Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis - Deuteronomy

by David E. Bokovoy

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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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David E. Bokovoy

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(based upon 7 reviews)

Mormonism Embraces All Truth
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

These books are awesome! If you want the latest high end, biblical scholarship on the Hebrew Bible, by a Brandies Phd and former LDS Chaplain at Harvard, and you want to see how this actually applies to Mormon scripture then this is the book for you. This is the real thing and not fluff. I also LOVE Bokovoy's approach to the Pearl of Great Price. Away with the old apologetics; Bokovoy's approach is a scholarly jujitsu, using our critics momentum against them.

Opened up the OT for me like nothing I've ever read.
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

An outstanding and very accessible summary of Old Testament scholarship for non-experts, written in a faithful and recognizably LDS voice. It is very well-written and readable. I had a hard time putting it down. Professor Bokovoy has done Latter-day Saints a great service in writing this book. I hope he writes more books about the bible.

This is what I want in Sunday School!
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

This book was absolutely eye opening- but in a very good way! It is an introduction to how biblical scholars at large approach the Hebrew Bible for Mormons and distills 130 years of scholarly detective work down to a single volume that is a wonderful read. Perhaps most importantly the author explores what implications this long held scholarly consensus regarding the books of the Old Testament has on scripture that is unique to Mormonism. Fascinating! Wonderful! Superb! Every Gospel Doctrine teacher should start here.

Faithful Saints Do Not Need To Fear Scholarship
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

David Bokovoy presents one of the most important books ever written for study and appreciation of the Old Testament from an LDS Perspective. Many, if they have been exposed to bits and pieces of secular biblical scholarship, see such a departure from how they are used to experiencing the Old Testament that they either immediately discard the new knowledge, or allow it to create cracks in one's faith.

David Bokovoy beautifully demonstrates how an accurate understanding of mainstream biblical scholarship, far from decreasing one's faith, can add immeasurably to one's appreciation of not only the formation and writings of the Old Testament, but also its relationship to scriptures of the Restoration, such as the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, and even the Book of Mormon itself.

It is a book that undoubtedly will change how you see the Old Testament, and create a need to adjust one's perspective. This is a good thing! It will also increase understanding of the modern scripture which has God explaining that scriptures "were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding." (D&C 1:24)

This is a book you will feel the need to share with your fellow LDS friends after reading! I certainly did!

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.

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.

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.

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