Old Testament and Pearl of Great Price Study Resources: A Partially Annotated Bibliography

This is a list of resources available to enrich your study of the Old Testament as we study it this year in Come, Follow Me at home and at church. No one would be able to study all of these sources during the year, but maybe some of them will seem worthwhile. Where I have read a book, I have included my notes.

Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (Basic Books, rev. ed. 2011). A study of the Bible as literature and its influence on storytelling as an art and practice.

Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry (Basic Books, 2011). A study of the poetry in the Bible (not just in Psalms) with an emphasis on parallel structures.

Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible (3 vols.) (W. W. Norton, 2019). This is the complete translation of the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament) by a highly acclaimed scholar of Hebrew and biblical studies. All of this work except the books of the prophets was published separately before being compiled into these three volumes. The author provides extensive footnotes that are as interesting as is the text and that explain his translation choices and give other valuable insights.

Michael Austin, Re-reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem, Contemporary Studies in Scripture series (Greg Kofford Books, 2014). This book discusses the Book of Job as both history and literature. A fascinating, enlightening book by a Latter-day Saint scholar.

M. Russell Ballard, “The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” General Conference, April 2007, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2007/04/the-miracle-of-the-holy-bible?lang=eng

BMC Team, “Why the Book of Mormon’s Depiction of a Loving God Fits with the Old Testament,” Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #422 (April 5, 2018), https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/knowhy/why-the-book-of-mormons-depiction-of-a-loving-god-fits-with-the-old-testament. An article that reconciles the view of God as wrathful and even arbitrary or cruel, as He sometimes appears in the Old Testament, with the loving God of the Book of Mormon as Nephi knew Him (and, I would add, the weeping God of Enoch in the Pearl of Great Price—see Moses 7:28–40).

David Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis–Deuteronomy, Contemporary Studies in Scripture series (Greg Kofford Books, 2014).

Edward J. Brant, “Understanding the Old Testament: Keys to Resolving Difficult Questions,” Ensign (September 1980), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1980/09/understanding-the-old-testament-keys-to-resolving-difficult-questions?lang=eng

BYU Religious Studies Center, Come, Follow Me for 2022 (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2022). Online resources: “high-quality articles that are well researched, inspirational, and written by scholars, educators, Church leaders, historians, and popular authors. The RSC library is not found on ChurchofJesusChrist.org or anywhere else online. The scripture readings and lessons are displayed first, followed by recommended readings.” https://rsc.byu.edu/my-gospel-study/come-follow-me

Church Educational System, Old Testament Student Manual Genesis–2 Samuel (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/old-testament-student-manual-genesis-2-samuel/title-page?lang=eng (click on the book icon at top left to access the whole table of contents). This was the Religion 301 student manual for BYU Old Testament classes and is full of detailed information about the scriptures and the background and context of the times.

Church Educational System, Old Testament Student Manual 1 Kings–Malachi (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/old-testament-student-manual-kings-malachi/title-page?lang=eng (click on the book icon at top left to access the whole table of contents). This was the Religion 302 student manual for BYU Old Testament classes and is full of detailed information about the scriptures and the background and context of the times.

Church Educational System, Old Testament Student Study Guide (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/language-materials/34189_eng.pdf?lang=eng. This is the seminary manual for the Old Testament.

Church Educational System, Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2017), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/the-pearl-of-great-price-student-manual-2018/title-page?lang=eng (click on the book icon at top left to access the whole table of contents). This was the Religion 327 student manual for BYU Pearl of Great Price classes and is full of detailed information about the scriptures and the background and context of the times.

Henry B. Eyring, “Studying and Teaching the Old Testament,” Ensign (January 2002), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2002/01/studying-and-teaching-the-old-testament?lang=eng

James A. Faulconer, The Old Testament Made Harder: Scripture Study Questions (Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2017). This book is organized based on the Gospel Doctrine lessons on the Old Testament (before the Come, Follow Me program was instituted) and raises questions for the student of these scriptures to ponder and seek to know more about.

Terryl Givens and Brian Hauglid, The Pearl of Greatest Price: Mormonism’s Most Controversial Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2019). Givens and Hauglid go through the history and significance of each part of the Pearl of Great Price—the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith–History, and the Articles of Faith, with not much attention to Joseph Smith–Matthew. The main discussions are of the Books of Moses and Abraham, as they have the most complex histories and have generated more controversy. This book was not published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by Oxford University Press, and so the authors are writing as academics and not as promoters of faith. They bring up the various controversies surrounding elements of the Pearl of Great Price, and give alternative explanations for them, including the faithful explanations that I find most convincing. I found this book fascinating and it is a great addition to one’s study of the scriptures.

James R. Harris, “The Pearl of Great Price: A Unique Scripture,” Ensign (December 1972), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1972/12/the-pearl-of-great-price-a-unique-scripture?lang=eng

Paul Y. Hoskisson (Ed.), Sperry Symposium Classics: Old Testament (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2005), https://rsc.byu.edu/book/sperry-symposium-classics-old-testament. This is a collection of some of the best talks from BYU Sidney B. Sperry Symposiums that focused on the Old Testament. The book contains some especially memorable presentations on “Prophets and Priesthood in the Old Testament” (Robert L. Millet), “Melchizedek” (Frank F. Judd, Jr.), “The Abrahamic Test” (Larry E. Dahl), “The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ” (Edward J. Brandt), “Isaiah and the Great Arraignment” (Terry B. Ball), “Obadiah’s Vision of Saviors on Mount Zion” (Gary P. Gillum), “Elijah’s Mission” (E. Dale LeBaron), and “Remnants Gathered, Covenants Fulfilled” (Russell M. Nelson). This book also has a list of the Sperry Symposium talks for each year from 1978–2001, some of which are available online. 

Kent P. Jackson (Ed.), A Bible Reader’s History of the Ancient World (Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, Brigham Young University, 2016).

Ann N. Madsen and Shon D. Hopkin, Opening Isaiah: A Harmony (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2018), https://rsc.byu.edu/book/opening-isaiah

Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (Eds.), The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1993). This is a Bible dictionary from a non–Latter-day Saint point of view, with some entries not found in the Bible dictionary published along with the Bible by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Kerry Muhlestein, “The Book of Abraham, Revelation, and You,” Ensign (December 2018), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2018/12/the-book-of-abraham-revelation-and-you?lang=eng

Kerry Muhlestein, “Getting the Most Out of Your Come Follow Me Old Testament Year: Resources Available,” Meridian Magazine (January 4, 2022), https://latterdaysaintmag.com/getting-the-most-out-of-your-come-follow-me-old-testament-year-resources-available/ 

Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, vol. 14 (Deseret Book, 2nd ed. 2000). Nibley was a great expert on the history of Egypt, and as a Latter-day Saint scholar could relate that history to the scriptures like no other, especially to the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. I learned a lot more about Egyptian history and religion from this book than I may ever need to know, and there is a lot of redundancy between the entries in the book, but when I got to the last chapter, which is a “rough summary” of the book, I realized that without reading this very long book, I would not have understood the summary very well. Most valuable to me were the early chapters specifically about Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac and their sacrifices. Nibley’s abilities with language, history, and cross-cultural comparisons are amazing.

Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, vol. 18 (Deseret Book, 2010). Collected writings by a distinguished scholar of the ancient scriptures, including the series of articles published about the Book of Abraham in the Improvement Era (the forerunner to the Ensign and Liahona).

Hugh Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, vol. 2 (Deseret Book, reprint ed. 1986). This book takes verses from the Pearl of Great Price and explains them as the Book of Enoch, as it was translated as part of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Nibley compares that latter-day Book of Enoch to many apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls documents, and other manuscripts that have been discovered more recently than the translation of the Pearl of Great Price. This and Nibley’s other works have greatly enhanced my understanding and study of the scriptures. 

Hugh Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies, Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, vol. 2 (Deseret Book, 1986). This book compiles Nibley’s articles about Old Testament subjects published in Latter-day Saint and other publications. Good insights into the Old Testament by a distinguished scholar of ancient scriptures.

Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price (Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2013). This book is a transcription of 26 lectures that Hugh Nibley gave to his Honors Pearl of Great Price class at BYU in 1986. Professor Nibley was brilliant, but he tended to ramble as an unedited speaker, and this book catches every digression and ramble (although everything was probably connected in his prodigious mind). The best way to approach the book, perhaps, is to turn first to pages 337–341 and look at what he meant for each lesson to cover—he doesn’t give the lesson numbers for everything in his summary, but it is helpful when he does. I’d write the central message at the beginning of each chapter before reading that chapter.

This book is very valuable in describing how the scriptural canon came to lose the revelations that are now available as the Books of Moses and Abraham (including the Books of Adam and Enoch in the Book of Moses) in the Pearl of Great Price—the influence of Greek philosophy that led the church fathers to stop taking the scriptures literally and other things. (This material is in the early lectures, for the most part.) Also, the lessons on Matthew chapter 24 (lesson 25) and Joseph Smith–History (the first part of lesson 26) are not duplicated elsewhere, to my knowledge, and very valuable. However, for more complete (and edited) information on Enoch and his chapters in the Book of Moses, I would recommend Nibley’s Enoch the Prophet, and for the same on Abraham and the Book of Abraham, I would recommend Nibley’s Abraham in Egypt and An Approach to the Book of Abraham. But this book is much less expensive and shorter than those volumes, and it will certainly suffice for the reader who wants a less extensive tour and can sort out the wealth of Nibley’s pearls from the redundancies and digressions. Sometimes Nibley was referring to a visual aid that the students in class could see but the reader cannot, and he sometimes references books or articles in the BYU library or on reserve at the time, and those aren’t necessarily available. The book also includes President Spencer W. Kimball’s 1976 article “The False Gods We Worship,” which is always worth reading. On the whole, I found this to be a great introductory study of the Pearl of Great Price, despite the frustrations, and it contains some information that Nibley put together, along with his comments, that cannot be found elsewhere.

Hugh Nibley, “To Open the Last Dispensation: Moses Chapter 1,” in Nibley on the Timely and Timeless (BYU Religious Studies Center, reprint ed. 1978; 2nd ed., 2004), https://rsc.byu.edu/sites/default/files/pub_content/pdf/To_Open_the_Last_Dispensation.pdf

Monte S. Nyman (Ed.), Isaiah and the Prophets: Inspired Voices from the Old Testament (BYU Religious Studies Center, 1984), https://rsc.byu.edu/book/isaiah-prophets

D. Kelly OgdenJared W. Ludlow, and Kerry Muhlestein, The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, Sidney B. Sperry Symposium no. 38 (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2009), https://rsc.byu.edu/book/gospel-jesus-christ-old-testament

Camille Fronk Olson (text) and Elspeth Young (paintings), Women of the Old Testament (Deseret Book, 2007). A beautiful book with informative text that tells the stories of the women in the Old Testament (named and unnamed), along with history, context, photographs, and other illustrations, including lovely paintings of the women by Elspeth Young.

Mark L. Pace, “The Blessings of Studying the Old Testament,” Liahona (January 2022), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2022/01/the-blessings-of-studying-the-old-testament?lang=eng

Donald W. Parry, “Christ and Culture in the Old Testament,” Ensign (February 2010), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2010/02/christ-and-culture-in-the-old-testament?lang=eng

H. Donl Peterson, The Pearl of Great Price: A History and Commentary (Deseret Book, 1987). This book is interesting as a commentary because the comments are almost all from prophets and apostles (with a few apparently from the author/compiler). This makes the commentary authoritative, with some of the most interesting comments from Elder Bruce R. McConkie. The commentary seems a bit dated in some cases (the book was published in 1987), although you’d think such comments would never contradict or change; still, I believe that some thoughts would be stated differently or given additional context by a current prophet.

Kristal V. L. Pierce and David Roth Seely (Eds.), Approaching Holiness: Exploring the History and Teachings of the Old Testament (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2021). According to the blurb on the RSC site: “This volume aims to assist in the personal and family study of the history and teachings of the Old Testament. The book gathers some of the clearest writings on the Old Testament that have been published by the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University.” 

Ellis T. Rasmussen, “The Language of the Old Testament,” Ensign (February 1973), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1973/02/the-language-of-the-old-testament?lang=eng

E. Randolph Richards and Richard James, Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes: Patronage, Honor, and Shame in the Biblical World (IVP Academic, 2020). I haven’t read this, but the blurb indicates that the cultures of the Bible were collectivist, whereas modern Western culture is individualist, and this leads to misinterpretation. If this is a good as Richards’ other book (Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes), then it’s probably worth reading.

E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scriptures with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (IVP Books, 2012). This thought-provoking book, by two Evangelical Christian pastors with international experience, points out ways in which the Middle Eastern biblical culture differs from Western culture, and suggests how those differences might lead to a misinterpretation of some passages of the Bible. The authors refrain from telling the reader how passages should be interpreted, instead explaining the cultural differences and suggesting possibilities for misinterpretation without presuming to reinvent the reader’s interpretation in absolute terms. Although this subject is difficult for the reader who is immersed in Western culture (as I am), the idea that “what goes without being said” in my culture and in biblical culture may be at odds is a valuable one. The topics range from different interpretations of things like time and money, to the differences between the individualistic Western culture and the collectivist cultures of Asia and the ancient Middle East, to the Western assumption that all the rules apply to everyone equally at all times and why that may not be true when it comes to the Bible (even though God is the same yesterday, today, and forever). The authors write from a perspective of faith and from their experience in non-Western cultures and with attempting to teach these ideas to college students. The book is accessible and even witty at times. Highly recommended for those who read the Bible (and other writings with a Middle Eastern cultural outlook, like the Book of Mormon).

David J. Ridges, Isaiah Made Easier, Gospel Study Series (Cedar Fort, 2nd ed., 2009).

David J. Ridges, The Old Testament Made Easier, Gospel Study Series (Cedar Fort, expanded 3rd ed., 2021).

David J. Ridges, The Pearl of Great Price Made Easier, Gospel Study Series (Cedar Fort, 2009).

Daniel Rona, Old Testament Supplement Study Materials: Holy Land and Jewish Insights (Ensign Foundation, 2001). Written by a long-time guide to the Holy Land, this book is organized consistent with the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lessons (before we had the Come, Follow Me program). The author is especially interested in explaining the Old Testament in light of Jewish history and practices.

Aaron P. SchadeBrian M. Hauglid, and Kerry Muhlestein (Eds.), Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament, Sidney B. Sperry Symposium no. 46 (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2017), https://rsc.byu.edu/book/prophets-prophecies-old-testament

David Roth Seely, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, and Matthew J. Grey (Eds.), Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament, Sidney B. Sperry Symposium no. 42 (Deseret Book, 2013). I’m just starting to read this book and am finding it to be valuable.

Andrew C. Skinner, “The Book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Gift for Our Time,” Liahona (January 2022), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2022/01/united-states-and-canada-section/the-book-of-abraham-a-most-remarkable-gift-for-our-time?lang=eng

W. Cleon Skousen, “The Old Testament Speaks Today,” Ensign (December 1972), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1972/12/the-old-testament-speaks-today?lang=eng

Society for Biblical Literature, The Harper Collins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version) (HarperOne, 2006). The complete text of the Bible in the NRSV translation, along with footnotes, cross-references, and maps.

Faith S. Watson, “Faith and Fortitude: Women of the Old Testament, part 1,” Ensign (March 2014), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2014/03/faith-and-fortitude-women-of-the-old-testament?lang=eng

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