Insights: An Ancient Window
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies is pleased to announce the creation of the Hugh W. Nibley Fellowship and to make awards to the first recipients of the fellowship, John Gee and Gaye Strathearn. The fellowship has been made possible by generous donations from FARMS supporters who share our desire to honor Brother Nibley for his enormous contributions to ancient research. Additional donations are welcome.
The fellowship will be used to support advanced-degree-seeking students whose work promises to contribute to our understanding of ancient scripture. Both of the first two recipients are currently pursuing studies for the Ph.D. Gaye Strathearn is a doctoral student in New Testament at the Claremont Graduate School in her last year of course work. She has taught part-time at BYU for the departments of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Ancient Scripture. She is a member of the board of editors for the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Strathearn has published papers on Paul and Abraham and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Her current research focuses on the historical development of the bridal chamber in Valentinian Gnosticism and on 4Q521 and its relationship to the Sayings Gospel Q.
John Gee is a doctoral candidate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University. He has completed his course work and is working on his dissertation. Gee earned his M.A. in Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He has contributed to a number of FARMS publications, including the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, and The Allegory of the Olive Tree. He has taught in BYU's Department of Ancient Scripture and at the Berkeley Institute of Religion. His current research focuses on Egyptian magical papyri and on ritual purity and impurity in ancient Egypt.
The Nibley Fellowship will also be used to support ancient research in other ways. Grants may be given to support postdoctoral research or research by established scholars or by independent researchers not in the academic system. Cash awards may be given to recognize and encourage outstanding articles, books, or long-term achievements. The fellowship is administered by the FARMS board of directors. Details about how to apply for future awards will be published later.
BYU Studies has just published a 128-page bibliography on the New Testament. It will help students of the scriptures study the New Testament more thoroughly and will help teachers of the New Testament select materials to support their teaching and find answers to their students' questions. "We Rejoice in Christ": A Bibliography of LDS Writings on Jesus Christ and the New Testament offers a comprehensive annotated list of all publications by Latter-day Saints on the New Testament.
"We Rejoice in Christ" lists more than a thousand articles and books on many significant topics, such as archaeology, baptism, Christology, childhood, Church organization, domestic life, foreordination, festivals, genealogy, Herod, the Holy Ghost, John the Baptist, Jewish sectarians, Mary, miracles, New Testament scholarship, ordinances, parables, Passion week, Paul, post-resurrection appearances, resurrection, the Sermon on the Mount, the setting of scenes, symbols, transfiguration, teaching techniques, temptations, women, and worship. There is also an author index to help you find materials written by favorite authors.
By leading you to the scholarship and perspectives of Latter-day Saint authors, this bibliography makes a great tool to assist your study of the New Testament this year, in connection with the Church's Gospel Doctrine curriculum.
By special arrangement with BYU Studies, we are able to offer this fine bibliography to FARMS readers at a discount of nearly 30%. Order your copy by filling out the enclosed order form.
Joseph Smith is said, in 1842, to have "quoted with approval from the pulpit reports of certain Toltec jegends which would make it appear that those people had come originally from the Near East in the time of Moses"; he did not connect the purported migration at all to the Book of Mormon.1
Many traditions existed in Mesoamerica that told of ancestors of the native peoples, or at least of part of them, coming from across the ocean.2 For instance, the "Títulos de los Señores de Totonicapán," signed in 1554 by dignitaries of the Quiché Maya Indians of highland Guatemala, said, "the three nations of Quiches . . . came from where the sun rises, descendants of Israel."3
Interpreters of this document have commonly supposed that the Indians had inserted a Bible tradition about "Israel" that they had picked up from the Spaniards. (The process by which such a cultural intrusion might have taken place in the first generation after the Conquest, and why anyone would put the notion into a legally important native document, is never clear in this speculation.)
One possible source for Joseph Smith's comment can now be identified. A nineteenth-century Guatemalan historian, Domingo Juarros, published in 1809 an obscure work in Spanish that was translated into English and issued in 1823 in London as A Statistical and Commercial History of the Kingdom of Guatemala. Even if Joseph never saw this book, he may have come across a later newspaper piece based upon it.
Juarros said he had access to manuscripts held in families descended from Quichean royalty at the time of the Spaniards' arrival. Those were documents apart from the famous Totonicapán title or from the Popol Vuh. The manuscripts stated that their ancestors, said to be Toltecs, had descended "from the house of Israel." They were said to have escaped under Moses from captivity in Egypt, but being confirmed idolaters, they chose to separate from him and his brethren. At length, the story goes, they reached Mexico where they founded the famed city of Tula.
The chief who commanded and conducted this multitude from one continent to the other was named Tanub. From him, it was claimed, sprang the Toltec kings of Tula. Two of the manuscripts relate that "thirteen armies" left the old continent, headed by as many principal families, all related.
Tanub's fifth successor led them from Mexico to Guatemala. There the kingdom was divided into three nations (the Quichés, Cakchiquels, and Tzutuhils), which the manuscripts said took place on "a day marked by three suns being visible at the same time," an incident that induced some Spaniards to think it was on the day of the Savior's birth, "as it is commonly asserted such a phenomenon then occurred."
When the Quiché king heard by private ambassador from his Aztec kinsman Moctezuma, then a prisoner, that white men had overcome his nation and planned to conquer the Quiché, the Quiché priests prognosticated coming disaster, based on the splitting in two of a divining stone that their forefathers had brought from Egypt and that they worshipped as a god.
How, if at all, this tradition might relate to the Book of Mormon we do not know, but clearly certain Indian groups came to the conclusion that their ancestors were connected to the biblical history that they were learning from their conquerors, even at the risk of being considered descendants of idolaters. That they simply concocted the notion of a transoceanic connection is hard to believe.
Based on research by John L. Sorenson
The first three presentations of 1995 at the FARMS brown bag seminar (held every other week at BYU) reported on research in progress on topics as diverse as errors in the transmission of the biblical text of Samuel, the Egyptian roots for Hebrew religious terminology, and a hierarchy of settlements in the Book of Mormon.
On 18 January Don Parry discussed his work on scroll 4QSamuel, in particular some examples of how this Dead Sea Scroll text differs from other texts of 1 Samuel. In some instances a word or phrase found in another text is missing from 4QSamuel; in other instances 4QSamuel has a word or phrase (and in one case an entire verse) not found in any other text; in still other instances 4QSamuel agrees with one or more texts in their differences with another text.
Parry discussed how further study may reveal the significance of such differences for our understanding of the transmission of this and other biblical texts.
John Sorenson (1 Feb.) examined what Nephite writers meant by such terms as city, town, and land and the ways that these writers referred to levels of settlement and geographic areas or divisions of the land. He pointed out that there are at least nine levels of discourse about areas, ranging from references to the promised land (and by implication to land beyond the promised land) to the smallest division mentioned in the reference in Alma 20:30 to the brethren of Ammon being driven "from house to house, and from place to place."
Among the implications and conclusions that stem from Sorenson's findings are that most administrative functions in Nephite society, both civil and religious, centered in cities; that the Nephite lands were divided into quarters, just as were most settlements in both the Near East and Mesoamerica, and each quarter appears to have been governed by a great city; and that some areas seem not to have been settled or settleable enough to warrant being under the administration of a city.John Tvedtnes (15 Feb.) argued that many of the terms used for Jewish cultic paraphernalia are not Semitic but in fact come from Egypt. One of the most interesting examples he discussed was the case of the Urim and Thummim. If these words are borrowings from Egyptian, they probably come from words that mean "do" and "don't." This accords with the fact that most questions posed for the Urim and Thummim in the Bible could be answered yes or no, leading to the possibility that as used by the priest of Aaron, the Urim and Thummim was primarily a means of receiving yes/no answers or of casting lots, with no translating functions. An interesting question that should receive further study is how this relates to Abraham's Urim and Thummim.
Some 800 members of the Arcadia and Pasadena (California) stakes sat engrossed at a FARMS-sponsored fireside on 20 January 1995 as speaker Truman Madsen presented three questions about temple worship and the Atonement. First, if you knew that Christ himself was to minister unto you in the nearby temple, would you be there? Second, if you knew you could receive at the hands of the Savior a kind of patriarchal blessing for the rightful use of your human talents, would you be there? Third, how much will you give to receive God's all?
In addressing these questions, Madsen said that the officiators at the temple act "as proxy for Christ in the temple," so the ordinances we receive in the temple are from divine hands. He taught that we achieve perfect harmony through partaking of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by attending the temple and receiving its ordinances and covenants. Madsen assured listeners that "God promises to fill his temple with power"---a power that strengthens us, as we saw in the life of President Howard W. Hunter, who was an exemplar of "the refinement that can come to a soul who returns often to that holy house."
What did early Church members think about the end of the world and the ushering in of the Millennium? In The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism (University of Illinois Press), Grant Underwood examines how profoundly influenced the Church was by the view of an imminent second coming of Christ and millennial transformation of the earth. What makes this book of interest to FARMS readers is its detailed exploration of early Latter-day Saint understandings of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Underwood examines various millennial schools of thought and how their definitions were associated, often erroneously, with Mormon doctrine and religious practices.
Richard Bushman calls The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism "a major monograph on a central theme in early Mormon history. Underwood not only locates Mormon views of the millennium in the broad context of Christian history, but presents evidence from early Mormon history that will surprise many readers." It is a careful and informative addition to the scholarly study of LDS thought.
You may order a copy at a discount through FARMS.
Wilfred Griggs of the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU has been given authorization to examine a set of over 150 papyri found years ago layered underground in some stone enclosures near an ancient temple in western Fayum, Egypt. The discoverers, unable to read the ancient language(s) of the writer(s), simply put the treasure in storage. The papyri are believed to be from the first through the fourth centuries and written in Greek, with possibly some Coptic.
Because of his training in ancient languages, and the confidence of Egyptian authorities he has gained through his work in Egypt, Griggs has been invited to translate, edit, and publish the papyri. Griggs first learned of the papyri from the Egyptian inspector who was assigned by the government to monitor the activities of Griggs's archeological team---and who led the team that discovered the papyri. Griggs then began the process of getting permission from the Egyptian government to examine the papyri, which he received in January.
BYU photographer Mark Philbrick will photograph the papyri this spring while Griggs directs an excavation of a pyramid in eastern Fayum. Then, upon returning to the United States, Griggs will study and organize the photographs so he can begin the translation process. He has determined, from the very brief examination of the papyri that he has been allowed so far, that the writings may contain correspondence, inventories, and business transactions.
"Anytime (we find) a cache of ancient writings and can bring them to the attention of scholars and the public in general, we are advancing our understanding of the history of people from whatever time period or geographical location those writings represent," said Griggs of this opportunity. "It's just another piece of a big puzzle. . . . (It is) a glimpse into something in that period of time relating to the way people lived, what they thought, what was important to them, how they conducted themselves, maybe what they believed. These are all aspects of the past that make people come to life. . . . And that's really important."
Griggs appreciates his fortune to be the one selected for this project, because it is the "fond dream" of anyone trained in the study of ancient languages to gain access to a document that has yet to be published or even read in modern times. He says, "All of the things that needed to happen together to make this one opportunity occur happened. . . . I don't think I'm going to do this all by myself, so it will be an opportunity for people to work together, whoever will work with me and share with me in this project."
Watch for updates on this exciting new development in the study of ancient cultures.
Imagine yourself as one of Jesus' disciples standing with him at the very moment when he fashions the whip and drives the money changers from the temple. My Father's House begins with this captivating scene, drawing the reader in with fascinating descriptions of not only the temple structure, but also the surrounding lands, buildings, and people. Authors Richard Holzapfel and David Seely entrance the reader with details about ancient temple practices, customs, and symbolism.
The authors' thought-provoking analyses of the Gospels and other New Testament books, chiefly Acts, Hebrews, and Revelation, show that the temple was a central feature in Jesus' life, and the book reaffirms Christ's role as the focus of modern temple worship.
Other temple books
Other books you may want to consult in your study of temples in the New Testament:
Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism
This collection contains papers presented at the 1993 FARMS symposium and other important papers on the temple, including three essays by Hugh Nibley and a keynote address by Elder Marion D. Hanks, former president of the Salt Lake Temple. Chapters aimed specifically at the New Testament are:
Chapters on symbolism, sacred vestments, coronation, covenants, sacred space, and sacred time contain a wealth of material pertinent to a study of the temple in New Testament times.
Temple and Cosmos
Hugh Nibley explores how the temple is a symbolic microcosm of relationships between this mortal life and the eternal worlds. He focuses both on the nature, meaning, and history of the temple and on the cosmic context of the temple. Nibley explores temple-related material in many parts of the New Testament. For example, in "Return to the Temple" he focuses on the visit of the angel to Zacharias, recorded in Luke 1, which Nibley says is "peculiarly relevant to the study of the temple." These essays (volume 12 in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley) contain some of the most stimulating and spiritually significant of Nibley's insights.
Mormonism and Early Christianity
A number of the essays in volume 4 of the Collected Works treat issues and topics that bear on the temple in New Testament times and teachings:
John W. Welch offers a thorough Latter-day Saint interpretation of Jesus' famous sermon. Close examination of the Savior's sermon in the Book of Mormon reveals that it has temple significance. The relationship of the sermon to the temple generates an extraordinary explanation of the Sermon on the Mount as a sacred and holy text.
The Temple in Antiquity
Although out of print, this volume contains important articles on ancient temples. We offer the following chapters related to the temple in the New Testament as reprints:
Two new lectures are available in the FARMS Book of Mormon Lecture Series. Dale Lebaron, associate professor of Church History at BYU, discusses how the Book of Mormon presents "A Pattern for Preparing a People to Meet Christ." This pattern includes: know the signs of the second coming; beware of wickedness; know the patterns of destruction; believe that despite persecution, righteousness will prevail; heed the counsel of the prophets; and study the ministry and the return of Christ. The Lord's elect are responsible for preparing his people for the second coming of the Savior. Brother Lebaron counsels us to "draw upon the power of the Book of Mormon" and the words of Christ's representatives to discover the Lord's pattern for that preparation.
Daniel C. Peterson, associate professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at BYU, presents some interesting recent "Evidences for the Book of Mormon" that support the primary evidence for the Book of Mormon, which Peterson affirms is "the spiritual witness that people receive when they pray sincerely and in faith."
He discusses such things as the translation process; studies of chiasmus; possible locations for Book of Mormon events; ancient manuscripts documenting practices and beliefs of past civilizations that are consistent with the Book of Mormon's accounts; Joseph's supposed misnaming of Jesus' birthplace; Joseph's lack of schooling; and other arguments. Brother Peterson also takes a fascinating look at the Gadianton robbers' practices in relation to modern guerrilla warfare, arguing that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries would not have been familiar with this unromantic style of fighting. He continues with a discussion of the complex naming of people and places about which no scholars of Joseph's day knew.
Because a large number of people have requested copies of Peterson's lecture specifically to introduce investigators to evidences for the Book of Mormon, we would like to make copies of the video, audiotape, and transcript available at no charge to missionaries and any others who wish to use them in the missionary effort. Simply mark the appropriate box on the order form.
Starting the first Sunday in April, KBYU-TV will shift from its broadcast of the FARMS Book of Mormon Lecture Series and begin broadcasting Hugh Nibley's Pearl of Great Price class. This class presents two semesters of Nibley's extraordinary and insightful line-by-line analysis of the Pearl of Great Price, as taught at BYU in 1989 and recorded by BYU Continuing Education. We hope that our friends in the KBYU broadcast area will enjoy watching this series.
Videos of the class are available on the order form at one-third off the regular price. A transcript set is also available, including a syllabus prepared by Stephen Robinson, chair of BYU's Departemtne of Ancient Scripture, that contains an overview of each lecture and notes on persons, places, and concepts discussed in the lectures, plus an index to help readers find specific subjects covered in the lectures.
The time for the broadcast will also change, moving from its current slot at 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Nibley's class will run for 26 weeks, after which KBYU intends to resume broadcasting new lectures in the Book of Mormon Lecture Series.
Both the lecture series and the Pearl of Great Price class, and many other FARMS videos, are available for broadcast on public and public-access television stations without charge. Contact the FARMS office for details.
Each of the cities on the left was important in Book of Mormon history. Match each one with the correct situation or event on the right. See the answers at the end—or better yet, open the Book of Mormon and get the full story.
A Lamanite prisoners of war were guarded within this important and heavily fortified Nephite city.
B Captain Moroni recaptured this city using ladders and strong cords to sneak his men over the back wall while the Lamanites slept.
C Built by the people of Alma after they fled from King Noah; later captured by the Lamanites.
D A city of secret conspirators, named for their chief; Jesus said its wickedness was above that of the whole earth and caused it to be burned.
E Nephite dissenters lived here; they rejected Alma and Amulek's preaching and burned their converts.
F Here the Jaredite Shule fought and defeated Corihor and restored the kingdom to his father.
G Aaron began his mission in this great Lamanite city; at Christ's death it was destroyed because its people had shed innocent blood.
H A strategic city at the narrow neck of land; its capture foretold total annihilation for the Nephites.
I The Nephites were surprised when the Lamanites, commanded by Coriantumr, marched straight to this city and took it.
J Helaman and his stripling warriors, assisted by Gid and Teomner, used a decoy strategy to retake this city from the Lamanites without shedding blood.
Brain Teaser Key
In 1971, Eldin Ricks initiated the first project to put the scriptures into computer form. The database that resulted has been used as the basis for the Topical Guide and other scriptural references and was the original database for the Church's distribution of the scriptures in computer form (LDS View) and for most other recent concordances, both computer and printed. But Brother Ricks always had in mind a printed concordance of the LDS scriptures comparable to the James Strong Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which lists all occurrences of all words in the scripture text, shown with a meaningful context phrase.
While a printed concordance cannot be searched as rapidly as a computer database and cannot lead readers as easily to combinations of words, it does offer some advantages over computer databases: it is portable and easy to read. FARMS has supported the publication of this concordance because we believe that it will serve a number of our readers very well for many years to come.
Brother Ricks labored off and on for many years to make this project a reality, with help in later years from Chuck and Junola Bush. After Brother Ricks's death in 1992, the Bushes and Kristine Ricks continued the project in his honor. The finished product, now being printed, will be available by the time the next issue of Insights is published in June.
We have made some changes that we hope will make Insights even more useful. We have organized the news into departments to make it easier to find. We have restructured the page format somewhat so we could punch the paper to fit in a binder for storage—for those who wish to use a binder with the FARMS name and logo, we are negotiating with manufacturers to obtain nice-looking binders for a reasonable price; we should be able to offer these by the next issue.
These changes are the result of suggestions that we have received from a number of readers. We appreciate your interest in the success of the foundation and we welcome your suggestions.
We have also modified our printing schedule to better match our flow of information. Henceforth you will receive Insights in February, April, June, August, October, and December—still six times per year.