30 years ago today - Jun 4, 1994-Saturday

[Leonard Arrington]

.... Historical-critical understanding of the Bible. You have probably heard the least about this because, though popular among Bible students and scholars, it has not reached a wider audience. i... I regret that there is little of it in Mormon literature. The word critical, by the way, does not mean negative but, rather, free of presuppositions or, as in my case, self-conscious about one's presuppositions. It means understanding the Bible as a collection of writings by many authors over more than a thousand years; they contain different points of view, sometimes contradictory understandings and formulations of the nature of God and our relationship with Him and other human beings. The Bible may be the word of God but, as we have it, it is the words of Amos and Isaiah, Luke and Paul; and so on.

Nor is the usual credit to various ancient figures historically accurate. Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible, David did not write most of the Psalms, Solomon did not write the Song of Solomon, Paul did not write the letters to Timothy or Titus, and scholars doubt that Peter had anything to do with the books of Peter. Although the vast majority acknowledge the Bible, much of it is simply ignored. Most put aside Joshua, with its horrifying narratives of extermination, and Judges with its accounts of patriarchy and sexual assault, and Song of Solomon, which doesn't mention God and its erotic references and Ecclesiastes with its apparent hedonism. For many, the Bible is little more than an anthology of quotations to be drawn upon as argument or occasion requires. It is a series of proof texts. From the point of view of the historically-critical method the Bible can be viewed as a historically conditioned anthology-not a complete and infallible guide to
the details of human conduct. A series of signposts pointing the way to a goal that its writers, like us, had not yet reached but were moving toward. Their experience of the divine may have been superior to ours, but they were nevertheless human experiences.

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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