Beholding the Tree of Life: A Rabbinic Approach to the Book of Mormon
“Breaks fresh ground in numerous ways.” — Terryl L. Givens
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Part of our Contemporary Studies in Scripture series
Too often readers approach the Book of Mormon simply as a collection of quotations, an inspired anthology to be scanned quickly and routinely recited. In Beholding the Tree of Life Bradley J. Kramer encourages his readers to slow down, to step back, and to contemplate the literary qualities of the Book of Mormon using interpretive techniques developed by Talmudic and post-Talmudic rabbis. Specifically, Kramer shows how to read the Book of Mormon closely, in levels, paying attention to the details of its expression as well as to its overall connection to the Hebrew Scriptures—all in order to better appreciate the beauty of the Book of Mormon and its limitless capacity to convey divine meaning.
Praise for Beholding the Tree of Life:
“Latter-day Saints have claimed the Book of Mormon as the keystone of their religion, but it presents itself first and foremost as a Jewish narrative. Beholding the Tree of Life is the first book I have seen that attempts to situate the Book of Mormon by paying serious attention to its Jewish literary precedents and ways of reading scripture. It breaks fresh ground in numerous ways that enrich an LDS understanding of the scriptures and that builds bridges to a potential Jewish readership.” — Terryl L. Givens, author of By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion
“Bradley Kramer has done what someone ought to have done long ago, used the methods of Jewish scripture interpretation to look closely at the Book of Mormon. Kramer has taken the time and put in the effort required to learn those methods from Jewish teachers. He explains what he has learned clearly and carefully. And then he shows us the fruit of that learning by applying it to the Book of Mormon. The results are not only interesting, they are inspiring. This is one of those books that, on reading it, I thought ‘I wish I’d written that!’” — James E. Faulconer, author of The Book of Mormon Made Harder and Faith, Philosophy, Scripture
“Since readers of the Book of Mormon are directed to ponder on and search out the deeper meanings of this scriptural record designed for our day, they would gain much from Beholding the Tree of Life by Bradley J. Kramer. In this well-written and engaging work, Kramer calls on processes of thinking about and studying the scriptures as inculcated by Talmudic and post-Talmudic rabbis. In doing so, Kramer guides us in attentive ways of reading the Book of Mormon that are stimulating and productive.” — Richard Dilworth Rust, author of Feasting on the Word: The Literary Testimony of the Book of Mormon
“Beholding the Tree of Life opens up the Book of Mormon to deeper, fuller readings by nourishing its Jewish roots with the application of the Rabbinic tradition of scripture study. It advocates a continuous practice of careful, systematic scripture reading as an essential form of individual and communal worship, consistent with current LDS practice but with a richer awareness of the long tradition behind it. Without being the slightest bit tedious or obscure, Bradley Kramer presents an original approach to Book of Mormon study that everyone can appreciate and apply.” — Phillip A. Snyder, English Department Chair at Brigham Young University
“Beholding the Tree of Life is a quiet master class in how to read scripture carefully in a way that unleashes powerful spiritual meaning. Always clear and never condescending, Kramer patiently introduces readers to Jewish ways of reading that have, for centuries, kept scripture relevant to the lives of faith communities. While focused on the Book of Mormon, Beholding the Tree of Life also invites readers to feast on the Hebrew Scriptures, while showing how the Book of Mormon profoundly complements its Hebrew counterpart. If applied widely, the methods of reading taught and exemplified in this book promise to make our discussions of scripture at home and in church all the richer.” — Jason A. Kerr, visiting assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University
“Bradley Kramer sets forth tools developed through centuries by rabbis that help one connect to Jewish modes of studying scripture and help one find greater meanings in the Book of Mormon. . . . a stimulating and deeply enriching experience to feast on the fruit of the Tree, the words of Christ.” — Richard Dillworth Rust, BYU Studies Quarterly
About the Author:
Bradley J. Kramer holds an MA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a BA in English from Brigham Young University with a minor in Near Eastern Studies. As the son of an LDS mother and a non-LDS father, he has had a life-long interest in interfaith dialogue. For the last several years, he has been a regular participant in Torah and Talmud classes at a local synagogue in Durham, North Carolina, and has helped arrange joint Mormon-Jewish study sessions and other educational exchanges. He has also given several presentations to local and regional groups on the affinities between Mormons and Jews and is a regular speaker at comparative religion classes. Bradley has worked professionally as a writer and editor and is married to the former Nancy Lubeck. They have three children and three grandchildren.
ISBN 978-1-58958-701-4 (paperback); 978-1-58958-702-1 (hardcover)