Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LDS Temple research site

Bruce Porter has a web site with numerous notes and outlines of temple-related themes from an LDS perspective.


Temple Motifs in the "Secret Book of James"

The “Secret Book of James” or the “Apocryphon of James” from the Nag Hammadi text (Nag Hammadi Codex 1/2 = Meyer, M. (ed.) The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, 2007, hereafter NHS 23-30) says that it is “a secret book” that was “revealed” to James by the “Master,” meaning Jesus, with instructions “to be careful not to communicate too many people this book” (NHS 23). James also speaks of “another secret book that the savior revealed to me” which had earlier sent his reader (NHS 24).

The “Secret Book of James” begins with a narrative of a Christophany of the resurrected Jesus to Peter and James 550 days after his resurrection (NHS 24). Five hundred and fifty days is a year and 185 days, or a little more than a year and a half. Since the resurrection occurred at Passover, which is in late March or early April, this Christophany occurred in late September or early October, in other words at the High Holy days and the Day of Atonement on the day in which the High Priest is to enter the Holy of Holies. This is surely not coincidental.

There is also some possible deification language in the “Secret Book of James.” When Christ appears to James and Peter, he offers to take them “to the place from which I came” (NHS 24). In a general sense this is heaven, but in the context of the Day of Atonement, it is quite likely that it is a reference to the celestial Temple, where Christ serves as the Great High Priest. This interpretation is confirmed later in the text when Christ says that he “ shall ascend to the place from which I have come” where he can “listen to the hymns that await me in heaven,” and where “I must take my place at the right hand of my Father” (NHS 29). Thus, when James is invited to go to the place from which Christ came, he is invited to the throne of God and the celestial temple. This concept is dramatically illustrated by the statement that “Blessed is he who has seen himself as a fourth one in heaven” (NHS 28). The three in Heaven are obviously the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, with the “fourth one in heaven” being James, or more generally anyone who participates in a celestial ascent. Thus, if James is to go to the place from which Christ has come, and become a “fourth one in heaven, it implies the deification of James.

With Christ’s revelation complete, he says that “a chariot of spirit” will “carry me out” to where he shall “strip myself that I may clothe myself” (NHS 30). The chariot of the spirit here is an obvious allusion to Elijah, Enoch, and Ezekiel (2 Kgs 2; 1 Enoch 70; Ezek 1, 10). When Christ says that he will strip himself so that he may clothe himself it is possible that he is referring to a celestial transfiguration in which he sheds his mortal form and assumes celestial glory. On the other hand, it is quite possibly also an allusion to the Day of Atonement ritual in which the High Priest shed his robes, was purified, and donned new robes in order to enter into the Holy of Holies (Lev 16.23-24; Sirach 50.11; Mishnah, Yoma 7.5).

James and Peter then follow Christ in a mystical ascent to heaven, where they hear trumpet blasts, a probable allusion to the Feast of Trumpets associated with the Day of Atonement. In heaven they join with the angels in singing hymns and rejoicing, thus participating with the angelic priests in the celestial temple rituals. However, they were not allowed at this time to see God enthroned in the celestial Holy of Holies. Upon returning from their celestial ascent, James and Peter tell the other apostles that Christ “gave us his right hand, and promised all of us [eternal] life.” In other words, their celestial ascent culminated in a covenant of eternal life symbolized by Christ shaking their right hand. When his vision is complete, James “went up to [the temple] in Jerusalem to pray (NHS 30).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tabernacle reproduction

Terry Harman, an Evangelical minister, has created a replica of the Tabernacle in which he dresses up as the High Priest and does tours for church groups.


He as lots of photos of various tabernacle furniture with himself in the High Priest's robes. (Note: I disagree with much of his reconstruction of the tabernacle furnishings, etc. But, that's me.)

There are a number of YouTube videos he has made; here's one, with links to others


There is also a full-scale tabernacle replica near Timna in Israel.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Controversy over Tendler's Temple Mount Visit

Many Jews believe he has violated Jewish Law by doing so. This is part of an old debate among Jews, reflected in the fact that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has declared that Jews should not ascend the Temple Mount.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Audio Hebrew Bible Online

For those trying to learn Hebrew, mp3 audio files for the entire Hebrew Bible are online, and can be downloaded.

Audio Hebrew Bible Online

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Whose Temple Mount?

This story of a rather provocative visit of Rabbi Tendler to the Haram al-Sharif punctuates the ongoing tension over control of the sacred site. (You can see the Israeli security accompanying the visitors in several scenes.)


Here's a link to the video:

The people generally speak English, but use a large number of Yiddish and Hebrew words. "Har ha-Bayis" is a dialectical pronunciation of "Har ha-Bayit" = "Mountain of the House" = the Temple Mount, more generally the Temple. "Ha-Shem is "the Name" meaning God. "Qadusha" = "Holiness". Beit ha-Miqdash = "House of the Sanctuary" = the temple.

Near the end (about minute 13) you can see one doing the priestly benediction using the gesture of blessing used by the High Priest when blessing the people.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? (2)

David Larsen has a nice summary of the issues on the authorship of the DSS (which are distorted in recent press reports).

See: Heavenly Ascents

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Mormon Monastery

"The Monk" has an excellent web site dedicated to the LDS Temple, with a great deal of information and numerous links. Well worth a visit.


Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Rachel Elior, professor at Hebrew University, is arguing in a new book that the Dead Sea Scrolls were not written by the Essenes, but by a disaffected priestly clan who had been expelled from the Temple during the period of the Maccabees.

Jim Davila's Report

(Bombastic Journalistic hype alert on the following!)

UPI Report

Time Report

Friday, March 13, 2009

New Blog

David Bokovoy has started a new blog on biblical studies and LDS scriptures which occasionally contains temple-related material.


Maya temple creation myths

Newly discovered reliefs from a temple at El Mirador in Guatemala, dating to the third century BC, depict Maya creation narratives. This emphasizes the widespread connection between creation narratives and temple foundations.

Reuters Report.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Artifacts and the Temple 4: Miniature Shrine

Another model temple from the Syria-Palestine region (now at the Louvre). This one shows twin pillars on the porch, paralleling the bronze columns on Solomon's Temple. The image in the gateway of the temple is a goddess, perhaps Asherah, representing the presence of the goddess in the temple. This shrine probably parallels both the form and the ideology of Solomon's Temple.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Artifacts and the Temple 3: Cherubim

Excavations in Samaria in Israel uncovered a number of ivory plaques which once decorated a palace or temple (or perhaps furniture of some sort). They date from the ninth to tenth centuries BC, in other words, from the time of the Solomon's temple. These ivories provide the closest surviving chronological, geographical, cultural and thematic examples to the decorations of Solomon's temple. The example here depicts two "cherubs" flanking a central figure in a shrine. The Cherubs' wings protectively overarch the central figure while touching one another just as the biblical cherubs were said to have done with the Ark of the Covenant. (Ex 25:20; 1 Kgs 6:27; 1 Chr 28:18)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Necromancy in the Temple?

Necromancy--summoning the spirits of the dead to receive secrets or prophecies--was widespread in ancient and medieval times. In the Bible the most famous case was when Saul consulted the "witch of Endor" to summon the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel (1 Sam 28:7). In Hebrew, the "witch" was called a baʿalat ʾôv, literally one who controls or possesses a spirit. It is often translated as "one who has a familiar spirit" in the KJV. In modern terms it could be translated as a spiritual medium or a necromancer.

This type of spirit conjuring in condemned in the Bible (Lev 20:27). Manasseh, king of Judah, described as an apostate, was said to have consulted necromancers (2 Kgs 21:6, 2 Chr 33:6). Although the text does not explicitly state that Manasseh consulted them in the temple, it is implied, since it mentioned in the context of other abominations he practiced in the temple in the verses immediately preceding and following this verse. His son Josiah abolished necromancy in his temple reforms (2 Kg 23:24).

In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 65b) it states, "There are two kinds of necromancy: the one where the dead is raised by naming him, the other where he [the dead] is invoked by means of a skull." The reason I raise this issue is that the latest issue of the Biblical Archaeology Review has an article by Dan Levene entitled "Rare Magic Inscription on Human Skull" (March/April 53/2 (2009):46-50), which describes a newly discovered skull with an Aramaic inscription that was presumably used for necromancy. It may thus be a late relic representing a type of necromancy that might have been used in the temple during the apostasy of Manesseh.

Is the original Menorah hidden in the Vatican?



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lectures on ancient Temples

William Hamblin has posted recordings of a number of lectures from his class on ancient temple traditions. They are in reverse chronological order.


Septuagint Studies

The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible translated in Egypt in the 2nd century BC) plays a vital role in as a link between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. It is the source of a great teach of technical Greek temple terminology that allows us to better understand allusions to temple theology and motifs in the New Testament. The following is an introductory bibliography to texts, translations, tools, and studies of the Septuagint.

Septuagint: Introductory Bibliography

Rahlfs, A. Septuaginta (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006) [Modern critical Greek edition.]
Pietersma, A. and B. Wright (trs.), A New English Translation of the Septuagint (Oxford, 2007) [Contemporary critical translation.]
The Orthodox Study Bible, (Thomas Nelson, 2008) [Includes a translation of the Septuagint and New Testament with Greek Orthodox notes interpretative notes and cross-references.]

Conybeare, F. Grammar of Septuagint Greek, (Hendrickson, 2001)
Hatch, Edwin, Concordance to the Septuagint, (Baker, 1998)
Lust, J. (et. al.), Greek English Lexicon of the Septuagint, (Hendrickson, 2006)

Dines, J. The Septuagint, (Continuum, 2004)
Hengel, M. The Septuagint as Christian Scripture: Its Prehistory and the Problem of Its Canon (Baker, 2004)
Jobes, K. and M. Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint, (Baker, 2005)
Marcos, N. The Septuagint in Context: An Introduction to the Greek Version of the Bible, (Brill, 2000)
McLay, T. The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Studies, (Eerdmans, 2003)

Artifacts and the Temple 2: Miniature Shrines

A number of miniature shrines have been found in the Syria and Palestine regions. These were probably for small provincial shrines or private dwellings. Many scholars think that small clay images of gods were placed in these shrines for devotions. The facade of these miniature shrines probably is an imitation of full-scale temples. The two columns flanking the shrine are probably as close to an image of the twin bronze columns Jachin and Boaz which flanked the main door to Solomon's Temple (1 Kgs 7:21).

The object photographed here is in the Louvre.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Artifacts and the Temple 1: The Gezer Calendar

Written in Paleo-Hebrew, the Gezer Calendar dates from the 10th century BC, the time of the building of Solomon's Temple. It contains the following text:

"Two months of harvest
Two months of planting
Two months are late planting
One month of pulling flax
One month of barley harvest
One month of harvest and feasting
Two months of pruning vines
One month of summer fruit"

This calendar shows the the fundamental significance of the agricultural cycle in ancient Israel, which is reflected in Israelite temple festivals of the Shevu'ot ("weeks") or First Fruits in early Summer (the "month of summer" fruit in line 8), and the Feast of Ingathering (the harvest) in the Fall ("two months of harvest" in line 1). The mention of feasting is also reflects the fact that temple pilgrimages, festivals involved feasting.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Enoch Bibliography

Ancient Enoch literature is filled with interesting temple motifs. For those interested in pursuing study of these Enoch texts, I've prepared this introductory bibliography:

Ancient Enoch Texts

1 Enoch (Ethiopian)
Black, M. Apocalypsis Henochi Graece, (Pseudepigrapha Veteris Testament graece, 3), (Leiden, 1970)
Black, M., The Book of Enoch or I Enoch: A New English Edition, Studia in Veteris Testamenti pseudepigrapha, 7 (Leiden: Brill, 1985)
Charles, R. H., The Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1912)
Isaac, E. trans. “1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch” OTP 1:5-90
Knibb, M. The Ethiopic Book of Enoch: A New Edition in the Light of the Aramaic Dead Sea Fragments, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978)
Milik, J. T., The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976)
Nickelsburg, George W. E., 1 Enoch 1, Hermeneia Commentary, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001)
•Nickelsburg, G. 1 Enoch: A New Translation, (Fortress, 2004)
Tiller, P. A Commentary on the Animal Apocalypse of I Enoch, Society of Biblical Literature Early Judaism and Its Literature, 4 (Atlanta: Scholar’s Press, 1993)
VanderKam, J. ed., Qumran Cave 4, VIII: Parabiblical Texts, Part 1. Discoveries in the Judean Desert, XIII, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994)

2 Enoch (Slavonic)
•Andersen, F. I., trans. “2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” OTP 1:91-222

3 Enoch (Hebrew)
Alexander, P. trans. “3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch,” OTP 1:223-316
•Oldenberg, H. 3 Enoch, (Cambridge, 1928 [rep. New York: KTAV, 1973])

Other Enoch Traditions
VanderKam, J. “Enoch Traditions in Jubilees and Other Second-Century Sources,” Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, ed. P. Achtemeier (1978): 1:229-51
Kugel, J. Traditions of the Bible, (Harvard, 1998) 173-183

Modern Studies

Alexander, Philip S., “Enoch, Third Book of” ABD 2:522-6
Anderson, Francis I. “Enoch, Second Book of” ABD 2:-516-522
Barker, Margaret, The Lost Prophet: The Book of Enoch and its Influence on Christianity, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988)
Bautch, K. A Study of the Geography of 1 Enoch 17-19, (Brill, 2003)
Boccaccini, G. (ed.) Enoch and Qumran Origins: New Light on a Forgotten Connection, (Eerdmans, 2005)
Boccaccini, G. (ed.) Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man, (Eerdmans, 2007)
Boccaccini, G. Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism, (Eerdmans, 1998)
Hess, Richard, “Enoch” ABD 2:508.
Kvanvig, H. S., Roots of Apocalyptic: The Mesopotamian Background of the Enoch Figure and of the Son of Man, Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament, 61 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1988)
Nibley, Hugh, Enoch the Prophet (CWHN 2) (Provo, Ut: FARMS, 1986)
Lambert, “Enmeduranki and Related Matters,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies, 21 (1967):126-38
Nickelsburg, George W. E. “Enoch, First Book of” ABD 2:508-516
Reed, A. Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature, (Cambridge, 2005)
VanderKam, James C., “1 Enoch, Enochic Motifs, and Enoch in Early Christian Literature,” in James VanderKam and William Adler, eds., The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), pp. 33-101.
VanderKam, James C., Enoch: a Man for All Generations, (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1995)
VanderKam, James C., Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition, Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series, 16 (Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1984)