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Michael Heiser, Myth, and My Evolving Approaches to Study of Ancient Scripture

Michael Heiser, Myth, and My Evolving Approaches to Study of Ancient Scripture

nephilim

Recently, Michael Heiser placed online (temporarily) a first draft of his book, “The Myth That Is True”. Among Biblical Studies circles, Heiser is well known for his scholarship concerning the Divine Council in the Bible. He was made more well known in Mormon academic communities by his somewhat lengthy exchanges/debates with LDS Scholar David Bokovoy.

Having a bit of interest in the development and interconnection of OT theology, myth, and history, I excitedly placed the digital draft of Heiser’s book on my Kindle, and began to read.

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Adam, The Ancient of Days, and The Evening and the Morning Star

Adam, The Ancient of Days, and The Evening and the Morning Star

Evening and Morning Star

Introduction to the Star

In June 1832, the Church of Christ began publication of its very first periodical.

While members of the Modern Church Today may take for granted the availability of Church literature and news and word from Church Headquarters (both in printed form, and instantly available online), for the Saints living in 1830s frontier America, the Star was a wellspring of sustenance for those thirsty for news and inspiration.

The Evening and the Morning Star would have been for many members of the young Church their only opportunity to read the new Revelations that were at that time coming forth from their Prophet – the only other official Church publication at the time was the 1830 printing of the Book of Mormon.

EveMornThe first compilation of the written modern revelations would not be attempted until 1833, and mob action and destruction of the printing press halted its printing and distribution.

It wouldn’t be until 1835 that the Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints would be successfully published and distributed, putting the revelatory texts (and guidelines and articles of Church Governance and Doctrine) at their fingertips.

Until then, handwritten copies aside, copies of the Star would have been the only printed record of these new scriptures coming forward.

Apart from the printing of the Revelations, the Star, edited initially by W.W. Phelps, also contained reprints of articles on a variety of subjects, including religious and secular. Much space was dedicated to news stories of catastrophes and plagues and rumors of war occurring around the world, which were presented as evidential Signs of the Times of the approaching Second Coming of the Lord – a key focus  of the young Church.

However, the news stories and additional articles weren’t always the most interesting, and at times were in fact quite dry and laborious to read through. This once cause Joseph Smith himself to write into the editor and complain, saying, “If you do not render it more interesting than at present, it will fall, and the church [will] suffer a great Loss thereby.”1

Move To Kirtland

As mob violence escalated in Missouri, and upon the destruction of the printing press, the publication by necessity moved to Kirtland Ohio, and became newly under the editorialship of Oliver Cowdery. A large portion of the publication for the next several months became interested in printing correspondence and news concerning the happenings in Zion, mob violence, and how the Government was responding.

Rigdon’s Doctrinal Dissertations

In the latter portion of the Second Volume of the Star, in 1834, a few substantial and original serialized doctrinal dissertations by Sidney Rigdon were presented, on the topics of the Millennium, The Rise of the Church of Christ In These Latter Days, and The Gospel.

It was in these dissertations by Ridgon that we find key aspects of the Church’s developing theology presented systematically and cohesively for the first time, specifically associated with the importance of manifestations of all the ancient apostolic signs and powers of the New Testament Church (evidence of true Faith) being restored, all in preparation for a final Gathering of the Lord’s People preparatory to the Millennial Reign of Christ.

Adam, The Ancient of Days

Hints and shadows of further understanding of terminology and doctrine are also presented, such as what appears to be the earliest extant (May 1834) association by the Church of the Latter Day Saints  of identifying the Adam figure of Genesis with the Ancient of Days figure of Daniel 7 – a figure traditionally and popularly associated as a representation of God.

From the Star, in the article ‘Millennium V’:

In the 24 chapter of Isaiah, and 23 verse, the prophet, after having described one of the greatest desolations ever pronounced on the head of any generation of men, says, “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.”We have before seen that this reign was to last a thousand years; and his ancients, before whom he was to reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, gloriously, were all the redeemed from among men, of every tongue, language, kindred, and people.

 

According to Daniel, he was to come to the ancient of days: here he is said to reign before his ancients, that is, all the saints from our father Adam, down; for who could the ancient of days be but our father Adam? surely none other: he was the first who lived in days, and must be the ancient of days. And to whom would the Savior come, but to the father of all the race, and then receive his kingdom, in which he was to reign before, or with his ancients gloriously?

Let it here be remarked, that it is said to be in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, where the Lord is to reign before his ancients gloriously.

While the association between Adam and the Ancient of Days is mentioned in a Revelation attributed to Joseph Smith dated August 1830 (see D&C 27), the original manuscript version of the text did not contain the section discussing Heavenly Messengers (D&C27:5-13), which includes the reference to the Ancient of Days – it appears to be an editorial insertion merged into the text for the 1835 publication of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.

From at least this point on, Joseph Smith would continue associating the Adam figure with the Ancient of Days, also linking them to the figure of Michael the Archangel (an association which may have come earlier), and the composite figure would take a significant place in developing Latter-day Saint Eschatology.

While recent scholars have begun to make associations of an ancient association of the Adam-figure with the Ancient of Days ( such as here), it appears that the emergence of the two being associated in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not branch off as an extension of those traditions (which use documents, materials, and traditions not known to be commonly extant or promulgated in the early 19th Century), but from the initial distinct logic of Sidney Rigdon, which was further developed through the discourses and revelations of Joseph Smith.

  1. Joseph Smith to William W. Phelps , 14 Jan. 1833, in History of the Church, 1:317. []
“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets”

“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets”

The more I think about and have studied how Prophecy is used in the scriptures, and how our Living Prophets and apostles execute their calling, I have come to see some very strong parallels, which perhaps should (and could) lead us to a different understanding than how we usually think of “Prophecy” and “Fulfillment of Prophecy”, and even ‘historical’ scriptural/religious narratives. It also makes clear how each member of God’s Kingdom is able to participate to a degree in receiving the prophetic vision.

The way we are accustomed to thinking of it is in terms of a prophecy being when a Prophet literally sees forward in time, and may actually see the people and names and clothing and vehicles of a latter day, and writes it down in his own language.

When the literal ‘historical’ event that they saw happens, that prophecy is said to have been ‘fulfilled’.

Personally, I think we miss the mark when, in viewing what are generally understood of Isaiah’s writings said to be about the latter-days we envision him actually seeing airplanes, iPhones, our modern dress and buildings, etc, and specifically talking about us of the 21st Century – which, frankly, the people in 6th century BCE Judah couldn’t have cared less about.

A study of the textual history of Old Testament scriptures shows that there have been layers upon layers of redaction and revision. Pieces of an ‘Older Testament‘, and older versions of Israelite theology and imagery can be seen, but, based on the context of other material, it seems out of place, confusing, and without any real explanation.

Why was history rewritten? Was any of it valid, or authorized, or understood as part of the prophetic/priestly calling? Certainly there were alterations that were done for political and other socio-religious purposes. But why was this viewed as okay? Why are such practices viewed today as generally falsifying history? How can the answers to these questions relate to the LDS text known as the Joseph Smith Translation, and even what is presented in our Temple Drama?

These are some the aspects I want to explore, in a view of Dispensations in a way in which we are not generally accustomed to thinking of them.

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The Book of Enoch: An Introduction

The Book of Enoch: An Introduction

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. Genesis 5:24

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. Hebrews 11:5

And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Jude 1:14–15

In the Bible as presently constituted, these verses, with the addition of his genealogy, is all that is said of the Enoch figure. The reference in Jude, however opens a flood of questions. This short reference hints of a larger record of Enoch, regards him as a prophet, and even quotes from one of his prophecies. What was Jude’s source? What is it about? What does it mean? The balance of this post attempts to briefly sum up and summarize some answers to these questions.

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