Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis - Deuteronomy

by David E. Bokovoy

Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis - Deuteronomy

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For the last two centuries, biblical scholars have made discoveries and insights about the Old Testament that have greatly changed the way in which the authorship of these ancient scriptures has been understood. In the first of three volumes spanning the entire Hebrew Bible, David Bokovoy dives into the Pentateuch, showing how and why textual criticism has led biblical scholars today to understand the first five books of the Bible as an amalgamation of multiple texts into a single, though often complicated narrative; and he discusses what implications those have for Latter-day Saint understandings of the Bible and modern scripture.

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  • SKU: 5123915

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based upon 7 reviews
Mormonism Has Needed This For A Long Time
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

David Bokovoy has written a book that, surprisingly, both LDS and non-LDS alike can benefit from. The book is written as less of an argument (even if the evidence presented within it could be used to bolster an impressive one), but as an invitation. Bokovoy's is not only a work of scholarship, but one of passion. And it is brimming with charity toward his readers. Readers ranging from the staunchest atheist to the most conservative Mormon apologist will find this work valuable.

The first five chapters focus on the Documentary Hypothesis itself, breaking it down in a highly accessible way. The final five focus specifically on Latter-day Saints and their holy books (i.e. the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, and the Book of Mormon), providing readers with an informative paradigm by which to approach scripture, revelation, and “translation.” Chapter 1 begins by introducing readers to the contradictions found within the two creation stories of Genesis 1-3. By doing so, readers are challenged to take something so familiar, yet think critically about its reading. This serves as a means of introducing what the Pentateuch actually is, the Bible's history as a "privileged" text, and the rise of European rationalism along with its effect on traditional readings of the biblical texts. In Chapter 2, Bokovoy begins to extract different sources from the stories of the Flood and the selling of Joseph into Egypt. Bokovoy actually provides the scriptural text, while literally highlighting the different sources. This allows the reader to see and read the sources for themselves, making Bokovoy's helpful walkthrough both easier to understand and more palatable. In Chapters 3 and 4, we are introduced to the actual sources and their dating: P (Priestly), J (Jawhist/Yahwist), E (Elohist), and D (Deuteronomic). These chapters are critical as they provide the diverse and sometimes contradicting theologies of the sources as well as the historical context (via dating) for their production. By understanding the sources' different points of emphasis, views of God, important figures, and understandings of Israel's relationship with God, readers can begin to make sense of the often foreign biblical texts. This leads directly into Chapter 5, which focuses on the Mesopotamian influence on the Pentateuch. For me, this was one of the most exciting and informative chapters. By recognizing the various cultural and political influences on the biblical texts, the religious principles within the stories come alive. Not only is one able to better interpret the biblical texts by seeing the similarities between Mesopotamian sources and that of the Israelites, but also by noticing the differences. This is fruitful for both personal study and teaching situations.

Bokovoy approaches this difficult subject in a very strategic way; a way that is charitable toward his (largely) LDS audience: he links the DH to Mormonism's scriptural and prophetic tradition. All this leads to what I consider to be the heart of the book: Ch. 6: “Reading the Pentateuch Critically as a Latter-day Saint.” Here, Bokovoy makes his case for a marriage between the DH and Mormonism, pointing to things like the School of the Prophets, Hebrew instruction under Joshua Seixas, and Joseph Smith’s teachings about embracing all truth. “The sources that appear in the Pentateuch were written by Israelite authors trying to explain their history through theological constructs and ancient traditions,” writes Bokovoy. “This procedure can be a bit messy. Yet given our own history, we as Latter-day Saints should allow room for messiness in the production of scripture."

The final chapters on Mormon scripture and its relation to the Documentary Hypothesis are fascinating. A secularist can find value in Bokovoy’s description of the Book of Moses and Book of Abraham as modern pseudepigrapha, while an apologist will find plenty of material for ancient origins. While there is room for debate regarding David’s approach to restoration scriptures (I tend to take an eclectic approach, seeing it as a mix of pseudepigrapha, midrash, targum, history, and iconotropy), that’s the point: to think critically about these texts. Bokovoy does not offer his view as the final word, but as a possible paradigm. And it is a valuable one at that.

The work is empirical, but not cold; scholarly, yet humble. These attributes will make the work more attractive, the evidence more compelling. David Bokovoy and Greg Kofford Books have done Latter-day Saints a great service with this publication. I hope to see its influence in future Sunday School, Institute, and Seminary classes Church wide.

There is nothing else like this for Latter-day Saints.
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

This book is long overdue. While much amazing research has been done on the composition of the Hebrew Bible in the last two centuries, Mormons have generally avoided these things and have maintained a near-fundamentalist approach to the Bible.

In this volume, Bokovoy not only discusses how the first five books of the Bible came to be, but does so in a way that is accessible to Latter-day Saints. He then takes and open and honest approach in looking at the ways in which biblical research may affect LDS understandings of restoration scriptures.

Readers Need to Get Lost in this Book
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Bokovoy has done an incredible service for a Latter-day Saint audience that is interested in learning and knowing more about our standard works. He provides a large enough bibliography that can act as a starting point for those interested in their given topics, and, most importantly, he shows that it is possible to appropriate modern critical studies into a faithful approach of Restoration scripture. Any Latter-day Saint interested in the history of the Bible and Book of Mormon will do well to spend time getting lost in Bokovoy’s book. I am convinced this will also be the case with the upcoming two volumes, and it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on the knowledge and faith David Bokovoy has to share.

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David E. Bokovoy

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