Monday, September 21, 2015

Theological Exegesis on Exodus 19

5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, 
then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth 
is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. 
These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

"In verse 5, YHWH explains to Israel the manner of the relationship with him in which they are invited to participate. It seems that on the condition of their being obedient and faithful to his covenant, certain blessings will ensue. Here is the core of the passage, which Muilenburg suggests exemplifies the covenant Gattung (larger theme or genre), consisting of a conditional statement promising divine favor for obeying YHWH's will or threatening punishment for disobeying. Muilenburg cites many examples of this type of speech. However, verses 5-6 appear to differ from his model in the aspect of "conditional promise," in that the relationship of protasis (the statement of condition) to apodosis (the result of meeting the condition) is not consequential. The connection is far more subtle. Rather, as Patrick puts it, "the protasis is a definition of the requirements of the position or vocation designated by the titles of the apodosis." Obedience is the basis for the identity of the covenant people. In other words, to be YHWH's own possession, his priestly kingdom and holy nation, entails submitting to his will. Israel is invited to accept this offer. Thus the "if" is not a conditional, suggesting cause and effect, but almost the reverse. It describes a logical relation between responsibilities and privileges, in which Israel is invited to participate.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hugh Nibley - Banks from Temples

I have to admit, the first time I read Hugh Nibley assert that banks were derivative from ancient temples I thought he was really stretching. The striking contrast that he provided between the two was compelling and intriguing, but it also seemed too contrived. That was my mistake. 

The following two Nibley quotations seem to be popular online:
"In our day, as in various other times in history, the sanctity and the authority of the temple have been preempted in the religion of mammon, for example. Our banks are designed after the manner of ancient temples, with imposing fronts, ceremonial gates and courts, the onyx, the marble, the bronze--all are the substance of ancient temples. The sacred hush that prevails, the air of propriety, decorum, and dedication; the pious inscriptions on Zion's Bank's walls are quotations from Brigham Young (the one man who really had it in for business). The massive vault door, through which only the initiated may pass, gleams chastely in immaculate metal. The symbol makes the reality of all that is safe and secure--that is, the Holy of Holies. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. This is the Lord speaking. We declare that our trust is in God, and we give ourselves away by stamping that declaration where it belongs--on our coins and bills."1

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hugh Nibley - "A Stage Without A Play"

"MIDGLEY: What book or books have influenced you the most?"
"NIBLEY: Well, actually the scriptures. And I do like Shakespeare, 
things like Homer's Odyssey, and so forth."1 

Hugh Nibley was a fan of William Shakespeare. In his youth he memorized MacBeth and a portion of Hamlet.2 In Nibley's writings and lectures Shakespearean quotations aren't difficult to find. One particular theme from Shakespeare's writings, however, finds a fair amount of recurrence in Nibley's works, and that is the adopted and adapted idea that "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women are merely players."3  This quotation comes from the character Jacques in As You Like It, who goes on to say that "They [the players] have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts..." The whole speech is one of Shakespeare's more quoted scenes and it seeks to address, to a limited extent, what happens in the play, but it doesn't address the nature of the play. Shakespeare's writings show an immense interest in searching for the plot - the meaning of life. The puzzling nature of our very existence, echoed in Hamlet's famous line, "To be, or not to be: that is the question,"illustrates Shakespeare's search for this missing piece of his metaphor. Nibley summarizes:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nibley on Testimonies

"A testimony is a gift and a talent (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)....It functions like any of the senses; for example, like hearing, it is an "absolute" thing--you either have it or you don't; but like hearing, it may be strong at one time and weak at another; it is never in ailing mortals in perfect operating condition...and may vanish altogether at times, be nonoperative at times, and at times return with astonishing force and vigor. But it does not produce the things it hears. It would be hard to explain to one devoid of those senses that seeing and hearing are not functions of the imagination and are only in part self-induced--that there would be no seeing and hearing at all if some sort of stimulus did not come from the outside....All this is commonplace enough but I am trying to say that when I "bear my testimony" I am really talking about something, whether you get it or not.

"We are here to use our brains, but the most important impressions that come to us do so directly and without any conscious cerebration. We may work over the data of such experiences in our minds, but we do not produce the impressions in the first place....It is surprising how many people have thought me to be merely spoofing--just having a little fun, like Joseph Smith when he got up the Book of Mormon. I wonder if they realize what a price one must pay for that kind of fun. I say to hell with careers and the things of the world...I am stuck with the gospel. I know perfectly well that it is true; there may be things about the Church that I find perfectly appalling--but that has nothing to do with it. I know the gospel is true."

Hugh Nibley, “Dear Sterling,” Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple, ed. Stephen D. Ricks, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, 19 Vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2008), 19:144-147

Nibley on Rhetoric and Pseudo Scholarship

Providing some harsh critique of certain conditions existing at BYU in the mid-20th century, Nibley wrote, "It is not the religious views of our professors that drive so many young people from the Church--few are fooled or impressed by the religious contributions of our English or Philosophy Departments, for example--it is the claim to a higher and deeper learning, a knowledge of things that others do not know; that is the weapon. It is the power to impress and beguile others by appealing to a learning that the "layman" does not possess that puts him at the mercy of the professors."

He continues:
For the past year I have been trying to learn and teach something called classical rhetoric. Rhetoric was "the art of the Sophists," and the ancient, medieval, and modern universities have all been under their spell. Plato warned against these people and prophesied that they would (as they soon did) gain complete control of education; in his dialogues he has Socrates draw from the great Sophists their admission that what they really seek is not knowledge but the prestige and influence that go with it and that the aim of their art is only to get enough learning to make an impression on the public and thereby get "power and gain." 
From the beginning the Sophists devoted most of their energies to attacking religion. The professional humanist simply cannot leave religion alone, for in the end he has nothing else to talk about. The philosophers can always get an audience by promising an attack on the Church, but whoever listens to them or reads their stuff when they talk about anything else? They don't dare apostatize, because if they did the public would lose all interest in them. To attack religion is the one safe course for the ambitious intellectual. A professional savant is expected to say something significant--it is not enough for him simply to repeat what others are saying. And so he strikes out in bold new directions by attacking prevailing religious beliefs. Of course in doing so he falls back on platitudes and truisms and arguments as old as the race..., but since he is in the minority, this marks him as a great thinker and above all saves him from being called to account; for if he is too closely questioned or criticized, he can always play the martyred liberal.

Hugh Nibley, “Nobody to Blame,” Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple, ed. Stephen D. Ricks, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, 19 Vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2008), 19:136-138