Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Scripture Challenge

It is sometimes interesting how little we know about our favorite scriptures. I don’t mean the doctrinal interpretation of them. I mean the circumstances under which they were produced and transmitted to us. Try this game to test your knowledge. Brief instructions are given at first then some more detailed examples. Post your scores in the comments.

  1. Pick a scripture you like – 1 point
  2. Can you give the exact book, chapter and verse? – 1 point
  3. Do you know who wrote the scripture originally? – 1-3 points
  4. Do you know what language the scripture was written in originally? – 1 point
  5. Do you know who produced the English version? – 1 point
  6. Do you know who physically wrote (scribed) the scripture? – 1 point
  7. Have you ever read the scripture in a different translation or checked if there are variant readings? – 1 point
  8. Do you know where the scripture was originally given? - 1-3 points
  9. Do you know when the scripture was originally given? – 1-3 points
  10. Do you know a specific document that Serves as the oldest still existing source for this scripture? – 1 point
I should note that this game is not fair at all. These are all basic things a person should know about any historical document, especially ones they want to base important conclusions from. Unfortunately, in many cases much of the information is simply unknowable. You will find the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Perl of Great Price will fare much better than Biblical scriptures. Hopefully this will support your faith in the need for these special volumes of Scripture. Here are some details on each of the steps:
  1. You should really get points for just having scriptures you like. Feel free to try this on as many scriptures as you like.
  2. Another easy point. Being able to quickly find a scripture is very important when you want to share it.
  3. Now we get to our first really sticky point. If your scripture came from Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, or Job you can give up on these now as no one knows the answers to who wrote these books. Many other books like Joshua, Matthew, Mark, Hebrews have only shaky traditions around authorship. Some books like Luke and Acts we know the author’s name but have no information about who he was. There is the fun spot of D&C Section 135 which we previously thought we knew (it was still unique as the only section written by an apostle) and now we have discovered we have no idea who the author is as now reflected in the 2013 edition of the Scriptures. Note that the answer should never be “Jesus” or “God” because with the singular exception of the Ten Commandments, Deity has never written scripture. All scriptures we have were produced by mortal men (maybe some women) although they often spoke in the Lord’s voice. Give 3 points if you feel we have no question on authorship, 2 points if you feel there is a reliable evidence of authorship, 1 point if we only have a tradition, no points if we simply don’t know.
  4. So the most likely answers are probably going to be Hebrew, Greek, Reformed Egyptian, and English. However there are some interesting twists in there as well. Some parts of Daniel and all of Ezra are written in Aramaic. D&C Section 7 presents an interesting unknown. Abraham would be Egyptian….sort of. Moses could also be complicated as it is not at all clear if it is a restoration of an ancient document and therefore probably Hebrew or a modern scriptural retelling and therefore English.
  5. If your scripture was Biblical then this is much harder. KJV was translated by a committee and even if you could name a few translators on that committee it would be very hard to tie a specific translator to a specific verse. You may have some luck if you look at the Tyndale translation as about 80% of it survived into the KJV and therefore on many verses we may say with certainty were translated by Tyndale. For non-Bib lical Scriptures this is quite easy. With a few exceptions the answers is Joseph Smith, Jun. Although you have a few spots where the answer might be Brigham Young, Joseph F Smith, Wilford Woodruff, or Spencer W Kimball.
  6. For most of the Biblical scriptures this is impossible to know. There are a few exceptions including Jeremiah. For non-biblical this is difficult but findable for most things. Check www.JosephSmithPapers.org as the best place to find things. For example Warren Cowdery scribed for Section 110.
  7. For Biblical Scriptures this is easy as www.biblehub.com and www.biblegateway.com both provide excellent resources. If you have read it in the original language this also counts. Special rule: If you have read a Book of Mormon scripture in the original language take 50 points. For Biblical Scriptures variant readings come from old copies of the documents such as the Dead Sea Scroll, the Vulgate, the Septuagint, the Targum, etc. For Book of Mormon I highly recommend Royal Skousen’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. It is currently the most comprehensive analysis of variant readings of the Book of Mormon. For other scriptures I again recommend www.josephsmithpapers.org. The reason for looking at these alternate versions is to see how others have interpreted the same verse over the years. Often the verse has meanings other than the obvious ones you may have known and occasionally it may mean something entirely different than you thought. I would also consider the JST as a variant reading.
  8. A simple question but for some scriptures like Job it is unknowable. 1 point for the hemisphere, 2 points for the country/kingdom, 3 points for the city/town. Note that for the Old Testament before David the country would be the specific tribal territory. After Solomon there were two kingdoms. After Babylonian conquering, things were very complicated. Not sure what to say about Zenos in Jacob 5. For Book of Mormon take the points if you know the city even if you can’t find it on a modern map.
  9. Another straight forward question that gets complicated quickly. For non-biblical scriptures this will be easier most of the time. Give 1 point for the century (+/- 50 years), 2 points for +/- 10 years, 3 points for an exact date.
  10. This is a tough one. For Biblical Scriptures this may be the Dead Sea scrolls, the Leningrad Codex, the Aleppo Codex, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Alexandrius, etc. For non-Biblical scriptures check www.josephsmithpapers.org.
So that is the game. Possible scores range from 0 (for people who can’t find a scripture to like) to 16 points. One important note: Cheating is encouraged. If you personally don’t know the above information for your favorite scripture I would encourage you to research it to achieve the highest possible score for your favorite scripture.

1 comment:

  1. 1.) I was studying D&C 19 last night and have always found that section very meaningful. So I'll go with that one.
    2.) Doctrine and Covenants, Section 19. Verses 15 to 19 are particularly quoted and meaningful.
    3.) Joseph Smith dictated it. I don't know who originally wrote it down for him. It could have been Martin Harris to whom it was directed.
    4.) Easy in this case. English
    5.) Same as #3, Joseph Smith
    6.) Unknown. John Witmer wrote the earliest copy, I learned today, but he was copying it from somewhere
    7.) I went and found the first published copy in the 1833 Book of Commandments and read it today, and also found it (where it is only partially extant) in the Kirtland Revelation Book 1. The text has quite a bit of variation from today's version. It was good to explore these earlier readings.
    8.) Manchester, New York, USA
    9.) Originally this was dated to March 1830 (its dated that way in the 1833 published version) but since they have been working with the Kirtland Revelation Book 1 this is now dated to the summer of 1829. That makes a lot more sense - Martin mortgaged his farm in Aug 1829 to pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon and this revelation seems to take place prior to that. I also feel like it makes a lot more sense coming just after the June 1829 experience Martin had becoming a witness of the gold plates. The 1981 edition of the D&C has the old date but it has been updated in the 2013 version
    10.) The oldest known version is the Kirtland Revelation Book 1 but some of it is missing. The earliest full version is the 1833 Book of Commandments.

    I count the score as 13 although I picked a fairly easy one. I was glad to learn some things while pursuing this.

    It is good to examine where our scriptures came from in detail like this. I've enjoyed reading your posts so far to this end because I am definitely not a biblical scholar and don't know any Hebrew or Greek.