the sixth century B.C.: the books of Jeremiah,
Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah (chapters 1-8). At the beginning
of this century the Babylonians were threatening the kingdom of
Judah with destruction. This destruction finally came in 586 B.C.
when the temple was destroyed and many Judeans were exiled to Mesopotamia.
The Babylonian realm did not endure. The Persians soon came to power
in Mesopotamia and the conquering King Cyrus allowed the captive
Judeans to return to their land around 538, rebuild destroyed cities
and towns, and even rebuild the temple. The prophetic expressions
in the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah pertain
to these historical events and indicated that prophecy had a rather
imminent orientation and that its view of the future was not a clear
The collective evidence for this view can be summarized as follows.
These prophetic books share the common expectation of an imminent
return to the land of Israel and consequent abundant and even enduring
blessing after Babylonian captivity.20 The preexilic or early
exilic portions of Jeremiah and Ezekiel say that the captivity will
not last for long: the book of Jeremiah says seventy years;21
the book of Ezekiel, much of which was probably composed in the
Exile, says that their glorious return is "near at hand"
(Hebrew: ki qeirevu lavo').22 Zechariah, who lived shortly
after the exile, noted that he and his people were living at the
end of the seventy-year period.23 These prophets collectively
say that after the people's punishment in the foreign land the people-and
this often includes other Israelites who had suffered dispersion
in earlier political catastrophes-would be forgiven and renewed
(e.g., given a new heart) and come back to their land.24
Ezekiel goes as far as to say that the restoration to the land would
be total; God was going to "gather [the people] back into their
land and leave none of them behind" (Ezekiel 39:25, 28). The
four prophetic works contain the expectation that the restoration
to the land  would begin a period of regeneration when the people
would no longer be troubled by their enemies and would have agricultural
and economic prosperity.25 Jerusalem would be rebuilt and
become glorious.26 The temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed
by the Babylonians, would also be rebuilt, and its priesthood and
sacrificial worship would be reestablished.27 The last nine
chapters of Ezekiel contain the ideal plan and context for such
a temple (Ezekiel 40-48). That this is a temple for Ezekiel's own
time is seen in the facts that he is the one who was to inaugurate
the temple's sacrificial worship, thus functioning something like
a second Moses,28 and that the Judeans in Babylonian exile
were to be shown the design of the temple so that after repentance
they could execute the plan and fulfill its cultic prescriptions.29
Haggai, a contemporary of Zechariah, spoke of the ideal glory of
the restoration temple when he said that the building would be adorned
with precious things " shaken" out of the surrounding
nations.30 With the temple and Jerusalem rebuilt, God would
come and again make his abode in the temple (or the city).31
For Ezekiel specifically, God's return to the post-Babylonian captivity
temple would rectify his leaving it just before the destruction.32
All the four prophets indicate that the Davidic kingdom would be
reestablished in this age of restoration.33 Jeremiah terms
the new king a "righteous branch" (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15).
Ezekiel calls him a "prince" (nasi') and subordinates
him to the priesthood.34
The posterity of this king would continue to rule after him according
to Jeremiah and Ezekiel.35 Thus the picture is not of a single
king but of a continuing dynasty. For Haggai, the king reinaugurating
this dynasty was to be his contemporary Zerubbabel (who was of Davidic
descent) who would take his place as the thrones of other nations
are destroyed.36 Zechariah also appears to single Zerubbabel
out for royal position, apparently calling him the "branch"
and thus tying him into the Jeremianic expectation of a Davidic
king or dynasty.37 This Davidic king or dynasty according
to Jeremiah and Ezekiel would rule over the two houses of Israel
that had split apart after the death of Solomon.38
This picture suggested to me that prophecy has the following characteristics:
(a) it does not concern itself generally with events far in the
future-it has an imminent orientation (the hopes of the foregoing
beatific restoration are localized in the sixth century B.C.), and
(b) the Vision of even the imminent future is not clearly predicted
or known (note that several of the aforementioned expectations did
not occur: the propensities of the people to sin remained the same;
only some, not all, of the Israelites returned to the land; the
Judeans remained dominated by foreign nations; the rebuilt temple
and Jerusalem were not as glorious as expected; Ezekiel's ideal
temple was not built; the Davidic dynasty was not restored, and
Zerubbabel in particular did not become king; this unclear vision
of the future is also marked by an apparent ignorance of the vicissitudes
of Christian and Jewish history in the years far into the future).
This perception about the nature of prophecy was verified by the
sometimes guarded but nonetheless openly expressed expectations
in the New Testament that Jesus would return in the time of the
first Christians. Paul, for example, said to the Thessalonians:
". . . we [Paul and the living Thessalonians] who are alive,
who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede
those who have died.... we [i.e., Paul and the Thessalonians] who
are alive ... will be caught up in the clouds together with [those
who have died among the first Christians] to meet the Lord in the
air."39 This perspective about prophecy was also verified
in the expectations of Joseph Smith. When the Saints were driven
from Jackson County in 1833, for example, his revelations expressed
hopes of imminent reclamation of the land.40 Mormon tradition
has come to read these unfulfilled hopes, like the unfulfilled biblical
prophecies of gathering, as matters for the future. This should
not obscure the fact, however, that their formulation has an imminent
orientation revealing that the prophet had an unclear perception
about the denouement of future events.41 (The Book of Mormon
did not enter into the evidence for the nature of prophecy since
the book was beginning to show itself as a nineteenth-century composition,
as I note later.)
The theological reconstruction that I pursued in consequence of
these critical conclusions was to see prophetic expressions, not
as statements concerning communities and events far in the future,
but as statements that concerned their immediate contexts which
could be picked up by later communities  and reapplied secondarily
to their situation as occasion demanded. This was not simply a theological
principle, but one based on historical fact. The apocalyptic chapters
of the book of Daniel, for example, which were certainly written
in the first half of the second century B.C. and not in the sixth-century,
understood Jeremiah's seventy years to mean seventy weeks of years.
Thus the hopes of Jeremiah (and of other prophets of the time) were
reinterpreted to apply to the situation in the second century B.
C.42 My response saw the prophecies of old not as announcements
of what was certainly to be in the future but as sources of inspiration
for creating prophetic vision in a later religious community. But
the question was, Who was to "re-vision" these prophecies
of old for the present community, particularly our community? I
argued that it was to be those who had the same relationship to
the community now as those who first spoke the messages had to their
communities, i.e., the community's current prophetic leaders. This
reapplication of unfulfilled prophetic hopes would itself be an
act of prophecy, something only prophets could do.43 My apologetic
had one unfortunate corollary: since only prophets could reactualize
and reapply this prophecy, fireside speakers and popular writers
who were used to tallying the numbers in Daniel and conflating predictions
to tell us what was going to appear in next week's newspapers would
have to find new acts.
Textual Composition And Dating
MY views also changed about the composition and date of much of
scripture. Over time I came to see that some generally accepted
critical views about the composition of the Bible were valid and
that the "ancient" scriptures produced by Joseph Smith
were not really ancient but his own compositions-what applied to
prophetic foresight also applied to prophetic hindsight. I will
limit myself here to the subjects of the date of Isaiah 40-55 and
the authorship of the Book of Mormon.
One of the more challenging critical views about the Bible that
I encountered and came to accept was that the last half of Isaiah,
chapters 40-66, did not belong to the eighth-century figure Isaiah
who was the author of a significant part of the material in chapters
1-39.44 I came to agree with the view that these last chapters
were to be divided into at least two subsections- chapters 40-55,
called Second or Deutero Isaiah, and 56-66, called Third or Trito
Isaiah.45 Second Isaiah is dated to just before the initial
return from Babylonian captivity, just before 538 B.C. The date
of Third Isaiah is more disputed, but a dating around the end of
the sixth century seems reasonable. The main reason for seeing these
chapters as sixth century productions, particularly 40-55 to which
I will limit myself here, was that their content fits perfectly
into the expectations of return from captivity and blessing toward
the end of the exile in that century. Specifically, the temporal
perspective of the chapters can only be satisfactorily explained
by assuming the work was written around the time-perhaps just before
Cyrus conquered Babylon. The following basic picture appeared from
my study of these chapters: (a) the people have recently suffered
(past tense) destruction;46 (b) Mesopotamia is the place
of captivity, and the Babylonians are the enemy quickly fading from
the picture (present tense);47 (c) the temple and cities,
including Jerusalem, have been destroyed (past tense) and need rebuilding
(future orientation);48 (d) release from Babylonian captivity
is imminent (present-future orientation);49 (e) Cyrus the
Persian king is the political leader who will effect the release
(present tense);50 (f the chapters look forward to bounteous
blessing upon the return from Babylon (future orientation).51
The temporal situation in these described events formed a "hairpart,"
so to speak, marking the historical standpoint of the writer. Destruction
has already occurred, the people are already in Babylonian captivity;
Cyrus is the agent effecting release; rebuilding and blessing will
occur in the future. The writer, then, was writing from the temporal
standpoint of one living approximately 539 B.C. when Cyrus took
control of or was about to take control of Babylon.
Another logical consideration also constrained me to believe that
these chapters were composed about this date. If eighth-century
Isaiah is speaking here, why does his ability to envision matters
with specificity extend to only this sixth century date? He gives
us relatively precise historical details to this point: Jerusalem
is destroyed, the people are in captivity in Babylon, and Cyrus
is the one who will release them from captivity. But after this
period specifics are wholly lacking, we only have a general prophecy
of blessing. Why does the writer not give us the detail of events
in centuries to come? This logical difficulty and the temporal perspective
led me to conclude that the chapters must have been written in the
main around 539 B.C.
My critical view about the last half of Isaiah did not come easily
because it meant that the Book of Mormon exhibited  anachronism
in its citing of five full chapters of Second Isaiah and portions
of others.52 Lehi and his family could not have brought these
chapters to the New World since the chapters were composed according
to the critical view some sixty years after the family came to the
new world. Indeed, four full chapters of Second Isaiah are cited
in First and Second Nephi which are traditionally dated before 544
B.C. Because in my early university studies I could not accept the
conclusion that the Book of Mormon was not ancient, I was very reserved
at first about accepting the conclusion that chapters 40-55 were
written after Lehi's supposed departure from Jerusalem. But other
lines of evidence led me to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon
was a work-a scriptural work to be sure-composed in the nineteenth
century by Joseph Smith. Some of the evidence pertained to matters
listed in other sections above: the book portrayed a relative homogeneity
of religious ideas and practices which contradicted the critical
perception of the evolution of religious phenomena. And the character
of prophecy in it did not accord with that studied in scriptural
works and expressions whose date was relatively certain. But the
decisive evidence for me was textual anachronism. I will give one
other brief piece of evidence.
One of Alma's famous speeches (or speech-discussions), Alma 12-13,
upon close analysis depends upon the New Testament epistle to the
Hebrews.53 The anachronism consists in the fact that Alma
12-13 are dated traditionally to 82 B.C. while the book of Hebrews
is dated somewhere between 60-100 A.D. These Book of Mormon chapters
reflect phraseology and ideas from at least five different chapters
of Hebrews. The thickness and exactness of parallels alone suggested
that these chapters of Alma were dependent on Hebrews. A study of
the parallels confirmed this direction of dependence. For example,
Alma 13:17-19 and Hebrews 7:1-4 speak about the priest-king Melchizedek.
Hebrews begins by paraphrasing Genesis 14:18-20, which speaks of
Melchizedek, and then constructs an argument about his greatness.
What shows the dependence of the Alma passage on Hebrews is that
it has the same elements in the same order as the Hebrews passage
and in this reflects the particular argument of Hebrews: (a) both
passages refer demonstratively to "this Melchizedek";
(b) they say he was king over the land of Salem; (c) they say he
was a priest; (d) they explain his title of king of Salem and king
of peace; (e) they mention something about Melchizedek's father;
and (f) they note that Melchizedek was "great." The last
three elements are not in Genesis 14 and are thus part of the unique
argument Hebrews develops. This indicates the Alma 13 passage is
dependent upon Hebrews. Another sign that Alma depends on Hebrews
is in the former's lack of certain problematic formulations found
in Hebrews. For example in Hebrews, Melchizedek is said to be "without
father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning
of days, nor end of life" (7:3). This illogical statement does
not appear in Alma. Rather, Melchizedek has a father there and the
statement about lacking beginning of days and end of life is attributed
to the priesthood and to Jesus (Alma 13:18 and vv. 7-9). This seems
to indicate that Alma 12-13 has solved problems inherent in Hebrews,
which means is it dependent upon it. Much more evidence could be
brought pertaining to these Book of Mormon chapters, but it is rather
clear from this little evidence that they are dependent upon Hebrews.
Hence they and the Book of Mormon at large, to make a generalization
supported by other evidence, are not ancient compositions.
The post-critical response that I developed to these conclusions
came through observing that the critical approach employed by many
non-Mormon biblical scholars in studying the Bible did not lead
them to reject the Bible as a religiously valuable document. These
scholars were able to distinguish between judgments about historical
matters and judgments about spiritual worth. The conclusions that
the Pentateuch came from a period much later than the time of Moses
and that it did not reflect true history54 or that the gospels
of the New Testament were written a generation or more after the
time of Jesus and that they contained unhistorical elaborations
on the life of Jesus55 did not require the rejection of the
text as scripture. These scholars argued, in fact, that the critical
method opened up the meaning of scripture and made it more relevant.56
This sort of argument I applied not only to the Bible but to the
Book of Mormon and other so-called "ancient" Mormon scripture,
which upon critical inspection turned out to be nineteenth-century
compositions. Though the date of these works changed, and certain
perspectives about the nature of the information conveyed by them
changed, they still served me as scriptural works. The Book of Mormon
became a window  to the religious soul of Joseph Smith. It manifested
his own religious questions, his struggle with ideas around him,
and his attempts to answer these difficulties. As a place of asking
questions and giving answers it constituted the apprentice's workshop
in which he became a prophet. Reading it critically unfolded another
dimension of Joseph's creative life. His example gave me continued
encouragement in my religious searchings. It allowed me to appreciate
his intellectual ability and spiritual insight.
I HAVE spoken largely in a past-tense mode to describe how I came
to accept the critical approach to studying scripture. But clearly
the implication of all this is a recommendation that we in Mormon
tradition consider the validity of this orientation and these general
conclusions. The critical perspectives about religious evolution,
the nature of prophecy, and the composition of the Bible and Book
of Mormon are not eccentric, but represent ideas and conclusions
shared by critical scholars at large. The apologetic we should be
pursuing is not a defense of tradition against the reasonableness
of criticism, but the formulation of post-critically revisioned
religious perspectives that allow our God-given abilities to think
to flourish and a mature faith to grow To require putting aside
these legitimate questions, the critical method, and the clear conclusions
and evidence generated thereby is to require setting aside our search
for and claims about being interested in historical and even religious
There is another consideration in addition to a search for truth
that recommends serious attention to the historical critical approach
and its results. I add this despite the risk of being charged with
"political correctness." Scripture defines and constructs
much of the way members of society perceive and interact with other
people and the world around them. Because of this there is an ethical
obligation to critically examine the historical nature of scripture
to be sure that the attitudes and perceptions it generates are legitimately
For example, Mormon scripture and tradition teaches that the religion
of the ancient Israelites (from the time of Moses) was inferior
to Christianity The Israelites were given this form of religion,
the tradition says, because of rebellion.58 Critical study
indicates that this understanding of Israelite religion is wrong.
Christianity was rather a development out of Israelite religion,
not the restoration or establishment of a religion which could have
been the Israelites' "if they had been righteous." The
traditional interpretation grew out of an attempt to explain the
differences between Israelite and Christian beliefs and practices.
We have the ethical responsibility of examining the validity of
this critical perspective seriously and carefully lest we hold unfounded
notions that create attitudes that are injurious to the Jewish people
whose religious foundation is the Hebrew Bible, the product of ancient
Israelite religious experience.
The Book of Mormon teaches that Native Americans received their
skin coloring as the result of a sin of their ancestors.59
The book also offers descriptions-negative descriptions-about the
personality and character of supposed Native American ancestors.60
A critical study of the Book of Mormon, as I have indicated, shows
that Joseph Smith was its author, which carries with it the implication
that these perspectives about Native Americans were his own speculations.
We have the ethical responsibility of examining the validity of
this critical perspective seriously and carefully lest we hold unfounded
notions that create attitudes that are injurious to Native Americans.
Finally, scripture and tradition teach that the present order
of things is soon to pass away Critical study of the nature of prophecy,
however, indicates that the future is not clearly known. Moreover,
many in the past-Israelites, early Christians, and even early Mormons-had
imminent expectations that were not realized. We have the ethical
obligation of examining the validity of this critical perspective
seriously and carefully lest we make a mistake of taking a short-sighted
view about the future and, by ignoring environmental problems and
by the build-up of destructive weaponry, leave to our children and
the many generations after them the desolating product of our blindness.61
Our community has a mission, but it cannot be fully realized without
the use of all our faculties. The spirit will generate in us commitment
to our community, a sense of the relevance of our developing religious
tradition, and a perception of the divine in our own and our spiritual
ancestors' history But reasoned critical study must be allowed to
guide us in our search for historical understanding and matters
- On my employment at BYU see the article and my statement in
SUNSTONE 12 (May 1988)- 43-44. See also Philip Barlow, Mormons
and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American
Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 141-42.
- See James Barr, Fundamentalism (Philadelphia: Westminster,
1978), 4055, on how a fundamentalist approach to scripture is
not to be defined or viewed as strictly literalistic. The fundamentalist
view allows modification of literal understandings to support
the larger perception of biblical "inerrancy."
- A "liberal" tendency refers to the situation where
a conclusion or conclusions perpetuate former ways of thinking
but with some revision, "radical" refers to the situation
where a conclusion or conclusions differ completely from previous
ways of thinking; and "anarchic" refers to the situation
where each individual differs in his/her conclusions. These terms
are used to indicate simply and abstractly the relationship of
conclusions to formerly held views. They are not to be construed
as referring to larger political alliances and orientations.
- One issue that I can only briefly address in this paper, related
to the matters just raised, is the evidential value of spiritual
experience for historical study. (Note: by "spiritual experience"
I include all that a traditional framework would include under
this rubric. I have mainly in mind, however, "testimony-inducing"
spiritual experience. On another matter, I realize that the term
"spiritual experience" may reflect "overbelief"
in regard to the phenomenon, My concern is not to examine the
complex etiology of such experience [for something on this, see
the end of this note]. I share with my readers the given of "spiritual
experience" and discuss how this might be understood.)
I say up front that spiritual experience is one of several avenues
of understanding (including "scientific" study, historical
criticism, aesthetic experience, intuition, tradition- others
could be named). These various avenues do generate knowledge and
truth. But it seems to me that these different avenues do not
 speak with equal force about the same questions. Historical
criticism is not going to inform me much about the artful sense
of a chapter in the Bible or how I might use its message to better
my life. Thus I need some of these other avenues to derive answers
to these questions. On the other hand, nonhistorical avenues (including
spiritual experience) are not going to tell me much about the
basic historical issues surrounding a scriptural text. For this
I need historical criticism.
The problem with the spiritual mode as an avenue of historical
understanding is that while tradition represents information obtained
by it as unerring and unified, the fact of the matter is that
there is great diversity in what people come to know by this route.
Witness, for example, the revelations of Hiram Page (D&C 28)
and David Whitmer (An Address to All Believers in Christ [Richmond,
MO: David Whitmer, 18871 passim but especially p. 27), which contradict
the revelations and understandings of Joseph Smith and of other
members of the Church. Note also that it is not just Mormons who
have these experiences-experiences which often contradict each
other and Mormon expectations. See, for example, Rudolf Otto,
The Idea of the Holy (2nd ed.; London: Oxford University Press,
1950); William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New
York: Macmillan, 1961); Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism (New York:
E. P. Dutton, [19301); and especially Marghanita Laski, Ecstasy
in Secular and Religious Experiences (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher,
1961). To define as valid only those spiritual experiences which
conform to orthodoxy or a particular person's spiritual experiences
does not solve any of these problems, but instead creates an evidentiary
uroboros. Because of these difficulties with spiritual experience,
the historical critical mode appears to be the most viable approach
to investigating historical matters.
After saying this, I should note, however, that spiritual experience
is not to be written off. It is a mode of understanding, as I
have said-but more precisely, a mode of self-understanding. It
leads an individual to recognize the relevance and meaning of
the tradition and community to her or his life. It helps bind
the individual to that tradition and community. It helps develop
in an individual a positive response to the traditions and community.
In this way this type of experience helps cultivate, among other
things, a common or community sense of morality (in the broadest
sense of that term) and a common or community sense of purpose.
This "subjective-relational" sense of spiritual experience
rather than the "objective-probative" sense (which is
the traditional understanding of most spiritual experience, i.e.,
spiritual experiences prove an external objectivity) has the virtue
of allowing both good scholarship and the religious community
Careful scholarly study of spiritual experience in Mormon tradition
is long overdue. This study must be done from phenomenological,
historical, hermeneutical, psycho-physiological, and theological
perspectives. For study of the phenomenon in Mormonism, particularly
emotive "testimony-generating" spiritual experience,
one can begin with Laski's book, mentioned above, which shows
that many people have "ecstatic" experiences (in religious
and secular contexts) that are similar to those claimed by Mormons.
For historical study of emotive-spiritual experience in Mormonism,
one can begin with R. Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American
Life (New York: Vintage/Random House, 1963), 55-116. These pages
hint that Mormonism's notions about spiritual experience have
their immediate matrix in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American
evangelical and revivalist thought according to which individuals
could have access to divine knowledge through emotive spiritual
experience without the aid of ministerial or academic training.
For hermeneutical study, one can begin with the work of philosophers
such as Hans-Georg Gadamer (Truth and Method, 2d ed. [New York:
Crossroad, 19891) who allows for and describes the manifold ways
human beings gain knowledge and understanding. For a beginning
to understanding the psychological and physiological factors involved,
see Laski and James (above), and well as Bernard Spilka, Ralph
Hood, and Richard Gorsuch, The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical
Approach (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1985), 153-256
(and see the bibliography here). For theological understandings,
see the last four works in note 57, by Ostler, Hutchinson, Dulles,
- Critical study of other Mormon documents has been undertaken.
For works on Joseph Smith's history, see Dean C. Jessee, "The
Writing of Joseph Smith's History," Brigham Young University
Studies 11 (1971): 439-73; "The Reliability of Joseph Smith's
History,"Journal of Mormon History 3 (1976): 23-46; cf. Stan
Larson, "The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated
Text," Brigham Young University Studies 18 (1978): 195-208.
For a critical analysis of a revelation claimed to date from 1841
used by Sidney Rigdon to support his claim to succession in the
Church presidency, see Andrew Ehat, "Joseph Smith's Introduction
of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question"
(MA Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981), 220-24. Anachronism
is the criterion that is used to show the revelation was an "aftermath
reaction to the August 1844 succession of the Quorum of the Twelve"
(see 222-23). Such critical approaches must be applied to the
Bible and to Joseph Smith's scriptures in Mormon tradition.
Critical work on the Book of Mormon text has been pursued (cf.
Stan Larson, "Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon Manuscripts,"
Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought 10 [Winter, 19771: 8-30,
"Conjectural Emendation and the Text of the Book of Mormon,"
Brigham Young University Studies 18 : 56369; Foundation
for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Book of Mormon Critical
Text: A Tool for Scholarly Reference [Provo: Foundation for Ancient
Research and Mormon Studies, 1984-1987]). Textual criticism is
only a small part of the larger historical critical endeavor.
- On this point, see James Barr, The Scope and Authority of the
Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980), 30-31, Thus from Barr's
point of view (and mine) there can be no such thing as traditional
(or faithful) history if "traditional" (or "faithful")
means uncritically holding to preconceptions about the historical
nature of documents and their contents: "traditional"
(or "faithful") and "history" are a contradiction
- My dissertation as well as many of my published works have
focused on this area. See David P. Wright, The Disposal of Impurity:
Elimination Rites in the Bible and Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature
(Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 101; Atlanta:
Scholars Press, 1987).
- The placement of blood on the altar is also a focal point in
the rite. This has various purposes. Sprinkling blood from "sin"
(purgation) offerings and placing it on the horns of altars served
to purify the locales and sancta in or on which it was used (cf,
Leviticus 16:14-19). Dashing blood against the sides of the altar
in other sacrifices apparently served to ransom the offerer from
bloodguilt incurred through slaughtering an animal (cf. Leviticus
17:3-4, 11), though this may also have some purificatory and expiatory
effect similar to the blood rite of the "sin" (purgation)
offering. See Wright, Disposal, 147-59.
- The sacrificed animals were not substitutes for the people
who brought them, vicariously suffering for them, but were presents
given to God (see my article, "The Gesture of Hand Placement
in the Hebrew Bible and in Hittite Literature," Journal of
the American Oriental Society 106 [19861: 433-46). This is comparable
to more obvious acts of appeasement where Aaron Stops God's plague
with an incense offering (Numbers 17:8-15; English 16:43-50) or
David stops God's plague with sacrifice (2 Samuel 24:18-25). Isaiah
53: 10, in a metaphor, is the only place that speaks of substitution.
- See A. L. Oppenheim, with E. Reiner, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait
of a Dead Civilization, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago,
1977), 183-98; 0. R. Gurney, Some Aspects of Hittite Religion
(Oxford: Oxford University for the British Academy, 1977), 25-63;
and Wright, Disposal, 31-45.
- See David P. Wright, "Unclean and Clean (OT)," Anchor
Bible Dictionary (ed. D. N. Freedman; 6 vols.; New York: Doubleday,
- The claim that these inconsistencies can be explained by the
removal of data from the Bible does not hold in view of the actual
history of the biblical canon or in view of the inability to determine
any convincing explanation why such practices or beliefs would
be removed in the pre-Christian period. Why would the messianic
view of atoning sacrifice be removed when the Hebrew Bible quite
openly speaks of a messianic figure? Why would baptism per se
be removed when the Bible recognizes a host of other purificatory
- Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse,"
Brigham Young University Studies 18 (1978): 209-25; Boyd Kirkland,
"Jehovah as the Father," SUNSTONE 9 (Autumn 1984): 36-44
and "Elohim and Jehovah in Mormonism and the Bible,"
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 (Spring 1986): 79-93;
Thomas G. Alexander, "The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine:
From Joseph Smith to Progressive Theology," SUNSTONE 5 July-August
1980): 24-33; David John Buerger, "The Adam-God Doctrine,"
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Spring 1982): 14-58.
- See Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom
of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (Lincoln: University
of Nebraska, 1967); D. Michael Quinn, "The Council of Fifty
and Its Members," Brigham Young University Studies 20 (1980):
163-97 and "The Evolution of the Presiding Quorums of the
LDS Church," Journal of Mormon History 1 (1975): 21-38; Andrew
F. Ehat, " 'It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth': Joseph
Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God," Brigham
Young University Studies 20 (1980): 253-79; D. Michael Quinn,
"From Sacred Grove to Sacral Power Structure," Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984): 9-34.
- See D. Michael Quinn, "The Practice of Rebaptism at Nauvoo,"
Brigham Young University Studies 18 (1978): 226-32.
- See "Official Declaration-2" in the Doctrine and
Covenants; Lester E. Bush  Jr., "Mormonism's Negro Doctrine:
An Historical Overview," Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought
8 (Spring 1973): 11-68; Mark L. Grover, "The Mormon Priesthood
Revelation and the Sao Paulo, Brazil Temple," Dialogue: A
Journal of Mormon Thought 23 (Spring 1990): 39-53; Linda King
Newell, "A Gift Given, A Gift Taken: Washing, Anointing,
and Blessing the Sick among Mormon Women: Changes from Joseph's
Time to the Present," SUNSTONE 6 July-August 1981): 16-25
(with responses by D. Michael Quinn and Irene M. Bates, 26-28);
and "The Historical Relationship of Mormon Women and Priesthood,"
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 (Fall 1985): 21-32; Melodie
Moench Charles, "LDS Women and Priesthood," Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought 1 8 (Fall 1985): 15-20.
- Gordon Irving, "The Law of Adoption: One Phase of the
Development of the Mormon Concept of Salvation, 1830-1 900,"
Brigham Young University Studies 14 (1974): 291-313; David John
Buerger, " 'The Fullness of the Priesthood': The Second Anointing
in Latter-day Saint Theology and Practice," Dialogue: A journal
of Mormon Thought 16 (Spring 1983): 10-44; "The Development
of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony," Dialogue: A Journal
of Mormon Thought 20 (Winter 1987): 33-76. Note also the recent
changes in the temple ceremony, see SUNSTONE 14 June 1990): 59-61.
One could add here the changes in the practice of plural marriage
(see "Official Declaration - 1 " in the Doctrine and
Covenants; see D. Michael Quinn, "LDS Church Authority and
New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904," Dialogue: A Journal of
Mormon Thought 18 [Spring 19851: 9-105; E. Leo Lyman, "The
Political Background of the Woodruff Manifesto," Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought 24 [Fall 19911: 20-39). For a brief
assessment of developments overall, see Mario S. DePillis, "Viewing
Mormonism as Mainline," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought
24 (Winter 1991): 59-68.
- See David P. Wright, "The Spectrum of Priestly Impurity"
in Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel, ed. Gary A. Anderson
and Saul M. Olyan (journal for the Study of the Old Testament
Supplement Series 125; Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1991),
- In fact, even in ancient Israel there was a connection between
prayer and sacrifice: if one could not afford to offer a sacrifice,
one could offer a prayer. Cf. Menahem Haran, "Temple and
Community in Ancient Israel," in Temple in Society, ed. Michael
V. Fox (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1988), 23-24.
- Differences and details regarding textual composition complicate
this picture. This layout allows us to get a fair impression of
the basic chronological orientation of the hopes.
- Jeremiah 25:.11-12; 29: 10;, cf. the Lime period in Jeremiah
27:7; on seventy years as a standard period of punishment, cf.
Isaiah 23:15, 17.
- Ezekiel 36:8.
- Zechariah 1:12; 7:5.
- Jeremiah 16:14-15: 23:3, 8-; 24:5-7; 29:4-14; 30:3; 31:7-11,
15-22, 31-37; 32:36-41; 33:7-9; 50:8; Ezekiel 6:8-10; 11:17-21;
14:10-11; 16:.59-63; 18:29-32; 20:39-44; 24:13; 28:25-26; 34:12-13;
36:22-28; 37:1-14, 21-23; 39:25-29; Zechariah 2:11-13 (English:
vv. 7-9); 3:9; 8:7; cf. Ezekiel 13:9; 16:53-58.
- Cf. Jeremiah 3:16; 12:14-17; 23:6; 29:11-12; 30:11, 16; 31:5,
12-13; 33:12-13, 16; Ezekiel 28:26; 34:13-15, 25-29; 36:1-12,
29-38-; 47:1-12; Haggai 2:21-22; Zechariah 1:17; 2:1-4 (English:
1:18-2 1); 3:10; 8:10-17; cf. Zechariah 8:20-23; also the prophecies
against the foreign nations in Jeremiah 46-51 and Ezekiel 25-32.
- Jeremiah 30:18-21; 31:38-40;, Zechariah 2:5-9, 16 (English:
vv. 3-5, 12); 8:3-8; cf. Jeremiah 17:25
- Jeremiah 27:19-22; 31:14; 33:11, 18, 22; Ezekiel 37:26-28;
Haggai (passim); Zechariah 1:16; 3:1-10; 4:11-14; 6:9-14; 8:9;
cf. Jeremiah 3:16-17.
- Note the second person singular directions in Ezekiel 43:19-25.
Ezekiel functions as a second Moses (see W. Zimmerli, Ezekiel
2 [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983], 432-34; see also pp. 430-31
on the textual problems regarding person). Ezekiel can well perform
these functions because he is a priest (Ezekiel 1:3). Cf. the
second person singular reference in 45:18, 20; 46:13-14
- Ezekiel 43:10-12; cf. 40:4; see also 20:39-44 for the restoration
of temple practice after restoration from Babylonian captivity.
- Haggai 2:6-9
- Jeremiah 3:16-18; Zechariah 2:16-17 (English: vv. 12-13); 3:2;
- For God's leaving the temple, see Ezekiel 8-11 (specifically
8:6; 10:1, 3-5, 18-21-; 11:22-23); note that sins drive God from
the temple and he goes east into exile. On the return of God to
the temple, see Ezekiel 43:1-4, note that God comes back from
the east (i.e., to the east gate of the temple); 43:3 specifically
connects this return with the vision in chapters 8-11.
- Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-27; cf. Jeremiah 17:25;
- Ezekiel 34:24; 37:25; cf. Ezekiel 21:30-32 [English: vv. 25-271.
The subordination of the "prince" is seen in the fact
that the priests have access to the inner temple court (44:15-19,
27-; cf. 40:44-46; 42:13-14; 46.19-20) while the "prince"
does not (46:1-3, 8, 12).
- Jeremiah 33:17, 19-22, 23-26 ; Ezekiel 46:16. The books of
Jeremiah and Ezekiel are partly concerned with ensuring the righteousness
of the new royal line. Jeremiah calls the branch more specifically
the "righteous branch" (tsemakh tsadiq) or "branch
of righteousness" (tsemakh tsedaqah) and says that he will
do justice and righteousness in the land (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15-;
English: vv. 25-27). Ezekiel sees some of the former kings or
"princes" as evil (21:30-32). He establishes rules for
the prince so that this ruler and his posterity will not act wickedly,
especially in regard to the acquisition of land (cf. 45:8-9; 48:21).
The prince also has sacrificial contributions he must make for
himself and for the people (cf. 45:13-25; 46:4-7). Part of the
way Ezekiel limits the king's evil-doing is by subordinating him
to the priests (see the previous note).
- See Haggai 2:20-23 and compare with Jeremiah 22:24-30 for the
context of royalty; cf. also Haggai 2:3-5; see Sirach 49: 11 for
a later reflection on this.
- This identification is made by comparing Zechariah 6:12, which
says the branch will to build the temple, with 4:9 (cf. vv. 6-14),
which says that Zerubbabel has founded the temple and will complete
it. Cf. also Zechariah 3:8 which connects the branch to the time
of Joshua the high priest, a contemporary of Zerubbabel (so also
6:11-13; and cf. 4:11-14)
- Jeremiah 3:18; 23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:15-27; cf. Jeremiah
30:3; 31:1, 27-28; 50:19.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17 (and note the caution in 5:1 -11);
for expression of the imminent coming of Jesus, see Matthew 10:23;
16:28; 24:33-34; Mark 14:62; Acts 1:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:7-8;
7:29-31; 15:51-53; 16:22; Philippians 1:6, 10; 4:5; 1 Thessalonians
1:9-10;, 5:1-7, 23; 2 Thessalonians 2: 1; 1 Timothy 6:14; Titus
2:13; Hebrews 10:25; James 5:8-9; 2 Peter 3:3-4, 9-10; 1 John
2:18-19; Revelations 1:1, 3, 7; 2:25; 3:3, 11; 22:7, 10, 12, 20.
By the way, the understanding that various New Testament passages
refer to a general apostasy requires modification in view of these
expressions of Jesus' imminent return.
- Cf. D&C 101 and 103.
- On other prophetic expectations in Mormonism, cf. Grant Underwood,
"Millenarism and the Early Mormon Mind," Journal of
Mormon History 9 (1982): 41-51, and "Seminal versus Sesquicentennial
Saints: A Look at Mormon Millennialism," Dialogue: A Journal
of Mormon Thought 14 (Spring 1981): 32-44; Marvin S. Hill, Quest
for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism (Salt Lake
City: Signature, 1989), and "Quest for Refuge: An Hypothesis
as to the Social Origins and Nature of the Mormon Political Kingdom,"Journal
of Mormon History 2 (1975): 3-20; Keith E. Norman, "How Long,
O Lord? The Delay of the Parousia in Mormonism," SUNSTONE
8 (January-April 1983): 48-58; Anthony A. Hutchinson, "Prophetic
Foreknowledge: Hope and Fulfillment in an Inspired Community,"
SUNSTONE 11 (July 1987): 13-20 (this discusses Joseph Smith's
"Civil War" prophecy).
- Daniel 9;24; that this refers to Jeremiah's seventy years is
made clear in Daniel 9:2. See Louis F. Hartman and Alexander A.
Di Lella, The Book of Daniel, Anchor Bible 23 (Garden City: Doubleday
& Company, 1978) 244, 246-50.
- I imagined that since this was a reapplication of prophetic
hopes, not every old prophetic hope would need to be taken up-only
those that fit the needs of the later religious community. I also
imagined that there would be no need for literally holding to
the hopes of the older prophets.
- Critical scholarship also recognizes that sizeable portions
of chapters 1-39 do not come from Isaiah. On the critical issues
in general, see the commentaries: Otto Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12 (Old
Testament Library; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972) and
Isaiah 13-39, Old Testament Library (Philadelphia: Westminster
Press, 1974); Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, Old Testament Library
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969); Christopher R. North,
The Second Isaiah (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964); Edward Kissane,
The Book of Isaiah, 2 vols. (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, Ltd., 1960,
1943); John L. McKenzie, Second Isaiah, Anchor Bible 20 (Garden
City: Doubleday & Company, 1968), For the argument of dating
Second Isaiah, see in particular North, 1-4, and Kissane, vol.
- "Isaiah" in these expressions refers not to a prophet
named Isaiah but to sections of the book of Isaiah.
- Isaiah 40:1-2; 42:22-25; 43:26-28; 47:6-15; 48:3-4; 49:14-21;
- Isaiah 43:14; 47:1-15; 48:14, 20.
- Isaiah 40:1-2, 9-11; 41:27(?); 44:26-28; 45:13; 49:8, 14-21;
51:3, 17-3; 52: 1-10; 54 passim.
- Isaiah 43:5-8; 45:13; 48:20; 49:9-12, 22-26.
- Isaiah 44:28-1 45:1-13; implied in 41:2, 25; 46:11; 48:14.
- Isaiah 44:1-5; 48:17-19; 49:20-23-; 54:1-5 (and passim). See
particularly 54:9-10, 14 for the enduring character of blessing.
- Isaiah 48 (parallels) 1 Nephi 20; Isaiah 49 (parallels) 1 Nephi
21; Isaiah 50 (parallels) 2 Nephi 7; Isaiah 51 (parallels) 2 Nephi
8; Isaiah 53 (parallels) Mosiah 14. Partial citations or parallels
include: Isaiah 40:3 (parallels) 1 Nephi 10:8; Isaiah 55:1-2 (parallels)
2 Nephi 9:50-51. These portions, by the Book of Mormon's own story,
would have had to been available at the end of the seventh century
B C. Other citations of second Isaiah include those by Jesus:
Isaiah 52-:13 (parallels) 3 Nephi 20:32-45; Isaiah 54 (parallels)
3 Nephi 22.
- For a full discussion, see David P. Wright, " 'In Plain
Terms That We May Understand'; Joseph Smith's Transformation of
Hebrews in Alma 12-13," forthcoming in New Approaches to
the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, ed.
Brent Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, forthcoming).
- See, for example, A. Malamat, "The Proto-History of Israel.
A Study in Method," in The Word of the Lord Shall Go Forth:
Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman in Celebration of his Sixtieth
Birthday, ed. C. Meyers and M. O'Connor (Philadelphia and Winona
Lake: American Schools of Oriental Research and Eisenbrauns, 1983),
303-13-; R N. Whybray, The Making of the Pentateuch: A Methodological
Study, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series
53 (Sheffield, England: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament,
1987); J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes, A History of Ancient
Israel and Judah (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), 25-119.
- See the recent book by John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking
the Historical Jesus: Volume One. The Roots of the Problem and
the Person, Anchor Bible Reference Library (Garden City, NY: Doubleday,
- See, for example, James Barr, Scope and Authority and Holy
Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism (Philadelphia: Westminster,
1983); Lawrence Boadt, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction
(New York: Paulist Press, 1984); Raymond E. Brown, The Critical
Meaning of the Bible (New York: Paulist Press, 1081); Brevard
Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1979).
- The only way for individuals to decide if the historical critical
mode and its conclusions have validity is to study the critical
literature for themselves. For critical work on the Bible, see
the new Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.; D. N. Freedman et al
eds. [New York: Doubleday, 1992]), the older Interpreter's Dictionary
of the Bible (4 vols. plus supplement; G.A. Buttrick et. al.,
eds. [Nashville: Abingddon, 1962 & 19761) and the commentaries
in the Anchor Bible (Doubleday) and the Old Testament Library
(Westminster Press). For a good and fairly recent introduction
to the Old Testament for nonscholars reflecting the work of critical
scholarship over the last generation, see Berhnard W. Anderson,
Understanding the Old Testament (4th ed.; [Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice Hall, 1986]). This has a good bibliography with the majority
of books listed having been produced by critical scholars. This
introduction might be the best place to jump in for those unacquainted
with critical scholarship. Also see the works in notes 2, 28,
42, 44, 54, 56. For some critical work on Mormon scripture, see
Edward Ashment, "The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham; A
Reappraisal," SUNSTONE 4 (December 1979): 33-46; Anthony
A. Hutchinson, "The Joseph Smith Revision and Synoptic Problem:
An Alternate View," John Whitmer Historical Association Journal
5 (1985): 47-53 and "A Mormon Midrash? LDS Creation Narratives
Reconsidered," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 21 (Winter
1988): 11-74. And see the papers forthcoming in Brent Metcalfe's
New Approaches to the Book of Mormon. Cf. also Anthony Hutchinson,
"LDS Approaches to the Holy Bible," Dialogue: A Journal
of Mormon Thought 15 (Spring 1982): 99-124. Blake T. Ostler's
article, "The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an
Ancient Source" (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20
[Spring 19871: 66-123) argues that the Book of Mormon has an ancient
core which has been augmented with many nineteenth-century additions
and is one direction the critical approach could take. For me,
however, his conclusions about the Book of Mormon text pose severe
theoretical and theological inconsistencies. Nonetheless, his
"Preliminary Theology of Revelation," (108-15), contains
important considerations for those trying to make theological
sense of historical critical conclusions. For similar considerations,
see Hutchinson, "Prophetic Foreknowledge" (in note 41),
On models of revelation that take historical critical views into
consideration, see Avery Dulles, Models qf Revelation (Garden
City, NY: Doubleday, 1983); Robert Gnuse, The Authority of the
Bible: Theories of Inspiration, Revelation and the Canon of Scripture
(New York: Paulist, 1985).
- Cf. JSR Exodus 34:1-2-; D&C 84:23-28.
- See 2 Nephi 5:21-23; Jacob 3:5, 8, 9; Alma 3:6-9; 3 Nephi 2:15,
The attempt to reduce the geography of the Book of Mormon peoples
which might be thought to alleviate much of this ethical problem
cannot be accepted. (See John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting
for the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City/Provo: Deseret Book and
Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 19851.) Sorenson's
theory is a partially critical attempt to make sense of the Book
of Mormon's lack of concord with general ethnological, linguistic,
and other cultural evidence from ancient America. See also critiques
in several of the essays in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon.
- Cf. 2 Nephi 5:24; Enos 1:20; Alma 3,5; 22;28 43;20- 44:18;
- Recent relaxation in international tensions should not lull
us into thinking that all henceforth will be well in Zion or in
- I need to add here at the end that in my view the conclusions
given in this paper cannot serve as a reason to move to some other
religious tradition, especially conservative Christianity, since
other traditions and especially conservative Christianity have
similar historical problems (see Barr in note 2 and Barr and Brown
in note 56).