Zelophehad’s Daughters

New Scripture Mastery: Now With 40% Less Prooftexting!

Posted by Ziff

The list of scripture mastery scriptures that seminary students are asked to memorize was modified last September. Over a third of the 100 scriptures (25 for each book of scripture / year of instruction) were replaced. NoCoolName Tom has some fascinating discussion of the scriptures that were dropped at his blog (from the Old Testament only: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

I thought it also might be interesting to look at the changes that were made in terms of how useful the scriptures are for prooftexting. The reason I thought of this is that I served a mission in Texas, and looking back at the scriptures I had learned in seminary, it seemed like a fair number of them had been included solely as ammunition for prooftexting arguments with other Christians. I think a prototypical example of this is 1 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

I know doing ordinances for the dead is an important doctrine, but really how important is it to know that there’s this offhand reference to it in a single verse in the New Testament? It seems to me that it’s only important if the goal is to teach seminary students to have prooftexts ready for an argument, where they could (in theory) show up their opponents by whipping this verse out to show that yes indeed, baptism for the dead is mentioned in the Bible, so nyah nyah nyah!!

I was happy to see that 1 Cor 15:29 got the axe in the scripture mastery update. But I was curious to see if this was part of a more general pattern. In order to check, I scored all the scripture mastery scriptures from the Old and New Testaments, both the old set and the revised set, on the following prooftexting scale:

0 = Not useful as a prooftext

1 = Useful as a prooftext, but has other uses too

2 = Useful primarily as a prooftext

I looked at only the scriptures from the Bible because I figure most prooftexting arguments are probably with other Christians, rather than with other sects within Mormonism (which would have made the Book of Mormon and D&C useful as prooftexting sources). Note that from the Old Testament list, this means I excluded three scriptures from the Pearl of Great Price.

As you can probably guess from the title of this post, I did find evidence that the new scripture mastery scriptures appear to be less chosen for purposes of prooftexting.

Book Prooftext average
Before change After change
Old Testament 0.41 0.23
New Testament 0.88 0.56
Bible 0.66 0.40

Just to clarify the 40% figure in the title, it’s the decline in the average that comes with the change from the old to the new set of scriptures, as a percentage of the average in the old set of scriptures: (0.66 – 0.40) / 0.66 = 39% (which I rounded to 40% for marketing purposes :) ).

Of course, I’ve skipped past the fact that my ratings of prooftext usefulness are subjective, and you might not agree with them. One advantage of working with such a small dataset is that I can show you all my scoring, so you can see where you might agree or disagree with me. If you have a few minutes to spare, you can even score all the scriptures yourself and see if you conclusion agrees with mine. (Each scripture reference in the tables below is a link to the full text in case you want to see it.) If you do take the time to do this, I’d love to hear your results in the comments!

 

Old Testament: Scriptures retained
Reference Excerpt/Note Prooftext score
Genesis 1:26-27 “God created man in his own image” 0
Genesis 39:9 “How . . . can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” 0
Exodus 20:3-17 Ten Commandments 0
Joshua 24:15 “choose you this day whom ye will serve” 0
1 Samuel 16:7 “the Lord looketh on the heart” 0
Psalm 24:3-4 “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” 0
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” 0
Isaiah 1:18 “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” 0
Isaiah 29:13-14 “I will proceed to do . . . a marvellous work and a wonder” 1
Isaiah 53:3-5 “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” 0
Ezekiel 37:15-17 Stick of Judah; stick of Joseph 2
Amos 3:7 “the Lord God . . . revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” 1
Malachi 3:8-10 “Will a man rob God?” 0
Malachi 4:5-6 Elijah the prophet . . . shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children” 0

 

Old Testament: Scriptures added
Reference Excerpt/Note Prooftext score
Genesis 2:24 “a man . . . shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” 0
Exodus 19:5-6 “ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people” 0
Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” 0
Psalm 127:3 “children are an heritage of the Lord” 0
Isaiah 5:20 “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” 0
Isaiah 58:6-7 Is not this the fast that I have chosen?” 0
Isaiah 58:13-14 “call the sabbath a delight” 0
Jeremiah 1:4-5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee” 1

 

Old Testament: Scriptures taken away
Reference Excerpt/Note Prooftext score
Exodus 33:11 “the Lord spake unto Moses face to face” 2
Leviticus 19:18 “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” 0
Deuteronomy 7:3-4 “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them” 0
Joshua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth” 0
Job 19:25-26 “yet in my flesh shall I see God” 2
Isaiah 55:8-9 “my thoughts are not your thoughts” 0
Jeremiah 16:16 “I will send for many fishers . . . and they shall fish them” 0
Daniel 2:44-45 “the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands” 1

 

New Testament: Scriptures retained
Reference Excerpt/Note Prooftext score
Matthew 5:14-16 “Ye are the light of the world.” 0
Matthew 16:15-19 “upon this rock I will build my church” 1
Luke 24:36-39 “a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” 2
John 3:5 “Except a man be born of water and of the spirit” 1
John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” 0
John 17:3 “this is life eternal, [to] know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ” 0
1 Corinthians 15:20-22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1
1 Corinthians 15:40-42 “glory of the sun . . . glory of the moon . . . glory of the stars” 2
Ephesians 4:11-14 Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers 1
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” 2
2 Timothy 3:15-17* “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” 0
James 1:5-6 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” 0
James 2:17-18 “faith, if it hath not works, is dead” 2
Revelation 20:12* “the dead were judged . . . according to their works” 1

*Note that these scriptures were modified in the change to add or remove a verse, but this doesn’t change how I would score them for prooftexting. The old references are 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Revelation 20:12-13.

 

New Testament: Scriptures added
Reference Excerpt/Note Prooftext score
Matthew 11:28-30 “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 0
Matthew 22:36-39 Two great commandments 0
Matthew 28:19-20 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” 0
John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life” 0
Acts 2:36-38 “Repent, and be baptized every one of you” 0
Acts 3:19-21 “Repent . . . and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” 0
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost” 0
Galatians 5:22-23 Fruit of the spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering . . .” 0
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” 0
Hebrews 12:9 “shall we not . . . be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” 0
1 Peter 4:6 “for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead” 1

 

New Testament: Scriptures taken away
Reference Excerpt/Note Prooftext score
Matthew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters” 0
Matthew 25:40 “ye have done it unto one of the least . . ., ye have done it unto me.” 0
John 7:17 “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine” 0
John 10:16 “other sheep I have, which are not of this fold” 2
Acts 7:55-56 “[Stephen] saw . . . God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,” 2
Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” 0
1 Corinthians 10:13 “God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” 0
1 Corinthians 15:29 “if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” 2
2 Timothy 3:1-5 “in the last days perilous times shall come.” 1
Hebrews 5:4 “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God” 1
Revelation 14:6-7 “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven” 1

 

13 Responses to “New Scripture Mastery: Now With 40% Less Prooftexting!”

  1. 1.

    I think you are underestimating how some of these scriptures can be used as a proof text. For instance

    ““God created man in his own image” is often used to help justify our anthropomorphic view of deity. Yet, this got a 0

    On the other hand, you may have overstated some of them

    ““yet in my flesh shall I see God”

    I think this scripture is often used as a witness of the resurrection and an affirmation of Job’s faith rather than a pretext.

  2. 2.

    Interesting, Ziff. (I’m happy to let you do all the work.) Thanks.

  3. 3.

    I think I may have a different understanding of the word “prooftext” than you. To me, a prooftext is a scripture that is used out of context to justify a church doctrine, policy, or practice. Based on that, I’d give prooftext points to Malachi 3:8-10. That is, even though that passage does support the idea of tithing, I think it’s stretched and used out of context to justify a particular modern interpretation of tithing. Same for Isaiah 58:6-7 and fasting — it’s not that the scripture doesn’t talk about fasting, but I think this scripture’s primary use among church members is to justify the church’s practice of fasting, which is (I think) more broad than the scripture’s context justifies.

    To me, other examples include Genesis 1:26-27 (corporeal god, creationism), Isaiah 53:3-5 (making Jesus be the prophesied messiah), Malachi 4:5-6 (yay geneaology!), James 1:5-6, and Matthew 6:24.

  4. 4.

    Thanks, Clean Cut!

    And thanks for explaining where you think I’ve missed the boat, Daniel and Dane. I’d love it if you would score all the verses and then tally them up and see if the result changes. I’m really curious to see if it does. It seems like a fairly big difference, but y’all may have fairly big differences of opinion with me about what’s good for prooftexting. :)

  5. 5.

    Yeah, I agree with Daniel and Dane but would also that on my mission to Dallas, Amos 3:7, Jeremiah 1:4-5, Ephesians 4:11-14; 1 Peter 4:6 and Revelation 20:12 were all really important as proof texts.

  6. 6.

    What a shame they kept Ezekiel 37. That’s gotta be the worst proof-text in the book.

  7. 7.

    Funny. This happens not infrequently enough that I still have a draft of a post and excel sheet from the last time they got changed. Shame they added “two great commandments” but got rid of one of the two texts it quotes (Lev 19:18).

    The LDS KJV fails to footnote either quotation in Matt 22, further contributing to the impression of NT-Good, OT-Bad.

  8. 8.

    This is awesome.

  9. 9.

    Thanks, David!

  10. 10.

    What an impressive feat!

    I want to know where you find the extra time in the day to fit projects like this in? And why hasn’t the church hired you to do this stuff on their team? :)

  11. 11.

    Thanks, Jessawhy! I wish they would hire me, but I suspect they know I’m at least 40% too heretical. :)

  12. 12.

    Who is Luke 24:36-39 useful as a prooftext against? The overwhelming majority of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians have affirmed the bodily resurrection of Jesus pretty much since it happened.

    Ditto for 1 Corinthians 15:20-22. Who is that useful as a prooftext against?

  13. 13.

    Well, it’s pretty clear you already know what my answers are going to be, Kullervo. Just to supply them anyway: I met Christians when I was a missionary who didn’t believe in Jesus’s physical resurrection or in universal resurrection. I’m not sure how this related to the official positions of the churches they belonged to.

    Also, you may have missed the point of the post. Since both of those scriptures are on the retained list, they’re not going to affect the prooftext rating of the scripture mastery scriptures as a whole. So I’m not sure why you want to argue about them.

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