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Later this year, the Religious Studies Center will publish a volume called Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts, edited by Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews. To help readers understand the scope and purpose of this project, the Religious Educator held the following interview with two of the editors.
In most forms of Gnosticism secret oral tradition is often associated with accounts of the creation of the world, the experiences of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and the fall of man. It is usually in this creation setting or in a temple or on a mountaintop that Gnosticism places the revelation of the esoteric mysteries and the knowledge needed to thwart the archontic powers and return to God.
The Lord has told us that many things in the Apocrypha are true and many false. The fascination that apocryphal writings generally hold for Latter-day Saints was recognized in a 1983 BYU symposium on this topic addressed by fifteen scholars representing a wide range of expertise. Those addresses are collected in this book.
This study explores the influence of the King James Bible (KJV) on the Book of Mormon (BM) by examining how the BM appropriates and adapts the text of the J source of the Pentateuch-a narrative strand from Genesis to Deuteronomy-and weaves phrases, ideas, motifs, and characters into the text. I identify the full range of influence of the J source of the Pentateuch on the text of the BM in Part II, and then analyze the use of Gen. 2-4 in its own literary context, in ancient sources, and finally in the BM. Through close reading and analysis the study highlights the gaps between the meaning of Gen. 2-4 in its own literary context and the way that the BM interprets its themes and overall message. The BM employs a thoroughly 19th century American- Christian worldview in both its use of the J source and its interpretation of that important text. This study has important implications for BM studies broadly and for historical-critical studies of the BM in particular. Moving forward, BM studies will need to grapple with the heavy influence that the KJV had on the composition of the BM. Past studies have identified limited influence of the KJV on the text for several reasons, but whatever the reasons it is clear that there are specific ways to move the field forward. Studies have focused on the block quotations of Isaiah in the BM, and some have explored the use of Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi and other portions of the text. Unfortunately, there are very few studies that have attempted to broaden the scope and look at the influen ce of a larger section of the KJV and its more subtle uses throughout the entire BM It is my hope that this study can be a stepping-stone of sorts for future work. I have looked specifically at how the BM uses parts of Genesis through Deuteronomy, but this leaves the door open to exploring the influence of any and all of the other parts of the KJV and their influence on the text of the BM.
Originally presented as a talk given on 1 April 1980 at Brigham Young University.
A controversial examination of evolution and the Latter-day Saint view on creation and the various roles of Adam.
On two occasions while he worked on his New Translation of Genesis in 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith dictated to his scribe Oliver Cowdery a word combination that in English is awkward and umgrammatical, though in the Hebrew it is not: “Behold I.” The first occurrence reads, “Behold I am the Lord God Almighty.” The second reads, “Behold I send me.” Both passages are in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, but “Behold I” is not found in either of those passages today because, after the time of Joseph Smith, each was edited out of the text . .
Originally posted at https://faithpromotingrumor.com/2017/09/24/the-book-of-enoch-the-book-of-moses-and-the-question-of-availability/. Note that this blog post has since been removed without explanation, but was not disavowed by the author and was originally archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20181217192041/https://faithpromotingrumor.com/2017/09/24/the-book-of-enoch-thebook-of-moses-and-the-question-of-availability/ (accessed November 22, 2018). It seems that the archive.org version has now been removed, but the original article can now be found at: https://cdn.interpreterfoundation.org/ifarchive/Ben-Tov-Availability-of-1-Enoch-Cirillo-error-The-Book-of-Enoch-the-Book-of-Moses-and-the-Question-of-Availability-FAITH-PROMOTING-RUMOR.pdf.
This book is a study of the text of Selections from the Book of Moses, an excerpt of Genesis from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Commonly called the Book of Moses, it is the first section in the Pearl of Great Price, one of the standard works of scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Enoch Scroll of the texts from Qumran Library Cave 4 has provided parts in Aramaic among the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery between 1947 and 1956. Contents: Aramaic Book of Enoch, Astronomical Book, Book of Watchers, Book of Dreams, Book of Giants, Enochic Writings. NOTE: The Book of Enoch w/ Aramaic fragments from Milik, see The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, Florentino García Martínez, Eibert J.C. Tigchelaar, 1999
Abstract: In chapter 3 of the Gospel of John, Jesus described spiritual rebirth as consisting of two parts: being “born of water and of the spirit.”1 To this requirement of being “born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit,” Moses 6:59–60 adds that one must “be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; … For … by the blood ye are sanctified.”2 In this article, we will discuss the symbolism of water, spirit, and blood in scripture as they are actualized in the process of spiritual rebirth. We will highlight in particular the symbolic, salvific, interrelated, additive, retrospective, and anticipatory nature of these ordinances within the allusive and sometimes enigmatic descriptions of John 3 and Moses 6. Moses 6:51–68, with its dense infusion of temple themes, was revealed to the Prophet in December 1830, when the Church was in its infancy and more than a decade before the fulness of priesthood ordinances was made available to the Saints in Nauvoo. Our study of these chapters informs our closing perspective on the meaning of the sacrament, which is consistent with the recent re-emphasis of Church leaders that the “sacrament is a beautiful time to not just renew our baptismal covenants, but to commit to Him to renew all our covenants.”3 We discuss the relationship of the sacrament to the shewbread of Israelite temples, and its anticipation of the heavenly feast that will be enjoyed by those who have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ.
The essays in this volume address key aspects of Israelite religious development. Cross traces the continuities between early Israelite religion and the Canaanite culture from which it emerged; explores the tension between the mythic and the historical in Israel’s religious expression; and examines the reemergence of Canaanite mythic material in the apocalypticism of early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Biblical character Enoch is a central figure in early Jewish mystical literature, where his story is redolent with themes related to the concepts of transformation and communion with the Divine. This rich and mythic wisdom significantly influenced American Royal Arch Freemasonry, and through it, early Mormonism. This paper explores the shared aspects of these traditions: where they overlap, and specifically, where Mormonism may rely upon Freemasonry. The Enoch pseudepigrapha and their Masonic and Mormon iterations are presented as a series of related mystical traditions. Linked by common themes of theophany, grand assembly, and heavenly ascent, they are utilized in similar, yet innovative ways to impart spiritual truth to their followers.
The stories of the Grand Councils in Heaven, the Creation, the Fall, and the revelation of the Plan of Salvation to mankind are foundational to LDS doctrine. As it turns out, they are also the focus of a vast ancient literature by Jewish commentators, Islamic scholars, and early Christians, as well as the nexus of perennial controversies about science and religion.
The so-called Genesis Apocryphon (1Q20) from Qumran Cave 1 has suffered from decades of neglect, due in large part to its poor state of preservation. As part of a resurgent scholarly interest in the Apocryphon, and its prominent position among the Aramaic Dead Sea Scrolls, this volume presents a fresh transcription, translation, and exstenive textual notes drawing on close study of the original manuscript, all available photographs, and previous publications. In addition, a detailed analysis of columns 13-15 and their relation to the oft-cited parallel in the Book of Jubilees reveals a number of ways in which the two works differ, thereby highlighting several distinctive features of the Genesis Apocryphon. The result is a reliable text edition and a fuller understanding of the message conveyed by this fragmentary but fascinating retelling of Genesis.
Since their initial discovery in 1947, the ancient scrolls found in caves near the Dead Sea have stirred public curiosity. For Latter-day Saints, whose scriptural tradition speaks of sacred records to come forth in the last days, the Dead Sea Scrolls naturally give rise to questions such as:
— Are there references to Christ or Christianity in the scrolls?
— Do the scrolls contain scripture missing from the Bible?
— Is the plan of salvation attested in the scrolls?
— Do the scrolls refer to Joseph Smith or other latter-day figures?
The Dead Sea Scrolls: Questions and Responses for Latter-day Saints succinctly deals with these and other questions on topics of particular interest to LDS readers. These topics are based on actual questions that Latter-day Saints have asked the authors as they have taught classes at Brigham Young University, shared their research at professional symposia, and spoken in other settings.
Review of Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts.
Reprinted in Mormonism and Early Christianity, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley vol. 4, 45–99. Also reprinted in LDS Views on Early Christianity and Apocrypha: Articles from BYU Studies, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.
Draws upon a host of sources and shows certain parallels between an early Christian form of prayer and that of the Latter-day Saint prayer circle.
Originally published as an article in BYU Studies in 1978.
Draws upon a host of sources and shows certain parallels between an early Christian form of prayer and that of the Latter-day Saint prayer circle.
A practice that was eventually condemned by the church because of its Jewish affinities—being found, for example, in the Testaments of Abraham and Job and in the writings of Philo—the prayer circle has a long and complex history in Christian practice. This practice was considered one of the “ mysteries” and therefore was protected from all who weren’t initiated. For the initiated participants, this was a very sacred practice, which demanded unity between all those involved. The prayer circle, generally referred to as a “ dance,” often included hymns, prayers for the living and the dead, and gestures that would prepare the participants for heavenly visitations.
In this article, I will explore the notion of communal ascent to heaven in ancient Jewish and Christian literature and seek to answer the questions, Can an entire community ascend to heaven? and Do we see this theme in ancient texts, or is this a complete innovation on the part of Joseph Smith as he sought to unite his followers around an inspiring and unifying goal? To arrive at the answers to these questions, I will analyze a number of ancient Jewish and Christian religious texts that feature the ascent to heaven motif and suggest that not only did their authors envision an individual ascent, but they also imagined groups or communities raised up to the celestial realm.
Reprinted in Enoch the Prophet, Collected Works of Hugh Nibley vol. 2.
Discusses the book of Enoch and its relationship with the Pearl of Great Price.
Reprinted in Enoch the Prophet, Collected Works of Hugh Nibley vol. 2.
Discusses the book of Enoch and its relationship with the Pearl of Great Price.
In the Book of Moses, part of the Latter-day Saint scriptural canon known as the Pearl of Great Price, are what the Prophet Joseph Smith entitled “extracts from the prophecy of Enoch.” These scriptures, says the eminent Latter-day Saint scholar Hugh Nibley, “supply us with the most valuable control yet on the bona fides of the Prophet. . . . We are to test. . . . ‘How does it compare with records known to be authentic?’ The excerpts offer the nearest thing to a perfectly foolproof test—neat, clear-cut, and decisive—of Joseph Smith’s claim to inspiration.”
In Enoch the Prophet, Dr. Nibley examines and defends that claim by examining Joseph Smith’s translations in the context of recently discovered apocryphal sources.
This book contains a collection of various comparisons of the Enoch materials in the Book of Moses with the Slavonic and Ethiopic Enoch texts and other related materials and lore from antiquity, showing the possibility that Joseph Smith’s book of Enoch could be authentic ancient text.
One of the most prominent themes in the first eleven chapters of the Bible is a series of transgressions of boundaries that had been set up in the beginning to separate mankind from the dwelling place of God. This general thesis is useful as far as it goes. In the stories of the transgressions of Adam and Eve, of Cain, of Lamech, of the “sons of God” who married the “daughters of men,” and of the builders of the Tower of Babel, we cannot fail to observe the common thread of a God who places strict boundaries between the human and the divine. Surprisingly, however, a significant and opposite theme has been largely neglected by readers: namely, the fact that within some of these same chapters God is also portrayed as having sought to erase the divine-human boundary for a righteous few, drawing them into His very presence. The prime examples of this motif are, of course, Enoch and Noah, of whom it was explicitly said that they “walked with God.”
A series of handouts prepared in the fifties and early sixties for distribution to various audiences.
“Years ago, it was my custom to communicate to the General Authorities in an occasional brash and self-appointed newsletter (called a ‘G-2 Report’) items of interest dealing with new discoveries which I considered significant. My boldness was not ill-received.” —Quoting a letter from Nibley to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 2 October 1979.
The Garden of Eden pericope (Genesis 2-3) contains a number of powerful symbols that are related to and represent archetypal depictions of subsequent Israelite temple systems. In a cogent manner, the Garden of Eden, as it is referred to throughout the Bible, Pseudepigrapha, and rabbinic writings, served as the prototype, pattern, and/ or originator of subsequent Israelite temples, “a type of archetypal sanctuary.” The garden was not a sanctuary built of cedar or marble, for it is not necessary for a temple to possess an edifice or structure; but rather it was an area of sacred space made holy because God’s presence was found there. Mircea Eliade has stated that the Garden of Eden was the heavenly prototype of the temple, and the Book of Jubilees 3:19 adds that “the garden of Eden is the Holy of Holies, and the dwelling of the Lord.” This essay will examine these claims.
Since the beginnings of the Church, those who participated in the Restoration were commanded to keep a history. Latter-day Saints have an abiding interest in the history of God’s dealings with this earth. Similarly, we reverence the history in scripture because our faith is grounded in events that have taken place in the time and space of this earth. Historicity is the study of the authenticity of recorded past events. This significant compilation addresses the issue of historicity as it relates to the scriptures that Latter-day Saints accept as the word of God. With articles from Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Robert J. Matthews, Robert L. Millet, and more, this book provides an inspiring and more complete picture of the necessity for the historical nature of the Latter-day Saint canon.
While some may argue that gospel truth is separate from historical truth, the gospel cannot be true unless it is also historical. This means that events such as the Creation, Fall, Atonement, and Restoration all truly took place in an identifiable time and place, even if that time and place are not known to us. If these or any gospel events were not historically true, God could not render a righteous judgment on any person.
The issue of the historicity of the Book of Mormon highlights the difference between those who rely solely on scholarship and those who rely on revelation, faith, and scholarship. Those who rely solely on scholarship reject revelation and focus on a limited number of issues. But they can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon through their secular evidence and methods. On the other hand, those who rely on a combination of revelation, faith, and scholarship can see and understand all of the complex issues of the Book of Mormon record, and it is only through that combination that the question of the historicity of the Book of Mormon can be answered.
The book of Moses is the first of several documents in the collection of sacred writings published as the Pearl of Great Price. Although this material is currently labeled “Selections from the Book of Moses,” it was not always specified by that name, nor has the content of the material always been exactly as it is today. A quick look at its origin, development, and content can help us more fully appreciate what the book of Moses is, how it came to be, and why it is a unique witness for Jesus Christ.
This article explores the ancient Near Eastern ritu-als that endowed kings with this power, specifically the rites suggested by the Investiture Panel at the palace of Mari, with specific focus on the motifs of creation, sacred garden, and divine kingship. Because contemporary evidence at Mari relating to an interpretation of the panel and the functions of various rooms of the palace is limited, it will be necessary to rely in part on a careful comparative analysis of religious texts, images, and architecture throughout the ancient Near East, including the Old Testament. Comparative analysis not only has the benefit of increasing our understanding of ancient Mesopotamian religion but also can enrich our understanding of the Bible.
This chapter is adapted from a review of Douglas F. Salmon, “Parallelomania and the Study of Latter-day Scripture: Confirmation, Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious,“ Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 33, no. 2 (2000): 129–56. The article was originally published as William J. Hamblin and Gordon C. Thomasson, “Joseph or Jung? A Response to Douglas Salmon,“ FARMS Review of Books 13, no. 2 (2001): 87–107.
A review of an article written by Douglas F. Salmon.
During his lifetime, Joseph Smith revealed at least four versions of what I will refer to as the “Genesis account,” which consists of the creation of the world, the experiences of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and the events that befell them and their near posterity following the expulsion from the garden. These four versions each differ in important ways from the biblical text in Genesis, and they also differ one from another. The versions of the Genesis account include the following:
(1) scattered references found in the Book of Mormon;
(2) the biblical account as revised in the Book of Moses;
(3) the account in the Book of Abraham; and
(4) the version presented in the temple endowment.
I will focus on the second of these, the Book of Moses, especially chapters 1-7, which were revealed to Joseph Smith from June to December 1830. Many have already pointed out temple-related themes that abound in these chapters.
I will take these discoveries a step further, arguing that Moses 1-7 is fundamentally a ritual text whose elements are adapted to the physical features of the temple of Solomon. I will then discuss how this reading of the Book of Moses might interact with modern scholarship on the biblical book of Genesis, and ﬁnally how this reading of Moses can provide insight into ritual performances both ancient and modern
Ten prominent Church scholars presented at the symposium on the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Their in-depth study of the Joseph Smith Translation and related scriptures clarifies the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and show how Joseph Smith restored many plain and precious truths to that holy book. This volume brings together those addresses, illuminating this inspired translation as perhaps no other book had done.
In 1828, the H. and E. Phinney Company in Cooperstown, New York, published a quarto-size edition of the King James Bible. This is the version that Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, used in his work when he created a new translation of the Bible. Here the author examines Joseph Smith’s marked-up copy of the Phinney Bible as an artifact important to Mormonism’some of Smith’s corrections and additions appear in footnotes of the Bible that Mormons use today. The author notes that the Phinney Bible’s updated language is more modern than the version of the Bible Latter-day Saints officially use (the King James), and the modernization may or may not have influenced Joseph Smith’s word choice in creating his translation. The author also gives biographical information on the Phinneys, describes how their Bible may have made its way into Joseph Smith’s hands, briefly traces the history of the English Bible in America, and describes the printing process employed by the Phinneys.
Several approaches to interpreting Joseph Smith’s use of the so-called Jewish and Christian apocryphal literature have been employed both by critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter LDS), and by those professing faith in the Church and whose interests may be classified as apologetic. These approaches span the range of being probative of Joseph Smith’s restoration of lost texts and scripture and being dismissive of Mormonism generally, because its sacred religious texts are founded on flagrant plagiarism of apocryphal literature. Before one can answer the most important historical question at hand, how Joseph Smith used the Apocrypha and what relationship that body of literature had to early Mormon writings, it seems prudent to first of all establish some controls on the discussion. This is necessary because previous discussions have largely contented themselves with drawing out parallels between apocryphal writings and early Mormon publications without any discussion of whether or not Joseph Smith had access to the texts under discussion. Moreover, a wide variety of modern translations of ancient apocryphal texts are often employed when there is no possible way that someone living in the early nineteenth century could have known them. This is particularly important when citing phrases or words that Joseph Smith might have incorporated into the language of his revelations.
The latter-day restoration of the gospel included the restoration of much significant truth to the Bible. It brought about the restoration of biblical history that had been lost and the restoration of biblical texts that had been changed or omitted or were in need of clarification. More important, it included the restoration of biblical doctrine that had been either removed, distorted, or simply misinterpreted by a world that did not enjoy the fulness of the gospel.
Shortly after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint was organized, the Prophet Joseph Smith was instructed by the Lord to undertake a careful reading of the Bible to revise and make corrections in accordance with the inspiration that he would receive. The result was a work of profound significance for the Church that included the revelation of many important truths and the restoration of many of the “precious things” that the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi had foretold would be taken from the Bible (1 Ne. 13:23–29). In June 1830 the first revealed addition to the Bible was set to writing. Over the next three years, the Prophet made changes, additions, and corrections as were given him by divine inspiration while he filled his calling to provide a more correct translation for the Church. Collectively, these are called the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), a name first applied in the 1970s, or the New Translation, as Joseph Smith and others in his day referred to it.
With the recent publication of David Bokovoy’s Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy, many have wondered to what extent the Bible has had influence on the Book of Moses. The discussion has mainly revolved around the parts of the text that are obvious revisions of the Genesis creation chapters (Genesis 1, 2-3) that originate from different Israelite sources written centuries after the time of Moses. In response to and in order to make a contribution toward further understanding this topic I will look closely at the full text of the Book of Moses in the original manuscripts (as presented in BYU’s RSC publications) and locate the places of intertextuality. I will present the Book of Moses on a chapter by chapter basis until I arrive at the end, and after this is complete I will offer some thoughts on to what extent the KJV influenced the composition of the Book of Moses. This will take time for each of these posts to come out, and I hope that in the meantime others will utilize the work here to discuss the topic. My approach in these posts is based on my much larger project of locating textual dependence throughout the Book of Mormon on the King James Bible, a manuscript that will be published by Greg Kofford Books.
Traditional Christianity struggled for many years to define its canon, to determine which of its writings were sacred, inspired, and authoritative. The Latter-day Saint concept of canon differs from that of other Christians. In addition to the Bible, the Latter-day Saint canon includes the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These “standard works” provide a measuring rod by which we can judge other texts and statements. But while we have a canon, we nevertheless believe that God continues to make known His will through the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—men we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. Inspired by the Holy Ghost, their decisions are to be made in unity (D&C 107:27). We as Church members also need the Holy Ghost in order to recognize scriptural power in their words, and we can be comforted in the Lord’s promise that the President of the Church will never lead us astray.
During the early 1970s, a practical need arose for a Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Bible. As explained by George A. Horton Jr., director of curriculum production and distribution for the Church Educational System, three different Bibles were in circulation among Church members—one for adults, one for seminary students, and one for Primary children. Not only did this system create an element of chaos, but it also increased costs.  About this time, the Spirit of the Lord seemed to be hovering over several people in various organizations within the Church. Two of these people were Horton and his colleague Grant E. Barton, who was then serving as a member of the newly formed Meetinghouse Library Committee.  Horton and Barton were neighbors who carpooled together to the Church Office Building, using the occasion to discuss a desire to have one Bible as well as teaching aids for an LDS edition.  Barton, Horton, and another colleague decided to survey various organizations of the Church to help them decide “what the ideal characteristics/features would be of the ideal Bible that would be used by all.”
In this article, I will suggest how the LDS story of Enoch might be understood as the culminating episode in a temple text cycle woven through the book of Moses. I will begin by giving a brief summary of “temple theology” and what is meant by the term “temple text.” Distinctive aspects of LDS temple teachings will be outlined. I will then outline how the book of Moses reflects elements of temple architecture, furnishings, and ritual in the story of the Creation and the Fall. Like other scripture-based temple texts, the general structure of the second half of the book of Moses follows a pattern exemplifying faithfulness and unfaithfulness to a specific sequence of covenants that is familiar to members of the LDS Church who have received the temple endowment. I argue that the story of Enoch and his people provides a vivid demonstration of the final steps on the path that leads back to God and up to exaltation.
Abstract: The character and complexion of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible (JST) is often a puzzle to students and scholars. One text in particular, the first chapter of the Book of Moses, claims that its very words would be lost and later restored to the believing. As this bold claim has not yet been verified by the discovery of an ancient copy of this text, clues to the antiquity of this document will need to be discovered within the text itself. This study investigates Moses 1 with the tools of biblical and literary criticism to discover if the text has the characteristics and content of an ancient religious document.
In this paper I intend to deal primarily with the element of deception in the production and employment of apocryphal literature, particularly as it is revealed by the devices of pseudonymity and pseudepigraphy. I am defining pseudonymity here as an author’s intentional adoption of another persona, not merely as a pen name but as an assumed identity. Thus the Testament of Solomon is pseudonymous because the author has clearly adopted the persona of Solomon and speaks, as Solomon, in the first person. On the other hand, Huckleberry Finn would not be pseudonymous by my definition even though Samuel Clemens used the nom de plume Mark Twain, because Clemens did not adopt a persona other than his own; that is, we may assume that Clemens did not return royalty checks made out to Mark Twain, but rather cashed them unashamedly. Sam Clemens was Mark Twain, and there was no real possibility of confusing one person for the other.
The idea of names as “keywords” has been associated with temples since very early times. In a temple context, the meaning of the term “keyword” can be taken quite literally: the use of the appropriate keyword or keywords by a qualified worshipper “unlocks” each one of a successive series of gates, thus providing access to specific, secured areas of the sacred space. In this presentation, we will explore how a series of names and titles purportedly given to Moses at various points in his life might relate to accounts of his ascents to heaven.
First, I want to deal with the figure of the Son of Man in ancient literature, reviewing along the way what current biblical scholarship says about this personality, especially since he is mentioned prominently in nonscriptural sources. Second, I intend to treat the question of the anthropomorphic view of God in scripture, specifically in the Old Testament. Third, I wish to touch on the issue of the nature of the titles used for deity throughout scripture, for we all have the impression that a great many are applied to God, especially within the pages of the Old Testament. Fourth and last, I want to single out the parallels in ancient Christian and Jewish literature to the remarkable, almost singular theological position to which we Latter-day Saints are committed when we call deity a Man, whether Man of Holiness, Man of Counsel (Moses 7:35), or some similar title.
Pointed social commentary concerning the state of the natural environment.
One of the intriguing things about religious texts is how long of a life and how long of an afterlife they have. Once a text becomes a part of a “canon,” once it becomes in a way fixed, it becomes open to further discussion and elaboration. Different groups and religious traditions create different genres of interpretation to work with and understand their scriptures according to the needs of their traditions. One form of interpretation involves reopening the Bible and expanding on the narrative of the already canonized text, such as is found in the rabbinic genre of midrash and in Joseph Smith’s New Translation (JST) of the Bible.
Philip L. Barlow offers an in-depth analysis of the approaches taken to the Bible by major Mormon leaders, from its beginnings to the present. He shows that Mormon attitudes toward the Bible comprise an extraordinary mix of conservative, liberal, and radical ingredients: an almost fundamentalist adherence to the King James Version co-exists with belief in the possibility of new revelation and surprising ideas about the limits of human language. Barlow’s exploration takes important steps toward unraveling the mystery of this quintessential American religious phenomenon. This updated edition of Mormons and the Bible includes an extended bibliography and a new preface, casting Joseph Smith’s mission into a new frame and treating evolutions in Mormonism’s biblical usage in recent decades.
We invite all to inquire into the wonder of what God has said since biblical times and is saying even now.
There is a striking example of a “narrative” type call in the prophetic commission of Enoch in Moses 6:23–36. This study considers the elements of the narrative call pattern; those elements of this form found in the prophetic commission of Enoch are examined and compared with the biblical narrative call passages.
Key historical events in the scriptures require historicity to give substance to our faith. Since the Enlightenment, however, some scholars have proclaimed that the scriptures lack historicity. In the face of these doubts, some have argued that historicity is not necessary for belief. Latter-day Saints should be wary of the misleading arguments of critics and of simplistic solutions to those arguments.
In November 2004 the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University published a facsimile transcription of all the original manuscripts of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.  I was privileged to be one of the editors of the project and worked with those manuscripts in preparing the publication. A facsimile transcription seeks to reproduce in print—as much as is humanly and typographically possible—the writing found on a handwritten document. Thus the transcription includes the writers’ original spelling, grammar, punctuation, line endings, omissions, errors, insertions, and deletions. The purpose of the publication is to provide scholars and lay readers with an accurate reproduction of the text as found on Joseph Smith’s original manuscripts. Its importance is in the fact that those documents had never been made public before but were stored in archives that were only available for study to a limited number of researchers.
Some believe that historicity and inerrancy in scripture are the same. By this argument, when a portion of scripture is found to have errors, the entire record is considered neither historical nor accurate. However, nothing in this imperfect world is inerrant, and although the authors of the scriptural records were prophets and called of God to write their portion of the scriptures, they were not perfect—no one is. So although the authors were not inerrant, their writings are nonetheless historical. By academic standards the scriptures fulfill all the criteria for historically accurate records. With the human errors accounted for, the scriptures are reliable historically and accurate in their testimony of the doctrines of the gospel and the mission of Jesus Christ.
The Apocalypse of Abraham, a pseudepigraphon only extant in a fourteenth century Old Church Slavonic manuscript, has not received much attention from scholars of Ancient Judaism, due in part to a lack of readily available information regarding the history and transmission of the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha. This dissertation examines the historical context of these works with the aim of assessing the probability that they contain ancient Jewish material. The rest of the dissertation is focused on the Apocalypse of Abraham specifically, discussing its date and provenance, original language, probability that it comes from Essene circles, textual unity, and Christian interpolations. This includes treatments of the issue of free will, determinism, and predestination in the Apocalypse of Abraham as well as the methodological complexities in trying to distinguish between early Jewish and Christian works. It also provides an in-depth comparison of the Apocalypse of Abraham with 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch and takes up the question of the social setting for these texts based on relevant precedents set by recent scholars of midrash who seek to probe the “socio-cultural and historical situatedness” of midrashic texts. This discussion includes a survey of parallels between the content of the Apocalypse of Abraham and rabbinic literature to support the argument that a sharp distinction between apocalyptic ideas and what later became rabbinic tradition did not exist in the time between 70 and 135 C.E. Overall, this dissertation argues that the Apocalypse of Abraham is an early Jewish document written during the decades following the destruction of the Second Temple. While seeking to warn its readers of the dangers of idolatry in light of the apocalyptic judgment still to come, it also provides sustained exegesis of Genesis 15, which gives cohesion to the entire document.
A discussion of the Book of Enoch as extracts of “The Writings of Moses.”
This exciting and penetrating comparison of the Joseph Smith book of Enoch, with four known variant manuscripts of that ancient work, provides yet another evidence of the Prophet’s inspiration and the scope of his vision in the great work of the Restoration.
This follows the idea that Enoch had great cosmological visions.
The deliberate wickedness of the people at Enoch’s time created a moral turbulence that was reflected in chaotic nature, such as earthquakes.
In this installment, Brother Nibley first concludes his discussion of the veil, then uses scriptural sources from the book of Moses and nonscriptural accounts by apochryphal writers of texts not available to Joseph Smith to give us an intriguing image of Enoch’s holy city.
A discussion of the translation of the Dead Sea Scroll book of Enoch.
With the October 1975 issue, the Ensign began a series on the book of Enoch authored by Hugh Nibley. As Part 1 recounts, early Christian writers knew and respected the book of Enoch, but biblical scholars neglected it in scorn after the excitement of the Reformation was over. However, James Bruce, exploring the sources of the Nile in 1773, brought back three copies. Part 2 describes the critical response—or lack of it—to these documents and then turns to examining the four versions of the book of Enoch against which Joseph Smith’s writing must be judged.
This section of the examination of Enoch compared Joseph Smith’s book of Enoch step-by-step with four main classes of documents, commonly designated as the following: I Enoch (the Ethiopic texts, beginning with the three brought to England by Bruce in 1773), II Enoch (also called the Secrets of Enoch in Old Slavonic), III Enoch (Enoch texts in Greek), and scattered Hebrew and Aramaic Enoch fragments. Since these are to serve as checks on the reliability of the Prophet Joseph, the qualifications of each should be briefly considered.
Discusses how Christian Enoch’s writings are.
Suggests that what is written on earth is written in heaven and discusses how that comes into play with writing spiritual matters that the Lord has commanded be written.
The Improvement Era was an official magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between 1897 and 1970.
A study of the book of Enoch as a recording of sacred matters.
Suggests parallels to Moses 1, which lie far beyond the reach of coincidence or daydreaming. The number of details and the order in which they occur make it perfectly clear that we are dealing with specific works of great antiquity which come from a common source. To show what they mean, they compare Moses’s, Abraham’s, and Adam’s confrontations with Satan.
The purpose of these articles is to (1) call attention to some of the long-ignored aspects of the Joseph Smith account of Enoch in the book of Moses and in the Inspired Version of Genesis and (2) provide at the same time some of the evidence that establishes the authenticity of that remarkable text. Contemporary learning offered few checks to the imagination of Joseph Smith; the enthusiasm of his followers presented none.
Addresses the dangers of oversimplifying the scriptures and attempts to look at the Book of Mormon without such oversimplification.
Reprinted in Old Testament and Related Studies, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 1. 87–114.
An address given at the BYU Women’s Conference, 1 February 1980.
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pas the immortality and eternal life of man.” This profound doctrinal statement is one of many contained in the Pearl of Great Price, the smallest of the standard works and the last to be canonized. Studying that scripture in depth adds immensely to our understanding of the Lord’s eternal plan. Comprising addresses delivered at a symposium on the Pearl of Great Price, this book combines the insights and testimonies of thirteen gospel scholars. All things were created to bear witness of God. As here shown, the Pearl of Great Price does that in many ways.
The more we are acquainted with the life and ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the more evident it becomes that Elder John Taylor did not overstate reality when he said that “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it” (D&C 135:3). This passage goes on to specify that it was the abundance of revelation and scripture given Joseph Smith that particularly qualified him for such a lofty epithet.
An essay published posthumously in which England wrestles with what he believed to be a disturbing trend in Mormonism away from what he saw as Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s doctrine of God as a personal being engaged with us in a tragic universe not of his own making and toward a more absolutistic God similar to the teachings about deity held by Evangelical Christianity.
This book comprises fourteen of the papers presented at “Chiasmus: An Open Conference on the State of the Art,” held at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, on August 15–16, 2017. That date marked the fiftieth anniversary of events in Germany and Austria which soon grew into the publication of Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis (Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1981), edited by John W. Welch. Generated forty years ago, that widely-cited volume with a preface by David Noel Freedman featured contributions by authors including Yehuda T. Radday, Jonah Frankel, Bezael Porten, Wilford G. E. Watson, John W. Welch, and Robert F. Smith, about chiasmus in Ugaritic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and other literatures.
Since 1996, researchers from Brigham Young University—with the assistance of new photographs, scanned images, and much hands-on examination of the documents—have been engaged in a careful study of the text written on the original manuscripts of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. The work has yielded the publication of a large facsimile transcription of all the original manuscript pages and much new information about how Joseph Smith prepared the text. Among the many new discoveries resulting from this research is an enhanced understanding of the sequence and chronology of the Prophet’s work.
Referring to ancient and long-lost scripture that Joseph Smith restored, Wilford Woodruff declared it to be part of “the rich treasures that are revealed unto us in the last days.” One such treasure is Moses chapter 1, a scriptural jewel we have hardly begun to appreciate but whose luster has become more apparent in light of various ancient texts and traditions that have emerged since Joseph Smith’s day. So striking are the parallels as to recall Joseph’s own prophecy that “the world will prove Joseph Smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence.”
The Pearl of Great Price is a book of scripture, and the Lord will bless you as you carefully read and ponder the sacred words found therein. This student manual provides statements and commentary to support and enhance your study of the Pearl of Great Price.
As historians engage with literary texts, they should ask a few important questions. What is the text that I am using in my research? What is the manuscript tradition from which the manuscript or text evolved? How does that evolution inform the specific period I am studying? Did it evolve orally or in written form? And are there variations that have been handed down through time and through tradition that may provide greater context or clarity to my research? Implicit in these questions is an interest in authenticity and accuracy. As literary texts evolve and are shared over time, there are multiple factors that may lead a text away from its earliest forms, such as when a narrative is orally transmitted over multiple generations and then recorded in writing or when a manuscript is repeatedly copied by hand and errors are introduced into the text. The attempt to ascertain the earliest forms of a text is known as textual criticism. This branch of scholarship started in earnest at the beginning of the European Renaissance from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, and led to the European Enlightenment of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In this article I will argue that scholars of Mormon history have not yet taken advantage of the historical insights that textual criticism has to offer, as a means of persuading the academic community to embrace this important methodology.
The colonists living in the new United States after the American War for Independence were faced with the problem of forming new identities once they could no longer recognize themselves, collectively or individually, as subjects of Great Britain. After the French Revolution American politicians began to weed out the more radical political elements of the newly formed United States, particularly by painting one of the revolution’s biggest defenders, Thomas Paine, as unworthy of the attention he received during the American War for Independence, and fear ran throughout the states that an anarchic revolution like the French Revolution could bring the downfall of the nation. State, local, and regional organizations sprang up to fight Jacobinism, the legendary secret group of murderers and anarchists that fought against the French government.
This distressing situation gave rise to new literature that sought to describe the “real” origins and background of Jacobinism in the War in Heaven and in Eden, and a new movement against Jacobinism was established. Fears about the organization of secret societies did not wane in the decades after the French Revolution, but worsened in the last half of the 1820s when a Freemason, William Morgan, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in connection to an exposé of Masonry he had written. Most Americans assumed that Freemasons had abducted and murdered Morgan in order to keep their oaths and rites secret.
One influential early American who was influenced by this socio-historical was Joseph Smith, Jr., the founding prophet of Mormonism. Smith interpreted the Eden narrative in light of the movement against secret societies, and literary motifs common to anti-Jacobin literature during the period provided language and interpretive strategies for understanding the Eden narrative that would influence how Smith produced his new scripture. Only a few months after the publication of the Book of Mormon Smith edited the version of Eden found there into the text of the Bible itself and made the biblical narrative conform to the version found in the Book of Mormon through his own revisions and additions.
In 1979, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published its edition of the King James Version of the Bible. The Scriptures Publication Committee decided to include portions of the Joseph Smith Translation in the new edition. For the first time, Latter-day Saints had access to Joseph’s inspired work in their own personal scriptures. Many Latter-day Saints may be unaware that the efforts to include the JST material in the new edition of the Bible were pioneered by Robert J. Matthews, former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University. Beginning in 1953, Brother Matthews began a letter-writing campaign to the RLDS Church (now called the Community of Christ), requesting permission to study the original JST manuscripts. Through his sustained efforts, the RLDS Church gave Brother Matthews permission to examine the manuscripts.
In Temple and Cosmos, Brother Nibley explains the relationship of the House of the Lord to the cosmos. In Temple, the first part of the volume, he focuses on the nature, meaning, and history of the temple, discussing such topics as sacred vestments, the circle and the square, and the symbolism of the temple and its ordinances. In the second part, Cosmos, he discusses the cosmic context of the temple-the expanding gospel, apocryphal writings, religion and history, the genesis of the written word, cultural diversity in the universal church, and the terrible questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? and Where are we going?
This lecture was originally accompanied by slides. It was circulated in two different editions in 1986 and 1987 and was available in a much expanded version, including illustrations, in 1988.
The First Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposium was held on 9 November 2013 with a focus on the topics of Cosmos, Earth, and Man. In this volume of expanded proceedings from this event, readers will enjoy concise and colorful summaries of the state-of-the-art in research relating to these topics and will gain a deeper appreciation of the unique contributions of LDS doctrine to the ongoing conversation.
Today the modernist view of history in which texts only represent events is so predominant that most Latter-day Saints automatically apply it to the question of scriptural historicity. Unfortunately, historical scholarship rarely lines up with our understanding of scripture as well as we would like. Problems arise when we use modernist tools to examine scripture written by premoderns, who considered their writing not as mere representation but as incarnation—an embodiment of the symbolic ordering of the world. The premodernist reading of the scriptures more accurately reflects Latter-day Saint beliefs: whereas modernism would use reason to understand history (and thus the Divine in history, i.e., scripture), premodernism uses divinely revealed scripture as well as ritual, ritual objects, and ritual language to give order to history. Instead of examining scripture as just another element of history, premoderns consider scripture to be the defining element in history.
The historicity of scripture is important to most Christians and especially to Latter-day Saints.  Christians disagree among themselves about how to understand scriptural history, but few deny that, in some important sense, Christian scripture is historical. However, given the challenges to scriptural history, challenges that are especially strong for Latter-day Saints who take the Book of Mormon to be historical, what are we to make of the claim that scriptures are history? Given those challenges, is it possible to understand scripture as literal history? The answer to that question—positive, I will argue—lies in answering the question of what we mean by history.
Abstract: Authors of two recent articles believe they have found evidence that Joseph Smith, in preparing his revision of the Bible, drew ideas from a contemporary Bible commentary by British scholar Adam Clarke. The evidence, however, does not bear out this claim. I believe that none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means. The authors do not look at their examples within the broader context of the revisions Joseph Smith made to the Bible, and thus they misinterpret them. Some of the revisions they attribute to Clarke are ones that Joseph Smith had made repeatedly before he arrived at the passages where they believe he got ideas from Clarke. In addition, there is a mountain of material in Clarke that is not reflected in the Joseph Smith Translation, and there is a mountain of material in the Joseph Smith Translation that cannot be explained by reference to Clarke. The few overlaps that do exist are vague, superficial, and coincidental.
Reprinted in Enoch the Prophet, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 2. 91–301.
A discussion of the worldview and scenario of the Hopis. Editor’s note: With the October 1975 issue, the Ensign began a series on the book of Enoch authored by Hugh Nibley. As Part 1 recounts, early Christian writers knew and respected the book of Enoch, but biblical scholars neglected it in scorn after the excitement of the Reformation was over. However, James Bruce, exploring the sources of the Nile in 1773, brought back three copies. Part 2 describes the critical response—or lack of it—to these documents and then turns to examining the four versions of the book of Enoch against which Joseph Smith’s writing must be judged.
The essays in this volume, including four on today’s world, were selected by a panel of Hugh Nibley’s colleagues. They are singular in their penetration, their originality, and their vitality. Reaching from the apocalyptic visions of original “treasures in heaven” down to the climax of history, they are more than mind-stretching. The delight of Nibley’s brilliant and sometimes biting prose style imparts a sense of the agelessness of what he calls the “three-act play” of human existence. Written specially for this book, the author’s own “intellectual autobiography,” together with his introductory paragraphs for the various chapters, complete the work of making the book a fitting and permanent record of one of the past outstanding historians
Ever since the days of the Prophet Joseph, presidents of the Church have appealed to the Saints to be magnanimous and forbearing toward all of God’s creatures. But in the great West, where everything was up for grabs, it was more than human nature could endure to be left out of the great grabbing game, especially when one happened to get there first, as the Mormons often did. One morning, just a week after we had moved into our house on Seventh North, as I was leaving for work, I found a group of shouting, arm-waving boys gathered around the big fir tree in the front yard. They had sticks and stones, and in a state of high excitement were fiercely attacking the lowest branches of the tree, which hung to the ground. Why? I asked. There was a quail in the tree, they said in breathless zeal, a quail! Of course, said I, what is wrong with that? But don’t you see, it is a live quail? A wild one! So they just had to kill it. They were on their way to the old B. Y. High School and were Boy Scouts. Does this story surprise you? What surprised me was when I later went to Chicago and saw squirrels running around the city parks in broad daylight; they would not last a day in Provo. Like Varro’s patrician friends, we have taught our children by precept and example that every living thing exists to be converted into cash, and that whatever would not yield a return should be quickly exterminated to make way for creatures that do. (We have referred to this elsewhere as the Mahan Principle; Moses 5:31.) I have heard influential Latter-day Saints express this philosophy. The earth is our enemy, I was taught does it not bring forth noxious weeds to afflict and torment man? And who cared if his allergies were the result of the Fall, man’s own doing? But one thing worried me: if God were to despise all things beneath Him, as we do, where would that leave us? Inquiring about today, one discovers that many Latter-day Saints feel that the time has come to put an end to the killing.
Deeply valuable symbolism is thoroughly embedded in two of Jesus’ parables, both of which begin, “A certain man had two sons.” The more famous of these two is commonly called parable of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15. The less often mentioned can be called the parable of the willing and unwilling two sons, found in Matthew 21. Even people who have written much and taught profoundly about the parables of Jesus have rarely had much to say about this brief text, which is nevertheless freighted with significantly authoritative cargo. In explicating this lesser-known of the two-sons parables, I hope to honor and recognize Robert L. Millet for his consummate willingness to do the will of the Father and to go down this day to work in his vineyard, wherever the needs may be found.
What does the Book of Enoch say or not say about the temple, and to which Book of Enoch do I refer? Is it the text called 1 Enoch, or the one known as 2 Enoch, or the so-called 3 Enoch? And all of them discuss or, better, visualize the temple. I restrict myself here to 1 Enoch.
The book of Moses is an ideal starting point for a scripture-based study of temple themes. It is well known, for example, that the LDS temple endowment, like the book of Moses, includes includes the stories of Creation and of Adam and Eve. What is more rarely appreciated, however, is that the relationship between scripture and temple teachings goes two ways. Not only have many of the stories of the book of Moses been included in the endowment, but also, in striking abundance, themes echoing temple architecture, furnishings, ordinances, and covenants have been deeply woven into the text of the book of Moses itself.
After all these years, it comes as a surprise for me to learn that the book of Moses appeared in the same year as the publication of the Book of Mormon, the first chapter being delivered in the very month of its publication. And it is a totally different kind of book, in another style, from another world. It puts to rest the silly arguments about who really wrote the Book of Mormon, for whoever produced the book of Moses would have been even a greater genius. That first chapter is a composition of unsurpassed magnificence. And we have all overlooked it completely.
One thing that has always perplexed readers of Genesis is the location of the two special trees within the Garden of Eden. Although scripture initially applies the phrase “in the midst” only to the tree of life (Genesis 2:9), the tree of knowledge is later said by Eve to be located there too (see Genesis 3:3). In the context of these verses, the Hebrew phrase corresponding to “in the midst” literally means “in the center.” How can both trees be in the center?
The seventh chapter of the Book of Moses portrays Enoch’s vision of the history and future of the world within a specific literary framework. The text, coming from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, outlines three periods of time: (1) the days of Noah, (2) the meridian of time, and (3) the last days. The portrayal of each of these time periods contains five similar characteristics. Szink also compares this text with accounts in the Bible and other nonbiblical sources to further understand the vision and the significance of its framework. By presenting the three periods in a literary art form, the author has created a complex beauty that reflects and reinforces the content of the vision.
This study presents the basic Latter-day Saint beliefs about the Bible and documents the relationship between these beliefs and the approach and results of historical biblical criticism. Latter-day Saints believe the Bible is the word of God but do not believe it is inerrant or sufficient and thus is supplemented by other revealed ancient texts—most notably the Book of Mormon. Latter-day Saints believe in the pursuit of truth through “study and faith” and are thus not opposed to intellectual examination of scripture. In fact LDS scholars selectively use biblical critical methods in defending of their scripture. At the same time Mormons are defensive about the historicity of the Bible and the Book of Mormon—and thus find themselves with a tradition of conflict with the results of modern biblical criticism that challenge these assumptions. A growing number of LDS scholars in the church who are trained in the historical critical approach to scripture has resulted in renewed discussions and studies about the relationship between faith and scholarship. These discussions are enhanced by a greater openness in the church regarding the critical study of its history, and the results of this approach have also generated biblical and Book of Mormon studies relating to historical critical issues.
An essay published posthumously in which England wrestles with what he believed to be a disturbing trend in Mormonism away from what he saw as Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s doctrine of God as a personal being engaged withus in a tragic universe not of his own making and toward a more absolutistic God similar to the teachings about deity held by Evangelical Christianity.
These comments by Nibley are excerpted from a FARMS videocassette entitled “The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Era Dawns.”
It contains material recorded in connection with a National Interfaith Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 20 November 1992 in the Kresge Auditorium of Stanford University.
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. The 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.”
Review of Colby Townsend, “Returning to the Sources: Integrating Textual Criticism in the Study of Early Mormon Texts and History,” Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies 10, no. 1 (2019): 55–85, https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/imwjournal/vol10/iss1/6/.
Abstract: In the present article, Part 2 of 2 of a set of articles supporting Colby Townsend’s efforts to raise awareness of the importance of textual criticism, we focus on his argument that Joseph Smith created the Book of Moses names Mahijah and Mahujah after seeing a table of name variants in the Hebrew text of Genesis 4:18 in a Bible commentary written by Adam Clarke. While we are not averse in principle to the general possibility that Joseph Smith may have relied on study aids as part of his translation of the Bible, we discuss why in this case such a conjecture raises more questions than it answers. We argue that a common ancient source for Mahujah and Mahijah in the Book of Moses and similar names in the Bible and an ancient Dead Sea Scrolls Enoch text named the Book of Giants cannot be ruled out. More broadly, we reiterate and expand upon arguments we have made elsewhere that the short and fragmentary Book of Giants, a work not discovered until 1948, contains much more dense and generally more pertinent resemblances to Moses 6‒7 than the much longer 1 Enoch, the only ancient Enoch text outside the Bible that was published and translated into English in Joseph Smith’s lifetime.
While the first chapter of the book of Moses is often understood as introductory to the rest of the book, the chapter itself is an inclusive text centering on Moses’s transformation through three separate encounters with supernatural beings. In each encounter he is taught something of the meaning of truth and experiences the power that the comprehension of truth brings. His example is particularly instructive in light of the doctrine that “truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24).
When I was invited to participate in this symposium on the subject of apocryphal literature, my first inclination was to decline. This was a conference for experts trained in the biblical languages. But after some reflection, I changed my mind because I think there is a place for variety, and there might even be an advantage in having a paper from a nonlinguistic point of view. And so, although I do not know Greek or Hebrew, I have had considerable exposure to Church history, and I am familiar with the formation of several books of scripture and non-scripture. This is especially true as pertaining to the books that are used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereinafter labeled the LDS Church) and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (hereinafter called the RLDS Church). And I think there are some parallels between the development of books in the Church anciently and development of books in the Church in modern times.
Scriptures are by nature preserved in words. Words alone, however, cannot contain the full reality of the worlds they represent. As sacred texts, our scriptures are overwhelmingly historical, presenting factual accounts of things that happened in time and space. But because they are written, scriptures are also inherently textual, possessing literary qualities that contribute to their witness. The aim of the writing of sacred history is different from that of history writing in general, because scripture seeks to bear testimony while it seeks to preserve events. To read the record without feeling the testimony is to misread. To be understood properly, scripture requires both the companionship of the Holy Ghost and a keen sensitivity to the inspired objectives of the author. Often those objectives are not seen fully without reading the scripture as sacred literature as well as history.