31 December 2009

The Book of Moses: The Most Surprising and Neglected Scripture

In 2005, the eminent Yale professor and Jewish literary scholar Harold Bloom called the book of Moses and the book of Abraham two of the “more surprising” and “neglected” works of LDS scripture. With the great spate of publications over the forty years since fragments of Egyptian papyri were rediscovered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we have begun to see a remedy for the previous neglect of the book of Abraham. Now, gratefully, because of wider availability of the original manuscripts and new detailed studies of their contents, the book of Moses is also beginning to receive its due.

What did Professor Bloom find so “surprising” in the book of Moses? He said he was intrigued by the fact that many of its themes are “strikingly akin to ancient suggestions.” While expressing “no judgment, one way or the other, upon the authenticity” of LDS scripture, he found “enormous validity” in the way these writings “recapture... crucial elements in the archaic Jewish religion.... that had ceased to be available either to normative Judaism or to Christianity, and that survived only in esoteric traditions unlikely to have touched [Joseph] Smith directly.” In other words, Professor Bloom had no idea how Joseph Smith could have come up with, on his own, a modern book that resembles so closely ancient Jewish and Christian teachings...

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29 December 2009

Interview with David Larsen: Part 3

[David] In the book, you give us the text of Moses 1-6 along with analysis and commentary. Is this text taken directly from our current version of the Pearl of Great Price or is it derived from other sources?

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23 December 2009

Adam and Christ, Eve and Mary at Christmas Time

Though the event is rarely mentioned in modern Christmas celebrations, traditional carols often give as much attention to the Fall of Adam as they do to the birth and redemption of Christ. For example, after describing the creation of Adam and Eve, the English carol “This is the truth sent from above” continues:
3. Then after that ’twas God’s own choice
To place them both in paradise
There to remain from evil free
Except they ate of such a tree.

4. But they did eat, which was a sin,
And thus their ruin did begin—
Ruined themselves, both you and me,
And all of our posterity.

5. Thus we were heirs to endless woes
Till God the Lord did interpose
And so a promise soon did run:
That he’d redeem us by his Son.
Though, of course, Latter-day Saints have a much more positive view of the Fall and reject the traditional conception of “original sin,” such carols can still help us to humbly experience the spirit of gratitude for our redemption through Christ that is shared by all Christians...

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17 December 2009

Interview with David Larsen: Part 2

[David] In your introduction, you spend some good time addressing the fact that although Joseph spent three years working on his inspired translation of the Bible, a disproportionate amount of time was spent translating the first half of the Book of Genesis, including the chapters we know as the Book of Moses. Why do you feel this was the case? Was there something especially important to be learned from these chapters?

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Temple Themes in Luke's Account of the Angels and Shepherds

The account of the angels appearing to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth “anesthetizes our reading by its very familiarity.” No one disputes the beauty of Luke’s contrasting word pictures—shepherds in darkness met by angels in glorious light; heavenly choirs enjoining earthly worship. Yet the very poetry of the account, joined as it is with the inescapable riot of images and mechanically-intoned “glorias” that madly engulf us each Christmas season, seems to dim in personal significance as it increases in ubiquity. In contemporary culture, the narrative of the angels has become a pretty story—and, sadly, little else.

For ancient readers of the Bible, however, the story of the shepherds was an extraordinary tale, a thinning of the veil like no other. Though the “appearance of angels is by no means frequent in the Gospels,” the first two chapters of Luke are a “remarkable outcrop” of divine visitations, with annunciations to Zacharias and Mary as prelude to the most stunning angelophany recorded in scripture...

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10 December 2009

Adam, Eve, and the Three Wise Men of the Nativity

For many years, I was mystified by the seventeenth-century French Christmas carol “Quelle est cette odeur agréable?” When the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra performs Mack Wilberg’s ethereal arrangement that begins with the words:
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing stealing our senses all away?
Never the like did come a-blowing, shepherds, in the flow’ry fields of May,
have you ever wondered, as I have, why a particular smell should be taken as a sign of Christ’s birth? The qualifier “goodly” tells us that the odor has nothing to do with the shepherds’ flocks, nor with the cattle in the manger. Moreover, the original French text confirms that it was not the fragrance of the springtime flowers, but something completely new—overpowering and rapturous.

To comprehend these word pictures, we have to know something of how early Christians linked traditions about the life of Adam and Eve to the story of the Nativity of Christ...

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Also available here in Spanish, thanks to a translation done by Juan Reta.

08 December 2009

Interview with David Larsen: Part 1

In God’s Image and Likeness: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Book of Moses is a newly published work by Senior Research Scientist and LDS author Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, PhD. I have, in the past couple of years, come to know Dr. Bradshaw and his excellent work in religious studies, and am very excited about the release of this new book. I now have the opportunity to present to you an interview that he has granted me concerning his compelling and powerful analysis of the Book of Moses.

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