Insights: An Ancient Window
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
On Saturday, March 23, BYU Religious Education and FARMS will sponsor a symposium on "LDS Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls." The public is invited to listen to presentations by an internationally known Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and by LDS scholars currently doing work on the scrolls.
The keynote address on "Messianic Texts and Ideas" will be given by Florentino García Martínez, professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, where he heads the Qumran Institute. He is a member of the International Team of Editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls and has written numerous articles and books, including a translation of the nonbiblical texts of the scrolls, entitled The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated.
The symposium will introduce the LDS community to this major scrolls scholar as well as to work by LDS scholars on the scrolls. It will help to clarify misunderstandings that have developed among some LDS students of the scriptures who are interested in the scrolls, and it will show the links as well as the differences between LDS beliefs and practices and those described in the scrolls.
Also making presentations will be three LDS scholars who are also members of the International Team of Editors of the scrolls: Donald W. Parry, assistant professor of Hebrew at BYU, who will discuss "The Contribution of the Scrolls to Biblical Understanding"; Dana M. Pike, assistant professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, who will examine "The Essenes’ Beliefs on ‘Where Did They Come from, Why Were They There, and Where Were They Going?’ "; and David R. Seely, assistant professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, who will present insights on "Praise, Prayer, and Worship in the Dead Sea Scrolls."
Other presentations will include "The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Mormon" by Stephen D. Ricks, professor of Hebrew at BYU; "DNA and the Dead Sea Scrolls," by Scott R. Woodward, associate professor of Microbiology at BYU; and a presentation of the FARMS/BYU Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Database by Steven M. Booras, Electronic Projects Specialist at FARMS, and Donald W. Parry.
The program will begin at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 23, and will continue through the afternoon, with a break for lunch and short breaks midmorning and midafternoon. There is no charge for admission.
This symposium gives interested students of the scriptures a rare opportunity to meet and listen to an internationally known Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and to LDS scholars who are on the forefront of scrolls scholarship.
Twenty-four LDS scholars express their thoughts and deepest feelings on faith and scholarship in a new book scheduled for release next month. Expressions of Faith: Testimonies from LDS Scholars, edited by Susan Easton Black, professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, is being copublished by FARMS and Deseret Book.
This outstanding collection inspires, and it provokes serious thought. We hope you will enjoy it.
The contents include:
Introduction: Noel B. Reynolds
Part 1: Personal Odysseys of Faith
Part 2: Study and Faith
Part 3: Faith and the Book of Mormon
Some news reports in the last few years have equated the words LDS scholar and LDS dissident often enough that many readers and viewers now assume that most LDS scholars reject the faith. Since just the opposite is true, Steve Booras, Electronic Projects Specialist at FARMS, and his wife, Susan, suggested that FARMS publish a collection of testimonies by LDS scholars that would allow other voices to be heard. FARMS asked Black to select and invite prominent LDS scholars to participate. Some were asked specifically to address their faith in the Book of Mormon or to discuss how their scholarship and faith interact.
You may order copies using the enclosed order form, and orders will be filled as soon as the book is available.
Traditionally, most anthropologists have accepted the theory that the ancestors of all native American cultures in the New World migrated by foot from Asia during the Pleistocene Era when the sea level was lower and a narrow strip of land called the Bering Land Bridge connected the two continents. But as a review in the latest issue of BYU Studies shows,1 Dr. E. James Dixon, in Quest for the Origins of the First Americans, challenges this traditional model.2
Dixon is a leading authority on the archaeology of eastern Beringia, the chain of islands that once formed the ancient land bridge connecting Asia with present-day Alaska. Although no one doubts the existence of this land bridge, or its potential as a conduit for human migration, Dixon demonstrates that this could not have been the sole mechanism for populating the Americas. He presents impressive and compelling evidence that suggests that the first, or at least early, inhabitants of ancient America actually arrived on ocean-worthy vessels.
The geology and paleoecology of the Beringia region suggest that it was not until about 9,500 B.C. that the Bering Land Bridge became passable for human overland migration. Consistent with this date, there is no documented evidence of human occupation anywhere in the Beringian corridor until about 9,000 B.C. Yet there is ample evidence of early occupations along the west coasts of both North and South America that date at least two or three thousand years and in some cases many thousands of years before that. Since it appears that there was no way of crossing overland at such early dates, Dixon asserts that these settlements must have been founded by seagoing peoples.
It is well documented that the Pacific coasts of Asia were dotted anciently with numerous settlements. Dixon suggests that shortly before 12,000 B.C. the sea level rose rapidly as the climate became abruptly warmer and the sea engulfed communities around the Asian Pacific rim (something like a Pleistocene Waterworld). This could have triggered eastward migrations following prevailing currents into the New World. By the time the Bering Land Bridge became passable, the descendents of these early travelers had already settled over much of the western coastline of North and South America and had even moved inland in some areas.
LDS scholars have long been interested in the issue of transoceanic crossings to the ancient New World,(3) but they have found scant support among the prevailing experts. Dixon himself was at one time criticized by several of his colleagues for suggesting the possibility of transoceanic migrations and was counseled to drop the subject for fear of losing credibility within the profession (p. 129). Dixon believes that the idea of pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts between the New and Old Worlds is not popular because of the tendency of some individuals outside the field to go too far in explaining all similarities between the two great cultural regions indiscriminately on the basis of diffusion across the oceans.
But carefully presented research findings like Dixon’s (and those from an increasing number of others) make it clear that humans anciently were capable of long-distance voyages across the oceans to visit or colonize parts of the New World. By extension, it is reasonable to conclude that small colonies of Jaredites, Lehites, and Mulekites could have made such trips as well.
Based on research by Allen J. Christenson.
The Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, published by FARMS since 1989, has attempted to assist students of the Book of Mormon by reviewing every significant publication about the Book of Mormon published each year. While that commitment remains unchanged, the focus of the reviews published in the last several issues has expanded to match the expanding interests of FARMS—first, the Book of Mormon, and then other ancient scripture and related topics; thus the name of the Review has been changed to the FARMS Review of Books to more accurately reflect this expanded focus.
The FARMS Review of Books is also organized into sections that indicate the subject matter emphasized in each review and to help readers more quickly find the reviews in which they are interested. In addition to the section on the Book of Mormon, reviews may be found in sections devoted to "Books on Other Ancient Scripture," "Historical and Cultural Studies," "Polemics," "Fiction," "Study Aids," "Audiovisual Products," and other subjects.
The categories covered in any issue will vary, but there will always be a Book of Mormon section; while the FARMS Review of Books cannot cover every book published on every topic of interest, it will continue to be comprehensive with regard to books on the Book of Mormon. The Review will continue to publish both reviews of individual books and review essays that give longer treatment to a group of books or to a larger topic addressed in the light of a particular publication.
This issue (volume 8, number 1) contains some outstanding reviews discussing books and tapes by Charles and Stephen Crane; Arnold K. Garr; Avraham Gileadi; Chris Heimerdinger; Michael M. Hobby, June M. Hobby, and Troy J. Smith; Daniel H. Ludlow; Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr.; Clair Poulson; George Reynolds; Eldin Ricks; Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch; and Kurt Van Gorden.
This issue also features an essay on the historical writings of Dale Morgan and another that catalogs the arguments put forward in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon and the responses to those arguments published in the Review. It also contains the annual index for reviews published in 1995 in the Review and the Editor's Picks.
Professor Geza Vermes, a prominent Dead Sea Scrolls scholar from England, gave a lecture at BYU in November sponsored by Religious Education, the Kennedy Center, and FARMS. He spoke on messiah texts in the scrolls and reviewed the history of the scrolls’ discovery and translation. He also spoke of the tangled politics both among scrolls scholars and between those scholars and the public.
Vermes is professor emeritus of Jewish Studies and Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College at Oxford. According to Stephen D. Ricks of BYU, "he is a painstaking researcher, a brilliant and illuminating translator, and an insightful commentator."
Vermes also met with LDS scholars who are engaged in translating or researching the scrolls. Commenting on the interest shown in his private meetings and the attendance at the public lecture, Vermes stated, "I have provided lectures on the Dead Sea Scrolls for more than forty years, and this was the most well-attended lecture of any I have given. The interest in the scrolls at BYU is remarkable."
Orson Scott Card is a name familiar to fans of science fiction and to many readers of LDS fiction and drama. It is no secret that Card has based many of his works on themes from the Book of Mormon. In 1993 Card spoke at BYU about the Book of Mormon, and his remarks have been published as the first chapter in his book A Storyteller in Zion.
"As a science fiction writer," he says, "I think I have some insights into the nature of the Book of Mormon itself that may be of interest and value" (p. 11). Because we agree, we are pleased to offer his essay, "The Book of Mormon—Artifact or Artifice," as a FARMS Reprint (see the order form).
Card treats a number of interesting issues, most of which deal with whether the Book of Mormon reveals the cultural assumptions of Joseph’s day, as it would if it were an artifice. "If you attempted to produce something like the Book of Mormon today, employing the best science fiction writers, fully aware of all that we know about the culture of Mesoamerica, fully aware of everything that we know about how you create a fake document, it would still be obvious—if not immediately, then within fifteen or twenty years," concludes Card. "The cultural assumptions behind the book would reveal themselves, showing clearly when the book was really written. But the Book of Mormon has been around a lot longer than that, and believe me, folks, I really do understand a lot about how science fiction is made and I can't find anywhere that it’s done wrong. . . . If the book were an 1820s fabrication we should expect to find a consistent pattern of getting it wrong. Not just one example but thousands of examples in a book that long. They are not there" (p. 44).
Archaeologists excavating caves outside the ruins of Qumran have identified a residential quarter inhabited by the Dead Sea sect 2,000 years ago. The dig is being conducted by Dr. Hanan Eshel of Bar-Ilan University and Magen Broshi, former curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum, with financial support from FARMS.
In December and January they excavated the collapsed portions of two caves north of Qumran. They also found nearby a circle of stones that once formed the base of a tent. Pottery found in both sites dates to the first century A.D.
The relation of Qumran to the scrolls has been hotly debated. Was Qumran the center of a religious community living in the deseret by the precepts described in the scrolls (somewhat analagous to Lehi’s family), or was Qumran a military outpost, and the community described in the scrolls largely a utopian fiction? Broshi and Eshel believe their findings support the theory that Qumran was a motherhouse used by sect members living in the surrounding area.
The dig has not so far produced any new scrolls, but in February two promising collapsed caves will be excavated that have apparently never been examined. Insights will bring you more details when they are available.
FARMS is assisting in research conducted at Mayan ruins at Bonampak in Mexico by Yale University and the National Geographic Society. Professors Stephen Houston and Gene Ware of BYU are helping to examine the remains of rapidly fading murals on the walls of the ruins. FARMS provided a multispectral photographic filter and technical expertise (from Steve Booras, Electronic Projects Specialist at FARMS) to help Houston record these murals on film before they disappear.
Using our filter Houston has been able to examine the murals at different frequencies of light until he finds just the right frequency (invisible to the human eye) at which the remains of each pigment fluoresce, letting him take photos that may show things no person can see. Insights will bring you more information as the photos are analyzed.
At a recent FARMS Brown Bag presentation, Robert J. Matthews, professor emeritus of Ancient Scripture, and Scott H. Faulring described a project on which they are cooperating. Called the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) Research Library, this joint effort involves FARMS, Brigham Young University’s Religious Studies Center, and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) Archives in Independence, Missouri.
The original JST documents consist of an 1828 edition of the King James Bible that was marked by the Prophet during the translation process and four manuscripts—two earlier initial drafts of the Old and New Testaments and two manuscripts that are complete revisions of those earlier manuscripts.
In 1866, the RLDS Church received the manuscripts from Emma Smith, the Prophet’s widow, and used them in 1867 to prepare their first printed edition of the Holy Scriptures, commonly called the Inspired Version. The original JST manuscripts have never been published in their entirety. Approximately one-third of the changes published by the RLDS Church were included either in footnotes or in an appendix to the 1979 edition of the LDS King James Bible.
"We began this project," says Faulring, "because of concern for the long-term preservation of these precious materials. Over the years, the physical condition of the JST manuscripts has deteriorated. The paper has yellowed with age and become delicate to handle. Small fragments around the edges have fallen off, resulting in the loss of textual matter." As a part of this research project, the RLDS JST manuscripts and the marked Bible are currently undergoing extensive preservation work by a leading LDS conservator.
In May 1995, Steven W. Booras, Electronic Projects Specialist at FARMS, and Scott Faulring traveled to the RLDS Archives and photographed and electronically scanned the entire RLDS collection of JST materials. Two months later, Robert Matthews and Scott Faulring returned to Missouri and spent a week in the RLDS Archives examining the manuscripts’ physical characteristics.
The JST Research Library will be composed of a CD-ROM research tool and a printed facsimile edition. FARMS will produce an electronic database on CD containing a verbatim transcription of the JST manuscripts, plus scanned images of the manuscripts and applicable pages from the marked Bible. These materials will be linked and synchronized with an electronic text of the 1867 edition of the RLDS Holy Scriptures. The facsimile edition, to be published by the BYU Religious Studies Center, will include the annotated transcription, along with selected photographs, of the original JST manuscripts. Included in an appendix of the published facsimile will be a detailed physical description of each page of the manuscripts, along with other relevant research tools, such as a comprehensive bibliography of works related to the JST.
"Right now we are finishing proofreading the scanned text against photos of the original pages," reports Faulring. "Then we will annotate the text, identify the handwriting, date the changes and revisions as well as we can, and create a physical description." All of this information will be published in the facsimile edition. "After that, we will code the electronic text and link it with the scanned images to finish the CD-ROM version."
This material will provide unprecedented access to photographs and transcriptions of the Joseph Smith Translation manuscripts and the appropriate marked material from the 1828 edition of the King James Bible used by the Prophet Joseph Smith during this revelatory revision.
A new set of lectures in the Book of Mormon Lecture Series, "Prophets of the Book of Mormon and Their Messages," appears just in time to complement the Church’s 1996 curriculum. Robert L. Millet, professor of Ancient Scripture and Dean of Religious Education at BYU, introduces the series with a presentation on Lehi’s prophetic mission, messages, and example.
Lehi, a wealthy, educated Jew, was a man of God living in an unrighteous society. Not only did Lehi warn of the destruction of Jerusalem, he also prophesied of Christ and taught his gospel—and for these crimes, Lehi was forced to leave his homeland and travel to the New World. Lehi’s strong testimony of the goodness of the Lord and the rightness of the Lord’s gospel plan emerges clearly in Nephi’s abridgment, Millet teaches. Millet explores Lehi’s teachings about the Fall and Atonement, the house of Israel, the restoration of the gospel by a modern "seer," and the events that took place in the Council in Heaven and the Garden of Eden.
In the first of two lectures on Nephi, Noel B. Reynolds, professor of Political Science at BYU, discusses Nephi’s roles as a prophet, ruler, temple builder, and record keeper. Nephi, perhaps the most educated of the Nephites, performed these roles admirably. In fact, Nephi was so successful as a leader, according to Reynolds, that he "defined both the religious and political traditions of the Nephites for centuries to come." Reynolds briefly takes us through six stories that Nephi recounts to refute the Lamanite claims that Nephi stole the throne and sacred articles from his brothers.
In the second lecture, Reynolds considers Nephi’s main purpose in writing, which was to persuade his descendants to believe in and come unto Christ (see 2 Ne. 25:23). Through his testimony, prophecies, and teachings, Nephi affirms that the Lord defends his people when they are righteous and obedient. Nephi’s sermons create a pattern for subsequent Nephite teachings. His record reports visions that testify of the atonement of Christ and prophecies of the last days.
Nephi expounds "the fulness of the gospel" in the Book of Mormon in a formula that is adopted by later prophets and missionaries. In what has come to be called "Nephi’s psalm" (2 Ne. 4:17-35), he demonstrates how this gospel formula has worked in his life and how his trust in God and in God’s love has sustained him. The Book of Mormon prophets’ legacy to us is their prophecy that the gospel will triumph on the earth, which we learn more about as Nephi explains his visions to his brothers and interprets Isaiah’s writings.
As Nephi’s soul delighted in the words of Isaiah, so does Donald W. Parry’s. Parry, assistant professor of Hebrew at BYU, offers two lectures on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, discussing the life and teachings of this ancient prophet. The first lecture outlines some events that occurred during Isaiah’s life. Parry also considers twelve statements from the Book of Mormon about Isaiah and his teachings.
We are commanded to search the writings of Isaiah, but since Isaiah is difficult to understand, Nephi gives us keys to help us comprehend Isaiah’s teachings. Parry discusses each of these keys in depth, pointing out how ancient prophets used symbolism and poetic and prophetic speech forms.
In the second lecture, Parry discuss Isaiah’s prominent themes. Isaiah’s prophecies concerned Zion versus Babylon, the fate of the house of Israel, and the destruction of wicked kingdoms in the last days before Christ’s second coming. Of course, Isaiah mainly focuses on the Savior’s roles and the Messianic prophecies concerning him and his dealings with mortal men. Nearly one-third of Isaiah’s biblical writings are quoted in the Book of Mormon. Thus, because of Nephi and Jacob, Isaiah stands as a main Book of Mormon witness of Jesus Christ.
Joseph F. McConkie, professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, offers a new look at the teachings of Jacob. McConkie indicates that in the preface to Mormon’s abridgment, Mormon describes Jacob’s teachings as the purpose of the entire Book of Mormon. Jacob testifies to the house of Israel of the Lord’s dealings with their ancestors, reminds them of the covenants their fathers made, and teaches all people to come unto Christ. In the first of two lectures, McConkie profiles Jacob as a man of God mentored by Nephi, then focuses on Jacob’s commentary on Isaiah, especially Jacob’s testimony of the grace and mercy of Christ, the plan of salvation, and our need for a Savior and Redeemer.
In the second lecture, McConkie continues to discuss Jacob’s commentary on Isaiah’s teachings, this time focusing on the covenants the children of Israel made and the promises the Lord made if his chosen people honor those covenants. McConkie then links these covenants with the spiritual and physical scattering and gathering of Israel.
You may order these seven lectures, in videotape, audiotape, and transcript formats, using the order form that accompanies this issue of Insights. Future lectures in this series will focus on the lives and teachings of the brass plates prophets and on Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma2, Samuel, Christ, Mormon, and Moroni.
Davis Bitton, Historical Dictionary of Mormonism, paperback reprint edition. Bitton, professor of history at the University of Utah and former assistant Church historian, describes the religious precepts and practices of Mormonism, along with its social, economic, and cultural activities around the world, today and in the past. Includes a chronology and bibliography. Originally published by Scarecrow Press in New Jersey. Available in March.
Donald W. Parry, Jeanette W. Miller, and Sandra A. Thorne, Guide to Publications on the Book of Mormon: An Annotated Bibliography with Subject Index. This comprehensive bibliography lists nearly everything ever written about the Book of Mormon: books, articles from journals and magazines, book reviews, pamphlets, plays, and a selection of poems, newspaper articles, theses, and dissertations. Each entry gives all the facts of publication and a brief summary of the contents. An indispensable aid to research and reading on the Book of Mormon. Available in March.
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, volume 5, number 1. Articles reflecting the latest research on the Book of Mormon. Available in April.
John L. Sorenson and Martin H. Raish, Pre-Columbian Contacts with the Americas across the Oceans: An Annotated Bibliography, second edition, revised. The first edition of this large bibliography has received praise from anthropologists and bibliographers alike. This new edition contains many new entries plus updated and expanded annotations—more than one-third of the work is new. Available in April.
James E. Faulconer, editor, Aid to Scriptural Word Studies. Available in May.
Watch for details in future issues of Insights.