Insights: An Ancient Window
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
The inaugural issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies is now available. The Journal is dedicated to the study of the text and the historical, cultural, and theological context of the Book of Mormon.
This first issue contains contributions on a wide range of subjects, including "Ancient Aspects of Nephite Kingship in the Book of Mormon," "When Lehi's Party Arrived, Did They Find Others in the Land?" "The Prophetic Laments of Samuel the Lamanite," "Legal Perspectives on the Slaying of Laban," "A Correlation of the Sidon River and the Lands of Manti and Zarahemla with the Southern End of the Rio Grijalva," "Economic Insights from the Book of Mormon," "Limhi in the Library," and "Boats, Beginnings, and Repetitions." In addition, several shorter "Notes and Communications" will also be included in the volume.
Beginning with volume two of the Journal, it will appear twice each year, once in the spring and again in the fall. Each issue of the Journal will be approximately 200 to 250 pages in length and will contain full-length articles as well as shorter notes and communications. The response to our first call for papers was gratifying, but we wish again to encourage those who have papers (of greater or lesser length) to submit them for possible inclusion in a forthcoming issue of the Journal. Consult the approved style found in the back of the first issue.
Volunteer efforts by Joel Clark and a donation by his employer, NuSkin International, have produced a video introduction to the Foundation. Under the Foundation's direction, Clark spent many hours interviewing and filming people involved in the work of F.A.R.M.S. They talk about their experiences and about what the Foundation stands for and attempts to accomplish.
This professionally filmed, edited, and produced video shows the many areas in which F.A.R.M.S. is making a contribution to Latter-day Saint understanding of the Book of Mormon and other ancient scripture.
This new video will help you introduce your friends to the goals and efforts of the Foundation. We often receive comments like "Why haven't I heard of F.A.R.M.S. before?" and "Why don't you tell more people about what you are doing?" We appreciate the desire of many of the Foundation's friends to see the Book of Mormon research produced by F.A.R.M.S. distributed as widely as possible. While large-scale advertising efforts are not feasible, news of the Foundation's work spreads surprisingly well through word-of-mouth, person-to-person contacts. We hope that this video will further help you spread the word.
Anyone who would like to show this video to friends who might be interested in F.A.R.M.S. can obtain a copy by using the online catalog or by calling the F.A.R.M.S. office.
The 1993 F.A.R.M.S. Annual Lecture will consist of a day-long series of presentations on "Temples in the Ancient World." It will be held on a Saturday late in February at Brigham Young University. Admission is free.
The Saints have always been a temple-building people. From the Kirtland Temple to the sacred structures of today, the Latter-day Saints have built temples wherever they have been.
This great concern for sacred houses of the Lord has been shared by the people of God in past dispensations as well. "What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world?" Joseph Smith asked. "The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby he could reveal unto his people the ordinances of his house and the glories of his kingdom" (History of the Church, 5:423-24).
The recent popularity of Hugh Nibley's Temple and Cosmos indicates that Latter-day Saints are vitally interested in temples. The presentations at this conference will build on and go beyond the discussions in Temple and Cosmos by dealing with temple ritual, symbolism, sacred space, temple architecture, sacral time, temple vestments, and the setting of the temple in the ancient state. Never has one conference contained so many original contributions by Mormon scholars to our understanding of ancient temples.
Presenters will include Hugh W. Nibley, John M. Lundquist, John A. Tvedtnes, John W. Welch, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, M. Catherine Thomas, Brian Hauglid, Michael Carter, Daniel B. McKinlay, and Jay A. Parry.
The presentations will be arranged into five sections. The first section deals with temples in the Hebrew Bible and in the ancient Near East. The papers will examine many aspects of those temples: what was shared by all temples in the ancient Near East; insights into how the creation story was used in the ritual of ancient temples in that region; the temple symbols that existed in the Garden of Eden (making it a prototypical temple); the connection between the temple and divine kingship, including the coronation and enthronement ceremonies; and evidence that temples were built when new governments were established.
Section two will look at the temple of Herod from the Jewish perspective. This is the temple known to Jesus, John the Baptist, the twelve apostles, and the early Saints. Papers will compare and contrast sacred and profane space; examine various grades of holiness, as established by the rabbis; discuss the role of the architecture of Herod's temple as it coincided with the social stratification of the Jews known to Jesus; and consider the extent to which prayer and orienting one's life toward the temple were familiar statutes of the era.
The third section of presentations will examine the temple in the Book of Mormon, including both explicit and implicit references made concerning the temple by the authors of the Book of Mormon. Aspects of the temple known to Nephi, the temple of Zarahemla, and the temple of Bountiful will be discussed.
Section four will deal with the temple in the New Testament, which contains numerous references to the temple of Herod and the temple in heaven. Temple esoterica, imagery, and symbolism are also hidden in the New Testament. For instance, Peter's epistles describe a number of aspects of the temple and paint images of the temple scene. The Revelator describes the structure of the temple in heaven and explains its significance to those who accept Christ.
The final section will examine a number of issues related to ancient temples. One paper, for example, will consider the use and symbolism of priestly clothing, while another will look at the meaning of reality, and its connections to the temple.
We hope you will plan to attend. These presentations should help Latter-day Saints gain a greater appreciation for the temples of old, and at the same time come to understand more fully the temples of today.
The opening words of the Book of Mormon, "I, Nephi" (1 Nephi 1:10), raise an interesting issue: Are the "personal names contained in the story . . . satisfactory for that period and region"?1 While an answer to that issue for all the names in the Book of Mormon still awaits investigation, we seem to be in a position to comment on the authenticity of the name Nephi.
Early in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 1:3), Nephi notes the connections between Egypt and Israel at his time, as well he should since his name may actually come from the Egyptian name Nfr. The pronunciation of Nfr would have been similar to the European (e.g., German or Spanish) pronunciation of Nephi, since in the fifth century B.C. in Egypt, the final r had fallen out of the pronunciation of nfr,2 and this remained the case in Coptic, where the form was noufi.3 The name Nephi was probably a Semitic form of the Egyptian name Nfr, such as the Phoenician or Aramaic NPY.
At least three Phoenician inscriptions from the fifth century B.C. discovered at Elephantine in Egypt contain the name of a certain KNPY.4 This, by itself, might be mere trivia but it becomes significant for the Book of Mormon name Nephi because of the discussion of the scholars on the name.
F. L. Benz compiled a list of the personal names in Phoenician inscriptions and their derivations. He saw the KNPY as the Phoenician form of the Egyptian name K3-nfr.w,5 which contains the name element nfr. This equation of the Phoenician and Egyptian names was later confirmed by G. Vittmann, who added that the Aramaic spellings KNWP' and QNPY were also related.6 The Aramaic KNWPY is also found.7 Vittman also noted that the name ªH4RNPY found in Aramaic inscriptions was probably an Aramaic form of the Egyptian ªnh-hr-nfr.8
Thus the name element NPY existed in both Phoenician and Aramaic, and this Semitic (i.e., Aramaic and Phoenician) name element NPY seems to be a transcription of the Egyptian name element nfr. The medial p in the Semitic form would be taken as a ph, so the vocalization of NPY as Nephi poses no problem.9
Nephi is an attested Syro-Palestinian Semitic form of an attested Egyptian name dating from the Late Period in Egypt. It is the proper form of a proper name from the proper place and proper time to appear in First Nephi.
1. Hugh W. Nibley, Lehi in the Deseret, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1988), 3, citing criteria put forward by W. F. Albright. Interestingly, the name Nephi is also found in the Apocrypha in 2 Maccabees. The Apocrypha was a part of the Smith family Bible, so it is possible that Joseph Smith was acquainted with the name from that source. The issue is not whether Joseph Smith could have known the name, but whether it is suitable for the time and place from which it claims to derive. The answer to the former is perhaps; the answer to the latter is decidedly yes.
2. G. Vittmann, "Zu den in den phönikischen Inschriften enthaltenen ägyptischen Personennamen," Göttinger Miszellen 113 (1989): 93. The Eyptian r was weak from the beginning; see Elmar Edel, Altägyptische Grammatik, 2 vols., volumes 34 and 39 of Analecta Orientalia (Rome: Pontificum Institutum Biblicum, 1955), §§ 127-28, 1:56; Walter Till, Koptische Grammatik (Leipzig: VEB, 1970), § 39, p. 48.
3. The southern dialects have noufe, the northern noufi; see Jaroslav C$erny,´ Coptic Etymological Dictionary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 116; Walter E. Crum, A Coptic Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon, 1939), 240; Wolhfart Westendorf, Koptisches Handwörterbuch (Heidelberg: Winter, 1977), 133.
Based on research by John Gee.
On November 20, 1992, at Stanford University's Kresge Auditorium in Palo Alto, California, Latter-day Saints will be represented at an Interfaith Conference entitled, "Unraveling the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls." This 3-hour conference starting at 7 p.m. will be filmed by the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network (VISN). An edited version of the conference will be presented as a one-hour special nationwide to a potential viewing audience of over 20 million.
Stephen D. Ricks, chairman of the F.A.R.M.S. board of directors and Associate Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages at BYU, has been selected to give one of the three presentations. His subject will be, "Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?" Along with High W. Nibley, he will also be interviewed by the network. The second presenter will be Norman Golb, an internationally recognized expert on Judaism in antiquity, from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Golb's subject will be, "The Freeing of the Scrolls, and its Aftermath." He will tell the story of why the scrolls have been kept from the public and scholars for over 40 years, and of his own participation in freeing the scrolls. He is currently writing a book on this subject.
Perhaps the most distinguished scholar on the panel is Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Professor Emeritus of the Catholic University of America and a member of the Jesuit Community at Georgetown University, whom Brother Nibley calls the "number one Catholic scholar in the nation." Fitzmyer has entitled his closing address, "The Dead Sea Scrolls and their Significance for the New Testament."
The moderator selected by the organizing committees is John W. Welch, Professor of Law and Editor of BYU Studies at Brigham Young University. He will lead a televised question-and-answer period after the speeches, taking questions from the audience.
Two long-time friends of F.A.R.M.S., Russell A. Peek and Mark L. Gringeri, have played major roles in organizing this conference.
The one-hour television special, which was approved by the 28 heads of the major religions represented by the VISN network, will be made from excerpts of conference, along with footage of the actual scrolls, Qumran, and other places significant to the scrolls. It will be aired sometime in the first-half of 1993, on your local VISN-ACT channel.
F.A.R.M.S. has obtained exclusive rights for the 3-hour conference. You will be able to order the entire proceedings on video during the first-half of 1993. If you wish to attend the filming of the conference, you may obtain tickets ($7 each) by mailing a check to:
South Bay Management Society
885 Santa Cruz Avenue, Suite B
Menlo Park, CA 94025-4629
Tickets may also be obtained on the order form or by calling F.A.R.M.S. at 1-800- FARMS15. Tickets are non-refundable.
"The question as to whether the civilizations of the American Indians evolved essentially independently or were importantly influenced by sea-borne visitors from the Old World long before Columbus has been called the most significant issue facing culture historians of the ancient Americas. "Further, this question is of fundamental importance to certain of our broader understandings of humanity: Are humans basically innovative, or do they, in the absence of outside stimulus, tend toward cultural inertia; and are similar environments and similar general challenges to humans responded to similarly worldwide because of supposed universally similar human psyches, thus obviating the need to invoke historical connections to explain similar cultures?"
Dr. Stephen Jett of the University of California Davis raised these issues during a forum assembly at BYU and looked at the kinds of evidence and arguments used to support—as well as challenge—the notion of pre-Columbian transoceanic connections. He examined several plausible cases for early and important influences of Asian and Mediterranean cultures on American ones, as well as indications of reciprocal influence for the New World to the Old.
Transcripts for Semester 3 of "Teachings of the Book of Mormon," Hugh Nibley's class now being broadcast on a number of cable and public TV stations, can now be obtained from FARMS.
Transcripts for Nibley's Pearl of Great Price class are also available on the order form. This transcript set, which is included with each set of videos and now may also be purachased separately, contains transcripts of all 26 Pearl of Great Price lectures. It also has an index of all important words used in the lectures, to help readers find subjects in the lectures, and a syllabus prepared by Stephen E. Robinson of BYU that contains an overview of each lecture and notes on persons, places, and concepts discussed in the lectures.
These transcripts allow access to two of Nibley's most-loved classes, without the difficulty of attending class or the expense of puchasing the videos. They have also proven valuable for those who wish to supplement their viewing of the videos.
The FARMS expedition to the Wadi Sayq has been postponed by the Omani government because of sensitive negotiations between Oman and Yemen that concern territory near Wadi Sayq. However, the Omanis seem interested in a scholarly study of the wadi, so we are optimistic that the expedition will be rescheduled for the first part of January.
FARMS would like to announce the cretion of an electronic discussion group for ancient studies and Mormon scripture called MORM-ANT (Mormonism and Antiquity.) This is a listerv mailing list rather than an electronic bulletin board; submissions will be forwarded as electronic mail to all participants in the group. The topics for discussion will be as wide-ranging as the interests of its participants, but generally reflecting the research goals and interests of FARMS.
The primary purpose of tis list is to provide a forum for serious academic discussion and exchange. It is, however, open to all person inside and outside academia who wish to engage in substantial discussion of topics relating to Mormonism and antiquity. We welcome input from Mormons and non-Mormons alike.
To subscribe, you must have e-mail access to bitnet or internet (which can be obtained through most university computing centers). Sent the following message to the electronic mail address, listserv@byuvm (on bitnet), or firstname.lastname@example.org (on internet):
leaving the "subject header" blank. If you have successfully subscribed, you will receive an acknowledgement from the computer at BYU. If you have any questions, contact William J. Hamblin by e-mail at hiswjg@byuvm.
More than 250 people enjoyed the annual FARMS banquet on October 17. Following dinner and reports on the past year's projects and the next year's plans, the highlights of the evening were a beautiful harp solo by Tamara Oswald of the Utah Symphony and remarks by Hugh Nibley.
Nibley's address was sprinkled with his distinctive wit, yet it was overall a sober and sobering reflection on the most important things, tinged with feelings about a colleague's funeral that he attended that afternoon.
He pointed out that only recently have scholars studying Egypt begun to appreciate Joseph Smith's grasp of that culture. For many years Egyptologists have gone to great lengths to dismiss religious ideas in their studies of the Egyptians, resisting any suggestion or evidence that the Egyptians really possessed and esoteric knowledge. Yet as Nibley pointed out, every Egyptian writing was in some sense a religious writing. Few people have been as dedicated as the Egyptians to finding an answer to the terrible question, "Is this all there is?"
In 1904 an English professor at BYU, Nels Lars Nelson, began publishing a little-known magazine entitled "The Mormon Point of View." Although his valiant effort was sustained only for four issues, Nelson was able to write and publish several eloquent and insightful articles.1
One of Nelson's nine articles was entitled "The Human Side of the Book of Mormon." Although written almost a century ago, it addresses topics that are probably as current today as at any other time in the twentieth century. It not only shows that the latest criticisms of the Book of Mormon have already been raised in generations past, but it also adds another thoughtful and spiritually sensitive response to the numerous modern testimonies of the truthfulness and goodness of the Book of Mormon.
A reprint of this article, with an introduction by John W. Welch, is available on the order form. The information here is exerpted from that introduction.
Nelson responds in this essay to a vitriolic criticism of the Book of Mormon published in 1887, the Reverend M.T. Lamb's "The Golden Bible." Lanb's attack was aimed at what he saw as 1 obvious grammatical infelicities and uneducated expressions found in the Book of Mormon, and 2 similarities between substantial passages in the Book of Mormon and the King James Version of the Bible that indicate plagiarism or inappropriate dependencies by the Book of Mormon on the Bible. These topics have become a storm center again in recent years.
Nelson addresses these issues by seeing human factors as well as divine elements involved in the translation process that produced the English text of the Book of Mormon.2 After years of research and consideration, the prevailing opinions today about Joseph Smith's means and methods of translating the Book of Mormon are remarkably close to the views advanced by Nelson.
For example, with respect to the similarities between the Bible and the Book of Mormon, he concludes that Joseph could not have read from the Bible when translating the Book of Mormon3, but that its passages "must be regarded as having come precisely from the rest of the matter." 4 Words from the King James Bible were obviously known to Joseph Smith, but Nelson suggests that these words and phrases were "melted down in the crucible of individual experience"5 as the translation process proceeded.
"It is not difficult to believe," Nelson concluded, "that Joseph's mind would without his knowledge retain whole chapters of the Bible, which would spring verbatim unto conciousness when brought into association with the thought (on the plates) that originally inspired them."6
Nelson's effort to involve appropriately both the human and the divine in the origins of the Book of Mormon is admirable. One of the great strengths of Mormonism is its ability not only to accomodate but to mandate the concurrence of the the human and the divine, of study and faith, of spirit and matter, of reason and revelation. Nelson's point of view may not always strike a balance between these two realms in a manner that pleases every reader, but his effort is highly commendable as he strives to give proper credit to the mortal without discounting the divine, and to see the matter both from man's point of view and also from God's.
His language is robust, and his sensitivities are keen. His synthesis is an interesting application of the fundamental Latter-day Saint tenet that "there is in (mankind) that which is co-eternal with the universe,"7 making it all the more possible for humans to work with God as "prisms through which the white light of infinite Truth (is) differentiated."8
Nelson offers a valuably reasoned testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the value of "the beatuy and symmetry of its inner truths to the soul that is earnestly seeking the way of life."9
2. Nelson gives a faithful account of the human elements in the translation process. It is interesting to contrast his views with the more recent efforts to focus on the human elements in the work of Joseph Smith; see Dan Vogel, ed., The Word of God (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991).
3. N. L. Nelson, "Human Side of the Book of Mormon," The Mormon Point of View 1 (1904), 126. For a more detailed treatment of this point, see John W. Welch, The Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon at the Temple (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1990), 130-39; Stephen D. Ricks, "Joseph Smith's Means and Methods of Translating the Book of Mormon," (Provo: F.A.R.M.S., 1983).