I have this pact with heaven that I will read the Old Testament cover to cover once every ten years. I’ve done it since I was a kid, so about 2x now (teasing, I have grandchildren). In 2010, I managed to read it through entirely with six kids running around my house and with an endless job as a taxi driver mom. This, for me, is an accomplishment since the Old Testament has more verses and pages than The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the New Testament put together. How did I manage that one? Simply by pulling out my phone and reading it during all those “hurry up and wait” moments. You know, those 5-minutes to 1-hour pockets of time I found myself stuck in a Suburban at various curbsides or sitting in some waiting room. If you’re a parent, you probably have a similar list of taxi stops: school, sports, the orthodontist, shows, meetings (i.e., the principal’s office), seminary, lessons, mutual events, and parties.
The side benefit is I no longer felt like I was wasting valuable time ignoring other things on my to-do list. It took me 1.5 years to read the Old Testament – but I finished. I distinctly remember feeling giddy because I wouldn’t be due for another round until 2020. Don’t get me wrong; the OT has great value with unique treasures and insights here and there. But there’s also a whole lot to wade through in between those ah-hah moments. I prefer the other standard works because there is so much more inspiration gained with less reading and time invested.
In 2018, I relented to read it cover to cover a couple of years early because I was the gospel doctrine teacher. Nonetheless, I soothed the less spiritual side of me with “the next time won’t be until 2028.”
Have you had similar apprehensions about the Old Testament?
Here Comes 2022 and Another Old Testament Year
And I could not be more excited! Two things. Thanks to BookOfMormonCentral.org and another gospel doctrine teacher, I am looking forward to reading the OT completely. What happened? They pointed me to Robert Alter’s “The Hebrew Bible,” published in 2018.
It makes for fabulous reading, and now every page has exciting discoveries and insights to ponder. The Old Testament has become more of a 3-dimensional experience. The author writes in a friendly, clean, and accessible style. Mainly about a 9th to 10th grade level. I do have to look up a few literary terms once in a while – but not often.
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As of today – the price is down from $125.00 to $81.47. Last week there was also a $24 coupon. This same deal happened back in February 2021 when I bought the set. The coupon isn’t there today (November 29). I suspect it won’t come back before Christmas. However, there’s a chance the total price might be back down in January or later? Or perhaps a used set would work for you?
What I didn’t know about the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible
Joseph Smith changed more than 3,900 verses in the Bible, and it makes for delightful reading. His spiritual insight and genius are incredible. Most of us are only familiar with a few of those translated/corrected verses. Typically, these verses are earmarked as “JST” (Joseph Smith translation) whenever used in the footnotes of our standard works. The official title of the whole book (which took Joseph Smith 3 years of dedicated work to complete) is the “Holy Scriptures Inspired Version.” The RLDS Church owns the original manuscript and the copyright, making it difficult to publish that content. They typically charge $50-$200 for copies of this book.
I found a Kindle version for sale (only $5!) that shows all of Joseph Smith’s editing of the KJV bible. It has strike-throughs of where Joseph Smith deleted words and bold type for what he added. For example, in the book of Genesis, he added at least a couple of chapters where every verse is new. In other words, there are new chapters of Genesis and other Old Testament books that didn’t exist before. His inspired translations are typically easy-to-read and sometimes resemble a novel as well.
Please note: The print versions don’t show as many precise edits as the electronic Kindle version.
I’m even more excited to use both of these resources because I have already found some surprising correlations between Robert Alter’s study of the Old Testament and changes Joseph Smith made back in 1830-1833.