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Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses

Program and Abstracts

Friday September 18, 7:00 pm: Keynote Session

 

Introduction: Daniel C. Peterson (BYU Asian and Near Eastern Languages)
Opening Prayer: Kristine Frederickson

Adam, Eve, the Book of Moses, and the Temple: The Story of Receiving Christ’s Atonement
Elder Bruce C. Hafen (emeritus) and Sister Marie K. Hafen

Closing Prayer: Neal Rappleye

 

 

Saturday September 19, 9:00 am: Main Session

 

Morning Session Chair: Jasmin Gimenez Rappleye (Book of Mormon Central)
 
9:00–9:15 Welcome (Jasmin Gimenez Rappleye)
Opening Prayer (Scott Gordon)
Introduction (Jasmin Gimenez Rappleye)
9:15–9:30 Ryan Dahle (Book of Mormon Central)
Launch Announcement
9:30–10:10 Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock (Independent Scholars)
Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham: Twin Sons of Different Mothers?
10:10–10:50 Noel Reynolds (BYU emeritus) and Jeff Lindsay (Independent Scholar)
“Strong Like Unto Moses”: The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses
Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Content Apparently from the Brass Plates
10:50–11:00 Break
11:00–11:40 Matthew L. Bowen (BYU–H Religious Education)
“The Word of My Power”: The Divine Word in the Book of Moses
11:40–12:20 John W. Welch (BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School) and Jackson Abhau (BYU)
The Priestly Interests of Moses the Levite
12:20–1:00 Lunch break
 
Afternoon Session Chair: Kent P. Jackson (BYU Ancient Scripture – emeritus)
 
1:00–1:40 Terryl L. Givens (BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship)
Mortality Reconsidered: The Book of Moses as a Pre–Augustinian Text
1:40–2:20 David Calabro (Saint John’s University)
“This Thing Is a Similitude”: A Typological Approach to Moses 5:1–15
and Ancient Apocryphal Literature
2:20–2:30 Break
2:30–3:10 Jared Ludlow (BYU Ancient Scripture)
“Enoch Walked with God, and He Was Not”: Where Did Enoch Go After Genesis?
Closing Prayer (Tanya Spackman)

 

Conference Organizers

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw
David R. Seely
John W. Welch
Scott Gordon

 

Conference Technical Team

Samuel Bradshaw
Trevor Holyoak
Zander Sturgill
Stephen T. Whitlock

 

 

Abstracts

 

Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham: Twin Sons of Different Mothers?
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David J. Larsen, Stephen T. Whitlock (Independent Scholars)

In this presentation, we describe significant resemblances in narrative structure between the story of heavenly ascent given in Moses 1 and an ancient text of Jewish origin called the Apocalypse of Abraham (ApAb). Because studies comparing ancient manuscripts with modern scripture are bound to be controversial, we begin with a somewhat lengthy section addressing questions about our purpose and methodology: Why did we undertake this study in the first place and how did we carry it out?. Following this prologue, we provide a brief overview of the genre of “heavenly ascent” from which both ApAb and Moses 1 are drawn. We describe how accounts of “heavenly ascent” are different from but related to the experience of “ritual ascent” as experienced in temples. Then, we will show that each major step of the two-part narrative structure of heavenly ascent in Moses 1 is mirrored in ApAb and, importantly, almost always in the same sequence. Finally, we will close this article by addressing the significance of the witness of ancient manuscripts such as ApAb for the Book of Moses as a whole.

“Strong Like Unto Moses”: The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses
Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Content Apparently from the Brass Plates

Noel Reynolds (BYU emeritus); Jeff Lindsay (Independent Scholar)

In 1987 Noel Reynolds conducted computer analysis of matching phrases in the Book of Moses and Book of Mormon that are not directly found in the Bible, and proposed a possible connection between the Book of Moses and material on the brass plates that may have influenced some Book of Mormon authors. Reynolds’ work, “The Brass Plates Version of the Book of Moses,” helped explain further recent discoveries of relationships between the Book of Moses and Book of Mormon that arose in a study of the Book of Mormon regarding its account of Lehi’s Trail, and then again in exploring its intriguing use of the ancient theme of rising from the dust. Those additional finds by Jeff Lindsay and further connections presented here strengthen the original case Reynolds made for ancient roots in the Book of Moses, roots that may extend to the brass plates and then on to the Book of Mormon. Such connections might be dismissed by asserting that Joseph merely drew upon the Book of Mormon when drafting the Book of Moses, but that view overlooks the significant evidence that the direction of dependence is the other way around. In light of the combined evidence now available, it is time to reconsider Reynolds’ original proposal and recognize the possibility that the Book of Moses is more deeply rooted in antiquity that many have recognized in the past.

“The Word of My Power”: The Divine Word in the Book of Moses
Matthew L. Bowen (BYU–H Religious Education)

The divine “word” constitutes an essential framing motif in the Book of Moses. Moses’s tripartite theophanic encounter prefacing the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (“The Vision[s] of Moses,” Moses 1) commences and transitions into an account of the creation with an emphasis on the divine “words” being given to Moses (Moses 1:1, 40-42; 2:1). The Lord subsequently describes physical and spiritual creation as transpiring “[even] according to my word” (Moses 2:16; 3:7). On close inspection, theme of the divine “word” undergirds the doctrine of eternal progression. Statements that the divine “word” can never remain unfulfilled or “void” (but must be “fulfilled”) provide the closing frames for the Creation/Fall narrative (Moses 4:30) and for the transitional narrative that describes the expansion of the human family after the Fall (Moses 5:15). The thematic transition of the divine “word” to a preached gospel—a kerygma—in Moses 5 sets the stage for the story of Enoch’s divine progression. Enoch progresses from the least capable of speakers (Moses 6:31) to the one who, among all ancient prophets, most nearly speaks forth the divine “word” as if he were God himself (Moses 6:34; cf. further Moses 6:42). The narrative tracks this progression as his speech becomes overpowering (Moses 6:47) and he becomes the one who speaks as if we were the Creator (Moses 7:13). The account of Enoch and his preaching of the “word”—the doctrine of Christ—constitutes a part of what Enoch himself described as “the words of eternal life” (Moses 6:59). Finally, the negative response to Noah’s “words” (Moses 8:20-2) triggers the Flood as an “uncreation” of the earth. Like Enoch’s kerygma, the “words” that Noah preached (Moses 8:23 were the doctrine of Christ (Moses 8:24). All of the foregoing sets the stage in the Joseph Smith translation for the stories of Abraham and the surety of divine promises. The divine “word” as a narrative thread in Moses 1–8 has implications for the nature of the Genesis material quoted in the Book of Mormon and the nature of parts of JST Genesis as restored text.

The Priestly Interests of Moses the Levite
John W. Welch (BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School) and Jackson Abhau (BYU)

The Bible states that Moses was the son of Amram, who was of the tribe of Levi (Exodus 6:16-20; 1 Chron. 6:1-3). Moses’s brother Aaron was the High Priest. As Levites, Moses and Aaron would have had particular interests. My exploration asks the question, In what ways do identifiable Levitical interests, concerns, and needs inform the contents, wordings, and purposes of the Book of Moses?

Mortality Reconsidered: The Book of Moses as a Pre–Augustinian Text
Terryl L. Givens (BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship)

The principal contest over the future of Christianity occurs in the late 4th century, when Augustine’s re-interpretation of the divine and the human anthropology triumph, fundamentally damaging forever Christian soteriology. The Book of Moses, the Latter-day Saint tradition’s most neglected scripture, effectively restores the Great Plan of Happiness to its pre-Augustinian character.

“This Thing Is a Similitude”: A Typological Approach to Moses 5:1–15 and Ancient Apocryphal Literature
David Calabro (Saint John’s University)

This paper will examine similarities between the account of the sacrifice and epiphany of the first parents in Moses 5:1-15 and analogous accounts found in apocryphal literature of the late antique and medieval periods. Apocryphal texts I will consider include primarily the Greek Life of Adam and Eve (also known as the Apocalypse of Moses) and secondarily the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, the Cave of Treasures, the medieval Jewish Sefer Raziel, and Islamic collections of Qisas al-Anbiya’ (“Stories of the Prophets”). The focus will be not only on the content of the narratives, but also on structural elements such as voice and narrative flow. Based on this examination, I will argue that some of these texts have a common type of origin, being both revelatory and oriented to a ritual context, while others belong to different types associated with different historical contexts. I will show how this typological approach could inform dialogue between scholars of Restoration scripture and those researching the origins of other traditions’ sacred texts.

“Enoch Walked with God, and He Was Not”: Where Did Enoch Go After Genesis?
Jared Ludlow (BYU Ancient Scripture)

This paper traces the reception history and development of the figure of Enoch in some of the later Pseudepigrapha. It will examine how the figure of Enoch is portrayed in these texts and how they compare with his portrayal in the Book of Moses. While there are some similarities, such as his mediator role between God and earthly inhabitants, the Book of Moses also presents some unique features and information about Enoch such as raising an entire community towards God, not just ascending to the presence of God individually. Closely related to the figure of Enoch will be the content of some his visions and what role he plays in dispensing knowledge to others of heavenly things.

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