Child Sacrifice, A Traditional Religious Practice in Ancient Israel?

Scholars continue to debate a number of important issues concerning the nature of human (child) sacrifices in the ancient Near East, including the origins of the rite, to whom these sacrifices were intended, and by whom they were performed.  A number of books dedicated to the topic have appeared in recent years,[1] and many scholarly books pertaining to the history of Israelite religions have included discussions of these issues as well.[2] Especially vexing as pertains to the biblical material is the question of whether there was in fact a god named Molech/Molek to whom these sacrifices were being performed, and whether or not the biblical phrase “to make pass through the fire” refers to child sacrifice or simply a ritual of dedication.  Continue reading “Child Sacrifice, A Traditional Religious Practice in Ancient Israel?”

Optimism and Naiveté for LDS Religion Scholars

I just finished Sheldon Greaves, “The Education of a Bible Scholar” in Dialogue 42:2, Greaves’s spiritual autobiography recounting both his loss of place in the LDS church in the mid-nineties and his appreciation for modern critical biblical studies. It was a fascinating, if familiar, account of the disillusionment of a LDS scholar with the kinds of questions that could be asked of sacred texts, with a view of the frustration with the tendencies of many in BYU religion to discourage, avoid, and ignore critical biblical studies.

I have written on this period of Mormon studies as devistating and entire generation of scholars in my post “The Terrible 90’s.” However, I implicitly contrasted that time with our own. I’d like to further explore this comparison.
Continue reading “Optimism and Naiveté for LDS Religion Scholars”

Women as the True Disciples and Apostles of Christ in the Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark, written c. 65-70 C.E., is the earliest of the four gospels (even being edited and reused as a source text for the Gospels of Luke and Matthew), and offers a unique perspective among the gospels on the meaning of discipleship and following Jesus. [1]  Mark places heavy emphasis on the suffering(s) and death of Jesus, and understands true Christian discipleship in terms of literally following Jesus’ example through experiencing and enduring suffering and persecution for the gospel (Mark 8.34; 10.28). Continue reading “Women as the True Disciples and Apostles of Christ in the Gospel of Mark”

The Piety of Errant Scriptures

The errancy/innerrancy debate in biblical theology is often framed in terms of levels of “belief” in the Bible. The errancy position holds that the Bible is not a perfect document that represents the direct word of God in every minor (and even some major) instance. It admits human involvement in the production and transmission of the text. In inerrancy position holds that the Bible is the perfect word of God. Though there are many different subtlties in the various versions of these two positions, they actually rest on the same set of assumptions.
Continue reading “The Piety of Errant Scriptures”

Myth, Modernity, and Mormonism

The category of “myth” is arguably the most important for evaluating the Bible in the last few hundred years. The very earliest critics of the Bible employed the category of “myth” in evaluating the stories and histories recorded there. D. F. Strauss (Das Leben Jesu, 1835) employed the term for making sense of the life of Jesus, among the first to suggest that the gospels were not literal history.

Besides the difficulty in identifying and defining myth, the most important interpretive problem comes in trying to figure out how to understand the significance of myth. In sum, is myth a good thing or a bad thing? Basically, two different options emerged that dominated 19th c. biblical studies.
Continue reading “Myth, Modernity, and Mormonism”

Tips on Applying to Grad Programs in Religious Studies (Pt. I)

It’s that time of the year again, and here at FPR we (or mostly ‘I’) figured that we’d toss out a few thoughts about applying to graduate school programs in religious studies. By “religious studies” we’re casting a fairly wide net not referring to simply Religious Studies departments, but all programs where the applicant will study “religion” in some form or another (although we’re not claiming broad knowledge of the application process for all these disciplines). Furthermore, much of our discussion will be rather anecdotal. While we may even know a few statistics about the schools we attend(ed) or have applied to, even those may not reflect current trends nor be arrived at by any strict statistical calculation (‘strict’ here meaning it’s been a long time since we’ve taken a math course or studied for the GRE). Continue reading “Tips on Applying to Grad Programs in Religious Studies (Pt. I)”