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Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses

2021 Program and Abstracts

Friday April 23, 7:00 pm MT: Keynote Session

 

Session Chair
Matthew J. Grow

Opening Prayer (Cherry Silver)

Mormon, Moses, and the Representation of Reality
Richard L. Bushman

Closing Prayer (David Seely)

 

 

Saturday April 24, 8:30 am: Main Session

 

Morning Session Chair: Kristine W. Frederickson (BYU, The Interpreter Foundation)
8:30-8:35 Welcome (Kristine W. Frederickson)
Opening Prayer (Shirley Ricks)
Introduction (Kristine W. Frederickson)
8:35-9:15 Kent P. Jackson (BYU emeritus)
How We Got the Joseph Smith Translation, the Book of Moses, and Joseph Smith—Matthew
9:15-9:55 Kerry Muhlestein (BYU Ancient Scripture)
The Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Moses: An Outpouring of Revelations and the Beginning of Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible
9:55–10:35 David R. Seely (BYU Ancient Scripture)
The Book of Moses: Exploring the World IN the Text
10:35–10:45 Break
10:45–11:25 Stanford A. Carmack (Independent Scholar)
Book of Moses English: A Comparison of Grammatical Usage Found in Old Testament Revision 1
11:25–12:05 Avram Shannon (BYU Ancient Scripture)
The Bible Before and After: Interpretation and Translation in Antiquity and the Book of Moses
12:05–12:45 Lunch break
 
Afternoon Session Chair: Jo Ann H. Seely (BYU)
12:45–1:25 David Calabro (Saint John’s University)
An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses
1:25-2:05 S. Kent Brown (BYU emeritus) and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (Independent Scholar)
Man and Son of Man: Probing Theology and Christology in the Book of Moses and in Jewish and Christian Tradition
2:05–2:45 Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (Independent Scholar)
Moses 6–7 and the Book of Giants: Remarkable Witnesses of Enoch’s Ministry
2:45–3:00 Break
3:00-3:40 Jonathon Riley (Independent Scholar)
Archaism or Translation Technique?: Hebraisms in the Book of Moses
3:40-4:20 Stephen O. Smoot (Independent Scholar)
“I Am a Son of God”: Moses’ Prophetic Call and Ascent into the Divine Council
Closing Prayer (Kirk Magleby)
 
Additional Papers to Appear in the Published Conference Proceedings
David R. Seely (BYU Ancient Scripture)
“We Believe the Bible to Be the Word of God, as Far as It Is Translated Correctly”: Latter-day Saints and Historical Biblical Criticism
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (Independent Scholar) and Matthew L. Bowen (BYU–H Religious Education),
“‘Made Stronger than Many Waters”: The Purported Sacred Names of Moses as a Series of Keywords”

 

Conference Organizers

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw
David R. Seely
John W. Welch
Scott Gordon

 

Conference Technical Team

Samuel Bradshaw
Trevor Holyoak
Robert Starling
Zander Sturgill
Stephen T. Whitlock

 

 

Abstracts

 

Moses 6–7 and the Book of Giants: Remarkable Witnesses of Enoch’s Ministry
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

The Book of Giants (BG), an Enoch text found in 1948 among the Dead Sea Scrolls, includes a treasure trove of stories about the ancient prophet and his contemporaries, including unique elements relevant to the Book of Moses Enoch account. Hugh Nibley was the first to discover in it a rare name that corresponds to the only named character in the Book of Moses besides Enoch himself, a finding that some non-Latter-day Saint Enoch scholars considered significant. Since Nibley’s passing, the appearance of new scholarship on the BG has continued unabated. For example, it was recently noticed that a fragment of one version of the BG describes how those who had been converted by Enoch’s preaching were separated from the wicked and gathered to “cities” that are said to have been divinely prepared for them, echoing some elements of the Book of Moses account of Enoch’s city of Zion. In this presentation, I will summarize evidence for Mesopotamian influences in BG. I will argue that tentative clues about the geography, peoples, and cultures in BG square with those one would expect from a study of Moses 6–7. Next, I will describe and compare the cast of characters in the Enoch accounts of the Book of Moses and BG. Then, I will compare narrative elements in the Book of Moses that correspond to material found in BG. Finally, I will summarize our findings and suggest directions for further research.

“‘Made Stronger than Many Waters”: The Purported Sacred Names of Moses as a Series of Keywords”
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (Independent Scholar) and Matthew L. Bowen (BYU–H Religious Education)

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.

Man and Son of Man: Probing Theology and Christology in the Book of Moses and in Jewish and Christian Tradition
S. Kent Brown and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Pushing upward toward the sun emerges the Son of Man as a divinely-driven, honorific title. Not surprisingly, it leaves an intriguing, visible trail across a wide spectrum of ancient literature. In this light, we first want to show that the equivalent of each of the seemingly Christian titles mentioned within the Enoch account of the Book of Moses (Moses 6:57) — Only Begotten, Son of Man, Jesus Christ, and Righteous Judge — is also described in the pre-Christian Similitudes of Enoch and other Jewish traditions. Second, we discuss the figure of the Son of Man in ancient literature, reviewing in more depth what current biblical scholarship says about this personality, especially since he is mentioned prominently in non-scriptural sources. Third, we treat the question of the anthropomorphic view of God in scripture, specifically in the Old Testament. Fourth, we 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. Fifth and last, we 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. At the same time, we will flesh out the implications of this statement for the exaltation of Enoch and other mortal beings.

Mormon, Moses, and the Representation of Reality
Richard L. Bushman

In this presentation, I will borrow a critical perspective from Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. The talk will analyze the representation of antiquity in two of Joseph Smith’s striking translations, The Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses. The two texts, produced within a few years of one another, created distinctive stages on which to dramatize the human-God relationship. The question will be: What can we learn from this comparison about God, prophets, and human destiny?

An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses
David Calabro

In an earlier study, I argued that the Book of Moses is a ritual text adapted to the architecture of the Temple of Solomon. This study further explores the ancient context of the Book of Moses. In contrast to my previous study, I argue that the Book of Moses was an early Christian text. Its language, literary genre, and references to its own production could fit with a date in the late first century AD. Further, I argue that a possible ritual context of the book was a baptismal ritual, as suggested by the detailed description of Adam’s baptism in Moses 6. A comparison between the content of the Book of Moses and early Christian sources on baptism shows some close resemblances, which may suggest that the Book of Moses was read aloud, and perhaps portrayed as a ritual drama, on sacred space during a baptismal ritual.

Book of Moses English: A Comparison of Grammatical Usage Found in Old Testament Revision 1
Stanford A. Carmack

About 72 percent of the language of the Book of Moses is original, independent of Genesis language (nearly 8,900 words). In this preliminary linguistic analysis, I investigate quite a few syntactic and lexical features, comparing usage to that of the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, pseudobiblical texts, Joseph Smith’s own native preferences, and the greater textual record. Aspects of the nonstandard grammar are considered as well.

How We Got the Joseph Smith Translation, the Book of Moses, and Joseph Smith—Matthew
Kent P. Jackson

Many Latter-day Saints are unaware of the origin of “Selections from the Book of Moses,” one of the books in the Pearl of Great Price. In short, it consists of the beginning pages of the book of Genesis in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, containing the account of some visions of Moses followed by the Prophet’s translation of Genesis 1:1–6:13. This paper introduces the Joseph Smith Translation and tells how this selection from Genesis made its way into the standard works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Moses: An Outpouring of Revelations and the Beginning of Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible
Kerry Muhlestein

We often think of the Book of Moses as one set of revelations given to Joseph Smith, and the Doctrine and Covenants as a different set. In reality, they were eventually divided into these categories but the Prophet and the Saints experienced them as one continuous flow of revelations that interacted with each other. This steady stream of revelations affected the Church’s understanding of beautiful and impactful doctrines. We understand the doctrinal development of the Church best when we see how various revelations built one upon another. In particular, an understanding of what it meant to be a prophet, of the Fall, and of Zion were doctrines that developed as the translation of the Bible and other revelations and events built upon each other.

Archaism or Translation Technique?: Hebraisms in the Book of Moses
Jonathon Riley

One of the most difficult elements of working with the Joseph Smith Translation is determining which portions of it are ancient and which are not. Although there are many ways to determine whether a text is ancient or not, one way to determine this is based on the style of the text. At times, the style of the Book of Moses seems to be a translation out of an ancient semitic language because it is quoting the bible, which is a translation from an ancient semitic language. However, a careful examination of the style of the Book of Moses reveals times when the Book of Moses demonstrates elements of Hebraic style, or “Hebraisms” that are not found in the King James translation of the Bible. This paper will give 1) examples of Hebraisms such as the the “if…and” construction, found in Hebrew but not in the King James Bible, 2) Hebrew phrases translated differently in the Book of Moses than in the King James, 3) examples of tight chiasms that are uncommon in English texts, and 4) elements of the text that make better sense when one knows Hebrew rather than just English.

The Book of Moses: Exploring the World IN the Text
David R. Seely

Based on the works of theorists like Hans-Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricouer there has emerged a model of hermeneutics based on the exploration of the three worlds of the text: the world BEHIIND the text which is the history and culture from which the text emerged; the world OF the text—how the text presents its story, the characters and action in the narrative and the structure and form of the text; and the world IN FRONT of the text which is the world in which the reader interprets the text and decides how to proceed. Much study has been done in all three of these areas, but I do not know of an extensive review and exploration of the World OF the text in terms of how the Book of Moses presents is story and message including its formal and structural characteristics, its narrative strategies and character description, and its rhetorical features. This study will explore the Book of Moses with a close reading of the text applying some of the methods of literary criticism including rhetorical, genre, and narrative criticism to better define the literary features and enhance the power of the narratives that are part of the World OF the Text of the Book of Moses.

“We Believe the Bible to Be the Word of God, as Far as It Is Translated Correctly”: Latter-day Saints and Historical Biblical Criticism
David R. Seely

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 tradi- tion of conflict with the results of modern biblical criti- cism that challenge these assumptions. A growing number of LDS scholars in the church who are trained in the histor- ical 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.

The Bible Before and After: Interpretation and Translation in Antiquity and the Book of Moses
Avram Shannon

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Book of Moses, an extract from Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the biblical book of Genesis, is an important part of the revealed scriptures of the Restoration. As a revelatory expansion of the first few chapters of Genesis, reading and interpreting the Book of Moses can bring with it many of the questions related to the Book of Genesis, including questions raised by historical critical or source critical methodologies. There is value in these discussions, but critical methodologies have sometimes been used to push against the Book of Moses. In this paper I propose that this stance is not a necessity with regard to the Book of Moses. As I have previously argued, the Book of Moses (and Joseph’s translational output in general) is sometimes erroneously compared with the ancient Jewish literature of Midrash and Targum. Although much of this comparison is rooted in anti-Semitic conceptions of biblical interpretation, in this paper I suggest that there is value in exploring the approach of the Targum and the Midrashim to the difficulties of the biblical text that gave rise to historical criticism and applying that to the reading of the Book of Moses. In the end, like the ancient Jewish texts, the JST is more concerned with what the text means to Latter-day Saints than its specific compositional history.

“I Am a Son of God”: Moses’ Prophetic Call and Ascent into the Divine Council
Stephen O. Smoot

The first chapter of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price depicts how the prophet Moses ascended a high mountain in vision and became divinized as member of God’s divine council. This widely recognized ancient biblical motif (that of a prophet being called into God’s presence, divinized, and commissioned to be his spokesman) grounds the opening narrative of the Book of Moses in the ancient world and provides an illuminating context by which readers of the text can better appreciate its profound message.

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