To say that we don’t understand background or history in effort to open the door for religious interpretations of a given verse is too convenient. You think there’s a lot of room for error in historical speculation, yet you don’t see that religious speculation is even more removed from the historical reality at hand. One could say it’s twice removed.
And to attempt to bag archaeology as a subjective science over and against religious speculation or theological agendas is truly naive. The toilet seat example (I’ve heard something similar with archaeologists finding a Pink Floyd album and thinking similar things) is hyperbolic, implausible, and inadmissible. When archs. go on a dig, they know what they’re looking at; ancient culture is rarely as complex as one might think. I’ve never been on a dig, but I did have a class in Syro-Palestinian archaeology in graduate school, and I don’t want you to get the impression that these folks don’t know what they’re recovering, or how to interpret what they recover. In fact, the few little things in dispute (such as the presence of Asherah at Kuntillet Ajrud, the possible uses of the Tel Siran bottle, etc.) are of such minor importance to the overall scheme of what they have retrieved of ancient Israel that little would change if in fact the more “dangerous” or liberal conclusions were reached regarding what they have found and subsequently interpreted.
Also, many of our greatest archaeologists of today and yesterday were Born Agains. Many of the “findings” of the FARMS folks like Nibley (who you lauded above) has come to them piggy-backed on the dirty, grimy, and arduous work of a select few “born agains” who are tirelessly working to discover what the earth can tell us about ancient Israel. So yeah, I’d listen to a Born Again tell me about Biblical Archaeology if I had the chance — after all, at least their so-called archaeological agenda isn’t tainted with stories of seemingly made-up Egyptian dialects which anachronistically purport to discuss an Israelite Messiah (250 years before messianism emerges). Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believing Mormon, but I just say that to illustrate that our “archaeological interpretations” are viewed by others in the world as terribly sketchy, very contrived, and often faulty. For the most part, the current scholarship in “Biblical Archaeology” is quite neutralized, balanced, and honest in its findings and interpretations. (Once again, cf. Dever’s book for more on this).
And of course later prophets often appear to add on new meanings that perhaps were not conciously intended by their predecessors.
Mark Butler, go read Virkler’s book Hermenuetics as soon as possible. Maybe even Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies when you get the chance. Your guess on this issue (which, by the way, is what we call sensus plenior) is just that — a guess. Ezekiel’s words had meaning for his immediate audience. There was no second-guessing what he meant when they heard it. We (Mormons) came along and added something to it, perhaps at the expense of the original meaning and in effort to plug our own theological agenda. You and I are both at the mercy of our (Mormon) interpretation of the Ezekiel 37 material being wrong. Not very historical, I know. Meaningful? Yes. Exegetically sound? Probably not.]]>
That said, I have found that the value I get out of a class is proportional to two things: how much I have prepared in advance, and how good a job the teacher does in promoting constructive thought on the material.]]>
Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled—behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them—
And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.
For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles.
And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.
(3 Ne 20:11, 23:1-3)
Now I am not so sure we shouldn’t apply the same principle to Ezekiel. And of course later prophets often appear to add on new meanings that perhaps were not conciously intended by their predecessors. I think Paul does that in a few places.]]>
I have to agree. I taught Joshua to a primary class of 9 year olds last week, and I have to tell you, I am glad that I could stay at a high level (obviously this is not Gospel Doctrine). That whole book is basically the story of a genocide of a whole people!
That said, I would love to get in a little deeper, but we have to remember, the classes are always filled with people with different levels of progression in the gospel. The church has to balance the lessons so that they fit the largest possible group of people. Those looking for depth are always going to be disappointed, unless they decide to have different levels of classes (kid of like Gospel Essentials class now).]]>
I know I’m missing something too.]]>
There is soooo much room for error in thinking we understand a culture, especially one as ancient as the biblical cultures that I am no more inclined to believe what a “born again” claims to know than I am in believing that David Koresh was the Messiah.
I flipped through a book one time and now wish I had kept it.. the setting was about 2000 years from now, our civilization had gone through a complete collapse and the archaeologists from AD 4006 were sorting through the remnants of our culture and explaining to people all about an ancient ceremonial head piece (a toilet seat and lid) and other such outrageous falsehoods based upon the fragmented records and trash of an ancient society.
I don’t doubt that much of the same goes on in our current archaeological research.
Nibley wrote an interesting article on this topic (History vs. Religion) wherein he points out that history unfairly gets a free pass as accurate when it is pitted against religion. Religion is challenged to measure up to the bar that history has set when, in reality, events as recently as 9/11 are still in debate as to “what happened”.]]>
Perhaps, but the two are inextricably connected. Knowing what’s going on in a verse prevents cavalier exegesis. So, for example, I think the Mormon take on Ezekiel 37:15ff is rotten to the core, totally eisegetical, and a hermeneutical stretch in all its forms. If one realizes where Ezekiel is, what time period he’s in, to whom he’s talking, and the great importance of the message he’s trying to deliver, the meaning is crystal clear. And this goes for so much more than just the Ezekiel passage as well.]]>