Three of Hugh Nibleys important essays on the fate of the primitive Christian church and its institutions and beliefs are brought together in a reprinting of the 1970 book When the Lights Went Out: Three Studies on the Ancient Apostasy. The issues that Nibley explores with penetrating insighttraditional Christianitys studied silence regarding evidence for the apostasy, Christs 40-day postmortal ministry, and the centrality of the templeare as relevant today as they ever were.
In The Passing of the Primitive Church, Nibley argues that Christs original church did not remain on earth and was not expected to. He develops this thesis in 40 separate arguments. For example, the apostles did not leave be hind written instructions on how the fledgling church should be guided in their absence. It is hard to conceive of such a colossal oversight if the founders had actually envisaged a long future for the church, Nibley writes. He observes further that as the great lights went out the most devoted Christians engaged in a wistful Operation Salvage to rescue what might still be saved of those things which came by the living voices that yet remained. What more eloquent commentary on the passing of the church?
The Forty-Day Mission of Christ deals with the historical relevance of Acts 1:3, which states that after Christs resurrection, he was seen of [the apostles] forty days, and [spoke] of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Embarrassed at not knowing what Christ taught during that interval, churchmen since Clement and Origen have employed all the arts of rhetoric and logic to evade [the] crass literalism [of Acts 1:3], Nibley writes. He goes on to argue that the teaching of the 40 days has not come down to us because, being the last and highest revelation given to the apostles, it was top secret. The serious student should not dismiss the 40-day literature found in the early apocrypha, he says, because these writings take a position of conscious resistance to the rising tide of skepticism regarding the reality of the resurrection. They also fully explain the absence of a 40-day literature as resulting from apostolic secrecy and general church apostasy.
Nibley discusses the implications of the loss of the temple during the fall of Jerusalem in the final essay, Christian Envy of the Temple. He explains why the loss of the temple was a crippling blow to the church and why the church fathers were reluctant to talk about it and why Christian scholars ignore or denounce it out of envy and insecurity.
The moral of our tale is that the Christian world has been perennially haunted by the ghost of the templea ghost in which it does not believe, Nibley observes. The temple has cast a shadow over the claims and the confidence of the Christian church from early times, a shadow which is by no means diminishing in our own day.
To order a copy of this telling book, use the enclosed order form or visit the catalog section of the FARMS Web site.