Book Review: Textual and Comparative Explorations in 1 & 2 Enoch

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Textual-and-Comparative-Explorations2-small[The following review was written by Allen Hansen.]

If you are looking for something that discusses the parallels between ancient Enoch texts and the Book of Moses, then Samuel Zinner’s book might not be for you. It is not Nibley’s Enoch the Prophet. Zinner, who is not a member, does not even discuss Joseph Smith and the Restoration until the final chapter. Instead, what Zinner has given us is a very erudite exploration of the two groups of text known as 1 and 2 Enoch. He is conversant with current scholarship on a variety of topics, and is a pleasure to read.

In the past, Zinner has produced sensitive translations of Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam, two of the most elegant and powerful voices in Russian poetry. I’ve dabbled in translating Russian poetry just for fun, so I can speak to how difficult an undertaking it is. Translation requires not only a grasp of the bigger picture, but also of the incidental details, and how the words paint images. These are important skills to have when dealing with ancient texts which are often cryptic and confusing. Zinner is well-prepared to dig deep into these texts.

The chapters are generally fairly short. The topics cover a variety of issues. There is discussion of the meaning of the phrases “Son of Man,” and “Ancient of Days,” the relationship between 1 Enoch and the Book of Daniel, Gnosticism, Iranian religions, Mandaeism, the Quran, and medieval Jewish mysticism. There are plenty of charts showing the parallels being discussed, and despite this book primarily consisting of textual studies, no languages other than English are required in order to enjoy it. When foreign terms are used, they are always rendered in English as well, so non-specialists will benefit.

One of the highlights for me is the chapter discussing a parallel between 2 Enoch and the writings of Rabbi Isaac of Acre, a highly important transmitter of Enochic lore. I’ve presented a paper co-authored with Walker Wright on a different teaching of Rabbi Isaac’s on Enoch’s love for God, so it was nice to encounter the somewhat obscure rabbi in this context. Zinner suggests that Rabbi Isaac’s teaching on how God revealed to Enoch that sacrifice unites God and man (or superior and inferior worlds) is ultimately derived from 2 Enoch. This illustrates just how far-reaching of an impact ancient texts can have, even when they are not explicitly mentioned in medieval writings.

I don’t find all of Zinner’s logical steps persuasive, but even then he often suggests brilliant solutions. A good case in point is the chapter dealing with a curious term in 2 Enoch- “their clothing was various singing.” Zinner presents a Mandaean parallel to demonstrate that ‘foaming’- a variant reading preserved in a Bulgarian manuscript- should be preferred to the standard rendition ‘singing.’ Zinner then shows how it A minor detail? 2 Enoch is full of odd and uncertain readings. The minor details can make or break our understanding of the book’s message. Zinner is not the only scholar to look to Mandaean texts. Nathaniel Deutsch, for example, has successfully shed light on puzzling passages in Jewish mystical texts by drawing upon Mandaean insights and concepts. Mandaeism is among the only living religions engaging in ritualized ascents of the soul, and has a long textual history, so its importance for studying things like 1 and 2 Enoch is obvious.

Zinner’s speculation over deluge traditions, or which book preceded which, does not materially affect the conclusion in this case. Zinner is not afraid to go out on a limb, so the results are frequently illuminating. This book is less a compendium of definitive answers, and more of an intelligent discussion partner sounding out various possibilities and inviting us to dig deeper. This opens the door to further questions and research.

Chapter 19, dealing with some Latter-day scriptures, is the most speculative. I personally find it the weakest, too. Zinner looks at the concept of Zion in Joseph Smith’s revelations and connects it to Lady Wisdom and Asherah, seeing Zion as a divine hypostasis.

Despite my reservations, Zinner raises some very important points in this chapter. He very pertinently observes that Joseph Smith’s prophecies of Zion are “simultaneous[ly] temporal-eternal,” pointing to a teaching of the Zohar on how the world to come is not just a future event, but is present now, too. One needn’t accept the Zohar as the genuine teachings of Rabbi Shimeon bar Yohai in order to appreciate how useful of a concept this can be for understanding Joseph’s revelations. It might seem odd to some readers that Zinner insists upon reading God’s wings in 1 Enoch seriously, given how central an anthropomorphic god is to our teachings. Zinner, though, has a point. I found the quoted Arapaho Ghost Dance song particularly moving. It helps move past simplistic dichotomies such as literal versus symbolic/allegorical. 1 Enoch, after all, is not a Mormon text.

Because this book has been published by Interpreter, I hope that this will whet the appetite of LDS readers for closer engagement with the riches to be found in these kinds of sources.

Forget what I said at the beginning. If you have an interest in ancient and medieval texts and thought, as well as possible affinities with our scripture and doctrine, this book is for you. Zinner is worth hearing out. The Interpreter Foundation is to be commended for publishing such an intriguing work by a non-LDS author.

A Mormon Reads a REAL Atheist’s Blog Post

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"An ostracon from the end of the eight century BCE. In the first line we have the ciphers 50 + 7 in Egyptian hieroglyphic forms used widely in Israel and Judah." (Shmuel Ahituv, Echoes from the Past, 36.)

“An ostracon from the end of the eight century BCE. In the first line we have the ciphers 50 + 7 in Egyptian hieroglyphic forms used widely in Israel and Judah.” (Shmuel Aḥituv, Echoes from the Past, 36.)

[Cross posted from Studio et Quoque Fide.]

Many have probably already seen the post, “An Atheist’s Response to the First 31 Pages of The Book of Mormon.” I am going to guess that fewer people have seen “A REAL Atheist’s Response to the First 31 Pages of the Book of Mormon.” This “real atheist” appears to be an ex-Mormon named Benjamin V. (or else a Benjamin posted this on behalf the atheist). In any case, this “real atheist” (RA from here on out) is much less flattering than the first, providing a critique of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. (In keeping with RA’s own practice, I will not link to either of these blog posts.)

RA was respectful in his critique, no snarky remarks or sarcastic jabs, which I appreciate. I nonetheless found his critique to be somewhat naïve not only of LDS scholarship, but of biblical scholarship more generally. In RA’s defense, he (I am assuming gender here) does admit, “I’m not an expert on Christian theology or the Bible, and I certainly don’t believe in much of either, but I do have a passing familiarity with them.” In the spirit of promoting a more informed discussion, I would just like provide an informed Mormon’s opinions of RA’s objections.

  1. Pre-Exilic Jews: RA thinks Nephi’s frequent reference to “Jews” is anachronistic. He writes, “the term ‘Jew’ wasn’t coined until after the Israelites returned from captivity under the reign of the Persians.” RA then tries to predict the apologetic response:

Knowing a bit about Mormon apologetics, I’m sure some would like to explain this away by appealing to Joseph Smith’s imperfect translation skills. Perhaps Nephi used a word like “Israelite,” and Joseph Smith translated it as “Jew.” But there are clues in the text that would argue against this explanation. For example, in 1 Nephi 15:17 (on page 31, as it happens), Nephi refers to “…the Jews, or… the House of Israel.” Clearly Nephi was familiar with both terms, when only one would have been invented at the time of his writing.

Actually, a more simple solution is that Nephi used yehudi (יהודי); plural yehudim (יהודים), which is translated as “Jew” (or in the plural, “Jews”) in the KJV, and even in some instances in modern translations like the NIV and the NASB. In fact, it appears at a rather high frequency in the writings of Jeremiah, Nephi’s contemporary (e.g., Jeremiah 32:12; 34:9; 38:19; 40:11, 12, 15: 41:3; 44:1; 52:28, 30). Though it more properly means “Judean” or “Judeans,” the distinction was not made in 1830. So, there is really no problem with Nephi’s use of the term. In fact, there are arguably a number of wordplays in the underlying text on the Hebrew meaning of the word.[1] An interesting point to consider, since Joseph Smith did not know Hebrew.

  1. Egyptian Writing: RA’s next comments, “It’s hard to understand why someone who was born and raised in Jerusalem ‘in all his days’ would have known Egyptian at all.” This is not really a serious conundrum. Stefen Wimmer has documented several instances of what he calls “Palestinian hieratic,” an Egyptian script being used by Israelites in ancient times (cf. 1 Nephi 1:2).[2] According to Wimmer, this script was used in Palestine “probably over several centuries,” and its usage peaks in the late-7th century bc, coming to an abrupt end “after the Babylonian captivity.”[3] This is the very time period of Lehi, Nephi’s father (it probably would not have been his primary language, but nothing in the text requires it to be). Given that RA says he knows “a bit about Mormon apologetics,” I am little surprised he does not know about this, since it has frequently been commented on by LDS scholars.[4]

The idea that Lehi’s “children write their diaries in Egyptian,” is not really in the Book of Mormon. Nephi is not writing a “diary,” but an official record of his people, replete with an origin story meant to give them a sense of identity and meaning. Under such circumstances, Nephi was probably following the pattern of the Brass Plates, which were actually written in Egyptian (Mosiah 1:4). This resolves the contradiction RA creates by saying, “This document seems to have been written in Hebrew, but it is taken, in part, ‘that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers.’ So is the language (always singular) of their fathers Egyptian or Hebrew?”

  1. Clarity About the Messiah: The next strange thing, according to RA is “their portrayal of the Messiah.” RA goes on to explain that there are few explicit prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament, and the prophecies of the Messiah that do exist provide a very different picture than the Christian version. He states that most Messianic prophecies are taken out of context.

if you read the Old Testament and 1 Nephi back-to-back, 1 Nephi’s Messianic prophecies are wildly out of place. The Old Testament contains a few scant clues that (even if read the way Christians traditionally understand them) are so vague that they could only be understood in hindsight. Meanwhile, Nephi is receiving incredibly specific prophecies that could only apply to Jesus. The Jewish conqueror-Messiah of the Old Testament is nowhere to be found in 1 Nephi. In his place is a Jesus precisely described, right down to the time and place of his birth, his name, his mother’s name, and a description of John the Baptist. It also specifically refers to this Messiah as God, which would never have occurred to any Old Testament prophet. If anything like this had appeared in the Old Testament, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have questioned Jesus’ divine identity.(emphasis added)

Frankly, I think that RA answers his own question here. The prophecies are only “wildly out of place” if one rejects the idea of genuine prophecy. If we accept that God can, in fact, reveal the future, then there is no real barrier to believe that God could reveal even highly specific prophecies; nor can there be a reasonable objection to God revealing more specific prophecies to one group of people, and less specific prophecies to others. Within Mormon theology, agency is an all-important principle: people need to have the ability to choose. Thus, since highly specific prophecies like those in the Book of Mormon make it “hard to imagine that anyone would have questioned Jesus’ divine identity,” such specificity could not be revealed to those who would be there for his mortal ministry; otherwise it would be so obvious their agency would be compromised. Meanwhile, those who would not be there could have more specific details.

I get that this answer can come across as a bit of a cop-out. But the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to provide evidence that revelation is real. As such, it seems inappropriate, to me, to judge its historicity on grounds which rule prophecy and revelation out a priori. For what it is worth, some non-LDS scholars would dispute RA’s points entirely. Margaret Barker, for instance, has argued that Christianity was based on deep roots of pre-Exilic (i.e., before the Babylonian captivity) Israelite religion. When she commented on the Book of Mormon, she wrote:

The original temple tradition was that Yahweh, the Lord, was the Son of God Most High, and present on earth as the Messiah. This means that the older religion in Israel would have taught about the Messiah. Thus finding Christ in the Old Testament is exactly what we should expect, though obscured by incorrect reading of the scriptures. This is, I suggest, one aspect of the restoration of “the plain and precious things, which have been taken away from them” (1 Nephi 13:40).[5]

Daniel Boyarin, a Jewish scholar, has made a similar argument.[6] I have not yet read Boyarin’s book, but Daniel C. Peterson quotes him as saying, “The theology of the Gospels, far from being a radical innovation within Israelite religious tradition, is a highly conservative return to the very most ancient moments within that tradition, moments that had been largely suppressed in the meantime — but not entirely.”[7]

Nephi’s prophecies still might seem much too specific for those who refuse to believe in revelation, but in light of work by the likes of Barker and Boyarin, they really are not quite so “wildly out of place” after all.

  1. Law of Moses: RA states that, “upon a cursory analysis of the text, I could find very little evidence that these people even knew what the Law of Moses was, let alone that they lived it.” Many who have given the text more than a cursory reading, however, have found that the law of Moses permeates the text. John W. Welch, who is an attorney and a scholar of ancient Jewish and Israelite law, has provided numerous studies of the law and the Book of Mormon. Welch has shown that the text describing Nephi’s “particularly grizzly murder,” of Laban, as RA calls it, was in fact consciously written with an understanding of the Mosiac law as it existed and was interpreted in 600 bc.[8] Welch has also thoroughly examined 7 legal cases in the Book of Mormon, finding them consistent with the ancient law of Moses.[9]What about the “holidays or festivals that play such an important role in Jewish life,” which RA says, are never “mentioned in the Book of Mormon”? Several scholars have shown that major sermons like those of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6–10 and Benjamin in Mosiah 1–6 are examples of just such festivals.[10] Several other aspects of the law of Moses have also been found in the Book of Mormon.[11]

Then there is the fact that, “the moment Lehi and his (non-Levite) family leave Jerusalem, they immediately set up altars and sacrifice animals in the wilderness, which would have scandalized a family of Israelites raised in the Deuteronomistic Mosaic tradition.” This actually finds an interesting solution in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where the Temple Scroll allows such sacrifices if you are beyond a three-day journey from the temple.[12] It also worth pointing out that some have argued that Lehi was not fully on board with the Deuteronomistic reforms going on in his day, and in fact spoke out against them; in which case, his not being in full compliance with the Deuteronomistic tradition is not a serious defect.[13]

  1. Miscellaneous Topics: RA states that, “there are so many other oddities that it would be ponderous to give an exhaustive list.” In that same spirit, I note that there are so many other responses, both to the topics I have chosen to respond to, and the ones I have not, that it would be a rather tedious task to keep going. He notes that, “structures that seem to be natively English,” and “phrases copied from the New Testament” which are, in my opinion, not surprising for an English translation made ca. 1830. He also notes “a pattern of prophecy that is highly unusual, consisting of uncharacteristically specific predictions from the time of Nephi to the time of Joseph Smith … followed by absolute silence about anything that’s happened since the early 19th Century, which would have been most useful to the stated audience of the book.” This, like the prophecies of Christ, are really a matter of accepting prophecy or not, and agency could again be invoked for the lack of specificity on details after Joseph Smith’s time—highly specific prophecy of events after its publication would have simply made it’s truth to obvious, and thus interfered with the exercise of true agency (which requires that competing explanations have seemingly approximately equal merit). I could go on with the issues I have skipped over, but will refrain.

Closing Comments

I appreciate that RA was willing to read and comment on the Book of Mormon, and his professional tone. I hope I have successfully engaged him with just as much professionalism. I realize that little of what I have to say is going to convince RA or any other atheist that the Book of Mormon is true. And, it is certainly correct that none of the above proves the Book of Mormon true. I have merely sought to add to the conversation, as I said before, with some reflections from a Mormon who considers himself well-informed. I hope that, at the least, I have shown some that the Book of Mormon merits a more serious reading. Much of what initially seems odd and out of place turns out to fit more comfortably than one would expect, and certainly more comfortably than what was known in 1830.

[1] Matt Bowen, “‘What Thank They the Jews’? (2 Nephi 29:4): A Note on the Name ‘Judah’ and Antisemitism,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 12 (2014): 111–125.

[2] Stefen Wimmer, Palästiniches Hieratisch: Die Zahl- und Sonderzeichen in der althebräishen Schrift  (Wiesbaden: Harraossowitz, 2008).

[3] An English summary of Wimmer’s work, from which I have quoted, is  William J. Hamblin, “Palestinian Hieratic,” at Interpreter (blog), September 1, 2012, online at (accessed September 25, 2014).

[4] For example, Stephen D. Ricks and John A. Tvedtnes, “Notes and Communications—Jewish and Other Semitic Texts Written in Egyptian Characters,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 5/2 (1996): 156–163; John S. Thompson, “Lehi and Egypt,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, ed. John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2004), 266–267; Aaron P. Schade, “The Kingdom of Judah: Politics, Prophets, and Scribes in the Late Preexilic Period,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, 315–319; William J. Hamblin, “Reformed Egyptian,” FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 31–35.

[5] Margaret Barker, “Joseph Smith and Preexilic Israelite Religion,” in The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Press, 2006), 79.

[6] Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (New York: The New Press, 2012).

[7] Daniel C. Peterson, “Messianic Ideas in Judaism,” Deseret News, June 14, 2012, online at: (accessed October 23, 2014).

[8] John W. Welch, “Legal Perspectives on the Slaying of Laban,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1 (1992): 119–141.

[9] John W. Welch, Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah: BYU Press and Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship, 2008).

[10] John S. Thompson, “Isaiah 50–51, the Israelite Autumn Feastivals, and the Covenant Speech of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6–10,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 123–150; John W. Welch and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., King Benjamin’s Speech: “That Ye May Learn Wisdom” (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998).

[11] For example, John W. Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), chaps. 16, 18, 24, 38, 39, 44, 50, 54, 56, 70, 72, 73.

[12] David Rolph Seely, “Lehi’s Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/1 (2001): 62–69.

[13] Margaret Barker and Kevin Christensen, “Seeking the Face of the Lord: Joseph Smith and the First Temple Tradition,” in Joseph Smith Jr.: Reappraisals after Two Centuries (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 143–172; Kevin Christensen, “The Temple, the Monarchy, and Wisdom: Lehi’s World and the Scholarship of Margaret Barker,” in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem, 449–522; Kevin Christensen, “Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies,” FARMS Occasional Papers 2 (2001).

Faith and Reason 26: Trails in the Book of Mormon

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From the book: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith

by Michael R. Ash

Lehi and his family lived in the wilderness for many years, most likely following trails which were previously known only in ancient times. Today, scholars are aware of ancient caravan routes along “Frankincense Trails” where traders traveled to bring frankincense and myrrh from the southern coast to inland cities. At least two of these trails run south along the Arabian Peninsula near the shore of the Red Sea. Nephi likewise tells us that after Lehi departed Jerusalem, “he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 2:5; italics added).

Michael R. Ash is the author of: Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting The Prophet Joseph Smith. He is the owner and operator of and is on the management team for FairMormon. He has been published in Sunstone, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, the Maxwell Institute’s FARMS Review, and is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt.  He and his wife live in Ogden, Utah, and have three daughters.

Julianne Dehlin Hatton  is a broadcast journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has worked as a News Director at an NPR affiliate, Radio and Television Host, and Airborne Traffic Reporter. She graduated with an MSSc from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in 2008. Julianne and her husband Thomas are the parents of four children.

Music for Faith and Reason is provided by Arthur Hatton.

Review of Temple Insights: Proceedings of the Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference

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[This review was written by FairMormon volunteer Rene Krywult.]

On Saturday, 25 October 2014, the Interpreter Foundation will host a conference on the topic of “Temple on the Mount Zion”, and it is only fitting that on this day, Interpreter Foundation will publish their proceedings of the 2012 conference which also had the temple as a main theme: Temple Insights.

At a size of 288 pages, the book Temple Insights contains 14 essays showing a continuous link of temple mysticism through the Old Testament and the Ancient Near Eastern context, the Book of Mormon and the ancient New World context, and modern day temples.

The conference was initially organized by Matthew Brown, who was an author and historian whose emphasis was on the history and doctrine of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and wrote several nonfiction books and research-based articles for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship at BYU. He worked as compiler and editor of the Journal for the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR; now FairMormon). Unfortunately he died in 2011, leaving behind his wife Jamie. Matthew “loved the temple and thirsted for the knowledge of heaven found therein.”

As this book is a set of thirteen very different essays, I find it bit difficult to write about, because of its diversity. I therefore decided to not deal with the essays in the order given in the book, but rather I want to organize them by topics. The first one is that of the ancient and historic context of the temple.

Temples and Ritual in History

Brown’s previously unpublished essay “The Handclasp, the Temple, and the King” starts the book, by analyzing OT verses describing the king as God’s anointed, whom God grasps by the hand, and how anointing and the handclasp between the Heavenly King and the mortal king of Israel was likely part of the coronation rite, which was held in the temple.

This topic is then expanded by David Calabro (“The Divine Handclasp in the Hebrew Bible”), who starts out with descriptions and analysis of ritual handclasps in the Old Testament and in Near Eastern Iconography, with examples from Egyptian, Hittite and Phoenician art, before then trying to find possible meanings of the gesture, linking it also to the ritual raising the hand as gestures accompanying oaths and covenants.

In “Edfu and Exodus”, John Gee (who is William [Bill] Gay Research Professor in the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University and chair of the Egyptology and Ancient Israel section of the Society for Biblical Literature. He has published articles on a variety of subjects, including the Egyptian temple) draws a connection between the Egyptian “Book of the Temple” and the book of Exodus, both in structure and topic, describing the temple from inside out. Gee concludes that both probably go back to a common source older than the both of them.

David Rolph and Jo Ann H. Seely ’s essay “The Crown of Creation” discusses the well known concept of the universe as a temple, links the creation story to the temple drama, shows how God, in creating the universe has the same roles the temple drama gives to Adam and Eve as archetype of each man and woman (that of king, priest and artisan), and how man, by participating in the temple drama, is raised to be the image of God, thus becoming the real crown of creation, participating in God’s creation by procreation. David Seely is a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. He is a member of the international team of scholars that translated the Dead Sea Scrolls and published, together with Moshe Weinfeld, the Barkhi Nafshi hymns from Qumran in the Oxford series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert. Jo Ann is adjunct faculty in ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and has published articles in the The Book of Mormon Reference Companion, Anchor Bible Dictionary, BYU Studies, and the Studies in Scriptures series.

From Dust to Exalted Crown: Royal and Temple Themes Common to the Psalms and the Dead Sea Scrolls” is the title David J. Larsen chose for his paper. Larsen, who holds a PhD in biblical theology from Andrews University and a bachelor’s degree in Near East studies from BYU, has research interests including Jewish and Christian apocalyptic and mysticism, pseudepigrapha and apocryphal literature, royal/Messianic themes in the Bible and in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and “ascent to heaven” traditions. And though this one is one of the shortest in the collection (a mere 11 pages including footnotes), it is an important one. Larsen, after showing how many of the Qumran texts rely on the “Royal Psalms” in the Bible (which, as can be seen in the papers by Brown, Calabro and the Seelys in this book, have a vital connection to the temple drama), then goes on to exaltation in the views of the Qumran community. How Adam and Eve are archetypal for Israelite temple ritual, which makes humans kings and priests, bringing the participant into the presence of God by a journey accompanied with covenants, making him part of the Divine Council. Bestowed with knowledge of the divine mysteries, one then becomes a teacher helping others on the way through divine mysteries, who then, as a group are raised to the same end. It is, Larsen shows, a journey where one is dressed in royal and priestly robes and receives a crown of righteousness, in a ritual setting.

Ancient temple rituals are also central to Donald W. Parry’s “Ancient Sacred Vestments: Scriptural Symbols and Meanings.” Parry, professor of the Hebrew Bible, Abraham O. Smoot Professorship, and a member of the International Team of Translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls, starts with the symbology of ritual vestments, and then discusses in detail how the ancient clothing worn in OT temples are part of the rituals and religious gestures that are conducted by those who occupy the path that leads from the profane to the sacred. The profane is removed, one is ritually washed, anointed, invested with special clothing, offers sacrifices, is ordained (hands are filled), and offers incense at the altar, before entering the veil. Putting on clothes, in a Christian context, is often seen as symbol of putting on Christ, as witnessed by the apostle Paul using the word “enduo,” when talking about putting on Christ, a word mainly used in the Septuagint for donning sacred vestments (symbols also for salvation, righteousness, glory, strength and resurrection) in order to be prepared to stand before God. Parry then goes on explaining how priestly officiants wearing sacred vestments, emulated celestial persons who wear sacred vestments, making one an image of those celestial persons. He concludes with showing how the ancient garbs of the High Priest point to Christ.

The last essay about the ancient context of the temple is Mark Alan Wright’s “The Axis Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon.” Wright (Assistant Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and Associate Editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies at the Maxwell Institute, BA in Anthropology at UCLA and his MA and PhD in Anthropology [with a subfield of specialization in Mesoamerican Archaeology] from UC Riverside) introduces us to the fascinating parallels between Book of Mormon and Mayan temples as centers of the world, where rituals took place, kings were crowned, religious instruction was given, and as places of sacrifices and of men meeting God. In doing so, he is careful to point out that Mayan civilization was diverse enough that “the Mayans” would not have described themselves as belonging to the same culture. Each city was very much its own world. Nephites would surely have stuck out on some issues, but there was equally surely enough overlap that they could fit right in.

“Latter-day Houses of the Lord” by Richard O. Cowan, who was part of the religion faculty at BYU for more than 50 years and has chaired the committee producing Gospel Doctrine Sunday School manuals for the Church for more than a decade, traces the modern-day usage and understanding of temples from the Kirtland Temple to Nauvoo and the SLC temple. Architecture was used to teach principles. While the Kirtland Temple was preparatory (think of the vision of Christ and the conference of keys by Abraham, Moses, Abraham, Elias, and finally Elijah), the Nauvoo temple was dedicated to ritual usage. In 1879, the church reduced temple usage to rituals, and thus assembly rooms are missing from later temples. Through his paper, Cowan shows how temples have changed according to revelation, and how prophets have seen models in vision that then have been incorporated in the temples God’s people built.

Temple Mysticism and Scripture

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (“The Ark and the Tent: Temple Symbolism in the Story of Noah”), Vice President of The Interpreter Foundation and a member of the Academy for Temple Studies Advisory Board, compares Moses’ tabernacle and Noah’s ark, and then identifies the story of Noah as a temple related drama, drawing of temple mysticism and symbols. After examining structural similarities between ark and tabernacle and bringing into the discussion further information about the Mesopotamian flood story, he shows how Noah’s ark is a beginning of a new creation, pointing out the central point of Day One in the Noah story. When Noah leaves the ark, they find themselves in a garden, not unlike the Garden of Eden in the way the Bible speaks about it. A covenant is established in signs and tokens. Noah is the new Adam. This is then followed by a fall/Judgement scene story, even though it is Ham who is judged, not Noah. In accordance with mostly non-Mormon sources quoted, Bradshaw points out, how Noah was not in “his” tent, but in the tent of the Shekhina, the presence of God, how being drunk was seen by the ancients as a synonym to “being caught up in a vision of God,” and how his “nakedness” was rather referring to garments God had made for Adam and Eve.

Mack C. Stirling follows a similar course in “Job: An LDS Reading.” The well known story of Job, one of the literary books of the Bible and part of the Wisdom literature (which is heavy in temple mysticism and symbols), he proposes, follows the temple endowment to the T. Following Hugh Nibley’s lead in “The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri,” the temple endowment is not discussed, though. Stirling focuses only on Job’s story, drawing on analysis of literary genres and literary tools, like chiasms, focusing on the existential questions asked by the ancient author. Doing this, he concludes that Job’s is a story about a spiritual journey, in which the two main questions are answered: “(1) Is it worthwhile to worship God for His own sake apart from material gain? (2) Can man, by coming to earth and worshipping God, enter into a process of becoming that allows him to participate in God’s life and being?” What follows is an easy to read and follow exegesis of the Book of Job with the above questions in mind, culminating with Job at the veil, speaking with God. Stirling then discusses Job’s journey in terms of Adam’s journey, beginning in a situation of security, going through tribulations, finding the way to God and being admitted into His presence, and shows how this journey is paralleled in Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon (which journey ends at a tree of life). This journey also is what each of us faces, from out premortal home with God, to the tribulations of this telestial world, and back to the eternal bliss of Celestial Kingdom, the presence of God, through Christ. In this way, the stories of Adam and Eve, of Job and of Lehi’s dream provide a framework for every human being’s existence.

In “Psalm 105: Chiasmus, Credo, Covenant, and Temple,” Stephen D. Ricks, professor of Hebrew and cognate learning at BYU, takes a close look at the literary structure of a psalm, reintroducing us to chiasmus both in modern and ancient texts, including the Book of Mormon, then uses this literary structure to not only show how the psalm contains the basic historic credo of the Israelites, as also seen in Deuteronomy and mirrored in 1Ne 17, and then goes on to show how an essential part of the psalm is a covenant (“a binding agreement between man and God, with sanctions in the event of the violation of the agreement”) between God and His people, which ties it back to the temple. Ricks shows this by pointing out the points of covenant: Preamble, Review of God’s relations with Israel, Terms of the Covenant, Formal witnesses, blessings and curses and reciting the covenant and depositing the text. This form is maintained in Exodus 19,20 23 and 24, and in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 1-6. Psalm 105 follows this form, too. The sacrament, which in Mormon understanding is a covenant, points 1 to 5 are also present.

David Bokovoy (Ancient Temple Imagery in the Sermons of Jacob”), who holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East from Brandeis University, makes a compelling argument for Jacob, brother of Nephi, having deep knowledge of ancient Israelite temple ritual, concepts and imagery, for instance of the duty of the priest to expiate sin and make atonement before the Lord, of entering God’s presence. Jacob quotes temple related verses from the OT, like Psalm 95. The allusions to the temple are not forced, but very subtle. Of course, Jacob’s central topic, the atonement, is a temple topic itself, and it’s opposite, impurity is also expressed by Jacob in terms familiar and central to an ancient temple priest. The temple is also shown as a gate to heaven.

In Lisle G. Brown’s “Zacharaias and the Second Temple“ we follow Zacharias’ biography from entering the priesthood till the day the angel Gabriel appeared to him in Herod’s temple. Brown, author of ”Nauvoo Sealings, Adoptions, and Anointings: A Comprehensive Register of Persons Receiving LDS Temple Ordinances, 1841–1846,” after recounting the procedures to become a priest, focuses on the day when Zacharias prepared to bring one of the two central standing offerings. He points out that likely, a priest would only have a once in a life time chance to partake in the core of this ceremony, entering the Holy Room and burning incense on the Inner Altar. Brown paints a very visual picture of this day, immersing us in the ritual of the time, a ritual that became even more significant for Zacharias by seeing an angel in the temple, something that has not happened before nor after in the Second Temple.


Easy to read and well documented, this book is a treasure trove for those who want to get a better knowledge and understanding of temple ritual and mysticism, a guide line to help find new and richer meaning in scripture study and a comprehensive bibliography to further one’s own intellectual study of temples, ancient and modern.

RiseUp Podcast: Talking with your Parents About Sex

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A challenging subject for youth and young adults to address with one another, but the law of Chastity, sex, is something that is best if not left to the world take the lead. How does one talk with their parents about sex, why are parents the best source? Jimmy Carpenter gives some brief thoughts on the subject. (This one is best to listen to with your parents.)

RiseUp is a podcast for young adults who have difficult questions about church teachings and doctrines. Subscribe to the RiseUp (only) feed in iTunes, click here. 


Book Review: A Non-LDS Approach to Enoch for an LDS Audience: Samuel Zinner’s Textual and Comparative Explorations in 1 & 2 Enoch

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Textual-and-Comparative-Explorations2-small[The following review was written by Colby Townsend, an editorial consultant with Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.]

Enoch has been a fascinating character in the Judeo-Christian tradition for millennia. It seems like there is a never-ending flow of ancient and modern texts on the ancient patriarch, his life, and times. In the LDS tradition, this fascination goes all the way back to the beginning with Joseph Smith’s work on revising the Bible, and the revelatory experience he had in receiving the Extracts of the Prophecy of Enoch, among other texts. Joseph Smith also used the codename “Enoch” in the Doctrine and Covenants when the brethren felt it necessary to veil the identity of individuals in the revelations, showing Joseph’s own personal connection with Enoch.

Aside from those early connections, and focused study on Enoch since Hugh Nibley’s work in the 1970’s, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found solace in the stories found in the Pearl of Great Price about Enoch and his city Zion, how all people “were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18), and have sought this as a community of believers since the time of Joseph Smith.

With this backdrop, interested members of the Church will be excited to see the forthcoming title authored by Samuel Zinner, the first in the Ancient Scripture and Texts Series, co-published by the Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books. Those familiar with Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture will recognize the cover of Zinner’s new book, with a beautiful dark mahogany wood panel design. This is not just a simple copy and paste; the cover has been completely redesigned and has become its own, and will make a wonderful addition to any shelf.

Zinner has a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has spent years of research in Enochic traditions, as well as many other fields of research. He was part of the prestigious compilation German Scholars and Ethnic Cleansing, 1920-1945, published by Berghahn Books in 2004 (recipient of the “Choice Outstanding Academic Book of the Year Award” by the American Library Association).

He begins his study reflecting on the recently published commentary on 1 Enoch by George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam in the Hermeneia Commentary Series. He enters right into the scholarly debate and discusses such topics as the scholarly dating of 1 Enoch, among numerous other texts, and how this can help in understanding this important Enochic work. It is important to note for the reader that the text of 1 Enoch is a composite text, originally five separate works woven into one text throughout a number of centuries (you can see my discussion in the annotated bibliography at the back of Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen, In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel [Provo: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014] for more information on this topic).

Zinner continues throughout the book providing a review and an update of current and past scholarship toward a better understanding of the Enochic corpora in the ancient world. He argues that 1 Enoch 42 needs to be rearranged on the basis of 4 Ezra and 1 Enoch 39:5. He spends a good portion of his time discussing the use of the “Son of Man” epithet and enters into a discussion with a broad and controversial area of scholarship on the Son of Man that has been going for several decades now, and this reviewer finds Zinner’s work to be very close to that of many Mormon scholars.

These sections will be of special note to members of the Church for their importance in understanding not only the use of the title “Son of Man” in the New Testament and Old Testament texts like Daniel, but also for understanding restoration scripture like the Book of Moses. Zinner explores Zion and Jerusalem as Lady Wisdom in Moses 7 and Nephi’s Tree of Life vision, and therefore offers a non-LDS perspective on a central LDS text. These essays will be found very welcome in Mormon scriptural studies.

Throughout the work there are discussions of various traditions that will be new to most readers. With the combination of Zinner’s personal experience and his vast knowledge of Judaism, Christianity, Mandaeanism, Kabbalah, Gnosticism, etc., this book is a gold mine to which one can return time and again for its rich references and bibliography. At just under three hundred pages, this book comes highly recommended for those interested in early Enochic and temple traditions. Members of the Church who follow the works of authors such as Hugh Nibley and Margaret Barker will find a welcome home in this book, and the time they spend in its study that will be richly rewarded.

Note: Textual and Comparative Explorations in 1 & 2 Enoch is scheduled for release later this month in conjunction with Interpreter’s “Temple on Mount Zion,” Conference, this Saturday, October 25.

Analysis of Textual Variants Now Available Online FREE

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[Cross-posted from Studio et Quoque Fide.]

I was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in May of 1987. A year later, in Provo, Utah, Royal Skousen took over the FARMS-sponsored Book of Mormon Critical Text Project (CTP from this point on). For the last quarter-century and some change, Skousen has been dedicated to that project, while I have just been living a rather ordinary and unaccomplished life. Frankly, I cannot personally imagine what it would be like to spend what is essentially my entire lifetime (up to this point) with a dedicated focus to a single topic of study. Yet that is exactly what Skousen has done. And anyone who has even lightly pursued the fruits of his labors can only stand in appreciative awe at the breadth and depth of Skousen’s work.

Skousen himself has given the background history to the project. The fruits of the CTP finally began to published in 2001, starting with the ultra-violate photographs and transcriptions of the extent fragments of the original manuscript (plus relevant background commentary on the history of the OM, paper type and size, parts of the Book of Mormon extant, the scribes based on handwriting analysis, etc.), and a two-volume set of the same for the printer’s manuscript. These were already important and significant contributions to Book of Mormon scholarship. Never before had the two earliest extent versions of the Book of Mormon been both published in full and studied so thoroughly. But that was only the tip of the iceberg.

The next step was the monumental effort to study each and every variant in the text from these two manuscripts and 20 different print editions from 1830 to 1981. Between all these editions, Skousen documented over 100,000 changes, which he then analyzed carefully to determine which reading is most likely the original. (Unsurprisingly, earlier readings tend to be favored over later ones.) This analysis was published between 2004–2009, and spanned across 6 different volumes of 650–720 pages each, for a total of 4060 pages! Called Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon (ATV), it was indeed a monumental effort.

To some, this might all seem pretty over-the-top—who needs such extensive study of every change in the Book of Mormon? I would argue, and I think Skousen would agree, that as the foundational text of our faith—the “keystone of our religion,” in the words of Joseph Smith—knowing the precise language of the text in its original form is of utmost importance. It is, after all, declared the word of God in Article of Faith 8.  Still, I can imagine that most people do not need all the thorough analysis involved here. So can Skounsen, which is why he made the ultimate fruit of his analysis—simply the text of the Book of Mormon in what is most likely its earliest form—available in a single volume, without all the extra analysis, called The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, published by Yale University Press in 2009.

While Yale’s Earliest Text edition of the Book of Mormon will serve most needs, anyone who wishes to engage serious study of the Book of Mormon—academic or otherwise—will no doubt find that at times, having the extend analysis would be helpful. This is especially so if one is making academic arguments, or even merely personal meditations on the text, which hinge on specifics of vocabulary and grammar. Yet, the monumental size of the ATV has naturally made it costly—$300 for the whole set—and difficult to access to. Until now. As of October 7, 2014, the entire ATV was made freely available online via the Interpreter Foundation.

Dr. Skousen and Interpreter are to be commended for making this landmark in Book of Mormon scholarship widely accessible any and all Book of Mormon students, from the most erudite scholars of the text, to average members of the church who would simply like to get closer to the text of the Book of Mormon as God revealed it to Joseph Smith. In doing so, they have rendered for the Latter-day Saints and the community of scholars who study Mormonism a great service. I would encourage every Latter-day Saint to explore it and get familiar with the ATV and learn to use it, at least occasionally, in their study of the Book of Mormon.

Articles of Faith 16: Margaret Blair Young – The Heart of Africa and The Welcome Table

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Margaret-Blair-Young-150x150Margaret Blair Young was raised in the Church and learned the standard Mormon clichés and customary phrases of a Mormon testimony. As a child, she could imitate the strokes and expressions of Mormonism well, in time she came to understand these were expressions of an immature, inexperienced faith. Time propelled her further into the faith. In time she began to be immersed in more controversial areas of LDS history: race issues and the priesthood restriction, keeping those of African lineage from receiving the priesthood or temple blessings for over a century. She wrote three books and made two documentaries on these subjects with Darius Gray, a black man who joined the Church in 1964, fourteen years before the restriction was lifted.

Margaret Blair Young is the past president of the Association for Mormon Letters and has published eight books—novels and short stories. Three of these were co-authored with Darius Gray and give the history of Black Latter-day Saints. She and Gray also made the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. She has written six encyclopedia articles and other scholarly papers on Blacks in the western USA, and particularly on Black Mormons. She used to teach creative writing at BYU but now travels the world in her off time.

Questions addressed during the interview:

You just got back from Africa. Where were you and what were you doing there?

How is the church doing in Africa? What is it like on a day to day basis?

What are some of the difficult questions or situations for which the African Saints are seeking answers or solutions?

There is an article on your blog through patheos, The Welcome Table, the article is entitled Developing Spiritual Taste. In your world travels and in your film directing efforts on church related themes, you have no doubt encountered critics or at least statements that seem to be critical of at least perceptions of church doctrines and culture. You even address the motivation for the article, at least in part, by offering this brief anecdote: When I was in my late twenties, someone said to me, “You’re too smart to be a Mormon.” Clearly, I’m not. But the picture of Mormonism this person had in mind does not represent the kind of Mormonism I live.” What is the kind of Mormonism that you live, the kind that you layout in this article?

You talk about, in your Mormon Scholars Testify Page, a story where your husband once gave you a priesthood blessing during a particularly trying moment. He said these words: “I bless you that your memories will be sanctified as the larger picture unfolds, and you will view all of the difficulties and trials you’re enduring now with gratitude and love.”This is the blessing of perspective. It illuminates not only my personal history, but the hard historical episodes of my religion. What has that blessing meant in your research into as you put it, the more controversial parts of Mormon History?

Margaret Blair Young is the author of several titles as well as director and producer of several documentaries on the history of Black members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Click here for more information on Margaret Blair Young’s upcoming Film Project, The Heart of Africa.

Click here to read from Margaret Blair Young’s entries at Patheos under the heading, The Welcome Table.

Fair Issues 71: Were there transoceanic voyages in ancient times?

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MAWhile LDS scholars agree with non-LDS scholars that the New World was populated primarily by humans who traversed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago, a growing number of non-LDS scholars agree with LDS scholars that there was transoceanic contact between the Old World and the New Worlds in ancient times.

In the podcast brother Ash explores the evidences for cultural, linguistic and botanical discoveries that confirm such voyages did take place in both directions between the 7th millennium B.C. and the European age of discovery.

The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.

Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.

The views and opinions expressed in the podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon


4th Watch 17: A Broken Vessel – What is anxiety and PTSD?

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4thWatch SmallIn the last podcast I talked about depression and now add anxiety and PTSD will be added to the mix of mental and emotional issues we may have to deal with in this life.

These issues can cause cognitive dissonance in our relationship with the Lord and His Church and create unintended consequences from our perceptions of world.  We often don’t see the world the way it is.  We see it more as we are.  If we are viewing our life as full of danger and threats it may be because we have experienced events in our lives that foster those feelings.

In this podcast we look at possible causes of anxiety and post traumatic stress and the counsel we have received from Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the counsel of the twelve apostles.

The book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold S. Kushner along with other books he has written is available here.

As always the views and opinions expressed in this podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that or FairMormon