Review of David E. Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Contemporary Studies in Scripture. Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2014. 272 pp. $26.95 (paperback); $70.00 (hardcover).
Abstract: To date, LDS scholars have largely ignored the important but rather complex questions about how primary sources may have been authored and combined to form the Bible as we have it today. David Bokovoy’s book, one of a projected series of volumes on the authorship of the Old Testament, is intended to rectify this deficiency, bringing the results of scholarship in Higher Criticism into greater visibility within the LDS community. Though readers may not agree in every respect with the book’s analysis and results, particularly with its characterization of the Books of Moses and Abraham as “inspired pseudepigrapha,” Bokovoy has rendered an important service by applying his considerable expertise in a sincere quest to understand how those who accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God can derive valuable interpretive lessons from modern scholarship.
An impressive array of evidences for the seeming heterogeneity of sources within the first five books of the Bible has converged to form the basis of the Documentary Hypothesis, a broad scholarly consensus whose most able popular expositor has been Richard Friedman.1
The idea that a series of individuals may have had a hand in the authorship and redaction of the Old Testament should not be foreign to readers of the Book of Mormon, where inspired editors have explicitly described the process by which they wove separate, overlapping records into the finished scriptural narrative. The authors and editors of the Book of Mormon knew that the account was preserved not only for the people of their own times, but also for future generations,2 including our own.3
With this understanding in mind, it should not be disturbing to Latter-day Saint (LDS) readers that events such as the story of the Flood, in the form we have it today, might be read not only as an actual occurrence but also “as a kind of parable”4—its account of the historical events shaped with specific pedagogical purposes in mind. “If this is so,” writes Blenkinsopp, “it would be only one of several examples in P [one of the presumed sources of the Genesis account] of a paradigmatic interpretation of events recorded in the earlier sources with reference to the contemporary situation.”5 More simply put, Nephi plainly declared: “I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.”6 Indeed, Nephi left us with significant examples where he deliberately shaped his explanation of Bible stories and teachings in order to help his hearers understand how they applied to their own situation.7
Of course, in contrast to the carefully controlled prophetic redaction of the Book of Mormon, we do not know how much of the editing of the Old Testament may have taken place with less inspiration and authority.8 Joseph Smith wrote, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.”9
To date, most LDS commentaries have treated the Bible primarily from a canonical perspective. In other words they have focused on interpreting the Bible as a finished product, largely ignoring the important but rather complex questions about how primary sources may have been authored and combined to form the scriptural text as we have it today. David Bokovoy’s book, one of a projected series of volumes on the authorship of the Old Testament, is intended to rectify this deficiency, bringing the results of scholarship in Higher Criticism into greater visibility within the LDS community.
Authorities, Authors, Oral Tradition, and Scribes
The first part of Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis–Deuteronomy (hereafter ATOT) provides a clear synopsis of current scholarship relating to Higher Criticism in general and the Documentary Hypothesis in particular. Especially useful for LDS readers are the book’s examples of analogs between the process of composition involved in the Bible and those that appear to have taken place in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.10 Substantive sections detail how the major sources of the Bible have been identified and dated by scholars in this research tradition.11 Contained within the introductory sections is also a brief discussion of some of the problems encountered in trying to explain anomalies in the Flood account if one posits a strict theory of textual unity.12
One issue that is understandably not emphasized in an introductory text of this kind—but that should be mentioned at this juncture—is that scholarly conversation on the Documentary Hypothesis and other important issues in Higher Criticism is, of course, ongoing. Although broad agreement persists on many issues, the state of research on the composition of the Pentateuch continues to evolve in important ways. In 2012, Konrad Schmid gave the following assessment:
Pentateuchal scholarship has changed dramatically in the last three decades, at least when seen in a global perspective. The confidence of earlier assumptions about the formation of the Pentateuch no longer exists, a situation that might be lamented but that also opens up new and—at least in the view of some scholars—potentially more adequate paths to understand its composition. One of the main results of the new situation is that neither traditional nor newer theories can be taken as the accepted starting point of analysis; rather, they are, at most, possible ends.13
That said, there is little doubt that the basic ideas of source criticism behind the Documentary Hypothesis are here to stay.
Following a substantive chapter that reviews the results of scholarship on significant relationships between the Bible and texts from Mesopotamia,14 Bokovoy turns his attention to additional questions that will be of specific interest for LDS readers. He is aware that the ideas he is presenting will be new to many readers and that they differ from traditional views of scriptural figures as the authors for the books associated with their names. Important to the case that biblical figures did not author their works directly is the idea that textual anonymity, rather than named authors, is the biblical pattern: “Historically, the concept of identifying the author of a text (such as Moses, Enoch, Abraham, etc.) was a tradition that entered into Judaism through the influence of Greek culture during the later Hellenistic era.”15
Wanting to help Latter-day Saints readers understand how these findings might be approached from a perspective of faith, ATOT allows for two possibilities—not mutually exclusive—by which one might reconcile the findings of Higher Criticism with the view of the Bible as a sacred text: “(1) we can assume that these were historical figures whose stories, as told in the Hebrew Bible, reflect early Israelite and Near Eastern oral traditions incorporated into the documentary sources;16 or (2) we can assume that some of these men were not historical figures of the material past, and rather than having the purpose of providing a chronological record of the past, with scripture God uses ideas, assumptions, mythology, and even foreign texts to help us establish a relationship with Him and others.”17
In my estimation, the idea mentioned as part of the second possibility that “some of these men were not historical figures of the material past” will be of limited interest to Latter-day Saint readers. After all, Joseph Smith has left accounts of personal visions and manifestations that include many prominent characters of the Book of Mormon18 and the Bible.19 Of course, when determining whether the “people and events portrayed in narrative about the real past are fictional or literary constructs,” our decisions “must be driven by our best assessments of what the biblical narrator intended.… We may still find reason to discuss whether the author of Job intends every part of the book to represent real events in a real past or whether it is literature built around a historical core. The point is that any conclusion that seeks to maintain authority will conform to the demonstrable intentions of the narrator.”20 So far as I have been able to determine, in the case of modern scripture, named figures from ancient times are consistently represented as historical individuals.
With respect to the first possibility mentioned, the idea that scriptural figures may sometimes be more accurately regarded as the authorities rather than the direct authors or scribes for biblical books associated with their names is not inconsistent, in my view, with LDS acceptance of the Bible as scripture “as far as it is translated [and transmitted] correctly.”21 Though I have no quarrel with the idea that the Old Testament, as we have it, might have been compiled at a relatively late date from many sources of varying perspectives and levels of inspiration, I accept that its major figures were historical and that the sources may go back to authentic traditions (whether oral or written), associated with these figures as authorities. John Walton and D. Brent Sandy express their views of this process as follows:
Authority is not dependent on an original autograph or on an author writing a book. Recognition of authority is identifiable in the beliefs of a community of faith (of whom we are heirs) that God’s communications through authoritative figures and traditions have been captured and preserved through a long process of transmission and composition in the literature that has come to be accepted as canonical. That authority can be well represented in translation, though it can be undermined to the extent that interpretation (necessary for a translation to take place) misrepresents the authority.…
Documents used in the compilation of Genesis are likely identified in the text itself (in eleven occurrences of “This is the account of…”). No identification of the source of the traditions represented in the individual documents is offered, and this is not unusual. Documents such as those found in the first part of the book (Genesis 1-11) as well as those in the second part (Genesis 12-50) would correspond well, if only generally, to the sort that would be familiar in the ancient world. Likewise no indication is given in the book itself of the time or circumstances under which these documents were compiled into the book as we know it. Earliest tradition associated the work with Moses, and given the stature of Moses that is not unreasonable, but we need not decide the matter. As discussed above, his role is best understood as tradent [i.e., transmitter of traditions], not likely that of actually generating the traditions (though he may have generated some of them—we particularly think of the creation accounts in this regard).… Compilation of those documents into the complex literary work we call Genesis may not have happened for many centuries, though the traditions would have been well known.22
In a discussion on Bible authorship, it is appropriate to introduce another class of ancient writings known today as pseudepigrapha. James Charlesworth notes that the term “pseudepigrapha” (literally “with false superscription”23) has a “long and distinguished history,”24 with changes in the way it has been applied to various writings over the years that mirror major shifts in the general field of biblical studies itself.25 For the purposes of this review, however, we will follow the definition given us by ATOT, which defines pseudepigrapha as: “a revised version of… documentary sources as revelations dictated by earlier prophetic figures.”26 This is similar in spirit to the definition in the American Heritage Dictionary, namely “spurious or pseudonymous writings, especially Jewish writings ascribed to various biblical patriarchs and prophets.”27 Importantly, however, the tenor of these definitions would seem to exclude the following situation:
For example, if the sixth-century Daniel was the authority figure28 who gave oracles that were duly recorded in documents that were saved until the second century, when someone compiled them into the book we have now and perhaps even included some updated or more specific information (provided by recognized authority figures in that time), that would not constitute pseudepigraphy or false attribution.29 If that sort of process was an accepted norm, the attribution claims are not as specific and comprehensive as we may have thought when we were using more modern models of literary production. Authority is not jeopardized as long as we affirm the claims that the text is actually making using models of understanding that reflect the ancient world.30
The views expressed in ATOT about the authorship of the Old Testament are consistent with the increasing recognition of the importance of the role of oral transmission in the preservation of religious traditions that were later normalized by scribes—both with respect to the Bible31 and the Book of Mormon.32 It should also be noted that vestiges of otherwise lost oral traditions33 are sometimes included in extracanonical texts.34 Significantly, such writings rarely if ever constitute de novo accounts. Rather, they tend to incorporate diverse traditions of varying value and antiquity in ways that make difficult the teasing out of the contribution that each makes to the whole.35 As a result, even relatively late documents rife with midrashic speculations unattested elsewhere,36 unique Islamic assertions,37 or seemingly fantastic Christian interpolations38 may sometimes preserve fragments of authentically inspired principles, history, or doctrine, or may otherwise bear witness of legitimate exegetically derived39 or ritually transmitted40 realities.
In trying to imagine more concretely how authority and authorship may have come together in the writing of prophetic teachings and revelations that may have originated, in part, in oral sources, we have modern day analogs. Consider, for example, the fact that Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo sermons were neither written out in advance nor taken down by listeners verbatim as they were delivered. Rather, they were copied as notes and reconstructions of his prose (sometimes retrospectively) by a small number of individuals, generally including an official scribe.41 These notes were in turn shared and copied by others.42 Later, as part of serialized versions of history that appeared in church publications, many (but not all) of the notes from such sermons were expanded, amalgamated, and harmonized; prose was smoothed out; and punctuation and grammar were standardized. Sometimes the wording of related journal entries from scribes and others was changed to the first person and incorporated into the History of the Church43 in order to fill in gaps, an accepted practice at the time.44
Over the years, various compilations drew directly from these published accounts45 while, more recently, transcriptions of contemporary notes (including sources that were unavailable to historians who produced the standard amalgamated versions) were also collected and published.46 Translations of these accounts into different languages sometimes created new difficulties.47 The important point in all this is that while each of these published accounts of the Prophet’s Nauvoo sermons has been widely used to convey his teachings to church members on his authority, it is likely that none of these accounts was written or reviewed by him personally.48 Moreover, less than two hundred years after these sermons were delivered, multiple variants in their content and wording—none of which completely reflect the actual words spoken—are in common circulation. In some cases, imperfect transcriptions of Joseph Smith’s words led to misconstruals of doctrine by early Church leaders and, in consequence, have been explicitly corrected by later Church leaders. One need look no further than the March 2014 edition of the Ensign for an apostolic correction of this sort.49
What this example is intended to show is how easily divergence in written records can happen, even in the best cases where like-minded “scribes,” recording events as they occurred, are doing the best they can to preserve the original words of a prophet. This phenomenon also helps explain the great lengths Joseph Smith went to in order to preserve an accurate written record of the doings of his day.
The Books of Moses and Abraham as Pseudepigrapha?
Considerable diversity of opinions regarding the specific revelatory process by which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and works attributed to Moses and Abraham is accommodated among faithful LDS scholars.50 However, one conclusion that will be difficult for many LDS readers to accept is ATOTs characterization of the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham as works of inspired pseudepigrapha51—in other words, the idea that these books, though affirmed as containing divine truths, are falsely attributed to those two prophets. Putting it another way, ATOT makes the argument that the content of these two books is not ultimately derived from the experiences and teachings of Moses and Abraham, but rather that they consist of descriptions of what Joseph Smith believed these prophets would have written if given the chance.52 As applied to the Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, ATOT argues that
the issue of the Book of Moses’ status as inspired scripture can be seen as independent from the question of its historicity as the literal words of the Bible. To quote LDS scholar Philip Barlow, “If certain truths were not originally included in the Bible, they are truths nonetheless and readers will be edified by studying them; it is not the text of the Bible as such, but rather the truths of God that are sacred.”53 To this might be added, if ancient prophets did not originally write certain truths within scripture, they are truths nonetheless, and studying them will edify readers. Though the attributed author may serve as a conduit by conceptually bridging dispensations together, it is not the author of the text but rather the truths of God that are sacred.54
With respect to the Book of Moses, ATOT makes the case that casting a fully modern source as an ancient text fulfilled a significant rhetorical function: “The Book of Moses not only defends the inspired nature of Genesis’s prehistory, it elevates the text to a revelatory status by using the biblical prophet Moses as a conduit for Joseph’s own revelations that corrected the Bible.”55 ATOT cites an article by Christopher C. Smith,56 who takes the textual history of Joseph Smith’s United Firm revelations57 as an instance of “inspired fictionalization” within the Prophet’s revelations, intentionally used “in order to [make them] sound like ancient texts.”58 However, the analog between the United Firm revelations and the Book of Moses is not convincing. There seems to be no compelling reason why the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants would have needed the kind of additional legitimization that ATOT claims was the motivation for a deliberate archaizing of the Book of Moses text. This is especially true since the principals named in the United Firm manuscripts knew of the original wording of the revelations and doubtless were aware of the changes made at the time of their publication. In my view, the practical need for discretion in light of potential anti-Mormon opposition specifically mentioned by Orson Pratt,59 an intimate of the Prophet who witnessed the events relating to the modifications to these revelations firsthand, sufficiently justifies the later efforts made to obfuscate the contemporary setting of the revelations.
Another difficulty with ATOT’s description of the Book of Moses as an inspired pseudepigraphon is that tends to paint LDS readers into discrete camps. As a label, the term “pseudepigrapha” has an all-or-nothing feel. For that reason, it fails to capture a more nuanced view that could allow for the possibility of not only significant theological connections with ancient Israel—a position explicitly adopted by ATOT—but also authentic historical material reflecting memories of events in the lives of Moses and Abraham embedded in the text that Joseph Smith produced (even though he produced it in the nineteenth century). The result of this oversimplification is a sort of caricature that doesn’t fit well with relevant LDS scholarship on these books of scripture.
As scholars have observed,60 the Prophet’s Bible translation in general, and the Book of Moses in particular, is not a homogeneous production. Rather, it is composite in structure and eclectic in its manner of translation: some chapters contain long sections that have little or no direct relationship to the text of Genesis (i.e., the vision of Moses and the story of Enoch), while other chapters are more in the line of clarifying commentary that takes the text of the King James Version as its starting point, incorporating new elements based on Joseph Smith’s prophetic understanding.61 Classing the entire Book of Moses with a single label obscures the complex nature of the translation process and the work that resulted from it,62 just as study of the Bible without taking into account its multiple sources obscures its richness. I will have more to say about the translation process of the Book of Moses below.
As to the Book of Abraham, two explanations are offered by ATOT for those wishing to accept both the Documentary Hypothesis and the inspired nature of the Book of Abraham, namely, that it is: “(1) a pseudepigraphic work of scripture written by an unknown (though possibly inspired) author in the fourth through first century bc, which was later lost and then restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith; or (2) an inspired pseudepigraphic work written by the Prophet Joseph Smith.”63
Faced with only these two alternatives, it would be natural to conclude that the second is the simpler (and most reasonable) one. However, it seems premature to rule out an additional, unmentioned alternative: namely, that the Book of Abraham may have been translated (by whatever means) from a text that was not purely pseudepigraphal in origin, but rather included material that was rooted in authentic Abrahamic traditions—whether or not one considers the possibility of written versions of the text going back to Abrahamic times to be a reasonable possibility.64
Whether Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham from papyri he once possessed but that are no longer available65 or from one or more manuscripts that were revealed to him directly need not enter into this question. Latter-day Saints accept that Joseph Smith was able to translate records that were shown to him in vision as capably as he was from those that he possessed tangibly, like the Book of Mormon plates. For example, according to the section preface, D&C 7 “is a translated version of the record made on parchment by John and hidden up by himself”—a parchment that was not physically in the possession of the Prophet. To those who accept the direct claim made in the section preface at face value, Section 7 is no more a pseudepigraphal work than is the Book of Mormon.
In addition to brief discussions of the biographical narratives, revelations, and facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, ATOT provides a relatively longer critique of its Creation chapters from the perspective of Historical Criticism and the Documentary Hypothesis.66 In evaluating these arguments, it seems important to recognize the composite nature of the Book of Abraham and the possibility that, for example, Joseph Smith’s translation process for chapters 4 and 5 of Abraham may have differed in some respects from that used for chapters 1 through 3—just as the translation process seems to have varied across different parts of the Book of Moses. More on this issue below.
In the end, however, what is most at stake here in the use of the label pseudepigrapha to describe the Books of Moses and Abraham is authority. While the term “pseudepigrapha” may be a useful construct for textual studies, it doesn’t work as well for the characterization of scripture, where the question of authority is far more significant. Latter-day Saints recognize authority in works of modern scripture because they were produced by a modern prophet, without having to establish a priori that they connect in some fashion to authorities from ancient times. This important point is eloquently argued in ATOT.67
Unlike its explicit rejection of the idea of named authorial narrators in the Books of Moses and Abraham, ATOT takes a more nuanced view of authorial lines in the Book of Mormon: “despite the fact that named authorial narrators is a technique foreign to biblical patterns, the accounts attributed to these characters in the Book of Mormon carry a strong sense of authenticity.”68 With respect to the Nephite culture of scripture authorship, Brant A. Gardner states his position as follows:69
The situation we have in the New World differs from the scribal community from which the Lehites came. Nephi (I believe) was trained as a scribe, which certainly would suggest that he would lean to what he knew. However, he was also now writing for himself and not serving as the writer for another’s story. The essence of Nephi’s record is his own story. That suggests to me that there is a direct causal link between the need and the nature of the autobiographical nature of what we have as 1 Nephi. With that very important beginning point, the new tradition begins. So I don’t see the autobiographical history of the Old World as particularly determinative for what Nephi needed to do.
In his volume on the translation of the Book of Mormon, Gardner summarizes a perspective that bounds his views of the conceptual distance between plate text and its English translation:70
The most extreme version of a conceptual theory of translation would make the plates extremely remote and essentially unrelated to the English text. It might even suggest that it was not really a translation, but simply a story based on real events.
The danger of that slippery slope is apparent in the way [Elder John A.] Widtsoe applied the brakes by declaring Joseph’s text “far beyond” his normal capabilities. That same desire to set the brakes while accepting some distance between the plate text and the translation can be seen in Robert Millet’s description of the process:
We need not jump to interpretive extremes because the language found in the Book of Mormon (including that from the Isaiah sections or the Savior’s sermon in 3 Nephi) reflects Joseph Smith’s language. Well, of course it does! The Book of Mormon is translation literature: practically every word in the book is from the English language. For Joseph Smith to use the English language with which he and the people of his day were familiar in recording the translation is historically consistent. On the other hand, to create the doctrine (or to place it in the mouths of Lehi or Benjamin or Abinadi) is unacceptable. The latter is tantamount to deceit and misrepresentation; it is, as we have said, to claim that the doctrines and principles are of ancient date (which the record itself declares) when, in fact, they are a fabrication (albeit an “inspired” fabrication) of a nineteenth-century man. I feel we have every reason to believe that the Book of Mormon came through Joseph Smith, not from him. Because certain theological matters were discussed in the nineteenth century does not preclude their revelation or discussion in antiquity.71
It should be made clear that ATOT explicitly rejects the idea that the Prophet was a conscious deceiver in presenting the Books of Moses and Abraham as ancient works. For example, with respect to the Book of Abraham, ATOT concludes that while “Joseph believed he was producing a literal translation,” we “should not assume … that the Prophet fully understood the revelatory process in which he was engaged.”72 Likewise, in ATOT’s apparent leaning to an understanding of the Book of Mormon as an expanded modern redaction of an ancient core source,73 it is concluded from a statement of the Prophet where he refrained from relating the details of translation74 that “Joseph himself most likely did not understand the exact manner by which he translated the Book of Mormon.”75 However, others have argued—more plausibly in my view—that Joseph Smith was reluctant to share specific details of these events, not because he failed to understand them,76 but rather because of his respect for their sacred nature.77
Readers will savor the sections of the book in which Bokovoy highlights selected passages providing evidence of inspiration in the Books of Moses and Abraham, giving examples of significant links with both ancient conceptions of religion and modern LDS beliefs. Bokovoy discusses the Book of Moses as a temple text, featuring biblical and temple motifs that prefigure the Nauvoo endowment.78 He also explores additional connections with Near Eastern traditions, including the ideas of how Moses was granted authority to control the waters in the likeness of God, the reference to God as a “Man of Council”79 and its resonances with the divine council in Israelite theology, elaborations about the cursing of the earth in the Book of Moses stories of Cain and Enoch, and concepts about the nature of God that not only “restored ancient truth” but also “build upon and enhance earlier historical constructs.”80
Likewise, with respect to the Book of Abraham, Bokovoy provides examples of theological connections with ancient Israel. He discusses the Book of Abraham’s rich imagery of the altar as a place of covenant-making and divine deliverance, including thematic links between the scene of Abraham’s deliverance from a sacrificial death and the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac. Seeing the Prophet’s explanations of Facsimile 3 “as a religious adaptation of ancient images that reflects newly revealed teachings,”81 Bokovoy explores how the interpretations provided by Joseph Smith relate Old Testament theology and LDS temple worship. Finally, Bokovoy draws on his extensive studies of divine councils to bring together ideas from the astronomical and creation accounts in the Book of Abraham, the Mesopotamian epic of creation (Enuma Elish), the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament.
Some Observations on Book of Moses Authorship
At this juncture, I would like to make some personal observations about Book of Moses authorship, a subject that has been of special interest to me as I have attempted to understand the meaning and significance of this important work of LDS scripture.82
What is the Book of Moses? As a starting point, it is essential to understand that the Book of Moses is an extract from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (jst).83 In the jst, a high priority of time and attention was specifically accorded to the translation of Genesis 1–24. For example, a close look at the number of verses modified in the translation process reveals that more than half of the changed verses in the jst Old Testament and 20% of those in the entire jst Bible are contained in Moses 1 and Genesis. As a proportion of page count, changes in Genesis occur four times more frequently than in the New Testament, and twenty-one times more frequently than in the rest of the Old Testament. The changes in Genesis are not only more numerous, but also more significant in the degree of doctrinal and historical expansion.
Looking at it from the perspective of translation time rather than the number of revised verses, the same picture holds. By mid-1833, three years after the process of translation started, Joseph Smith felt the jst was sufficiently complete that preparations for publication could begin.
From the perspective of the known durations of periods when each part of the translation was completed, the first 24 chapters of Genesis occupy nearly a quarter of the total time for the entire Bible. Though we cannot know how much of Joseph Smith’s daily schedule the translation occupied during each of its phases, it is obvious that Genesis 1–24, the first 1% of the Bible, must have received a significantly more generous share of the Prophet’s time and attention than did the remaining 99%.84
During the process of translation, Joseph Smith made several types of changes. These changes ranged from “long revealed additions that have little or no biblical parallel, such as the visions of Moses and Enoch” and the passage on Melchizedek, to “common-sense” changes and interpretive additions, to “grammatical improvements, technical clarifications, and modernization of terms”—the latter being the most common type of change.85 Of course, even in the case of passages that seem to be explicitly revelatory, it remained to the Prophet to exercise considerable personal effort in rendering these experiences into words.86 As Kathleen Flake puts it, Joseph Smith did not see himself as “God’s stenographer. Rather, he was an interpreting reader, and God the confirming authority.”87
Does the jst restore the original text of Genesis? LDS teachings and scripture clearly imply that Moses learned of the Creation and the Fall in vision and was told to write it. Moreover, there are revelatory passages in the Book of Moses that have remarkable congruencies with ancient texts. However, I think it fruitless to rely on jst Genesis as a means for uncovering a Moses urtext. Even if, for example, the longer, revelatory passages of chapters 1, 6, and 7 of the Book of Moses were found to be direct translations of ancient documents it is impossible to establish whether or not they once existed as an actual part of some sort of “original” manuscript of Genesis.
Mormons understand that the primary intent of modern revelation is for divine guidance to latter-day readers, not to provide precise matches to texts from other times. Because this is so, we would expect, rather, to find deliberate deviations from the content and wording of ancient manuscripts in Joseph Smith’s translations in the interest of clarity and relevance to modern readers. As one LDS apostle expressed it, “the Holy Spirit does not quote the Scriptures, but gives Scripture.”88 If we keep this perspective in mind, we will be less surprised with the appearance here and there of New Testament terms such as “Jesus Christ” in Joseph Smith’s chapters on Enoch when the title “the Son of Man” would be more in line with ancient Enoch texts.89
Is there any reason to believe that Moses 1 has any basis in antiquity? The outline of events in Moses 1, a long passage that is not rooted directly in the text of the Bible, fits squarely in the tradition of ancient “heavenly ascent” literature and its relationship to temple theology, rites, and ordinances.90 It is significant that this account, along with the rest of the Book of Moses, was revealed to Joseph Smith more than a decade before the full temple endowment was administered to others in Nauvoo.91
Although stories of heavenly ascent bear important similarities to temple practices, they make the claim of being something more. While ancient temple rituals dramatically depict a figurative journey into the presence of God, the ascent literature tells the stories of prophets who experience actual encounters with Deity within the heavenly temple—the “completion or fulfillment” of the “types and images” in earthly priesthood ordinances.92 In such encounters, the prophet may experience a vision of eternity, participation in worship with the angels, and the conferral of certain blessings that are “made sure” by the voice of God Himself.93
Building on the earlier work of Jared Ludlow94 and Hugh Nibley,95 David Larsen and I have explored significant resemblances between the first chapter of the Book of Moses and the Apocalypse of Abraham (hereafter AA).96 The major structural and conceptual resemblances include a spirit world prologue, a fall to earth, the details of the protagonist’s personal encounter with Satan, and a journey of heavenly ascent. Many additional resemblances in detail accompany these parallels in larger structural features, of which I will give a few examples.97
In both accounts, the prologue to the prophet’s heavenly ascent features a setting on a high mountain98 and an aretology.99 A scene of sacrifice is explicitly described in AA100 and may be reasonably inferred in the Book of Moses.101 In a spirit world scene, the prophet is commissioned102 and told that he will be shown a vision of eternity.103
Then, in a scene that was important enough to the editors of the Sylvester Codex to associate with a specific illustration, we are told that the prophet “fell down upon the earth, for there was no longer strength in me.”104 Similarly, in Joseph Smith’s account, “Moses … fell unto the earth .… And … it was for the space of many hours before Moses did … receive his natural strength.”105
Satan then appears, disrupting the scene and commanding worship.106 The prophet, in each case, questions Satan’s identity,107 and his own godlike status is contrasted with that of his adversary.108 In both accounts, Satan is reprimanded for his deceit and told to depart for the first time.109 The prophet is reminded by God of the difference between his status and that of Satan.110 Satan is commanded to depart a second time in both texts.111 Then, Satan makes a final, vain attempt to gain the worship of the prophet.112 In the Book of Moses, this is followed by a description of Satan’s frightening tantrum and final departure113 that is paralleled in an Enoch account.114
After the departure of Satan, Moses calls upon God.115 I understand the reference of where Moses “lifted his eyes unto heaven” in v. 24 as an allusion to the process of heavenly ascent, following the interpretive lead given by AA (“the angel took me with his right hand and set me on the right wing of the pigeon … and carried me up”116). The imagery in AA resembles that given by Nephi to describe a similar experience (“upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away”117). Although Moses had previously seen God, he now is shut out by the heavenly veil, hearing only God’s voice.118
In Moses 1:27, we are told, “And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth.” Remarkably, the book of Moses phrase “as the voice was still speaking” parallels a nearly identical phrase—“And while he [the angel] was still speaking”—in AA.119 In both cases, the phrase might be seen as a stock expression having to do with an exchange of words as one is preparing to pass from one side of the heavenly veil to the other.120 This idea is suggested in AA by the fact that the phrase immediately precedes Abraham’s recitation of certain words taught to him by the angel in preparation for his ascent to receive a vision of the work of God. In such accounts, once a person has been thoroughly tested, the “last phrase” of welcome is extended to him: “Let him come up!”121 Significantly, following Abraham’s ascent, when he passes back through the heavenly veil in the opposite direction on his return to the earth, the expression “And while he was still speaking” recurs.122
The change in perspective as Moses passes upward through the heavenly veil is related in subtle beauty in the Book of Moses. Previously, as he stood on the earth, Moses had “lifted up his eyes unto heaven.”123 Now, after ascending to heaven, he “cast his eyes” down to see the earth and all of its inhabitants.124 Similarly, in AA the prophet is told: “Look now beneath your feet at the expanse and contemplate the creation and those who inhabit it.”125
Moses’ vision is perfectly in line with ancient accounts that speak of a “blueprint” of eternity that is worked out in advance and shown on the inside of the heavenly veil:126 “Those who passed beyond the veil found themselves outside time. When Rabbi Ishmael ascended and looked back he saw the curtain on which was depicted past, present and future. ‘All generations to the end of time were printed on the curtain of the Omnipresent One. I saw them all with my own eyes’…127 [Similarly,] Enoch was taken up by three angels and set up on a high place whence he saw all history, past, present and future.”128
Moses witnessed its entire history from beginning to end like Adam, Enoch, the Brother of Jared, John the Beloved, and others.129 Moroni taught that those with perfect faith cannot be “kept from within the veil” (i.e., cannot be kept from passing through the veil130)—meaning the heavenly veil behind which God dwells, whose earthly counterpart is the temple veil that divides the holy place from the holy of holies.131 Seeing all this, Moses asks, “Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so…?”132 Likewise in AA, Abraham asks, “Eternal, Mighty One! Why did you ordain it to be so?”133
At this point, we observe a significant difference between the Book of Moses and AA. On the one hand, Moses will receive a partial answer to his question about “by what” God made these things through a vision of the Creation.134 He will also be told something about “why these things are so.”135 On the other hand, in AA, the dialogue between Abraham and the Lord centers not on the creation and purpose of the universe, but rather on recent events of local concern, including the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, and the future of Israel.136 This seems just the kind of material that a first- or second-century redactor might have wanted to include.137
Following his experience at the heavenly veil, Moses enters the presence of God. The granting of the privilege to Moses of seeing God is paralleled both in Old Testament accounts such as Isaiah and Ezekiel, and in the Enoch pseudepigrapha. In a second major difference with the Book of Moses, however, AA explicitly rejects any visualization of God, and insists on the “revelation of the divine Voice” alone.138 AA seems to be insisting on a theological point when it has Yahoel tell Abraham, “the Eternal One… himself you will not see.”139
Just as Moses is then shown the events of the Creation and the Fall,140 AA describes how the great patriarch looked down to see the affairs of what is called in modern revelation the “kingdoms of a lower order.”141 The Lord’s voice commanded Abraham to “look,” and a series of heavenly veils were opened beneath his feet.142 Like Moses, Abraham is shown the heavenly plan for creation—“the creation that was depicted of old143 on this expanse” (21:1144), its realization on the earth (21:3–5), the Garden of Eden (21:6), and the spirits of all men with certain ones “prepared to be born of [Abraham] and to be called [God’s] people (21:7–22:5)”145 When Abraham is told again to “Look … at the picture,” he sees Satan inciting the Fall of Adam and Eve (23:1–14),146 just as Moses saw these events following his own heavenly ascent.147
From his own study of affinities between the Apocalypse of Abraham and modern scripture, Hugh Nibley concluded, “These parallel accounts, separated by centuries, cannot be coincidence. Nor can all the others.”148
While most scholars assign a late date to the composition of the original Hebrew or Aramaic text of the Apocalypse of Abraham (i.e., within a few decades of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 ce), the discovery of this and similar texts commends caution in foreclosing the possibility that elements in the first chapter of the Book of Moses may preserve authentic ancient traditions associated with Mosaic authority, preserved in manuscripts of a similar nature.
Another possibility, of course, is that the experience of Moses in chapter 1 was never put to writing until it was revealed by God to Joseph Smith. Such an idea would not be inconsistent with the epilogue of Moses 1:42, which reads, “These words were spoken unto Moses in the mount, the name of which shall not be known among the children of men. And now they are spoken unto you.”149 As ATOT observes, “Moses 1 constantly invokes the voice of an omniscient narrator speaking about Moses in the third person.… This pattern stands in stark contrast to the first-person biographical formulation of Joseph’s subsequent scriptural text, the Book of Abraham. Hence, when read critically, the text itself does not view Moses as its author”150—though, of course, it does view Moses as the one to whom these words were originally spoken.
There is much additional work to be done to bring our understanding of the translation process of the Book of Moses to a level approaching our current, more extensive knowledge about the translation of the Book of Mormon.151 What is important for the present discussion is to know that, whether or not Moses himself recorded his vision in writing, there are reasonable possibilities other than concluding that the account in Moses 1 is a simple pseudepigraphal retrojection of Joseph Smith onto the life of the ancient prophet.
Is there any reason to believe that the story of Enoch found in Moses 6–7 has any basis in antiquity? Another notably long revelatory section of the Book of Moses contains the story of Enoch,152 an account whose resemblances to other Enoch texts have provoked a variety of explanations.153 The most popular of these explanations asserts that Joseph Smith derived these chapters from acquaintance with the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch. For example, in his master’s thesis,154 Salvatore Cirillo cites and amplifies the arguments of Michael Quinn155 that the available evidence that Joseph Smith had access to published works related to 1 Enoch has moved “beyond probability—to fact.” He sees no other explanation than this for the substantial similarities that he finds between the Book of Moses and the pseudepigraphal Enoch literature.156 However, reflecting on the “coincidence” of the appearance of the first English translation of 1 Enoch in 1821, just a few years before Joseph Smith received his Enoch revelations, the eminent historian Richard L. Bushman concludes on the basis of his careful analysis: “It is scarcely conceivable that Joseph Smith knew of Laurence’s Enoch translation.”157
Perhaps even more significant than the historical factors for rejecting 1 Enoch as a source for Moses 6–7 is that, as Woodworth argues, the principal themes of “Laurence’s 105 translated chapters do not resemble Joseph Smith’s Enoch in any obvious way.”158 Indeed, apart from the shared prominence of themes relating to the Son of Man motif in the 1 Enoch Book of Parables159 and the Book of Moses, the most striking resemblances to the Prophet’s revelations are found not in 1 Enoch, but in related pseudepigrapha such as 2 Enoch (first published in English at the end of the 19th century)160 and the Qumran Book of the Giants (an Enochic book discovered in 1948).161
The primary motifs in the Book of Moses’ account of Enoch’s call, teachings, and glorification are illustrated throughout older texts. For example, Stephen Ricks has shown how the six characteristic features of the Old Testament narrative call pattern identified by Norman Habel are shown in the commissioning of Joseph Smith’s Enoch.162 According to Samuel Zinner,163 the ideas behind the unusual wording of this commission arose in the matrix of the ancient Enoch literature.164
Enoch’s self-description as a “lad” in the Book of Moses—the only instance of the term “lad” in the teachings and revelations of Joseph Smith—reflects the prominence of his title of “lad” in 2 and 3 Enoch.165 Gary A. Anderson of the University of Notre Dame finds these latter references “curious,” noting that “of all the names given Enoch, the title ‘lad’ is singled out as being particularly apt and fitting by the heavenly host.”166
In the account of Enoch’s teaching mission, there are several interesting resemblances with the fragmentary Book of the Giants.167 These resemblances range from general themes in the story line (secret works, murders, visions, earthly and heavenly books of remembrance that evoke fear and trembling, moral corruption, hope held out for repentance, and the eventual defeat of Enoch’s adversaries in battle, ending with their utter destruction and imprisonment) to specific occurrences of rare names and expressions in corresponding contexts.168 Note that these resemblances with the Book of the Giants are not drawn at will from a large corpus but rather are concentrated in a scant three pages of Qumran fragments.
One of the most striking of these correspondences is in the name and role of “Mahijah/Mahujah,” the only named character besides Enoch himself in Joseph Smith’s story of Enoch.169 Hugh Nibley observes, “The only thing the Mahijah in the Book of Moses is remarkable for is his putting of bold direct questions to Enoch. And this is exactly the role, and the only role, that the Aramaic Mahujah plays in the story.”170
In the Book of Moses, Enoch described how, as he and Mahujah “cried unto the Lord,”171 they were told to go to Mount Simeon. There, as Enoch stood upon the mount, the heavens opened and he was “clothed upon with glory.”172 2 and 3 Enoch purport to describe the process by which Enoch was “clothed upon with glory” in more detail. As a prelude to Enoch’s introduction to the secrets of creation, these ancient accounts describe a “two-step initiatory procedure” whereby “the patriarch was first initiated by angel(s) and after this by the Lord”173 Himself. In 2 Enoch, God commanded his angels to “extract Enoch from (his) earthly clothing. And anoint him with my delightful oil, and put him into the clothes of my glory.”174 Joseph Smith’s Enoch was given a right to the divine throne,175 and likewise, in 3 Enoch, God makes a throne for the seer and sits him down upon it.176
With regard to the visions of Enoch, the Book of Parables holds special interest for students of the Book of Moses. Both books describe visions of Enoch with a central figure and a common set of titles. The title “Son of Man,” which is a notable feature of the Book of Parables,177 also appears in marked density throughout Enoch’s grand vision in the Book of Moses.178 The titles “Chosen One,”179 “Anointed One,”180 and “Righteous One”181 also appear prominently in both texts. Consistent with the conclusions of Nickelsburg and VanderKam about the use of these multiple titles in the Book of Parables,182 the Book of Moses applies them all to a single individual. Moreover, Moses 6:57 gives a single, specific description of the role of the Son of Man as a “righteous judge.”183 This conception is highly characteristic of the Book of Parables, where the primary role of the Son of Man is also that of a judge.184
Genesis implies that Enoch escaped death by being taken up alive into heaven.185 In a significant addition to the biblical record, the Book of Moses states that the entire city of Enoch was eventually received up into heaven.186 Two late accounts preserve echoes of a similar motif. In A. Jellenik’s translation of Jewish traditions, Bet ha-Midrasch,187 we find the account of a group of Enoch’s followers who steadfastly refused to leave him as he journeyed toward the place where he was going to be taken up to heaven.188 Afterward, a group of kings came to find out what happened to these people. After searching under large blocks of snow they unexpectedly found at the place, they failed to discover any remains of Enoch or of his followers.
In a Mandaean Enoch fragment,189 a group of the prophet’s adversaries complain that Enoch and those who had gone to heaven with him have escaped their reach: “By fleeing and hiding the people on high have ascended higher than us. We have never known them. All the same, there they are, clothed with glory and splendors.… And now they are sheltered from our blows.”
In addition to these accounts alluding to a group who rose with Enoch to heaven, David Larsen provides a valuable discussion that includes “examples in early Jewish and early Christian literature that depict this motif in a different way. Although they do not feature Enoch or his city explicitly, there is a recurring theme in some of the texts that corresponds to the idea of a priestly figure who leads a community of priests in an ascension into the heavenly realm.”190
What can we surmise about the process Joseph Smith used to translate the Bible? With respect to the translation of the Book of Mormon, Brant Gardner posits a default view of functionalist equivalence. In other words, “unless a very specific, detailed textual analysis supports an argument that particular words or passages are either literalist or conceptual,”191 he favors the idea that Joseph Smith’s translation “adheres to the organization and structures of the original [plate text] but is more flexible in the vocabulary.”192 Royal Skousen differs to a degree with Gardner in his understanding of the translation process, arguing that the words chosen for the English text were generally given under “tight control.”193
Despite these differences regarding Book of Mormon translation, however, both Skousen and Gardner would agree that one should not assume that every change made in the jst constitutes revealed text, tightly controlled. Besides arguments that can be made on the basis of the modifications themselves, there are questions regarding the reliability and degree of supervision given to the scribes who transcribed, copied, and prepared the text for publication. Differences are also apparent in the nature of the translation process that took place at different stages of the work. For example, whereas a significant proportion of the Genesis passages canonized as the Book of Moses look like “a word-for-word revealed text,” evidence from a study of two sections in the New Testament that were translated twice indicates that the later “New Testament jst is not being revealed word-for-word, but largely depends upon Joseph Smith’s varying responses to the same difficulties in the text.”194
Was any of the understanding Joseph Smith relied on in making his translation of the Book of Moses received directly as the result of a vision? Some aspects of the Book of Moses, possibly including the comprehensive understanding of the Creation and the Fall that both Moses and Joseph Smith received, may have first come in vision and only later have been put into words. Regarding such visionary experiences, Lorenzo Brown remembered Joseph Smith as saying,
After I got through translating the Book of Mormon, I took up the Bible to read with the Urim and Thummim. I read the first chapter of Genesis, and I saw the things as they were done, I turned over the next and the next, and the whole passed before me like a grand panorama; and so on chapter after chapter until I read the whole of it. I saw it all!195
However, even if this account is accurate, I do not think that Joseph Smith recorded in a direct fashion everything that he saw and understood relating to the material in the Book of Moses. In the chapters where the Book of Moses closely parallels the Genesis account (i.e., Moses 2-5, 8 vs. Moses 1, 6, 7), he seems to have emended the biblical text only to the degree he felt necessary and authorized to do so, running roughshod, as it were, over the divisions of biblical source texts generally accepted by scholars. In other words, rather than compose a completely new account of Creation and the Fall in the Book of Moses, Joseph Smith wove changes based on his prophetic insight piece-by-piece into the existing Genesis account.196 As a result, in his effort to fulfill his divine mandate to “translate” scripture, the Prophet gives us enough revised and expanded material in the Book of Moses to significantly impact our understanding of important doctrinal and historical topics, but does not rework existing kjv verses to the point they become unrecognizable to those familiar with the Bible.197
Is the Book of Moses in a “final” form? It would be a mistake to assume that the Book of Moses is currently in any sort of “final” form—if indeed such perfection in expression could ever be attained within the confines of what Joseph Smith called our “little, narrow prison, almost as it were, total darkness of paper, pen and ink; and a crooked, broken, scattered and imperfect language.”198 As Robert J. Matthews, a pioneer of modern scholarship on the Joseph Smith Translation, aptly put it, “Any part of the translation might have been further touched upon and improved by additional revelation and emendation by the Prophet.”199
Though Joseph Smith was careful in his efforts to render a faithful translation of the Bible, he was no naïve advocate of the inerrancy or finality of scriptural language.200 For instance, although in some cases his Bible translation attempted to resolve blatant inconsistencies among different accounts of the Creation and the life of Christ, he did not attempt to merge these sometimes divergent perspectives on the same events into a single harmonized version. Of course, having multiple accounts of these important stories should not be seen a defect or inconvenience. Differences in perspective between such accounts—and even seeming inconsistencies—composed “in [our] weakness, after the manner of [our] language, that [we] might come to understanding,”201 can be an aid rather than a hindrance to human comprehension, perhaps serving disparate sets of readers or diverse purposes to some advantage.
In translating the Bible, Joseph Smith’s criterion for the acceptability of a given reading was typically pragmatic rather than absolute. For example, after quoting a verse from Malachi in a letter to the Saints, he admitted that he “might have rendered a plainer translation.” However, he said that his wording of the verse was satisfactory in this case because the words were “sufficiently plain to suit [the] purpose as it stands.”202 This pragmatic approach is also evident both in the scriptural passages cited to him by heavenly messengers and in his sermons and translations. In these latter instances, Joseph Smith often varied the wording of Bible verses to suit the occasion.203
There is another reason we should not think of the Book of Moses as being in its “final” form. My study of the translations, teachings, and revelations of Joseph Smith has convinced me that he sometimes knew much more about certain sacred matters than he taught publicly. Indeed, in some cases, we know that the Prophet deliberately delayed the publication of early temple-related revelations connected with his work on the jst until several years after he initially received them.204 Even after Joseph Smith was well along in the translation process, he seems to have believed that God did not intend for him to publish the jst in his lifetime. For example, writing to W. W. Phelps in 1832, he said, “I would inform you that [the Bible translation] will not go from under my hand during my natural life for correction, revisal, or printing and the will of [the] Lord be done.”205
Although in later years Joseph Smith reversed his position and apparently made serious efforts to prepare the manuscript of the jst for publication, his own statement makes clear that initially he did not feel authorized to share publicly all he had produced—and learned—during the translation process. Indeed, a prohibition against indiscriminate sharing of some revelations, which parallels similar cautions found in pseudepigrapha,206 is explicit in the Book of Moses when it says of one sacred portion of the account, “Show [these words] not unto any except them that believe.”207 Such admonitions are consistent with a remembrance of a statement by Joseph Smith that he intended to go back and rework some portions of the Bible translation to add in truths he was previously “restrained … from giving in plainness and fulness.”208
In summary, having spent the last few years in focused study of the early chapters of jst Genesis, I have been astonished with the extent to which its words reverberate with the echoes of antiquity—and, no less significantly, with the deepest truths of my own experience. I believe that the Book of Moses is a priceless prophetic reworking of the book of Genesis, made with painstaking effort under divine direction. Although neither “complete,” “final,” nor “inerrant,” it is a text of inestimable value that constitutes a centerpiece of my personal scripture study.
By applying his considerable expertise to the problem of making the issues and results of Higher Criticism available to non-specialists and tailoring his findings to an LDS readership, David Bokovoy has performed an important service. Although our conclusions and approaches differ on some issues, I commend the spirit with which he has undertaken his study and feel a commonality in our love for scripture and our sympathy for all those who seek to understand it “by study and also by faith.”209 I am personally grateful to be the benefactor of his sincere quest to understand how those who accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God can derive valuable interpretive lessons from modern scholarship.
LDS scholarship has a long tradition of focusing on the historicity of Joseph Smith’s translations.210 ATOT encourages us to broaden our focus, engaging the texts more effectively as we continue to study their history.
This is a helpful move, but only the beginning. In tandem with our efforts to sort out the sources, we will need to increase our understanding of how to take in the texts. As Ben McGuire puts it, “We can talk about the text that was, but what we have is the text that is, and it is this text that displays (more so than any hypothetical urtext) an intentionality, and a theological understanding. If we try to place a theological understanding back on a hypothetical urtext it is more likely we come up with a mirror than with some shattering and important insight.”211 Fortunately, in Bokovoy’s work of critical scholarship, he has given us a tantalizing foretaste of where such study may lead us in his erudite discussions of a few of the inspired treasures of modern scripture.212
Another subject that merits deeper inquiry concerns Joseph Smith’s role as a translator. Brant Gardner sees this as “one of the next important discussions that LDS scholars must have. We really have to work out Joseph as a translator based on data rather than assumptions. It will be our own form of Higher Criticism. In this case, however, we won’t be discovering the human editorial process but attempting to understand the divine process that merged revelation and translation into Joseph’s textual production.”213
My thanks to the reviewers who have immeasurably improved this essay through their insightful comments.
1. See, e.g., Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997); The Hidden Book in the Bible (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). Note, however, that even those who find the Documentary Hypothesis—or some variant of it—compelling have good reason to admire the resulting literary product on its own terms. For example, in the case of the two Creation chapters, Friedman himself writes that in the scriptural version of Genesis we have a text “that is greater than the sum of its parts” (Commentary on the Torah (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), 16).
Sailhamer aptly summarizes the situation when he writes that “Genesis is characterized by both an easily discernible unity and a noticeable lack of uniformity” (John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990). 5).
2. E.g., 2 Nephi 25:8, 21–22; Jacob 1:3; Enos 1:15–16; Jarom 1:2; Mormon 7:1, 8:34–35.
3. E.g., Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, November 1986, 4-7.
4. Joseph Blenkinsopp, “The Structure of P,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38, no. 3 (1976), 284.
5. Blenkinsopp, “The Structure of P,” 284.
6. 1 Nephi 19:23.
7. E.g., 1 Nephi 4:2, 17:23–44. André LaCocque describes how the Bible “attributes to historical events (like the Exodus, for instance) a paradigmatic quality” (André LaCocque, The Captivity of Innocence: Babel and the Yahwist (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), 71). “[A]ny conceptual framework which merely purports to reconstruct events ‘as they really were’ (Ranke),” writes Michael Fishbane, “is historicistic, and ignores the thrust of [the Bible’s] reality. For the Bible is more than history. It is a religious document which has transformed memories and records in accordance with various theological concerns” (Michael A. Fishbane, “The Sacred Center,” in Texts and Responses: Studies Presented to Nahum H. Glatzer on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday by His Students, ed. Michael A. Fishbane and P. R. Flohr (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1975), 6).
8. Cf. Brant A. Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2011), 295.
9. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969), 327. Cf. 1 Nephi 13:24–28. Of course, there are similar difficulties that have come into play in the textual, editing, and publishing history of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants (e.g., Section 27), a fact that should help us better understand the idea of a textual history described by source criticism for the Old Testament.
As Ben McGuire explains: “Within the short history of our scripture we see numerous such changes (even with the existence of printing technology) that help us to understand that these changes occur quite naturally — and are not necessarily the results of translational issues or corrupt priests. We can, of course, completely identify the history of some of these changes, we can detail corruptions in the Book of Mormon that have occurred from the original manuscript. We can speculate about the existence of these errors where the original manuscript does not exist, and so on. And the fact that we can talk about [D&C] 27 as a composite work is itself another symptom of the process by which our texts come into existence in a way that doesn’t reflect a single author with a single pen, providing us with the perfect word of God” (Benjamin L. McGuire, e-mail message, 17 March 2014).
10. David E. Bokovoy, Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy, Contemporary Studies in Scripture (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2014), 20–22, 127–129.
11. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 41–87.
12. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 34–36.
13. Konrad Schmid, “Genesis in the Pentateuch,” in The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation, ed. Craig A. Evans, Joel N. Lohr, and David L. Petersen, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Formation and Interpretation of Old Testament Literature (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), 28–29. Cf. David M. Carr, The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2011), 102–125.
14. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 89–122. Elsewhere I have written about affinities between Mesopotamian sources in temple ritual (Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and Ronan J. Head, “The Investiture Panel at Mari and Rituals of Divine Kingship in the Ancient near East,” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 4 (2012), 1-42) and the Bible accounts of Noah and the Tower of Babel (Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen, In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel, (Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014)).
15. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 141. Cf. Karel van der Toorn, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 31–33. John S. Thompson, e-mail message, 21 March 2014, however, qualifies this conclusion as follows: “While the Pentateuch does seem to have an anonymous narrator/editor who speaks of Moses and others in third person, the prophetic books have more first person narrative and autobiographical flavor that lends itself to the possibility of direct prophetic authorship.”
16. Ronald S. Hendel, “Historical Context,” in The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation, ed. Craig A. Evans, Joel N. Lohr, and David L. Petersen, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Formation and Interpretation of Old Testament Literature (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), 72, notes that Deuteronomy 32:7 “evokes the family and tribal setting of oral traditions of the collective past”: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.”
17. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 133.
18. These included Lehi, Nephi, Moroni, and apparently others. See Trevan G. Hatch, Visions, Manifestations, and Miracles of the Restoration (Orem, UT: Granite Publishing, 2008), 129–131.
19. These included, among others, the Old Testament figures of Adam, Noah, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Elias, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Elijah. New Testament figures included John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Paul, Stephen, Philip, Matthew, James the Lesser, Matthias, Andrew, Mark, Jude, Bartholomew, Thomas, Luke, Simon, Barnabas, and others of the Apostles—and, of course, Jesus Christ Himself. See Hatch, Visions, 135–155. For additional accounts of divine manifestations to the Prophet, see John W. Welch and Erick B. Carlson, eds., Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844 (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2005).
20. John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 304.
21. Articles of Faith 1:8. In this connection, Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 131, cites the following from President Gordon B. Hinckley (“The Great Things Which God Has Revealed,” Ensign, May 2005, 81):
The Christian world accepts the Bible as the word of God. Most have no idea of how it came to us.
I have just completed reading a newly published book by a renowned scholar. It is apparent from information which he gives that the various books of the Bible were brought together in what appears to have been an unsystematic fashion. In some cases, the writings were not produced until long after the events they describe. One is led to ask, “Is the Bible true? Is it really the word of God?”
We reply that it is, insofar as it is translated correctly. The hand of the Lord was in its making.
22. Walton and Sandy, Lost World of Scripture, 68, 69. With respect to Genesis in particular, “it is fairly obvious that the book of Genesis serves as a kind of introduction or prologue to what follows in Exodus through Deuteronomy” (Schmid, “Genesis,” 29). “Nevertheless,” continues Schmid in his highlighting of one prominent theme in the most recent thinking on the topic (“Genesis,” 30, 32, 45), “the function of Genesis to the Pentateuch is apparently not exhausted by describing it as an introduction to the Moses story.… Genesis … shows … clear signs of having existed as a stand-alone literary unit for some portion of its literary growth. Genesis is a special book within the Pentateuch: it is the most self-sufficient one.… In current scholarship, it is no longer possible to explain the composition of the book of Genesis from the outset within the framework of the Documentary Hypothesis.”
For a broader survey of current research, see Jan Christian Gertz, “The Formation of the Primeval History,” in The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation, ed. Craig A. Evans, Joel N. Lohr, and David L. Petersen, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Formation and Interpretation of Old Testament Literature (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012). For details of textual transmission and reception history of Genesis in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, see Craig A. Evans, Joel N. Lohr, and David L. Petersen, eds., The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Formation and Interpretation of Old Testament Literature (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), 303–632.
23. See Eusebius, The History of the Church, trans. G. A. Williamson and Andrew Louth (London, England: Penguin Books, 1989), 190.
24. James H. Charlesworth, ed. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983), xxiv.
25. For good summaries of the history of the usage of the term, see Charlesworth, Pseudepigrapha, xxiv–xxv; and Richard Bauckham et al., eds., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2013), xvii–xx. The trend in the application of the term “pseudepigrapha” to characterize ancient writings is tending to greater inclusivity since, as Bauckham et al. observe, “there is simply no ‘magic bullet’ (such as date of composition, authorship, genre, etc.) which allows us as historians rather than theologians to distinguish between canonical ancient revelatory books and noncanonical ones” (Bauckham, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, xix). Complicating the search for a clear dividing line are examples like 1 Enoch, a book once highly prized by Christians to the point of being quoted in the New Testament, but which is no longer included in the biblical canon except by the Ethiopic Christian Church.
26. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 142.
27. “American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition, 2000),” http://www.bartleby.com/61/. The definition adds: “but composed within approximately 200 years of the birth of Jesus Christ.” This is a typical criterion for inclusion in modern collections of pseudepigrapha.
28. It should be noted that many scholars see Daniel as a fictional character.
29. In a footnote, Walton refers to Craig Blomberg’s term: “benign pseudonymity.”
30. Walton and Sandy, Lost World of Scripture, 305.
31. E.g., van der Toorn, Scribal Culture; Hendel, “Historical Context,” 73–84; Carr, Formation, 4–7, 13–36.
32. E.g., Brant A. Gardner, “Literacy and Orality in the Book of Mormon,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 9 (2014). Of course, LDS scripture also emphasizes the important role of written scripture going back to the earliest times (e.g., Moses 6:5–8, 46).
33. Note that valuable religious traditions are not confined to accounts from Abrahamic lands and faiths (see Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, In God’s Image and Likeness 1: Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve, (Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2014 Update Edition), 29, n. 0-36). As God pointedly told Nephi: “I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it” (2 Nephi 29:12, emphasis mine; cf. Alma 29:8, Gerald E. Jones, “Apocryphal Literature and the Latter-Day Saints,” in Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-Day Saints, ed. C. Wilfred Griggs, Religious Studies Monograph Series (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1986), 28–29; cf. Brigham Henry Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret News, 1907, 1912; repr., Brigham City, UT: Brigham Distributing, 2002), 1:512; Smith, Teachings, 10–11, 61).
Considering this fact, it should not be at all surprising if genuinely revealed teachings, promulgated at one time but subsequently lost or distorted (see Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, 29, n. 0-37), may sometimes appear to have survived in heterodox strands of religious traditions the world over (see Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney, “Statement of the First Presidency: God’s Love for All Mankind (February 15, 1978), Excerpted in S. J. Palmer Article on ‘World Religions, Overview’,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York City, NY: Macmillan, 1992); Spencer J. Palmer, ed. The Expanding Church (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1978), v; Orson F. Whitney, “Discourse (April 1928),” in General Conference Report of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Ninety-Eighth Annual Conference (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1928), 59; “Respect for Diversity of Faiths,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/respect-for-diversity-of-faiths).
Robert F. Smith, https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/sorting-out-the-sources-in-scripture/#comment-13917, 6 March 2014 observes that ”ancient Near Eastern creation stories generally differ in details, but agree in the broad schema — as Speiser shows in his Anchor Bible translation-commentary on Genesis (Doubleday, 1964), 9-13. The same is true of the various Flood and Tower stories… What would be truly odd would be the lack of divergent accounts.”
34. In evaluating evidence of antiquity for traditions preserved in extracanonical literature, scholars must maintain the careful balance articulated by Nickelsburg: “One should not simply posit what is convenient with the claim that later texts reflected earlier tradition. At the same time, thoroughgoing skepticism is inconsonant with the facts as we know them and as new discoveries continue to reveal them: extant texts represent only a fragment of the written and oral tradition that once existed. Caution, honest scholarly tentativeness, and careful methodology remain the best approach to the data” (George W. E. Nickelsburg, Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 25–26).
35. For a discussion of the difficulties in teasing out, e.g., Jewish from Christian contributions to the pseudepigrapha, see Robert A. Kraft, “The Pseudepigrapha in Christianity,” in Tracing the Threads: Studies in the Vitality of Jewish Pseudepigrapha, ed. John C. Reeves (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1994).
36. For example, Schwartz asserts that “a great many rabbinic myths, as found in the Midrashim, are not new creations of the rabbis, as might appear to be the case. Rather they are simply the writing down of an oral tradition that was kept alive by the people, when there was no need to suppress it any longer” (Howard Schwartz, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004), lxiv). Moreover, he points out that “the rabbinic texts themselves claim that these traditions are part of the Oral Torah, handed down by God to Moses at Mount Sinai, and are therefore considerably ancient” (Tree, lxxxiv).
37. For example, Reeves has concluded “that the Qur’an, along with the interpretive traditions available in Hadīth, commentaries, antiquarian histories, and the collections of so-called ‘prophetic legends’ (qiṣaṣ al-anbiyā’), can shed a startling light on the structure and content of certain stories found in Bible and its associated literatures (such as Pseudepigrapha and Midrash). [Thus, the] Qur’an and other early Muslim biblically-allied traditions must be taken much more seriously as witnesses to ‘versions of Bible’ than has heretofore been the case” (John C. Reeves, “The Flowing Stream: Qur’anic Interpretations and the Bible,” Religious Studies News: SBL Edition 2, no. 9 (2001); see also Tarif Khalidi, ed. The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature, Convergences: Inventories of the Present (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 7–9, 16–17).
Wasserstrom refers to “arguments to the effect that active reading of ‘biblical’ or ‘extrabiblical’ narratives by Muslims was an exercise which reflexively illuminates those ‘original’ sources’” and cites Halperin’s argument that transmitters of these stories in the Islamic tradition “tended to make manifest what had been typically left latent in the Jewish version which they had received” (Steven M. Wasserstrom, “Jewish Pseudepigrapha in Muslim Literature: A Bibliographical and Methodological Sketch,” in Tracing the Threads: Studies in the Vitality of Jewish Pseudepigrapha, ed. John C. Reeves (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1994), 100).
For a discussion of the complex two-way relationship between Jewish pseudepigrapha and Muslim literature, see “Muslim Literature.” For a specific discussion of Islamic sources and interpretation in Genesis, see Carol Bakhos, “Genesis, the Qur’an and Islamic Interpretation,” in The Book of Genesis: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation, ed. Craig A. Evans, Joel N. Lohr, and David L. Petersen, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Formation and Interpretation of Old Testament Literature (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012).
38. For example, as Lipscomb observes, even some of the late medieval compositions that “do not derive directly from earliest Christianity” may be of “great importance… in the antiquity of some of the traditions they contain, the uniqueness of some of their larger contribution to the development and understanding of Adam materials and of medieval Christianity” (W. Lowndes Lipscomb, ed. The Armenian Apocryphal Literature, University of Pennsylvania Armenian Texts and Studies (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, 1990), 1–6).
39. See, e.g., James L. Kugel, “Some Instances of Biblical Interpretation in the Hymns and Wisdom Writings of Qumran,” in Studies in Ancient Midrash, ed. James L. Kugel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 156. Kugel observes: “To make sense of these [brief and sometimes] offhand references—indeed, even to identify them as containing exegetical motifs—it is necessary to read the text in question against the background of the whole body of ancient interpretations” (“Instances,” 156).
40. See, e.g., Hugh W. Nibley, “Myths and the Scriptures,” in Old Testament and Related Studies, ed. John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1986), 42.
41. The Words of Joseph Smith, comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1980), xvii–xviii.
42. Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, xvii.
43. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Documentary History), 7 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1978).
44. Dean C. Jessee, “The Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” BYU Studies 11 (1971), 439-73.
45. E.g., Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings; Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007); The Teachings of Joseph Smith (later republished as Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings) (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1997).
46. Smith, Words of Joseph Smith.
47. E.g., Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, 643–644, 750.
48. According to Jessee, “Joseph Smith’s History,” 441, Joseph Smith and his scribes had only progressed to the date August 5, 1838, in the history by the time of the Prophet’s death.
49. David A. Bednar, “Faithful Parents and Wayward Children: Sustaining Hope While Overcoming Misunderstanding,” Ensign, March 2014, 30–33.
50. See, e.g., John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo, UT: FARMS at Brigham Young University, 2000); Gardner, Gift and Power; Royal Skousen, “Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Book of Mormon: Evidence for Tight Control of the Text,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7, no. 1 (1998), 22-31.
51. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 141–147, 169–173.
52. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 144–146, 172.
53. Philip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-Day Saints in American Religion (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1991), 57.
54. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 159.
55. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 146.
56. Christopher C. Smith, “The Inspired Fictionalization of the 1835 United Firm Revelations,” Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies 1, no. 1 (2011). The study updates the 1983 article, David J. Whittaker, “Substituted Names in the Published Revelations of Joseph Smith,” BYU Studies 23, no. 1 (1983), with new findings from the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
57. D&C 78, 82, 92, 96.
58. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 129.
59. Orson Pratt, “The Seer,” (1853–1854; reprint, Orem, UT: Grandin Book Company, 1994), 2:3, p. 228: these changes were made “on account of our enemies, who were seeking every means to destroy the Prophet and the Church.” Cf. Orson Pratt to Brigham Young, 20 November 1842, cited in Whittaker, “Substituted Names,” 106n11.
60. E.g., Philip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion, Updated ed. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2013), 55–57.
61. McGuire cautions against the adoption of extremes at either end of the spectrum with respect to translation issues. “On the one end of the spectrum we could (as believers) hold to a view in which [the Books of Moses and Abraham] are modern pseudepigrapha—a notion which contradicts what appears to be the opinion of the text held by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries (and this makes us appropriately uncomfortable…). On the other end, the view that they are wholly revealed translations of ancient texts seems, at least on the surface, to be unsupportable.”
62. Cf. Kevin L. Barney, “Authoring the Old Testament,” http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/02/23/authoring-the-old-testament/. In his review of ATOT, Barney summarizes his more open view of the Prophet’s translations as follows: “Since with Joseph’s revealed ‘translation’ projects we are not talking about conventional translations but textual productions grounded in the ‘gift of seeing,’ I think it is important to remain open-minded as to what that might mean in any given case. Perhaps Joseph has restored material that is authentic to an ancient prophet; perhaps he has restored material that is authentic to antiquity generally if not that prophet in particular; or perhaps he has used the method of pseudepigrapha as the medium to convey his own prophetic insights.”
63. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 172. See also 170.
64. Of course, the hypothesis of authentic Abrahamic roots for a given manuscript would always remain beyond the bounds of direct testability from a scholarly perspective. As Walter Brueggemann points out with respect to the “historical David,” we cannot speak “as though we could isolate and identify the real thing. That is not available to us” (Walter Brueggemann, David’s Truth in Israel’s Imagination and Memory (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1985), 13)—at least not through the later, textual sources we have available to us.
65. See, e.g., John Gee, “Book of Abraham, I Presume,” http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-book-of-abraham-i-presume. John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, eds., Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham, Studies in the Book of Abraham (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001) collects the many stories that were circulating about the sacrifice of Abraham in antiquity, noting resemblances in this motif to the related story in the Book of Abraham.
More recently, Gee translated from Coptic a story that, unfortunately, was not available when this collection was assembled. He finds this manuscript “closer than any of them to the Book of Abraham” (Gee, “Book of Abraham, I Presume”). In general terms, this is an “Egyptian account in which a king attempts to put Abraham to death only to have him delivered by an angel and also have Abraham afterwards attempting to teach the king and his court about the true God through the use of astronomy” (“An Egyptian View of Abraham,” in Bountiful Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown, ed. Andrew C. Skinner, D. Morgan Davis, and Carl W. Griffin (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2011), 155–156).
Also noting the frequent skepticism among non-Mormon scholars about the phrase in the introduction to the Book of Abraham that reads “the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus,” Gee points out a manuscript containing a mention of a text that is, “written by his own hand on papyrus” (Gee, “Book of Abraham, I Presume”).
66. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 165–169.
67. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 158–159, 170–173, 189.
68. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 197.
69. Gardner, “Comments on Literacy and Orality in the Book of Mormon,” https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/literacy-and-orality-in-the-book-of-mormon/#comments.
70. Gardner, Gift and Power, 151-152.
71. Robert L. Millet, “The Book of Mormon, Historicity, and Faith,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2, no. 2 (1993): 5.
72. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 172.
73. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 211–214; cf. Blake T. Ostler, “The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20, no. 1 (1987), 66-123; “Updating the Expansion Theory,” http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2005/04/updating-the-expansion-theory/. For a critique of this view of the Book of Mormon translation process, see Stephen E. Robinson, “The ‘Expanded’ Book of Mormon?,” in The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 391-414. Gardner, Gift and Power, 244–246 gives a few examples that seem to indicate modern expansion, but on the whole sees the Book of Mormon translation as closer to the underlying plate text than Ostler (Gift and Power, 150-152, 244–247, 282–283).
74. Smith, Documentary History, 25–26 October 1831, 1:220.
75. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 214.
76. Though I would agree that the Prophet may have found it difficult to put a description of the specific spiritual, sensory, and cognitive processes by which revealed text was produced, it is more difficult to argue that he did not understand, for example, the role of manuscripts and artifacts he relied on in his translation of the Book of Mormon. It seems equally unlikely that he did not understand whatever relationship existed between the Egyptian papyri and the Book of Abraham.
77. See, e.g., Ronald O. Barney, “Joseph Smith’s Visions: His Style and His Record,” http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2013-fair-conference/2013-joseph-smiths-visions-his-style-and-his-record; Roger Nicholson, “The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8 (2014). See also Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, 8. Of course, there is no reason to throw doubt on the idea that the translation process relied on instruments and procedures such as those described by Joseph Smith’s contemporaries. However, by restricting his description to the statement that the translation occurred “by the gift and power of God” (Smith, Documentary History, 4 January 1833, 1:315, in a parallel to the wording found in Omni 1:20 that was later taken up in the account and testimony of the Three Witnesses (Joseph Smith, Jr. et al., Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman, The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 318–323). See also D&C 1:29, 20:8), the Prophet disclaimed the futile effort to make these sacred events intelligible to others who had not experienced what he had. Instead he pointed our attention to what mattered most: that the translation was accomplished by divine means.
78. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 147–149. See Bokovoy, “‘Thou Knowest That I Believe’: Invoking the Spirit of the Lord as Council Witness in 1 Nephi 11,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 1 (2012), 1-23 for an insightful essay highlighting how selected Book of Mormon accounts echo an ancient temple motif. For additional perspectives on temple themes in the Book of Moses, see Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, “The LDS Book of Enoch as the Culminating Story of a Temple Text,” BYU Studies 53, no. 1 (2014), 39-73; “The Tree of Knowledge as the Veil of the Sanctuary,” in Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament, ed. David Rolph Seely, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, and Matthew J. Grey, The 42nd Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (26 October, 2013) (Provo and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2013), 49-65.
79. See Moses 7:35. This spelling, as opposed to “Man of Counsel” as in the current edition of the scriptures, derives from first manuscript of the jst (Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004), OT1, 106). The subsequent manuscript version spells the term as “Man of Councel” (Original Manuscripts, OT2, p. 619).
80. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 156.
81. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 179.
82. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1; Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2.
83. For a summary of the background of the jst and its relationship to the Book of Moses, see Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, 1–9.
84. I have argued elsewhere for the possibility that the increased emphasis accorded to certain sections of the Bible in the translation effort could be seen as part of divine tutorial for the Prophet on temple and priesthood matters, given early in his ministry (Temple Themes in the Book of Moses (Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2010), 13–16).
85. Barlow, Bible (2013), 55–57.
86. See, e.g., D&C 9:7–9.
87. Kathleen Flake, “Translating Time: The Nature and Function of Joseph Smith’s Narrative Canon,” Journal of Religion 87, no. 4 (2007), 507–508; cf. Grant Underwood, “Revelation, Text, and Revision: Insight from the Book of Commandments and Revelations,” BYU Studies 48, no. 3 (2009), 76–81, 83–84. With respect to the Book of Mormon, scholars differ in their understanding about the degree to which the vocabulary and phrasing of Joseph Smith’s translation was tightly controlled. However, there is a consensus among LDS scholars that at least some features of the plate text of the Book of Mormon survived translation (Gardner, Gift and Power, 150-152, 197-204). See more on this issue below.
88. Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, Revised ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1979), 350.
89. Compare Gardner’s analysis of Book of Mormon usage of the name/title “Jesus Christ” (Gardner, Gift and Power, 241–242). For more on this issue, see the discussion of Moses 6–7 below. Note that acceptance of the general primacy of conceptual rather than literal equivalence in translation undercuts one of the primary tools of the textual critic, i.e., vocabulary analysis (Gift and Power, 233–239).
90. Ginzberg reports traditions of “several ascensions of Moses”: a first “at the beginning of his career,” a second “at the revelation of the Torah,” and the third “shortly before his death” (Louis Ginzberg, ed. The Legends of the Jews, 7 vols. (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909–1938; reprint, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 5:417). For a brief overview of accounts that interpreted Moses’ ascent to Sinai as an ascent to the holy of holies, see Margaret Barker, “The Great High Priest,” BYU Studies 42, no. 3 (2003), 218–219. For useful general summaries of ascent literature, see William J. Hamblin, “Temple Motifs in Jewish Mysticism,” in Temples of the Ancient World, ed. Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994), 440-76; Joseph Fielding McConkie, “Premortal Existence, Foreordinations, and Heavenly Councils,” in Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-Day Saints, ed. C. Wilfred Griggs (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1986), 173-98; Margaret Barker, Temple Theology (London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 2004); The Risen Lord: The Jesus of History as the Christ of Faith (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996). For an interpretation of the Islamic hajj pilgrimage as a form of ascent, see Syed Ali Ashraf, “The Inner Meaning of the Islamic Rites: Prayer, Pilgrimage, Fasting, Jihad,” in Islamic Spirituality 1: Foundations, ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (New York City, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1987), 125, and for the Islamic story of Habib, who “entered [Paradise] alive,” see Muhammad Ibn Ishaq ibn Yasar, The Making of the Last Prophet: A Reconstruction of the Earliest Biography of Muhammad (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 227–228. For a discussion of Moses’ vision on Sinai as an ascent and rebirth, see Peder Borgen, “The Gospel of John and Philo of Alexandria,” in Light in a Spotless Mirror: Reflections on Wisdom Traditions in Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. James H. Charlesworth and Michael A. Daise (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003), 60–65.
For a detailed commentary on Moses 1, see Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, 32–81. See also Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004), 205.
91. See Bradshaw, “LDS Book of Enoch.”
92. Hugh W. Nibley, “Apocryphal Writings and the Teachings of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, ed. Don E. Norton, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 312; cf. 310–311. See Wesley W. Isenberg, “The Gospel of Philip (II, 3),” in The Nag Hammadi Library, ed. James M. Robinson (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990), 159.
93. 2 Peter 1:10. See Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2012), 59–65.
94. Jared W. Ludlow, “Abraham’s Visions of the Heavens,” in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, ed. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, Studies in the Book of Abraham (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2005), 57-73.
95. Hugh W. Nibley, “To Open the Last Dispensation: Moses Chapter 1,” in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless: Classic Essays of Hugh W. Nibley, ed. Truman G. Madsen (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978); Abraham in Egypt, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2000), 1–73.
96. Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen, “The Apocalypse of Abraham: An Ancient Witness for the Book of Moses” (paper presented at the 2010 FAIR Conference, Sandy, UT, August 5, 2010, http://www.fairlds.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2010_Apocalypse_of_Abraham.pdf. (accessed January 9, 2013)). For a brief summary, see Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Excursus 54, 694–696.
97. For the English translation, I have used Alexander Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha: Toward the Original of the Apocalypse of Abraham, ed. James R. Adair, Jr., Text-Critical Studies (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), Apocalypse of Abraham chs. 9–23, pp. 16–27 unless otherwise noted. The first English translation of the Apocalypse of Abraham was made in 1898. Notably, this translation did not appear in a scholarly journal, but rather in the Improvement Era, an official publication of the Church (E. H. Anderson and R. T. Haag, “The Book of the Revelation of Abraham: A Translation [from G. Nathanael Bonwetsch’s Then Unpublished German Translation],” Improvement Era 1, August and September 1898), 705-14 and 793-806.
98. Moses 1:1; AA 9:8.
99. Moses 1:3; AA 9:3.
100. AA 9:5.
101. Cf. Abraham, Facsimile 2, Figure 2.
102. Moses 1:6; AA 9:6.
103. Moses 1:4; AA 9:6.
104. AA 10:1–3.
105. Moses 1:9–11.
106. Moses 1:12; AA 13:4–5.
107. Moses 1:13; AA 13:6.
108. Moses 1:13–14; AA 13:7.
109. Moses 1:16: “Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not.” AA 13:12–13: “Depart from [Abraham]! You cannot deceive him.”
110. Moses 1:16; AA 13:14.
111. Moses 1:18: “Depart hence, Satan.” AA 14:7: “vanish from before me!”
112. Moses 1:19; AA 14:9–10.
113. Moses 1:20, 21: “Moses … commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan … And now Satan began to tremble.”
114. See R. H. Charles, ed. The Book of Enoch Together with a Reprint of the Greek Fragments, 2nd ed. (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1912; reprint, Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005), 13:3 (Gizeh), p. 288. Nibley’s English translation reads (Nibley, “To Open,” 10–11; cf. R. H. Charles, ed. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols.(Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1913; reprint, Berkeley, CA: Apocryphile Press, 2004), 2:196 n. 13:1): “And Enoch said to Azazel, Depart! … Then he departed and spoke to all of them [i.e., his followers] … and trembling … seized them.” Nibley’s reading is perfectly coherent. However, Nickelsburg does not see the logic of the Gizeh variant, calling the passage “nonsense” (George W. E. Nickelsburg, ed. 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 1–36; 81–108, Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001), 234n. 13:1a).
115. Moses 1:24–26.
116. AA 15:2–3.
117. 2 Nephi 4:25.
118. Moses 1:25.
119. R. Rubinkiewicz, “Apocalypse of Abraham,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983), 17:1, p. 696
120. Compare Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd ed.(Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005), 449–457.
121. Michael E. Stone, “The Fall of Satan and Adam’s Penance: Three Notes on the Books of Adam and Eve,” in Literature on Adam and Eve: Collected Essays, ed. Gary A. Anderson, Michael E. Stone, and Johannes Tromp (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2000), 47; cf. Revelation 4:1: “Come up hither”; Matthew 25:21: “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
122. Rubinkiewicz, “Apocalypse of Abraham,” 30:1, p. 704.
123. Moses 1:24.
124. Moses 1:27–28.
125. AA 21:1.
126. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, 117; cf. Smith, Documentary History, 27 November 1832, 1:299. Scholem writes that “this cosmic curtain, as it is described in the Book of Enoch, contains the images of all things which since the day of creation have their pre-existing reality, as it were, in the heavenly sphere. All generations and all their lives and actions are woven into this curtain.… [All this] shall become universal knowledge in the Messianic age” (Gershom Scholem, ed. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York City, NY: Schocken Books, 1995), 72).
127. P. Alexander, “3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983), 45:6, p. 299.
128. Barker, Temple Theology, 28; see also “The Veil as the Boundary,” in The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, ed. Margaret Barker(London, England: T & T Clark, 2003), 215–217. Nibley discusses parallels between the picture presented to Abraham and the “great round” of the hypocephalus (Hugh W. Nibley and Michael D. Rhodes, One Eternal Round, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2010), 42ff.).
129. D&C 107:56, Moses 7:4–67, Ether 3:25, 1 Nephi 14:25, 1 Nephi 14:26, Luke 4:5, M. Catherine Thomas, “The Brother of Jared at the Veil,” in Temples of the Ancient World, ed. Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994), 388-98.
130. Ether 3:20; cf. Moses 3:26.
131. Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 45:1, p. 296 n. a.
132. Moses 1:30.
133. AA 26:1.
134. See Moses 2.
135. See Moses 1:39.
136. AA 27:1–31. Nibley nonetheless sees parallels between these passages in the Apocalypse and the books of Moses and Abraham (Nibley, Abraham 2000, 25–26).
137. By way of contrast, questions addressed to God in the Islamic Mother of Books provide a closer parallel to the material found in the book of Moses: “My Lord, … From where did he make the spirits? What was the origin of his creation?” (Willis Barnstone and Marvin W. Meyer, “The Mother of Books (Umm Al-Kitab),” in The Gnostic Bible, ed. Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2003), 685).
138. Andrei A. Orlov, “‘The Gods of My Father Terah’: Abraham the Iconoclast and the Polemics with the Divine Body Traditions in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 18, no. 1 (2008), 53; see also “Praxis of the Voice: The Divine Name Traditions in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” Journal of Biblical Literature 127, no. 1 (2008), 53-70.
139. AA 16:3, emphasis added.
140. Moses chapters 2–4. Other ancient writings affirm what the book of Moses says about how the stories of the Creation and the Fall were revealed in vision. For example, the book of Jubilees prefaces a recital of the Creation and other events of Genesis with the Lord’s instructions to Moses to record what he would see in vision (O. S. Wintermute, “Jubilees,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983), 2:52, p. 54).
141. D&C 130:9.
142. AA 19:1, 4–5, 9; cf. Abraham 3:1–18.
143. I.e., formerly shadowed, sketched, outlined, prefigured (Rubinkiewicz, “Apocalypse of Abraham,” 699n21a).
144. Cf. Abraham 5:3–5.
145. Cf. Abraham 3:22–23.
146. Kulik, Retroverting, 26–28.
147. The same basic pattern can also be observed in Jubilees, where it is made explicit in the opening part of the book that the revelation to Moses about Creation and other matters was given through direct speech by God and disclosures by an angel of the presence (James C. VanderKam, ed. The Book of Jubilees, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium (Louvain, Belgium: E. Peeters, 1989), 1:1–5, pp. 1–2, 2:1ff, 7ff.), as is observed in Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 146 and also has been discussed in E. Douglas Clark, “A Prologue to Genesis: Moses 1 in Light of Jewish Traditions,” BYU Studies 45, no. 1 (2006), 129-42. The theme of Moses having received the words by direct revelation continues throughout the book. Indeed, VanderKam notes that, after the opening scenes in the Prologue and 1:1–2:1, there are “22 direct or indirect reminders that the angel is dictating to Moses” (James C. VanderKam, The Book of Jubilees, ed. Michael A. Knibb, Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 24).
148. Nibley, “To Open,” 15.
149. Emphasis added. By way of contrast, the account of Creation given in the Book of Moses seems to interact directly with its kjv equivalent. In the prologue of Moses 2:1 and throughout the rest of the chapter, we seem to be reading the result of the Prophet’s layering onto the kjv account, not only additional theological concepts, but also bridging context that reinforces the idea that Moses received an account of Creation by direct revelation from God, whether or not the creation account as we have it constitutes the exact words of that revelation.
150. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 139.
151. See, e.g., Gardner, Gift and Power.
152. Book of Moses, chapters 6 and 7.
153. For example, John L. Brooke, The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994), seeks to make the case that Sidney Rigdon, among others, was a “conduit of Masonic lore during Joseph’s early years” and then goes on to make a set of weakly substantiated claims connecting Mormonism and Masonry. These claims, including connections with the story of Enoch’s pillars in Royal Arch Masonry, are refuted in William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and George L. Mitton, “Mormon in the Fiery Furnace or Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6, no. 2 (1994); “Review of John L. Brooke: The Refiner’s Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644–1844,” BYU Studies 34, no. 4 (1994); cf. Philip L. Barlow, “Decoding Mormonism,” Christian Century, 17 January 1996; Jan Shipps, Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years among the Mormons (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 204–217) and Jed L. Woodworth, “Extra-Biblical Enoch Texts in Early American Culture,” in Archive of Restoration Culture: Summer Fellows’ Papers 1997–1999, ed. Richard Lyman Bushman (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, 2000), 188–189.
Non-Mormon scholar Stephen Webb agrees with Hamblin et al., concluding that “actual evidence for any direct link between [Joseph Smith’s] theology and the hermetic tradition is tenuous at best, and given that scholars vigorously debate whether hermeticism even constitutes a coherent and organized tradition, Brooke’s book should be read with a fair amount of skepticism” (Stephen H. Webb, Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2012), 260). For a debunking of the idea that LDS temple ordinances are a simple derivation from Freemasonry, see Matthew B. Brown, Exploring the Connection between Mormons and Masons (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2009). Brown’s more in-depth manuscript dealing with this topic still awaits publication.
For a summary of the contents of the major Enoch pseudepigrapha and selected points of relevance for LDS readers, see Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, 468–477.
154. Salvatore Cirillo, “Joseph Smith, Mormonism, and Enochic Tradition” (Masters Thesis, Durham University, 2010).
155. D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Revised and Enlarged ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1998), 193.
156. E.g., Cirillo, “Joseph Smith,” p. 126: “substantial similarities between the [pseudepigraphal Books of Enoch (BE)] and [the LDS Extract from the Prophecy of Enoch (EPE)] are irrefutable proof of influence. The extensive relationship between Noah and Enoch and its expression in the EPE mimics many aspects of [1 Enoch]. The concept of the Son of Man and its application in the EPE with Enoch is further proof that Smith had acquired knowledge of [1 Enoch]. Nibley‘s own point that Mahujah and Mahijah from the EPE share their name with Mahaway in the [Qumran Book of the Giants (BG)] is further evidence that influence occurred. And additional proof of Smith‘s knowledge of the BG is evidenced by his use of the codename Baurak Ale.”
Apart from the considerable difficulties raised by the argument that Joseph Smith could have had access to Laurence’s 1821 translation of 1 Enoch, note the impossibility of any influence of the Book of the Giants on the Book of Moses Enoch account, since the former was not discovered until 1948. Cirillo does not attempt an explanation for how influence might have occurred in this case. The only attempt to explain such a phenomenon of which I am aware comes from two separate remembrances of the well-known Aramaic scholar Matthew Black, who collaborated with Jozef Milik in the first translation of the fragments of the Book of the Giants into English in 1976.
Black was approached by Gordon C. Thomasson after a guest lecture at Cornell University, during a year that Black spent at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton (1977–1978) (William McKane, “Matthew Black,” http://www.royalsoced.org.uk/cms/files/fellows/obits_alpha/black_matthew.pdf). According to Thomasson’s account (“Items on Enoch — Some Notes of Personal History. Expansion of Remarks Given at the Conference on Enoch and the Temple, Academy for Temple Studies, Provo, Utah, 22 February 2013 (Unpublished Manuscript, 25 February 2013),” (2013); email message, 7 April 2014):
I asked Professor Black if he was familiar with Joseph Smith’s Enoch text. He said he was not but was interested. He first asked if it was identical or similar to 1 Enoch. I told him it was not and then proceeded to recite some of the correlations Dr. Nibley had shown with Milik and Black’s own and others’ Qumran and Ethiopic Enoch materials. He became quiet. When I got to Mahujah (Moses 7:2), he raised his hand in a ‘please pause’ gesture and was silent. Finally, he acknowledged that the name Mahujah “could not have come from 1 Enoch. He then formulated a hypothesis, consistent with his lecture, that a member of one of the esoteric groups he had described previously [i.e., clandestine groups who had maintained, sub rosa, a religious tradition based in the writings of Enoch that pre-dated Genesis] must have survived into the 19th century, and hearing of Joseph Smith, must have brought the group’s Enoch texts to New York from Italy for the prophet to translate and publish.
At the end of our conversation he expressed an interest in seeing more of Hugh’s work. I proposed that Black should meet with Hugh [Nibley], gave him the contact information. He contacted Hugh the same day, as Hugh later confirmed to me. Soon Black made a previously unplanned trip to Provo, where he met with Hugh for some time. Black also gave a public guest lecture but, as I was told, in that public forum would not entertain questions on Moses.
In Teachings of the PGP, 267–269, Hugh Nibley recorded a conversation with Matthew Black that apparently occurred near the end of the latter’s 1977 visit to BYU. Nibley asked Black if he had an explanation for the appearance of the name Mahujah in the Book of Moses, and reported his answer as follows: “Well, someday we will find out the source that Joseph Smith used.”
157. Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, a Cultural Biography of Mormonism’s Founder (New York City, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 138.
158. Rough Stone, 138. Cf. Woodworth, “Enoch,” 190–192.
159. See Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, 117–119. In addition, of course, 1 Enoch and the Book of Moses share a common interest in the story of Noah and the Flood.
160. See, e.g., Bradshaw, “LDS Book of Enoch,” 36–39, 104.
161. Woodworth, “Enoch,” 190, 192, concludes: “While I do not share the confidence the parallelist feels for the inaccessibility of Laurence to Joseph Smith, I do not find sharp enough similarities to support the derivatist position. The tone and weight and direction of [1 Enoch and the Book of Moses] are worlds apart.… The problem with the derivatist position is [that]… Laurence as source material for Joseph Smith does not make much sense if the two texts cannot agree on important issues. The texts may indeed have some similarities, but the central figures do not have the same face, do not share the same voice, and are not, therefore, the same people. In this sense, the Enoch in the Book of Moses is as different from the Enoch of Laurence as he is from the Enoch in the other extra-biblical Enochs in early American culture. Same name, different voice.”
162. Stephen D. Ricks, “The Narrative Call Pattern in the Prophetic Commission of Enoch,” BYU Studies 26, no. 4 (1986), 97-105.
163. Samuel Zinner, “Underemphasized Parallels between the Account of Jesus’ Baptism in the Gospel of the Hebrews/Ebionites and the Letter to the Hebrews and an Overlooked Influence from 1 Enoch 96:3: “And a Bright Light Shall Enlighten You, and the Voice of Rest You Shall Hear from Heaven,” http://www.samuelzinner.com/uploads/9/1/5/0/9150250/enochgosebionites.pdf, 5.
164. See Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, 35–36.
165. See F. I. Andersen, “2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983), 10:4 (shorter recension), p. 119, Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 2:2, p. 357; 3:2, p. 257; 4:1, p. 258; and 4:10, p. 259; and Charles Mopsik, ed. Le Libre Hébreu d’Hénoch ou Livre des Palais, Les Dix Paroles (Lagrasse, France: Éditions Verdier, 1989), 48D 1, p. 156 (97). See Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, Endnote M6–7, p. 93.
166. Gary A. Anderson, “The Exaltation of Adam,” in Literature on Adam and Eve: Collected Essays, ed. Gary A. Anderson, Michael E. Stone, and Johannes Tromp (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2000), 107.
167. For recent scholarship on these resemblances, see Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, 41–49. Pioneering insights on Enochic parallels can be found in the writings of Hugh W. Nibley. He wrote a series of magazine articles on resemblances between ancient Enoch writings and the Book of Moses for the Church’s Ensign magazine in 1975–1977, receiving Milik’s English translation of the Book of the Giants only days before the publication deadline for the last article in the series. As a result, of the more than 300 pages he devoted to Enoch in the volume that gathered his writings on the subject, only a few pages were dedicated to the Aramaic “Enoch” fragments (Hugh W. Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1986), 276–281). Regrettably, after he completed his initial research at that time, Nibley turned his attention to other subjects and never again took up a sustained study of Enoch.
168. See Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, 41–45, 47.
169. See Moses 6:40, 7:2 and God’s Image 2, 42–45. Cirillo, “Joseph Smith,” 97, following Loren T. Stuckenbruck, The Book of Giants from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 27, considers that the most conspicuously independent content in the Book of the Giants, “unparalleled in other Jewish literature,” is the names of the giants, including Mahaway [i.e., Mahujah].” Moreover, according to Cirillo: “The name Mahaway in the [Book of the Giants] and the names Mahujah and Mahijah in the [Book of Moses] represent the strongest similarity between the [LDS revelations on Enoch] and the [pseudepigraphal books of Enoch] (specifically the [Book of the Giants]).”
170. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, 278.
171. Moses 7:2. On reading Mahujah as a personal name rather than a place name, see Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, Endnote M6–13, p. 94.
172. Moses 7:3.
173. Andrei A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism (Tübingen, Germany Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 102.
174. Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 22:8 [J], p. 138. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1–4. See John J. Collins, “The Angelic Life,” in Metamorphoses: Resurrection, Body and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity, ed. Turid Karlsen Seim and Jorunn Okland, Ekstasis: Religious Experience from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 2009), 293.
175. Moses 7:59.
176. Philip S. Alexander, “From Son of Adam to Second God: Transformations of the Biblical Enoch,” in Biblical Figures Outside the Bible, ed. Michael E. Stone and Theodore A. Bergren (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1998), 10:1, 3, p. 263–264.
177. George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam, eds., 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37–82, Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012), 46:2–4, p. 153; 48:2, p. 166; 60:10, p. 233; 62:5, 7, 9, 14, p. 254; 63:11, p. 255; 69:26–27, 29, p. 311; 70:1, p. 315; 71:14, 17, p. 320.
178. Moses 7:24, 47, 54, 56, 59, 65.
179. Moses 7:39. Cf. Moses 4:2. See Nickelsburg and VanderKam, 1 Enoch 2, 39:6, p. 111; 40:5, p. 130; 45:3–4, p. 148; 49:2, 4, p. 166; 51:5a, 3, p. 180; 52:6, 9, p. 187; 53:6, p. 194; 55:4, p. 198; 61:5, 8, 10, pp. 243, 247; 62:1, p. 254.
180. I.e., Messiah. See Moses 7:53. See 1 Enoch 2, 48:10, p. 166; 52:4, p. 187.
181. Moses 6:57; 7:45, 47, 67. See 1 Enoch 2, 38:2, p. 95; 53:6, p. 194. The term also appears by implication in 39:6, p. 111; 46:3, p. 153; 49:2, p. 166; 62:2–3, p. 254.
182. 1 Enoch 2, 119, emphasis added. The entire discussion is found on pp. 113–123. For additional discussion of the “Son of Man” title from an LDS perspective, see S. Kent Brown, “Man and Son of Man: Issues of Theology and Christology,” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1989). For more on the debate surrounding this title, see Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, Endnote M7–16, p. 191.
183. Cf. John 5:27: “And [the Father] hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” For a comparison of the claims of Jesus in this verse to related ideas in the Old Testament (Moses, Daniel) and the pseudepigraphal literature, see Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, 2 vols.(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003), 1:651–652.
184. E.g., Nickelsburg and VanderKam, 1 Enoch 2, 69:27, 311: “… and the whole judgment was given to the Son of Man.” For a summary of this issue, see 1 Enoch 2, 119.
185. Genesis 5:24.
186. Moses 7:69.
187. Adolph Jellinek, ed. Bet Ha-Midrasch. Sammlung Kleiner Midraschim Und Vermischter Abhandlungen Aus Der Ältern Jüdischen Literatur, 6 vols., vol. 4 (Leipzig, Germany: C. W. Vollrath, 1857), 4, pp. 131–132. Cf. Mordecai M. Noah, ed. The Book of Jasher (Salt Lake City, UT: Joseph Hyrum Parry, 1887; reprint, New York City, NY: Cosimo Classics, 2005), 3:24–38, pp. 7–8. For a new English translation of the account from the Hebrew by David Calabro, see Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, Endnote M7–23, pp. 193–194.
188. The account is reminiscent in some respects with 2 Kings 2:1-11, though Elisha is left behind when Elijah is taken up to heaven.
189. Jacques P. Migne, “Livre D’adam,” in Dictionnaire des Apocryphes, ou, Collection de Tous les Livres Apocryphes Relatifs a L’ancien Et Au Nouveau Testament, Pour La Plupart, Traduits en Français, Pour la Première Fois, Sur les Textes Originaux, Enrichie de Préfaces, Dissertations Critiques, Notes Historiques, Bibliographiques, Géographiques et Théologiques, ed. Jacques P. Migne, Troisième et Dernière Encyclopédie Théologique (Paris, France: Migne, Jacques P., 1856), 21, p. 170.
190. David J. Larsen, “Enoch and the City of Zion: Can an Entire Community Ascend to Heaven?,” BYU Studies 53, no. 1 (2014), 30. See also Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, ”The Ezekiel Mural at Dura Europos: A Tangible Witness of Philo’s Jewish Mysteries?,” BYU Studies 49, no. 1 (2010), 4-49.
191. Gardner, Gift and Power, 247. For instance, Gardner considers, among other types of examples, the proper names of the Book of Mormon as specific instances of literal translation. He also finds examples of structural elements (e.g., chiasms and other literary features) in the Book of Mormon that are neither random nor “part of the common repertoire available to a writer in upstate New York in the 1830s. They represent features of the plate text that have survived the translation process” (Gift and Power, 204). For summary discussions of the detailed analysis of this issue given throughout the book, see especially Gift and Power, 227–247, 279–283.
192. Gardner, Gift and Power, 156.
193. Skousen, “Tight Control.”
194. R. Skousen, “The Earliest Textual Sources for Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the King James Bible,” The FARMS Review 17, no. 2 (2005), 456–470. For the original study, see Kent P. Jackson and Peter M. Jasinski, “The Process of Inspired Translation: Two Passages Translated Twice in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible,” BYU Studies 42, no. 2 (2003).
195. Lorenzo Brown in “Sayings of Joseph, by Those Who Heard Him at Different Times,” Joseph Smith Jr. Papers, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, UT, cited in Flake, “Translating Time,” 506n31. Flake notes: “Brown’s statement is based on his recollection in 1880 of a conversation that occurred in 1832. For a discussion about the reliability of this account, see Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible — A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 25–26n12. Elder Orson F. Whitney reported a similar experience in more recent times; see Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, 177.
196. This process seems similar to Gardner’s suggestions about how Joseph Smith seems to have translated biblical texts found within the Book of Mormon (e.g., Gardner, Gift and Power, 215–225).
197. In this connection, it is interesting to consider how well Joseph Smith’s contemporaries might have received his translation of, e.g., the story of the Creation and the Fall had he produced a de novo account as opposed to layering prophetic insights onto the kjv text in a more limited fashion.
198. Smith, Documentary History, 27 November 1832, 1:299.
199. Matthews, Plainer, 215.
200. For example, Gerrit Dirkmaat gives examples of Joseph Smith’s efforts to revise and update his Doctrine and Covenants revelations as they were prepared for publication (Gerrit Dirkmaat, “Great and Marvelous Are the Revelations of God,” Ensign, January 2013, 56–57).
201. D&C 1:24.
202. D&C 128:18.
203. See Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, Endnote 0–12, p. 27.
204. For example, Bachman has argued convincingly that nearly all of D&C 132 was revealed to the Prophet as he worked on the first half of jst Genesis (Daniel W. Bachman, “New Light on an Old Hypothesis: The Ohio Origins of the Revelation on Eternal Marriage,” Journal of Mormon History 5 (1978), 19-32). This was more than a decade before 1843, when the revelation was shared with Joseph Smith’s close associates.
205. Dean D. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2002), 273. This is consistent with George Q. Cannon’s statement about the Prophet’s intentions to “seal up” the work for “a later day” after he completed the main work of Bible translation on 2 February 1833: “No endeavor was made at that time to print the work. It was sealed up with the expectation that it would be brought forth at a later day with other of the scriptures.… [See D&C 42:56–58.] [T]he labor was its own reward, bringing in the performance a special blessing of broadened comprehension to the Prophet and a general blessing of enlightenment to the people through his subsequent teachings” (George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, Second ed. (Salt Lake City, UT: The Deseret News, 1907), 129).
I have argued elsewhere that the divine tutorial that took place during Joseph Smith’s Bible translation effort was focused on temple and priesthood matters—hence the restriction on general dissemination of these teachings during the Prophet’s early ministry. See Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, 3–6; Moses Temple Themes, 13–16.
206. See Bradshaw and Larsen, God’s Image 2, Endnote 0–13, 28.
207. Moses 1:42. See also Moses 4:32: “See thou show them unto no man, until I command you, except to them that believe.”
208. The quoted words are from LDS Apostle George Q. Cannon’s remembrance (Cannon, Life (1907), 129n): “We have heard President Brigham Young state that the Prophet before his death had spoken to him about going through the translation of the scriptures again and perfecting it upon points of doctrine which the Lord had restrained him from giving in plainness and fulness at the time of which we write.”
209. D&C 88:118. The rest of the verse implies, however, that learning spiritual matters from book study is ultimately a poor cousin to learning by faith—i.e., study “out of the best books” is only necessary because “all have not faith.” Though Joseph Smith was a great advocate of schools for the teaching of practical subjects in Kirtland and Nauvoo, on matters of learning for the eternities he wanted the Saints to gain knowledge by direct revelation—to come to the point where they could throw away their crutches, take up their beds, and walk: “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching” (Smith, Teachings, 3 October 1841, 191). Note that the original source for this quote reads “the only way” (Smith, Words of Joseph Smith, 3 October 1841, 77, emphasis added).
210. Truman G. Madsen wisely provided both caution and encouragement to scholars engaged in exploring the historicity of Joseph Smith’s translations (Truman G. Madsen, “Introductory Essay,” in Reflections on Mormonism: Judeo-Christian Parallels, Papers Delivered at the Religious Studies Center Symposium, Brigham Young University, March 10–11, 1978, ed. Truman G. Madsen, Religious Studies Monograph Series (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1978), xvii):
Surface resemblance may conceal profound difference. It requires competence, much goodwill and bold caution properly to distinguish what is remotely parallel, what is like, what is very like, and what is identical. It is harder still to trace these threads to original influences and beginnings. But on the whole the Mormon expects to find, not just in the Judeo-Christian background but in all religious traditions, elements of commonality which, if they do not outweigh elements of contrast, do reflect that all-inclusive diffusion of primal religious concern and contact with God—the light “which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). If the outcome of hard archeological, historical, and comparative discoveries in the past century is an embarrassment to exclusivistic readings of religion, that, to the Mormon, is a kind of confirmation and vindication. His faith assures him not only that Jesus anticipated his great predecessors (who were really successors) but that hardly a teaching or a practice is utterly distinct or peculiar or original in His earthly ministry. Jesus was not a plagiarist, unless that is the proper name for one who repeats Himself. He was the original author. The gospel of Jesus Christ came with Christ in the meridian of time only because the gospel of Jesus Christ came from Christ in prior dispensations. He did not teach merely a new twist on a syncretic-Mediterranean tradition. His earthly ministry enacted what had been planned and anticipated “from before the foundations of the world” (See, e.g., John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20; Alma 22:13; D&C 130:20; Moses 5:57; Abraham 1:3), and from Adam down.
211. Walter Brueggemann elaborates (“Narrative Coherence and Theological Intentionality in 1 Samuel 18,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 55, no. 2 (1993), 243): “[A]ttention to literary strategy in the narrative advances our theological understanding of the text. Unless we stay with the internal coherence and intentionality of the text, the various fragments and elements fall apart, as they have with many efforts in conventional historical criticism. When the text falls apart methodologically, we face only interesting factual questions and literary fragments; we likely will miss the hidden cunning that the narrative invites us to ponder.” Continuing, he writes: “Historical criticism, with its penchant for explication, explanation, and the dispelling of mystery, has in method and in principle denied the hidden cunning of the narrative. There is a growing awareness among scholars that the older historicist methods are, in important ways, incongenial to the material being studied and incompatible with it. A method is required which honors the intentional hiddenness and the artistic subtlety of the narrative.”
212. Bokovoy, Authoring Genesis-Deuteronomy, 147–158, 173–189.
213. Brant Gardner, e-mail message, 19 March 2014.