Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lost Scripture - Intro to Eli

The Bible refers to several texts that are no longer extant, such as the Book of the Wars of the Lord, or the Book of the Acts of Solomon, for example, which we usually refer to as lost scripture. We generally do not think of many of the texts within the Bible as being incomplete in themselves, thus comprising another segment of lost scripture as well. Patrick D. Miller, Jr. and J.J.M. Roberts provide some interesting food for thought when it comes to 1 Samuel and the "ark narrative": is difficult to regard 1 Sam 4:1b as a natural beginning [of the ark narrative, as many scholars do] for the following supposedly independent, complete, and self-contained narrative. Too many questions are left unanswered. Why, for instance are the Israelites defeated? That the Israelites do not know the reason creates no difficulty--a similar motif occurs elsewhere (in the story of the defeat at Ai, for example)--but that the reader-- or hearer, as the case may be--is given no explanation for this unexpected course of events is quite strange. There are few, if any, analogies for such a narrative technique in the Old Testament, and whatever analogies might be cited seem to be cancelled out when the writer adds a second defeat involving the loss of the ark and the death of the priests of Yahweh. Where else in Old Testament literature does one simply narrate such a devastating blow to Israelite piety without any attempt at theological explanation? Moreover, who are Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas? The narrator introduces them in 4:4 as though they were already well-known by the reader. This would seem to imply the existence of a preceding narrative about them. It has also been suggested, though this is not absolutely necessary, that Eli's anxiety over the ark in 4:13 presupposes a similarly missing background.
In other words, to make the ark narrative a complete, self-contained unit, one must supplement Rost's text [the ark narrative beginning with 1 Sam 4:1b] with a tradition introducing the main characters and alerting the reader to Yahweh's displeasure toward Israel. The tradition of the wickedness of Eli's sons (1 Sam 2:12-17, 22-25) would fill part of that need. It would explain the reason for Yahweh's anger and, in particular, why his anger reached even the priests and led to the loss of Israel's most sacred cult object [the ark]. It would also be an adequate introduction to the sons of Eli, though one would still lack an introduction to Eli himself. One must question whether that part of the original ark narrative may be reconstructed from the present text of Samuel. It would appear that the original beginning of the ark narrative has been fragmented and partly lost by the secondary insertion of the traditions about Samuel's childhood.
This is where we differ from Willis. He regards the present form of 1 Sam 1-7, including the Samuel traditions, as an original, integral unity. Though his analysis is suggestive for interpreting the present form of the text, such unity it now possesses is clearly redactional, not original. Considering the major role Samuel plays in the present form of 1 Sam 1-3, the total omission of any mention of him in 4:1b-7:1 is certainly striking--particularly since 3:21 states that Yahweh continued to reveal himself to the now famous Samuel in Shilo--and suggests that these two sections in their present form could not be an original unity.
Patrick D. Miller, Jr., and J.J.M. Roberts, The Hand of the Lord: A Reassessment of the "Ark Narrative" of 1 Samuel (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008), 27-29

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review of Yearning for the Living God (Busche, ed. Lamb)

Yearning for the Living God: Reflections from the life of F. Enzio Busche is a collection of the memories and experiences of Elder Busche. This book is an inspiring book of faith. It almost serves the function of being a spiritual journal in highlighting the biographical events of his life that were spiritually significant. It was a pleasure to read about his life and learn of his experiences and perspectives that invoked appreciation for his example of faith, as well as inspiring and bolstering my own faith. It was very interesting to read about Elder Busche's experience as a member of the Hitler Youth in particular, and to better understand his perspective as a German in terms of the cultural perception of Christianity believed to have been tied to the Hitler regime prior to learning of the atrocities committed by the German Nazis. We often hear from modern day historians about the Nazi propaganda sold to Germans, and Elder Busche provided his own interesting insights as one who was brought up, like many, if not most Germans, believing in the Christian appeal of the Nazi rhetoric. He also discusses the shock and abhorrence felt by himself and other Germans when they learned of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the war. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Description of the Salt Lake Temple Holy of Holies

Another small room, reached by a short ascent from the main floor [of the Celestial Room], is a vision of almost supernatural beauty. It is circular in form and resplendent in blue and gold, with borders and panels of red silk velvet. It is paved with an artistically designed native hard-wood mosaic, the blocks being mostly no more than an inch square, finely polished. From the dome which furnishes the ceiling, the light streams through seventeen circular and semi-circular jeweled windows, taking a thousand hues as, softened and subdued, it reaches the interior. The large art window to which the south side of this exquisite little room is given, is a work of surpassing loveliness. It represents the moment in the life of Joseph Smith when he, trusting in the words of the Apostle James, sought wisdom of the Lord, and received as an answer the visitation of two heavenly beings, one of whom, pointing to the other, said, "This is my beloved son; hear him!"....In these three small rooms last described the most sacred ordinances for the living and the dead are performed.

House of the Lord: Historical and Descriptive Sketch of the Sale Lake Temple (Salt Lake City, UT: George Q. Cannon & Sons, Co., 1893), 19-20

Lehi, Mosiah, and The Writings In Between

The introductory superscription to 1 Nephi provides a synopsis of the events which are to be narrated in the subsequent text. Included in this brief outline is mention of Lehi and his family, their departure from Jerusalem, their journeys and travels across "large waters," and their arrival in a promised land. This synopsis is conspicuously limited in that it only progresses to the point of arrival in the promised land and continues no further. Before coming to this chronological point in the actual saga (1 Nephi 18), however, Nephi interrupts his historical narrative three times to provide editorial clarifications. First, in 1 Nephi 1:16-17, he explains that he is providing an abridgment of his father Lehi's records, which will be followed with an account of his own ministry. Second, in 1 Nephi 6:3 he informs the reader that his abridgment is intentionally selective as to his inclusion of Lehi's writings. Third, in 1 Nephi 9, he adds that he has created two sets of plates: one for historical purposes and one for recording the ministry of his people.

Review of An Other Testament (Spencer)

Joseph Spencer's An Other Testament is one of the more interesting and thought provoking books available on The Book of Mormon. It is the kind of book that generates greater appreciation for the sophistication and complexity of the literary and theological structure of the Book of Mormon. It is the kind of book that makes you wish that you could have identified the brilliant insights in your reading of the Book of Mormon that Joe Spencer identified in his reading of the Book of Mormon. It is the kind of book that I wish I was capable of writing. At the end of the day, we can be glad that we have great minds, like Joseph Spencer, to teach the profound ways in which we can appreciate The Book of Mormon, and in this case, appreciation for how The Book of Mormon intends to be read based upon its own terms. This last statement should be qualified, however, if we are to consider that The Book of Mormon is comprised of multiple authors, the appreciation is for how Nephi and Abinadi intend for their teachings and interpretations of Isaiah to be understood.

Review of Christ and the New Covenant (Holland)

Elder Holland begins his book by indicating what his book is not. After itemizing a few methodologies in approaching the Book of Mormon, he states that this is a personal work explicating his meditation on this restorational book of scripture. I think this approach is certainly all that we could hope for from an Apostle. I'm a huge fan of scholarly Book of Mormon pioneers like Hugh Nibley and John Sorenson who contributed enormously to our understanding of the culture and context of the Book of Mormon, but after all is said and done it is the message of the Book of Mormon itself that is most salient (a point I think that Nibley and Sorenson would both concur), and this is what Elder Holland set out to highlight. 

On a side note, two incredible books on the Book of Mormon are Book of Mormon Authorship, and Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited. Both books attempt to illustrate that the Book of Mormon has authentic and ancient information in it that points to the authorship of ancient individuals (that of Nephi, Mormon, Moroni, etc.), rather than being the original work of Joseph Smith. Both of these books do quite well in this regard. One of my primary interests in Elder Holland's book is his emphasis on the Messianic message of the Book of Mormon, a point that has not been given adequate attention, however, in regards to Book of Mormon authorship. The doctrinal clarity and the sheer volume of Christology in the Book of Mormon, to me, seems far more comprehensive than what a twenty-five year old, poorly-educated farmboy could ever hope to produce, and more than that, the Book of Mormon is more comprehensive in its depth and breadth in understanding the atonement than any individual or groups of individuals in the past two-thousand years have supplied. Truly, it is a treasure, and a pearl of great price.