In this two-part episode, we continue our series on the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible by examining one of scripture’s most difficult stories–God choosing to unleash a flood designed to kill all living beings on the planet except a select few. In this episode, panelists David Bokovoy, Tom Roberts, and Brian Hauglid examine the scriptural text itself, including the interwoven (and quite different) J and P sources and the stories and traditions that they borrow from. The also explore takes and angles on the story presented by LDS thinkers, the wider Christian world, and Islam. What theological or devotional value can we find in this story? How can we still honor the text’s mythic truths even as its cosmological worldview and claims about a global deluge fly in the face of scientific evidence? Can open up room in LDS discourse for non-literal but still theologically uplifting readings of such claims as it must be understood as a universal flood because the earth needed to be “baptized”?
We hope you will listen and then join in the conversation below!
David Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis–Deuteronomy (Greg Kofford Books, 2014)
The Jewist Bible: Tanakh (Jewish Publication Society translation)
Duane E. Jeffery, “Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Tradition,” Sunstone, October 2004, 27-45
Clayton M. White and Mark D. Thomas, “On Balancing Faith in Mormonism with Traditional Biblical Stories: The Noachian Flood Story,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 40, no 3 (Fall 2007): 85-110
David Montgomery, “Reading the Rocks: Flood Stories and Deep Time,” On Being podcast, with Krista Tippett, 1 August 2013
Father Tom Roberts, “Sacral Kingship of Christ,” Facebook page with links to his various writings, videos, etc.
Outstanding, among the most compelling and engaging discussions I’ve heard. Excellent panel!
So glad you enjoyed the discussion, Brian.
I have absolutely loved this entire Genesis series. It has been, without a doubt, the most educational and enlightening podcast series I’ve heard on understanding scripture. The paradigm shift I got from it has been weight lifting as it answered so much about what has always been so difficult for me to understand about the God of the Bible and His dealings with His people compared to my own personal dealings with God in my own life. With that shift I appreciated, most of all, the theological constructs that were provided as a way to still take away or present these stories in enriching ways. Throwing out the bath water while preserving the baby so to speak. Thank you for that as well. Excellent series. Anxiously awaiting the next round. Keep up the great work Dan.
Thank you so much for the kind words. I know this comment made us all feel good.
I had hoped for more discussion on the literal flood. It seems there was about 5 minutes given to the scientific and literal flood, small or large story. I still dont have a sense of how the the LDS guests view the historicity of the flood. Dan, when you asked them how to balance this literal flood story in a LDS context they said ‘thats a tough one”, and you had to go to Father Tom for his take. Furthermore, the guest said they dont discuss the mythology aspect or even the documentary hypothesis with LDS audiences. They said it depends on the audience but went to say that even in Institute they dont go into it. Why not? The DH makes so much sense, eventually your students are going to realize probably sooner rather than later that a literal flood with a 400ft Ark as described in the bible is nearly impossible to harmonize with scientific reality. And then they will need some way to interpret the story. The explanations in this podcast give great insight into that, so why would you be afraid to introduce it to your students?
The discussion was a little to academic, to much “theoretical constructs”, I guess. but I liked the J & P stuff, I’m glad Dan included links to the Sunstone and Dialogue articles in the extra material. They helped me tremendously when I began to think deeply about Noah’s flood.
Very pleased you listened to the podcast and commented. Thank you.
“Dan, when you asked them how to balance this literal flood story in a LDS context they said ‘thats a tough one”, and you had to go to Father Tom for his take.”
I sincerely hope that listeners found several helpful ways of interpreting the flood story as scripture, albeit not literal history including the wonderful insights from Father Tom; I know I certainly did. As I remember the conversation you’re
referring to, Brian’s response, “that’s a tough one,” was an answer given to the question, “how do you make a bridge for those who say I just can’t go there, I can’t even entertain a literal view, I just have to leave Mormonism.”
As I understood the question, it specifically addressed the issue of trying to help those who are considering leaving Mormonism due to an inability to interpret the narrative as anything other than
a literal history experience a paradigm shift. Brian was right. That is a tough issue. Certainly a person can shift his or her paradigm in the ways that these podcasts have suggested, but I recognize that that is often easier said than done.
“Furthermore, the guest said they don’t discuss the mythology aspect or even the documentary hypothesis with LDS audiences.”
I think I need to correct that view. What I hoped to express (and what I remember saying) was that I have never laid out the intricacies of the Documentary Hypothesis for an LDS audience in a Church class. But that in terms of introducing students to
historical criticism versus devotional study, it need not be an either/or scenario.
“They said it depends on the audience but went to say that even in Institute they don’t go into it. Why not?”
Well, you see, there you go. We DID say that it could/should be discussed but how much scholarship we would use in a devotional setting would depend upon the audience and the venue—Sunday School, Seminary, Institute, BYU religious courses, every situation, every class would be different. You really can’t offer a simply “one-size-fits-all” answer to this important question.
“The DH makes so much sense, eventually your students are going to realize probably sooner rather than later that a literal flood with a 400ft Ark as described in the bible is nearly impossible to harmonize with scientific reality.”
I fully agree. the DH makes considerable sense. However, as valuable as the Documentary Hypothesis is, it actually doesn’t address the scientific impossibility of a literal flood with a 400ft Ark as described in the Bible. But I’m with you. Both issues are important.
Thank you for the feedback. I hope you had a chance to listen to the podcasts on the opening chapters of Genesis were the issue of reconciling devotion with historical criticism was given some thought as well.
Dan… First of all excellent podcasts on Genesis!!!
I would have liked to have heard a bit more of the scientific view as well on this. For example… it is fun to fathom what would have been necessary to include 2 of every kind of living species on earth. I’ve heard it said that to have 2 of every kind of beetle alone it would have sunk the ark. Or to consider other possible scientific possibilities or some basis on some distant factual occurrence .
Looking forward to lots more on this.
I was listening to part 2 and Tom mentioned a book I couldn’t find: “Reading Scripture as Myth”. Could you ask him which book he was talking about?
Sorry to come to the discussion so late, but I’ve just now gotten to listening to these podcasts. Great job all of you! I’m loving this Genesis series.
This may not be the best place to pose this question, and I don’t have any training in the relevant disciplines so I may be totally off. But here goes… Catastrophism was briefly mentioned. As I’ve read the Book of Mormon it seems to me that it contributes to our mythology via catastrophism (and I guess I’m assuming here that catastrophism would have been familiar to Joseph Smith at the time). I’m thinking specifically of Heleman 14:22 (Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy of Jesus’ death):
“and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up;
“Yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath.”
and 3 Nephi 8:18 (an account of Jesus’ death):
“And behold, the rocks were rent in twain; they were broken up upon the face of the whole earth, insomuch that they were found in broken fragments, and in seams and in cracks, upon all the face of the land.”
I guess my hypothesis is this: Joseph Smith saw the Flood (in part) as being a “Just-So” story (not the technical term, I know) explaining some aspects of geology (such as marine deposited sediments at high elevations and far from the sea). Then in the Book of Mormon, Joseph gives us another narrative (massive earthquakes at Jesus’ death) which ties in to the New Testament, but also acts as a “Just-So” story explaining another aspect of the geology we see today.
I see this as myth and not necessarily reflecting historical or scientific fact, but I think it’s a nice addition to our mythology.
Am I totally off base? Has anyone thought about this sort of thing?
I’ve been listening to this podcast a 2nd time after 1) having finished David’s book and 2) seeing the film Noah. I’m getting even more out of it this time around so thanks again! I had a thought I was wondering if someone might want to comment on (if it’s not too late posting this 4 months later).
I heard Brian mention in the beginning of podcast 202 that in Genesis 6 the LDS footnotes describe the Sons of God “taking” the daughters of men to meaning an interfaith marriage where those that were “in the covenant” took those that weren’t. David then explained how that was a mormon adaptation taken from the text, but not what the text actually meant by its original author.
That gave me the thought…… wouldn’t it be accurate to say that the mormon way of adapting the text to mean something pertinent to our own theology is exactly what the JPED authors did – first adapting the Mesopotamian myths to create an Israelite specific construct, then adapting those as time passed on and theological views shifted?
So I guess what I’m asking for clarification on is, would it be more accurate to describe OUR mormon version of this story (& others) as simply that – adaptations made to support our theology that we could say are closer to truths about God, His nature, His relationship with us, His teachings for us, etc – as opposed to teaching that THIS mormon version is THE version it was originally meant in the bible and we know that thanks to JST or LDS footnotes, etc? Because I think the latter is always how it’s taught, but I think the former is truly what’s going on given what I’ve learned from David’s book and this podcast. (And on a side note, it seems to me that teaching it in the former would make also accepting the DH so much easier for LDS members. I mean, we already still do that today when we update our scriptures with new footnotes that change what was previously written to explain certain passages – I’m thinking with the 1981 edition and again in 2013).
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