29 October 2012

Temple Symbolism in the Form of Noah’s Ark

John Lundquist describes the ancient expectation that temple plans are to be received by revelation. For example:
Gudea of Lagash was visited in a dream in a temple of Lagash and shown the plan of the temple by a goddess, who gave him a lapis lazuli tablet on which the plan of the temple was written. Perhaps the best example of this aspect of temple building is the Sinai episode itself, in which, according to D. N. Freedman, “this heavenly temple or sanctuary with its throne room or Holy of Holies where the deity was seated on his cherubim throne constituted the [pattern (Hebrew tabnît)] or structure seen by Moses during his sojourn on the same mountain.”
Thus the heavenly temple became the pattern for the earthly Tabernacle built by Moses. It is significant that, apart from the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon, Noah’s Ark is the only man-made structure mentioned in the Bible whose design was directly revealed by God. In this detail from a window of the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, God shows the plans for the Ark to Noah just as He later revealed the plans for the Tabernacle to Moses. The hands of Deity hold the heavenly curtain as Noah, compass in his left hand, regards intently. Like the Tabernacle, Noah’s Ark “was designed as a temple.” The Ark’s three decks suggest both the three divisions of the Tabernacle and the threefold layout of the Garden of Eden. Indeed, each of the three decks of Noah’s Ark was exactly “the same height as the Tabernacle and three times the area of the Tabernacle court.” The same Hebrew word (mikseh) was used for the animal skin covering of the Ark and that of the Tabernacle.


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27 October 2012

Revisiting the Forgotten Voices of Weeping in Moses 7: A Comparison with Ancient Texts

One of the most moving passages in the “extracts from the Prophecy of Enoch” included in the LDS Book of Moses describes weeping for the suffering of the wicked who were to perish in the Flood in chapter 7, verses 28-49.

According to this text, there are three parties directly involved in the weeping: God (Moses 7:28; cf. v. 29), the heavens (Moses 7:28, 37), and Enoch (Moses 7:41, 49). In addition, a fourth party, the earth, mourns—though does not weep—for her children (Moses 7:48–49).

Daniel Peterson has previously discussed the interplay among the members of this chorus of weeping voices, citing the arguments of non-LDS biblical scholar J.J.M. Roberts  that identify three similar voices within the laments of the book of Jeremiah: the feminine voice of the mother of the people (corresponding in the Book of Moses to the voice of the earth, the “mother of men”), the voice of the people (corresponding to Enoch), and the voice of God Himself.

Because of their eloquent rebuke of the idea of divine impassibility—the notion that God does not suffer pain or distress—the passages in Moses 7 that speak of the voice of the weeping God have received the greatest share of attention in LDS scholarship, eliciting the pioneering notices of Hugh Nibley, followed by lengthy articles by Eugene England and Peterson. Most recently, a book relating to the topic has been written by Terryl and Fiona Givens. In addition, with regard to the complaints of the earth described in Moses 7:48–49, valuable articles by Andrew Skinner  and Peterson, again following Nibley’s lead, discuss interesting parallels in ancient sources.

The purpose of this article is to round out the previous discussion so as to include two voices of weeping that have been largely forgotten by LDS scholarship—that of Enoch and that of the heavens.


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26 October 2012

Taking the Stories of Adam, Eve, and Noah Seriously

Given their status as targets of humor and caricature, it is sometimes difficult to be taken seriously when discussing the well-worn stories of Adam, Eve, and Noah. However, a thoughtful examination of the scriptural record of these characters will reveal not simply stories of “piety or … inspiring adventures” but rather carefully-crafted narratives from a highly-sophisticated culture that preserve “deep memories” of spiritual understanding. We do an injustice, both to these marvelous records and to ourselves, when we fail to pursue scriptural understanding beyond the initial level of cartoon cut-outs inculcated upon the minds of young children. Hugh Nibley characterized the problem this way:
The stories of the Garden of Eden and the Flood have always furnished unbelievers with their best ammunition against believers, because they are the easiest to visualize, popularize, and satirize of any Bible accounts. Everyone has seen a garden and been caught in a pouring rain. It requires no effort of imagination for a six-year-old to convert concise and straightforward Sunday-school recitals into the vivid images that will stay with him for the rest of his life. These stories retain the form of the nursery tales they assume in the imaginations of small children, to be defended by grown-ups who refuse to distinguish between childlike faith and thinking as a child when it is time to “put away childish things.” It is equally easy and deceptive to fall into adolescent disillusionment and with one’s emancipated teachers to smile tolerantly at the simple gullibility of bygone days, while passing stern moral judgment on the savage old God who damns Adam for eating the fruit He put in his way and, overreacting with impetuous violence, wipes out Noah’s neighbors simply for making fun of his boat-building on a fine summer’s day.
Adding to the circus-like atmosphere surrounding modern discussions of Noah’s flood are the sometimes acrimonious contentions among fundamentalist proponents concerning theories about where the Ark came to rest. Nicolas Wyatt reports:
I once watched a television programme of excruciating banality, in which a camera team accompanied an American “archaeologist” (for so he called himself) on his quest for the remains of Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat. The highlight for me occurred when a rival crew was encountered at several thousand feet… above sea level heading in the opposite direction, on the same quest!

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