BYU and Institute Scholars, Specialists Participate at Scholarly Conference
Several Brigham Young University and Institute scholars and specialists delivered papers at last month's meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver, Colorado. The joint annual meetings of these two learned societies were also a prime opportunity for the Institute and four other BYU entities specializing in religious scholarshipÑ#151;#151;Ancient Studies, BYU Studies, the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for LDS History, and the Religious Studies CenterÑ#151;#151;to join together in displaying and promoting their recent publications while developing professional contacts and learning of the latest developments in the field.
James S. Rosenvall, manager of the Institute's research technology group, and Irena Abramian, electronic projects manager at the Institute, demonstrated the features of the new Windows 2000/XP version of WordCruncher. This software differs from its previous versions in the mix of languages it can support and its analytical tools.
In a separate presentation, BYU Hebrew scholar and Institute board member Donald W. Parry showed how he and Abramian used WordCruncher's powerful search engine to match Dead Sea Scrolls fragments to biblical texts. In some cases they quickly found matches that have stymied scholars for decades. Hundreds of scroll fragments remain unidentified, Parry said, and many have been published as such in Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD), the official publication series of the scrolls. One of the editors of DJD XVII, Parry used the scrolls database to do collocation analysis and sophisticated Hebrew verbal root searches involving, for example, constructions in which one or more root letters are missing or arranged in a different order. He identified more than 90 of the approximately 200 unidentified fragments belonging to the Dead Sea Scrolls books of Samuel, the results of which will be published in DJD XVII.
Douglas M. Chabries, dean of BYU's College of Engineering and Technology and chair of the Institute Board, and Steven W. Booras, manager of technical operations at the Institute, reported on a BYU team's multispectral imaging of the Herculaneum papyri. Generally, the papyrus scrolls (burned when Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 and destroyed Herculaneum) are carbonized to a black sheen, making the black ink difficult if not impossible to read. Using a special infrared filter system developed at BYU, the team captured high-contrast digital images that greatly improve legibility or even reveal new text. In a related presentation, Roger T. Macfarlane, chair of the Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature Department at BYU and principal investigator on the Institute's Herculaneum project, spoke of how scholars are using these images to read and decipher the scrolls.
Also at the Denver meeting, the Biblical Law Section sponsored a tribute to David Daube (d. 1999), a leading light in the field of biblical law in the 20th century. BYU law professor and Institute board member John W. Welch, who organized and presided over the session, presented a comprehensive bibliography of Daube's works. This publication is available online at biblicallaw.org for those interested in surveying Daube's numerous titles in Jewish, biblical, Roman, and New Testament law. Readers of Daube and Hugh Nibley will readily recognize how similar they are in intellectual capacity and insight. Also on the program were Douglas Parker (BYU), Calum Carmichael (Cornell), Raymond Westbrook (Johns Hopkins), and Bernard Jackson (Manchester, England).
While in the Denver area, Daniel C. Peterson, an Institute board member and BYU professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, gave a fireside in the Parker Colorado Stake and addressed a gathering of LDS cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He spoke on Islam and the Arabs, emphasizing the historical background behind current newspaper headlines.
Andrew C. Skinner, dean of Religious Education at BYU and a member of the Institute board, presented a fireside entitled "Types and Shadows of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament." He noted that in ancient Israelite culture three classes of people were anointed to fulfill their societal rolesÑ#151;#151;prophets, priests, and kings. He discussed several examples of these kinds of people from the Old Testament, or old covenant, whose roles as prophets, priests, or kings were types and foreshadowings of Jesus ChristÑ#151;#151;the Prophet, Priest, and King of the new covenant.
Speaking after Skinner, Donald W. Parry presented a number of visual imagesÑ#151;#151;including an ox, a donkey, a woman hanging up dyed wool, a lamb, a shepherd shearing his sheepÑ#151;#151;drawn from the book of Isaiah and pertaining to Jesus Christ and his atonement. His goal was to help the audience visualize and thus better appreciate and understand Isaiah's message.
At another fireside, Noel B. Reynolds, John F. Hall, and John W. Welch spoke on the topic "True Types throughout the Scriptures." They demonstrated how a knowledge of biblical scholarship and ancient languages can help Latter-day Saints appreciate several gems of the Restoration that rest beneath the obvious surface of certain texts. Examples included seeing Lehi as a prophet like Moses, probing the meaning of John 1:1, and unpacking the esoteric symbolism of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The BYU Exhibit
A popular attraction at the conference is the exhibition area, where more than 200 publishers from all over the world exhibit their recent titles. The 40-foot BYU exhibit included three computer workstations showcasing the Institute's work on the Herculaneum papyri, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Graeco-Arabic texts, the Islamic Translation Series, and other projects. The display also featured BYU-produced books and papers on scriptural topics. A new book published by FARMS, Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham, was received with enthusiasm (it had just come off the press as the conference opened, and many people were eager to see it).
The exhibit was designed and built under the direction of Brent Hall, director of operations at the Institute, with help from Shane Heath, manager of outreach, and James Hughes, distribution manager. Staffed by various people from different BYU departments, it soon became a gathering point for friends of the university and the church.
BYU's established presence at the AAR/SBL meetings will continue to encourage the university's religious scholars and related specialists to publish research that will not only help strengthen the academic footing of Mormon studies but also contribute in important ways to religious scholarship in general. The Institute and its fellow BYU participants look forward to continued participation at these prestigious scholarly gatherings.