For those who don’t love studying the Old Testament, this is the year to take the leap into what you may have thought were icy waters, with the best group of new LDS books on the Old Testament that I have yet seen. What you’ll find beneath the surface of this flowing river of scripture is a place without shallows, where surprises and vitality loom at every bend, and whose submerged power and currents are shaped by a testimony of Jesus Christ.
James Ferrell, author of The Hidden Christ, said it this way, “There is no greater testament of Christ and his divinity and mission than the testament hidden below the surface of the Old Testament. Every story is his story, preserved at a level that would survive the loss of every plain and precious thing.”
I am impressed and excited with the excellence, scholarship and depth of the new books just published on the Old Testament, and they have arrived in time to profoundly aid our personal exploration of the gospel doctrine curriculum this year. Frankly, the 40 minutes, we have each week in our gospel doctrine classes are only enough to barely skim the surface of this multi-layered scripture, this treasure that sits before us with so much depth.
The Old Testament calls out to us to have personal study and these books, open on our desks with the scriptures spread before us, make a great team to enhance our understanding and open our eyes. Though I have taught Old Testament courses several times, these books bid us to plunge again with new eyes.
We will also help on Meridian by publishing not only our regular gospel doctrine lessons, but also a rich supply of Old Testament articles this year. If you have been waiting on the shore or dabbling in the shallows with the Old Testament, make this the year to wade in.
The Hidden Christ
by James L. Ferrell
Best-selling author of The Peacegiver and The Holy Secret, Ferrell notes in his new book The Hidden Christ, that the first thing that was revealed to Adam and Eve when they left the Garden of Eden was the law of sacrifice, “a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth” (Moses 5:7).
“The Lord then revealed that this similitude was but the beginning, for “all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath; all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:63).
Ferrell’s premise is, then, “If everything given of God from the beginning bears record of Christ, then it follows that our understanding on any particular matter is incomplete until we see how it bears record of Christ. So of every scriptural element and story, we should ask, ‘How does it bear record of the Savior?'”
Ferrell then works his way through the Old Testament answering that question about the key events. From Creation to the Fall, from the Abrahamic covenant to the lives of the Patriarchs, from Joseph as a deliverer to the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, each bears its type and shadow of the Savior.
These types and shadows are clear in the historical sweep of the Judges of Israel, the stories of Samuel and David, even in the short account of Jonah.
Some of these types you may have seen before. For instance, Joseph of Egypt is clearly a type of the spiritual and physical deliverance offered by the Savior. The similarities between them are many. Here’s a small sampling: Joseph is the beloved son. He reveals that he will rule over Israel. The children of Israel reject him out of jealousy and hate. Notwithstanding their mistreatment of him, he seeks out his brethren on behalf of his father.
What may be more surprising is that Joseph’s brothers are in similitude of us-and then the story takes on a more personal significance. Ferrell says, “Through our sins, we, in effect, have thrown the Savior into the pit. We are the cause of his suffering.” Yet, what is Joseph’s response when he saves them and reveals himself to them? “Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried.”
Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament
By Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Dana M. Pike and David Rolph Seely
Like an armchair visit to the Holy Land with knowledgeable LDS scholars as guides, Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament is visually and content rich. With stunning photographs, maps, calendars, and drawings, this is a book where no expense or effort was spared to make it beautiful and layered with meaning. It will be an excellent edition to any coffee table as well as to your library.
Yet, it is so much more than that as it is meant to walk us into the ancient world, giving us a context for the events and people described in the Old Testament. The Old Testament can be foreboding because its world is so distant from our own, and, in Sunday School, time allows us only the quickest brush through it, but this book brings the scripture up close and personal, explicates the things that seem so different than our world.
Though its 24 chapters are arranged in chronological order from ‘The World from Adam to Abraham” to “The Restoration of the Old Testament”, the content is not so much a scripture commentary as an explanation of the ancient world.
The author’s say that the worlds they explore are these: “the beliefs and practices outlined in the laws and prophetic records as revealed by Jehovah-what the Old Testament says and how it says it. The other world of the Old Testament is the historical world in which the people and places recounted in the Old Testament actually existed, where political, social, and cultural connections developed among the Israelites and their neighbors. The witness of the Old Testament is that Jehovah chose a particular extended family for certain opportunities and responsibilities. Their success and failures took place in a very real world of time and space.”
Here is a small sample from how this perspective is handled in a chapter called “The World of Moses: Bondage and Redemption.” The authors begin by discussing who this new pharaoh may have been who knew not Joseph and examine in a special pull-out box the challenges with trying to date Moses and the Exodus. Another pull-out box gives us a verbal portrait of Miriam, while yet another details what the Amarna letters were and why they matter to us. They examine what Moses’ life would have been like in Egypt, tell us more about who Jethro and the Midianites were, and explore “Where is Mt.
This kind of framework for reading the Old Testament adds enormous understanding, handled by three fine scholars, who nevertheless, make their writing accessible and enjoyable.
In God’s Image and Likeness: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Book of Moses
By Jeffrey M. Bradshaw
One may not think that the eight chapters of the book of Moses found in our Pearl of Great Price, could generate an 1100 page book of commentary, but Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, PhD, who is a Senior Research Scientist has created a masterpiece in his new book In God’s Image and Likeness: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Book of Moses.
As David Larsen, who authors the blog heavenlyascents.com said, “At over 1000 pages long, a comprehensive commentary, hundreds of notes, an amazing array of colorful images and instructive diagrams, dozens of excurses and a long appendix, an incredible bibliography, and exhaustive (and very helpful) indices, this is a truly monumental and formidable piece of writing.” His interview with Bradshaw is here.
The book of Moses warrants this kind of comprehensive study according to Bradshaw because:
The beauty and richness of the book of Moses is incredible and intimidating. Not only do we have in these few pages the foundations of LDS doctrine about the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement, but also, from a literary perspective, we are looking at one of the most subtly-written prose accounts ever composed. Apart from the life of Christ, these stories of the beginning have been the subject of more commentary, art, and music than any other subject in the Bible, and parallel accounts of great interest have been found in religious traditions around the world. Many of the ancient documents have only come to light in recent decades.
The basic questions raised by science are also found here, and cannot be ignored in any serious treatment of this book of scripture. I felt that all of these major sources and perspectives-the prophetic commentary, the traditions of world religions, the art, the scholarship, the science-needed to be adequately represented in the commentary
I have spent considerable time in these many pages and have come away with insights and ah-ha’s, glimpses into the meaning and context of Moses’ magnificent understanding that are not always clear in a more casual reading. Many of the questions that naturally arise from reading about the Creation and Fall and early scenes of this earth’s history are taken up, discussed, and important sources and ancient texts brought to bear on them.
Bradshaw said, “The central message of the book of Moses is not revealed in its stories of the Creation and the Fall, as essential as these accounts may be, but rather in its invitation to conform our lives to the divine pattern whereby we may come to fully reflect God’s image.”
The book of Moses depicts not only the Fall, that time when Adam and Eve walked out of the Garden and left the presence of God, but also, through temple motifs and patterns, how to turn around and walk back into his presence. With excellent scholarship, Bradshaw paints this clearly.
The book is organized in this way: For each chapter of Moses, an Overview section discusses selected themes. “A Text and Commentary section then follows. In this section, the text of the book of Moses is given at the top of each page, with accompanying commentary below. Bold-formatted words in the scriptural text point the eye to phrases that are the subject of commentary. Next, a Gleanings section appears, containing extended quotations from a number of sources. Endnotes are included at the end of each chapter.
The book, with its many full-color illustrations, retails at $49.99, but, according to the publisher should sell for $120. Because the book is so unique, benefactors stepped in to subsidize the book and make it more affordable for the general reading public.
I agree with David Larsen’s estimation of In God’s Image and Likeness. “This volume is amazingly comprehensive, covering an incredible array of doctrinal issues, and will prove to be an invaluable and irreplaceable resource on the Book of Moses and other related issues for the foreseeable future. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
Women of the Old Testament
by Camille Fronk Olson
“More than 170 women are named in the standard works and hundreds more unnamed are mentioned,” according to Olsen in her new book Women of the Old Testament, but still they linger in shadows. “Because the tendency is nearly universal to focus more on the prophets and political leaders in our formal scripture discussions, women’s role and contributions are often marginalized and even ignored.”
Olson brings the women of scripture front and center on the stage as she notes that many of these women are also types of Christ. “When we consider the scriptural message through the experiences of women, we find that many women should be added to our list of outstanding men as examples of people who inspire us to greater discipleship,” she notes.
Sometimes discussions of women in scripture seem like a mere nod that they were there, without any substantive analysis to reveal who and what women are in God’s scheme. Surely his visionary, powerful sons must be matched by visionary, powerful daughters. Olsen raises the discussion to explore the Hebrew roots of word meanings, the ancient context in which these women lived and comparative scriptural texts to uncover realities that might not always be clear.
She notes, for example, with Eve, that:
Appreciation for our first mother’s virtue and purpose shapes our consideration of other women in scripture, and our interpretation of Eve’s role in the Fall likely influences the manner in which we regard women in general. For example, if we scorn mother Eve s the cause of the world’s woes and the loss of paradise for humankind, we are apt to see women as weak, incapable, overly emotional, reactive, vulnerable, and less intelligent than men. If, however, we consider Eve’s decision in the Garden of Eden as courageous and faith-driven and the results of that decision to be conducive to God’s plan, we are more likely to recognize intelligence, strength, rational thinking, and great ability in women in general. With cultural and gender biases and blinders removed, we can value “our glorious Mother Eve.
In that light, Olsen considers what it means when God refers to Eve as a “help meet” for Adam:
An expression that has suffered a variety of questionable translations, which are often uncomplimentary to Eve. For example, the expression has been incorrectly translitereated to helpmate, thus creating the false perception that God created woman to be subservient to man and important only as man’s assistant.
The morphological units that make up the Hebrew expression help meet, however, communicate a much richer meaning. The first word (‘ezer) translated “help” implies not a subordinate but rather someone who has strength to do what another cannot do for himself. Hebrew scholar Donald W. Parry has argued that the woman’s unique strength, or “help,” is as a “life giver” or a “life force” that typifies god’s help. This same Hebrew word, ‘ezer, translated “help” appears numerous times in the Bible.
The root is the basis for the name of the scribe Ezra and frequently appears in reference to God. For example, God is the One who rescues us in our distress (Psalm 70:5) or He has strength and power to save (Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29). In this way, women are types of Christ.
The second word (kenegdo), translated “meet,” is a compound of three common words that collectively appear in this form only in the Eden account (Genesis 2:18,20; Moses 3:18, 20). The root word within this compound is the middle word, kgd, which means “to be conspicuous” oro “to be apparent”.The collective meaning of the term suggests that Eve was an appropriate and worthy partner for Adam. God’s description of marital companionship in Genesis 2 indicates no hierarchical dynamic between Adam and Eve.
The book is not only substantive, but also beautiful with paintings of the ancient women discussed created by Elspeth Young, an accomplished artist. Again, I highly recommend this book.
So clear off a bookshelf in your house for books dedicated to study of the Old Testament, and don’t forget some of the remarkable books that have been published in earlier years. You can’t beat Understanding Isaiah by Donald W. Parry and Jay A. Parry or the books by Hugh Nibley that analyze Old Testament themes.