Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Apocryphal Melchizedek - The Genesis Apocryphon

December 6, 2011
by Tim Barker

The meeting of Abram and Melchizedek1

The Genesis Apocryphon was found in the caves of Qumran, and constitutes part of the Dead Sea Scrolls (this scroll is referenced as 1Q20).  This apocryphal book of scripture stands apart from other texts from Qumran, as Joseph Fitzmyer notes, "there is nothing in this text that clearly links it with any of the known beliefs or customs of the Qumran sect.  There is practically no Essene theology in this work, and it is difficult to see what exegetical or doctrinal meditations were at work in the composition of this text."2  While this would seem to indicate a text pre-dating the Qumran community, nevertheless, Fitzmyer dates the language of the text to the 1st Century BCE.3  Other scholars have had differing opinions on the dating of the text.4  At any rate, the content itself is similar to Genesis with degrees of variation.  Avigad and Yadin noted that "it is actually a sort of apocryphal version of stories from Genesis, faithful, for the most part, to the order of the chapters in Scripture.  Some chapters of the scroll begin and end precisely as the comparable chapters of Genesis do, though the narrative in the scroll is in large part couched in the first person."5  Others have noted that with the additions made to the biblical text, it may be more of a commentary "in the manner of the Targumim."6 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Apocryphal Melchizedek - Nag Hammadi Library

October 30, 2011
by Tim Barker

Melchizedek XI, 1, 1-27, 10

From The Nag Hammadi Library (James M. Robinson, Ed.)
Translated by Søren Giversen and Birger A. Pearson


The Nag Hammadi Library is a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts found in upper Egypt near the town Nag Hammadi in 1945.  These texts were translated under the direction of James M. Robinson by the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, first published in 1977; and provided below from the 1981 edition.  The following work was entitled Melchizedek, who is depicted as an "eschatological high priest and Messianic warrior," reflecting "Jewish speculations on Melchizedek current at the turn of the Common Era..."  In this apocryphal text, Melchizedek is identified with Jesus Christ.  This text was "originally written in Greek by an unknown author, possibly as early as the second century, probably in Egypt..."  The text contains revelations given to Melchizedek by heavenly messengers. The second revelation given to Melchizedek is his vision of the role of the Savior who suffered and triumphed.1 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Vulcan Salute, Jewish Priests, and Sacred Symbolism

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.  And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them." (Numbers 6:22-27)

"Live long and prosper." (Spock)
I Am Not Spock1

Saturday, July 23, 2011

2 Nephi 5 and the Makings of Civilization

July 23, 2011
by Tim Barker

I have always thought that 2 Nephi 5 has been one of the most interesting chapters in the Book of Mormon, not because of its religious and spiritual insights, but because so much information relating to Nephite civilization is condensed into such brevity.  After discussing Laman and Lemuel's spite towards Nephi, he relates the following information:

Monday, July 4, 2011

The First Vision in the Formative Years of the Church

July 4, 2011
by Tim Barker

Joseph Smith's First Vision (per wiki commons)

In studying the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the significance of Joseph Smith's "First Vision" can hardly be overstated.  Initially, however, the importance of this event appears to have been less appreciated for its profound significance and relevance.  Terryl Givens has noted that the "timing and the naming of the event assign it absolute primacy in the founding of Mormonism, [yet] the vision was described by the young Joseph and apparently interpreted by him at the time as a private experience with no greater implications for the world at large or for Christian believers generally."1  After all, while Joseph was forgiven of his sins and instructed to remain detached from all of the existing churches, the Lord promised that at some future time the fullness of the gospel would be made known to him.  When Moroni visited him three years later he learned that the time was nigh for the gospel to be preached to the world, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah, and that he would be instrumental in translating a record containing the fullness of the everlasting gospel.  Accordingly, the angelic ministration of Moroni seems to have been initially understood as the catalyst for providing Joseph with a course of direction and a specific commission, rather than his sacred experience in the grove.2  It was only with hindsight that the importance of the First Vision began to take its rightful place in restorational theology.  For example, Joseph didn't publish an account of the vision until 1842, two years before his martyrdom; however, this sacred experience was documented and shared in a number of instances prior to this time. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Seal of Melchizedek - Eight-Pointed Star

May 27, 2011
Last updated October 9, 2011
by Tim Barker

In my initial posting on the Seal of Melchizedek, I noted that this symbol has been gaining popularity in LDS culture.  The eight-pointed star was illustrated in Hugh Nibley's book Temple and Cosmos, and was discussed by Bryce Haymond in his blog with respect to its connection with the architectural design of the San Diego Temple.  Nibley's book includes an illustration by Michael Lyon of a mosaic in St. Apollinare in Classe, in Ravenna, Italy, wherein the above symbol is located on the front of the altar cloth.  I discussed this mosaic and the symbol in terms of Christological symbolism.  I also cited the apocryphal Book of the Secrets of Enoch, noting that Melchizedek was purportedly born with the "seal of the priesthood" upon his chest, following which; I discussed the connection of the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God with the Melchizedek Priesthood.  I then pointed out that the mosaic in St. Apollinare in Classe, as well as the mosaic of Melchizedek and Abel in the Basilica of St. Vitale, both lend themselves towards being a temple setting.  Additionally, I pointed out that Freemason Henry P.H. Bromwell identified an eight-pointed star connected with the 47th problem of Euclid as the "signet of Melchizedek."  Additionally, I briefly noted the connection between the six-pointed star and Melchizedek.  Lastly, I stated that each of these elements come together within the temple.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Margaret Barker on Melchizedek

May 16, 2011 (updated June 21, 2011)
by Tim Barker

"Melchizedek arrayed in his royal robes"1

For those unacquainted with Margaret Barker and her contributions to Biblical studies (primarily on the Jerusalem Temple and Christian liturgy), a brief biography and curriculum vitae is provided.  Margaret Barker is a British scholar who studied theology at the University of Cambridge, a former President of the Society for Old Testament Study, a Research Fellow of the University of Wales, awarded "Doctor of Divinity" in 2008 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Methodist preacher, and author of 14 books and numerous papers.  She is known for developing an approach for studying ancient Christianity known as "Temple Theology."2  Her books include the following titles: The Older Testament, The Lost Prophet, The Gate of Heaven, The Great Angel, On Earth as it is in Heaven, The Risen Lord, Commentary on Isaiah, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, The Great High Priest, Temple Theology, An Extraordinary Gathering of Angels, The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom, Temple Themes in Christian Worship, Christmas: the Original Story, and Creation: A Biblical Vision for the Environment.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Seal of Melchizedek as a Christological Symbol

April 9, 2011 (updated June 6, 2011)
by Tim Barker

Altar in the Melchizedek and Abel Mosaic at St. Vitale, Ravenna, Italy1

As discussed in my previous posting, Alonzo Gaskill's article entitled, "The Seal of Melchizedek?" which was recently published in The Religious Educator, has inspired me to further research the historical significance of this enigmatic icon. Brother Gaskill focused much of his article on the eight-pointed star in terms of Christological symbolism. He identified several meaningful elements of the symbol, such as the gamma (or right angle), the square, the number eight, stars, and the eight-pointed star. It is the purpose of this post to expound on his commentary and analysis, as it relates to the elements of the eight-pointed star; whereas, discussion regarding the eight-pointed star itself will follow in a subsequent post. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Seal of Melchizedek and Michael Lyon

April 6, 2011
by Tim Barker

A short while ago I read an article entitled, "The Seal of Melchizedek?" which was recently published in The Religious Educator. The article was written by Alonzo Gaskill, an Assistant Professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University.1 The purpose of his article was to disassociate the "so-called Seal of Melchizedek" from the person of Melchizedek and the Melchizedek Priesthood, and to discuss possible meanings of the eight-pointed star in terms of Christological symbolism. While I take exception with his intent to disassociate the symbol with Melchizedek and the priesthood, Gaskill's identification of potential meanings of the symbol in relation to Christ is well done. This connection is a significant point that I attempted to illustrate in my previous posting on the subject, but Brother Gaskill is certainly more articulate and does a much better job at this than myself. He identifies several meaningful elements of the symbol, such as the gamma (or right angle), the square, the number eight, stars, and the eight-pointed star. He also discusses some history in connection with the symbol, including the development of the "lore," as well some general discussion on the evolution of symbols. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Continuing Revelation and the Latter-Day Saint Response

January 6, 2011
by Tim Barker

The Need for Continuing Revelation

One Latter-day Saint scripture that mainstream Christianity takes particular issue with is the 8th Article of Faith, in The Pearl of Great Price.  It states: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God" (AoF 1:8).  Traditional Christianity holds the belief that the Bible is inerrant and sufficient, that is, there is no deficiency in the text. This position requires unqualified acceptance of the entire text as the word of God.1  In contrast to this position, the Prophet Joseph stated that from "sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled."2  Obviously, the Latter-day Saint position dismisses the notion that the Bible is inerrant and that it, alone, is sufficient. This perspective began to emerge while Joseph Smith was contemplating which Christian church he should join. After being unable to reconcile why "these religious systems...were all so different; but nevertheless all drawn from the scripture of truth [the Bible],"3 he determined that God was not the author of such confusion. When considering that "all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion[,] I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if he taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed."4