(1981 — 2013)
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Insights Volume 1 (1981)
Insights Volume 2 (1982)
Insights Volume 3 (1983)
Insights Volume 4 (1984)
Insights Volume 5 (1985)
Insights Volume 6 (1986)
Insights Volume 7 (1987)
Insights Volume 8 (1988)
Insights Volume 9 (1989)
Insights Volume 10 (1990)
Insights Volume 11 (1991)
Insights Volume 12 (1992)
Insights Volume 13 (1993)
Insights Volume 14 (1994)
Insights Volume 15 (1995)
Insights Volume 16 (1996)
Insights Volume 17 (1997)
Insights Volume 18 (1998)
Insights Volume 19 (1999)
Insights Volume 20 (2000)
Insights Volume 21 (2001)
Insights Volume 22 (2002)
The FARMS Review of Books has a long tradition of providing its readers with insightful and substantive reviews of books on the Book of Mormon, Mormon studies, and Christian studies, as well as those books that attack the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The latest issue does not disappoint. It contains reviews and responses to 18 books or articles on diverse topics, such as ancient Nephite culture, the conversion of Alma, hidden ancient records, the temple, the LDS concept of the nature of God, and the ark of the covenant.
Each semester the Institute sponsors an average of six brown bag presentations (so named because they are informal lectures delivered during the noon hour). Held on the BYU campus, these events are conducted largely for the benefit of scholars and other specialists who are invited to report on research projects they are pursuing and papers they are writing. At the conclusion of their presentations, the speakers respond to questions and constructive comments from the audience. These events enable researchers to test and explore the ideas and insights they are developing on a host of topics related to the work of the Institute. In order to ensure a maximum amount of give-and-take between the presenters and the audience, attendance is limited to invited BYU faculty and staff as well as Institute personnel. Insights later reports on most of these presentations. Three such reports follow.
In Alma 24 we read of the courage of the people of Anti- Nephi-Lehi, Lamanites who had converted to the Lord. Their king pleaded with them, “Let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren” (Alma 24:12). So great was their faith that they covenanted never to take up arms again and buried their weapons of war. When the unconverted Lamanites came against them, the Anti-Nephi- Lehies, rather than resist their attackers, prostrated themselves on the ground to pray and allowed their brethren to slay them.
The verb to seal occurs some 34 times in the Book of Mormon. In most of these instances the verb takes (is followed by) a direct object referring to such things as the law, a book, records, words, an account, an epistle, an interpretation, revelation, the truth, and the stone interpreters. Twice, however, the verb to seal takes a person as a direct object that is qualified by a possessive pronoun: Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. (Mosiah 5:15; emphasis added)
The Hôr Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary, by Michael D. Rhodes, treats the fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri associated with Facsimiles 1 and 3 of the Book of Abraham. Available in March 2002.
A FARMS symposium at BYU on Saturday, 26 January, highlighted findings from a years-long effort to collect, translate, and publish ancient accounts of the early life of the patriarch Abraham. Titled “Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham,” the free public event featured presentations by John Tvedtnes, Brian Hauglid, and John Gee, compilers and editors of a new book of the same title published by the Institute under the FARMS imprint.
In defense of the historicity—the historical actuality—of scriptures embraced by Latter-day Saints, several BYU and Institute scholars have contributed to a collection of essays published recently by BYU’s Religious Studies Center. Edited by Paul Y. Hoskisson, Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures contains 11 essays that explore this topic.
Few literary genres from the ancient world stand out so prominently as the Near Eastern vassal treaty. Scholars have shown that these political contracts formed between vassal kings and suzerain provided the conceptual background for the book of Deuteronomy. “The assumption is that Israel conceived of its relation to Yahweh as that of subject peoples to a world king and that they expressed this relationship in the concepts and formulas of the suzerainty treaty.”
Very often in my work on the critical text of the Book of Mormon, I have discovered cases where the text reads inappropriately. Book of Mormon researchers have typically attempted to find some circumstance or interpretation to explain a difficult reading, but in many cases I have found that difficult readings are actually the result of simple scribal errors.
A new volume published under the Institute’s Research Press imprint is A Thematic Bibliography of Ancient Maya Writing, by Stephen D. Houston and Zachary Nelson. “Many people don’t know about the quantity of research on ancient Maya writing,” says Houston, a BYU professor of anthropology who is an authority on Maya writing. “In fact, the literature is overwhelmingly large. This bibliography provides a roadmap through that literature.”
A new publication from the Institute highlights the biblical research of a prominent British scholar. Kevin Christensen’s “Paradigms Regained: A Survey of Margaret Barker’s Scholarship and Its Significance for Mormon Studies,” the second issue of the FARMS Occasional Papers, compares the works of Margaret Barker with the writings of many Latter-day Saint researchers, including Hugh W. Nibley, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch.
Continuing a series of conferences on the Book of Abraham, the Institute sponsored “The World of Abraham,” a free public event at Brigham Young University on 23 March featuring new research that further illuminates the geographical and cultural horizons of the Book of Abraham. Institute executive director Daniel Oswald greeted a crowd of 350 people in the Tanner Building auditorium and dozens more in an overflow room. Many others viewed the event via delayed Web transmission a few hours later.
In touring southern Guatemala, many FARMS patrons traveled west of the capital city to visit Lake Atitlán, one of the most photogenic spots in Central America. Tour guides have told thousands that the beautiful “waters of Mormon” beloved by Alma and his people (see Mosiah 18:30) might well be Lake Atitlán. The Nephite record also tells us that a city called Jerusalem, which was constructed by Lamanites led by Nephite dissenters, was located “away joining the borders of Mormon” (Alma 21:1–2).
Each semester the Institute sponsors a series of brown bag presentations. These lectures give researchers the opportunity to present their latest findings to their peers in related fields and to receive constructive comment. Reports of four recent lectures follow.
Understanding Islam: An LDS Perspective, a new audiotape from Covenant Recordings in which Daniel C. Peterson, a BYU scholar of Islam and Arabic, provides a fascinating look at the history and beliefs of a religion of more than 1.4 billion adherents. See the order form.
The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary, by Michael D. Rhodes, treats the fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri associated with Facsimiles 1 and 3 of the Book of Abraham.
Latter-day Saint scholar Terryl L. Givens has recently made two extraordinary contributions to Mormon studies. The first, Viper on the Hearth: Mormons,Myths, and the Construction of Heresy, was published by the prestigious Oxford University Press in 1997 and received virtually uniformly glowing reviews. If one wishes to understand the complex of interests and motivations—pecuniary, personal, and ideological—that fuel both sectarian and secular anti-Mormonism, Viper is the book to consult. The editors at Oxford appreciated the merits of this well-written, informative book and invited Givens to publish again with them. The result is By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion, published this year.
An interesting phenomenon concerning 1 and 2 Nephi is that parts of the latter book draw on the tree of life vision that Nephi and his father shared, as recorded in 1 Nephi 8, 11–15. In an earlier FARMS Update, John A. Tvedtnes demonstrated that Nephi drew on this vision when composing the psalm in 2 Nephi 4. Further study suggests the likelihood that Nephi’s exhortation in 2 Nephi 31 was similarly informed by that sublime vision.
Each year at about this time we remind graduate students about the Nibley Fellowship Program. Those interested in applying for the first time or who wish to renew their fellowships for the 2002/ 2003 academic year must do so by 30 June 2002.
In lieu of this year’s first issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, a special report of the 20 October 2001 FARMS symposium on the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project will be mailed to FARMS subscribers with the next issue of the Insights newsletter.
The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary, by Michael D. Rhodes, treats the fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri associated with Facsimiles 1 and 3 of the Book of Abraham. The book features hieroglyphs that were custom designed for this project. Available in June 2002.
BYU and Institute personnel recently traveled to Naples, Italy, to mark the completion of an Institute team’s work of digitally imaging 1,600 papyrus scrolls from the ancient city of Herculaneum. On 4 June the Institute’s Steve Booras, who supervised the team, and M. Gerald Bradford, associate executive director of the Institute, joined BYU professor Roger T. Macfarlane, the principal investigator of the Herculaneum papyri project, in presenting the final set of CDs containing the digitized images to Mauro Giancaspro, director of the library in Naples (the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli) where the Herculaneum papyri are housed. They also presented a plaque commemorating the completion of the imaging.
In 1998 Jordan Vajda wrote a remarkable master’s thesis at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California, entitled “‘Partakers of the Divine Nature’: A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization.” The thesis is remarkable both for what it has to say and, perhaps even more strikingly, for who is saying it: Jordan Vajda is a Dominican Catholic priest. At the present time, he serves in the Catholic campus ministry at the Newman Center adjacent to the University of Washington in Seattle.
A recent issue of a popular journal on ancient Egypt discusses a number of sheets of gold foil incised with Egyptian writing. These artifacts provide some interesting parallels to the Book of Mormon.
FARMS has released volumes 3, 4, and 5 of an ongoing audiotape collection of essays titled Preparing for the Millennium, by renowned Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh W. Nibley. Read by Lloyd D. Newell, the audiotapes feature four essays from Nibley’s Approaching Zion and three essays from another volume in his collected works, The Prophetic Book of Mormon.
For a limited time, FARMS subscribers can obtain at special discount the first two volumes of the Book of Mormon critical text: The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text and The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Entire Text in Two Parts, published by FARMS in 2001 (see the order form). For a full report on these essential resources for serious study of the Book of Mormon text, see the lead article in INSIGHTS 21/5 (2002).
A new book from FARMS offers a world of information about the New Testament and its background. Charting the New Testament contains scores of charts, tables, and graphs, each with helpful explanatory and reference materials in a reader-friendly format. Covering a wide array of topics-from the ancient Jewish setting of the New Testament and the world of the Greeks and Romans in which the activities of Jesus and his apostles took place to detailed analysis of the scriptural text itself-the book offers an extensive overview of matters doctrinal, literary, and historical. A companion volume to Charting the Book of Mormon, this handy resource is designed with both the student and the teacher in mind.
The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary, by Michael D. Rhodes, was recently published by FARJv1S. This landmark volume is a full publication of the Hor Book of Breathings ( the extant portions of the roll from which Facsimiles 1 and 3 of the Book of Abraham also derive) and includes a transliteration, translation, and philological commentary; a complete glossary of all Egyptian words in the surviving text; and both color and grayscale digital images of the papyri.
If God is good, why does he permit evil to exist? People through the ages have wrestled with this philosophical question, often called simply “the problem of evil.” The Bible contains one of the earliest works to address it-the book of Job.
The Institute’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative has published the first two volumes in its Graeco-Arabic Sciences and Philosophy series: Moses Maimonides’ On Asthma and Averroes’ Middle Commentary on Aristotle’s De anima.
Scholars from BYU spoke at the recent FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) LDS Apologetics Conference held in August at Utah Valley State College, in Orem, Utah. FAIR, which is not affiliated with BYU or the Institute, is an organization dedicated to defending LDS beliefs and practices with sound scholarship. The theme of the conference was “Turning Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones: Responding to Challenging Issues in Mormonism.”
The Second Conference of Abbot Serenus 21, written about A.D. 426 by the Christian scholar John Cassian, sheds light on statements made in the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses about Cain, who slew his brother Abel.
Insights Volume 23 (2003)
Several BYU and Institute scholars attended the joint annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature held in Toronto, Ontario, last November. In recent years this scholarly venue has enabled BYU entities specializing in religious scholarship to join ranks in the interest of promoting their recent publications while cultivating professional contacts, staying abreast of developments in the field, and presenting their research findings at conference sessions.
On 30 October John L. Clark, emeritus instructor in the Church Educational System, spoke on the topic “Painting Out the Messiah: Theologies of the Dissidents.” Clark began by showing that Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob all taught specifically about the Messiah but that dissidents like Sherem and Nehor opposed their teachings with “theologies” that denied Christ’s redemptive role and godhood, thereby causing many believers to lose faith. Clark then examined the arguments of the dissidents in the Book of Mormon to show what the prophets were teaching and what the objections to those teachings were. He discusses this topic at length in an article in the current issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, mailed along with this newsletter.
The immediate situation that prompted Mosiah to institute a system of judges to govern the Nephites was the departure of his four sons. The people asked that Aaron be appointed king, but he and his brothers had gone to the land of Nephi to preach to the Lamanites and had renounced their claims to the monarchy (see Mosiah 29:1–6).
As announced in the last issue of Insights, the Institute invites interested persons to submit papers for possible presentation at an upcoming conference on Latter-day Saint views on the sacrifice of Isaac. The conference will be held at BYU on 11 October 2003.
On 29 January a capacity crowd gathered in the Harold B. Lee Library auditorium to hear BYU biology professor Michael F. Whiting address the topic “Does DNA Evidence Refute the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon? Responding to the Critics.” The size of the audience suggested the great interest people have in the role and limitations of DNA research in unlocking the past, especially the religious past.
On 13 November John F. Hall, professor of classical languages and ancient history at Brigham Young University, spoke about his new book, New Testament Witnesses of Christ: Peter, John, James, and Paul. The book draws on early Christian writings to show that the “four pillars” of early Christianity—Peter, John, James (the brother of Jesus), and Paul—consistently testified of the life and mission of Jesus Christ. The book is important, Hall believes, because many professing Christians, even many ministers, do not accept Christ as the literal Son of God even though the scriptures and the writings of the early church fathers are clear on the matter. In his book Hall also deals with issues of scholarly debate, such as whether the Gospel of John was the last biblical book written and whether tradition has judged Peter too harshly as a man of little faith and learning, that are illuminated by the Greek text and by an understanding of Greek culture. Hall’s book is divided into sections that review the backgrounds of the four pillars, apostolic authority, the Jewish world, and the Greek and Roman world.
Biblical scholar Margaret Barker has argued that Judaism was reformed initially in response to the discovery of the “book of the law” (2 Kings 22: 8; 2 Chronicles 34:14) in King Josiah’s time (reigned 640–609 B.C.) and later in response to the destruction of the Israelite monarchy and the experience of the exile. Those reforms were carried out by a priestly group known to scholars as the Deuteronomists, credited with editing the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings (to celebrate Josiah and to address aspects of later Jewish history) and leaving a distinct imprint on the Hebrew Bible.
The Institute appreciates opportunities to facilitate meaningful scholarly discussion of Mormon studies. One recent instance was its cosponsorship of a conference titled “God, Humanity, and Revelation: Perspectives from Mormon Philosophy and History,” held at the Yale University Divinity School on 27–29 March. The event featured more than two dozen scholars and authors, including several Latter-day Saints. A report of the conference will appear in the next issue of Insights.
A set of meetings on the Institute’s Graeco-Arabic Sciences and Philosophy series (GrASP), a part of the Institute’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, will be held at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. Under the joint sponsorship of the Library and the Institute, the event will include a meeting of GrASP’s international advisory board, a meeting of that board with key Library curators, and a public meeting on the field of Graeco-Arabic sciences and philosophy and on the aims and character of the series. Other possible events remain to be finalized. Watch the Web site for further details.
The FARMS Review (vol. 15, no. 1), edited by Daniel C. Peterson, contains reviews of a FARMS publication titled Uncovering the Original Text of the Book of Mormon: History and Findings of the Critical Text Project, Terryl L. Givens’s study of the Book of Mormon titled By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion (published by Oxford University Press), three books on the Book of Abraham, and an evangelical critique titled The New Mormon Challenge, initially treated in the last Review. The FARMS Review (formerly FARMS Review of Books) also includes a study of what was known about chiasmus at the time the Book of Mormon was produced. Beginning with this issue is a section called “Book Notes,” in which brief descriptions of recent books will be given. Available in late April.
Between 250 and 300 people took part on 27–29 March 2003 in a conference in New Haven, Connecticut, devoted to the subject of “God, Humanity, and Revelation: Perspectives from Mormon Philosophy and History.” The conference, hosted by the Divinity School of Yale University, was organized by Kenneth West, a Latter-day Saint graduate student there. The Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts was one of the conference sponsors.
Keeping step with its expanding role, The FARMS Review sports a new title and cover design. Further departures from tradition are the introduction, written for the first time by someone other than the founding editor; a book notes section; and a study relating to chiasmus that not only gives an update on contemporary works on the subject but also surveys those available in the 1820s.
In a letter to his son Moroni, Mormon warns against the practice of baptizing little children. He identifies two false assumptions of his day used to justify infant baptism: little children are born with sin (see Moroni 8:8) and will suffer divine punishment in hell if they die without having been baptized (see Moroni 8:13). While the exact nature of this aberrant practice is unknown, it was apparently common enough among the Nephites of Mormon’s day to warrant swift and unequivocal prophetic censure. Mormon describes the rite as particularly wicked and erroneous in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Noel B. Reynolds has been appointed director of the Institute. A professor of political science and a past president of FARMS, he recently completed a five-year term as associate academic vice president for undergraduate studies at BYU. Further coverage on this change in leadership will appear in a future issue of Insights.
During the week of 5–9 May, the Institute sponsored a visit by British biblical scholar Margaret Barker to Brigham Young University. Each morning, Barker offered a seminar (usually three hours in length) to a group of invited faculty and guests in which she summarized her research and numerous publications. She also delivered a university forum address during her stay, as well as an evening public lecture in the auditorium of the Harold B. Lee Library.
A parallel English-Arabic text of the Islamic philosophical work Iksir al-Arifin, or Elixir of the Gnostics, is the latest publication in the Islamic Translation Series, part of the Institute’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. The author, Sadr al-Din Muhammad Shirazi, better known as Mulla Íadrā (A.D. 1572–1640), is considered one of the greatest Islamic philosophers of the last 600 years and in recent years has become one of the most well known. Adept at finding flaws in the work of previous great thinkers, he was at the same time able to think independently of them, creating his own philosophical approach that he called “transcendent philosophy.” This approach combined reason, intellectual intuition, illumination, and revelation to arrive at truth.
In a previous report I showed how the Book of Mormon’s portrayal of Nephi, son of Lehi, compares favorably to a preexilic Hebrew wisdom tradition reconstructed by biblical scholar Margaret Barker.1 This report highlights further connections between the Book of Mormon and traditions from ancient Israel that Barker asserts “have been lost but for the accidents of archaeological discovery and the evidence of pre-Christian texts preserved and transmitted only by Christian hands.”
The Bulgarian National Museum of History in Sofia, Bulgaria, recently placed on public display an ancient book comprising six pages of 23.82-karat gold (measuring 5 centimeters in length and 4.5 centimeters in width) bound together by gold rings. The plates contain a text written in Etruscan characters and also depict a horse, a horseman, a Siren, a lyre, and soldiers. According to Elka Penkova, who heads the museum’s archaeology department, the find may be the oldest complete book in the world, dating to about 600 B.C.
Alma 1:15 records the execution of Nehor for the murder of Gideon: And it came to pass that they took him; and his name was Nehor; and they carried him upon the top of the hill Manti, and there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death.
With fall semester under way at Brigham Young University, we look forward to keeping you abreast of another round of Institute-sponsored brown bag lectures. These presentations, which are not open to the general public, enable researchers to share their expertise and findings with their peers in related fields and to receive constructive input. Following are reports of three such presentations from earlier this year.
Three Institute researchers were among the speakers at the fifth annual FAIR conference, held August 7–8 at Utah Valley State College, in Orem, Utah. Founded in 1997, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing sound information and research that support the doctrine, beliefs, and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, particularly on matters that are challenged by unbelievers.
The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution have opened an exhibit titled “Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu,” the famous trading town at the edge of the Sahara Desert in Mali. The manuscripts include Qur’anic teachings, mathematics, physics, medicine, and astronomy.
A majority of people in the modern world are absorbed in performing their daily work, conceived in terms of jobs, money, food, and other things practical and economic. Would it have been different for the Nephites or Lamanites? Not really. The center of their daily concerns, too, was “making a living.” But what that meant differed greatly from what we mean by the expression.
As I have been working on the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, people have occasionally written or talked to me about passages in the Book of Mormon that seem strange or difficult. A good many have made specific suggestions about emendations (or revisions to the text). Surprisingly, a large percentage of these have ended up being correct or have led me to come up with an appropriate emendation.
Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, edited by John Gee and Brian Hauglid, is volume 3 in the Book of Abraham Series. It includes FARMS conference papers on the Book of Abraham and its commonalities with ancient texts, Abraham’s vision of the heavens, and the significance of the Abrahamic covenant. Available autumn 2003.
Nephi and his brothers referred to Jerusalem as “that great city” (1 Nephi 2:13). Their opposing views about it became a point of contention that tore Lehi’s family in two, and their memories of it influenced the cultural perspective of their descendants in the New World for dozens of generations. The people known as Lamanites longed after it as a lost paradise and named one of their lands of settlement in its honor (Alma 21:1). Among the Nephites it exemplified the dire consequences of unbelief (Helaman 8:20). But what was the Jerusalem of Lehi’s day really like?
An earlier Insights article noted a possible wordplay in the first verse of the Book of Mormon that provides internal textual evidence that the name Nephi derives from the Egyptian word nfr. While nfr denotes “good, fine, goodly” of quality, it also signifies “beautiful, fair” of appearance. Assuming that at least some senses of the Egyptian word passed into Nephite language and culture, this second sense of nfr may have influenced Nephite self-perception. Several Book of Mormon passages evidence the affiliation.
A recent article in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies reported that ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica yield evidence broadly consistent with the 3 Nephi 8 account of cataclysmic New World events—presumably including a violent volcanic eruption—at the time of Christ’s death (Benjamin R. Jordan, “Volcanic Destruction in the Book of Mormon: Possible Evidence from Ice Cores,” JBMS 12/1 : 78–87). What other methods might yield corroborating evidence of such an eruption? Two possibilities are the analysis of tree rings and sea and lake sediments.
With the recent publication of The Book of Mormon: A Reader‘s Edition, Grant Hardy has provided the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a remarkable new version of their founding text. Although Hardy gears his book to a broad readership, those who truly love the Book of Mormon, seek to be serious students of it, or both will find A Reader’s Edition well worth owning. Why? Because in this edition the text is displayed not in verse format but in discrete, sub-headed sections of greater length with ease of reading the end in view.
In February 2001, a conference titled “Hebrew Law in the Book of Mormon” was held at Brigham Young University under the sponsorship of FARMS (see “BYU Conference on Hebrew Law a Success,” Insights 21/4 , available on the FARMS Web site). Among the papers presented there were studies by seven BYU students on aspects of ancient law that might be reflected in the Book of Mormon. These papers are now available in a special issue, copublished by FARMS, of the student journal Studia Antiqua. They treat such topics as slavery, the Noachide laws (minimum standards of social and moral conduct revealed through Noah and thus binding on all humanity), false prophecy, blasphemy and reviling, the status of women in ancient Jewish law, and legal protections for widows and the fatherless.
The FARMS Review (vol. 15, no. 2), edited by Daniel C. Peterson, features reviews and articles on DNA issues, the Mountain Meadows massacre, and secret combinations, as well as responses to a so-called insider’s view of Mormon origins. Available February 2004.
Dead Sea Scrolls Reader, edited by Donald W. Parry and Emanuel Tov, presents all of the nonbiblical Qumran texts along with English translations. Published by Brill Academic Publishers of the Netherlands, this six-part edition of the nonbiblical scroll fragments is an outgrowth of the FARMS Dead Sea Scrolls database. Parts 1 (religious law), 2 (exegetical texts), and 4 (calendrical and sapiental texts) are available now; parts 3 (parabiblical texts), 5 (poetic and liturgical texts), and 6 (additional genres and unclassified texts) will be available in spring 2004.
Insights Volume 24 (2004)
The latest issue of the FARMS Review (vol. 15, no. 2, 2003) responds in full measure to two works challenging the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the foundational events of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. The contributing scholars not only expose fatal flaws in the critics’ arguments and methods but also provide background information and perspectives that readers will find instructive. In addition, this issue of the Review evaluates several other recent publications in Mormon studies and includes a Book of Mormon bibliography for 2002.
In one of the more moving narratives found in the Book of Mormon, a group of Lamanites are miraculously prevented from killing the prophets Nephi and Lehi in a prison. The Lamanites and Nephite dissenters are then redeemed from their own spiritual bondage when they are converted to Christ.
On 10 October 2003, Father Columba Stewart presented an Institute-sponsored lecture at BYU titled “The Practices of Egyptian Monastic Prayer: Desert, Cell, and Community.” Fr. Stewart is a Benedictine monk of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, where he is professor of theology at St. John’s School of Theology and teaches monastic studies. He is also the interim director of the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, which is working closely with the Institute on its manuscript preservation projects in the Middle East and Ethiopia.
Most modern historians view social, economic, and political factors as the sole shaping influences of history. For other scholars, the role of divine providence in history cannot be denied and is a topic worthy of serious consideration. Last year, Latter-day Saint scholars who embrace the notion of “providential history” shared their perspectives at a symposium titled “A Latter-day Saint View of History,” held at Brigham Young University on 6–7 February 2003. Among the 21 presenters at this unique event was John W. Welch, publications director for the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, editor in chief of BYU Studies, and founder and board member of FARMS.
FARMS Occasional Papers, Volume 4, edited by Jared Ludlow (BYU–Hawaii) and Larry E. Morris, contains articles by three BYU professors and focuses on the polemical use of water and storm language in the Deuteronomic History (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings), justice and mercy in the book of Deuteronomy, and the garment of Joseph.
On 19 March 2004, at the invitation of Brigham Young University president Cecil O. Samuelson, Institute executive director Noel B. Reynolds led some 200 members of the President’s Leadership Council and university deans and directors through an overview of the work of FARMS and the Institute. Th e purpose of the two-hour presentation was to reprise the Institute’s activities that are having a positive impact on the international academic scene and on other fronts in ways that add luster to the university.
As is well known, when the words of the Book of Mormon were translated “by the gift and power of God,” there was no punctuation at all in the early manuscripts, and that is the way the translated text was delivered to E. B. Grandin’s print shop. Type-setter John Gilbert reported that when he sat down to prepare the text for publication, “every chapter . . . was one solid paragraph, without a punctuation mark, from beginning to end.”¹ So he added punctuation and paragraphing as he went along. He did a good job, especially for someone reading the book for the first time, but there are a few sentences that could have been punctuated in more than one way, with slightly different results. Since the punctuation of the Book of Mormon does not enjoy the same revealed status as the words themselves, it may be worth considering some of the alternatives.
FARMS’s publication earlier this year of Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem was a significant milestone in Book of Mormon studies. The prodigious effort marshaled the research talents of 19 BYU scholars in a multidisciplinary reconstruction of Lehi’s Old World environment. Those who acquaint themselves with this groundbreaking research will read 1 Nephi with new eyes—with a greater awareness of the sociocultural context and lifeways of Lehi’s world.
In “Who Controls the Water? Yahweh vs. Baal,” the lead article in Occasional Papers 4, Fred E. Woods presents a fascinating discussion of the polemical usage of water and storm language in the Deuteronomic History (the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings). As Woods notes, the most active deity at the Canaanite city of Ugarit (located in present-day Syria near the Mediterranean coast) is Baal, the god of water and storm. The strong denunciation of Baal in the Old Testament indicates that the Baal cult had deeply penetrated Israelite culture. And while scholars have long been aware of the explicit warnings against worshipping Baal, the metaphorical arguments against Baal have gone virtually unnoticed.
Each year at about this time we remind graduate students about the Nibley Fellowship Program and its application deadline. Named in honor of Hugh Nibley, this program provides financial aid to students enrolled in accredited PhD programs in areas of study directly related to the work and mission of the Institute, particularly work done under the name of FARMS—studies of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Old and New Testaments, early Christianity, ancient temples, and related subjects. Applicants cannot be employed at the Institute or be related to an Institute employee.
Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, edited by John Gee and Brian Hauglid, is the third volume in the Book of Abraham Series. It includes papers from a FARMS-sponsored conference on the Book of Abraham and covers such topics as Abraham’s vision of the heavens, commonalities between the Book of Abraham and noncanonical ancient texts, and the significance of the Abrahamic covenant. Available summer 2004.
BYU and Institute scholars gave presentations at all five sessions of the Rocky Mountain–Great Plains regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature on 26–27 March 2004. Because several sessions took place on the BYU campus for the first time, and because one-third of the 51 presenters were BYU-affiliated scholars (8 of them closely associated with the Institute), the event was an ideal opportunity for the university to showcase its contributions to religious scholarship.
Genesis 22 records that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac upon an altar but intervened at the last moment, providing instead a ram for the actual sacrifice and greatly blessing Abraham for passing what has come to be viewed as the ultimate test of obedience to God’s will. The account, simple enough in outline, is nevertheless seen by different religious traditions as profoundly symbolic and even enigmatic, its moral and religious implications having spawned numerous interpretations.
Historian Richard L. Bush-man, responding to accusations that the Book of Mormon contains “evidence of nineteenth-century American political culture,” concluded that in fact “most of the principles tradition-ally associated with the American Constitution are slighted or disregarded altogether” in the book. “So many of the powerful intellectual influences operating on Joseph Smith failed to touch the Book of Mormon.”
In March the Institute cosponsored a lecture series at Brigham Young University titled “Christianity in the Middle East.” The series provided a historical overview of the eastward spread of Christianity into the pagan Near East, a subject largely neglected in religious and socio-cultural studies. Over many centuries, Christian groups maintained a presence in the region, leaving behind a notable literary, monumental, and artistic legacy that is increasingly being recognized as an important part of the world’s cultural heritage.
This is an excerpt from a dinner speech that FARMS founder John W. Welch gave to members of the FARMS Development Council on 19 March 2004. An evening like this, which begins our commemoration of the 25th anniversary of FARMS, makes me think back to our founding days in 1979. Keeping alive the memory of foundation stories, of creation accounts, is part of keeping on track for the future.
Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part 1,by Royal Skousen, is the first part of volume 4 of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. Covering the title page through 2 Nephi 10, it analyzes every significant variant in the original and printer’s manuscripts and in 20 important editions of the Book of Mormon (from the 1830 edition to the 1981 edition). The task of this volume is to use the earliest textual sources and patterns of systematic usage to recover the original English-language text. Available August 2004.
Elegantly produced and weighing in at 652 pages, the first part of volume 4 in Professor Royal Skousen’s ongoing Book of Mormon critical text project has just come from the press. Volumes 1 and 2, containing transcripts of the original manuscript and the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon, were published by FARMS in 2001. Volume 3, which will describe the history of the Book of Mormon text from Joseph Smith’s original dictation through the current standard editions, will appear after all parts of volume 4 have been published. Volume 3 will include a complete analysis of the grammatical editing of the Book of Mormon.
At nearly 500 pages, the latest issue of the FARMS Review (vol. 16, no. 1) continues its pattern of offering wide-ranging coverage and in-depth analysis aimed at encouraging reliable scholarship and helping readers make informed judgments about recent publications in the field of Mormon studies.
Near the end of his life, the prophet Nephi referred to the day of judgment and declared that we, the readers of the Book of Mormon, will stand face to face with him before the bar of Christ (2 Nephi 33:11). Similarly, the prophets Jacob and Moroni referred to meeting us when we appear before “the pleasing bar” of God to be judged.
Brigham Young University’s Herculaneum papyri project continues to gain support among American and European scholars. The project’s director, Roger T. Macfarlane, an associate professor of classics at BYU, was invited to serve on the organizing board of the nascent Herculaneum Society, which was inaugurated in Oxford, England, on 3 July 2004. The society promotes inter-national attention on scholarship and fund-raising related to the ancient town of Herculaneum and its Villa of the Papyri. Together with David Arm-strong, a classics professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Macfarlane will direct the North American division of the Herculaneum Society. “There is no secret,” he says, “that the society is eager to capitalize on our project’s success.”
Attention to exegesis in and of the Hebrew Bible has much to offer Latter-day Saint students of scripture in their efforts to understand the biblical text.*Exegesis is the explanation or interpretation of a text. The word is derived from Greek, meaning literally “to lead out (of).” The general study of biblical exegesis has come to incorporate at least three subdivisions, each having direct relevance for Latter-day Saints: inner-biblical allusion, biblical and postbiblical exegesis, and scribal comments and corrections.
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies(vol. 13, nos. 1–2), edited by S. Kent Brown, is a special double issue devoted to the Hill Cumorah. Studies include the geologic history and archaeology of the area, early accounts of a cave in the hill, the Hill Cumorah Pageant (its history, music, and costuming), Latter-day Saint poetry, the Hill Cumorah Monument, a linguistic analysis of the name Cumorah, and the earliest photographs of the hill. Available late fall 2004.
During a recent meeting of the FARMS Development Council, four principal investigators on Book of Mormon–related projects reviewed the status of their ongoing work. The reports clarified each project’s goals, highlighted new findings, noted future directions, and expressed appreciation for the crucial support of generous donors, many of whom were in attendance. A summary of the presentations follows.
One of the most enduring archaeological hoaxes, the Michigan relics, a series of copper, slate, and clay forgeries, were “discovered” throughout counties in Michigan from the late 19th century until 1920. James Scotford and Daniel Soper apparently worked together to create and sell the forgeries. Scholars and archaeologists were skeptical from the outset, but interest in the objects persisted. In 1911 James E. Talmage studied the relics, recognizing the impact they could have on the perception of the Book of Mormon if they were genuine. In a detailed report, Talmage dismissed them as blatant forgeries.
Nephi was the only Book of Mormon author to receive what might be called a classical Hebrew education. He had ambivalent feelings about his training—indeed, he specifically noted that the tradition would end with himself: “I . . . have not taught my children after the manner of the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:6; see vv. 1–2). So it is not surprising that he remains the most literate, book-learned of the Nephite prophets. That is to say, his writings exhibit the most connections with earlier prophecies and texts, and he structures his teachings in a way that suggests he is working from written documents. In particular, he is eager to tie his own visions of the future of the House of Israel to the words of Isaiah, and his commentary at 1 Nephi 22—where he weaves phrases from the two Isaiah chapters he has just quoted into a new revelatory discourse—is a masterpiece of prophetic interpretation. The same style of commentary, which by placing familiar phrases into new contexts reinterprets as it explains, is found in a slightly more diffuse form at 2 Nephi 25–30.
A recent New York Times article reported new developments in the research on two ancient silver scrolls discovered in Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley in 1979 and subsequently dated to the late seventh century BC . They were engraved with words that appeared to be text from Numbers 6:24–26. How-ever, because of the aging of the metal, researchers were unable to read several of the inscriptions and thereby confirm the age of the scrolls.
In 1998 FARMS’s longtime interest in advancing research supportive of the Book of Abraham as an ancient text found new emphasis and direction as a formalized FARMS project, an impetus made possible by a farsighted donor: the Robert Gay family. Soon a working group of scholars was convened to exchange research and ideas on the text. The resulting exchange of information led to FARMS-sponsored public lectures and a scholarly conference in 1999. The next year saw publication of John Gee’s Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri and, fortuitously, an enlarged edition of Hugh Nibley’s Abraham in Egypt (a project years in the making). Following in short order were the first two volumes in the Studies in the Book of Abraham series—Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham (2001) and The Hor Book of Breathings (2002)—and a “World of Abraham” symposium and scholarly conference in 2002.
In ancient Israel, the household was the center of a woman’s life and the place in which she held the most power. Even though a child was born into “the house of the father” (bet
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies(vol. 13, nos. 1–2), edited by S. Kent Brown, is a special double issue devoted to the Hill Cumorah. Studies include the geologic history and archaeology of the area, early accounts of a cave in the hill, the Hill Cumorah Pageant (its history, music, and costuming), Latter-day Saint poetry, the Hill Cumorah Monument, a linguistic analysis of the name Cumorah, and the earliest photographs of the hill. Available December 2004.
2004In any given year, FARMS-affiliated scholars present their research at a number of scholarly conferences at home and abroad. Brigham Young University’s Sidney B. Sperry Symposium in Octo-ber 2004, entitled “Prelude to the Restoration: From Apostasy to the Restored Church,” was one such venue on the home front. Selected highlights follow.
What we have of Jesus’s ministry to the Nephites is an abridged version because the Lord wished to “try the faith of [his] people” (3 Nephi 26:6–13). Dutiful to his charge, Mormon did not provide a full account of Jesus’s teachings, but his son Moroni provided three quotations of portions that his father did not.
Reading King Benjamin’s speech, we come upon a passage in which the verb list is used four times: “Beware lest there shall arise contentions among you, and ye list to obey the evil spirit. . . . For behold, there is a wo pronounced upon him who listeth to obey that spirit; for if he listeth to obey him, and remaineth and dieth in his sins, the same drinketh damnation to his own soul. . . . The man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness” (Mosiah 2:32, 33, 37).
Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity, by Hugh W. Nibley, edited by John F. Hall and John W. Welch, presents an edited, expanded version of Hugh Nib-ley’s verbatim lecture “notes” that he prepared for a course he taught in 1954. Extensive footnotes have been developed from Nibley’s cryptic source notations. In this course, Nibley explored the offices of apostle and bishop, the priesthood authority associated with them, and questions of succession in the early church and in Rome. Copublished with Deseret Book, it will appear as volume 15 in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. Available early 2005.
Insights Volume 25 (2005)
Hugh Winder Nibley (27 March 1910–24 February 2005) was a gifted writer, a prolific author, a first-class scholar, and, above all, a committed member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At first light on 6 June 1944, the first of many Allied landing craft began hitting the beaches of Normandy. At Utah Beach, 12 men dangling from one of the emerging jeeps cheered their driver on as they surged up from beneath the surface of the chilly English Channel waters. That driver, an army intelligence officer with a PhD in ancient history from the University of California at Berkeley, was none other than Hugh W. Nibley, age 34.
Those of us who saw the recent television documentary American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith may have noticed an interesting defect in the script, namely, that it was Hamlet with Hamlet left out. It was as if one were to produce the life of Shakespeare with charming views of Stratford-upon-Avon, country school, the poaching story, marriage to Anne Hatha-way, showbiz in London, and respectable retirement without bothering to mention that our leading character gave the world the greatest treasury of dramatic art in existence. Or a life of Bach with his niggardly brother-guardian, his early poverty, his odd jobs with local organs and choirs, his acceptance in the courts of the Holy Roman Empire, his nineteen children, and his loving nature without a word about the greatest volume of music ever produced by a mortal.
FARMS is pleased to announce the release of a new volume of previously unpublished class lectures by celebrated Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley, who recently passed away at age 94. Apostles and Bishops in Early Christianity, volume 15 in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley series, comprises Nibley’s finely detailed lecture notes for a course he taught at Brigham Young University in 1954 on the office of bishop in the early Christian church.
The latest FARMS Review (vol. 16, no. 2, 2004) is another weighty issue flush with articles covering a wide array of interesting topics. In the lineup are reviews of works on Book of Mormon geography, de-Christianization of the Old Testament, the Joseph Smith Papyri, Isaiah’s central message, Jerusalem in Lehi’s day, creation theology, gospel symbolism, and the Christian countercult movement. Also included are two freestanding essays, one older article of lasting appeal (initiating a new feature in the Review), book notes, a 2003 Book of Mormon bibliography, and the editor’s top picks of recent publications. A foretaste of the many engaging articles follows.
Latter-day Saint scholars Hugh W. Nibley and John A. Tvedtnes have discussed at length how a staff, rod, and sword came to be commonly identified with the word of God in the ancient Near East.¹The evidence they cite from the Bible, the earliest Hebrew commentators, modern biblical scholarship, and elsewhere affirms Nephi’s unambiguous assertion that the “word of God” is a “rod.”
In 2001 the chance discovery of a 2,000-year-old Maya mural in a chamber buried beneath a pyramid in the Guatemalan jungle stirred the archaeological community. It was a sensational find, one of the most important for Mayanists in half a century. Rendered in brilliant colors with exquisite skill, the remarkably well-preserved mural reveals a highly sophisticated artistic tradition and hieroglyphic script predating the Maya’s golden age by 800 years.
A new multivolume work promises to facilitate study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader, published by the prestigious academic publisher E. J. Brill, offers transcriptions and English translations of all the nonbiblical Qumran texts.
In recognition of the bicentennial of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth, the Library of Congress, in Washington DC, hosted an academic conference on 6–7 May 2005 titled “The Worlds of Joseph Smith.” Carried internationally via webcast, the event featured 17 scholars (nearly evenly divided between Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths) who examined Joseph Smith’s theological contributions and evaluated the claim that the church he founded is on track to becoming a world religion.
FARMS has teamed with award-winning Latter-day Saint filmmaker Peter Johnson to produce a documentary on Lehi and company’s route from Jerusalem to the New World. Based on the most recent research, the 90-min-ute DVD documentary will feature Latter-day Saint scholars commenting on proposed sites for the party’s first base camp near the Red Sea; Nahom, where Ishmael was buried; and Bountiful, the fertile coast-al locale where Nephi directed the building of his ship. The documentary will also feature the latest findings on Lehi’s ocean voyage and explore candidates for Book of Mormon sites in Mesoamerica.
This report covers the proceedings of the second day of “The Worlds of Joseph Smith,” an academic conference held on 6–7 May 2005 at the Library of Congress, in Washington DC, in recognition of the bicentennial of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth. For a report of the first day of proceedings, see the article in Insights 25/3 (2005).
A much-anticipated book exploring the root causes of the early Christian apostasy is now off the press: Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy, edited by Noel B. Reynolds and published by FARMS and BYU Press.
FARMS and Brigham Young University are pleased to announce the release of part 2 of volume 4 of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. Part 2 analyzes the text from 2 Nephi 11 through Mosiah 16.
Since their initial discovery in 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls have drawn the interest of people worldwide. FARMS has been fortunate to play a part in bringing the scrolls to the world, and that effort continues. The FARMS Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and managed by fulltime missionaries Wayne and Janet Chamberlain, completed its tour of the United Kingdom and western Europe in May and is now making its way through central Europe.
In June Brigham Young University announced the appointment of Andrew C. Skinner as the new executive director of the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts. Skinner, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU who has served as dean of Religious Education since 2000, replaces Noel B. Reynolds, who was called to pre-side over the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, the third volume in FARMS’s Studies in the Book of Abraham, was recently published and is now available. This book deals with three broad themes: astronomy in the Book of Abraham, the background of the Joseph Smith Papyri, and the nature of the Abrahamic covenant. In the course of treating these subjects, various papers discuss Jews in Ptolemaic Egypt, commonalities between the Book of Abraham and ancient Islamic texts, accounts of Abraham in 19th-century America, and a number of other interesting issues. All but 3 of the 12 articles were initially presented as papers at a BYU conference on the Book of Abraham.
In my work as editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project (which began in 1988), I was initially interested in discovering the original English-language text of the book. But I soon came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to fully recover the original text by scholarly means, in large part because only 28 percent of the original manuscript is extant. In addition, there are obvious errors in the original manuscript itself that require conjectural emendation. As I have worked on the text of the Book of Mormon, I have come to some surprising conclusions regarding the nature of the original text itself, conclusions that I had not at all expected when I started my work transcribing the original and printer’s manuscripts of the Book of Mormon.
Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri,edited by John Gee and Michael Rhodes, is a second edition of Hugh Nibley’s 1975 book of the same title on the Egyptian endowment. It is still the only book-length treatment of the important Egyptian text now known as the “Document of Breathings Made by Isis,” a copy of which was found among the Joseph Smith Papyri. The new edition features previously excised material, corrections of numerous typographical errors, improved illustrations, and accurate placement of illustrations in the text. This book, published jointly with Deseret Book, is now at press after years of intense effort. Because of a recent concerted push to finish this project, the FARMS Review and Journal of Book of Mormon Studies are running late.
After years of intense effort, the long-overdue second edition of Hugh Nibley’s 1975 book The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment is at press. This new edition has been meticulously pre-pared by BYU Egyptologists John Gee and Michael D. Rhodes, who upgraded this Nibley classic on many points (some unseen, others impossible to miss, such as the superior illustrations by Michael Lyon) while preserving the original con-tent. Published by FARMS and Deseret Book, this edition is a fitting tribute to Nibley’s pioneering work and will enable a new generation of students and scholars to profit from Nibley’s enduring insights into an area of perennial interest for Latter-day Saints.
The latest issue of the FARMS Review (vol. 17, no. 1) is now available, offering its usual in-depth, incisive commentary on an array of recent publications and topics of interest to Latter-day Saint readers. This is the first issue published since Hugh Nibley’s death earlier this year, and Louis Midgley’s tribute to this illustrious Latter-day Saint scholar has already proved to be one of the more popular contributions. The essay is essentially an intellectual autobiography in which Midgley (BYU professor emeritus of political science and associate editor of the Review) tells of his first encounter with Nib-ley, in 1949; his subsequent studies under Sterling McMurrin, a prominent philosophy professor at the University of Utah who dismissed the Book of Mormon out of hand; his dissertation on the work of theologian Paul Tillich, who viewed God not as a personality but as the ultimate ground of being; and of Nibley’s profound influence.
The Book of Mormon has come under frequent fire from its critics for allegedly quoting portions of the New Testament before the New Testament was written. A classic example of this is the famous phrase from 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Clear allusions to this passage are made by three Book of Mormon prophets: Abinadi (Mosiah 16:8), Aaron (Alma 22:14), and Mormon (Mormon 7:5).
In 1988 Hugh W. Nibley noted that the use of terms based on the word atone (atonement, atoning, atoned, etc.), while used in the Old Testament mostly in association with rites performed in the tabernacle of Moses, clearly tied the Nephites to preexilic Israel, that is, prior to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews in 587 bc. He found that most of the occurrences were “in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, where they explicitly describe the original rites of the tabernacle or temple on the Day of Atonement.”
Theodore Abū Qurrah, translated and introduced by John C. Lamoreaux of Southern Methodist University, includes first-ever English translations of a substantial portion of Theodore Abū Qurrah’s writings, which treat such issues as the characteristics of true religion and the nature of free will. Abū Qurrah (fl. ad 810), the bishop of Haran (in modern-day southern Turkey), was one of the first Christians to write in Arabic and to mount a sustained theological defense of Christianity against Islam. This book is now at press and will be distributed by the University of Chicago Press and made available through the BYU Bookstore.
Insights Volume 26 (2006)
Brigham Young University’s Board of Trustees recently approved the renaming of BYU’s Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (ISPART) to the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
One of the misconceptions that many Westerners have is that all Arabs are Muslims and that all Muslims are Arabs. In fact, many of the major Islamic countries in the world (e.g., Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and the most populous of them all, Indonesia) are not Arab, and large minorities in some Arab countries are not Muslim. Christianity is a Near Eastern religion, not a European one, and it has been in the Near East since its origin. (An Egyptian Christian friend once complained to me about how tired he had become of Americans and Europeans asking him whether his family had been converted by the Germans, the French, or the British. His ancestors, he pointed out, had been converted by Mark, the writer of the Second Gospel, in the first century ad. My own forebears, in Scandinavia, didn’t accept Christianity until roughly a millennium later.)
Golden Road: The Ancient Incense Trail, a new FARMS documentary about the legendary route used by Arabia’s incense traders, premiered at the Washington DC Temple Visitors’ Center on 5 November 2005 to a group of foreign and U.S. dignitaries.
In December 2005 FARMS released a new version of its Web site. In response to feedback from people who have used the site over the last several years, the new FARMS site boasts additional content and enhanced features.
At 500 pages, the new FARMS Review (vol. 17, no. 2) nearly bursts its binding with items of interest for anyone desiring to be well-informed on Mormon studies. The coverage ranges from Lehi’s encampments in Arabia and the resurgence of the all-but-dead Spalding theory to Jewish-Mormon relations, creation ex nihilo, and the Egyptian Hor Book of Breathings.
On 23 February 2006 BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson and DNA scientist John M. Butler were interviewed on the Hugh Hewitt radio program concerning DNA and the Book of Mormon. One week earlier, the Los Angeles Times had run a front-page story on how human DNA studies contradict the Book of Mormon because they suggest an Asian ancestry for people native to the Americas; and on that same day the Times reporter, William Lobdell, was a guest on Hewitt’s program.
Near the end of the children of Israel’s journey to the promised land following their miraculous escape from Egypt, they once again began to complain against the Lord and against Moses. As a result of this sin, the Lord sent “fiery serpents” among them (Numbers 21:6). Faced with physical death, the people went to Moses, confessed their sins, and entreated him to pray to the Lord to take the serpents away. However, the serpents were not taken away as requested. Instead, in what may have seemed an expression of deep irony—but was in reality a sacred symbol—Moses was instructed to raise up a brass serpent as the means of healing those bitten. This Moses did: “And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. And the children of Israel set forward” (Numbers 21:9–10). There ends the story in the Bible account.
Each year at this time we remind graduate students about the Nibley Fellowship Program and its application deadline. Named in honor of the late eminent Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley, this program provides financial aid to students enrolled in accredited PhD programs in areas of study directly related to the work and mission of the Maxwell Institute, particularly work done under the name of FARMS—studies of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Old and New Testaments, early Christianity, ancient temples, and related subjects. Applicants cannot be employed at the Institute or be related to an Institute employee.
These are the best of times for Book of Mormon studies. Since 2001, FARMS (now part of the Maxwell Institute) has been publishing the long-anticipated findings of Professor Royal Skousen’s Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. Each massive volume in this landmark study, appearing on a yearly basis, averages nearly 670 oversize pages of research and analysis that reward careful examination with expanded views of the founding text of Mormonism.
Journey of Faith, a FARMS documentary about Lehi’s travels through ancient Arabia, has been well received and has generated considerable interest since its release last summer (see report in Insights25/3). Now steps are under way to produce a reissue of the DVD, this time with translations of the commentary into Spanish and Portuguese with English closed-captioning.
In his analysis of Mosiah 1:2–6 and 1 Nephi 1:1–4, John A. Tvedtnes notes that in many instances “Nephite writers relied on earlier records as they recorded their history.”1 He makes a convincing argument that the description of King Benjamin teaching his sons “in all the language of his fathers” (Mosiah 1:2) is modeled on Nephi’s account.
Eyewitnesses to the Book of Mormon plates described in consistent terms the rings that bound the gold plates into a single volume. The rings were three in number and apparently made of the same material as the plates themselves. While our attention naturally focuses on the plates and the translation of the text engraved upon them, the rings may offer another subtle but telling confirmation of the record’s ancient origin.
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship invites you to an open house from 7:00 to 9:00 pm in room 3215 of BYU’s Wilkinson Center on Thursday, 24 August 2006, during Campus Education Week. This will be an occasion for you to meet authors, editors, directors, and friends and to celebrate the formation of this new BYU institute.
Old theories die hard in academia, at least when they are entrenched and have been defended intellectually with fervor. Only with overwhelming evidence to the contrary does the institutional status quo crumble and make way for new theories to find legitimacy within the academic mainstream. Illustrative of this struggle for acceptance in the academy has been the contest between the establishment position that ancient American civilization evolved in complete independence from the Old World and the “cultural diffusion hypothesis.” The latter proposes that American societies did not arise and develop in total isolation but were stimulated by connections from the Old World.
The seamless blend of scholarship and artistry of the Maxwell Institute’s DVD documentary Journey of Faith continues in expanded form in the new book Journey of Faith: From Jerusalem to the Promised Land. Complemented by numerous additional threads of historical detail and scholarly insight, this visually stunning look at Lehi’s trek through the harsh Arabian desert reflects a synergistic collaboration of talented scholars, artists, and photographers seeking to illuminate an epic event in scriptural history and situate it in a real-world setting.
Much research has been devoted to identifying and examining language patterns in the Book of Mormon that appear to reflect the book’s underlying Semitic character. One possible Hebraism in the Book of Mormon that has not received attention is the use of negative rhetorical questions when a positive meaning is intended. Some modern Bible translations now translate these negative questions in a positive or even emphatic way. This rhetorical device occurs in English, but it is stronger and more com-mon in biblical Hebrew.
Scholars from the Maxwell Institute, as well as a number of authors who contribute to the institute’s publications, delivered papers at the recent FAIR conference held in Sandy, Utah, in August. The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of Latter-day Saint doctrine, belief, and practice.
Scholars from various disciplines and institutions gathered in Brigham Young University’s Varsity Theater on 28 and 29 September 2006 to explore the pervasive and powerful tree of life motif as found in civilizations spanning the Far and Middle East to Mesoamerica and as expressed in Latter-day Saint scripture and art. The following report highlights the two presentations by visiting non–Latter-day Saint scholars and briefly summarizes the others.
In abridging the account of the Nephite gathering under King Benjamin, Mormon stated, “And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses” (Mosiah 2:3). Under Mosaic law, first-lings, or firstborn animals, were dedicated to the Lord, meaning they were given to the priests, who were to sacrifice them and consume the flesh (see Exodus 13:12–15; Numbers 18:17). The exception to this rule was the firstborn lambs used for the Passover meal, which all Israel was to eat (see Exodus 12:5–7).
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Oliver Cowdery’s birth on 3 October 1806, more than a dozen scholars treated crowds in the BYU Conference Center to fresh perspectives on Cowdery as a central figure in the Restoration. Entitled “Oliver Cowdery: Restoration Witness, Second Elder,” the symposium featured cultural historian Richard L. Bushman as keynote speaker and several other distinguished speakers spread throughout four sessions of three or four concurrent presentations each. Cosponsors of the five-hour event, held on 10 November, were the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and BYU’s Religious Studies Center.
In conjunction with the recent BYU symposium “Oliver Cowdery: Restoration Witness, Second Elder,” the Maxwell Institute has published Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness, edited by John W. Welch and Larry E. Morris. This book includes 17 important articles previously published by BYU Studies or FARMS and covers virtually all periods of Oliver Cowdery’s life.
Sometime after the death of his father Jacob, Enos wrote that the Nephites raised “flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats” (Enos 1:21). While contemporary archaeology thus far has not yielded evidence of pre-Columbian goats, anthropologist John L. Sorenson has suggested that Book of Mormon peoples, like the Spanish writers of a later time, may have considered some species of pre-Columbian deer to be a kind of goat.
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship unveiled its new Web site on 1 Nov-ember 2006. The new site, found at maxwellinsti-tute.byu.edu, features all the material that resided on the FARMS Web site as well as additional con-tent and links from all departments that make up the Institute.
“Beholding Salvation: Images of Christ,” a new exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art, displays 170 works depicting the ministry of Jesus Christ. The paintings, sculptures, icons, and illuminated manuscripts represent half a millennium of religious art. Not part of the exhibit but prepared especially for it is a book authored by FARMS director S. Kent Brown in collaboration with Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Dawn C. Pheysey.
The Maxwell Institute is pleased to announce The Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library Revised Edition 2006, published in cooperation with Brill Academic Publishers. Updated under the editorship of Emanuel Tov, who leads an international team of Dead Sea Scrolls editors, the searchable electronic database boasts exciting new features.
Insights Volume 27 (2007)
Now showing at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library is an exhibit titled “Two Ancient Roman Plates: Bronze Military Diplomas and Other Sealed Documents.” The set of well-preserved artifacts was given to BYU by donors assembled by John W. Welch,editor in chief of BYU Studies, who has served, along with BYU classics professor John F. Hall, as curator of the exhibit.
One of the most important contributions of biblical scholarship since the time of Joseph Smith has been the recognition and analysis of editorial activity in the Old Testament. Like the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Mormon is a compilation of several literary sources produced under the auspices of ancient editors or redactors. Significantly, one of the primary signs of editorial activity in the Old Testament, a technique known as repetitive resumption, is also attested in the Book of Mormon.
The Popol Vuh, an epic poem that tells the creation story of the Maya, will soon be avail-able in a searchable database published on CD-ROM by the Maxwell Institute’s Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART). Prepared by Allen J. Christenson, the database incorporates his recently published edition and translation of the Popol Vuh. The database offers the first-ever publication of a complete set of images of the earliest manuscript of the Popol Vuh, kindly provided by the New-berry Library in Chicago.
As part of the ongoing Museum of Art lecture series on the life of Christ, S. Kent Brown, director of FARMS, addressed the topic “The Birth of the Savior” on January 17. Drawing from Luke 1 and 2 and studies on life among ancient Jews, he focused on Mary and Elisabeth, whose lives are only faintly sketched in the scriptures.
As editor of the FARMS Review, Daniel C. Peterson is well acquainted with critics’ opinions about it, FARMS in general, and, by extension, the Maxwell Institute. In his introduction to the latest FARMS Review (vol. 18, no. 2, 2006), Peterson responds to the critics by exploring the meaning of the term apologetics (“arguing . . . for or against any position”) and demonstrating at length how the term applies to the Maxwell Institute and its publications. He cautions that the term is relevant only to a portion of the Maxwell Institute’s work. “The garden of faith, like most gardens, requires both weeding and watering,” Peterson writes. “While the FARMS Review does most of the weeding for the organization, FARMS as a whole expends considerably more effort on nourishing.” He goes on to candidly address 11 recurring questions centering on the editorial philosophy of the FARMS Review, its peer-review process, and the academic merit of its content.
Recalling how his longtime friend and mentor inspired others without preaching or condemning, President Cecil O. Samuelson shared memories of Elder Neal A. Maxwell at a lecture on March 23, 2007. The president of Brigham Young University and a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, President Samuelson spoke at the inaugural annual lecture of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
The Maxwell Institute continues to encourage and support the work of graduate and undergraduate students through two funds. Each year at this time we remind graduate students about the Nibley Fellowship Program and its application deadline. Named in honor of the late eminent Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley, this pro-gram provides financial aid to students enrolled in accredited PhD programs in areas of study directly related to the work and mission of the Maxwell Institute, particularly work done under the auspices of one department of the Institute, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, such as studies of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Old and New Testaments, early Christianity, ancient temples, and related subjects. Applicants cannot be employed at the Institute or be related to an Institute employee.
The Maxwell Institute’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative has released the newest book in its Eastern Christian Texts series, a bilingual Syriac/English edition of Select Poems of Ephrem the Syrian. From the second to the eighth century ad, when Arabic supplanted it, Syriac was a major literary language across the Middle East; it is essentially a Christian form of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, the original apostles, and the first Jewish Christians.
The scholars and staff at the Maxwell Institute have energetically set the goal of finishing the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley within the next three years. March 27, 2010, will be the 100th anniversary of Hugh Nibley’s birthday, and we would like to have the approximately 20-volume set completed by that date. Under the direction of John W. Welch, general editor of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, various supplemental electronic releases and a series of conferences in 2010 focusing on the lasting legacies of Nibley’s scholar-ship are also planned.
Ephrem the Syrian, who died in ad 373 in Edessa, wrote one of earliest extant commentaries on Genesis and Exodus. In this commentary he weaves a new biblical story by selecting from both the narrative background and foreground—not in an arbitrary way, but as a very deliberate process. One of the new themes that Ephrem weaves into his retelling is the unwavering righteousness and spiritual receptiveness of the patriarchal wives.
With the publication of Medical Aphorisms: Treatises 6–9, the second volume of the Medical Works of Moses Maimonides series, the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI) at the Maxwell Institute continues its project of bringing to light original texts and translations from the scientific, philosophical, and theological traditions of the three great religious civilizations that trace their ancestry to Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Now with added funding from the Library of Congress, METI continues to actively edit and prepare for publication works in all three of these branches of faith-oriented learning.
On January 31, John W. Welch addressed the topic “The Five Faces of the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount” as part of the Museum of Art lecture series on the life of Christ, which has now concluded. Welch, Robert K. Thomas professor of law at BYU, editor in chief of BYU Studies, and the founder of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, spoke about five specific layers of instruction within the Sermon text in Matthew 5–7. As Welch related, “the Sermon on the Mount is not a scrapbook” of moral maxims, but more importantly it reveals the Savior’s different “faces of salvation.”
At the beginning of Alma 43:14, the original manuscript reads desenters, which Oliver Cowdery miscopied into the printer’s manuscript as desendants; in other words, he ended up replacing dissenters with descendants. This mistake (a visual error) was facilitated by the similar spelling Oliver used for both these words. Notice that earlier in this verse Oliver wrote dissented as desented in P (but which the 1830 typesetter respelled in P as dissented). Moreover, at the end of verse 13, Oliver spelled descendants as desendants in both manuscripts. The proximity of this last instance prompted the error at the beginning of verse 14.
Accompanied by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Cecil O. Samuelson recently announced the formation of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, a research center that promises to bring national and international distinction to the study of the Book of Mormon. President Samuelson made the announcement at a luncheon attended by Mark and Laura Willes and their family.
On March 21 Andrew C. Skinner, executive director of the Maxwell Institute and professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, addressed the topic of “Crucifixion and Resurrection” in the Museum of Art lecture series on the life of Christ. Skinner began by saying that “the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth are the lynchpin of everything we believe and everything we do in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Journey of Faith: The New World, a new Maxwell Institute documentary, is set to premier at BYU Campus Education Week in August. The Maxwell Institute has again teamed with award-winning Latter-day Saint filmmaker Peter Johnson to produce a documentary that will explore the Book of Mormon in the New World.
In a world filled with violence, poverty, suffering, illness, accidental death, disappointment, frustration, and hatred, pessimism is an ever-beckoning possibility. And, for some, pessimism shades eventually into utter despair, hopelessness, and cynicism.
On May 8 Andrew Skinner, executive director of the Maxwell Institute, Daniel C. Peterson, editor in chief and director of its Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, and Ed Snow, Development Director, met with U.S. Senator Bob Bennett and leaders of the Library of Congress in Washington DC to thank the senator for helping to secure federal funding for METI and to present him with several volumes of METI publications. Beginning in 2005, Senator Bennett worked to obtain $750,000 from the Library of Congress’s bud-get to go toward METI publications, in addition to requesting $250,000 more for 2008.
Frank William (Bill) Gay, in whose name two Maxwell Institute research funds were endowed, passed away May 21, 2007, in Kingwood, Texas. His wife Mary Elizabeth, five children, 17 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren survive him. The William (Bill) Gay Research chair at the Maxwell Institute was created and endowed in his honor. John Gee is the William (Bill) Gay Associate Research Professor. This endowment supports all of the projects and publications done by Gee and others on the Book of Abraham and related studies.
The Maxwell Institute and Brigham Young University are pleased to announce the release of part 4 of volume 4 of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. Part 4 analyzes the text from Alma 21 to Alma 55.
One of the complaints leveled against Lehi by his rebellious sons Laman and Lemuel and his wife, Sariah, was that he was a “visionary man” (1 Nephi 2:11; 5:2). Although this term does not appear in the King James translation of the Bible, it accurately reflects the Hebrew word hazon, meaning divine vision.1 Although this Hebrew term appears in connection with true prophets of God, it is also sometimes written with a negative connotation, describing false prophets, especially in the writings of Lehi’s contemporary Jeremiah (Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16).
Just in time for the study of the Book of Mormon in the 2008 churchwide Sunday School courses, the Maxwell Institute recently released an updated and expanded edition of Donald W. Parry’s Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text.
In July 2007, David Johnson, professor of anthropology, Kent Brown, director of FARMS, and Revell Phillips, emeritus professor of geology, all of BYU, were joined by Sidney Rempel of Arizona State University in an archaeological excavation on the southern coast of the Sultanate of Oman.
The latest issue of the FARMS Review (vol. 19, no. 1) is now available, and within its pages readers will discover a plethora of subjects addressed, including external views of Latter-day Saint scholarship, the historical validity of central LDS truth claims, and much more.
During Education Week, noted Maxwell Institute scholars presented a series of well-attended classes titled “The Work of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU,” focusing on aspects of the Institute’s ongoing work.
On June 18, 2007, a group of six librarians from various international institutions visited the Maxwell Institute’s Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART) to learn more about the digital preservation of ancient texts at BYU. This visit was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to further the professional development of these specialists. Visitors included Ioana Damian of the IAŞI (Romania), Billy Leung Tak Hoi of the University of Macau, Larisa Kislova of the Republic Library for Youth and Children (Kyrgyzstan), Tutu Mukherjee of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (India), D. B. Vuwa Phiri of the University of Malawi, and Gulnar Tussupbayeva of the National Academic Library of Kazakhstan. Their local hosts were Susan Neff of the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy and Elder Ben B. Banks, emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Journey of Faith: The New World premiered to large audiences at BYU Education Week in a sneak preview. S. Kent Brown, director of the newly formed Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and one of the lead historical consultants on the documentary, and Peter N. Johnson, director, hosted the premier. A number of people returned for a second viewing because of the sweep of information in the film. “Packing a long history into 80 or 90 minutes of film presented a huge challenge to the filmmakers,” Johnson said. The new film enjoys the sponsorship of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and the Willes Center.
The Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters held its annual awards banquet on Friday, October 12, at Weber State University. The academy awarded Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University and director of the Maxwell Institute’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI), the highest award of the evening, naming him a Utah Academy Fellow and lifetime member of the organization.
One of the most frequently quoted Old Testament passages in scripture is Moses’s prophecy as re corded in Deuteronomy 18:15–19: The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
Four scholars from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship spoke at the FAIR conference held in Sandy, Utah, in August. FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of Latter-day Saint doctrine, belief, and practice.
On June 20, 2001, representatives of BYU’s Maxwell Institute, The Catholic University of America (CUA), and Beth Mardutho, a Syriac studies institute, met together to discuss the digital imaging of key holdings in the Semitics/ICOR Library of CUA’s Mullen Library. CUA’s Semitics/ICOR Library houses one of the largest collections in the world of early and rare books on the Christian East. All parties shared a particular interest in early Syriac printed works, both for their continuing value to contemporary Syriac Christian communities as well as to Syriac scholars. Many early printed catalogs, text editions, grammars, lexica, and other instrumenta and studies have never been superseded or replaced. Their rarity and inaccessibility to scholars has long been a serious problem for the field of Early Christian Studies. The faculty and staff of Catholic University recognized this need as well and generously agreed to work with BYU and Beth Mardutho to provide digital access to their collection. BYU and Beth Mardutho entered into a three-way agreement with CUA to scan a broad selection of their Syriac book holdings, with BYU focusing on titles of primarily academic interest and Beth Mardutho on materials of broader interest to the Syriac churches. The results of this Institute project are now avail-able free of cost on the Web as the Brigham Young University & The Catholic University of America Syriac Studies Reference Library (http://www.lib.byu.edu/dlib/cua/).
The Nephite account is a record that resembles in form, nature, and functions—in scores of characteristics, in fact—what we would expect in an ancient Mesoamerican codex, a type of document that was utterly unknown to Joseph Smith.
Irene Lewitt, assistant director of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, visited Brigham Young University on June 20, 2007. Donald W. Parry, professor of Hebrew Bible studies, and Steven Booras from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, hosted Ms. Lewitt during her visit. A portion of her tour included a demonstration of multispectral imaging. A luncheon sponsored by the Maxwell Institute was also held in her honor. The Shrine of the Book is a museum that houses many of the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Great Isaiah Scroll and the Temple Scroll, and other significant archaeological findings. The famous Aleppo Codex, the world’s oldest Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), is also on display at the Shrine.
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, published in 1992, is now available online at www.lib.byu.edu/spc/Macmillan/, or search Google for Encyclopedia of Mormonism. This valuable resource answers many questions about Church doctrine and history and is useful in any teaching situation. BYU Studies will be assisting the Harold B. Lee Library to add links and update content in coming months.
The latest issue of the Maxwell Institute’s Occasional Papers (number 5 in the series) focuses exclusively on what Joseph Smith called “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion”—the Book of Mormon. As M. Gerald Bradford, editor of the series and associate executive director of the Maxwell Institute notes, “the papers in this volume show that the Book of Mormon can be studied and understood from a wide variety of scholarly disciplines.”
With the full backing of the BYU administration, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship—in partnership with Religious Education, BYU Broadcasting and the department of Theatre and Media Arts—is laying plans to begin filming a seven-part documentary series on the ministry and life of Jesus Christ, beginning with his role as premortal Deity, continuing through his mortality, and ending with his role as judge of all. The series is provisionally titled Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God. The project envisions a high definition series that presents the views of Brigham Young University scholars. Each of the twenty-six minute episodes will explore a segment of the Savior’s mission and will feature contemporary scholarly discussions regarding the Savior’s ministry.
In recent years several scholars have drawn the attention of Latter-day Saints to the phenomenon popularly known as “El Niño.”1 In 1990 David L. Clark highlighted the fact that a mechanism was now known to science that would permit, periodically, easterly sea travel across the Pacific, the direction Lehi’s party is understood to have traveled.2 ENSO, the more formal acronym for this phenomenon, comes from El Niño (the Christ child) and Southern Oscillation, referring to the fact that the changes commence in the southern Pacific Ocean. The intermittent ENSO effect creates an easterly equatorial current running counter to the prevailing westerly direction of Pacific currents and winds. The winds can even blow in reverse, thus not only allowing but encouraging sea travel to the western coast of the Americas.
Each year in January, Choice magazine recognizes a short list of the best academic titles from among the 7,000 or so reviewed in the previous year. Among the winners of the January 2008 awards is BYU’s Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library, which was produced by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and published by Brill Academic Press. This electronic database contains searchable texts of all of the published non-biblical scrolls. High resolution images of the scrolls and a complete English translation accompany the texts. The latest version of the database, published at the end of 2006, is the culmination of 10 years of work by the Maxwell Institute and represents the fruits of more than 50 years of research in publishing and translating the Dead Sea scrolls. The database was edited by Professor Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and produced by Professor Noel B. Reynolds and Kristian S. Heal of the Maxwell Institute. Students and faculty at BYU may enjoy the learning and research opportunities provided by the database thanks to a special arrangement that the Maxwell Institute worked out with Brill that allows for the Institute to distribute copies of the database on campus at little or no cost.
Following the success of the BYU Dead Seas Scrolls Electronic Library (2nd ed., Brill, 2006), the Maxwell Institute’s Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART) has initiated a project to produce an electronic library of ancient Syriac literature. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus and his disciples. Syriac was the language spoken by ancient Christians throughout the Middle East, from Syria to India, and a large and important body of early Christian literature is preserved in it. Electronic libraries have been produced for Greek, Latin and other ancient literatures, but this will be the first project to do the same for Syriac.
On November 9, 2007, the new Willes Center-sponsored DVD, Journey of Faith: The New World, was shown to a large audience in the IMAX Theater of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii, adjacent to the campus of BYU–Hawaii. The screening was offered in connection with a three-day international business conference cosponsored by the University. The founder of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies, Mark H. Willes, opened the screening by explaining how the film came about, its significance as a study aid to help all better understand the cultural and geo-graphical setting of events leading up to the Savior’s visit in the New World, and also the anticipated impact of similar projects on students of “The Lord’s Book.”
Following closely on the heels of a recent double-sized issue on Mormons and film, the latest issue of BYU Studies contains a landmark study by historian Max H Parkin entitled “Joseph Smith and the United Firm: The Growth and Decline of the Church’s First Master Plan of Business and Finance, Ohio and Missouri, 1832–1834.” Never before have the historical documents been so thoroughly and masterfully marshaled to give readers a heightened appreciation for the importance of the “United Firm” in the early Church. Along with all else that Joseph Smith was revealing and directing during these years, the consecrated legacy of how he organized, operated, and motivated this multifaceted operation deserves to be recognized in its own right.
Insights Volume 28 (2008)
In the last few years, the topic of how DNA research fits in with the text of the Book of Mormon has become increasingly divisive. On the one hand, critics of the Church seize on recent DNA studies to claim that Native Americans are descended from Asian, not Middle Eastern, ancestors. On the other hand, faithful LDS scholars, including some of the most respected DNA researchers in the country, say the data from recent research is insufficient to deny or confirm the claims of the Book of Mormon.
The Maxwell Institute continues to encourage and support the work of graduate and undergraduate students through two funds.
The Book of Mormon first mentions a weapon called a cimeter during the time of Enos (some time between about 544 and 421 bc). Speaking of his people’s Lamanite enemies, Enos says, “their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax” (Enos 1:20). Later, in the first and second centuries bc, the weapon was part of the armory of both Nephites and Lamanites in addition to swords and other weapons (Mosiah 9:16; 10:8; Alma 2:12; 43:18, 20, 37; 60:2; Helaman 1:14).
An inscribed gold plate 2.2 centimeters in length has been uncovered in a third-century ad Jewish burial. The burial, that of a young child, is located in a Roman cemetery in Halbturn, Austria. The news was released by archaeologists at the University of Vienna’s Institute of Prehistory and Early History.
The Maxwell Institute is pleased to sponsor a series of presentations at Brigham Young University Campus Education Week, slated for August 19–22, 2008, in Provo, Utah. These presentations, given by members of the Institute’s administration and associated scholars, represent a range of the work done by the Maxwell Institute.
Swords are an important weapon in the Book of Mormon narrative. The prophet Ether reported that in the final battle of the Jaredites, King Coriantumr, with his sword, “smote off the head” of his relentless enemy Shiz (Ether 15:30). Swords were also used by the earliest Nephites (2 Nephi 5:14) and were among the deadly weapons with which that people were finally “hewn down” at Cumorah by their enemies (Mormon 6:9–10). While the text suggests that some Jaredites and early Nephites may have had metal weaponry (1 Nephi 4:9; 2 Nephi 5:14; Mosiah 8:10–11; Ether 7:9), references to metal weapons, including metal swords, are rare.
Issue 19/2 of the FARMS Review, which is now available, follows a long tradition of dealing with a wide variety of fascinating topics. Of particular interest in this issue is a series of articles on pre-serving and enlarging the memory of the Saints. As Louis Midgley notes in his introduction to this section, “In the April 2007 General Conference, Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy delivered a powerful sermon entitled ‘Remember and Perish Not,’ in which he urged the Saints to pay close attention to the ways of remembrance in our scriptures” (p. 23). At the next conference, President Henry B. Eyring took up a similar theme when he gave an address entitled “O Remember, Remember.”
In June Brigham Young University announced the appointment of M. Gerald Bradford as the new executive director of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. Bradford, previously associate executive director of the Maxwell Institute, replaces Andrew C. Skinner, who has accepted an assignment at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies and is returning to teaching and research.
The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies announces five faculty research grants for the 2008–2009 academic year: Susan Easton Black and Andrew C. Skinner, “The Phrase ‘This Land’: Doctrinal and Geographical Implications for Latter-day Saints” (a book-length study).
John W. Welch has studied two main topics throughout his career: the law and the Book of Mormon. Welch, a professor of law at Brigham Young University and the founder of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, has now prepared the culminating volume of decades of research into the trials and other legal procedures in the Book of Mormon. The Maxwell Institute is pleased to announce its publication as The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon.
Defining his purpose as exploring “the relationship between the life of the mind and the life of the spirit, with some connection to Elder Maxwell’s life as a mentoring model,” Elder Bruce C. Hafen, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, spoke at the second annual Neal A. Maxwell Lecture, held March 21, 2008.
Fans of Hugh Nibley’s writings will welcome volume 17 in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, copublished by Deseret Book and FARMS. Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple is a compilation of materials, many of which have been published previously out-side the Collected Works.
The Maxwell Institute and the Harold B. Lee Library have announced that a new electronic database, “Book of Mormon Publications, 1829–1844,” will soon be available to researchers and others interested in Mormon history. “We are excited about this collection,” notes M. Gerald Bradford, executive director of the Maxwell Institute, “because it brings together for the first time everything published about the Book of Mormon during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Books, pamphlets, and articles from newspapers and periodicals are all included. This represents a major step forward for Mormon studies.”
The Joseph Smith Papers Project seeks to do for Joseph Smith what has been done (and is being done) for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and other important early Americans: Make their papers easily accessible and more intelligible by publishing them in a carefully prepared, comprehensive scholarly edition. Historians rely on documents to gain insight into the facts, relationships, and other realities of the past, the raw materials from which they construct their narratives and interpretations. The task of scholars functioning as documentary editors is to help readers and other scholars understand the documents without getting too much in the way themselves, leaving others to construct their own narratives from these (and other) documentary resources.
Recently the Brigham Young University administration announced the appointment of Professor Paul Y. Hoskisson as the new director of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at the Maxwell Institute, effective September 1. Professor S. Kent Brown, who previously headed up these operations, retired from the university at the end of August.
The Maxwell Institute and Brigham Young University are pleased to announce the release of part 5 of volume 4 of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. Part 5 analyzes the text from Alma 56 through 3 Nephi 18.
Accompanying this issue of Insights is volume 17 (combining numbers one and two) of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies; however, readers will note that the Journal now carries a new name, the Journal of the Book of Mormon and Restoration Scripture. In connection with this change, the Institute asked Andrew H. Hedges, an associate professor of Church History and Doctrine at BYU, to become the new editor, replacing Professor S. Kent Brown, who served as editor and associate editor for many years, and who recently retired from the university. The new associate editors are Grant Hardy, professor of history, University of North Carolina at Asheville; Steven C. Harper, assistant professor of Church History and Doctrine, BYU; Jennifer Lane, assistant professor of religion, BYU–Hawaii; and Kerry Muhlestein, assistant professor of Ancient Scripture, BYU.
Several scholars associated with the Maxwell Institute spoke at the FAIR conference held in Sandy, Utah, in August. As explained on its Web site (www.fairlds.org), FAIR (the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of Latter-day Saint doctrine, belief, and practice.
The Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies hosted a two-day conference on 3 Nephi at the end of September 2008. Entitled “Third Nephi: New Perspectives on an Incomparable Scripture,” the conference consisted of a plenary session with an introductory address by John W. Welch, subsequent presentations by 21 distinguished scholars covering six themes, and a concluding session featuring a panel discussion.
The latest incarnation of the FARMS Review (vol. 20, no. 2, 2008) sizes up recent books dealing with evolutionary science, plural marriage, Book of Mormon geography, and even the lost ark of the covenant. It also reviews the latest volume in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley and introduces a new feature called the Neal A. Maxwell Institute Lecture, which this time features two talks by General Authorities who were guest speakers at the Maxwell Institute’s annual lectures in 2007 and 2008.
There are two ways to read a text, through exegesis and through eisegesis. The first means, approximately, “reading out of the text,” while the second means, approximately, “reading into the text.” Both are legitimate ways of approaching a text. Anyone who reads the scriptures will at times engage in both exegesis and eisegesis, whether knowingly or unwittingly. Therefore, the more conscientiously and consciously we engage in rigorous and careful exegesis and eisegesis, the better the chance that our reading of the scriptures will truly enlighten the mind and provide substance for the soul. I will illustrate both approaches using the term familiar spirit found in 2 Nephi 26:12, Isaiah 29:4, and 1 Samuel 28.
The filming for the Messiah documentary has been completed, and the important work of editing has begun. Team members had traveled to Israel, Egypt, and Denmark to film the visual backdrop for the nine-part film as well as to capture the hosts’ comments that will introduce a wide array of topics in the documentary. Those hosts included Gaye Strathearn (assistant professor of ancient scripture), John Tanner (professor of English), Andrew Skinner (professor of ancient scripture), and Kent Brown (professor emeritus of ancient scripture).
Insights Volume 29 (2009)
The mother tongue of Jesus and his disciples was not Greek or Latin or even Hebrew, but Aramaic, the language of Israel’s Babylonian captors. Aramaic, and in particular the dialect of Syriac, has continued to be spoken by many Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere down to the present time. This Semitic language became the vehicle for a vast body of early Christian literature that expressed Christian theology in singularly Semitic forms. For example, just as the Hebrew prophets expressed themselves primarily in poetry or rhythmic prose, rich with symbolism and analogy, so also early Syriac teachers composed didactic hymns and even their sermons in poetic meter. In contrast to the philosophical theology of western churches, Syriac Christians articulated a symbolic theology that drew on images from nature and scripture to express the Christian mysteries.
We have all felt the excitement that comes from seeing a great scholar at work, whether in the classroom or the archives. No less palpable is the thrill of a personal encounter with the past through direct contact with ancient texts or artifacts. Most of us can trace our fascination with the ancient world back to just such a personal encounter. One of our roles at the Maxwell Institute is to help inspire the next generation of young scholars. We do this by providing opportunities for BYU students to work directly with Institute scholars on new research, and thus to help them have their own encounters with the ancient world.
For a number of years the Maxwell Institute has sponsored a graduate fellowship program that gives financial aid to students pursuing advanced degrees in fields of special interest to the Institute. Named in honor of the late eminent Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh W. Nibley, this program fosters the next gen- eration of faithful scholars by providing financial aid to students enrolled in accredited PhD programs in areas of study directly related to the work and mission of the Maxwell Institute. Work done under the auspices of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, such as studies of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Old and New Testaments, early Christianity, ancient temples, and related subjects are of particular interest.
Several video broadcasts exploring areas related to the work of the Maxwell Institute are available to view online through the BYU Web site. In February, the College of Humanities at BYU presented, as part of their “Voices in the Human Conversation” program that was originally broadcast on KBYU, a lecture by Roger Macfarlane, associate professor of humanities, classics, and comparative literature at BYU. Entitled “Illuminating the Papyri from Herculaneum, Oxyrhymchus, and Beyond,” Macfarlane discussed Multi-Spectral Imaging and ancient texts. In the past, the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts at the Maxwell Institute (then under the auspices of FARMS) assisted scholars like Macfarlane in retrieving images from such places as Herculaneum, Petra, and Bonampak. Although CPART’s emphasis now involves digitizing ancient works through other methods, Macfarlane has carried on BYU’s work of multi-spectral imaging.
With the intent of probing the lives of Christ and Joseph Smith, Richard Lloyd Anderson, emeritus professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, gave the third annual Neal A. Maxwell Lecture, held March 20, 2009. Anderson discussed the reliability of the documentary process by which we know of events in the New Testament and in the early years of the Restoration.
In teaching Book of Mormon at Brigham Young University over the past quarter century, I have rarely found a student, whether true freshman or returned missionary, who knows what the word mark means in Jacob 4:14.1 Most of them know that the mark symbolizes Christ in this verse, but they do not know what a mark is. That is, if a mark symbolizes Christ, then mark must be something in real life other than Christ. In fact, most Book of Mormon readers justifiably feel satisfied and uplifted by relying on what they think mark means in this verse. While it is true that great lessons can be learned from this verse by relying simply on the symbolic meaning of mark, when the meaning of mark as it fell from the Prophet’s lips while translating becomes clear, whole new, additional dimensions of understandings of Jacob’s warning begin to unfold.
An Approach to the Book of Abraham, volume 18 in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, is now avail able. This volume contains Nibley’s early work on the Book of Abraham and the Joseph Smith Papyri and is his closest look at Facsimile 1 of the Book of Abraham. In chapter 5, Nibley is at his best as he has Mr. Jones, the curator, conduct Dick and Jane through an imaginary museum in which the most important lioncouch scenes have all been gathered together in a single hall. Mr. Jones possesses a hand book that tells him all. In a conversational manner, he discusses the various figures of Facsimile 1, calling upon the best Egyptological knowledge of the time to explain their importance and setting.
Brigham Young University Campus Education Week, slated for August 17–21, 2009, will feature a series of presentations that represent the range of the work done by the Maxwell Institute. Beginning Wednesday, August 19, at 11:10 in the Assembly Hall of the Hinckley Center, Paul Y. Hoskisson, D. Morgan Davis Jr., and Kristian S. Heal will present on the topic “The Work of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute at BYU.”
Donald W. Parry, Brigham Young University pro fessor of Biblical Hebrew and longtime contribu tor to the work of the Maxwell Institute, has been appointed as an editor for a new edition of Biblia Hebraica, the standard critical edition of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). He is one of about two dozen wellestablished Hebrew scholars from the world wide community also serving as editors for this new edition, and one of three from the United States.
The Maxwell Institute and Brigham Young University are pleased to announce the publica- tion of part 6 of volume 4 of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. Part 6 analyzes the text from 3 Nephi 19 through Moroni 10.
A select group of graduate and advanced under- graduate students participated in a seminar on Mormon thought at BYU this past May and June. The participants’ papers presented at a public sym- posium on June 25 will be published in the near future.
Twelfth-century Cairo was a vibrant place. The legendary Saladin, who had recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, had established himself there and was actively transforming it from a royal resort into a cosmopolitan center of power, commerce, learning, and culture. A pious Muslim, Saladin chose for his physician at court a Jew who had been twice exiled—first from his hometown of Cordoba, Spain (Andalusia), and then again from Fez, Morocco (al- Maghreb)—by the fanatical Almohad regime of Northwest Africa.
Readers awaiting this year’s first number of the FARMS Review (vol. 21, no. 1) will be rewarded with a deep lineup of reviews and other essays on the Book of Mormon. Sure to heighten anticipation is a promised peek at Terryl Givens’s in-press volume from Oxford University Press: The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction. Chapter 2, “Themes,” will be featured in its entirety—a substantial excerpt from the 152-page work that will fill an important gap in Oxford’s popular Very Short Introduction series. Review readers will enjoy other Book of Mormon–related fare as well: a literary interpretation of the death of Laban; a debunking of myths about the miraculous printing of the 1830 edition; a look at the record’s literary sophistication in light of a biblical hermeneutic that grants legitimacy to repetition and allusion; and reviews of the seminal works The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon, by John W. Welch, and the six-volume Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, by Brant A. Gardner.
The birthplace and spiritual heart of Christian monasticism is the Nitrian Desert of Egypt and the long, shallow valley of Scetis (Wadi el-Natrun). It was to here, from the fourth century onwards, that Macarius the Great and other of the sainted desert fathers retreated from the world, devoting their lives to worship and prayer. While some monks chose to live in isolation as hermits, many others banded together to establish the first monasteries, building churches for worship and libraries for study.
The following is part 1 of a two-part series of articles written by S. Kent Brown, executive producer of Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God. During production he was director of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and FARMS at the Maxwell Institute. Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, a documentary produced by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, the College of Religious Education, and BYU Broadcasting, received a sneak preview at BYU’s Education Week in August. For the first time ever, teachings of the restoration, sound academic views from faithful Latter-day Saint scholars, and state-of- the-art documentary production have been combined to produce this seven-part series on Jesus Christ, the Messiah. BYUTV will air the documentary beginning on January 10, 2010, and copies will be available for purchase in the spring.
Hugh Nibley’s long-anticipated One Eternal Round is in the final stages of production. This volume represents the culmination of Nibley’s thoughts and research on the Book of Abraham, especially Facsimile 2.
With the addition of a new annual periodical at year’s end, Maxwell Institute subscribers will be offered new options effective January 1, 2010. All current subscribers will receive a complimentary copy of the first issue of Studies in the Bible and Antiquity at the end of 2009. This periodical focuses on the Bible and the ancient biblical world. Beginning in January 2010, this periodical, as well as the other Maxwell Institute periodicals, will be available as part of the new basic subscription structure.
The account of the great destruction at the death of Christ in Third Nephi relates that many cities at the time were destroyed by fire (3 Nephi 8:14; 9:3, 9–11). In an article published in 1998, geologist Bart Kowallis argued that the destructive events, including the burning of cities described there, are consistent with the effects of a significant volcanic event. The volcanic interpretation fits particularly well in a Mesoamerican setting where volcanic events are historically common. Additional support for this interpretation can be found in Mormon’s description of the aftermath of these events. In his abridgement of the subsequent history of the people of Lehi, Mormon states that it was many years before these burned cities were rebuilt and inhabited (4 Nephi 1:6–7).
The following is part 2 of a three-part series of articles written by S. Kent Brown, executive producer of Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, a Neal A. Maxwell Institute, BYU Broadcasting, and Religious Education production. BYU Television will air part of the series on December 6, 2009. The entire seven-part documentary will air beginning on January 10, 2010. Copies will be available for purchase in the spring. This second article explores the path by which the film climbed from a simple concept to a completed project.
The Book of Mormon and its status as an American Bible was the subject of the First Biennial Laura F. Willes Center Book of Mormon Lecture held October 8, 2009, at Brigham Young University. Terryl L. Givens, professor of literature and religion and occupant of the James Bostwick Chair of English at the University of Richmond, focused his remarks on two points: the provenance of the Book of Mormon and major motifs within it.
By the end of this year, “Nineteenth-Century Publications about the Book of Mormon (1829–1844)” will be made available as one of the Harold B. Lee Library’s digital collections. Building on the work of previous generations of researchers, Matthew Roper, research scholar with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, has collected digital facsimiles and electronic transcriptions of as many of these early publications as could be found.
Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Islamic studies and Arabic and editor in chief of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, will chair a plenary session at the Parliament of the World’s Religions held December 3–9, 2009, in Melbourne, Australia. Entitled “Islam and the West: Creating an Accord of Civilisations,” the panel discussion will center on understanding Islam. Peterson’s involvement illustrates METI’s engagement with scholars worldwide.
The following is part 3 of a three-part series of articles written by S. Kent Brown, executive producer of Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, a Neal A. Maxwell Institute, BYU Broadcasting, and Religious Education production. BYU Television will air the seven-part documentary beginning on January 10, 2010. Copies will be available for purchase in the spring. This third article reviews unusual occurrences tied to the early filming in Egypt and Israel.
A lecture series entitled “The Work of Hugh W. Nibley: On the 100th Anniversary of His Birth” will be held during winter semester 2010 at BYU. March 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Nibley’s birth. In addition, One Eternal Round, volume 19 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, the final volume of the series, will have been published.
To complement the premiere issue of Studies in the Bible and Antiquity, which will be sent to our subscribers, we asked Dan Belnap, whose article appears in the first issue, to briefly expand part of his topic for Insights.
The latest issue of the FARMS Review (vol. 21, no. 2) opens with an editor’s introduction by Lou Midgley that probes a dilemma facing evangelicals: much of their belief system is traceable to Augustine’s efforts to infuse Christianity with concepts drawn from classical (pagan) philosophy. Midgley discusses how this alien admixture does not square with the evangelical belief in biblical sufficiency, or “Bible alone.” He also calls attention to how the noted evangelical scholar N. T. Wright has recently put evangelicals on the defensive by challenging the entrenched but (in Wright’s view) misguided notion of “justification by faith alone.”
Insights Volume 30 (2010)
The Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, which publishes texts and accompanying English translations of important works of philosophy, theology, science, and mysticism from the classical Islamic period (roughly the 9th through 14th centuries), has announced the publication of a new title in its Islamic Translation Series. Avicenna: The Physics of The Healing, translated by Jon McGinnis, an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, brings to 16 the total number of volumes pub lished by METI in its various series.
On January 11, the 2009 Theodor Mommsen Prize, Section Papirologia Ercolanese, was presented to Steven Booras, senior project manager with the Maxwell Institute’s Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts and to Brigham Young University for “the production of multispectral images of the Herculaneum Papyri.”
Ancient authors loved to play with their compositions much more than we do today. In fact, it was much easier to manipulate words and structure in some ancient languages than it is in Modern English. Ancient writers even played games with the readers of their work. One such ancient Hebrew game is called atbash, and Jeremiah used it quite effectively.
Mark Willes delivered the fourth annual Neal A. Maxwell Lecture on March 11, 2010. Willes, president and chief executive officer of Deseret Management Corporation, endowed the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies in 2007 in honor of his wife.
The most extensive collection of writings about the Book of Mormon published between 1829 and 1844 has been made available as an online database. The collection, 19th-Century Publications about the Book of Mormon (1829–1844), includes nearly 600 publications and close to one million words of text. It is intended to comprise, insofar as possible, everything published during Joseph Smith’s lifetime relating to the Book of Mormon. Under the auspices of Digital Collections at Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library, this ambitious project can be accessed at lib.byu.edu/dlib/bompublications.
In explaining the prophecies of Isaiah in which his soul delighted, Nephi sets up an intriguing wordplay on the name Joseph. On several occasions he combines segments of Isaiah 11:11 and Isaiah 29:14 to foretell the gathering and restoration of Israel at the time of the coming forth of additional scripture. The most discernible reason for Nephi’s interpretation of these two specific texts in the light of each other is their shared use of the Hebrew verb yāsap, which literally means “to add” but can have the more developed senses to “continue” or “proceed to do” something and “to do again.” This verb is also the source of the name Joseph, which means “may He [the Lord] add,” “He shall add,” or “He has added.” Rachel, the mother of the patriarch Joseph, is said to have explained the giving of this name to her son with that basic sense in mind: “And she called his name Joseph [yôsēp], and said, The Lord shall add [yōsēp] to me another son” (Genesis 30:24; emphasis in all scriptural citations is mine). Thus when Nephi combined these two prophecies together through their common use of yāsap, he was also using a wordplay on the name Joseph both to remind us that it was the seed of Joseph that would be gathered and to foretell the involvement of another Joseph, Joseph Smith, in the gathering and in the coming forth of scripture.
One of the great lessons to be drawn from the Islamic world of the Middle Ages is that in order for people of varying faiths and persuasions to coexist peacefully, it is not necessary that significant differences between them be settled or even downplayed. Islamic society was vibrant with debate and ideological rivalry. But there was a framework of tolerance that allowed for these differences while preserving basic modes for coexistence. For example, the Islamic caliphates (beginning in the seventh century and continuing into the early modern period) treated the Jews and Christians living within their domains as ahl al-kitab (“People of the Book”), a Qur’anic designation that recognized that these communities, too, worshipped the God of Abraham and had at least part of his truth revealed to them and recorded in their scriptures—the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, respectively. Therefore, these non-Muslims, though not accorded the same legal or social status as Muslims, were nevertheless allowed to practice their religions freely and openly and to participate in the pursuit of knowledge.
The lecture series “The Work of Hugh W. Nibley: On the 100th Anniversary of His Birth” concluded in April. The videos of each lecture are currently being prepared for availability on our Web site. Presently, video of four of the lectures can be accessed through the Upcoming Events section of the Maxwell Institute home page (maxwellinstitute .byu.edu).
For a number of years the Maxwell Institute has sponsored a graduate fellowship program that gives financial aid to students pursuing advanced degrees in fields of special interest to the Institute. Named in honor of the late eminent Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh W. Nibley, this program fosters the next generation of faithful scholars by provid- ing financial aid to students enrolled in accredited PhD programs in areas of study directly related to the work and mission of the Maxwell Institute. Of particular interest is work done under the auspices of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, such as studies of the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Old and New Testaments, early Christianity, and ancient temples.
Brigham Young University Campus Education Week, slated for August 16–20, 2010, will feature a series of presentations that represent a range of the work done by the Maxwell Institute.
The long-anticipated DVD set, Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God, is now available for purchase. For the first time ever, teachings of the restoration, sound academic views from faithful Latter-day Saint scholars, and state-of-the-art documentary production have been combined in this seven-part series on Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
There are few figures in the history of Islamic thought whose stature can rival that of Ibn Sina (980–1037), or Avicenna, as he came to be known in the Latin West. Educated at Bukhara, in modern-day Uzbekistan, Avicenna was, by his own admission, a prodigy and recognized as such early on. If there is a certain lack of modesty in his making that claim, there is no disputing that he had the credentials to back it up. He was forced by the turbulent politics of his day to move a number of times, but through it all he never stopped practicing medicine or writing treatises in his native Persian, as well as in Arabic. Avicenna’s output was massive, and his many contributions to fields as diverse as medicine, philosophy, and mysticism were groundbreaking and precedent setting and remain influential (and sometimes controversial) to this day.
Thanks to the work of Hugh Nibley, Paul Hoskisson, Terrence Szink, and others, the plausibility of Alma as a Semitic name is no longer an issue. Hoskisson has noted that “Alma” derives from the root ‘lm (< *ǵlm) with the meaning “youth” or “lad,” corroborating Nibley’s earlier suggestion that “Alma” means “young man” (cf. Hebrew ‘elem,עלם). Significantly, “Alma” occurs for the first time in the Book of Mormon text as follows: “But there was one among them whose name was Alma, he also being a descendant of Nephi. And he was a young man, and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken” (Mosiah 17:2; emphasis in all scriptural citations is mine). This first occurrence of “Alma” is juxtaposed with a description matching the etymological meaning of the name, suggesting an underlying wordplay: Alma (‘lm’) was an ‘elem. A play on words sharing a common root is a literary technique known as polyptoton.
A trio of essays in the current issue of the Review (vol. 22, no. 1) concerns John W. Welch’s The Sermon on the Mount in the Light of the Temple, which makes a highly original and important contribution to biblical studies by revealing the “temple register” and organic unity of Jesus’s famous sermon. George L. Mitton’s introductory remarks call attention to two scholarly reviews of Welch’s study that find his thesis intriguing and plausible. A substantial excerpt from Welch’s preface to his book follows, as does a review by Gaye Strathearn that offers a helpful summary of Welch’s approach and argument and of the book’s importance for Latter-day Saints.
“Symbolism in Scripture” was the theme of the second biennial Laura F. Willes Center Book of Mormon Conference held recently. The conference included presentations by 13 scholars addressing such topics as “The Symbolic Use of Hand Gestures in the Book of Mormon and Other Latter-day Saint Scripture” and “Light: The Master Symbol.”
More than ten years ago, Stephen Ricks and John Tvedtnes presented a case for interpreting the Book of Mormon proper noun Zarahemla as a Hebraic construct meaning “seed of compassion” or “child of grace, pity, or compassion.” The authors theorized: It may be that the Mulekite leader was given that name because his ancestor had been rescued when the other sons of King Zedekiah were slain during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. [See Mosiah 25:2.] To subsequent Nephite generations, it may have even suggested the deliverance of their own ancestors from Jerusalem prior to its destruction or the anticipation of Christ’s coming.
Consider this picture: A sandy courtyard some- where on the outskirts of a desert village. A group of boys—ages perhaps 8 to 16—are gathered outside the entrance to a simple, well-worn little building. They are seated or kneeling in the sand, huddled in the last vestiges of the late morning shade. Each holds a text or a tablet. Some are reading, some are looking out to where the pale sky meets a broken line of housetops and trees, reciting, in a quiet murmur to themselves, the words of the book they are holding. Some gently rock back and forth as they read, letting the cadence of their movement compliment the rhythm of the words on the page. Others are writing on tablets of slate or wood. These writers are likewise engaged in the exercise of recitation, but with the pen, setting down line after line from memory. One boy uncrosses his legs, stands up, and steps toward a man who is seated on a little chair in front of the group. As the boy steps forward, his teacher rises and the boy presents his tablet to him. It is written front and back in neat lines of Arabic. Both the teacher and the boy are careful not to smudge the words on the slate. They are sacred words, revealed to a prophet named Muhammad long ago in Mecca, a town on the western edge of Arabia, toward which they have both been praying every day since they were very young.
Ten graduate and advanced undergraduate students selected from more than half a dozen institutions participated in the Mormon Scholars Foundation summer seminar held this past May and June under the auspices of the Maxwell Institute.
One of the issues that swirls around discus- sions of Book of Mormon geography is the rightful place the editorials in the 1842 Times and Seasons must take. The story of the editorials begins with Joseph’s receipt of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood’s Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chaipas, and Yucatan, published in 1841. In early 1842, the Times and Seasons published several enthu- siastic articles that drew attention to the discoveries of Stephens and Catherwood in Central America and compared them favorably with the Book of Mormon. Two of these articles were signed by the editor, while three other articles were unsigned. Historical sources indicate that the Prophet Joseph Smith served as editor of the paper for all of the issues published between March 1 through the October 15, 1842. During this time, however, apostles John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff assisted the Prophet in his work in the printing office. Since these articles were not specifically signed by Joseph Smith, some have questioned whether the Prophet wrote them himself, or if someone else wrote them, with or without his approval.
When the writer of the Gospel of Matthew listed the genealogy of Christ, he divided it into three sections, each containing 14 generations, to wit, Abraham to David, David to the Exile, and the Exile to Christ (Matthew 1:17; also 1–17). In order to do this he had to manipulate the names by leaving out several ancestors mentioned in the Old Testament. The reason Matthew thought it necessary to create this mathematical/genealogical fiction has never been explained adequately.
Insights Volume 31 (2011)
The Maxwell Institute makes every effort to keep most of the books we produce and publish, either on our own or with others, in print. At the same time, we face increasing costs to do this. Many of our recent books (and all of our periodicals) are available digitally, and we are working to ensure that our past titles will be available both digitally and in print. In the future our publications, includ- ing our periodicals, will come out in both formats.
Two new volumes in the Studies in the Book of Abraham series emphasize the Maxwell Institute’s continued interest in advancing research on the Book of Abraham and will offer scholars and others useful tools for their study.
Volume 2 (2010) of Studies in the Bible and Antiquity promises to be a significant contribution to the ongoing Latter-day Saint scholarly conversation on the Dead Sea Scrolls. This volume features essays from Donald W. Parry, Dana M. Pike, and Andrew C. Skinner, all of whom have served on the international team of editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls and have helped produce several of the 40 volumes in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series.
The birthplace and spiritual heart of Christian monasticism is the Nitrian Desert of Egypt and the long, shallow valley of Scetis (Wadi el-Natrun). It was to here, from the fourth century onwards, that Macarius the Great and others of the sainted desert fathers retreated from the world, devoting their lives to worship and prayer. While some monks chose to live in isolation as hermits, many others banded together to establish the first monasteries, building churches for worship and libraries for study.
The latest issue of the FARMS Review (volume 22, number 2), which appeared at the end of 2010, features a transcript of last year’s Neal A. Maxwell Lecture given by Mark H. Willes, president and CEO of Deseret Management Corporation. Willes illustrates the kind of creative thinking required for the LDS Church’s media outlets to eventually reach hundreds of millions of people worldwide. For a full report of this lecture, see Insights 30/2 (2010).
The tree of life, an ancient and richly evocative symbol found in sacred art, architecture, and literature throughout the world, is the intriguing subject of a new book published by the Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book: The Tree of Life: From Eden to Eternity, edited by BYU professors John W. Welch and Donald W. Parry.
Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: Electronic Library brings together a wealth of information and recent scholarship on Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible. The electronic library, produced by the Religious Studies Center and the Maxwell Institute, also includes high-resolution images of every page of the original manuscripts, images and transcriptions of the earliest copies made from those manuscripts, and a collection of recently published studies based on the manuscripts. A short introductory essay precedes each manuscript. This collection also includes the entire 851-page book Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts, edited by Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews.
All of us are familiar with puns, wordplays, and the fun such word games provide. Euphemisms, where an objectionable word is replaced by a less objectionable one, are a practical and sometimes amusing aspect of these word games. For example, in the nineteenth century and extending into the twentieth century, the word pregnant seems not to have been common in polite conversation. Instead, euphemisms such as “with child” or “in a family way” were used. I can remember my mother, in hushed conversations, rather than saying “pregnant,” would quietly declare, “She is PG.” This may explain why the large, white block letter on the mountain (a common occurrence in intermountain western states) above the city of Pleasant Grove, Utah, is simply “G” and not “PG.”
The Maxwell Institute sponsors a graduate fellowship program that gives financial aid to students pursuing advanced degrees in fields of special interest to the Institute. Named in honor of the late eminent Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh W. Nibley, this program fosters the next generation of faithful scholars by providing financial aid to students enrolled in accredited PhD programs in areas of study directly related to the work and mission of the Maxwell Institute. Of particular interest is work done on the Bible, the Book of Mormon and other restoration scriptures, early Christianity, and ancient temples.
Emerging from a 22-year tradition of penetrating scholarly reviews and essays is the new Mormon Studies Review. Formerly titled The FARMS Review, it sports a sleeker design and larger format and promises to survey a broader spectrum of topics. In his editor’s introduction, Daniel C. Peterson reprises the Review’s history and attainments during the past two decades. He notes how it will continue to defend LDS scripture and faith claims through the kind of “vigorous and learned discourse” tempered with satire and wit that has set it apart from the beginning.
The perspective of history can be sobering, even humbling. Not so recently, two men from the same faith tradition but different perspectives joined in a debate about whether and how a man whom they both acknowledged as a prophet could have seen what he said he saw and be who he claimed to be. As it unfolded, their discussion touched upon many aspects of what it means to have faith in such a person and in his revelations. The role of reason in relation to revelation, the relevance of history to faith, and the connection of language to perception were all explored. The power of poetry and other idioms of popular culture in establishing the credibility of one’s chosen narrative were on display. Their debate was not an isolated event; it was just one of many in an ongoing phenomenon of cultural and spiritual contestation and negotiation. And although the two men in this case lived eleven hundred years ago, that same process of debate that they engaged in is still under way in our own times and is very much a part of our cultural climate today.
This past summer Brigham Young University, in collaboration with the American Society of Papyrologists (ASP), hosted the Seventh International Papyrology Summer Institute (June 20– July 29, 2011). The ASP began hosting these institutes in 2003 and plans to continue through 2015. The objective of the seminar is to teach participants how to read and use papyri and to provide them with the kind of practical experience that would enable them to make productive use of papyrus texts in their own research. Fields of study include Classics, ancient history, Egyptology, archaeology, ancient religions, and biblical studies.
Videos of each lecture from the series “The Work of Hugh W. Nibley” are now available for viewing on the Maxwell Institute website. Speakers include Daniel C. Peterson, Richard L. Bushman, Robert L. Millet, Terry B. Ball, Ann Madsen, Eric D. Huntsman, Marilyn Arnold, Michael D. Rhodes, C. Wilfred Griggs, Alex Nibley, Zina Nibley Peterson, and William A. (Bert) Wilson. Bushman’s video begins with an introduction to the series and an overview of Nibley’s work by Paul Y. Hoskisson. The lectures celebrated the 100th anniversary of Nibley’s birth (27 March 1910).
Insights Volume 32 (2012)
I am sometimes contacted by people who are expe- riencing doubts about the claims of Mormonism or whose spouse or father or daughter has lost faith. I always ask what the specific issues might be, and I then try to address those or to locate colleagues or printed resources that might help resolve their concerns.
When I first began studying Book of Mormon proper names more than 30 years ago, the name Sebus appeared to present a Gordian knot. Hebrew words, like other Semitic words in gen- eral, are most often built on a structure of three different consonants. This language feature emphasizes the consonants and their sequence and order. The problem with Sebus is that its first and third consonants, /s/ and /s/, are the same— something that is extremely rare in any Semitic language. That being the case, for a long time I shelved any attempt to etymologize Sebus.
Each year the Maxwell Institute awards Nibley Fellowships to LDS students pursuing graduate degrees (usually PhDs) in fields of study directly related to the work of the Institute—primarily work on the Bible, the Book of Mormon, early Christianity, and the ancient Near East.
Testifying of the purifying power of Christ in an address entitled “Oh How Surely Christ Sanc tifies His Own,” Alan C. Ashton, cofounder of WordPerfect Corporation and Thanksgiving Point, gave the seventh annual Neal A. Maxwell Lecture on April 12, 2012.
Bountiful Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown compiles recent studies by two dozen scholars who respect Professor Brown and his scholar ship and whose own research in this Festschrift is worthy of its honoree. A recognized expert on early Christian literature and history and a past director of Ancient Studies at BYU, Brown has devoted his career not only to expanding the scholarly literature in his field but also to building the faith of believers through more popular works such as his literary/historical study of the Book of Mormon entitled From Jerusalem to Zarahemla and the seven-part TV documentary Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God.
Despite sporadic attempts to sideline the name Mormon in favor of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints,” it continues to be used as the most ubiquitous moniker for the Church. Members of the Church are known as “Mormons.” It appears in the title of the keystone publication of the Restoration, The Book of Mormon. Within the book bearing this name, Mormon is, firstof all, the name of the waters in the forest of Mormon (Mosiah 18:8; Alma 5:3) in the land of Mormon (Mosiah 18:30). Of course, Mormon is also the name of the military leader who abridged the Nephite records (Words of Mormon 1:1, 3; Mormon 1:1; 2:1).
For six weeks this past summer, eight scholars from all over the United States and from Eu- rope met daily in the Maxwell Institute library to discuss and research the topic “The Cultural History of the Gold Plates.” They were the lat- est rendition of a seminar that has met every summer since 1997 under the direction of Richard Bushman, with the aid of Terryl Givens and Claudia Bushman, to explore as- pects of Mormon culture.
In part 1 of my discussion of the name Mormon, I presented the evidence that Joseph Smith did not originally write the letter published over his signature in the 1843 Times and Seasons, but that he made some corrections to the letter William W. Phelps had composed and then gave his approval to have it published. I also mentioned the fact that B. H. Roberts left most of the letter out of his History of the Church because he believed the full letter was “based on inaccurate premises and was offensively pedantic.”
There are unpleasant topics, and then there are Unpleasant Topics. The latest volume to appear in the Medical Works of Moses Maimonides, On Hemorrhoids, seems the perfect occasion to modestly avert our attention from the actual subject of the book and consider instead the question of its reception. When referring to the reception history of an antique text, scholars have in mind the journey the text has taken. During its long life, what paths have a given text traveled, so to speak? By this we mean not just where has a given physical document turned up, but also where and by whom were the words and ideas it contained copied, translated, paraphrased, summarized, or argued with? Information was precious in the premodern age. The painstaking work required to hand copy or translate texts of any significant length ensured that only those writings that were in real demand received such attention.
The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship is continually striving to align its work with the academy’s highest objectives and standards, as befits an organized research unit at Brigham Young University. Our areas of en- deavor include the study of LDS scripture and other religious texts and related fields of reli- gious scholarship, including the burgeoning field of Mormon studies.
We are pleased to announce that we have recently hired Joseph Bonyata as our director of publication production. Joe started his career in book publishing at Fortress Press in Minneapolis, a leading publisher in biblical studies and theology. As managing editor at Fortress, Joe was responsible for over 60 new titles a year and oversaw the digital publication of the 55 volumes of Martin Luther’s Works, as well as a new translation of the foundational book of Lutheranism, The Book of Concord. Joe also headed the team that initially developed fortresspress.com. After Fortress, he published books on “planes, trains, and automobiles” at MBI Publishing in Minneapolis. Joe then served as director of editorial production for the New York trade publisher Perseus Books Group, overseeing the publication of over 200 new book titles a year.
The personal appearance of Jesus Christ as recorded in the book of 3 Nephi constitutes the narrative and spiritual climax of the Book of Mormon. Although the sacred account repeats and reinforces many of the Savior’s Old World teachings, many aspects of his New World ministry have no parallel elsewhere in scripture. In this light, Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture is a fitting title for a new book published by the Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book.
Dr. Kristian Heal has been appointed to serve as the Maxwell Institute’s new director of advancement (fundraising). He succeeds in this position Professor Daniel C. Peterson, who has elected to step down and return to full-time teaching as professor of Arabic and Islamic studies in BYU’s Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages. Professor Peterson will continue to serve as editor-in-chief of the Institute’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative series.
The Maxwell Institute is proud to sponsor a lec- ture series at Brigham Young University by Dr. Gerrit Bos, editor and translator of the Medical Works of Moses Maimonides and chair of the Martin-Buber-Institut at Cologne University.