Report from the 1st Annual Expound Symposium

(cross-posted from www.heavenlyascents.com)

On Saturday the 14th of May I had the opportunity to attend and participate in the 1st Annual Expound Symposium, which was held in Provo at the Brigham Young Academy building.  For anyone who was there, I hope I had a chance to talk to you — I met so many bright and interesting people there. If you didn’t attend, I’m sorry you missed out on a great event!  But no worries, they are already planning next year’s symposium, which, according to current plans, will focus on the topic of temples.  If you didn’t make it this time, you should start making plans to be there next year!

The symposium was very well put together and everyone, both the speakers and attendees, were very well taken care of (we’re talking lots of free food, free drawings for awesome publications, no entrance fee — it doesn’t get much better than this as far as these types of conferences go)!  LDS author Matthew Brown was largely responsible for putting the event together and he did an incredible job of making it a very enlightening and worthwhile experience for everyone involved.  A big thanks to him, his wife, and also to Jeffrey Bradshaw for making this event more than worth it for me to go from Scotland to Provo to be a part of it.  I also want to thank my wife and kids for letting me go and my parents virtually killing the fatted calf for their prodigal son’s return (albeit knowing it would be very short-lived).

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The Deuteronomists and the Suppression of Ancient Truths

In light of some insights I’ve gained from the Old Testament class I tutor for and comments on blog posts I’ve recently read, I’ve decided to post the following material on an important topic for our study of the Old Testament, and the Scriptures in general. This material is largely based on a previous post from my solo blog, Heavenly Ascents.
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A question that I often run into when speaking to fellow Latter-day Saints and other Christians about the Bible is the matter of why the Old Testament seems to represent such a different religious perspective from the New Testament. More specifically, why does it seem that many of the doctrines that receive such emphasis in the New Testament (and that are fundamental for Christianity) seem so obscure or even virtually absent in the Old Testament? There are many reasons that can be offered for this problem, which can be a dilemma for any Christian, but perhaps even more so for Mormons, in light of our popular belief that the fundamental doctrines and practices of the Gospel are revealed anew in largely similar form in each dispensation from the beginning of time.
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One of the main issues with the Old Testament in its final form (the form in which we have received it), and the religious views that it can be seen to represent, that is recognized by biblical scholars is the work of the so-called Deuteronomist(s) or Deuteronomic School on the text (and, as a result, the religious views) of the Hebrew Scriptures. This party (it was more likely a group than an individual), it is argued, was responsible for composing the Book of Deuteronomy (not in the time of Moses, but in the time of King Josiah, 7th century BC), and also the Deuteronomic History, comprising the biblical books of Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings (the principal account that we have of Israel’s history). It is also thought that this party edited the writings of the Pentateuch to fit their view of history and theology.
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Doing their work well before the Babylonian Exile, the Deuteronomists seem to have been involved in the reforms of King Josiah (see 2 Kings 22-23) and the Book of the Law that apparently served as inspiration for the reforms (2 Kgs 22:8-13) was likely the Book of Deuteronomy that they wrote (or perhaps heavily edited). These reform movements, which are not unique in history, served to ensure that the later theology of the more “mainstream” Jewish sects as well as many of the texts that form our Old Testament canon represented, in many ways, a significantly different belief system from the more ancient Israelite religion.

Isaiah’s Heavenly Ascent to See the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Insights from the Ascension of Isaiah[1]

The Ascension of Isaiah is an early Christian document that is thought to have been written some time in the second century A.D., and is considered a Christian re-working of an older Jewish tradition. It resembles, in some ways, Isaiah 6, but details a much more elaborate vision, in which Isaiah is taken, in spirit, through the various levels of Heaven until he reaches the highest heaven, where he is privileged to behold a vision of the Father, Beloved Son, and Holy Spirit.

For further background info on Ascension of Isaiah, and to read the text (translated from the Greek version), please see http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/ascension.html.

Starting in Chapter 6 of the text, Isaiah recounts the vision that he saw in which a glorious angel comes to him, takes him by the hand, and leads him upwards into the heavens. The angel declares the purpose of this celestial journey:

When I have raised thee on high through the various degrees…You will see one who is greater than I…and his Father also who is greater you will see (vv. 7:4, 7-8).

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My Interview at FPR

For any of you who have followed the discussions surrounding the recent posts I have written sharing my musings on the ancient temple and how the Psalms can give us insights into ancient temple theology and practice, you may have noticed that many of the comments on my posts have come from authors of  Faith-Promoting Rumor. Although we do not see eye-to-eye on many topics, I was happy to accept an invitation from TT to participate in an interview covering topics from my current PhD research.

I appreciate TT and the other bloggers at FPR giving me this opportunity, and am grateful for their gracious and respectful reception of my perspectives in their forum, even though they may not personally agree with my approach.

If you would like to check it out, see here:http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2011/02/the-royal-psalms-an-interview-with-david-l/

Psalm 24: Temple Gates and Guardians

As some of you may be aware, my post from January 20, 2011, entitled “Should We Expect to Find the Temple Ordinances as One Coherent Whole in the Scriptures? Revisiting the Question”,  generated a lengthy and impassioned discussion in the comments.  There was much debate regarding the value of efforts to  compare our modern temple ordinances with ancient ones, and the methods that should be used in such an endeavor.  I very much appreciated this discussion and believe that many important points were raised.  It was decided, by some of the involved parties, that a debate over all of the points that I suggested in the post would be a very large and time-consuming task, and that, therefore, it would be more profitable for us to discuss specific rituals (with the associated Scriptural passages), one at a time.

Before moving on with this project, I would just like to clear up a few points — a few misconceptions, maybe, regarding my initial post. First of all, I would like to emphasize that my answer to the titular question, “Should we expect to find the temple ordinances as one coherent whole in the Scriptures?”, was negative.  There is, obviously, no passage, narrative, chapter, or any other unit in the Scriptures that presents the Endowment or the entirety of the LDS ritual system as a unity or “coherent whole.” I wasn’t attempting to argue for such.  I did explain where we could perhaps look for temple themes outside of the traditional locations.  Towards the end of the post, I went a step further and suggested that there is a possibility that (although this is not all clearly perceptible from the Scriptural accounts) the ancient Israelites may have performed ceremonies in the precincts of their temple that may have contained many rituals that are comparable to what we do today in our temples.  I acknowledged that the theories upon which this assertion are based are conjectural/speculative, but I think that they are a good place to start.

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