There are 15 thoughts on “The Case for the Documentary Hypothesis, Historical Criticism, and the Latter-day Saints”.

    • Concerning the article by Oaks, I followed your link and found the following relevant quotes:

      “Latter-day Saints know that learned or authoritative commentaries can help us with scriptural interpretation, but we maintain that they must be used with caution.

      “Commentaries are not a substitute for the scriptures any more than a good cookbook is a substitute for food.

      “. . . the teaching of the Holy Ghost is a better guide to scriptural interpretation than even the best commentary.

      “. . . If we depend only upon our own reasoning or the scholarship or commentaries of others, we will never obtain the understanding that can come only by revelation. Persons in that circumstance will be left forever with what Alma calls ‘the lesser portion of the word’ (Alma 12:11).”

      What President Oaks seems to be saying is that while scholarly commentaries can help us understand certain aspects of scriptural text, the fullest understanding can only come through the Holy Ghost.

      I wouldn’t describe Oaks’s talk as an “argument against” using scholarly commentary. Rather, I would call it a caution against using scholarly commentary at the expense of the Spirit.

  1. I’ll be somewhat frank here. I can understand Colby Townsend has a deep interest in this subject, and I doubt his opinion has been materially affected, but isn’t it a little improper that he’s reviewing the work of someone who’s directly supervising his honors thesis?

    That should at the very least be made clear, to help avoid the appearance of impropriety.

    • David,

      Thank you for bringing this up. Allow me to clarify for you. David Bokovoy is not yet my official adviser on my honors thesis, and so has no official direct supervisory role over my project. We had to wait until recently to find out if David was going to be at the U next year, and are only now going to start getting the paperwork and approvals completed so that it is official.
      To be completely open, I have had David as a professor. I took the Book of Mormon as Literature and Intro to Hebrew Bible from him in the fall semester of 2013. David did not introduce me to the Documentary Hypothesis, though (Moshe Weinfeld’s work did), as you point out my opinion has not been materially affected. Stephen Smoot can vouch for me on that if he wishes (we met each other while I was taking a semester of classes at BYU in the summer of 2012 and has known my full views on this topic since then).
      I wouldn’t consider this impropriety, but I will leave that up for everyone else to judge. David and I have a professional relationship as student and professor, and my opinions are not dependent on his (although they do match up very nicely).
      If you need any other clarification feel free to ask.

      • I can vouch for Colby. I’ve known him for some time now, and can affirm that he’s a very independent and enterprising student and scholar. He’s not dependent on David Bokovoy for his views, even if, as Colby himself has said, their opinions do align in a number of respects.

        I would also add my two cents that it’s by no means improper for Colby to write a review of something one of his professors has written, so long as he remains objective and factual in his review.

  2. Typical book review in any scholarly journal is 1,000 words. This review clocks in closer to 1,500. That is long enough to provide a substantive (not exhaustive) look at any book. It’s a fine review.

  3. Colby,
    Thanks for your all-too-brief review.
    I note that you are also doing some source criticism of the Book of Mormon and doing a thesis on the J source in the Book of Mormon, and look forward to you publishing it. I trust that you will address the findings of John L. Sorenson, “The ‘Brass Plates’ and Biblical Scholarship,” Dialogue, 10/4 (Aut 1977):31-39. Online at . Also F. R. McCurley, Jr., “The Home of Deuteronomy Revisited,” in H. Bream, ed., A Light unto My Path, 295-317; esp. 298-305, in which elements common to D and E are examined: wilderness, apostasy, anti-monarchy, anti-polygyny (cf. Jacob 1 – 3, Mosiah 11), etc. And Alan W. Jenks, The Elohist and North Israelite Tradition (1977).

    • Robert,

      Thank you for your all-too-kind comment. I apologize that I did not write a review of more than fifty pages. I have been writing book reviews in different venues, mostly AML, for the last couple of years now and have generally followed the length of reviews done in the Journal of Biblical Literature. I wasn’t aware that book reviews needed to be at least half the length of the original book to be substantive enough to be accepted by reviewers of my review. I thought that six pages was substantive enough while taking 15 credit hours, working full time at the U, writing a book manuscript, an honors thesis, presentations at a number of undergraduate research conferences, living in Morgan-working in Salt Lake, all while being a full-time husband and father. It would be nice to be old and retired. Maybe I’ll have the luxury someday.
      As for your comments, thank you for noticing my bio. Yes, of course I will be utilizing John Sorenson’s classic study on the Elohist source and the brass plates. I am also looking at Alan Jenks’ book right now on my shelf. I have been working on my honors thesis for over a year now so I have accumulated a fairly hefty bibliography at this point. I had not yet seen McCurley’s essay, so thank you for pointing that out.
      If you’d like to discuss the substance of my review or Bokovoy’s book please feel free to make a contribution here. If you would like to discuss my book project with Kofford Books (of which I am also utilizing your three volume set The Book of Mormon Critical Text, thank you for your work in advance) or my honors thesis feel free to send me an email at


      • Colby,

        This comes a across as a rather prickly response to Bob’s rather mild and congenial comment.on your review.


        • Matt,

          It was meant to be a bit prickly. I probably overreacted at the time, but I guess it really depends on what Bob meant with the first line (“all-too-brief review”). At the time I responded the length of other reviews here with Interpreter was being pointed out to me and a number of people had mentioned that it seemed a little short. If this is not what Bob meant, then I apologize. If it is what he meant, then I guess my response stands. I didn’t mean it to be anymore than “prickly.”
          And, to restate from my earlier response, I really respect Bob’s work on the Book of Mormon. I am finding it to be essential for my own research and recommend it to anyone working with the Book of Mormon (I have his 3-vol. Critical Text set in mind).

          • I don’t mind prickly, Colby. It’s just that I don’t buy the lame excuses you provided in the above apologia — since I have been following your delightfully substantive comments over at Bill Hamblin’s “Enigmatic Mirror” on Patheos. What? You don’t think we can take the “hard stuff” here at Interpreter? You saved it up for Bill?

            Forget the wife, kids, church, school, and Bob Crockett. I want your true-blue, all-out devotion to source criticism of the Book of Mormon, Nothing more, nothing less!

            By the way, I wasn’t even aware that you had taken the time to reply to me, until Matt Roper mentioned it to me this morning.

    • Robert,

      I’ll respond to you recent comment here since the website is not allowing me to respond to it below.

      “I don’t mind prickly, Colby.”

      Cool, I don’t either. 🙂

      “It’s just that I don’t buy the lame excuses you provided in the above apologia — since I have been following your delightfully substantive comments over at Bill Hamblin’s “Enigmatic Mirror” on Patheos.”

      I’m glad you have been following my more substantive comments there. Those comments have only been within the past week or so, and I have been fortunate enough to take this last week off with my family to travel to St. George, providing me time to discuss the issues with Bill (and others in other places). I would not consider my duties to my family, church, and school/work lame, but your opinion is up for you to decide. When I wrote the review I had three presentations I was preparing for, a number of papers (along with my continuing study with my book project/honors thesis), daily classes and work, among other things. As much as I would have liked to include more of my notes from my reading in my review, I did not think it necessary nor did I have the time.

      “What? You don’t think we can take the “hard stuff” here at Interpreter? You saved it up for Bill?”

      I would like to clarify first that I have been with Interpreter since the beginning as an editorial consultant, along with helping with Bradshaw’s and Larsen’s second volume of the commentary on the Book of Moses, so it is not like I have been sharing information other places that I deem more appropriate for my accepted models of approaching texts critically. Bill and I have had a more direct conversation about these issues on his blog because he is raising the issues there. I am more than happy to discuss them here or anywhere else if you would like to. I am sure that there is a lot that you would like to share with me that I would love to learn, but you do not know me and I do not know you. If you would like to get to know me how about we go to lunch sometime, then we can understand one another. I would actually really love that if you are up for it.

      “Forget the wife, kids, church, school, and Bob Crockett. I want your true-blue, all-out devotion to source criticism of the Book of Mormon, Nothing more, nothing less!”

      Again, I’m not going to forget my duties to these above. They are more important to me than you are. Again, if you would like to discuss these issues in more detail I would love to. I felt I was pretty open about my acceptance of the DH in my review (even in the title), even if I was not able to get into the details of the arguments (what book reviewer does that other than the paragraph summarizing places of disagreement?).
      Also, I’m not 100% sure what you mean with my “true-blue, all-out devotion to source criticism of the Book of Mormon.” I am dedicated to source-criticism of any text, provided the text shows evidence of coming from multiple sources. The Book of Mormon itself makes the reader aware of that, so, yes, I am devoted to source criticism of the Book of Mormon in that regard. I am also devoted to analyzing the text of the Book of Mormon through its use of the King James Bible because I think it can help in answering many of the problems of the text as it stands today. With that said, I am still unsure if that is what you mean by your above statement. Am I correct or am I misunderstanding what you wanted me to say?

      • This is Utah.
        Where perception is everything.
        Where Jules Feiffer’s “Explainers” come to life.
        And drive us quite mad.

      • Perhaps I am mistaken, but as a spectator driving by I think Robert’s remarks were facetious and not meant to be taken quite so literally. I hope you’ve taken some time off since this all went down. 🙂

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