239-243: Jared Anderson – An Academic Introduction to the New Testament

February 27, 2011
By
In this 5-part series, Brian Johnston (StayLDS.com) interviews Jared Anderson.  Jared is finishing his Ph.D. in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, focusing on the Gospels and New Testament. Jared received an Honors Bachelor of Arts from the University of Utah, where he majored in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis in Hebrew, as well as learning Greek and Latin under Margaret Toscano. His honors thesis explored Joseph Smith’s study and use of languages.After graduating Magna cum Laude at the U of U, Jared completed his Master’s degree at UNC Chapel Hill with a thesis on the text of the Fourth Gospel in the writings of the third-century Church Father Origen of Alexandria. His dissertation will reconstruct and analyze the form of the Gospel of Mark used by the author of Matthew. Jared plans to continue to write academic and popular books about the formation, transmission, and translation of the Bible, spreading awareness of how this fascinating and influential anthology came to be.Jared currently teaches World Religions at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. He is very interested in promoting an open, progressive, and vibrant approach to religion in general and Mormonism in particular, and has presented papers on these topics. He contributes on several groups and blogs, including the Mormon Stories and MO2.0 Facebook groups. He welcomes friends and communication in those forums.

Jared and his wife Katrina live in Salt Lake City with their five children: Olivia (11), Isaac (9), Grace (7), Asher (2) and Miriam (8 months). Jared is an active member and currently serves in the ward Sunday School Presidency.

This interview is broken into five parts:

  • Part 1: Introduction.  Jared discusses the meaning of New Testament scholarship and an academic viewpoint of scripture, how we know what we know including what happened in the past, and the difference between academic and faith perspectives.  Jared begins an overview of the New Testament books from a scholarly perspective in chronological order — 1 Thessalonians through Galatians.
  • Part 2:  Scholarly overview of the New Testament – Philemon through the Gospel of Mark
  • Part 3:  Scholarly overview of the New Testament – Gospel of Matthew through Titus
  • Part 4:  Scholarly overview of the New Testament books – Gospel of John through 2 Peter.  Jared also discusses who Jesus was as a historical figure, the evidence for his existence, and how we can determine what he likely said and did.  Jared also gives an overview of the formation, transmission and translation of the Bible we read today.
  • Part 5:  Discussion of Jared’s personal journey, relationship to Mormonism and academia, and he explains how he integrates his academic views with his faith.

 

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199 Responses to 239-243: Jared Anderson – An Academic Introduction to the New Testament

  1. Sophia
    February 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    This is my favorite Mormon Stories podcast yet. I feel like donating $1,000. Bravo Jared. You are gifted in explaining your knowledge to us! I have honestly learned more here than a lifetime of Bible study in the LDS paradigm. THIS is exactly why I am no longer LDS! I am drinking up all the good information from all corners of the world, ideology, and pursuing everything lovely and praiseworthy!

    • March 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      Sophia, I love your delight in learning all good information in all places. But I need to respectfully challenge you… don’t you think it is possible to do the same within the Church? Now, I accept that for you it has been easier to pursue knowledge outside the Church, but I also think it can be done from within, and that there is even encouragement to do so… though you may need to dig a bit to find it! http://www.LiberalMormon.net has some helpful and encouraging quotes on this: http://www.liberalmormon.net/112emb.shtml

      Again, I am very happy for you in your path; perhaps I misunderstood the antecedent of “THIS is why I am no longer LDS!”

      • Sophia
        March 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm

        Is it possible to do the same within the church, yes, absolutely as you and Brian and so many others- perhaps even my husband even does! I admire that! “THIS is why I am not LDS anymore” means I can handle the truth and it is delightful and abundant.

        I am more a Laurie Gallagher type! Moreover I would probably end up with a terminal illness going to church and practicing like I once did not believing any of it in the way I did. Add to that the fact I am out spoken and honest and you have a recipe for a round peg in a square hole disaster especially when that reality would have me “serving” in all kinds of capacities I don’t belong with the views I have.

        My integrity is important to me and I truly feel like for me to support the organization of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at this point, with the knowledge I have, is endorsing all of it from its inception on. A religious organization isn’t a hotel, or restaurant where doctrine and bad behavior can be written off and dismissed or excused with an affirming “Well, we don’t do that anymore” or “we had a makeover” or “changed the menu” to me it was a real tangible organization “practically perfect in every way” under the direction of God himself. It was sold to me that way since I entered the world. Now that I realize it isn’t the case, it is easy to walk away!

        • Anonymous
          March 2, 2011 at 10:00 am

          I am with you there 100%. I couldn’t go to church any more without getting angry about all the crap people say at the pulpit and claim they know as “fact” and “truth” when I know it is the very opposite. And voices like yours and mine are NOT welcome in the least. At least not in any Ward I have belonged to. The only voices they want to hear are affirming and faith-promoting.

          I applaud Jared and others who are able to contribute in a positive way without losing their mind at all the shallow narrow-mindedness and BS that goes on in the church. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it and I wish I had it in me to do the same. I only hope I can be an influence for good from the outside because I just couldn’t take it being in. In fact, my wife is the one who asked me to stop going because she noticed what it was doing to me. It was the best advice I have received from her (or anybody really) and about a year later I sent in my resignation.

          • Sophia
            March 3, 2011 at 12:56 am

            Exactly. I also don’t know how people stay LDS and promote change from the inside but I am glad they do! I also wish I had it in me but I know I don’t and won’t put myself through “trying” because I know a lost cause when I see one! I also see it as my calling to influence people FROM THE OUTSIDE as it already has. To each their own! Cheers all around!!!

  2. George Miller
    February 28, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    This was an excellent interview. Thanks Brian for setting up this interview and special thanks to Jared Anderson for jumping into the fray. I have for many years been interested in the scholarly view of both the Old and New Testament; and I have found GREAT enjoyment in dissembling and examining each part of the fridge. In particular I am a big fan of Bart D. Ehrman, so to hear one of his students discuss the New Testament was a particular treat. While the first 4/5th of the interview was wonderful, I especially enjoyed Part 5.

    My favorite part of the podcast was when you talked about expecting to go graduate school and harmonize the secular and Mormon understanding of scripture, but how you, like Ehrman, had to face the question of “wouldn’t it just be simpler if you admit X is wrong.” My initial forays into the scriptures from a scholarly perspective where with the Old Testament. I became enthralled with the explanatory power of the Documentary Hypothesis, as finally the Torah made sense for the first time. I remember my own wrestle with the issues, because, as you noted, REALLY coming to grips with the scholarly answers forced into sharp focus the “100s of points” at which this created problems with Joseph Smith’s view of antiquity. My own “Ship of Faith” has traveled the world and visited the many ports-of-call. In hearing your story I relished how much the Navy men (and sometimes pirates) I have hired to swab my deck resembles Jared’s crew. For example I really enjoyed Jared’s in depth discussion of how he has adopted a pragmatic approach to both truth and the church, as that Pragmatic Pirate has become a valued member of my crew. Jared’s discussion of how every approach to the gospel comes with its own set of benefits and costs was also a breath of fresh air.

    Thanks for all involved in this podcast and hope others enjoy it as much as I did.

    • March 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm

      George, loved the ship/pirate analogy as we sail the seas of seeking truth!

  3. Joe Geisner
    February 28, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    I am only in the second hour, but I have to write a big THANK-YOU to Mormon Stories and Jared Anderson. Being a Ehrman disciple and devouring all his books, this is a special treat. I am very excited that Mormonism now has its own New Testament scholar who can speak to the common folk, like myself.

    I have read most of the FARMS and BYU works on the New Testament and been very disappointed. It seems they all want to write as though they are looking through Joseph Smith’s eyes, instead of the early Christians. This is a wonderful breath of fresh air.

    I have one question so far. In the transition from hour one to hour two the discussion is on Galatians. It seems much of the discussion is missing. Galations is so important in understanding the divisions between Paul and the other disciples. Am I missing something, or was the interview edited at this part?

    • March 1, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      Joe, thanks for the enthusiastic appreciation! We were really pressed for time with this interview; it is already almost 7 hours! I talked about the fact that, as you say, Galatians highlights the tensions between Paul, Peter, and James, as well as other Christians (his Judaizing opponents). I could have made that clearer I agree. Brian and I will likely put out a much longer mini-NT series that will go more in depth. But we were already pushing the Mormon Stories format as it is with content and length.

      • Joe Geisner
        March 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm

        I am looking forward to the mini-NT series. This will be lots of fun.

        An area I would like to see focused on is the early Church Fathers. It seems Bart Ehrman’s favorite is Origen. But I would like to learn about all of them. From Poly Carp to Ignatius to Clement to Tertullian to Irenaeus. Well…you can see where I am going with this. It seems we owe such a debt to the incredible thinkers with our western religion.

        • March 6, 2011 at 12:56 am

          Joe, Patristics is not my area, but I have friends for whom it is. :)

  4. kia
    February 28, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Great podcast thus far, look forward to listening to all.
    Jared, there was recent article in SL Tribune about LDS use of the KJV of the bible. I teach gospel doctrine and long ago began reading other bible translations and non-lds commentaries as the LDS KVJ and lds sunday school manuals are inadequate to understand what the bible.

    *What do you think of LDS continued exclusive use of the KVJ? most members think the KVJ is the most correct bible translation and use of any other bible borders on heresy.
    *How does the biblical scholarship which say the torah was not written by Moses but came from several sources named; J, E, D, P, R sources written after King Solomon, after kingdom of Israel split into north and south, change your view or belief in taking literally all the stories like the whole creation, noah, Abraham, exodus, motif.
    *What about the LDS view that the God of the old testament is Jehovah or Jesus. When it is clear that the the old testament writers had one God but maybe two views and called him either, Yahweh, or Elohim.

    Ive studied this stuff so much but wrestle with how literally to take the bible. It seems like the bible writers wrote according to their own worldview, culture of their day, political landscape and it depended on if they were in power or out of power. I have a hard time believing
    God was directly talking to these writers and they just recorded his words. Thanks,

    • March 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm

      I am so glad to hear that you use other translations of the Bible, and applaud your study of commentaries! I think that is the most practical first step for our KJV-focused Church.

      1) This actually is the official position. The Church put out a letter in 1992 to this effect: http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/22533/Letter-reaffirms-use-of-King-James-version-of-Bible.html

      I talked with Ehrman about this and he was blown away by this line: “The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.” This approach to scripture tames it so much we can only hear ourselves talking, accepting only information we already know.

      I think that the continued use of the KJV is both understandable but increasingly problematic. Phil Barlow has a good chapter on this in Mormons and the Bible. On one hand, pseudo-Jacobean language is the “sacred language” of the Church. All scripture is in it, prayers are in it, temple dedications are in it etc. Things don’t feel sacred to us unless they are full of thees and thous.

      At the same time, the incomprehensibility of the KJV pains me. My son is delighted with his new scriptures, but would not accept the modern translation of the Bible I suggested. :) LDS get by limping through the KJV, but so many verses are simply incomprehensible. There have been great discussions online on this topic. As I said, I think a practical first step is to reduce discomfort with using other translations and academic resources.

      2) I don’t take any of those stories literally, though some do have historical cores such as the Exodus. I used to of course because I was taught that as a child, but I comfortably accepted the academic theories once I came across them. The Bible was put together how it was put together; wishful thinking or apologetics won’t change that. I stand by the academic method, instead of using the uncertainty of scholarship as an excuse to run to my Sunday School stories.

      3) Well, you may have come across the idea that Israelites were actually happily polytheistic for a long time. Yahweh was the God of Israel, but they worshiped other members of the Canaanite pantheon. There are really interesting Psalms that touch on this, for example. Jehovah is simply a form of Yahweh. I think the LDS view that the OT God is Jesus is an example of trying to understand past traditions in light of current theology.

      Your summary of how the Bible was put together sounds right to me. This can work theologically of course… Even if God talks to people directly, they hear that message within their own historical context and cultural presuppositions/expectations.

      Please let me know if you have follow up questions.

      • Anonymous
        March 2, 2011 at 10:24 am

        Jared, that quote you shared (“The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.”) is exactly the reason people like me feel we have no choice but to leave the church behind. It is clear they don’t welcome people like me, who disagree with them on so many levels. They are pushing us out!

        I recently had a discussion (e-mail, I live on the other side of the globe) about church doctrine, history and such with my TBM parents and what I said upset my mom so much she cried for hours (allegedly) and was depressed for days. And all because I couldn’t accept the church’s canned (and completely bogus) answers or position on subjects like polygamy, science, the literal historicity of scripture, etc. My mother thinks I am going to hell (outer darkness) for denying the holy ghost and that Satan is running my life, controlling my mind, what ever. My father refuses to even answer my mails and my mother basically wrote me out of her life in her last e-mail (saying “I do not know you” and “Good bye.”) which sounded pretty final and she hasn’t answered mails since.

        This is the kind of poison the church can be to some people and why I can not condone Brian’s view that we should all stay LDS. I think the church does a LOT more harm than good when it encourages people to think the way my parents do about the world and people on it.

        Sorry, this comment has been all over the place but I was never good at focusing. Too much of a rambler. ;)

        • March 3, 2011 at 4:24 am

          NightAvatar, I am happy to hear you are in a better place but stories like yours break my heart and make me angry. I don’t mean any offense, but when family members reject their own because of religion I want to ask, “Haven’t you ever HEARD of love, and Jesus?” It is so wrong, so terribly ironic to let a religion of love and unity divide the closest bonds we share. Yes Jesus spoke of hating father and mother and dividing families, but he was speaking about the formation of a new family within the kingdom. We are supposed to already be in that new society.

          I agree the Church in effect pushes out those who do not think within the box. It is hard. I want every one to be where they experience the most fulfillment, peace, and happiness. I wish the Church were good enough for all of us. I am glad to hear your wife supports you.

          And the secret of “StayLDS” is that the community doesn’t care if you do. :) It is to support those who have reason to be connected to the Church in some way, but its purpose is not to push people toward activity or even affiliation.

  5. David Clark
    February 28, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I skipped to the fifth hour because I’m already familiar with academic study of the NT. I know of no kind way of saying this, so I’ll just be blunt: That was the most dazzling display of mental gymnastics I have ever heard.

    Two gems really stand out.

    First, the interviewer asked at one point, “Well, what about truth, accuracy, history, etc.?” and the answer was, “Does God really care?” A very strange combination of utter glibness yet willingness to speak for a supreme being (which he believes in).

    Second, and my favorite, was when he said that one religious path is not better than another, each just has different costs and benefits. Utterly condescending to those who do believe, but with all of the charm of a constructing an actuarial table or buying a used car. Utterly stunning.

    Finally, he expressed dismay that Mormonism is losing so many people. But really, when Mormonism’s best and brightest are pushed to utter relativism and utilitarianism, just to stay in the church, it renders them incapable of defending the faith and keeping people inside. If you want people to stay in the church, you have to give them a reason. The reasoning on display here might help a struggling NOM type, but it gives the rising generation no reason to stay since there really is nothing left to believe in. At best this type of thinking just pushes the problem of people leaving down the road a few years.

    • Anonymous
      March 1, 2011 at 9:18 am

      I think you hit the nail on the head with that last paragraph. That is why I could no longer remain a member.

      This was a great podcast! I’ve read several scholarly books on the NT (many mentioned by you, David Clark, in earlier comments) and my favorite by far is Ehrman’s book on the Apocalyptic Jesus. This podcast went even a little deeper (since that book focused on Jesus, this podcast was on the whole NT, including much on Paul).

      Thanks to Brian and to John for making this happen! :)

      One minor complaint: A lot of Brian’s comments sounded edited in. I would have much preferred less from Brian (no offense!) and more from Jared. Most of the side remarks Brian had were unnecessary and only interrupted the flow. Otherwise a great job! :)

      • March 1, 2011 at 5:49 pm

        NightAvatar, I am so glad you enjoyed the podcast. I thought that the balance was good with Brian participating just enough to keep up the conversation tone. Sounds like you wanted a straight-up lecture, but that wouldn’t fit into the format of Mormon Stories. :) Unfortunately, many of Brian’s comments had to be edited back in. There were technical difficulties and he spent tons of time making it sound as good as possible. I am grateful for all the time you put into it.

        • Anonymous
          March 2, 2011 at 10:14 am

          It seemed like the first four segments really *were* almost like a lecture, only with minor interruptions. The last segment was really the only one that felt “Mormon Stories” to me, but that isn’t a complaint. I guess I am agreeing with you. :)

      • Brian Johnston
        March 1, 2011 at 10:54 pm

        Had some serious tech problems in the first hour or so. I had to go back and basically re-record the comments I made and splice them in. It was a hack job. Podcasting isn’t my day job :-)

        • Anonymous
          March 2, 2011 at 9:54 am

          No worries, it was a minor criticism after all. Mainly I just thought the first couple of hours would have flowed better if Jared weren’t interrupted – or that your comments were superfluous. That is all. I think you did a terrific job especially in the last segment. And I am greatly indebted to you for taking the time to do this in the first place, so feel free to ignore my unnecessary criticism. I don’t mean to detract from the good that I got out of this. :)

        • March 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

          Wow, Brian–I am really impressed. I would never have guessed that’s what you did. And I run a podcast myself. (The Pixar Podcast). Anyway, each 40-60 minute episode takes me a few hours to finish, so I can only imagine what this must have been like. Amazing stuff.

        • Anonymous
          March 3, 2011 at 7:23 pm

          What?!!! Not an Elder Poelman redo! Mormon Stories is not the one, true podcast. I’m heading over to Mormon Expression now.

    • March 1, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      Ah David, it is a rare resource I dismiss without looking at it. I still read books on the New Testament. Out of curiosity, what is your academic background? And figuring out how to respond kindly is one of the most valuable skills in life, well worth cultivating.

      I would love to engage with you honestly, David. I know you have faith and are a religious person. I respect the passion of your beliefs. But your tone increases the challenge of responding to you.

      That said, you bring up points well worth engaging.

      Based on your comment I don’t think you understood my views and I am happy to clarify. First, I really am agnostic about God. I choose to believe in God, but I certainly don’t speak for him/her/them. I can only share my thoughts and feelings about God, as we all can. Functionally, I do live with belief in God however. The point I was trying to make is that I think God prioritizes saving principles over historical details. Do we need to understand biochemistry to gain the benefit from nutritious food? Learning is tremendously valuable, but I take a stand and say if you need to choose between knowledge and faith, I think faith is more useful. I think the ideal is to have both of course, and I dedicate my life to facilitating that.

      You are overgeneralizing my comment. I think that some religious paths ARE better than others, in that they have more benefits and less costs, facilitate transformation into better people, etc. I was talking specifically about my path versus the path you actually describe “those who do believe.” I don’t think my view is condescending, as I value “those who do believe”. In fact, this was my exact point–that my way is not necessarily better than that way; it just has a differing set of costs and benefits. My path is less vulnerable to new information, but I envy those with a passionate and profound personal relationship with God and Jesus.

      David, I am glad you made this last comment since it gets to the heart of my approach to religion. I do not mourn that people leave the Mormon Church; I mourn that people feel the need to leave the Mormon Church. I think the Church could do so, so much better at making more people feel at home. You know your reasons for leaving… I hope for progress in the Church so more feel at home, a bigger tent.

      It is interesting you seem to feel that leaving the Church is inevitable. For me all religions are worth defending or none are, *to differing degrees*. I think that thorough academic investigation deconstructs all religion, not just Mormonism. And once you approach religion from a theological or philosophical angle, which I think is more germane, Mormonism fares quite well, especially if you look at the potential of Mormon theology in addition to how it is currently practiced.

      I think there are compelling reasons to remain in the Mormon Church apart from its exclusivist truth claims and rewriting of history. Sometimes I wonder whether a “Most True Church” approach would work even BETTER for missionary work than the current “One True Church” model. I don’t think the latter model can survive the future. I feel strongly about this and want to do what I can to help people appreciate the value of religion. I see religion like language. English is my mother tongue, and I love it. But it is not the one true language. It is not even the best language. There is value in knowing and appreciating other languages. I happen to accept this “Most True” approach to Mormonism mixed with an openness to other sources of truth.

      As I said in my comments to Tyson, I think that God would give all his children as much light and knowledge as they are willing to accept. I want to help people appreciate the benefits of spirituality and religion, see the value in the faith of their heritage. And then they will both have greater reason to stay, but if they move on, they will be able to keep the best of the religion of their youth. I champion a model of spirituality and religiosity that acknowledges the beneficial in religion, encourages the minimizing of the harmful, as you noted. I see this as the best approach. I firmly believe in the power of spirituality. There is reality to it. I do not claim knowledge of the referent, but I have faith and am grateful for the symbols.

      • David Clark
        March 2, 2011 at 5:08 am

        I really am clueless as to what you mean by, “it is a rare resource I dismiss without looking at it.” If I am missing something, please clarify.

        As for my academic background, I have a BS in physics. The rest of my education is limited to my own personal time, the internet, and my Amazon.com account.

        I don’t think you can detach “saving principles” over historical details. Those saving principles didn’t descend from the sky in a glad bag one fine Wednesday in June. The historical details are essential for judging the truth claims that people make. Since you seem to espouse a very postmodern theory of religion I’m really at a loss as to why you would think you can detach them. I can see a high modernist saying that “saving principles” are detachable from the historical details, but I don’t see you as a high modernist. As for needing biochemistry to gain benefit from nutritious food, do I really have to answer that? Isn’t it obvious that if you don’t do the biochemistry first, you have no idea what nutritious food is? At a minimum you would want some assurance that you can trust the results, which still assumes that you trust others to do the biochemistry right.

        As for your claims that I did not understand your views, I’m simply going off what you said in the podcast. If you want to change and/or clarify what you said, that’s fine, everyone makes mistakes. I don’t recall you ever saying that some religious paths are better. In fact, you said the opposite. Better implies that you are using some standard to pass a normative judgment on a religious system. Yet, you specifically said, “One path is not better than another, there are just different costs and benefits.” You can’t get that some are better than others from that statement. If you would like to say that you misspoke, that’s fine, I understand.

        If you could, could you please point me to where I say that leaving the church is inevitable? I don’t recall saying that, but I am willing to be proven wrong. People stay in the church for all kinds of reasons, you yourself are living proof of that. My wife is a solid Mormon, but she is aware of the reasons I left, but chose not to follow. So again, I don’t know where or why I would have said that, but I am willing to be proven wrong.

        I don’t see how the language analogy works. If religion is like language, and there is no one true language, nor a most true language, I don’t see how the LDS church can claim to be either the one true church or the most true church. In any case, languages don’t make truth claims about themselves, but churches do. And the LDS church happens to make a lot of truth claims about itself.

        You say that, “I think that God would give all his children as much light and knowledge as they are willing to accept.” But you also say that God won’t give ethical norms, in that you say that “God says so” is not the basis for any ethics (one presumes this is the case even if God does indeed say so). So, if I am willing to accept universal ethical norms from God, how does that work? Is there some rule preventing God from doing this?

        I’m also curious as to why you want to “want to help people appreciate the benefits of spirituality and religion, see the value in the faith of their heritage.” Will you help a 19 year old woman with four children who is married to her 65 year old uncle in an FLDS polygamous union see the value in the faith of her heritage, especially since her heritage overlaps yours to a large degree? Or will you try and get her out of the faith of her heritage? If so, then from which bit of moral high ground are you going to do this? You can’t invoke harm and growth because she has been convinced all her life that the polygamous union is the key to her spiritual growth, and that breaking up that union will cause great harm. And to be honest, you probably will be causing her and her children great harm for a very long time if you do this. You seem to need some moral absolute, apart from harm and growth, which you seem to strenuously deny.

        Finally I am completely flabbergasted as to why you don’t mourn people leaving the church but do mourn it when people feel they need to leave the church. Would you be completely happy if people left the church, but didn’t feel a need to do so? But if people don’t think there is a need to leave, why would they leave?

        • March 3, 2011 at 4:20 am

          I’m not Jared, obviously, but I will chime in and give my two cents about the purpose of religion (which I think I approach in a matter rather like Jared does). From my perspective, religion is to human relationships rather like oil is to a car: it facilitates meaningful communication between complex moving parts that would otherwise find themselves at cross purposes and implode. Each one of us is born into the world with a need to articulate a self that “fits in” with others somehow: the more that need is met, the more integrated we feel with the people around us (our family, friends, and larger communities where we maintain some kind of active presence). Some of the essential things we get from other people as a result of our relationship are food, shelter, attention (face-time where others look at us), interaction (more face-time where we do things with others), and culture (the bundle of shared behaviors that holds all of the package together). We like verbalizing everything as human beings, so our culture generally comes with a healthy dose of story-telling (mythology) to exemplify and preserve the unique approach to food, shelter, attention, and interaction that we tend to value. If we are like most of the world, our mythology involves a lot of stories about incredible stuff that supposedly happened long ago.

          The way I see it, all human cultures of historical record are remarkably similar: we tell the same kinds of stories to justify similar moral codes (see the bit about the Tao in C. S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man). This in no way denies the quirks that inevitably arise as individuals embellish their mythologies, telling new stories to accommodate changing perspectives on “the best way to be human” as a particular culture (or subculture or individual) chooses to define it. The exercise in continual story-telling (mythologizing) has little to do with “what really happened” in any objective sense: the rubber meets the road in the present, where the myth is told and milked for ethical truth, not the past, where it may or may not have existed in recognizable form. A “healthy” religion (or culture or cult: they all mean the same thing fundamentally) is one that facilitates maximum availability of food, shelter, attention, and interaction to the people who engage with it (whether they engage as insiders or outsiders initially): “personal growth” is what individuals experience when they interact with such a religion. Life being what it is, there are no perfect religions (just as there are no perfect diets or infallible blueprints for economic success): every last one necessarily sidelines someone (conflicts with someone’s food allergy; separates someone from gainful employment), who will always be better off moving on from behaviors that bring him or her no kind of personal fulfillment (in the form of access to food, shelter, and the face-time that all of us need to survive). Sometimes, movement is impossible (as it has been for most poor people in the history of the world since the agricultural revolution in 10,000 BCE): in these cases, you make the best of whatever row you were born to hoe, or you die.

          Fortunately for those of us who live outside abject poverty in prosperous countries, today’s world provides a wealth of possible religions: we frequently have options to dying. We can even change faiths for relatively trivial reasons (like the fact that we find some of the stories irrelevant or the storytellers lackluster). In antiquity, surrounded by a howling wilderness from which our community represented a safe haven, we might have been more willing to hide things about ourselves (like our agnosticism or sexual preference) in order to fit in. When food and shelter are a given, however, (as they increasingly are in first world countries), our individual quirks become more important: we have more time to waste on unimportant stuff (like fancy clothes, recreational sex and exercise, and fancy mythologies that purport to tell “the one true story”). So the “cultural wars” are born: unfortunately, these sometimes turn into real wars, since we are not really good at telling the difference between fighting for survival and fighting to preserve our culture (which confuses things crucial to our survival with all kinds of trivia that do not matter, like ideas about who God is or what race is responsible for doing in his son: these details are good for wasting time over a winter campfire; they are no reason to go to war).

          This is getting long and unwieldy, but the point is easy to make: religion is about community, which depends on individuals having the integrity necessary to answer for all their actions, actions which they engage in with an aim to acquiring food, shelter, attention, and interaction. The ethical principles that make a good community are well-known and pretty much universal: no group that has existed for more than a handful of years lacks them. The stories that people tell to justify these principles are beside the point, being so many instances (historical or imaginary) of simple rules that we all get (the commandments from the Decalogue that don’t involve God; the golden rule). So, as the Dalai Lama says, the religious problem is not, “Which religion is true?” but “Which religion(s) will I use to reach the goals that all religions facilitate?” (paraphrase). All religions are roads to the same place. I know this perspective grates with many believers whose faith tradition originates in the Near East, but that doesn’t change the facts that lead me to find it compelling.

          I am not answerable for the particular religion(s) I choose to live in. I am answerable for the manner in which I live said religion(s). This is what I take C. S. Lewis to mean when he has Aslan save the Calormene toward the end of The Last Battle (and we all know he was riffing on the New Testament: who cares whether the original authors would have agreed or not?).

          • March 3, 2011 at 4:36 am

            You aren’t me Hermes, but I would have been happy to be the one to write that eloquent and persuasive response. Well done and amen.

          • David Clark
            March 3, 2011 at 5:09 am

            Perhaps you can enlighten me, To what was Hermes responding?

          • March 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm

            “Finally I am completely flabbergasted as to why you don’t mourn people leaving the church but do mourn it when people feel they need to leave the church. Would you be completely happy if people left the church, but didn’t feel a need to do so? But if people don’t think there is a need to leave, why would they leave?”

            Or in other words, “What is religion? Why do people change religions?”

        • March 3, 2011 at 10:11 pm

          I appreciate the responses to this comment but thought I would also respond to the points addressed to me and my views. David, the additional background you provided helps me understand you better, thank you. My comment about dismissing a resource referred to you skipping to part 5 because you already knew everything else. I was remarking that I find it useful to review sources even when I am familiar with a topic because we can learn from differing approaches and presentations, but hey, it is your time. I respect your self-education. I love my path, but the idea of having a “normal job” which I can put aside and having the leisure of studying whatever I want is also appealing! It is harder to learn how to think and approach questions with breadth on your own, but hopefully you can gain that through interactions on forums such as these, if allow other points of view to interact with yours.

          I don’t know best how to respond to your point about saving principles vs. historical details. We don’t have direct access to history. We know only how we engage with the ideas presented as history. So in other words, the net result of “saving principles” is the same regardless of what “really happened.” Not sure what you mean by high modernism. I would think postmodernism would accord well with this view? It does not matter if you “know what nutritious food is” to gain the benefits of that nutrition. That was my point, and you have not refuted it. How much you need a specialist depends on what kind of food there is in your environment. Eat a whole foods plant based diet as much as possible, no biochemistry needed. The distinction between results and understanding the mechanisms that lead to results is an important one to my views.

          After listening to part 5 I agree I could clarify my views more, which is what these comments are for. I don’t think it is a question of mistakes or misspeaking as much as time constraints–it is near impossible to present a full system of belief in 45 minutes! As noted in the comments, I made two points: 1) I think Mormonism is the best religious system of which I am aware, and 2) my comment that one approach is not necessarily better than another referred to the choice between a more questioning, critical faith vs. the “simple faith” approach. *These* two options and their derivatives have differing costs and benefits. So some religions are better than others, but within those religions it is difficult if not impossible to say whether an informed, questioning faith “works better” than a simple powerful faith, especially if you need to choose between the two and can’t manage to maintain both.

          You wrote “The reasoning on display here might help a struggling NOM type, but it gives the rising generation no reason to stay since there really is nothing left to believe in. At best this type of thinking just pushes the problem of people leaving down the road a few years.” So I suppose you said that my reasoning inevitably leads people to leave the Church. The goal of my reasoning is precisely the opposite, to allow the maximum number of people who desire to remain within the Church. Do with that what you will.

          So in your opinion, what does keep people in the Church, if not an approach such as mine? One issue I have with your comment is that I *do allow* for the more vanilla faith–it just has the weakness of being vulnerable to new information. So it can best thrive in quarantine, which means challenge to faith is only a google search away.

          I said that the language analogy is useful, not that it corresponds perfectly to the reality. Language and religion accomplish different purposes. I have already responded to your questions about my views regarding God and ethical norms. I don’t know how to restate this more clearly–my problem with the “God says so” argument is that people can claim God says so but be wrong. I can write “God tells me to have sex with every woman I see” but that does not make it correct. So we need an outside evaluation of whether a view is worthy of being called divine. I certainly like the idea of universal ethical norms coming from God, and with or without God feel like there are many striving toward the best system of morality possible. As far as a rule preventing God from doing something, I think the LDS theology of a limited God is brilliant. Yes, Mormonism teaches that God will not override your agency and reprogram you as someone with a perfect ethical system with perfect obedience. That plan was voted down.

          Your extreme example does not do credit to the fact I have also said I want to encourage people to move beyond the harmful aspects of their traditions, while maintaining the benefits. So yes, I would hope that once the polygamist wife leaves her abusive situation, she would be able to maintain the positive aspects of her upbringing, few and corrupted those may be. About ethics, one of my main point is that we can’t hide behind God’s glowing white robes–we need to make arguments for what is and is not ethical. “Painful and difficult” is a world away from “harm”. Reconditioning those involved in harmful upbringings is challenging, but valuable. Leaving someone in destructive ignorance is not the ideal path (when we are in the position to help, determining when that is the case remains a complex issue). I don’t think we have moral absolutes. But I do trust the historic, dialogic, and scientific approaches that lead to more enlightened morality. Again, there are no absolute statements of right and wrong in my view. We can only make arguments.

          Are you intentionally misunderstanding me David? You chose to highlight the opposite of what I meant, once again. I was not talking about leaving the Church just for kicks. I was making the point that if the Church corresponded more closely to its theology and potential, far fewer people would feel the need to leave. That such is not the case is what causes me to mourn. At the same time, I do not think everyone needs to be an active Mormon. On the contrary, I find such a view offensive. Therefore if someone felt the need to leave even a more ideal Mormon Church, I would respect that decision.

          • David Clark
            March 4, 2011 at 4:34 am

            I will be happy to listen to the first four lectures if you views are substantially different from your advisor’s. If they are roughly the same, then I have already covered the material after listening to five of his Teaching Company courses (Intro NT, Historical Jesus, Lost Christianities, Apostolic Fathers, and Christianity from Jesus to Constantine) and read five of his books (Intro NT, Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, Lost Christianities, and Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium). By the way, have you heard the one about his graduate student being confused when early Christians were told to ask their Bishop’s permission before making love? Hilarious!

            To answer your earlier question about my current religious beliefs. I’m not trying to hide them, I just didn’t feel like typing in a long rambling explanation of where I am and where I have been. If you want a quick and dirty overview of where I am right now try this url:

            http://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/what-mormons-should-look-for-in-a-new-church/

            It doesn’t directly address where I am or why I am there, but if you read the main post and then my follow up comments, I think you’ll get the gist. If you want to dialogue further on my beliefs, feel free to email me. I gave my email to the website so someone has to have the correct address.

            I think the LDS church stands for something (Hinckley just perked up in his grave) and I think the GAs are pretty clear on what the church does stand for. If someone wants to sign on to that, good for them. However, I don’t think it is a good thing to find ways of staying in the church while not generally affirming what the church does stand for. If there were some mechanism to debate and publicly advocate for change, i.e. some version of loyal opposition, then I would feel differently and may have stayed in the LDS church. As it is, the GAs have been crystal clear that there is no room for loyal opposition, so it seems best to move along when one cannot affirm their leadership and teachings as they are taught.

            I do agree with one thing you said, I do think there is potential in the theology of the church. I still have fond feelings for the Book of Mormon. Had it not been for the Book of Mormon, I would have got the hell out of Dodge long before I did. However, I do think that the real gem in Mormon thought is the general approach to Christianity in the Book of Mormon. I think the church lost its way in Missouri and especially in Nauvoo. But, once you concentrate on the Book of Mormon, I don’t think you find the modern LDS church, I think you mostly find an American frontier version of Weslyan theology. Thus, it’s not ironic that I ended up in the UMC, almost by accident.

            Actually, for very selfish reasons I do wish you all the best in your efforts to fight against the LDS church’s exclusivity claims. If the church were to drop that claim, it would be a much easier job for me to convince my wife that there’s no need to keep being Mormon.

            Finally, if you are still in communication with your advisor, tell him I almost died laughing when I heard one of his interviews where he said that he keeps getting emails from Mormons telling him that if he would just be Mormon, he wouldn’t have those pesky problems that plague the Bible and mainstream Christianity. It was funny because it was the source critical tools I gleaned from his stuff that was one of the major nails in the coffin of my belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

            All the Best!

          • March 4, 2011 at 4:43 am

            I really appreciated this comment, David. Good to hear where you are coming from. Yes, if you have watched and read all that… by all means skip my humble podcast episodes! Yes, that Didache passage about “it is forbidden to make love without the bishop” is very funny.

            I am sorry you weren’t able to find a way to stay in the LDS Church, and hope you are happy where you are. I know it is difficult to not be on the same page as your wife. I hope she is supportive of you. Perhaps you don’t need my efforts to convince your wife… just try to persuade her to come to the Terrestial Kingdom with you. :) I think we will need to agree to disagree at this point, as you clearly think there is only one way to be a good Mormon (I agree you can certainly find that rhetoric loud and clear), whereas I see much room for flexibility and interpretation.

            Yeah, Bart and I are still in touch of course. That whole Mormon thing is hilarious. He said he had a copy of the Book of Mormon all marked up with all the anachronisms and problems. I house sat for him for a week or so and looked around a bit but unfortunately, could not find it. :) Yeah, I know how you feel… it is easy to apply the critical tools of Biblical Studies and apply them to Mormonism.

            Thanks you for the civil tone and substantial content of this comment, David. I wish you all the best as well.

          • March 4, 2011 at 5:15 pm

            It is worth adding I am not fighting for some sweeping reform in the Church. Hoping for? Yes. Depending on? No. I just want to model an approach for Mormonism that both works as well as possible for everyone while also maintaining integrity to core principles. Then I will share that approach as I have opportunity, as is appropriate.

          • brade
            March 4, 2011 at 4:24 pm

            David, I strongly sympathize with this sentiment:

            “I think the LDS church stands for something (Hinckley just perked up in his grave) and I think the GAs are pretty clear on what the church does stand for. If someone wants to sign on to that, good for them. However, I don’t think it is a good thing to find ways of staying in the church while not generally affirming what the church does stand for. If there were some mechanism to debate and publicly advocate for change, i.e. some version of loyal opposition, then I would feel differently and may have stayed in the LDS church. As it is, the GAs have been crystal clear that there is no room for loyal opposition, so it seems best to move along when one cannot affirm their leadership and teachings as they are taught.”

            I have some friends and at least one family member that I know of who share, by and large, a lot of my philosophical and historical concerns about the Church’s claims, yet, they perform a sort of mental and, to some extent, public contortion in order to remain active, to give off the air of being a TBM, and in order to continue to hold a temple recommend. One person goes so far as to completely reinterpret the Church’s counsel on garment wearing and even the law of chastity. I’m happy to agree with such people that the Church’s teachings are often vague and/or ambiguous. However, I don’t think that the Church’s teachings are sufficiently so to permit the sorts of substantive modifications and interpretations they have of Church teachings. I think a person who engages in that sort of gymnastic procedure does both him or herself and the Church a great disservice. I love what you said: “It seems best to move along when one cannot affirm their leadership and teachings as they are taught”. “As they are taught”. Sure, there are lots of ways to interpret some of the recommend questions, for example. But, go through LDS.org for five minutes and you’ll find that the Church’s leaders pretty unanimously endorse a certain interpretation to the extent that it’s simply disingenuous to believe that your novel interpretation fits the question. There’s a point where, for the benefit of everybody involved, it’s just time to move along.

          • March 4, 2011 at 7:33 pm

            Brade, I agree with several of your points. I think the general counsel of the Church helps a lot of people. I think there is a compelling argument to be made for just following the standard interpretation of the rules. The more you go into exception land, the more the risks increase.

            I really resonate with this by Oaks “As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.” (June 2006).

            I can’t judge your friends, but I think it is highly unethical to lie to escape consequences *unless* you sincerely feel that your lifestyle and beliefs conform to the spirit of your religion. I just think the same thing is not always the same thing. And I think that given the fact that different leaders would respond to actions and views in different ways, we have the right to project our deep goals… such as staying in a community. I do not agree with you that just because some leaders would not define someone as a good Mormon, he or she no longer is one. Now, if we are making choices that most in the community would agree go against the norms of that group, you really need to examine whether your “heart is pure” as it were. And there is much to say for just obeying if you can. I don’t think there is anything wrong with drinking wine, for example, but I don’t solely to keep things simple. But I still think living exceptions can be done, and can be right. A final point is that sometimes the leaders are wrong. I support them, but I don’t always agree with them. I think it is possible that the heretic can be closer to God than the institution. Read the gospels.

            So to sum up, I think that those who want to destroy the Church or deny consequence of their actions they feel are wrong should leave or be kicked out if needed. But there is also room for differences of opinion, even in behavior. This is the type of approach I am trying to work out.

          • brade
            March 5, 2011 at 11:27 pm

            Jared, first, I want to say that I absolutely loved this podcast series. You opened the New Testament up in a way that felt both academic and very accessible. So, thank you.

            Now, I think we agree more than we disagree. I don’t think that just because some leaders would not define someone as a good Mormon, he or she no longer is one. I don’t think anything I said necessarily implies that, but I can see how somebody could read what I wrote and draw that conclusion. As you aptly point out, the leaders could be wrong. I wasn’t trying to get involved in judgments of whether people are good or bad Mormons, or good or bad anythings, for that matter. The point I was trying to make is rather more dull than that, and it doesn’t need to involve judgments about goodness or badness, although it might. The idea is simply that certain levels of participation in the Church do require of people that they accept certain sufficiently specific teachings and codes of behavior. If a person diverges too far from those, then I think, for the benefit of the Church and the person, they ought to accept that they can’t participate in the faith community in the way they could if their beliefs didn’t diverge from what the Church expects. Admittedly, I may have gone too far by finishing with “it’s just time to move along”. I think people can have widely diverging views about all kinds of things and remain, in some sense, active Mormons. As to whether people with diverging views are good or bad Mormons, I just don’t know.

            I do think, however, that answering questions, questions that draw on a certain background for acceptable answers, in a way that can’t be made consistent with the expected acceptable answers without going through a lot of very odd mental gymnastics is dishonest. Fred might sincerely believe that God is ok with his extra marital affair. He might believe that, given all of the nuances of his situation, his having sex with somebody with whom he is not legally married is not a violation of the law of chastity. Fine. But, the teachings of the Church’s leaders, the ones who have a say in what is or is not doctrine, are clear enough about whether Fred’s behavior is a violation of the law of chastity as they understand it. And, I think it’s only fair that they have the say about what interpretation of the law of chastity the Church they lead will tolerate. This idea of bringing your own special interpretation of Church teachings to a recommend interview, or any other kind of interview, and answering based on those interpretations is, I think, problematic. I think you ought to answer such questions on the basis of what you think the relevant leaders’ interpretations are, and then let the chips fall where they may.

          • March 5, 2011 at 11:59 pm

            I appreciated the tone and content of this message brade. I recognize the problematic aspects of this position, but I still stand by the fact that if an individual truly feels worthy after humble self-examination to participate in the Church, that is his or her call to make. Here is my rule to have integrity: I think that at any point that individual should be prepared to explain why he or she did not disclose fully earlier. So were someone “found out”, the response could be, “I love and value the Church and community, and I am living in a way I feel is in accordance with God’s will. I have worked out these views and principles, and so they are sacred to me. I have not talked to you about this before, because I knew you would not agree, in my view misinterpreting my true intentions and feelings. So I gave you the answer that would enable you to best understand what I really think and feel. I feel my position is valuable enough to fight for. But now that it has come to this, having done all I can to preserve my relationships both with this community and my principles, I willingly accept all consequences that may come.”

          • March 4, 2011 at 4:56 pm

            David, I just read this comment to my wife and wanted to express again how much I appreciate it. It was an enlightening pleasure to hear your view and points, to see the person. There is a lot to engage with here. It is substantial and respectful, worth of respect itself.

            I will respond a bit to brade’s points as yours and his overlap.

    • Anonymous
      March 3, 2011 at 7:22 pm

      Mental gymnastics or not, Jared Anderson is exactly the kind of guy I want staying in the church.

      First off, he was very clear, that not only is one religious path better than another, he also stated that he hadn’t found another religion that was as good as Mormonism. Even the most bitter apostate among us will agree with that, for the most part.

      I see the best and brightest that Mormonism has to offer in the likes of Mr. Anderson. I hope that in the future he has a voice within the chapel in some way in Mormonism, and that the church can change to be more inclusive of men and women like him. It would be a better church in so many ways, and in that I think that he is doing more good with his faith crisis than I am. I just tend to sit around and gripe about Mormons, especially those who do mental gymnastics.

      • March 3, 2011 at 8:43 pm

        Patriarchal_Gripe, this comment meant a great deal to me, thank you. You have understood my intentions and longings correctly. I feel driven to maintain as much legitimacy in the community as possible (while also being true to myself) so that I can continue to model Mormonism as one way I feel it should be lived (well to be precise, I see my approach as beyond Mormonism or any particular religion, but I am most comfortable expressing that within the faith of my heritage). I could be happy in other religions or not in any particular religion at all, but this is my home. I have been conditioned to function best in this environment. And because I really believe in the potential of Mormonism and want to fight for that, even though we will continue to fall short.

        Thank you for seeing and understanding me as I am.

    • March 3, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      moving response down.

  6. David Clark
    February 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Sorry, but I had to add one more comment.

    I finished the fifth part and one more thing just stunned me. He basically said that religion is for actualizing growth and minimizing harm to people. The problem is that is a statement devoid of content. Growth toward what? What is it that is harm? You have to be able to answer those questions before you can grow and avoid harm. But, you say in no uncertain terms that religion can only provide relative answers to those questions. So I have to ask why should religion be in the business of helping growth and minimizing harm when it has no way to determine what those are?

    • March 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm

      Wow David, this seems like a faithless view to me. Based on this comment, it seems we are screwed either way— if there is no God we have no access to what is good, healthy, beneficial, and ennobling, and if there is a God, he isn’t going to help us know right from wrong! I hope that your personal beliefs and life are more satisfying than you portray here for rhetorical effect.

      My approach is the opposite of the one you present here. I am hopeful concerning our ability to be and do good, accessing God *either way*, whatever the reality happens to be. It is win-win.

      Yes, I believe that “God says” is an inadequate standard for ethical behavior. For one thing, God has so many opposing spokesmen… I think we can only make arguments for what is good, what is ethical, what we should grow toward. I have worked out such a system for myself; we each need to. I think one benefit of religion is the system of morality it provides, but we also need to preserve the right to question those systems of morality, because they are clearly cultural constructions, even if God is in the mix.

      Here is how it works theologically for me. I live as if there is a loving, concerned God. I pray to Heavenly Father (and Mother often as well). In my view God would want to give everyone as much truth and saving principles as they will accept. At the same time, we know how fallible people are, so we all will mix our own expectations and desires into what we think God wants. Therefore, religion is a mix of human elements along with divine truth. So it is our responsibility to sift those elements. I personally believe the purpose of religion is to maximize Love, Growth, Joy, Peace, and Consciousness/Freedom. I could define each of those but that would take a chuck of a book. So once again, if we do have access to God, he will help us know how to maximize the good and minimize the harm. Don’t you think he would want that, and is just waiting for us to get the message and live up to the principles religion teaches?

      • David Clark
        March 2, 2011 at 3:30 am

        Since I was approaching my criticism from a standpoint of faith, I don’t know if there was a point you were making beyond re-summarizing your approach to religion. Since I think you covered that adequately in the podcast, I don’t know really know if there is anything to respond to.

        However I think it’s silly to claim that “God says” is an inadequate standard for ethical behavior and yet in the very next paragraph claim that God “will help us know how to maximize the good and minimize the harm.” So God can’t or won’t lay out an ethical standard, but God can and does tell you what to do to maximize good and minimize harm? Is there some reason I should think God is limited to dispensing utilitarian advice? And since it’s fairly easy to show that the harm principle is empty (see Steven D. Smith’s “The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse”), is there some reason that God is limited to handing out empty advice?

        • March 2, 2011 at 4:36 am

          David, I trust you when you say you come from a position of faith, but I have not seen any evidence of that in your comments. I would be interested in hearing your perspective rather than your criticisms of mine.

          I get the sense we are talking past each other a bit. I am not saying that God does not dispense ethical guidance; I am making the point that many people with differing views attach “God says” to their system of ethics and agendas, therefore all cannot be true to the same extent. So some of what people attribute to God may link to divine truth, whatever that means, but not all that is attributed to God is godly. Plus even if we do receive guidance from God, our own expectations and biases mix with the divine truth. This is why the idea of personal revelation/confirmation is so valuable. I will need to look at the reference you give. Do you honestly think there is no way to identify harm? So are all actions valid? Or should I look to your unevidenced faith and assume you believe only God can tell us what is harmful? I think God can do whatever his respect for our agency and limitations allows him to do.

          I hope if you comment again we can discuss what you believe and where you are coming from with your criticisms of my position.

    • March 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      “The problem is that is a statement devoid of content.” There is a reason it is devoid of content: institutions (and ideologies) have no independent content. Integrity (content) is a property of individuals, not institutions (or ideologies), which merely provide individuals with outlets (and tools) for expressing themselves (selves which they create with every thought, word, and action). The people who want to fix content for everyone else are not more moral than the rest of us: they are totalitarians who think that they and they alone know what it means to be human. They want me to make a good pretense of being them (dressing like them, talking like them, eating like them, having sex like them, etc.). Personally, I find these people at once boring and dangerous: their communities are artificially homogenized (such that no one has any really interesting ideas) and/or oppressive (the people who do innovate are burned as heretics).

      “Growth toward what? What is it that is harm?” The individual grows toward his own private vision of the good (W. H. Altman’s reading of Plato): it is a mystery that we can all see but not one of us can define for another (apophatic Christianity). Harm is that which cuts off his access to that vision. Of course it goes without saying that no one is allowed to trample all over other members of the community (imposing his personal vision as an absolute standard for everyone): that would be a violation of the golden rule, and an insult against the mystery of the divine that finds unity in multiplicity. (See the response of Gideon’s father to the angry mob in Judges 6:28-32 or Gamaliel’s advice to the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:38-39. Real faith in God is letting him sort his own quarrels out with other people rather than trying to dictate to them from a position of authority.)

      “So I have to ask why should religion be in the business of helping growth and minimizing harm when it has no way to determine what those are?” The job of religion is to get the neophyte on his way toward (1) understanding the moral code he already employs when making decisions and (2) cultivating happiness in his own private vision of the good. It provides the tools with which the individual cultivates his own garden of private, personal morality. It does not dictate what plants he must include or how far apart they must be: it merely provides a support group of fellow gardeners who can share the results of their own private experiences in a safe, supportive environment. Is it true that some plants are definitely better than others and require some special care that can be itemized? Certainly. But my soil is not your soil and may not yield a crop identical to yours: I may have to tinker with your instructions significantly before I get good results from the unique patch of earth that is me (in this analogy).

      A lot of the disconnect between you and Jared is empty verbiage. You see him as having no faith in God (because he will not say that God has one plan that works for everyone), and he sees you as having no faith in people (because you seem to think they are ultimately immoral without some fixed definition of God; maybe this would change if you interacted with more Scandinavians?). From my point of view, both of you are probably kind, moral people: God is a word I use for the unknowable mystery that facilitates this tangible reality (your kindness). The point of life (and religion) is not to define kindness but to be kind. The more you are kind the more empty and vapid all academic discussions of kindness will appear. While others hammer out the latest orthodoxy, you would be at Jerusalem …

      • March 3, 2011 at 4:12 pm

        Love your insights Hermes, and especially the anthropological context you bring to bear. I have one comment on your summary of my views: “he sees you as having no faith in people”. I stated that I trust that David does have faith in God (even though I still don’t feel he has brought that to the table in his comments thus far). I assume he also believest that people can do good even if they are not religious… at least I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt. But I feel it is difficult to interact with David because I get the sense he is not sharing his own opinions, too busy nitpicking and hyperbolizing the views that you and I happen to share, for example. This is why I called for an open, more disclosive discussion of our differing beliefs. I agree on the empty verbage part.

        I think the way Tyson and I have interacted is pretty exemplary…. he and I disagree on key points, but we are sharing substantial reasons to support our respective views and seeking further clarification, and I feel we (as well as all readers) are benefiting from the exchange.

        • March 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm

          “I stated that I trust that David does have faith in God (even though I still don’t feel he has brought that to the table in his comments thus far). I assume he also believest that people can do good even if they are not religious… at least I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

          Of course. I was just exposing my own over-fondness for an all too neat rhetorical dichotomy. Thanks for clarifying!

  7. Stoone1969
    February 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    What a great podcast!

  8. Vin
    March 1, 2011 at 2:08 am

    David Clark, of FPR fame?

    • David Clark
      March 1, 2011 at 5:13 am

      Yes

    • Chris H.
      March 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      Formerly.

      • David Clark
        March 3, 2011 at 1:57 am

        Thanks for clarifying the meaning of “emeritus” Chris.

  9. Tyson Jacobsen
    March 1, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Jared,
    I really appreciated your professional approach to the MSP interview, the concise presentation, and academic integrity to the NT. If you would be so kind, would you be able to address the following?

    With respect to the content of the NT presentation
    1) What’s happening in London for the kjv bible anniversary?
    2) Who is the Ehrman equivalent in OT studies?
    3) What are the best arguments against Ehrman’s apocalyptic approach to jesus?
    4) You discussed this briefly, but where are the lds scholars on critical historical approach? e.g. how do they respond to it, or do they all just use the HG as the backstop?
    5) You touched on the added ‘tears as great drops of blood’, but I know of several more that were only hinted at (e.g. pericope adultera, last ~12 verses of Mark, etc…) aren’t those significant in considering the saliency of your faith, and if so, which are the most challenging to it?

    For you personally…
    6) What do you teach & want your kids to believe. What do you teach in church (apologetics or academia)?
    7) How believe in revelation, from what source provides inspiration if you are agnostic to the source?
    8) How does your position differ from a ‘god of gaps’ position?
    9) You stated that Mormonism can be better? Isn’t what’s better, worthy without Mormonism, and are you not omitting opportunities for even more numinous experiences and knowledge?

    • David Clark
      March 1, 2011 at 5:54 am

      Re #2: The OT is a much bigger area than the NT. For a popular approach to the OT text, try Richard Elliott Friedman. For OT archaeology, Willian G. Dever is the best bet. For a more literary approach to the OT, try Robert Alter.

      Re #3: Ehrman’s approach to the apocalyptic Jesus is decidedly middle of the road and represents a consensus view on the apocalyptic Jesus. If you want something more rigorous, try John P. Meier’s “Marginal Jew” series or stuff by Dale Allison. If you want an opposing view, John Dominic Crossan (look for “The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant”) is probably the best entry point for a Christian perspective, or Geza Vermes (start with “Jesus the Jew” and then read the sequels) for a Jewish Perspective. If you want a wide variety of different perspectives in summary form, try “The Historical Jesus: Five Views” by James K. Beilby or “The Jesus Quest” by Ben Witherington.

    • Jared
      March 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      Tyson, I deeply appreciate your thoughtful and respectful questions. So here goes:

      1) The International Conference of the Society of Biblical Literature is being held in London this year to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the KJV. It will be commemorated at the US meetings as well, but London would be the place to be. http://www.sbl-site.org/meetings/2011KJV.aspx

      2) There really is no equivalent to Bart Ehrman… at all, but especially for the OT. ;) I agree with David’s approach that you need to ask which aspect of the Jewish Scriptures you want to learn more about and then there will be scholars who also are brilliant and write in an accessible style. Richard Elliott Friedman has some very interesting books, but scholars have moved past his theories for the most part… Jean Louis Ska’s Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch is the best introduction I know of on that topic. Michael Coogan wrote the companion college introduction to the OT for Oxford University Press, and he has other accessible works. I tell people if they own one book on the Bible, it should be the Oxford Companion to the Bible. I also like Victor Matthew’s works, especially his history of Israel. For the text of the Jewish Scriptures, Emanuel Tov is the expert but Eugene Ulrich has some very readable books. I agree that Dever is good for archaeology and Alter is great for a literary approach. Going toward the later parts of the OT period, Jodi Magness has interesting stuff on archaeology of Qumran and the NT period. Let me know if you have other topics that interest you… I am glad you asked, since I felt a “Recommended Books” area would really complement this podcast.

      You didn’t ask, but the best book for the New Testament is Raymond Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament and Bart’s Textbook and Reader are also superb… his Reader is an amazing resource. http://www.amazon.com/Testament-Other-Early-Christian-Writings/dp/0195154649/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1298996667&sr=1-2

      3) I agree with Ehrman that an apocalyptic Jesus is the best way to understand the historical Jesus. His Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium is a great read. E. P. Sanders Jesus and Judaism is also superb. Your question is very valuable.. it is always useful to look at the other side of arguments, even ones we find persuasive. I find Jesus as Savior and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Meridian Saints to be the most persuasive, of course! ;)

      So the first thing to do for another interpretation of Jesus is to explain away all the apocalyptic traditions. So these interpreters would say that Jesus wasn’t apocalyptic, but his earliest followers were, so they remade Jesus in their image so he seemed apocalyptic. This seems like special pleading to me, since Jesus’ apocalyptic sayings pass the criterion of embarrassment so well. I really think the apocalyptic view best explains all evidence. Here is a good overview of theories:

      http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

      I would say the most persuasive alternative explanations are the closest to the right one… either Jesus as a wisdom sage or Jesus as a social prophet–Luke presents him as the latter.

      4) I was actually invited to BYU in 2003 for a seminar in preparation for the LDS NT Commentary. It was pretty horrendous overall. I was told by a few exactly what you said… I explained I was getting my PhD in order to gain critical tools and one BYU professor said, “But there is no light out there! We don’t need critical methods; we have the Holy Ghost.” I divide LDS scholars into the following categories: 1) Those who don’t know what they are doing; 2) Those who know what they are doing but don’t apply it, and 3) Those who know what they are doing and do. Some LDS scholars think that the revealed truth of Mormonism enables us to make better historical arguments. This is actually what put me in overdrive with studying the relationship of scripture, revelation, language, history, etc. People would say things like, “What does Mormon 9 prove historically about the long ending of Mark?” (since Mormon 9 quotes the long ending). I responded, “We need to figure out what the Book of Mormon IS before we can use it as a historical resource!” Jesus and the World of the New Testament is probably the best effort to incorporate NT scholarship and the LDS worldview. Holzapfel, Huntsman, and Wayment do good work, though I think Wayment’s projects are misdirected (seeing how the JST matches the textual variants of the NT for example). Frank Judd is also one of Bart’s students and his classes are more rigorous than most.

      But at the end of the day, I really think LDS scholars are stuck because as I trust you gathered by the podcast, a rigorous academic approach to the NT does much to dismantle the traditional LDS view of history. So in short, even the best LDS scholars are constrained to make the evidence fit their presuppositions. Let me know if you have follow up questions. It is my view that apologetics can only create room for faith by weakening the counter arguments, rather than presenting compelling alternate theories. So they can explain away points A, B, C, and D, but not create a better picture than the square ABCD. I think this is how the best LDS mainstream scholars work. They acknowledge scholarship, use everything helpful to them, and then say “scholars say X or Y, but we could look at it this way…”. My approach toward NT scholarship does not depend on the LDS worldview; I imagine my interview made that clear. As I said, I do think there is room to believe in Jesus as Savior however, and that is the most important point.

      5) This was mostly an issue of time… this podcast is already almost 7 hours! Brian and I were actually first planning a min-NT course that would be over 20 hours, but that didn’t really fit into the Mormon Stories format… even this interview stretches the genre. We will finish up the longer project and keep you posted. :)

      But back to your question. My faith is not reliant on the Bible or any other work of scripture, so no scripture can challenge my faith. In my Stake Presidency temple recommend interview the counselor asked me, “How is your faith?” I replied, “It has been stripped down to its bedrock elements.” :) My faith is dependent on my personal relationship with the Divine. I think that is the only way to go. But I think the most challenging textual variant is the omission of Luke 22:19b-20, which demonstrates Luke did not believe in Jesus’ death as vicarious atonement.

      6) Great question. Bushman asked me about my kids and whether I thought they would stay in the Church. I teach my children what I believe, as they are ready. My wonderful 11 year old turned to me a few weeks ago in sacrament and asked, “Dad, what if we are wrong?” I was so proud of her for asking that. I said “That is a great question; we will talk about it later.” Later I said “The short answer is that Truth is bigger than Mormonism.” So I will teach my children what I find most appealing in Mormonism and do what I can to minimize elements I find harmful, all with an approach that is open and respectful to other sources of Truth. So a sort of progressive, open Mormonism.

      In Church, I focus on what my audience needs, as I outlined in the fifth part of my interview. I don’t say anything I don’t believe, but I speak very carefully. I share academic insights when helpful. My primary purpose in Church is to build up faith in as stable a way as possible. I don’t consider myself an apologist, but sometimes I am quiet. I am responsive rather than proactive in teaching the more nuanced view of things.

      7) Do we need to know how our cars work to drive? I believe in revelation because I and those I know have experienced it. I can “drive” revelation. I do all I can to work out a responsible theory of how revelation works, but I do believe in it. I am open to revelation coming from God, or some sort of quantum connection between all things, or a greater wisdom than we are aware of. I don’t remember if I said this in my interview, but I see religion as a shortcut to access metaphysical principles. Just as most communication is nonverbal, spirituality is a “nonverbal” or transconscious way of accessing our environment. Does that answer your question? I think the idea that God gives us revelation is a very useful symbol (which I am open to being true, as I said)–the important balancing point is understanding how our expectations influence that process.

      8) Great question, and I love that description. Did Sagan coin that or was it used before him? My definition of God is flexible enough to still worship God even if every single principle was understood, even if there were no gaps. I sent you a link to a longer description of how this works for me.

      9) What a valuable question Tyson. I have asked myself this question, specifically whether I could do more good outside of Mormonism. There are two parts of my answer.

      First, I do not feel limited by Mormonism. I will honestly admit that my world view is not primarily shaped by Mormonism any more. I plan to teach and write to a general audience, not a Mormon one, and this includes advocating a certain approach to religion and spirituality. So I do not feel like my access to the transcendent is limited by the portal of Mormonism. I delight in truth and spiritual experience whatever the source. I love Humanism for example, and enjoyed what I read of “Good Without God”. I also love many of the texts we read in my World Religions class.

      Which leads to the question, why stay? As I said in my interview, I really do find Mormonism to be the most appealing form of religion of which I am aware, and I am aware of many. I think I could be happy in another faith tradition, or as a Humanist, but Mormonism is my primary faith language. I know other faith languages, and am developing a language that transcends denominations, but I am happy in Mormonism. What I meant by Mormonism can be better is that Mormonism has sublime theology that far transcends the limitations the culture places on it. We believe in Heavenly Mother. Women have the priesthood. We believe in Universal Salvation. There is no eternal hell. We have a beautiful myth of our eternal journey… where we came from, why we are here, the details of eternity. We have the best explanation for suffering I know of. We emphasize personal responsibility–agency. We believe in personal revelation. We also have strong practical focuses such as providential living and loving and serving others. What is the purpose of Religion? I would answer to give us a symbolic understanding of reality, a system of morality, and to improve the quality of life, and to give us motivation and opportunity to serve others. I think that there are resources in Mormonism to do this extraordinarily well. We fall short of course, as all people do. But I would match our very best wards with the best other religions have to offer.

      For me, either all religions are true to a degree or none are. But I am comfortable with the idea of Mormonism as “most true”, especially an ideal conception of it. I believe in that ideal and want to be an example of what Mormonism should be.

      • March 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

        Darn, figured out how to sign in *after* posting this huge comment. ;)

      • David Clark
        March 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm

        The reason I recommended Friedman is because his approach to the Documentary Hypothesis is rather plain vanilla. I think it provides a good foundation for then diving into the current debate. The main problem is that everyone now has their own take on the sources and their dating for the Pentateuch, and it’s difficult to follow that unless you know the previous consensus position they are arguing against. Scholars have moved on, but they have moved on to mostly arguing, with no new consensus position, and that’s hard for a beginner to follow. Coogan’s OT introduction also presents a plain vanilla approach to the Documentary Hypothesis, which is also a good resourse that you mentioned

        If you are interested in the current argument, Ska’s book looks good, though I haven’t read it. Blenkinsopp’s book on the Pentateuch also engages more of the current debates, and it is a rather short read (~250 pages), but it’s not an easy read.

        • March 1, 2011 at 6:52 pm

          Good summary David. I think the Bible With the Sources Revealed is a great learning tool, for example, even with the lack of a scholarly consensus. And Ska’s book is excellent; I use a chapter out of it when I teach Hebrew Bible.

      • Tyson Jacobsen
        March 2, 2011 at 8:35 pm

        Jared,
        Thanks for your responses. I have a few follow up questions/challenges, and some new ones, if you feel disposed to answer. With respect to your answers above.
        #6 I’m not sure if I understand your approach in educating your children. It appears to me that you favor a positive, immunized, evangelist environment. If this is so, do you not risk perpetuating an apologist perspective for your kids vs. a critical perspective of both mormonism AND all other faiths and ideologies? This is probably a hasty overgeneralization of your approach, and my apologies in advance, but if my child approaches me with a question as your’s did, my response would be “let’s look at the evidence and see what conclusions we can draw as a result”
        #7 Your epistemology seems to be circular, and varies from the academic integrity applied to your NT studies. i.e. when analyzing the probability of an event, your revelatory explanation of your experiences are among the least probable when compared to evolutionary or neuro-scientific explanations. I know there’s a middle ground explanation you touched on, but there’s very little ‘math’ to substantiate this as being the most plausible. My question for you is, how firm of a position is this for you, how in depth has your introspection been, and do you view this as a transitory position that can be modified through evidence?

        New questions:
        #10 Do you have an opinion on the problem of theodicy that seemed so convincing to Ehrman, and would that opinion be plausible to Bart?
        #11 Do you have a desire to publish in the academic arena or in the public square? i.e. will I see your books at Deseret Book store?
        #12 Have you read Spinoza?

        • March 3, 2011 at 12:55 am

          Tyson,

          I deeply appreciate your incisive questions combined with your respectful tone. This whole endeavor is the better for it.

          #6: I don’t think you do understand my approach to teaching my children. I favor an environment that provides the maximum number of people what they need given the purpose of the institution with which they are involved. So this differs by audience. I do favor a positive environment. Not sure what you mean by an “immunized” environment. Do I mean providing a controlled amount of challenging information in a supportive environment so that when the individual comes across more of the challenging information they are “inoculated”? I suppose I would accept that. What do you mean by “evangelist”? I only feel evangelical about principles I feel are beneficial, productive, and ennobling, which I think everyone agrees with. I am just as likely to evangelize circumcision avoidance and vegetarianism as I am Mormonism. Probably more so.

          With my children, I of course have much more of an influence in their lives, much more time with them, near endless ability to follow up. First, I think we radiate what we are, what we believe. Kids are smart; they pick things up (non-verbal communication and all that). So my children will pick up what they believe. So I go to Church with them, ask them about it, correct what they learn if I think it is wrong/damaging/kooky (sometimes I even ask “learn anything crazy in Church today?”). We have Family Home Evenings on Heavenly Mother, the history of humanity, the history of the world; anything is game. I also would, when approached with a question, say with them “let’s look at the evidence.”

          But I also remain open to the polyvalence of human experience (yes I like that word, and multifaceted). My overall approach to religion and spirituality applies here: We experience life on multiple levels at all times. We could ask ourselves what is “really happening” during the most transcendent moments of our lives… the birth of a child, the death of a parent, listening to a musical virtuoso in a concert hall or standing before the stars on a cold winter’s night. Yes, we can explain that we experience emotions because of the hormones secreted by the hypothalamus or explain how our neurons work, as best we can tell, or postulate that we feel loss because from an evolutionary perspective the community suffers when a valuable member dies… yes, these are aspects to the picture, but they are not the whole picture. The why of these experiences does not diminish the transcendent what. It is interesting to learn why a joke works, or to watch the special features for Avatar. But I also don’t think there is anything wrong with just enjoying the movie. This is part of what religion means to me.

          Did I answer your question? I encourage my children to appreciate all the aspects of their lives and learn from all trustworthy sources. I will do what I can to instill within them value for the kind of spirituality and religion that I value, while remaining respectful of their personal desires and choices. As one example, I asked my son if he wanted to go on a mission. He said yes. If he wants to go on one, I will support him, and I will do all I can to help him has as productive a mission as possible—focus on service, resist cultural pressure to go after numbers, be effective, help people as much as possible, find people who would really benefit from participation in the LDS community, etc. If he doesn’t want to go on one, I would be fine with that too.

          #7: I am primarily interested with the *functionality* of religion. I describe religion as “a symbolic language with an unknown referent with real purpose and power.” I also am comfortable holding open multiple possibilities, appreciating what all of them can teach me. I approach life and religion from a “both-and” angle. For example, though I live presupposing a caring and personal Diety, logically I accept multiple possibilities. I am comfortable with any of these. I am open to the idea that God represents some quantum connection between all things we do not understand, or a collective unconsciousness. Whatever created the world, whatever makes humans so different that we can have philosophical questions such as these, I call that God. God could be the name for natural laws that make choice and consciousness and love possible. God could be these attributes themselves–anything that increases consciousness, love, freedom, growth, peace, and joy–these are Divine. Perhaps we humans are the greatest gods within our grasp. I choose to believe in a personal God because there are benefits to that and that best matches my personal experience, but that is really somewhere between hope and belief. History is different than philosophy, my friend. I think that answers your question of “how firm” my position is. I would say my introspection has been thorough, though there is so much research I want to do. I am open to all new evidence. I guess all my positions are transitory as I am constantly open to and seeking to improve them. It will be interesting to see where my journey leads me. : )

          #10: As I said in my podcast, I wish we would turn around the problem of theodicy back on ourselves. Why do WE allow so much suffering? I mostly think there is so much suffering because we live in a chaotic environment and we humans are selfish and lazy. Most of the history of the world is us screwing each other over, though we exceptionally transcend that pattern.

          I mentioned this in another comment as well as my podcast I think… I actually find the Mormon theodicy very satisfying. I love the idea of us being on the earth to learn to be like God, to grow and love. This works either way—either God wants us to love and decrease suffering, or we are the closest thing to gods and we should strive for the most noble within us and decrease love and suffering. But again, I like the idea that we live in a difficult world to give us opportunities to care for each other. This works from a humanistic point as well, from the stand point that we progress as communities. I love to work things out logically and I am interested in learning, discovering what we can know. But I am MUCH more interested in answering the question of what we can and should DO about suffering than debating why it exists. But once again, I think that the Mormon theodicy really makes sense to me. I don’t think Bart is open to supernatural explanations for theodicy. He is a brilliant historian and debater but not much of a philosopher. I think I could sell him on the functional approach to theodicy though—that the best theodicy encourages us to reduce suffering ourselves, which the Mormon story does very well.

          #11 My publishing goals lie in academic and general spheres—I will write scholarly, college, and popular books. I plan to address Mormon audiences only incidentally, though I am open to working on a project here or there if the opportunity presents itself. I would be quite surprised if anything I write ever ends up at Deseret Book. I think that would require changed approach for Deseret Book. ;) But such changes are needed, so who knows.

          #12. I have not read Spinoza. I have actually read very, very little theology and philosophy. I am open to recommendations though!

          An observation: It seems you are primarily interested in origins; I am primarily interested in functions, though I am also fascinated learning more about origins and detail. Once again I apply my driving a car vs. dismantling a car analogy. Both are useful, but 99%+ would prefer to drive than dismantle.

          Thanks again for the wonderful questions; it is a delight to engage with you.

          • Tyson Jacobsen
            March 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm

            Jared,
            Again, thank you for your thoughtful responses. I would like to respond, and since I am a Hitchens fan, I will imitate his “in reverse” approach

            Re: Observation: I do value origins, but my personal philosophical position lies with those who have flown the perch of evolution. i.e. Our DNA/Evolutionary origins are the best explanation for our emotions, (See Paul Ekman and Dascher Keltner’s books/videos for arguments and evidence) but I’ll side with Rawls on how I model my behavior. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veil_of_ignorance

            #12 I created a list of my favorite books/videos/authors on the MSP atheist, found here. podcast.http://mormonstories.org/?p=1403 My favorite book so far is Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape, and as I offered then and here, I’m more than happy to send a free copy to you and anyone else interested. Here’s a primer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww

            #11 I hope you can see the tremendous void of real lay “academic” literature (as Ehrman is for Evangelicals) in Mormonism, and the need to raise the awareness of what the rest of biblical scholarship has known for several hundred years. I know you argue that Mormonism is the best of all religions, and I can actually argue on your behalf for many of those reasons, but not in academia.

            #10 I think you dodged my question :) We’re on the same side of alleviating human suffering, and I think Peter Singer has the best arguments in that arena, but, unless I am mistaken (which I am alway open to), the concept of theodicy transcends human interaction.

            #7 Well said.

            #6 Yes, Immunization=vaccination=inoculation. Although (and I do hope you see the challenge not as personal) I do see a bit of a conflict in your answer. When I use the term evangelizing, I mean that we want our kids to think like us, and we tend to impose our dreams and desires on our children, such that what brings us happiness is assumed to bring them happiness (and I’m using rather obtuse language, I know there are nuances that can carve this down to a nub of a concept that we rationalize in our parenting, but the nub is still there after all the gradations). I think this, even in it’s most innocent presentation, can become a tremendous disservice to our children, hence my argument that children should be taught to think critically first. If my oldest daughter wants to remain active in Mormonism, I would want her to present arguments as researched, and well thought through as you have done here, and be able to know the difference between beliefs and evidence so as to enable her to be a benefit to society.

            Thanks again for such an insightful presentation into the NT and your life.

          • March 18, 2011 at 11:39 pm

            Tyson,

            I can’t believe it has taken me so long to respond to you! I am delighted by how much I am learning and gaining from our interactions.

            Re: Observation: I do value origins, but my personal philosophical position lies with those who have flown the perch of evolution. i.e. Our DNA/Evolutionary origins are the best explanation for our emotions, (See Paul Ekman and Dascher Keltner’s books/videos for arguments and evidence) but I’ll side with Rawls on how I model my behavior. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V

            A: I agree that evolution can explain our emotions, but we still have the meaning vs. explanation issue.

            #12 I created a list of my favorite books/videos/authors on the MSP atheist, found here. podcast.http://mormonstories.org/?p=14… My favorite book so far is Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape, and as I offered then and here, I’m more than happy to send a free copy to you and anyone else interested. Here’s a primer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

            #12A: I would love to learn more about this and appreciate your recommendations! Send over your whole library lol. I will for sure read Harris’ book.

            #11 I hope you can see the tremendous void of real lay “academic” literature (as Ehrman is for Evangelicals) in Mormonism, and the need to raise the awareness of what the rest of biblical scholarship has known for several hundred years. I know you argue that Mormonism is the best of all religions, and I can actually argue on your behalf for many of those reasons, but not in academia.

            #11A: On the need for popular books: Yes, I see this value with clarity. But I would rather write for a general audience and have my books better accepted because I happen to be LDS than to write specifically for an LDS audience. Like Bushman with Rough Stone Rolling, though my field is not Mormonism so members will need to have more guidance to find my books. As I said, I am open to speaking to Mormon audiences, but that will be a byproduct of my main focus.. quite similar to what is going on right now with this interview.

            #10 I think you dodged my question :) We’re on the same side of alleviating human suffering, and I think Peter Singer has the best arguments in that arena, but, unless I am mistaken (which I am alway open to), the concept of theodicy transcends human interaction.

            #10A: Well first, I acknowledge the problematic fact that the best theodicies are the ones that leave God out of it.. How are you defining theodicy? I am answering the question “Why does God allow suffering?” If you would like to expand the definition I would welcome that. I feel my second paragraph was less “dodgy” than the first.

            #7 Well said.

            #6 Yes, Immunization=vaccination=inoculation. Although (and I do hope you see the challenge not as personal) I do see a bit of a conflict in your answer. When I use the term evangelizing, I mean that we want our kids to think like us, and we tend to impose our dreams and desires on our children, such that what brings us happiness is assumed to bring them happiness (and I’m using rather obtuse language, I know there are nuances that can carve this down to a nub of a concept that we rationalize in our parenting, but the nub is still there after all the gradations). I think this, even in it’s most innocent presentation, can become a tremendous disservice to our children, hence my argument that children should be taught to think critically first. If my oldest daughter wants to remain active in Mormonism, I would want her to present arguments as researched, and well thought through as you have done here, and be able to know the difference between beliefs and evidence so as to enable her to be a benefit to society.

            #6A: I think that we still need to provide children a framework before we can help them challenge it, from a developmental perspective. Trust me, I DO encourage my children to think critically. My oldest comes by it naturally; ever since she could talk we would give her two options and she would come up with a third alternative. As I have said, I provide my children with the foundation of my values and understandings (which do include critical thinking) and then respond to them as they express their own interests, opinions, etc. One of the jobs of a parent is to apply our greater life experience to our childrens’ issues. How would it work to teach children to think critically “first”? First before what? Children are naturally questioning, and I have always encouraged that.

      • March 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm

        “I can drive revelation” is a brilliant sentence. And I agree.

  10. Brian K.
    March 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I was going to respond to David Clark’s comment where he said that this was “the most dazzling display of mental gymnastics” that he has ever heard, but it wouldn’t let me. Perhaps I am merely dazzled, but I didn’t think that at all. I think Jared has a very healthy an academically honest approach. I think he is absolutely willing to accept the best evidence and to be academically accurate, but to also see value in the approaches of others. I loved the interview, and thought it was extremely enlightening..

  11. Tim
    March 1, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    “I am who people need me to be.” Is that not the ultimate expression of codependency?

    The only thing sadder is that he’s so proud of how he’s able to hide, deceive and twist who he really is and what he really thinks. He calls this “honoring” to his fellow Mormons but really it’s just condescension. He honors Mormonism and Mormons with his lips but despises both in his heart. In the process he show dishonor and contempt for himself.

    There’s a tone to the interview like he’s excited to finally reveal who he is and what he thinks. He finally gets to come out and show his colors. It’s a party where we all get in on the secret. There’s nothing to celebrate about this lack of personal and intellectual integrity.

    • March 1, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      So all Catholics who don’t hold views that square neatly with official pronouncements from the Vatican are spineless heretics? The fact that I might go to mass, sit in the pew beside someone who crosses herself and receives the Eucharist, hear an authoritative pronouncement of some kind (something from the papacy or the college of cardinals), and later learn that my seatmate construes it idiosyncratically (differently than some of those issuing it might) means that she has no moral integrity? She should just give up and be a vocal atheist or evangelical Christian so that I am not confused? Maybe she should wear a T-shirt that says, “Hi, I like God but can’t tell how I feel about him: please don’t assume I think like everyone else does when you see me in church”? What makes me think that religions represent focal points for “pure” doctrine? What have the last 1000 years of religious history proven if not that people who profess the same ideology use it to very different effect?

      Every one of us already is to others what others are willing for each of us to be. When I call myself a man, you agree only insofar as you admit that I meet your notional criteria for what “man” means. Personally, I call myself a Mormon because I was born at a particular time and place, into a particular family with particular traditions, traditions that involved reading certain books and going to certain places to do certain things. I cannot deny these facts about myself. To do so would be to lie. I cannot deny that I am uncomfortable with the construction some other Mormons (notably people in authority) choose to put on my Mormonism, but neither they nor you (Tim, but you are certainly not the only one) have any right to deny my integrity on the grounds that I do not classify neatly by the incoherent standards both of you apply. According to both of you (the Mormon enforcers and critical outsiders), I am either all-in or all-out: I cannot be who I really am, i.e. a Mormon who likes his heritage and wants to keep it without surrendering his individual autonomy to stuffed suits wearing the label “prophet.” Both hardcore Mormon believers and critical outsiders need to get reacquainted with a very important personality that they have despised or been totally ignorant of: the Jack Mormon. We Jacks are not boozing, smoking SOBs who would be good members but for our unsocial habits. Nor are we cretins who remain Mormon in name only out of sheer inertia, because we are too dumb or religiously illiterate to find out where our “real” place in the religious landscape is. Ours is a fine tradition in Mormonism, including its fair share of scallywags along with the likes of J. Golden Kimball and Sterling McMurrin. For the love of God, whatever you take him to be, get off your high horse and stop pretending like you have some kind of moral authority because you actually “believe” whatever myth you are using to give your life meaning. What is belief, for crying out loud? Why is our “belief” invalid? The only standard I can ever get from either side (Mormon enforcers and religious critics of Mormonism) is that my belief does not match theirs: the really telling arguments against me are not directed at me (personally) at all, but at policies and people who have about as much to do with the way I live my life as Barack Obama, George Bush, or any other national-level politician. I can be American without agreeing 100% with whoever happens to be president (or vice president, or senator, or congressman, or whatever). Why can’t I be Mormon without agreeing 100% with whoever happens to be prophet (or apostle, or stake president, or bishop, or outspoken critic of Mormonism)? Until you can give me an answer to this question that I accept (regardless of what you say, I like to think of myself as a rational person), your accusation rings really hollow. Keep your stones to yourself, in your own glass house.

      • Tim
        March 1, 2011 at 10:49 pm

        sitting quietly in a Catholic pew is far different than standing in front of a congregation in a teaching/preaching capacity and saying “I love the atonement [wink wink]. To put that mask on is by definition to be a hypocrite.

        To be an unbeliever and present yourself as a believer with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge “testimony” is duplicitous. If you’ve got some reason to go sit in an LDS chapel week in and week out, do it. Be a foyer Mormon, but don’t call it faithful and don’t lie to yourself that you’re some how doing the church a favor. Glen Ostlund’s “I don’t have a testimony” talks are much more courageous and uplifting to his ward than this stuff.

        I’m clearly an outside critic, termites are much better at destroying a church than locust. If anything I should be delighting in this kind of subversion. But then Jesus said something I can’t get past; let your “yes” mean yes and your “no” mean no. You guys know very well what the temple recommend questions mean. To do all these mental back flips to justify how you might still be answering truthfully is no different than the Pharisees exploiting people with their fingers crossed behind their backs. You’re not just lying to the people around you, you’re lying to yourself.

        I’m glad Jared could get all of this off of his chest and let people really know who he is. Keep at it. Take the next bold step. Ask yourself, What would Bart Ehrman do?

        • March 2, 2011 at 12:44 am

          I don’t actually sit in the pews that often these days. I don’t bear testimony that I do not answer to (and I never have). I don’t see how I am really that different from Glenn, and I cannot see that Jared is hugely different from him either. My mother-in-law, besides being a very unorthodox Mormon, is also one of the most honest people I know, and she manages to pass temple recommend interviews with no hang-ups: according to her, she tells the truth and the priesthood leaders let her in regardless. So maybe your reading of the church leaders is a little off-base (you take the conference rhetoric from certain loudmouths a little too seriously), and your dismissal of the Catholic analogy is really cavalier.

          As for your question, “What would Bart Ehrman do?” I think you are missing the point of life: we live to articulate and express our own, individual moral values. These require a community to get started, but in the end they are our responsibility, not Jesus’ or Bart Ehrman’s or anyone else’s. Ehrman himself points out that his separation from the Christian faith had nothing to do with issues arising from sola scriptura vel sim: it was the problem of suffering that led him personally out of affiliation with Christianity (though he still attends the occasional service and interacts productively with believers). As for me, I resent the continued implication from you (and others) that I and my extended family who are aware of and/or share my issues with certain brands of Mormonism should be ashamed of ourselves because we choose to remain affiliated (however loosely) with the faith tradition that has been an important part of our lives for the last 50+ years. Glenn Ostlund is not the only one who talks back, or the only one who finds something valuable in the relationships his lifelong association with Mormonism has allowed him to forge. Not everyone can be as independent as Glenn (or Bart Ehrman), though: many folks cling desperately to whatever community they have with as much blind trust and as little introspection as possible. Sure, some of them are lazy authoritarians who deserve nothing better than the roasting you love to give them (with Jesus to back you up, of course: does he ever tell you to refrain from calling people out as hypocrites, sight unseen?). Others are mental cases (like Jared was) or adolescents who find values they cannot give words to in being in an environment where they feel safe. Yes, Mormonism hurts others. It also helps some (including some members of my immediate family). My worldview is impoverished whenever I fail to see that.

          A final piece of advice: don’t hide behind Jesus to call me a liar and a Pharisee. Just don’t do that. I’m not doing the church any favors or trying to “save” it, or anything so grandiose. I am just trying to express my own spirituality as best I can with the cards (admittedly rather rotten sometimes) that a rather capricious fate (not to invoke Jesus again) has dealt me.

          • March 2, 2011 at 1:55 am

            I have appreciated this back and forth. Hermes, I applaud your convictions and admire the breadth of your views and how you have integrated the facets of your self and heritage. I strongly feel the importance of a Mormonism where more feel that they belong. For example, when I think about what members of the Church need/are ready for etc, I think about the fact we too often exclude those who are not fully active. Ugh, even the terminology makes me groan. Anyway, I very much appreciated your thoughts.

            Tim, I acknowledge that we don’t perfectly know ourselves and our own intentions, and that sometimes outside input can lead to insights we otherwise would not have. But you seem to be making an awful lot of presuppositions about my intentions and motivations.

            Your point about integrity is a critical one. One factor to bring into the question is that we constantly deal with opposing aspects of our personalities. To which are we loyal? Are you dishonest when you do not tell your spouse or boss every thought that flits through your mind? Those thoughts are *true* are they not, because you really have them? We constantly prioritize the truths and facts in our lives. I would hope that your love for your spouse or parent or child would cause you to mediate your identity. We do this all the time. The deep truth that we love others and want to maintain those relationships, or keep that job etc. causes us to nurture some aspects of ourselves while neglecting others.

            The categories “believer” and “unbeliever” are problematic and gray. So what is the standard? Whose definition do we use? I value Mormonism. I believe Joseph Smith was inspired, as is the Book of Mormon. I value my membership. So do I play “priesthood leader roulette” and submit to the interpretations of my Church leaders, even though they differ? I practice integrity to the deep truths that I feel worthy to be a member of the Church, go to the temple, be a member of this community. I share of myself in the way I feel will be true to those standards and help others as much as possible.

            You seem to be implying that I am a termite, that I am trying to destroy the Church from within. I agree that such people should not be in the Church, that there is not room for destroyers and double agents. But what are you basing this judgmental and offensive conclusion on? My goals are to build up the Church and the faith of members, not tear it down (though I am also very honest about its shortcomings; I think “tough love” is part of supporting the people and institutions we value). I value my honesty. I feel that my stance is an honest one as I strive to negotiate complex factors. One big reason I stay in the Church is I want to be a resource for members. My experiences and training have given me many tools. Am I a hypocrite for sometimes choosing a hammer, other times tweezers? Your comments reflect an unrealistic view of human nature. We constantly adapt ourselves to others, unless we are hopelessly narcissistic and unaware.

            I was honest in both temple recommend interviews and I have a temple recommend. I am grateful my priesthood leaders handled that well. But if I sense that my bishop would misinterpret personal conclusions and beliefs that I hold sacred, I reserve the right to translate my responses so that he will hear what I am truly saying–that I want to be a member of this community, that I feel peaceful and grateful for my relationship with the divine. When asked if I associate with those against the Church I said, “Yes, all the time. But I am on the Church’s team”. I would clarify here even further and say I am on God’s team. I try to be, as best as I understand that. I do not lie when I bear my testimony or teach. I say things that are true. I am agnostic about the reality corresponding to religion, but I very much believe in religion. I think that the only reality we can access is the benefits and experiences we have in religious and spiritual spheres. Am I a hypocrite when I speak more than one language?

            I appreciated what Hermes said about me not being Bart Ehrman (though I have learned much from him and hope to emulate him in quite a few ways). I tried to emphasize in my interview that I do not think there is one right answer, one ideal path. As I said, I am not trying to keep people in Mormonism; I just want to be a resource for those with reason to stay. I want to minimize the need for people to leave. I want to do what I can to make those who feel outside the box know they are not alone. At the same time, I can share my views with those who do not believe, who have chosen other paths. I want to be a resource for as many as possible, whatever their paths or destinations. I feel comfortable as part of this community, and in my interview I shared why. Who are you to say I should leave? Who are you to demand I deny my polyvalence and multifacetedness, saying I must be loyal to one trait or belief above all others? I reject your view that I must reduce myself to one dimension.

            Finally, I don’t feel I “got this off my chest” in doing this interview. I did not exult in people “knowing who I really am”, not in the way you mean. I was profoundly hesitant to do this interview. I wrestled with whether to do it before accepting, wondering if there was any way to do this right, without it being a lose-lose situation, where I trouble members and also have my academic integrity questioned. It weighed on me as I struggled to decide. Yes, sharing deeply of ourselves and being loved and appreciated is a powerful experience. I recommend it. I trust the Mormon Stories community with this much of myself. I accept the consequences, feel peace about my positions. I am hopeful that mostly good will come of this. I am willing to being accepted discipline if it comes to it (not that I feel that is necessary), but I will in the meantime do all I can to build up and serve this community I love. I want to maintain my legitimacy within the community because I can do more good there, while also contributing to society as a whole as as teacher and writer.

          • Tim
            March 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm

            Jared said: “I do not lie when I bear my testimony or teach. I say things that are true.”

            Yes Jared, you say things that are true. But you say them the way a passive-aggressive adolescent tells the truth. You may not be lying, but you aren’t being honest. You acknowledge that few if any know what you “really” mean. If people are unable to understand what you mean, and you are communicating that way intentionally, you are practicing deception. You use the truth but not in order to tell the truth.

            I’m not in the least saying that you should tell the Bishop his wife is fat. But it’s clear that there are things that your religious community wants to know about you and that you fear if they know the truth that it will bring harm to you. (see your response to Vin about telling the Stake Presidency). Being afraid of being authentically known in your community is a recipe for heartache particularly when you have to practice obfuscation. You’re harming yourself more than your community. If your community can’t love you despite the fact that you don’t fit into their box, you may have chosen the wrong community to align yourself with.

            Your postmodern justifications are cute, but transparent.

          • RG
            March 2, 2011 at 7:34 pm

            Jared is deceptive for couching his testimony in ways that not everyone understands the implications of his language, and Jesus is deceptive for couching his teachings in parables that “though hearing, they do not hear or understand”. Crucify them both!

          • Jeremy
            March 2, 2011 at 8:07 pm

            Tim, you sound an awful lot like a, “critic seeking a definition of “Mormonism” that [you] can use as a lever against the LDS church.”

  12. don't know mo
    March 1, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Jared,
    I haven’t read any of the other comments because I don’t want to be swayed to self edit my response to the podcast. My response to the to the first four segments was GRATITUDE…that you would be so generous with all the study and knowledge you have so passionately pursued. My response to the last portion is still gratitude but in a much more personal way. About 9 months ago, I was a TBM but with a fairly hefty “shelf” of things that didn’t make sense to me about the church. At that point, my second husband, and love of my life, and I had been working on getting clearance to be sealed for about seven years. As you are aware, this process can be frustrating and can feel abusive in its inconsistencies. This frustration led me to a Google search to see if I could gain any insight into the Temple clearance situation. The search inevitably led me to some hard truths about the items on my “shelf”. The search also led me to MormonStories, a community with which I felt a kinship, but no clear way to reconcile what to do with all my new-found knowledge and my activity in the church. Forgive me if I seem maudlin, but these last nine months have been a spiral into depression, anger, and feelings of betrayal in connection to the church. To top things off, last monday, my missionary son asked me to please post my testimony on Mormon.org. This event is the first time I will have to, it seems to me, either lie or “out” myself. The costs of either choice are extremely high to me personally. In the wake of my son’s request, I decided yet one more time to pray for some sort of tangible answer. I wanted to distill my question to God into one sentence and the best I could come up with was, ” is the LDS Church all it purports to be ?” To be honest, I was actually terrified that I WOULD receive some sort of spiritual manifestation in the affirmative because I’m so invested in being pissed off at the church. Anyway, nothing supernatural occurred, but I did find my way to your podcast today and your Temple clearance experience struck an undeniable resonance with me. As I listened intently to the rest of your personal story, I found, for the first time in so many months, a bright pathway of reconciliation with my church. So I’m open to God’s hand being in this. And I thank you for being willing to share these parts of yourself. It seemed that revealing these personal thoughts about your beliefs was done with some trepidation. I hope you find it was worth it. I, for one, am so grateful for this glimpse of peace.

    • March 1, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      This is Jared’s wife and I just had to respond to tell you how much your comment meant to me. I relate so much to your story and really feel for what you are going through. Our sealing clearance experience was the first time I had ever felt outside the box of typical Mormonism. The first time I realized how bureaucratic the Church is. The first time I had to wrestle with what it meant to question something the prophet had signed off on. It has most definitely challenged my faith. You are not alone.

      Jared definitely was hesitant to do this podcast and share his beliefs this publicly. I had concerns about it too. And I admit to feeling nervous as each new comment has been posted here. It just makes me so happy that you understood Jared’s good intentions and real love for others. Thank you for sharing your story with us and appreciating ours.

      • don't know mo
        March 1, 2011 at 10:08 pm

        =)

      • kia
        March 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm

        Thanks for your support of Jared doing this podcast. Im very impressed with his willingness to answer all the posts and engage in discussion. I dont think I have seen another guest on mormonstories so willing to respond to posts on this discussion board. Some here have given him a hard time but I appreciate his perspectives and knowledge. As one who stays in the church despite all the “stuff” I like hearing others voice why they remain in the church as well.

        • March 7, 2011 at 7:17 am

          Kia, I like how you addressed your comment to Katrina; that made me smile. I so value how the Mormon Stories community (and parallel movements) in their best aspects encourage us all to respect each other in our paths… but with you I appreciate when those of us who see all the problems as well as the good and decide to stay need to support each other!

    • March 2, 2011 at 1:20 am

      My friend,

      I pretty much teared up when I read this comment. I am so grateful it was of some help to you, lightened your burden, and helped you see your way forward. This one comment makes doing this podcast worth it. You are correct; I was very hesitant to go public with my beliefs. I am still a bit concerned people will come across it who would be hurt by it, or that it will have negative repercussions, but I feel peaceful about the decision. I have felt so fulfilled as I have shared of myself and my particular combination of traits, training, and experience have helped others. Seven years… wow. I am so sorry for the unnecessary hurt. One thing that has helped me is a kind of “enlightened self-centeredness”, where I know where I stand with myself and God despite outside opinions and circumstances. I pray you and your love can have that peace, savoring your choice relationship even without the cultural “Celestial stamp”.

      Please consider me and Katrina resources as you move forward.

      • don't know mo
        March 2, 2011 at 3:04 pm

        Jared and Katrina,
        Once again, thank you for your generous spirit.

  13. March 1, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    test

  14. Stan
    March 2, 2011 at 1:04 am

    I am on hour 4 and I am greatly enjoying what you have to say. Thank you so much for sharing!

  15. Vin
    March 2, 2011 at 1:11 am

    Jared and Katrina, I am a member of your ward and I am writing to let you know that I’m reporting your apostasy to the Bishop, the Stake President, and my uncle who is a member of the Seventy.

  16. Vin
    March 2, 2011 at 1:11 am

    ;-)

    • March 2, 2011 at 1:22 am

      So cruel Vin. :) The words jolted me for a second, even though I knew you were joking. But I don’t think there would ever be any grounds for Katrina to be disciplined, even if I were.

      • Samsnide
        March 3, 2011 at 3:10 am

        Hey Jared, I was just wondering what your views are on Joseph Smith’s translation of the New Testament. How does it stack up with the historical Jesus? Do you think that it is valid or does it create more questions than answers.

        • March 7, 2011 at 7:11 am

          Samsnide, I am reluctant in even using the term “Joseph Smith Translation”, which should clue you in on my views. I prefer to use “Inspired Revision”, since I think that is what it was. I think Joseph revised the Bible to bring it into conformity with his theology, clear up inconsistencies, etc. I don’t think there is much historical value to it, though I love the Book of Moses and other sections. JST Gen 9 is a neglected gem, for example. Let me know if that answers your question adequately. There is a scholar at BYU trying to match up the JST with wording from ancient manuscripts and I think that is a very misdirected project.

  17. mda
    March 2, 2011 at 8:22 am

    I just finished listening to the 5th segment and wanted to say that I really disagree with a couple of the previous commenters who seem to think that Jared is a condescending hypocrite. I read the comments before listening to the last section and was expecting something much different based on those few comments. Instead I felt that Jared was very sincere in telling his story and sharing his faith journey. He made it very clear that he loves and finds value in the Church. He seems to truly care about protecting the faith of all members and meeting them where they are. I certainly don’t think he seemed to be delighting in letting us all in on his “secret”. As he said himself in the podcast and the comments, sharing his story in this way was not something he did lightly. Jared, thank you for sharing your knowledge and your story and taking the time to clarify your positions more in the comments as well.

    • Anonymous
      March 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm

      I think Jared is as courageous as people who openly leave the church.

      Both are heroes to me, and I hate it when my heroes fight.

  18. Anonymous
    March 2, 2011 at 10:12 am

    After finally listening to the fifth – and most personal for Jared segment I must relay my gratitude to Jared for sharing so many personal details about his life. It was difficult to listen to how his step father abused him and his sister (or was it brother?), with handcuffs, etc. Made me cry a little. My mother went through a terrible, abusive childhood with a father who chased her into fields with a rifle, whipped her and her brother with coat hangers, etc. Stuff like that just breaks my heart! I have five children myself and the few times I have gotten rough with them has made me feel I am not really cut out to be a father, or maybe I wasn’t really meant to be one. But then I ask why do I have five kids? We even used birth control yet still got pregnant. I even had a vasectomy, yet my wife still got pregnant after that! I guess I shouldn’t share such personal details about myself (after all, I am not a guest on Mormon Stories) but Jared’s childhood really broke my heart and made me appreciate him even more. What touched me most in the last segment was that I need to be more loving and careful with my kids, and to show them how much I appreciate them. I never want to be considered a father to fear, but one to love.

    Also, I really wish the church were kinder to the divorced. I have some friends in that situation who all can sign the petition. They are treated like second class citizens, as singles are after a certain age. Very sad. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

    • March 7, 2011 at 6:55 am

      NightAvatar, I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this comment, because it really did touch me. I relate to what you are saying… I do feel I am a good father, and am so grateful for that gift. It has been very healing for me to have children who don’t flinch, who don’t have a reason to fear me. Even so, like you, I have those moments that I regret! Being more gentle and soft-spoken is a constant journey for me. My experiences in group therapy changed me forever, giving me a model of communication that I still share both in teaching and life in general. Hearing about abusive experiences breaks my heart as well. Thank you again for reaching out in this comment.

      I hope we see improvement regarding treatment of divorced and single members; there is far too much unnecessary hurt being inflicted.

  19. March 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I really appreciate your honesty, Jared, in the interview. It helped me to understand some of the historicity behind some belief systems, including Mormonism. Did I hear correctly that the writer of the Gospel of Luke did not believe in the Atonement of Christ? Opps, here again proving a pesky negative! Do you share that belief? If so, why belong to a Church that is named after Him?

    • March 7, 2011 at 6:21 am

      Glen, You can now listen to the full section on Luke, which was previously cut out… it is Part 3 starting about 14:45. From what we can tell, Luke did not want to emphasize Jesus’ death as Atonement. This is not proving a negative, as we can see how he edited Mark and how he portrays Jesus’ death. Acts 2:36-38 is a great summary of how returning to God works for the author of Luke-Acts… listeners hear about the terrible miscarriage of justice that was Jesus’ death, and they are pricked in their hearts and ask what they should do. Peter replies, Repent and return to God, be baptized and you will be forgiven. Luke not mentioning the Atonement anywhere would be negative evidence, if significant, but the fact he *removes* Mark’s references to the Atonement provide positive evidence for this view (compare Mark 10:45 and Luke 22:26; Luke takes out “gave his live as a ransom for many”).

      Your question is an excellent one. If I don’t believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ, why remain in a Church named after him? I love the idea of Jesus as Atoning Savior. I find aspects of it beautiful and powerful. I have written elsewhere that if Jesus really is my Savior, I will fall at his feet and worship him with gratitude when I find him. I am open to this being true, though I can also see how the entire idea of the Atonement is a historical accident, basically. I think the real issue is how we are transformed into our best natures, how we tap into the divinity within us to become like God. So the short answer to your question is that I find the symbol of Jesus to be very valuable, even if this idea does not correspond exactly to reality. Also, Mormonism appeals to me for many reasons and I would not leave just because I don’t agree with a particular doctrine, even one as central as this.

      • Anonymous
        March 10, 2011 at 8:56 am

        I just want to thank you for taking the time to answer Glen’s (naive, slightly immature and even confrontational?) questions. You show great patience that many (including myself) would not have responding to comments dripping with condescension and even derision – which are really answered already in so many books on the subject! (If Glen would only take the time to read for himself.) Bart Ehrman’s books are great and explain all the questions Glen has asked.

        What puzzles me is why Glen is so invested in his (or rather, the LDS church’s) version of Jesus being the One True And Historically Correct version? He claims the “facts” support that version and discounts anything else as “proving pesky negatives” and even challenges your explanations with such condescending language as:

        “Isn’t that a vast jump to an unwarranted conclusion? Why does one, lead to another? What evidence? The evidence as you have shown is very minimal at best, and lacking at worst. What evidence would you need to come to the conclusion that He was born in Bethlehem? Aren’t you making the assumption that the writers of the Gospels and the Letters of Paul were all duplicitous? To me you make assumptions and then like a lot of religionists look for evidence to prove those assumptions. To me, your historical Jesus, is just another religion. I believe you are mistaken if you call this science and isn’t it even a stretch to call it history? ”

        Totally disrespectful to you, but you respond so politely and lovingly. I can only applaud you and hope to one day be able to handle such belligerence with as much care and love.

        Even though I know the answers to his questions (especially regarding the birth narrative) I would appreciate if you could explain (for his sake, and the sake of others who might share his ignorance on the subject) in greater detail why Luke’s narrative is implausible (the so-called “census”) and why we can safely conclude that Bethlehem is not a realistic alternative for his birthplace.

        As for Glen’s question regarding Jesus claiming he was the son of god, Glen attempts to use a quote from Mark (“ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven”), which I vaguely recall Dr. Ehrman explaining in one of his books (Jesus: Apocalyptic prophet?) as Jesus referencing a second person, not himself. Could you clarify or refresh my memory? And give more examples of this, since I don’t think Glen has yet grasped the historical background for why scholars believe that Jesus did not claim to be god.

        Thanks! :)

        • March 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm

          NightAvatar,

          Thank you for this kind message; it meant a lot to me. Both affirming and perhaps even… soothing. :) Though I honestly don’t mind confrontational comments because they give me a chance to clarify points and hone my own thinking and ability to communicate. Glen’s questions have been great (if his tone leaves something to be desired) because he is probing for evidence and pushing at the weaknesses of the methodology–all admirable things. To be fair to his position I don’t think he feels the evidence supports his position, but rather the weakness of the evidence allows room for his beliefs, which is EXACTLY what I said was the apologetic and academically irresponsible way to go. The irony is that he does not even need to take such a position to retain belief… you can accept all the historical details and just conclude (or rather, choose to believe) that Jesus was really the Son of God but didn’t teach that clearly during his life, that believers only came to understand his identity after his death, but that he really is the eternal Lord and Savior of us all. Now, the straight up naturalistic explanation is also very persuasive, but there is room to choose to believe. You can always use that wide and sloppy brush Providence–that these ideas developed because God was leading people to greater truth as they tried to explain WTF just happened when their Messiah died.

          I will answer your wonderful historical questions later. I wanted to quickly tell a story–as a teacher I am very patient and delight to explain and clarify, but I have also seen a master at work. You might not guess this from his hard-hitting debate-style books, but Bart Ehrman deals with confrontation extraodrinarily. Glen only attacked the hsitorical method–I have seen Ehrman attacked personally (with rhetoric like “you are a sellout, you are going to hell, etc) and he ignored all the vituperation and responded only to the salient point (“I am sorry that you did not understand this or that I was unclear; let me explain”). All I can say is “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of [Science and Academia] will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent…” ;)

          • Anonymous
            March 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm

            Awesome post. Thanks for sharing that great anecdote about Dr. Ehrman. It does in fact surprise me a bit since he seems so to-the-point in his books. Glad to hear he is a good diplomat as well. I sure could use some of those skills. ;)

          • March 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

            I accidentally wrote my own nuanced views. I meant I don’t think Glen believes the “facts prove” his views….. It is clear he sees plenty of evidence for them.

    • March 7, 2011 at 11:08 pm

      Glen asked some other questions on the Mormon Stories Community Facebook group, so I thought I would post my response here as well as address the issue of “proving a negative”.

      Glen,

      Since you keep bringing up the idea of “negatives” in history, I wanted to distinguish these three ideas: Using negative evidence, Proving a negative, and Arguing a negative.

      Proving a negative: This can’t be done obviously; we cannot say for SURE that just because we don’t have evidence for something, it did not happen or exist. But I would again highlight the fallacy of implying “all the evidence we DON’T have agrees with us.” All we can do is use all available evidence to construct the most plausible stories about the past (or theories about the present etc) and constantly revise those narratives in light of new evidence and insights.

      Using negative evidence (argument from silence): You are correct that we need to be very careful about using silence as evidence. This is often done with the hypothetical source of Matthew and Luke for example, “Q”. So for example arguing that because there is no evidence of Atonement theology there was no narrative of Jesus death is flawed. Scholars argued that John could not have been written in Palestine because there was no evidence for dualistic thought as found in John, then the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered which uses similar language. So again, we can just construct the best theories we can, while remaining open to additional evidence and aware of the tentativeness of our conclusions.

      Arguing a negative. Now this CAN be done. “Matthew didn’t write the gospel” or “Jesus did not claim to be God” is shorthand for saying that we can reconstruct with some reliability the process that resulted in the idea that Jesus claimed to be God or Matthew wrote the first gospel. So it is not proving a negative, but rather explaining that the reality is not as we believe, because we can both explain the history of that belief and reconstruct a more plausible situation with the evidence we have. So saying “Jesus was not really as he is portrayed in John” is not proving a negative, but privileging the portrayal of Jesus in Mark, which is plausible and fits into the historical situation very well. Let’s look at the reasons for Jesus’ death as an example. Mark says that he protested in the temple, the priests in charge of the temple got mad, Judas helped the leaders have reason to get Jesus in trouble, the priests told Pilate Jesus was a troublemaker, and Pilate had him crucified. This narrative is plausible, fits the “criterion of embarrassment” (the fact one of Jesus’ close disciples betrayed him without his foreknowledge), and fits into the historical context very well.

      In John, Jesus is put to death because he raises Lazarus from the dead and all the Jewish leaders freak out because they worry that everyone in Judea will convert to be followers of Jesus. Not only is this not plausible historically (I am not even passing judgment on the miracle); this tradition can easily be explained as theological development of the kinds of traditions found in Mark. So saying “Jesus was not put to death for raising Lazarus” is another way of saying “the circumstances leading up to Jesus’ death in Mark are far more plausible than those in John, therefore that portrayal should be accepted as historical rather than John’s.

      Glen asked me to clarify my point about Jesus likely being born in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem:

      Ok, here is how the evidence works for Jesus being born in Nazareth.

      We know with a high level of certainty that Jesus lived in Nazareth. All the criteria converge here—multiple independent sources say he came from Nazareth; no one knows about Nazareth otherwise so there is no reason to invent the tradition; this fits. John 1: even references a tradition where it seemed an embarrassment that Jesus came from Nazareth. So we can move forward with “Jesus of Nazareth” (the rest of the song, “Savior and King” is harder…)

      Bethlehem is more problematic. The main factors involved are prophesy and contradictory accounts. Micah 5:2 predicts the Davidic Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, so that explains how Matthew and Luke would have place Jesus’ birth there even were it not accurate. Most significantly, Matthew and Luke jump through differnet hoops to get baby Jesus to Bethlehem. In Matthew, Mary and Joseph live in Judea. They escape to Egypt, are about to go back but it is still dangerous (Herod the Great is dead but his sons rule) and so they go up to Nazareth, where it implies they never had been.

      In Luke, on the other hand, Joseph and Mary live in Nazareth from the get-go. They have to go down to great^25 grand daddy’s home town for the census, she has her baby down there, then they return home to Nazareth.

      So given the evidence, the most probable solution is that Jesus was born in Nazareth and Matthew and Luke both came up with different ways to get Jesus’ birth down to Bethlehem because of the scripture in Micah.

      Ok, get ready for a helping of “we don’t knows”.

      I don’t think anyone really knew anything about Jesus before his ministry… as far as records go. He was known to his tiny hamlet of Nazareth, but that was pretty much it. Our gospels are our best sources for Jesus, and they don’t say anything about these years. There are some entertaining apocryphal accounts such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, but they don’t add anything historically. I personally don’t think anyone recorded information about Jesus before his ministry—he just wasn’t enough of a big deal. So later legends filled in the gaps.

      Wow, where do you get the idea Joseph of Arimathea was his uncle? That is a later legend for sure, and I don’t think it has any legitimacy.

      I think it is most likely that Jesus was married. I think it is possible that Jesus was celibate during his ministry, but he would have been married years before that ministry started. We don’t know why a wife was not mentioned, but the importance of marriage in Jewish culture and Jesus’ observance of the Law, combined with his high view of marriage, all suggest that he himself had a wife. Who she was remains a fascinating but unanswerable question. I think that the narrative in John 20 portrays Jesus and Mary Magdalene as husband and wife, whatever their historical relationship was. Normal ages of marriage also suggest Jesus would have been married: “In Egypt girls were married between the ages of twelve and fourteen, and young men between fourteen and twenty. In Greece girls were usually between fourteen and twenty, and men usually between twenty and thirty. In Rome, at the time of Augustus, the legal minimum age for girls was twelve and for boys fourteen. The Talmud recommends marriage for girls at the age of puberty, which would be twelve or thirteen (Yebam. 62b). Males are encouraged to marry between fourteen and eighteen.” (Anchor Bible Dictionary). So I think Jesus most likely was married, could have been to Mary Magdalene (that is plausible).

      The idea Mary Magdalene was an apostle comes from the fact *she* is the one in all our accounts of Jesus’ burial and the visit to the tomb. She has been called “apostle to the apostles” (apostle means “one sent forth”)

      • March 8, 2011 at 11:45 pm

        Before replying, I wanted to listen to the section on Luke so I could make it a thoughtful one. Let’s start with “proving a negative”. Let’s see if I understand you correctly:

        You agree that you one can’t prove a negative, well at least for most things. Obviously there are some things that have a limited number of states so if you can disprove all the states except for one, then you have proven the obvious. One example: A patient comes to the hospital with massive head injuries and there is no brain activity. One could say that his physical body is dead, or he is NOT alive. By showing with objective measures that he is not alive you have shown that he is dead.

        You are saying we have to be careful making conclusions from silence. History is full of silences for a number of different reasons. Hypothesizing those reasons can be a “slippery slope” and can lead us to wrong conclusions.

        You are saying, however, in some cases like a negative “Jesus never claimed to be God” we can infer that with some reliability because we can see the thinking and the origin of the claim that he was God can used to prove the negative. A historian has to take the most plausible, and simplest explanation given the facts.

        The cafeteria of embarrassment is a reason to believe one explanation over another. That is something that is not “history enhancing” to one’s image that is nonetheless stated in the record can be more reliable than those things that are not.

        I hope I have understood you correctly. Let me first start by saying that saying that “Jesus never said he was God” is still unprovable unless you have all the sayings of Jesus. Do you? If not, then this is a negative with too many options and you will have a very tough time proving it. You say the Mark is the earliest Gospel and most reliable, and in Mark where He is questioned by the High Priest asking “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed”, and He says, “I am,; and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” to me is strong evidence that He not only knew who he was (God) but that the high priest knew it as well as he called it “blasphemy”.

        You make the statement, and I think this reflects the difference between scientists and historians, “We know with a high level of certainty that Jesus lived in Nazareth”, but then you go on and state “Mathew and Luke jump through hoops to show through different hoops to get baby Jesus to Bethlehem.” How do you know they “jumped through hoops”? The statement “So given the evidence, the most probable solution is that Jesus was born in Nazareth and Matthew and Luke both came up with different ways to get Jesus’ birth down to Bethlehem because of the scripture in Micah.” Isn’t that a vast jump to an unwarranted conclusion? Why does one, lead to another? What evidence? The evidence as you have shown is very minimal at best, and lacking at worst. What evidence would you need to come to the conclusion that He was born in Bethlehem? Aren’t you making the assumption that the writers of the Gospels and the Letters of Paul were all duplicitous? To me you make assumptions and then like a lot of religionists look for evidence to prove those assumptions. To me, your historical Jesus, is just another religion. I believe you are mistaken if you call this science and isn’t it even a stretch to call it history?

        Some of the other “evidences” that you talk about is the records that show differences in regards to the atonement where one manuscript espoused it and other’s didn’t prove that it was a scribe’s addition? Again, unless you have all the documents that the chain of writers have, you can’t even make that assumption even if one is older than another. If that is science, then it is even softer than the social sciences.

        Maybe it is just me, and I need a harder methodology based on facts and less on speculation. I enjoy a good story but there are a lot of contradictory ones out there. The Gospel of Christ is unreasonable, as is the atonement but then so are some discoveries in quantum physics. Dismissing all quantum physics findings because they don’t necessarily fit in a Newtonian world, can work for the most part, because we live in a world where most interactions are Newtonian in nature. You get away with it for a while but eventually when time ends, it will come back to haunt you, and I can say also that is true for the Gospel of Christ (God came down and gave Himself for us). Without those two concepts, you have not Christ, nor his Gospel. ;-)

        • March 9, 2011 at 12:02 am

          Glen, if you have clay (humanities) to work with, there is no use complaining it is not granite (science). But even clay theories can disprove the Sunday School answers. And we DO have sayings of Jesus where Jesus claims to be God. We can just argue persuasively they are not historically accurate.

          • March 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

            In the process of research it is imperative not to confuse, to use your simile, clay as granite and visa versa. To jump to conclusions, as which appears has happened in the research you have outlined, seems to do a disservice to both clay and granite (humanities and science). What is irresponsible is jumping down the rabbit hole based on speculation and guesses, and I would add blind faith as you have so aptly pointed out, although we all do it from time to time! My amazement comes from the conclusions you make based on the evidence. It appears to me as blind faith. I don’t care if you are trying to diminish faith or not. If the facts lead you to your conclusions, then more power to you. However, to come to the conclusion that Jesus was just a man, as it appears you have done with your research, seems a bit premature given the facts.

          • March 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

            Glen,

            It absolutely staggers me that you call the best application of the scientific method to humanities “blind faith.” I would prefer to use the term “evidence” rather than “facts”. We cannot even say it was a *fact* that Jesus existed; we can only say the evidence renders that conclusion near certain. Get used to this squishy ground; it is all we have. There are no repeatable experiments in historiography.

            On what basis do you accept Jesus as God? I assume most historical figures are human until proven otherwise. Do you accept the Roman emperors as divine? Alexander the Great? The Egyptian Pharaoh? Do you accept Pontias Pilate as a Christian Saint, with the Ethiopian Church? Do you accept the Ethiopan King Haile Selassie I as the incarnation of Jesus with the Rastafarians? Or David Koresh as the Messiah? What are your criteria for accepting some later traditions but not others?

            You are accepting the portrayal of Jesus in John. Then how do you explain his portrayal in Mark? If you read closely, it is clear that in Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus is portrayed as a human being (“Son of God” was actually a term for a human in Judaism, such as a prophet, priest, or king; “Messiah” meant God’s chosen, though it later came to be understood as a divine figure…. One issue is that we have no pre-Christian traditions that said the Messiah would die!!). In addition, evidence suggests that Mark was written first, then Matthew and Luke who used Mark, and then John last, probably independently. For example, compare the vague prophesy of the temple’s destruction in Mark 13:2 with the very specific description in Luke 19:43-44 and Matthew 22:7. Matthew and Luke seem to know about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70, whereas Mark does not. This suggests the final form of Mark was before the temple was destroyed, while Mark and Luke were after. We also know Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source which also puts them later. Further, the idea that Jews were kicked out of the synagogue as described in John 9:22 does not fit Jesus’ lifetime (you could accept as Messiah whomever you wished), but does fit the conditions at the end of the century.

            So once again, here is how the argument goes. We have portrayals of Jesus BOTH as human and divine—human in our earliest gospels and divine in our latest. And this situation played out for centuries—the Jewish Christians believed that Jesus was a human prophet, most chosen of God to be a sacrifice for sin (we have their writings), Marcionites and Gnostics believed that Jesus was ONLY divine and not human, that he only “appeared” to die, and the position that became orthodox seems to be a compromise between these opposing positions. If we assume that Jesus is human, we can see the traditions that he was divine as part of a logical historical process… he died as a human, and then his followers immediately searched their scriptures to understand what happened (See Luke 24:27 and 1 Corinthians 15:4… “according to the scriptures” was the earliest efforts of Jesus’ disciples to explain that Jesus’ death was according to the plan of God, rather than frustrating it). Part of this scriptural linking was applying scriptures that spoke of Yahweh to Jesus, as well as traditions about Divine Wisdom. These were key in understanding Jesus as Divine. So if Jesus was first understood as human it is very easy to see how he was believed to be divine, but if Jesus was first understood as divine, how do we explain the traditions that describe him as human? Now, I am open to Jesus being divine, people not understanding that at first, and then coming to the inspired understanding that he really is God. But that is faith, not history. And by the way, never once have I said Jesus was human, not God. I said the evidence suggests that he did not *claim* to be God during his lifetime, and that he was first understood to be human and later traditions portrayed him as God. There is an important distinction. I have reasons to doubt the theology, but those are more philosophical and theological than historical.

            You can’t just dismiss this evidence without engaging with it. One of my physicist friends remarked that my explanation that history is about coming up with a theory that best explains all evidence as simply as possible with the least number of contradictions describes the scientific method. Again, welcome to the scientific method applied to history. I imagine the readers appreciate your questions that require me to lay out the evidence as clearly as possible. Again, I applaud your questioning and push for evidence; I just reject your labeling of the method as blind faith and jumping to conclusions.

          • March 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm

            Jared, hearing no response about a simpler and less controversial topic, “Who wrote Matthew?”, let’s take a look at the question did, according to the record, Jesus claimed to be GOD? Let’s define our terms:

            GOD – the entity that “in the beginning” whom created everything, and has all power, and knowledge

            Jesus – a Jewish man and teacher born around 5 BCE and died about 30 CE from which came the Christianity

            “from which” – whose teachings as recorded in the ancient text became the basis of the Christianity

            “ancient text” – text written before the Council of Nicene (325 CE)

            Evidence – conclusions based on a logical explanation and organization of the facts

            fact – a representation of a thing/event/person as it is for which there is no logical dispute

            faith – a belief in a thing not yet proved or readily accepted

            blind faith – a belief in a thing not yet proven, but without need for any evidence nor acceptable to change even given the facts

            If we start with a hypothesis that Jesus claimed to be GOD, as mentioned before proving a negative is problematic, then what factual based evidence do you see for/against this premise?

            You state (forgive me for summarizing):

            Evidence based on ancient record confirms that Jesus existed. He would have to exist before claiming to be God.

            You asked me for what led me to believe that Jesus is God. If we are to approach the historical Jesus, it shouldn’t matter except as filter for biases. Perhaps we can say if either of us change our position then we know that it wasn’t “blind faith” that led us to our conclusions. However, given the evidence that you provided against the hypothesis, to me it seems that way. However, I think both of us are reasonable, and that is why I questioned the evidence that you provided. Let me start the process.

            Here might be one evidence showing Jesus said he was divine:

            You mentioned that Mark is the earliest text and is very different from Luke and the other Gospels in that its portrayal of the divinity of Jesus to be less clear than the others. You are the historian here and I am not, nor do I know Greek/Hebrew, so you are going to have to help me out. When the high priest asked Jesus “Are thou the Christ, the son of the Blessed”? Was he asking if Jesus was divine? And when Jesus answered, do you think that he was answering that he was just a man when he said “I am”? If so, then why would the high priest call it blasphemy? By the way, is this in the ancient text? What is the earliest document that shows this conversation? (Mark 14:61-64)

            You said that the Gospel of John might have been written by Mary. From which ancient textual evidence do you base that upon? If it is so, and you admit that John’s account affirms that Jesus was God (you do, don’t you?), and that Mary personally knew Jesus then wouldn’t someone that walked with Jesus (and might have even been his spouse), at least who was a primary witness, and, as you mentioned, the first to see the resurrected Jesus (by the way how reliable is the record in that regard) not be as reliable as any other text?

            One last question, do you think there is any text in the New Testament of the Bible that was written by whom it claims?

            Thanks for you time and patience,
            Glen

          • March 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm

            Glen, replying to you is high on my list of priorities; I just have not gotten to it yet. :)

          • March 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm

            No problem, take your time. I’m patient. ;-)

          • April 11, 2011 at 1:04 am

            Glen,

            Ok, I have time to answer your questions. Defining terms is important; let me respond to a few of these first.

            God: Well, definitions of God differ radically but we will accept yours for the sake of argument. I guess this isn’t standard Mormonism since in Mormonism God didn’t create everything. : ) Everything else looks good.

            I am confused by your double standard here Glen. What game are you playing? You push me at every point for evidence for my views but then when I ask you for YOUR evidence you say it “shouldn’t matter”? Evidence is everything! I want to know what leads you to conclude *historically* that Jesus was God. And again, I feel the burden of proof falls on any one arguing an individual was divine, since by default we should assume people are mortal until proven otherwise (apart from philosophical discussions about “the divine” in all of us.) I think the assumption that Jesus was human is far more “reasonable” than arguments that he was divine. That is like saying the view that Elvis appears to people post mortem is as “reasonable” as the belief he has remained happy in his grave since 1977. The fact that people believe in something is not evidence for its reality.

            Ok, now we are on more solid ground with a textual example. So first, “divine” and “God” are not the same. There were differing levels of divinity. So angels are in some way divine but not God himself. When the High Priest asks him if Jesus is the Messiah and Son of the Blessed one he is not asking whether he is *God* but yes, being the Messiah Son of God would entail a level of divinity at this point (but not necessarily, Simeon bar Kokhba was declared the Messiah but not considered divine).

            Asking about blasphemy is a very good approach. Here is where it gets a bit complicated. *Mark* did consider Jesus divine, as did many Christians even earlier than Paul. Not GOD, but divine in some way, having a special relationship with God (this is an important distinction; Christians debated for hundreds of years about in what ways Jesus was God, what was the relationship between Jesus and God etc.). Many scholars think that this entire trial was invented, patterned after a shorter trial before Pilate.

            Interesting you ask about the earliest text. “I am” is actually not in all our texts; some manuscripts read “you say”; Matthew and Luke also have this. So to restate, Mark is our earliest account of this story, but some manuscripts have “you say” instead of “I am”, and the “you say” reading could be the earliest.

            I did not say that the Gospel of John might have been written by Mary. I said that the *authority* behind the Gospel of John might go back to Mary Magdalene. There were multiple layers of tradition behind the Gospel of John that spread across decades. By the final form of John, Jesus is unquestionably seen as divine. The Johannine Jesus can’t stop talking about how divine he is.

            So, John appeals to “one who saw and testified” (John 19:35, which already demonstrates that the “one who saw” is *different* than the editor writing the final form). The most compelling argument is John 13:25-26a: Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother…” If you took out the “woman behold your son” you would assume that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” was one of the women by the cross, which would suggest Mary Magdalene. But even if this were the case, there were decades of development after her initial testimony for theology to develop.

            Glen, I understand it is challenging to unweave all these strands and keep them straight. That is why scholarly books on the Bible are hundreds of pages of dense arguments! But we have to put aside Christian presuppositions and use our detective work and seek to determine how traditions developed, what is most likely to have happened, etc.

            So here is how a NT historian would explain Jesus being called God:

            1) The man Jesus acted as a prophet and most likely taught that he was the Messiah.
            2) He died, much to the shock of his followers
            3) His followers then searched their scriptures to figure out why Jesus had to die.
            4) In this process Jesus was connected with “Lord” passages as well as “Divine Wisdom”. (See Mark 12:36, Matthew 22:44, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:34, which all quote Psalm 110:1, which all say David said “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand.”)
            5) So through reading Jesus into the Jewish scriptures and reflection in worship, Christians came to the understanding that Jesus was divine, even though he did not say or teach this himself during his ministry.
            6) As time goes on Jesus is portrayed as more dramatically divine.

            In order to argue that Jesus really did claim to be God, you need to come up with a more plausible reconstruction than this. You can’t just cling to what you believe or want to believe, not when we are playing the history game.

            Yes, virtually all scholars agree that Paul really wrote 7 letters: 1 Thessalonians, 1-2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, Galatians, and Romans. So those were really written by the person it claims. But then other letters say they were written by Paul but weren’t.

            Someone named John wrote Revelation, but it was not necessarily John the son of Zebedee.

          • March 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm

            Yes, at the end of the day, historiography is nothing but story telling, albeit the most careful, responsible story telling possible. But no matter what your position, you need to fit all evidence into your story, rather than privileging one portrayal because it is the one with which you are most familiar. One key to history is to put all presuppositions aside, and tell a story that fits into the historical context as best we understand it and most importantly, takes into account all the pieces.

          • March 10, 2011 at 10:49 pm

            That is one thing we can agree that historiography is story telling. And another is we must be responsible when telling that story as possible, and I agree we need to be open minded when new facts arise to adjust one’s world view. If you admit there are very limited facts from which you based your story, then how can you say you must put all presuppositions and tell a story that fits into the historical context? I would rather not hear a story, but hear “from a historical prospective, we don’t know”. There are fabulous stories about how Jesus traveled to India, and England and how He preached to them during His “the missing years”, but as you mentioned not too much written historical evidence to back it up.

            You and others must forgive me for “dripping with condescension and even derision” as I have been taught to “question authority”. My intentions are to understand the evidence based on the facts from a Bible historian authority like yourself. Jared, I hold you in high respect, or I wouldn’t engage.

            Let’s start with something simple. The law of parsimony in science is followed when “selecting the competing hypothesis that makes the fewest new assumptions, when the hypotheses are equal in other respects.” Let’s take just one statement from your podcast. You mentioned that Matthew probably wasn’t the writer of the Gospel of Matthew. To avoid proving a negative, let’s form a hypothesis based on the law of parsimony, that the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Would you review the list of evidences for and against that hypothesis? Of course we would have to define our terms? What does it mean to write? Which translation/version of Gospel of Matthew are you referring? This requires some detail, but given your definition of the terms, would you be so kind as to list those evidences?

          • April 11, 2011 at 4:59 am

            Glen, I have an even more parsimonious proposal for you: Let’s accept that the First Gospel is anonymous, since it never states who the author is.

            On the basis of internal evidence, what can we know about this unknown writer?

            *The Gospel was written in Greek
            *The author’s primary source was in Greek (the Gospel of Mark)
            *The author was Jewish (Why else would he add “or the Sabbath” to Mark’s “pray your flight not be in winter”?); overall the gospel presupposes a high degree of obedience to the Jewish law (more than Mark does)

            External Evidence

            *Our earliest manuscripts with “According to Matthew” are from the 300s (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) but that is surely do to the historical accident that all our earlier copies of Matthew are fragmentary, missing the beginning (it would makes sense that Papyrus 45 (from the first half of the 3rd century) would have had the title, as it contains portions of the four gospels and Acts. Papyrus 66 and 75 (both from around 200) contain the title of the Gospel of John, for example.
            *No one calls this gospel “The Gospel of Matthew” until Irenaeus in about 180… that is a LONG time after the gospel was written (about 100 years!).
            *A key piece of evidence is a quote preserved in the writings of Eusebius, who wrote in around the 320s and quotes earlier sources.
            *As quoted by Eusebius in Hist. Eccl. 3.39, Papias states: “Matthew put together the sayings [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.”
            *In Adv. Haer. 3.1.1, Irenaeus says: “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church.” We know that Irenaeus had read Papias, and it is most likely that Irenaeus was guided by the statement he found there. That statement in Papias itself is considered to be unfounded because the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek and relied largely upon Mark, not the author’s first-hand experience.

            http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/matthew.html

            FOR

            *There is the tradition that Matthew wrote the sayings of Jesus, and this was later connected to the First Gospel

            AGAINST

            *It is highly unlikely that an eye witness would use a later, non-eyewitness source (Mark)
            *There is no indication Matthew was written in Aramaic, which weakens the tradition
            *The situation presupposed in Matthew best fits 2nd generation Christianity, not the first.
            *The attribution to Matthew can be understood as part of a process where all the gospels are read together and the identity of the authors is guessed at. So Matt. 9:9 calls the tax collector “Matthew” while Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 have “Levi”, so later Christians could have thought because “Matthew” knew Levi’s “real name” he must be the author.
            *Most scholars date Papias to about 135, which would mean he could have been familiar with the gospel title, weakening the value of his already not too helpful tradition

            If we want to give weight to the tradition, a plausible middle ground position is that the disciple Matthew had some role in collecting sayings of Jesus, and that this saying material was incorporated into the Gospel of Matthew (but as far as we can tell Matthew’s saying sources were also in Greek, so this process would have to be several steps earlier than the gospel as we have it).

            On the basis of this evidence, it is extremely unlikely that Matthew wrote the First Gospel.

          • April 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm

            Thanks for your thoughtful reply and the time you took to go through my concerns.

            You wrote:

            > Glen, I have an even more parsimonious proposal for you: Let’s accept that the
            > First Gospel is anonymous, since it never states who the author is.

            You are the historian and I am not studied in these areas, and want to learn more. However, from a parsimonistic view, I can’t accept that premise without more evidence. The book has been labeled as “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” and to assume that a translator would do that without some history or tradition especially with a holy religious text where there is no apparent reason, for at least me, seems less than logical.

            > On the basis of internal evidence, what can we know about this unknown writer?

            > *The Gospel was written in Greek
            > *The author’s primary source was in Greek (the Gospel of Mark)
            > *The author was Jewish (Why else would he add “or the Sabbath” to Mark’s “pray
            > your flight not be in winter”?); overall the gospel presupposes a high degree
            > of obedience to the Jewish law (more than Mark does)

            The above statement contains only conclusions which leads to a number of questions:

            How do we know that the Gospel Matthew was originally written in Greek?
            Do we know if Matthew knew Greek? Latin?
            Wasn’t he a tax collector from Capernaum and probably knew a number of languages?
            Are you making this conclusion based solely on the oldest historical document?
            How do you know Matthew’s writer primary source was the Gospel of Mark?
            Doesn’t your third conclusion “the author was Jewish” assume your previous premise?

            > *Our earliest manuscripts with “According to Matthew” are from the 300s
            > (Vaticanus and Sinaiticus) but that is surely do to the historical accident
            > that all our earlier copies of Matthew are fragmentary, missing the beginning
            > (it would makes sense that Papyrus 45 (from the first half of the 3rd century)
            > would have had the title, as it contains portions of the four gospels and Acts.
            > Papyrus 66 and 75 (both from around 200) contain the title of the Gospel of
            > John, for example.

            OK. That answer some of the above questions, however, I think these evidences do not show that Matthew didn’t write it. Again, proving a negative is problematic. To be an effective argument it has to show that the Gospel was written after Matthew died, or showing who the author was other than Matthew.

            > *No one calls this gospel “The Gospel of Matthew” until Irenaeus in about
            > 180… that is a LONG time after the gospel was written (about 100 years!).

            “No one”? Again a pesky negative. No one, that the records show. For those who have diaries, do they all write on the cover that is a diary about so and so? Any document that doesn’t have the title on it can not by itself be sufficient evidence that the person who traditionally assumed to have written it, didn’t.

            > *A key piece of evidence is a quote preserved in the writings of Eusebius, who
            > wrote in around the 320s and quotes earlier sources.
            > *As quoted by Eusebius in Hist. Eccl. 3.39, Papias states:
            > “Matthew put together the sayings [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and
            > each one interpreted them as best he could.”

            So that is basically saying that we have none of the original documents. Doesn’t that discredit any premise based upon evidence from of any of the earliest documents?

            > *In Adv. Haer. 3.1.1, Irenaeus says: “Matthew also issued a written Gospel
            > among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at
            > Rome and laying the foundations of the church.” We know that Irenaeus had
            > read Papias, and it is most likely that Irenaeus was guided by the statement
            > he found there. That statement in Papias itself is considered to be unfounded
            > because the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek and relied largely upon
            > Mark, not the author’s first-hand experience.

            To dismiss Papias’s statement out of hand seems to me to be as problematic as looking at the earliest documents and thinking they are the originals. It has been shown that humans when presented with sparse data usually create patterns where none exist. This is based on psychological experiments and I have replicated that experiment with my own experiment. My understanding, given how limited the data is here, it appears a lot of your conclusions seem to fit this phenomenon very well by providing patterns where none exist. I am very suspicious of any “science” that instead of saying “I dunno” or a “the evidence is very sparse” states a conclusion like it is a fact.

            > *There is the tradition that Matthew wrote the sayings of Jesus, and this was
            > later connected to the First Gospel

            And again, my argument would be why would a Church Father historian or a translator change the document, a document that equates lying as a damnable sin, unless there was good reason to do so.

            > AGAINST

            > *It is highly unlikely that an eye witness would use a later,
            > non-eyewitness source (Mark)

            Can you be more specific here? How do you know that the writer used Mark as a source?

            > *There is no indication Matthew was written in Aramaic, which weakens the
            > tradition

            Yes, but Matthew probably, as a tax collector, knew Greek as it was the language of commerce in his day.

            > *The situation presupposed in Matthew best fits 2nd generation Christianity,
            > not the first.

            Again, a conclusion without supporting facts. Why did you come to that conclusion?

            > *The attribution to Matthew can be understood as part of a process where all
            > the gospels are read together and the identity of the authors is guessed at.
            > So Matt. 9:9 calls the tax collector “Matthew” while Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27
            > have “Levi”, so later Christians could have thought because “Matthew”
            > knew Levi’s “real name” he must be the author.

            I don’t understand the logic here. You are making an argument based on a supposition that seems to me to be superfluous as best. Didn’t “reading them together” come later in history? Were there any canonical books at the time we are talking about? And weren’t there many more identified holy texts at that time that makes for coherent reading next to impossible? The Gospel of Thomas and the Childhood Gospels, along with a lot of other writings come to mind.

            > *Most scholars date Papias to about 135, which would mean he could have
            > been familiar with the gospel title, weakening the value of his already
            > not too helpful tradition

            OK. Why does one lead to another? Isn’t that sufficient reasoning in support of the conclusion that Matthew wrote the text?

            > If we want to give weight to the tradition, a plausible middle ground position
            > is that the disciple Matthew had some role in collecting sayings of Jesus, and
            > that this saying material was incorporated into the Gospel of Matthew (but
            > as far as we can tell Matthew’s saying sources were also in Greek, so this
            > process would have to be several steps earlier than the gospel as we have it).

            > Again

            > On the basis of this evidence, it is extremely unlikely that Matthew wrote
            > the First Gospel.

            You had to make a lot of less than parsimonious suppositions to get to that conclusion. I don’t see them. Again, I plead ignorance, but given what you given me I don’t see how you get from your evidence to the conclusion. I am open to being educated, but your pesky negative conclusion that Matthew didn’t write the Gospel of Matthew is not very satisfying nor convincing from a scientific standpoint.

            From your other post:

            > God: Well, definitions of God differ radically but we will accept yours for
            > the sake of argument. I guess this isn’t standard Mormonism since in
            > Mormonism God didn’t create everything. : ) Everything else looks good.

            Well that can be argued, too! ;-) Just that God is a plural God and worked with already existing matter. But then the Church has poo-pooed that some when Gordon B. Hinkley in an interview with Time magazine said that the couplet “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”, was just a couplet and church doesn’t teach it, but then Joseph Smith taught otherwise. Let’s not get into that argument! ;-) If you are willing to accept my definition of God as the Creator then for now I am fine with that! ;-)

            > I am confused by your double standard here Glen. What game are you playing?
            > You push me at every point for evidence for my views but then when I ask
            > you for YOUR evidence you say it “should’t matter”?

            I am not the historian, you are and you have made a number of conclusions. I accept the Bible on faith and believe like most of my fundamental Christian friends that the Bible is God talking to man. Unlike most of my Christian friends, I believe that the Koran is also inspired. However, I want to know how you come by your conclusions and am open to learning about the “historic” Jesus.

            > Evidence is everything! I want to know what leads you to conclude
            > *historically* that Jesus was God.

            Nothing but the text itself, prayer, and faith. Remember, I am the Sunday School believer, not the historian, but hope to give you an opportunity to educate me. My beliefs have changed dramatically as I learn new things, so I am approaching this as an opportunity to learn even more, while giving you an opportunity to teach me, a believer.

            > And again, I feel the burden of proof falls on any one arguing an individual
            > was divine, since by default we should assume people are mortal until pr oven
            > otherwise (apart from philosophical discussions about “the divine” in all
            > of us.)

            That is not only a philosophical discussion but a “religious” one. Were we not created in the image of God? Oh, no we are getting back to that darn couplet! ;-)

            > I think the assumption that Jesus was human is far more “reasonable” than
            > arguments that he was divine. That is like saying the view that Elvis appears
            > to people post mortem is as “reasonable” as the belief he has remained happy
            > in his grave since 1977. The fact that people believe in something is not
            > evidence for its reality.

            Reasonable to whom? The historian or the believer? Without the text, prayer and faith, I would also agree with your premise. However, I envision a scenario where one could prove otherwise. If, as per the text, Jesus lived in my time and I saw Him raise the dead, heal the sick, make the blind to see, the deaf to hear and be raised from the dead Himself and I could not only testify to that, but others did so likewise then the premise that he had powers greater than mankind would be reasonable, don’t you think? And if He said to me, “I am God” after all of this, then it would be reasonable to hold that belief, no?

            > Ok, now we are on more solid ground with a textual example.

            That is solid? ;-)

            > So first, “divine” and “God” are not the same. There were differing levels
            > of divinity. So angels are in some way divine but not God himself. When
            > the High Priest asks him if Jesus is the Messiah and Son of the Blessed
            > one he is not asking whether he is *God* but yes, being the Messiah
            > Son of God would entail a level of divinity at this point
            > (but not necessarily, Simeon bar Kokhba was declared the Messiah but
            > not considered divine).

            I would not only agree that Jesus, you and I are divine, but so are rocks. Remember, I am not yet the historian, but the believer and believe that He created everything so everything is divine! ;-)

            > Asking about blasphemy is a very good approach. Here is where it gets a bit
            > complicated. *Mark* did consider Jesus divine, as did many Christians even
            > earlier than Paul. Not GOD, but divine in some way, having a special

            Again that pesky negative. How do you know? The text is pretty clear to me:

            Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

            “I and the Father are one.”

            If His Father is God and He and His Father and He are one. Then if follows, logically, not only is He divine but God.

            Of course if we go to the Book of Mormon, excuse my digression here but:

            “Have they not said that God himself should come down among
            the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go
            forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?”

            Or from the title page that Joseph Smith says was a direct translation from the original plates:

            “And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the
            ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations”

            If you can get your historical Jesus in, can’t I get my Sunday School one in as well? ;-)

            If you believe in the Book of Mormon, then Jesus = God is a pretty safe conclusion, no? ;-)

            > relationship with God (this is an important distinction; Christians debated
            > for hundreds of years about in what ways Jesus was God, what was the
            > relationship between Jesus and God etc.). Many scholars think that this
            > entire trial was invented, patterned after a shorter trial before Pilate.

            What leads them to that conclusion? So are you saying that there was no trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin?

            > Interesting you ask about the earliest text. “I am” is actually not in all our
            > texts; some manuscripts read “you say”; Matthew and Luke also have this. So to
            > restate, Mark is our earliest account of this story, but some manuscripts have
            > “you say” instead of “I am”, and the “you say” reading could be the earliest.

            Either way, does it matter? The high priest knew what he heard and he called it blasphemy. So would I if I was in his place and thought Jesus was not whom He claimed to be:

            “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

            > I did not say that the Gospel of John might have been written by Mary. I said
            > that the *authority* behind the Gospel of John might go back to Mary Magdalene.
            > There were multiple layers of tradition behind the Gospel of John that spread a
            > cross decades. By the final form of John, Jesus is unquestionably seen as
            > divine. The Johannine Jesus can’t stop talking about how divine he is.

            “The authority behind”, what does that mean?

            So if you accept the text, in John, as written, you would admit not only it testifies of His divinity but of Jesus being God?

            “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

            “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

            > So, John appeals to “one who saw and testified” (John 19:35, which already
            > demonstrates that the “one who saw” is *different* than the editor writing
            > the final form).

            Not necessarily. We all refer to ourselves at one time or another in the third person.

            > The most compelling argument is John 13:25-26a:

            “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s
            sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother
            and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother…”

            If you took out the “woman behold your son” you would assume that the
            “disciple whom Jesus loved” was one of the women by the cross, which would
            suggest Mary Magdalene. But even if this were the case, there were decades of
            development after her initial testimony for theology to develop.”

            Does it make sense to arbitrarily take out “woman behold your son”? Given that methodology, one could change any meaning of scripture.

            > Glen, I understand it is challenging to unweave all these strands and keep them
            > straight. That is why scholarly books on the Bible are hundreds of pages of
            > dense arguments! But we have to put aside Christian presuppositions and use our
            > detective work and seek to determine how traditions developed, what is most
            > likely to have happened, etc.

            OK, but please don’t use “I am the expert, here so trust me” argument. Like I mentioned I have been trained only to trust authority to a point. Usually I ask all authorities, like Philip, “Show me”.

            > So here is how a NT historian would explain Jesus being called God:

            > 1) The man Jesus acted as a prophet and most likely taught that he was the
            > Messiah.

            So a NT historian would discount anything supernatural, like raising people from the dead, healing the sick, making the blind to see, the lame to walk, etc? How do they then dismiss the witnesses in the text?

            > 2) He died, much to the shock of his followers

            Shock to his followers? How do you know that if there isn’t any documents available except those date long after His crucifixion?

            > 3) His followers then searched their scriptures to figure out why Jesus had
            > to die.

            Again, this is a supposition has no basis in the fact with the texts that we have.

            > 4) In this process Jesus was connected with “Lord” passages as well as
            > “Divine Wisdom”. (See Mark 12:36, Matthew 22:44, Luke 20:42, Acts 2:34,
            > which all quote Psalm 110:1, which all say David said “The Lord said to
            > my Lord, sit at my right hand.”)

            Connected? I think it was not His disciples that did this but His own words:

            “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:18 NIV

            > 5) So through reading Jesus into the Jewish scriptures and reflection in
            > worship, Christians came to the understanding that Jesus was divine, even
            > though he did not say or teach this himself during his ministry.

            Again, remember I am a believer in the text, and it is, and you admit, especially with the Gospel of John that He does declare Himself to be “Lord”. That is a little more than just divine, no?

            In Greek in Mark He calls Himself:

            κυριοσ =
            1) he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord 1a) the possessor and disposer of a thing 1a1) the owner; one who has control of the person, the master 1a2) in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor 1b) is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master 1c) this title is given to: God, the Messiah Synonym

            when referring to the Sabbath. Isn’t that blasphemy if He wasn’t God?

            > 6) As time goes on Jesus is portrayed as more dramatically divine.

            > In order to argue that Jesus really did claim to be God, you need to come
            > up with a more plausible reconstruction than this.

            It seems, following the law of parsimony, that it takes a lot of convolutions to deny that He did. Basically, you have to discredit the Gospel of John, get rid of a number of references in Mark, Matthew, Luke, and all of the Book of Mormon.

            > You can’t just cling to what you believe or want to believe, not when we are
            > playing the history game.

            Yes, with limited data and conclusions that are less than convincing based on that data.

            > Yes, virtually all scholars agree that Paul really wrote 7 letters:
            > 1 Thessalonians, 1-2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, Galatians, and
            > Romans. So those were really written by the person it claims.
            > But then other letters say they were written by Paul but weren’t.

            So you, as a historian would throw out the Bible as a fraud, except for the Pauline letters? To assume so, you have to assume that people who spent their life studying, translating and transcribing these documents were duplicitous and dishonest. Is that reasonable?

            > Someone named John wrote Revelation, but it was not necessarily John the son of> Zebedee

            True statement, but that statement has no meaning. You could say that about any text, even the text I am writing now! ;-)

  20. George Miller
    March 2, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    — Jared Anderson said “Richard Elliott Friedman has some very interesting books, but scholars have moved past his theories for the most part.”

    Hey Jared, I had a question about your comments about the Documentary Hypothesis (DH). While I know I am pushing you out of your area of expertise by forcing you to discuss the Old Testament, I was wondering if I could get you to elaborate a bit. To give you some perspective, I am an academic by profession currently working at the University of Michigan as a Cell and Developmental Biologist. That being said my second great love is the study of religion as can be evidenced by my bookshelf. I have read several of Erhman’s books, and having listened to the podcast, it sounds like we have VERY similar approachs to Mormonism.

    The Old Testament was one of those difficult books for me because my analytical mind kept noting the vast number of contradictions. I read everything that I could from Mormon scholars in an effort to understand the text, but in all honesty, the Mormon answers didn’t “cut the mustard”. It was about this time I entered graduate school and gained access to good academic libraries. While what I found rarely jived with my Mormon perspective, the scholarly perspective did provide actual cogent answers. For me the DH was a “godsend” and helped me, for the first time, understand what was going on in the Torah. My exposure to the DH has largely come from Richard Elliott Friedman’s books Who Wrote the Bible, The Bible with Sources Revealed, and his Commentary on the Torah. Having obtained The Bible with Sources Revealed, I proceeded to read Genesis starting with J, then reading E, and moving onto P and D. I was amazed at how easily the sources could be picked apart and how this approach resolved 99% of my problems with the text.

    Thus I was confused when you mentioned that scholars have “moved past his theories”. I checked out Jean Louis Ska’s Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch as you suggested. What Ska seemed to be saying was that scholars have become less interested in how the Torah was compiled and become more interested in the final product. They also mentioned that many scholars have questioned aspects of the DH. For example they mentioned that E sometimes uses יהוה instead of אלהים. However, my understanding was that this has already been explained by the DH as E changing the name of God to יהוה after the Moses story, and that the number of reversal before this are very few and are likely simply due to later redaction by D. Additionally, the major critique of the DH seemed to be that certain of the authors themselves probably had sources they were drawing from and that there was probably oral traditions as well that are weaved into the text. While I can readily accept that things are more complicated, I am loathe to discard the DH and its powerful explanatory power. I was wondering what your perspective on this might be. Has the scholarly community discarded the the DH hypothesis, or have they just taken a more nuanced approach to the DH?

    • March 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm

      Ask away! Almost half my coursework was actually in Hebrew Bible and the Pentateuch was one of my Comprehensive Exam categories. :)

      “Moved beyond” was an overstatement perhaps, but I will lay out some issues so readers can judge for themselves. I agree “complicated” and “nuanced” might be a better way to put it. I agree with David that Friedman is the best place to start for non-specialists. It is like the Four Source Hypothesis in New Testament studies–questioned and complicated, but still a great teaching tool, the best place to start, and has validity. “The Bible With the Sources Revealed” is a brilliant resource. I have a goal to edit an edition of the Bible in chronological order that will have similar benefits and problems.

      So now scholars talk about “P” and “non-P” material in the Pentateuch, “non-P” replacing the J and E sources, which are very difficult to unravel. “D” material seems distinctive enough to justify calling it its own source. Thanks for pushing the clarification. So no matter what, the Documentary Hypothesis remains a tremendously valuable model.

      Here is a summary of Ska’s analysis of the DH for those who don’t have access to the book:

      1) It is difficult to argue there was a “Yahwist Source” (J); instead we should speak of “Narrative Cycles”
      2) Redactional work took several stops; most of this process was likely during/after the Deuteronomistic and Priestly stages
      3) “P” should be seen not so much as a Priestly Source but a redactional layer (commentary or complement to older sources)

      So even though the DH is a great starting point, recent research has called key points into question. So the distinct older sources of the DH are gone, reduced to older traditions, and as far as dating goes, the end has become the beginning (with the Priestly source being one of the earlier steps instead of the last). D seems to have the most lasting power. I like Ska’s views of the Pentateuch coming together as a national epic necessitated by disputes after the Babylonian exiles returned to Judea post 539.

      • George Miller
        March 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm

        Thanks a million for the clarification Jared. In sounds like what you are saying is that while there was likely a J and E, that the process of redaction has seriously blurred the lines substantially. You talked about “P” being a redactional layer. If you are still checking the message board, could you perhaps respond to that. BTW if you were to write a chronological edition of the Bible I would buy and read it.

  21. Mike Nelson
    March 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Jared and Brian,
    Thanks for doing this interview. I thought the lecture/discussion format worked for this podcast. I appreciated the chronological approach to an overview of the New Testament.
    I believe sharing your personal story and the shaping of your spiritual/philosophical views was an act of generosity. Some of the above comments calling you condescending, I think, misunderstand your careful choices of what to say and what not to say.
    Personally, your approach has helped me to refine my own view. I am able to better articulate to my loved ones and ward members my own beliefs and approach to the LDS church, Joseph Smith and Jesus.
    So I give you a heart felt thank you.

    • March 7, 2011 at 6:06 am

      So glad you found the podcast helpful Mike. I like what you said about gaining a new language to speak to your loved ones and ward members, a valuable benefit from interacting with others.

  22. Vin
    March 2, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Looks like Tim’s comment is missing, but in defense of Jared, I don’t think Jared’s reaction to my prank comment is at all an indictment that he is being disingenuous in a postmodern way. Everyone should be able to understand adjusting their language and message for the audience they are addressing. Rigorous, academic approaches to matters of faith are deeply uncomfortable to many people in the pews (regardless of religion), and it’s considered impolite to bring up potentially disturbing matters (even if they’re true).

    The interesting thing about teh internets is that it’s all open. Jared’s podcast is certainly not something that’s going to be received favorably by a certain group of people (e.g. Biblical inerrantists, ultraconservative religious types, etc.), and his intention is to avoid upsetting them. In church, he has more control over how is message is delivered. On the Internet, not so much.

  23. Eric
    March 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Jared, you gave a great definition of “responsible critical thinking” early on in the interviews that I wrote down. You said, “Responsible critical thinking is what conclusion best explains all of the evidence as simply as possible with the fewest exceptions.”

    I want to compare some of the things you said later on, especially in the last part of the interview, which demonstrate that you seem to throw that definition out the window. Later on you said you believe in spirituality, visions, dreams, that you’ve been given gifts to build up the kingdom, knowledge beyond our own, faith healing, revelation for the vast majority of the leaders in the church, among others. Are those things really the best explanations for our world with the fewest exceptions? I just don’t understand how you can make those claims while stating your definition of responsible critical thinking.

    You also say you don’t think about things as true/false, but instead as cost/benefit. You ask if the religious story works; does it get people from point A to point B. How does that possibly make sense with your definition of responsible critical thinking? Nowhere in your practical approach to religion is there any mention of best explanations with the fewest exceptions. And please don’t say it’s the beauty of paradox. Mormons seem to have to say that a little too much. =)

    Are we supposed to conclude that critical thinking doesn’t apply to existential questions of purpose and happiness when it comes to religion? If so, I don’t see why not. (Sorry if this has already been addressed in some of the above comments)

    • Eric
      March 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm

      I just realized it sounds like I was calling you out on personal topics in my comment. I’m not trying to be petty or antagonistic. I’m just trying to understand how you reconcile those two viewpoints. The personal story parts of the Mormon Stories podcasts are always my favorite for this reason. You get to see how and why people believe/disbelieve what they do. Thanks for doing the interview.

      • March 3, 2011 at 5:04 pm

        Excellent questions; Eric. I very much appreciate them. My short answer: Meaning transcends explanation. I would enjoy reading articles and books about why we enjoy music and art, why food tastes good, how falling in love works; the scientific explanation for relatioships–but my enjoyment and value of these experiences does not depend on (or would not be compromised by) that knowledge.

        I think we need to take seriously claims to spiritual experiences. Now, it doesn’t make any sense to say, believe in the First Vision but not appearances by the Virgin Mary, but *something* is going on. I have as a goal to research all the science behind these experiences (including psychological and social explanations). I have stated that I accept any scientific explanations for any of these phenomena. So that is where my critical thinking remains fully applied.

        But in the statements you bring up, I am talking about meaning. I am talking about how I live my life, how I feel. I acknowledge the subjectivity of these feelings, just as I acknowledge that the words I am typing have no objective correspondence to the ideas we both are transmitting. But that doesn’t mean they don’t mean anything. I do enjoy paradox, but by that mean I am comfortable with holding multiple possibilities for phenomena and in the meantime enjoying the journey.

        Please ask follow up questions if I have not responded to your satisfaction; these are very important points.

        • Tyson Jacobsen
          March 3, 2011 at 6:18 pm

          Your comment brought to mind the experiences of Jill Bolte Taylor. She shares them here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyyjU8fzEYU

          I don’t see as mutually exclusive spiritual experiences and scientific explanations of our universe. I would argue that supernatural explanations will not be needed as our understanding of world improves, and our traditional terms for defining these experiences (e.g. spirituality) will transition to encompass them.

          • March 3, 2011 at 8:11 pm

            I would be interested to know if your comment that “supernatural explanations will not be needed” extends to the idea of “growing out of religion.” Here are a few thoughts:

            1. Once we don’t need supernatural explanations, will *symbolic* or mythical explanations still be valuable? I know we use allegory and reference fiction all the time… One area where you and I agree is that the *ideal* is to move beyond literal and exclusivist manifestations of religion. But what about people who, despite the ideal, are committed to taking things literally? How do we help them? Do we give up on them? Do we shatter their worldviews by launching a volley of facts at them, comforted in knowing that, even if their religion no longer provides beneficial functions, at least we have disabused them of their scientific errors?

            If I am a physician/nutritionist, do I only treat those with ideal diets? I think you and I share many goals but are approaching it in different ways, reaching different audiences. Praise God. :) I want to reach those who remain religious as well as those who have moved beyond it.

            2. We have addressed two areas where science provides superior answers to religion: cosmology/origins and morality. But what about all the other purposes of religion? What about rites of passage and community cohesion and a sense of purpose? Can myth have value in these areas? Are there scientific/non-theological analogies? And if we can craft such a Humanistic approach that fulfills all the needs of religion, would we have another religion?

            I approach this from two angles. First, my ideal religion would look a lot like what I describe in #2. I would like to see an open, accepting community that fulfills all the needs of religion but also accepts and allows members the freedom to move beyond that model.

            At the same time, I take very seriously the need to deal with things as they are, not the way I think they should be. So my answer is to try to craft an approach and a way of living that helps everyone see the value of their world views of origin while also growing past them as needed. As I said, I am just trying to live my religion as I think it should be, and see what comes of sharing that with others in as careful and loving way as possible.

        • Eric
          March 3, 2011 at 6:40 pm

          I think understanding why we enjoy something can influence our actual enjoyment. When I was 12, I really enjoyed top 40 pop songs. But when I was 14, I learned that most top 40 musicians are mere performers, having their songs written and produced by others. I learned that I enjoyed them because the songs were intentionally designed to move me emotionally, happy or sad, and to get stuck in my head. The music didn’t change, but my enjoyment of it plummeted. And as I listened to music that I didn’t particularly like at first, the music became more enjoyable as I learned about the amount of creativity, precision, and care the more wholly-involved musicians put into their music. I understood the music on an intellectual level and it became so much more enjoyable.

          So I’m thinking through this. I think the knowledge of how we experience something influences our actual enjoyment; it could compromise it. Maybe I’m still not addressing the actual issue…

          I do agree that we should take seriously spiritual claims and seek to understand them scientifically. Something is obviously going on in order to cause real conversion to religion/spiritualism amongst humans. In this case, I would still go back to what you said about the best explanation with the least amount of exceptions. Just because we don’t understand all of the psychological workings of a spiritual experience, it doesn’t mean there is some deeper transcendentalism at work. That’s more or less a god of the gaps argument.

          I completely agree with you that everyone is afforded their own interpretation of the data they receive from the world. Whether one chooses to believe in a literalist religion or a metaphorical story or decides to reject it altogether, it doesn’t really matter as long as that person is doing what provides the meaning they’re looking for. And yes, a god would have to respect someone’s actively living according to their understanding and preferences.

          You don’t need to respond if you don’t want to. I’m more just trying to think through these ideas. That’s why MormonStories is so great!

  24. Eric
    March 3, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I think understanding why we enjoy something can influence our actual enjoyment. When I was 12, I really enjoyed top 40 pop songs. But when I was 14, I learned that most top 40 musicians are mere performers, having their songs written and produced by others. I learned that I enjoyed them because the songs were intentionally designed to move me emotionally, happy or sad, and to get stuck in my head. The music didn’t change, but my enjoyment of it plummeted. And as I listened to music that I didn’t particularly like at first, the music became more enjoyable as I learned about the amount of creativity, precision, and care the more wholly-involved musicians put into their music. I understood the music on an intellectual level and it became so much more enjoyable.

    So I’m thinking through this. I think the knowledge of how we experience something influences our actual enjoyment; it could compromise it. Maybe I’m still not addressing the actual issue…

    I do agree that we should take seriously spiritual claims and seek to understand them scientifically. Something is obviously going on in order to cause real conversion to religion/spiritualism amongst humans. In this case, I would still go back to what you said about the best explanation with the least amount of exceptions. Just because we don’t understand all of the psychological workings of a spiritual experience, it doesn’t mean there is some deeper transcendentalism at work. That’s more or less a god of the gaps argument.

    I completely agree with you that everyone is afforded their own interpretation of the data they receive from the world. Whether one chooses to believe in a literalist religion or a metaphorical story or decides to reject it altogether, it doesn’t really matter as long as that person is doing what provides the meaning they’re looking for. And yes, a god would have to respect someone’s actively living according to their understanding and preferences.

    You don’t need to respond if you don’t want to. I’m more just trying to think through these ideas. That’s why MormonStories is so great!

    • March 3, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      I would love to continue our valuable conversation Eric. I also benefit a great deal from “thinking through these ideas” and engaging with others. Love this model of learning! I know it is true. ;)

      One of my main questions is, don’t both kinds of appreciation have a place, Eric? Yes, there is reward in learning to have more refined tastes, whether with food, art, ideas, etc, but does that mean the popular songs or ideas or approaches are invalid? Once we have the refined taste, do we need to denigrate the simple? Should not those who enjoy popular songs be allowed to enjoy them, despite their origins? I enjoy popular music sometimes, and it doesn’t matter to me who wrote what. And if they are designed to move me and get stuck in my head, then they have a purpose. Now advertisements, on the other hand…

      As I said to Tyson, we need to address the fact that religion serves MANY functions, not just providing explanations and systems of morality. Any replacement would need to meet the same needs that religion does. I think rites of passage serve important psychological and societal functions, for example.

      I don’t think I am advocating a “god of the gaps” approach. My question is, “once you have explained something, what do you DO with that knowledge?” What is the most effective way to use that knowledge to accomplish worthwhile purposes such as actualization, serving others, etc? And so even if we had a comprehensive knowledge of reality (if such a thing were possible) might we still not need a symbolic language and series of rituals to engage with that knowledge? It is these purposes I see religion as serving. Is that clear? Plus, even if we do reach some sort of transcendent understanding of the true explanation of all things, not everyone will. So we need to figure out what is the best way to get people from the real to ideal.

      • Eric
        March 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm

        I can see what you’re saying for sure. There is definitely a utility in religion. So let’s assume we need some sort of institution or narrative to bind people together in order to give them the chance to have the social experiences that are so beneficial to human beings. Do you think it is possible to have that kind of institution/narrative without any appeal to supernaturalism? Do you think it would be possible to have an entity that fulfills all the social needs and rites of passage that is based purely on reality (reality as far as we can tell, I know that term is problematic)? I like when Dehlin talks about a kind of Reformed Mormonism with our common narrative of our pioneer ancestral roots and church history as a unifier. I guess I just don’t see why the idea of a god, or any other dogma, is necessary for what you’re talking about. I’ve often thought the Mormon church would be so great if they would just leave the supernatural out of it completely.

        It sounds like you’re saying we need God (or other religious ideas that range from plausible to absurd) because some people choose to think in terms of those ideas (whether or not they’ve ever truly considered the possibility that their traditional religious convictions might not be based in anything other than ideas). I can understand that to a degree, but at what point do you have to stop and say, “OK, this or that particular belief is border-line delusional. We need to trim these institutions of the absurd, literal ideas.”? We tell our children, or someone else does, eventually that there is no Santa Claus and they still enjoy Christmas just as much. I’m not necessarily saying to proclaim there is no god; I’m just saying that we need to be able to have frank, open discussions about ideas that many people have that are absolutely absurd, like many literal Bible stories, for example. Just because someone enjoys the comfort that comes with “knowing” they are true, do we not have some kind of responsibility to expunge really bad ideas from society? No one literally believes in Greek mythology any longer. So maybe bad ideas will just naturally go away, but maybe not.

        I guess I’m saying that I agree with you in that I think institutions are valuable to people in order to give them that social contact and community they need. I just don’t think it’s necessary to have all of the extra baggage that comes with most religions. Sure, let’s have the institutions, but let’s find some narratives that are based on something actual and real.

  25. March 3, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    One careful listener caught the fact that the end of Matthew and the beginning of Luke are MISSING!! Thanks for catching that Hans Fugal! I feel really badly about that. We will let everyone know when the restored file has been uploaded.. something to look forward too!

    I guess it is fitting in a Mormon podcast on the Bible, plain and precious parts would be corrupted and left out. ;)

  26. March 5, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Finally made it all the way through all five parts. I’m glad we’re on the same Mormon team :-)

  27. Aaron
    March 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    This was a fun podcast (for me). I have studied the New Testament history and textual criticism in my free time. Jared would probably be proud to know that I did read Bart Ehrman’s THE NEW TESTAMENT: AN INTRODUCTION TO EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITINGS from cover to cover. I sometimes read the comments to see how people respond to these podcasts and often forget how much of a mix bag we all are. I did decide to leave the Church for several different personal reasons and feel happy in my decision. Now, I am studying Orthodox Christianity and attending a small Antiochian Orthodox Church. So, now, early Christian history is even more interesting to me as I can read about my church’s founding story in the Acts of the Apostles. Thanks, Jared, for sharing with us your awesome historical knowledge. Whether we are part of the LDS Church or left it, we are all still Mormons in some small way and need to look out for each other.

    • March 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it, and yes, having read that is impressive! I would be surprised if this podcast added much after that. ;)

      “Whether we are part of the LDS Church or left it, we are all still Mormons in some small way and need to look out for each other.”

      Great summation of the Mormon Stories vision.

      • March 7, 2011 at 5:08 am

        Oh and Aaron, I find it fascinating that you attend an Antiochan Orthodox Church! That is one you don’t hear about very often.

  28. Enishi39
    March 7, 2011 at 2:23 am

    ehhh…is it moi…or is the transicion between matthews end and lukes beggining is missing??? just saying….cuz mathew is my favorite gospel and i hate to miss any part of it -.-

    • March 7, 2011 at 3:51 am

      Great listening skills, Enishi. Twenty-five minutes in Episode 3 on the end of Matthew and all of Luke were accidentally cut out! It should be fixed tonight or tomorrow so check back then. The break start about 14:45.

  29. Mormonstories
    March 7, 2011 at 4:05 am

    Hey All,

    Part 3 was previously missing the section on the Gospel of Luke, which begins at 14:45. So redownload it if you want to listen to that section!

    Thanks all.

    John Dehlin

    • Anonymous
      March 10, 2011 at 8:59 am

      It seems the segment available on iTunes is still flawed. Is it possible to fix this? I am very anxious to get the full-length version, so I can listen from my iPhone rather than my computer. Thanks!

      • Anonymous
        March 10, 2011 at 1:30 pm

        NightAvatar,

        Check iTunes again. There should be 2 segment 241′s — one of them having a
        time/duration of 1:36:42.

        That’s the one you want.

        John

  30. Jay Bryner
    March 7, 2011 at 4:13 am

    Jared, Brian,
    Thanks for such a great podcast. I hope you guys do a series of smaller in scope, but ultimately longer in content podcasts. The topics reminded me of taking new testament from Stephen Robinson, and sitting in on some NT classes taught by Frank Judd at BYU. I wish I had some thoughtful question or something. I don’t. I just appreciate you taking the time.

    I particularly like hearing about your approach to the church. I liked the back and forth between Brian and Jared about how there are two populations in the church. The TBM side which hasn’t digested through the cognitive dissonance yet, and the people who have ‘taken the red pill’ so to speak. It’s distressing to me that the things the ‘red pill’ crowd want to talk about are poison to the TBM’s, and the faithful rendition of church doctrine and history make people like me feel completely alone and uncomfortable sitting there in the pews.

    I also appreciate having several additional sources of information to seek out about the NT.

    Thanks again

    • Anonymous
      March 10, 2011 at 9:01 am

      Excellent post! Exactly how I feel. :)

  31. Jeremy
    March 8, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Jared,

    I’m still working my way through the podcast. You’ve made some very interesting comments. There’s lots to think about. Have you read anything by Thomas Wayment? I noticed that he’s got a new book out called “Making Sense of the New Testament: Timely Insights and Timeless Messages.” Any thoughts on this book? Are there any other books that you would recommend?

    Thanks,

    Jeremy

  32. Debbie
    March 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Excellent, Excellent podcast Jared and Brian. You did a fantastic job of covering a lot of information in an organized way. This is a podcast I will return to many times especially when I have to teach OT or NT topics. I would love it if you offered more on this topic.

  33. Anonymous
    March 9, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Jared, I loved the podcast. I love the positive and hopeful approach that you take to your faith. My upbringing was fairly similar to yours (not to mention that I’ve been to my share of counseling with my wife). Thanks for sharing your story. Gave me a lot of hope.

  34. March 9, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Having read Misquoting Jesus for the first time only weeks before this podcast hit the net, I had new appreciation for the first parts of the postcast. And not judging – to each their own, but my head was literally spinning during the last segment of the interview. What? How? Whoa! I have no idea Jared juggles it all – my head nearly exploded just listening.

  35. Ozpoof
    March 11, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I’ve said it before about previous guests, but I’ll say it again. There comes a point when you know the facts and choose not to believe what they shovel over the pulpit or distribute as educational material. At that point, you are no longer “Mormon” inasmuch as you no longer believe what you are expected to believe.

    You then have three ways of coping with what you know: 1- You pretend to be TBM for your family in order to make other people happy or keep contact with your children. This requires a LOT of lying; 2- you twist what you know and what you are supposed to believe into a grotesque approximation of both in order to retain beliefs that do not fit with facts. This is not faith because faith doesn’t make facts disappear. Faith is the belief in something that cannot be proven or disproven, however this is more lying, mostly to yourself. You feel as if you can answer interview questions honestly because you rationalize what you know through a filter of what you believe. In so doing, your beliefs HAVE to change somewhat, but this is explained away by claiming stories taught as facts are actually metaphors, or that there are things that have yet to be made clear when in fact they are very clear if you see them as simple facts; 3- You come to realize that there may be a God, but religious texts and religious dogma/ ritual are products of humans and are therefore flawed and cannot be 100% true. You realize you can’t be a Mormon just for the social aspects without having to lie constantly through interviews and to others. You retain your integrity, be honest with yourself and others, and state what you know and where it conflicts with faith and belief. You then leave organized religion and become agnostic (I see atheism and religiosity as equally arrogant and flawed). Belief may continue where facts are lacking, and morals are adhered to not because you are fearful of what may happen if you don’t, but because it is the right thing to do.

    Jared is clearly very intelligent, however it seems obvious to me that he is doing some intensive contortions of his mind in order to stay in the church. If the church was true, there would be no need to fight with what you know in order to believe. If there is a God, he would not be so illogical or would not deliberately place facts in front of us as a way of tricking us. Those who believe this have a very low opinion of a benevolent and all powerful being!

    Truth should not have to change to fit with dogma. When you change a truth, you get a lie.

    • March 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm

      Ozpoof,

      You take a pretty rigid stance here—so are the only options ignorance or agnosticism? Do you personally think there is any value to religion? Must it be abandoned as soon as we see reality in a more nuanced, complex way? Do individuals have no say in the contours of their religion; we can only believe “what [we] are expected to believe”?

      From what you say, I think the way I live faith matches your description, to a point. I know as much as I can based on study, thought, and effort, and then I have faith about things that “cannot be proven or disproven”. I also take faith further, however, since you just described a “God of the gaps” approach which I reject. I have faith in the symbol of religion, in the practice of religion. Mormonism and every other religion may not be historically accurate in all their claims, but there is a goodness to them, and that is also its own “truth”. I challenge you on your simplistic and one-sided definition of “truth”. As I mention in my podcast, I think the gospel of John is full of quite sublime theological truth from a Christian perspective though it contains very little that is historically accurate.

      By the way, your facile dismissal of atheism is itself “arrogant and flawed”. Arrogant because you are putting your brand of agnosticism as the best (only?) way to go, flawed because you are depending on an caricature of atheism. Atheism is not a profession of certainty regarding a negative position (“I bear my testimony there is no God”); it is a reasoned conclusion that God is not a factor in one’s life and that as far as we can tell, there is no God. It is an attitude of “Well, best we can tell there is no God, so let’s move forward with all the knowledge we have”). I would recommend reading Trevor and Eric’s comments on this interview as a model of how non-believers can engage respectfully but incisively with believers.

      I don’t fight anything I know in order to believe. I incorporate everything I know into my religiosity and spirituality.

      • Ozpoof
        March 13, 2011 at 3:20 am

        There’s a big difference between a religion that is well intentioned and performs good works such as the Salvation Army, that may have some historical inaccuracies, and Mormonism.

        Mormonism is a corporation in name and action. The historical inaccuracies are better described as lies, because the LDS church actively teaches and publishes a manufactured history they KNOW is false. I did 5 years of Seminary in a church school and I can now see that almost everything I was taught was created to make the early church leaders appear completely different people than they really were. The more I learn the more I see that even small details have been changed. You may not consider lying to kids in order to manipulate their behaviour a big deal, but I do. There are perfectly true and rational statements that can be made to even the youngest child that teach the real reasons for doing things a particular way. Mormonism doesn’t do this. If Mormonism has to lie about itself, it has things to hide. If it has to lie to people to get them to live a certain way, how is that from God?

        You may say that the ends justify the means, and religion (in this case Mormonism) has something to offer people so it’s acceptable to perpetuate falsehoods in order to perpetuate the religion. I believe the Mormon church gives a pittance to charity, not just as a total amount but on a per capita basis. So, where are the good works? Where is anything really positive that other religions may offer? Happiness? Anecdotal and actual evidence suggests it’s a front. The reality is that women are medicated to a stupor so they can cope with the Mormon lifestyle, and men seek sexual gratification through pornography. Male youth suicide in Utah is very often the highest in the US, many are gay. This shows that Mormon doctrine does not lead to happiness for many people.

        So in answer to your first question, I don’t see any value in THIS religion. Sure, there are many religions that actually live how Jesus taught. They provide help for those in need like the Good Samaritan who did not care if he was helping a “member” or not. They are involved in politics where they push for helping the poor, or support universal health care and education. They don’t teach that caring for the sick and needy is a communist plot. They do not lie in add campaigns to sway opinion. They don’t funnel money through front groups to hide. They open hospitals and schools and care for the sick. They do not build multi-billion dollar mall and condo complexes. The good done by many religious groups far outweighs the bad. Mormonism needs to do a whole lot of good works before it can justify itself, which is ironic given their preoccupation with works and non-belief in grace alone.

        Don’t you ever find it uncomfortable teaching children about being honest when they attend an organization that spews lies each Sunday to these kids? This hypocrisy is abhorred by the Biblical God. The complexity comes when people pretend lies are truth because good lessons can still be gained by the lies. This is dishonest. I know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare is just a story, but I can learn from it just as well. What benefit to a child would there be to teach them that there was a historical race between a tortoise and a hare that actually happened? If anything the discovery that a parent or authority figure had lied would be damaging. There is no excuse for lying to children in this way. Religion may have some sublime truths (lessons), but why must it be taught that these stories were real and to deny them is dangerous or even evil? Imagine telling a child that if he doesn’t have a testimony that the Tortoise and the Hare is true, that he runs the risk of never seeing his family in the eternities. That’s called psychological abuse, and it’s even more awful when you come to know that many people teaching that the myth is truth really don’t believe it to be true anyway. They are just too scared to say anything. This is teaching children and adults to lie. You have a religion where people who know historical facts are forced to keep quiet in their meetings while lies are told. Mormon CES workers know they are lying to kids but do so to stay employed. Disgusting. And you ask me if I see value in this.

        I don’t want to start a debate about the definitions of atheism and agnosticism. In my experience, the statement “Well, best we can tell there is no God, so let’s move forward with all the knowledge we have” is an agnostic position. Atheists by definition believe there is no God. I’ve heard quite a few bear testimony that they know there is no God.

        • Tyson Jacobsen
          March 13, 2011 at 6:20 am

          We’re on the same side of the table, but isn’t there a difference between belittling people vs. ideas? We may say that the LDS church doesn’t perform the amount of needed humanitarian services that it should, but the church is a corporation, corporations don’t do anything, people do, and there are, and the evidence supports this, very charitable people who are LDS. I agree that those in leadership do bear the responsibility based on their knowledge and intent, but that is a foggy conclusion to defend because of the many facades we can all see. Nevertheless, I’m not going to be the one who complains when the RSP visits the childless elderly widow, even if she did it out of obligation to a noble idea born of a deception.

          Perhaps I can opine in defense (or promotion) of atheism, specifically in the definition sense. I’m not under the assumption that even the most ‘strident’ of the new atheists make the unrestricted claim that ‘there is no god’. Isn’t such a representation closed minded to the future possibilities of what some would consider godlike evidences? What current atheists do represent is that all current theories and evidences for the several thousand known representations of god, are unconvincing, and just as other wrong ideas like the phlogiston theory. Indeed, everyone is an atheist to the overwhelming majority of known gods, it’s just that some of us have gone 1 god further. (or if you’re LDS 3) :)

          For more ‘light and knowledge’, please feel free to read and watch
          A good book by Paul Cliteur and review http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=22912
          Sam Harris – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLIKAyzeIw4
          PZ Meyers – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3U0MnBmSlhE (about 16 minutes into it)

          But the best defense I’ve heard is from…
          AC Grayling – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFD9qB6Fn6M

          • Ozpoof
            March 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm

            If you don’t see any evidence for deity so can’t believe, yet you are open to the possibility that there may be some evidence one day, you would be agnostic wouldn’t you? That describes someone who is honest enough to say they don’t know either way. An atheist is defined as one who denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings. An agnostic is one who believes it impossible to know anything about God or about the creation of the universe and refrains from commitment to any religious doctrine.

            Unless the terms have changed their meaning recently, it seems that atheists are indeed closed minded to the future possibilities of what some would consider godlike evidences.

          • Tyson Jacobsen
            March 15, 2011 at 6:57 am

            Well, I don’t know who would be considered more atheist AC or PZ, but I didn’t hear either of them saying they are closed to the possibility of a ‘deity’, although we wouldn’t call it a deity at that point, we would call it a part of our natural world, and no longer a part of the supernatural ‘realm’. AC emphasizes this concept, in classic form, here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up0NhnrVdAw&feature=youtube_gdata_player

          • Ozpoof
            March 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

            So they aren’t dictionary defined atheists then?

  36. Elizabeth
    March 13, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Jared,

    Thanks so much for sharing the knowledge that you have gained from studying the Bible. I have only listened to three parts so far (the first two, and then the last, because I was anxious to see how you personally viewed all the information that you were sharing). Personally, I could not get through Misquoting Jesus because I found the tone to be so bitter, in my opinion, so it was nice to hear all of this information from an LDS-friendly point of view. (I was also only 18 when I tried to read it… and I’m only 23 now, and finally starting to accept the fact that I don’t have to understand everything about the church and accept it as “perfect” to say that I believe). Oh yes, and I have been a member all my life.

    So my question is, (and I apologize if you answered this already somewhere in the above 137 comments… I didn’t finish all of them…) What about the Book of Mormon’s testimony of Christ? It seems like you are agnostic towards the idea of Christ. (Which I think is perfectly ok for you to believe, and totally understandable considering your education.) To me, the most solid thing that holds me to my faith in the atonement, besides some prayers where I have felt loved and forgiven, is the fact that we have witnesses from two different continents to testify of his divinity. So what do you think of that?

    Again, thanks so much for doing this podcast series. I love knowledge and learning, and I love it when other people have taken the time to share something that would take me years and years to find out on my own. Thank you for being willing to share even the parts that were difficult for you. We are all on different parts of a journey, and I wish you and your family the best.

    • March 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      Elizabeth,

      I very much appreciated your mature comments and questions, and am impressed you tackled Misquoting Jesus at 18! I smiled when I read you skipped to the last part of the interview.

      Great question about Jesus in the Book of Mormon. You are right to appreciate the strength of “two witnesses”… If the Book of Mormon is taken at face value, it actually “proves” Christianity better than anything else! The New Testament can be seen as a Messianic interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures (Jesus being “read into” passages where he wasn’t before), but the Book of Mormon is saturated with messages about the Savior, long before Jesus lived.

      First, let me reiterate that I think belief in a Savior is reasonable. I am open to a cosmic situation where we are all One and one part of the whole that is all of us together took upon himself everything short of perfection so that we all can progress and transform into our divine natures. My biggest issue with the idea of a Savior is that I don’t think there is some cosmic force preventing us from overcoming our mistakes and actualizing ourselves. I don’t think our sins need to be “paid for” beyond accepting natural consequences. But I am open to being wrong, and if I die and see Jesus I will fall at his feet and worship him with gratitude.

      I think that no matter what, however, the symbolism of a Savior is very powerful and effective. You could say that within all of us are both sinner and savior, and the idea of Jesus as Savior helps in tapping into the more merciful, transcendent parts of our natures. I also accept the multitude of powerful and personal experiences people have had with Jesus as Savior. That subjective experience has its own reality. At the same time, if we think about it we realize that we have no access to reality beyond our perceptions. But my point is that the interaction of individual and idea has its own meaning.

      Moving to the Book of Mormon, I have accepted for years that even if there was an ancient record, what we have is a 19th century document. And this works fine theologically…. God gave the Lehites what they needed, then this record was translated into Joseph’s language and world view and was what the 19th century audience needed. So it makes sense that the gold plates do not equal what we have as the Book of Mormon. Now, as you may have suspected, I put all the teachings about Christ in that category. Even if there were gold plates and they taught about a Savior, the wording *as we have it* in the Book of Mormon is clearly 19th century. This really struck me when I was taking a course on Early Christianity—Christian views of Jews changed over time, for example, and the Book of Mormon clearly presents a late, post-Christian understanding of Judaism. I think the Book of Mormon is quite beautiful theologically and I very much appreciate its teachings about Jesus. But at the end of the day, it neither proves nor disproves Jesus as Lord and Savior. That judgment remains in the realm of faith, which I find appropriate.

      • Elizabeth
        March 14, 2011 at 6:01 am

        Thanks for answering. I like to consider all sides of a topic carefully before making up my mind on a subject, and I appreciate what you said about it all being left up to faith ultimately. (And I do plan on finishing the other two podcasts! I have even taken copious notes on the first two… and this isn’t even schoolwork! I guess I’m kind of a geek.) Thanks again. I wish I could say “I choose to believe” but for now, “I choose to think about it some more, but I think I mostly believe.” Have a nice day. :)

  37. March 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Jared,

    My Mormon Stories listening has waned in recent months – but found your episodes just about the same time I was wading through the online version of Dale Martin’s NT course. Both Amazing! Anyway, Thanks so much for your contribution in this series. Voices like yours are desperately needed!

    I’ve recently been gathering my own thoughts concerning Mormon views of the Bible. What puzzles me most is how the Church can teach that the Bible is flawed (thus the need for prophets and additional scripture) as an article of faith but then reject critical analysis! FWIW, I had an institute teacher once assign “Misquoting Jesus” as suggested reading for a course on the NT and I didn’t blink. Then, I discuss it with people in my ward and they freak out…

  38. Nate
    March 16, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Jared and Brian, I just wanted to say I’ve really enjoyed this podcast. Thanks for taking the time to put this together, you guys Peter (Rock)!

    I did have a quick question for Jared. What Bible translation do you recommend and could you provide a chronological reading list as outlined in this podcast…sorry, I am lazy and don’t want to listen through the whole thing again to get the list, I figured you had it down by heart :)

    I also decided to check out, “Misquoting Jesus,” and so far it has been fascinating. Any other recommended reading for the New or Old Testament?

    Thanks again for sharing your expertise!

    • March 16, 2011 at 5:50 am

      Nate,

      Best translation? The KJV of course! ;) I do appreciate the KJV for what it is for sure, and the work of William Tyndale especially is amazing. But it is time to move on. :)

      I have been thinking I need to have a quick answer for “what is your favorite translation of the Bible”, but that is a difficult one. :) Most academics use the NRSV, and that is very good, but I think it errs on the side of political correctness at times. It has gender inclusive language where the original language does not, and some of the theological and Messianically-interpreted passages are more vague than they need to be. For example in Genesis 1:2 “Spirit of God” is changed to “a wind came from God…”. The Revised Standard Version doesn’t have these problems, actually. The NIV is extremely easy to read but sometimes theological exuberance compromises accuracy… the most famous example I can think of is Jeremiah 7:22-23: “For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not [just] give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.” The problem is, the translators added in the “just” with no basis in the Hebrew! They just changed it because it conflicted with oh, Leviticus and Numbers. ;)

      So the NRSV, RSV, NASB, NAB, New Jeruslem Bible… all these are very good and it is just a matter of preference. Here is a handy translation comparison chart. http://www.apbrown2.net/web/TranslationComparisonChart.htm

      Great question; here is a rundown of the New Testament (and related Christian texts) in approximate chronological order: Most of this information is best guesses, of course.

      Lost Sources

      Writings of the Jerusalem Church?
      Other letters by Paul, including perhaps some to Jews

      Sources Embedded in Present books

      Testimonia Collections (very early 30s)
      Pre-canonical Passion Narrative (30s)
      Miracle stories
      Controversy stories, etc.
      Sayings source in Matthew and Luke (Q); other sayings of Jesus
      Hymns
      Apocalyptic Discourse (now found in Mark 13)
      John’s Gospel of Signs and Discourse Sources

      Book Date (CE) Province

      1 Thessalonians c. 50 Corinth
      Galatians 54-55 Ephesus
      Philemon 55 Ephesus
      Philippians 56 Ephesus
      1 Corinthians 56/57 Ephesus
      2 Corinthians mid 57 Macedonia
      *Didache 1-10, 16 50-60s? Palestine?
      Romans 57/58 Corinth
      2 Timothy late 60s? Rome?
      Mark 68-73 Rome?
      1 Peter 70-90 Rome
      Matthew 80-90 Antioch
      Luke c. 85 Syria?
      Acts c. 85 Syria?
      Colossians 80s Ephesus
      Hebrews 80s Jerusalem? Rome?
      James 80s-90s Palestine?
      Revelation 92-96 Asia Minor, author fr. Palestine
      Ephesians 90s Ephesus?
      John 90-95? Ephesus
      1 Clement mid 90s Rome
      Jude 90-100? Palestine?
      *Shepherd 1-24 90-100? Rome
      2 Thessalonians end 1st cent. ?
      1 Timothy 80-100
      Titus 80-100
      1 John c. 100
      2 John c. 100
      3 John shortly after 100
      Ignatius c. 110 Antioch, Smyrna, Troas
      Polycarp to Philippians 110-120? Smyrna
      Didache 110-120 Antioch?
      Papias 110-140 Phrygia
      Shepherd 100-150 Rome
      Quadratus c. 125?
      Barnabas c. 130 Alexandria?
      2 Peter 130s Rome?
      2 Clement 140s? Corinth? Egypt?
      Martyrdom of Polycarp c. 155 Smyrna
      Epistle to Diognetus 150-200 ?

      Wow, recommended reading. What specific topic? I posted some of these in the earlier comments, but here are some great overviews:

      Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament: Very balanced and thorough, master NT historian and scholar.
      Bart Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction: More concise, very well written and laid out, less balanced (not in a bad way, just kind of debate-style)
      Mark Powell, Introducing the New Testament: I just got this but really like his Fortress Introduction to the Gospels. His intended purpose is to “present the evidence and get out of the way” and it is very pretty.

      Michael Coogan’s Old Testament Introduction is good; as is Victor Matthew’s. Matthew also has an excellent History of Israel. James Kugel’s How to Read the Bible is good.

      Metzger and Coogan’s Oxford Companion to the Bible is absolutely superb, possibly the best 1 book on the Bible to have.

      Metzger has a nice little book called “The Bible in Translation” that reviews both ancient and modern versions.

      If you want recommendations about a particular aspect of Biblical Studies please let me know! There are so many facets.

  39. March 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Jared, Maybe a personal question:

    How do you teach your children about the Bible? I appreciate the art of textual criticism and, in fact, find it a very spiritually enlightening activity. But, after all, I am a believer in the divinity of Jesus and want my young children to learn and appreciate the majesty of His life. When my kids get older, I know the tough questions will come and I won’t want to withhold the historical evidence from them. In short, I worry about inoculating them too early. (I know this is a common question among Mormons concerning their own short history, but I think questioning the validity of the NT is a much more serious affair)

    Considering your own beliefs and faith and considering that you’re raising you children in the church, how do you teach them?

    • March 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm

      Christian,

      Important question. I share with my children what I believe about the Bible, as appropriate. So we talk about how the Book of Jonah is fiction, but the great message it has. I will answer questions my children have as they have them. But I will also focus on the uplifting aspects of the Bible–the whole picture. Here are sections of my answers to Tyson above about teaching my children; I don’t blame anyone for not reading through all the comments. :)

      “I teach my children what I believe, as they are ready. My wonderful 11 year old turned to me a few weeks ago in sacrament and asked, “Dad, what if we are wrong?” I was so proud of her for asking that. I said “That is a great question; we will talk about it later.” Later I said “The short answer is that Truth is bigger than Mormonism.” So I will teach my children what I find most appealing in Mormonism and do what I can to minimize elements I find harmful, all with an approach that is open and respectful to other sources of Truth. So a sort of progressive, open Mormonism.

      I favor an environment that provides the maximum number of people what they need given the purpose of the institution with which they are involved. So this differs by audience. I do favor a positive environment. Not sure what you mean by an “immunized” environment. Do I mean providing a controlled amount of challenging information in a supportive environment so that when the individual comes across more of the challenging information they are “inoculated”? I suppose I would accept that. What do you mean by “evangelist”? I only feel evangelical about principles I feel are beneficial, productive, and ennobling, which I think everyone agrees with. I am just as likely to evangelize circumcision avoidance and vegetarianism as I am Mormonism. Probably more so.

      With my children, I of course have much more of an influence in their lives, much more time with them, near endless ability to follow up. First, I think we radiate what we are, what we believe. Kids are smart; they pick things up (non-verbal communication and all that). So my children will pick up what they believe. So I go to Church with them, ask them about it, correct what they learn if I think it is wrong/damaging/kooky (sometimes I even ask “learn anything crazy in Church today?”). We have Family Home Evenings on Heavenly Mother, the history of humanity, the history of the world; anything is game. I also would, when approached with a question, say with them “let’s look at the evidence.”

      But I also remain open to the polyvalence of human experience (yes I like that word, and multifaceted). My overall approach to religion and spirituality applies here: We experience life on multiple levels at all times. We could ask ourselves what is “really happening” during the most transcendent moments of our lives… the birth of a child, the death of a parent, listening to a musical virtuoso in a concert hall or standing before the stars on a cold winter’s night. Yes, we can explain that we experience emotions because of the hormones secreted by the hypothalamus or explain how our neurons work, as best we can tell, or postulate that we feel loss because from an evolutionary perspective the community suffers when a valuable member dies… yes, these are aspects to the picture, but they are not the whole picture. The why of these experiences does not diminish the transcendent what. It is interesting to learn why a joke works, or to watch the special features for Avatar. But I also don’t think there is anything wrong with just enjoying the movie. This is part of what religion means to me.

      Did I answer your question? I encourage my children to appreciate all the aspects of their lives and learn from all trustworthy sources. I will do what I can to instill within them value for the kind of spirituality and religion that I value, while remaining respectful of their personal desires and choices. As one example, I asked my son if he wanted to go on a mission. He said yes. If he wants to go on one, I will support him, and I will do all I can to help him has as productive a mission as possible—focus on service, resist cultural pressure to go after numbers, be effective, help people as much as possible, find people who would really benefit from participation in the LDS community, etc. If he doesn’t want to go on one, I would be fine with that too.”

      Does that answer your question?

      • March 19, 2011 at 3:20 am

        Jared,

        Thanks, I saw Tyson’s question after I posted – your answer is very helpful.

        FWIW, I’ve struggled through the likes of Brown, Sanders, Ehrman etc. before. You seem to possess a rare gift for communicating this stuff to an interested but amateur audience in a very crisp, thorough way. I don’t mean to glad-hand, but want to remind you of the great resource you can be to people.

  40. Nate
    March 17, 2011 at 4:17 am

    Thanks for taking the time to thoroughly reply to my vague questions. The list you compiled is awesome! I am also adding many of the books you recommended to my kindle wish list.

    I know you are busy but if you have time or the inclination I did have a few more questions:
    Do you have any thoughts regarding “Misquoting Jesus”, is it a worthwhile or balanced read?
    Any good books on the lost scriptures, books that didn’t make it into the bible, or the dead sea scrolls?

    Thanks again!

    • March 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm

      Confession: I need to finish Misquoting Jesus. :) I have read Ehrman’s Text of the New Testament, his Studies on Textual Criticism, and Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, etc so have covered what Misquoting Jesus covers. :) I think it is very worth the read. The evidence Ehrman gives is solid, though he likes to rhetorically pound points into the reader. Ehrman is more readable and entertaining and effective than “balanced”. To his credit I have heard him say “I don’t know” on multiple occasions and he is open to changing his mind. He just presents things like a debater more than a historian, lawyer rather than judge.

      Ehrman actually has a pair of books on the exact subject you asked about: Lost Christianities and Lost Scriptures. Bentley Layton’s The Gnostic Scriptures is also good, though that only covers Gnostic texts. Those are good intros. There are more scholarly collections of texts such as J. K. Elliott’s The Apocryphal New Testament.

      My favorite book on the Dead Sea Scrolls is James Vanderkam & Peter Flint’s The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Eugene Ulrich’s The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible has some interesting essays on that topic.

    • March 18, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      I forgot to add books on the Apostolic Fathers, which is the term for the earliest extra-canonical writings we have. Ehrman has most of them in his Reader (pretty brilliant, all Christian writing within 100 years of Jesus’ death in one volume http://www.amazon.com/Testament-Other-Early-Christian-Writings/dp/0195154649/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1300482175&sr=1-2). There is also an interesting selection of 2nd-3rd century texts in his “After the New Testament” (I am not mindlessly plugging my adviser, really; I can’t help it if he is obscenely productive). Here is an introduction http://www.amazon.com/Reading-Apostolic-Fathers-Clayton-Jefford/dp/0801046696/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1; Ehrman did the Loeb edition (He was asked to update Eusebius but said no, quite the shame).

  41. kia
    March 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I finally made it to the end of the podcasts. Nice job. Its obvious by both the amount and content of all the posts that you have hit on something here; LDS community are hungering for good factual information on Jesus and the scriptures. Its just shows how correlation and the admonition to only use church approved materials to teach, has dumbed down members. The information you have presented is like a fresh spring of water. I would love to engage in some of these issues in the gospel doctrine class I teach, but if I did I’m sure I would be called in by the powers that be. I subtly try to get people to think without being to overt and causing a mass awakening. Baby steps.

  42. Cliff B
    March 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Wonderful! I love Brian & his insights; I’ve loved getting to know a bit about Jared A. & his story here. I came across Bart Ehrman about 10 years ago and immediately fell in love with his work and presentation of it. Even though the implications were not compatible with much of what I’ve been taught in the LDS church, I had already run across many reasons to take the edge off any literalistic or fundamentalist thinking in that regard.

    Like Jared, I too love the Church and have enjoyed an active numinous life within it, to the point that I consider myself somewhat a mystic. Jared said something like “felt the word of God”. Yep. I have never been able to translate that ‘feeling’ into language where I was able to maintain the exact meaning, content and intent of the message. I admire people like Joseph Smith that could do as well as he did at it.

    At the same time I have thrilled to the discovery of science and academia, and the first four recordings gave me some additional insights that I really enjoyed. The last recording, though, was the best. Good job, Brian & Jared. I struggle myself with how I can help my friends & neighbors in the church. I seek wisdom, just as Jared seeks it.

    cb

  43. Nathan Kline
    March 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Jared,

    I’ve been listening to the MS podcasts for the past year, and I really appreciate the time you and Brian gave to your story and the topics you addressed. I wanted to share with you just a bit of my professional and personal development in an effort to let you know the extent of my appreciation. I would venture a guess that a only small handful can understand your story on its many levels.

    o I am a 6th Generation LDS, served a mission, married in the temple (15 years), three children
    o I have always been an active, practicing LDS
    o Several family members struggle with mental health issues (bi-polar mostly)
    o Divorce has significantly impacted me (though I’ve never been divorced)
    o I have a BA from Florida Southern College (98) (UMC), majors: religion, English, philosophy
    o I have an M.Div from the Divinity School, University of Chicago (03)
    o I was a student pastor of a Protestant congregation, and remain an associate member (10 years later)
    o I had a successful, interfaith consulting business in Chicago
    o I taught world religion and comparative philosophy for three years
    o For the past 7 years I have been an active duty, Army Chaplain (2 combat deployments to Iraq)
    o I currently live in Germany.
    o I am 40 years old.

    Before my mission, I served a two-year enlistment in the US Army in Germany. I was endowed a year before I went on my mission, and attended the temple weekly. I had read the BofM at least 10 times, cover-to-cover, before entering the MTC. The experiences of prayerfully reading the BofM, and more especially applying principles of goodness to my life, have forever changed me for the better. As a missionary, I tore apart the Bible, taking copious notes and compiling long lists of questions. I was an extremely successful missionary, and lived a blessed life. Two years after my mission, while I was teaching Seminary and Institute, my new girl friend, and soon-to-be member of the Church, invited me to attend her NT class at her small, Methodist liberal arts college. I never met anyone who studied scripture more than me, truly. But my study was almost entirely the text itself (and about 30 books from LDS authors). In 1993 I was introduced to the historical critical method. Wow. I transferred to this school, studied Hebrew for two years and Greek for three. My triple major took 5 years of 18 credit-hour semesters. By 1998, my biblical studies efforts acquainted me with virtually everyone who was someone at SBL or AAR. I had the privilege of having long, face-to-face conversations with some of the true heavy weights: Metzger, Brown, Murphy, Sanders, Robinson, Levine, etc. I could recite the strengths and weaknesses of the various documentary hypotheses (HB & NT), source, text, and form critical questions, philosophical arguements for and against the existence of God, etc., etc. And this before I even went to seminary. I was equally aquainted with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Schleiermacher, Bultmann, Barth, etc. (A similar pedigree of philosophers could be added as well.) For grad school, I had scholarship offers from Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Chicago. I chose the latter. I pursued the M.Div, because I wanted to teach Hebrew Bible, specifically the wisdom, intertestamental, and second temple literature. I preferred to do so somewhere other than BYU. I believed that it would be helpful to relate to students, some of whom I expected would be training for the ministry, if I knew first hand what it meant to be a minister in the more traditional/common sense of the word. For about 10 years I wrestled with how to apply critical insights to the Restored Gospel. Although I have always loved the Bible, it was easier to think critically of it than it was the BofM and D&C. At Chicago, I studied primarily with John Collins, while also satisfying the ministry tract requirements. A series of events helped me realize that my deepest motivation for studying and teaching HB was my view that it was the greatest common denominator between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This lead me to consider with greater passion the philosophy of religions, and why relating to others outside was so important to me. My successful business and teaching opportunities led me to postpone and later give up PhD work, in part, because I was already doing much of what I wanted to do and doing it well. A couple of years later, I experienced a profound longing for (call to) formal ministry as an Army Chaplain. I think I have found my home.

    Fast forward to the present, as a Chaplain I am involved in the best and worst of people’s lives. I am regularly involved in worship and fellowship activities in a Protestant congregation. I teach early morning seminary to a class of 35. I am much more comfortable in my own skin than I once was. I enjoy greater clarity than ever. My journey is not over, but I sense that many of the storms have passed. For the past several years I have been discovering practical and authentic ways to live a thoughtful faith. I am thankful for the Church and my membership, but can understand why some do not share my my estimations. Although I found myself taking issue with bits of your opinions, we are in very similar places–as far as I can tell.

    Thanks again for sharing who you are. I will be moving back to the east coast (SC) this summer. Having a chance to meet you and Brian interests me a good deal.

    Nathan Kline
    http://chaplainkline.blogspot.com
    chaplain.kline@us.army.mil

    • March 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm

      Nathan,

      Thank you for sharing your fascinating story! Sounds like you could also have put out this podcast. :) I am struck as you were by the common threads of our stories and I very much look forward to “comparing notes” and discovering how you have found meaning in your LDS faith with your background and training.

  44. March 18, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I finished this podcast last week. Wonderful work. Now, I know you and Brian didn’t plan it this way, but the banter you guys had back and forth reminded of the infomercials you get late at night. You know the fake questions and answer, and comments that help segue issues into the next topic. Brian was great and more credit should also be given to him and the work he did.

    Jared, you’re awesome, and I learned so much. As I have stated to you before.

    So we as a Church believe in the Bible “as far as it is translated correctly” If we took this literally, I seem to recall you saying that there is more accurate Bible translations ‘out there’. I don’t recall which ones they were. But, should the Church not embrace these?

    • March 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm

      Ryan,

      I actually think the logical conclusion of our doctrine concerning the Bible would be to produce OUR OWN version. :) In fact, J. Reuben Clark expressed this hope in the preface of “Why the King James Version”. He expressed his hope that Mormon scholars would “go over the manuscripts and furnish us, under the influence and direction of the Holy Ghost, a translation of the New Testament that will give us an accurate translation that shall be pregnant with the great principles of the Restored Gospel”. For years I actually harbored the dream of participating on such a translation. :)

      Unfortunately, this is not how our “as far as it is translated correctly works”. Joseph actually meant something more like “as far as it is transmitted and translated correctly.” I posted this up toward the beginning of the comments, but the official First Presidency letter about the KJV states, “While other Bible versions may be easier to read than the King James Version, in doctrinal matters latter-day revelation supports the King James Version in preference to other English translations. All of the Presidents of the Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith, have supported the King James Version by encouraging its continued use in the Church. In light of all the above, it is the English language Bible used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

      How we use this idea of “transmitted and translated correctly” is “if the Bible and LDS doctrine ‘seem to’ disagree, it means the Bible is wrong and has been corrupted from its state where it used to agree with us.”

      I very much agree that we need to move beyond the KJV. I think a good first step is to get comfortable consulting other translations; this has been done even in Conference talks.

      • Anonymous
        January 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm

        The idea of coming up with an LDS version focusing on accuracy seems like a good idea.  It is also subject to a huge, probably insurmountable objection;  evangelical and like-minded critics would have a field day claiming that Mormons had abandoned the “real” Bible in favor of “their own Bible.”  Never mind that evangelicals and others have the NIV, the ESV, the NASB, and so forth.  While I don’t have any direct insight, I strongly suspect that the Brethren would prefer to immunize the Church against that line of attack by sticking with the traditional adherence to the KJV.

        Which I don’t mind.  I do think that there is something to be said for the beautiful, albeit archaic, language of the KJV.  Where it gets things wrong, serious students of the underlying texts have access to other sources obviously.  Including of course the JST.

  45. Mormonitc
    March 20, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I would love to have Jared as my Sunday School teacher this year.

  46. Pete
    March 29, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Jared, you mentioned a great deal of New Testament scholars. I have read some of N.T Wright’s work. Some consider him to be one of the top scholars on the subject. You didn’t mention him in your response to an earlier question. What are your opinions on N.T Wright?

  47. Anonymous
    April 5, 2011 at 4:40 am

    Jared,

    I don’t know if you’re still monitoring these comments, but I wanted to thank you, both for the fascinating discussion and for being so open about your own faith and how it has changed with your experience.

    I do have a couple of questions: (i) I have read chunks of a book called Wide as the Waters, by Benson Bobrick. It’s a history of the King James translation. Have you read this book and do you have any reaction to it? Is Bobrick’s account generally regarded as accurate? (ii) What are some of the good Bible commentaries and are there any that you particularly recommend?

    • April 5, 2011 at 6:48 am

      I am still very aware of this discussion and want to reply to them all! Things have just gotten busy of late.

  48. Peter
    April 8, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Jared:

    Glad to see you are still monitoring the discussion. I wanted to first say how much I enjoyed listening to you on the podcast. I admire your knowledge and the openness with which you approached New Testament writings and history, and also your courage and honesty in detailing your own experiences and faith. It’s very inspiring for someone like me (who has struggled for many years with a large mess of issues related to Mormonism, and religion in general) to listen to you articulate the differences between faith and knowledge. It gives me a great deal of hope for the church with people like you in it. I had several questions I wondered if you could answer.

    1) What do think of Paula Fredriksen, Geza Vermes, and Elaine Pageles books on early Christianity?

    2) Are there any conservative Evangelical or Mormon scholars of the New Testament you think are fair and worth reading?

    3) I recently finished Ehrman’s book Jesus: Apocalyptical Prophet of the New Millennium and enjoyed it quite a bit. Who, in your opinion, has written the best book arguing against Jesus as a Jewish apocalyptic?

    4) You mentioned on the podcast that you taught comparative religion courses at Westminster. What books would you recommend as a good general introduction to world religions? In a similar vein, are there any books you would recommend on understanding Islam?

    By the by, I live in the Salt Lake area and would appreciate the opportunity to correspond with you further about historical/religious questions as they arise. If you are amenable, I’d be happy to pass along my email.

    Thanks again.

    best,

    Peter Dittmer

    • May 6, 2011 at 3:22 am

      Peter, sorry it has taken me a few weeks to get back to you. I am glad this podcast had a positive effect for you.

      1) All good scholars and writers; their books are worth reading.

      2) N.T. Wright is one of the best Evangelical scholars; Luke Timothy Johnson is also solid. I could give you more names depending on your focus. Joel Green, I. Howard Marshall, and James Dunn are good as well. Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer were not Evangelical but were both believing Catholics and are some of the best scholars of the past century.

      For Mormon NT scholars, Richard Holzapfel and Eric Huntsman are some of the best… and they aren’t even trained in the NT! (Roman history and Classics respectively). Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament is as good as it gets from a Mormon Perspective. Andrew Skinner and Kent Brown also know what they are doing, and David Seeley in the OT. Stephen Robinson’s NT knowledge is showcased more in his classes than writings.

      3) There is value in looking at multiple sides of an argument for sure. Here is a link to several books advocating different approaches; I think “Social Prophet” is the next most persuasive after apocalyptic prophet (not that the two are at all mutually exclusive). http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=4811

      4) Here is a link to book recommendations that I wrote up; it covers World Religions. http://www.scribd.com/doc/53054728/Bible-Book-Recommendations

      Carl Ernst’s Following Muhammad is one good intro to Islam. http://www.amazon.com/Following-Muhammad-Rethinking-Contemporary-Civilization/dp/0807855774/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1304648533&sr=1-1

      I would be glad to correspond over email; contact me on facebook and we can go from there.

  49. April 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Jared (and John D. and Brian) – this was wonderful! The whirlwind tour of the NT was fascinating, but part 5 of the interview was definitely the highlight.

    Thank you, Jared, for being so open in the interview.

  50. jwick
    April 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Jared -

    Thanks for your time and for sharing your studies of the NT. I really enjoy the history of the biblical cannon and all things association with the formation of Christianity. It would be great if you would get together for a follow up podcast on the creeds or an in-depth historical and cultural background on the books of the New Testament.

    I was waiting for the part five and just finished it. I was wondering about your journey and what the outcome was. To me as a Christ follower and believer the LDS Institution is a nice social club and like you most enjoy the universalist beliefs the organization holds. But their is only one true and living god and to “play house” within the LDS as a believing member and scholar who many lost sheep look up to is a very sad waste of your intellectual talents and abilities.

    I again appreciate you sharing your story, I know that it is difficult to let so many others in.

    JW

    • May 6, 2011 at 1:40 am

      @178ce599ef9cf1227339e390f269940b:disqus , I don’t see myself as playing house or a double agent or anything of the sort. I find genuine value within the LDS faith in the way I find value in all religious traditions. I plan on serving others and making my contributions primarily outside the LDS Church, so you don’t need to worry about that. Not sure I understood who you meant by “lost sheep”

    • May 6, 2011 at 2:00 am

      Besides, Mormonism is my faith language just as English is my mother tongue and American is my country. There are problems and concerns I have with all of these associations, but this is not enough reason for me to abandon any of them. I choose to be the best representative of Mormonism, American, and English as I can, as well as learning other languages to enrich my life and connect with others.

      • Bitherwack
        August 25, 2011 at 3:14 am

        As the world becomes more and more accessible, this sense you mention of ones native language, history, values etc. coming into contact with very different histories and values helps us to shed our absolutes, and see things in terms of perceptions and context.  How will religion,  and how will Mormonism continue in the information age?  I hope the diversity of human experience will enrich us, rather than be the source of friction and misery.

        • no pain no gain
          August 27, 2011 at 7:52 pm

          I share your hope and and here are my two cents on your last line: Friction, tension, and conflict is often the necessary precipitant of growth (individual, familial, societal).

  51. Lizanell Boman
    May 6, 2011 at 1:15 am

    MY favorite quote so far (I’m in part 3) “Don’t let the little details of your religion get in the way of loving each other”. BRILLIANT! Loving this Jared (although I confess some of it is going a tiny bit over my head; you are so smart!)

    • May 6, 2011 at 1:37 am

      Thanks @0f32f5dfae6cc0301de61dafefa3919d:disqus … I was just paraphrasing someone much greater than I. :)

  52. Lizanell Boman
    May 6, 2011 at 2:54 am

    I must also echo earlier sentiments that it would be fun to take a class from you. Suggestion to John Dehlin; can Jared be a speaker at one of the Mormon stories gatherings?

    • May 6, 2011 at 3:25 am

      @0f32f5dfae6cc0301de61dafefa3919d:disqus I am actually on a panel for the June 10-12 Mormon Stories Salt Lake Region Retreat, but if you want a “class with me” I will be giving an all day workshop at this August’s Utah Sunstone Symposium on Biblical Studies. Eventually I also plan on a few online “mini-courses”; so these things will come. :)

  53. Elizabeth
    May 16, 2011 at 11:05 am

     Just finished listening to the podcast series (finally) today with sections 3 and 4. In your section on the historical Jesus you mentioned how at one point you were afraid to take classes on the subject. I felt very afraid listening to this section, and almost turned the podcast off several times…. I grew up LDS, and am in my early 20′s. I’m female, and think about going on a mission. Though I consider myself to be open-minded in many ways, I am still very traditional in my belief in Christ. I mean, I can put a filter on what I hear in General Conference, but I had never really wanted to, or even thought to, do that with scripture. This stuff (the textual accuracy and historical truth of our scripture) scares the crap out of me. If I need to now go through the New Testament with a filter for each individual author, I don’t know what to believe. And what do I use as a filter? How do I know what the authors intended, what part of that was from God, and which parts are based on other reasons? And all the inaccuracies are still a part of our belief system, even though we believe as Mormons that Joseph Smith fixed everything. For example, you mentioned that the bloody sweat was added later, and I believe that modern apostles believe this is true. I guess having a more accurate Bible translation would help me, (and I am using the NIV version currently)… but still I am confused. It seems [from this interview] that there are so many phrases or views that are changed from one author to the next based on a changing perspective of Christ. How do you sort it out? I am just beginning. Please help.

    • May 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Elizabeth, 

      I appreciate your sharing your thoughts. So did you already listen to part 5, then go back to 3-4? Part 5 addresses part of how I reconcile my academic and spiritual life.  I will address a few points here, but feel free to find and chat with me on facebook or gmail (jared1260). The short answer to all your questions is that incorporating this information into your spiritual life can result in a vibrant personal understanding. I sincerely believe the Spirit will guide you in this process. Though I do NOT think everyone needs to know about all these issues, I do think an awareness of them produces more resilient personal faith. I think the Spirit will guide the process. I also think these academic approaches leave room for spiritual witnesses and testimony. 

      Let’s take the “bloody sweat” passage in Luke 22:44 as an example. First, even if these verses were not original to Luke, it doesn’t mean they aren’t true. Are Mormon’s words less valid than Alma’s for example? And even the verses as they stand bring up questions–if you read very closely, the verses in Luke don’t even explicitly say Jesus bled from every pore! It says “his sweat was *as it were* great drops of blood.” 

      As far as the differences among authors, I think it is a responsible and satisfying approach to understand that each writer has his own perspective and way of understanding things and then use those perspectives as we refine our own testimonies and understanding. These are really great and important questions Elizabeth. It is an exciting journey to sift out what seems to come from cultural influences and which parts seem to you to be inspired. I personally think God wants us to figure out these issues. In my experience the conclusions that come from academic awareness of the scriptures about agency, revelation, how God works with us etc. can be very satisfying. Here is an example of how I tried to work things out when I started grad school (my beliefs are in a different place now but this shows a part of the process): 

      3/26/03

      True but not historical…

       It finally made sense yesterday how the gospel of John, for example, could portray Jesus in ways that are true, but not historical. It has to do with what Jesus knew when about himself, and what he told whom. A brief sketch of a possible
      way to see it goes like this:  

       

      Jesus knows that God is his Father and so He is the Son of God by the time he is twelve. However, he doesn’t fully appreciate what this means at first. As he grows and studies the scriptures, he begins to gain an understanding of his mission, and that he is to be the Messiah. However, the texts have been corrupted, and so the process takes longer. His time in the wilderness with His Father is key in
      understanding his mission and identity. He tells few people who he is, focusing on changing their characters through preaching love. However, to his closest followers he tries to express his mission. (he probably did tell Peter, James, and John that he was “God” on the mount of transfiguration, for example, but they didn’t understand) He has a growing understanding that he needs to die in
      behalf of all people’s sins, but does not really understand what this entails until the evening of his prayer in Gethsemane.
      He understands his sacrifice in his mind, but the awful reality overwhelms him, and he begs that the cup be taken from him. In shock yet having conquered the trial and remained true to his mission, he is betrayed, arrested, and about to be put to death. However, he is not ready for the return of his agonies on the cross, with the greatest anguish of all—his abandonment by his Father. Thus his
      cry on the cross. He dies, and his followers are devastated, afraid, and confused.

      Then he is resurrected. At first the disciples don’t believe or understand, but the Holy Ghost confirms the truth and opens their minds to the scriptures, and they understand Jesus’ importance and his mission. It all clicks. Changed persons, they preach salvation through his name. This consumes their time—Peter, Paul, etc, who have time to dictate/write only letters. Then the evangelists put to writing the
      stories about Jesus, preserving in varying proportions people’s understanding of Jesus while he is alive, and retrojecting their post-resurrection understanding onto the account of his life. Thus the differences in the gospels, and how John can be true, but not historical.

      **This sketch explains the NT texts as we have them. The systematic editing by the Great and Abominable Church is a wild card that can explain or change almost anything.

      • Elizabeth
        May 16, 2011 at 8:47 pm

         Thanks so much for replying. I was happy that you replied so soon. This information helps. It helps to know that at one point anyways, you thought it all fit. I appreciate what you said about this kind of study producing more a resilient, vibrant faith, and that it can be guided by the spirit. That has gotta be true. 

         (Yes, I listened to part 5… but I think it’s been a couple months now. I got quite busy with school, but maybe I was just avoiding finishing this interview, lol. I actually commented on the podcast then, with questions about how the book of mormon fits in as a witness of Christs.)This is personal, and it feels weird to ask on a public forum here, but here goes anyway: Why did you change from believing in Christ in a more traditional lds way to believing “My biggest issue with the idea of a Savior is that I don’t think there is some cosmic force preventing us from overcoming our mistakes and actualizing ourselves.” (That is from an older comment you wrote 2 months ago on here, also directed at me.) So why did you stop trying to “make it all fit” like you did in grad school? Just curious….and yes, I will add you as a facebook friend. I would love a little guidance now and then on researching the new testament. Actually… I have no idea how to start. How do you try to get into the minds of people who lived 2000 years ago?  Haha, that’s a very broad question. Should I learn Greek? Should I read an LDS book? A non-lds book? Give me a direction on how to understand Christ and his mission, and I will go in that direction.

  54. Clay
    June 4, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Jared I think you might be gay.

    • June 4, 2011 at 1:38 am

      Well @f27e2ea207d0fa2162c508dcfe5c4083:disqus , you will need to work much, much harder to convince me of that. :) So far even Hugh Jackman can’t sway me. 

  55. Richeyarmy
    July 1, 2011 at 8:00 am

    Yeah if Hugh can’t do it I think you’re safe.

  56. Living and Learning
    July 21, 2011 at 12:16 am

    The content was quality but the editing was ………wow brutal.  I couldn’t help but laugh.

  57. August 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    This was great thanks…

  58. Anonymous
    November 18, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Good introduction to a safe middle-of-the-road historico-critical approach to the origins of Christianity. But here are a few less pious, more radical, links which might both happily complete the material exposed in the podcast, and still blow a few minds round here as well:

    http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/
    http://www.carotta.de/subseite/texte/esumma.html
    http://www.original-bible.com/Origin-of-Marcionites.pdf
    http://thaimangoes.blogspot.com/2009/08/e4.html

  59. Anonymous
    December 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I very much enjoyed this podcast.  Jared Anderson is lucid, cogent and very informative.  But I have a complaint, if I may offer it:  the interviewer detracted from the presentation.  You would hope that an interviewer would be an enhancement.  I’m not offering a comparison to John, because I think that he has both strengths and weaknesses as an interviewer.  (We all have strengths and weaknesses in many aspects of our life.)  But Jared was so well prepared and so well organized that the interviewer’s interjections both distracted and detracted.  It got to be that I would dread his interruptions and then I would either laugh or be seriously annoyed (or some combination of the two) as he would restate in banal terms the point that Jared made just the moment before.

  60. JeremiahA
    January 13, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Again, I would like to thank Mormon Stories for another excellent, professional, engaging interview. While the first four podcasts were well-paced and engrossing and a wonderful presentation, I more readily enjoyed hearing Mr. Anderson speak of his background, thoughts, and feelings, especially since this brought the interview back to a more realistic realm.

    Listening to the first four parts reminded me of a three-part Discovery channel series called, “Who was Jesus,” where three “scholars” from “academia” hosted a presentation of the life of Jesus. In the first episode, one of the scholars related that Jesus had not been born in Bethlehem, which caused my ears to prick up in excitement. What evidence does this scholar have to make such a claim, I wondered. Well, according to this scholar, Jesus was not born in Bethlehem because she, the scholar, felt that a pregnant woman would not want to make the trip from Nazareth…  Did you catch that? Not “we have evidence that Mary did not make the trip.” Not “pregnant women never made the trip” or “it was impossible for a pregnant woman to make the trip.” No, this scholar simply felt that Mary would not have “wanted” to travel to Bethlehem. It is statement like these which help support the conclusion that the terms “scholar” and “academia” have become over-used and highly overrated.

    Please do not get me wrong. I think speculating is fun and an enjoyable pastime. Listening to Bart Ehrman is very entertaining, much like reading “Chariots of the Gods” is entertaining or discussing the JFK conspiracy is fun and entertaining. I enjoy a good story but there comes a point, in some tales, where the facts intrude and no twisting, ignoring of counter examples and verses, or jumping through hoops is satisfying.

    Thank you again for this well-done work. I am looking forward to hearing and reading more about Jared Anderson in the future, and I wish him much success.

    • January 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm

      Thank you for your kind and supportive words @fb4b2ff0cb02e84010bbbe41cf4822fb:disqus . I do want to push back against your dismissiveness of “scholars” and “academia”. 

      Now, I haven’t seen that particular series, so it may be correct that that particular series has little value. But just because there are bad examples of a profession does not make the entire profession or methodology invalid. 

      Did I not talk about why scholars conclude that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem in this podcast? We talk about it in the Mormon Matters Christmas episode: http://mormonmatters.org/2011/11/29/62-a-christmas-primer-exploring-the-nativity-in-scripture-legend-history-and-hearts/I will give you the very short version: 

      1) Matthew and Luke both agree Jesus lived in Nazareth 
      2) They both agree he was born in Bethlehem, BUT they DISAGREE on how he got there (in Matthew the family lives in Bethlehem, runs away from Herod, wants to move back home, but relocates to Nazareth. In Luke they live in Nazareth, travel to Bethlehem for the birth, then move back to Nazareth). 
      3) Nazareth is otherwise unknown. In fact, it was embarrassing to Christians that Jesus, believed the Messiah, was from there (see John 1:46). 
      4) On the other hand, Bethlehem was a big deal, both for its connection to David and a scripture in Micah 5:2 that predicts a connection to the Messiah. 
      For all these reasons, it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus was born in Nazareth and Matthew and Luke independently (or perhaps a bit more likely, than an earlier tradition) connected Jesus’ birth to Bethlehem. 

      No pregnant women mentioned. 

      • JeremiahA
        January 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

        Thank you very much for taking the time to reply, for the link to the podcast, and for offering the reasons you hold the view that Jesus was born in Nazareth. (And I did notice that no pregnant women were mentioned which is why I would rather see you on the next Discovery series about Jesus, if or whenever that would be.)

        While appreciating the premises you listed (I do agree with you concerning the first, third and fourth points), I will continue to hold to the “born in Bethlehem” view. I am a little skeptical of imposing a character flaw, intent to deceive, on separate, distinct writers and find the existence of a Bethlehem tradition as doubtful. Rather a simple explanation for the appearance of disagreement with Luke would be Matthew’s intent to establish Jesus’ birthplace and hometown, rather than Joseph and Mary’s.

        Once again, I appreciate the time you spent to share your viewpoint and I wish I had your gift of articulation.

        All the best!

  61. Cleled
    February 22, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Kerry Shirts should be interviewed

  62. RLester
    September 1, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I am very late to the party; I hope you are able to see my question Jared.

    First the thing that strikes me as an overview is the dearth of records available regarding the life and teachings of Christ. This is in constrast to Joseph Smith’s view of Christ visiting the Nephites and reprimanding them for not having records of Samuel the Lamanite. It seems the Jesus Christ of the gospels would be more adimant about his disciples WRITING down and recording his sayings to better organize his church rather than waiting 50 years and then piecing together how it really happened. Advocating records are a huge part of Mormonism (must have the brass plates, the Mulekites not having the records and “denied the being of thier creator”) For me, it does not make sense that the organization of the early church would not have established canon and regulation immediately.

    My question is regarding the hypothesis of Jesus being influenced by Buddha. I have read that Buddhist influence and missionaries were present Jesus’ time and in that geographical area. I have also read several parallels between the teachings, life and divinity of Buddha to Jesus. There is also the “Q” source which was assumed heavily influenced by Buddhism.
    Could Christ have been a Buddhist convert?
    Could the writers of the gospels have borrowed traditional stories of Buddha to give Christ divinity?
    Could it be the other way around, Christianity influencing stories of Buddha?
    I am very interested in your thoughts!

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