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.

So, in light of the fact that there has been interest (whether in the content of this material or simply in trying to prove me wrong), I will go on to look at one of the specific data points — “Temple Gates and Guardians”.  The purpose of the remainder of this post will not be to compare an ancient ritual with a modern one, but simply to analyze what evidence there may be to support the suggested notion, as described in the original post. Again, due to the nature of such an analysis, this post will be quite lengthy — and, naturally, the topic will still not be explored in the necessary detail, as such a study would certainly take up too much time for me to write and for you to read. This was my initial assertion:

Temple gates and guardians: the procession would have to pass through a series of temple gates in order to reach the temple building itself. The gates would have been guarded by priests (1 Chron. 9:17-19) who required certain moral qualifications and passwords in order for the procession to pass through (see Psalm 24). It has been suggested that one of these passwords may have been associated with the name of the Lord and that this was a “new name” given to the candidate. These guardians of the gates likely represented the angels who guard the gates of the various heavens leading to the highest heaven.

Psalm 24

The primary scriptural reference behind these concepts is Psalm 24. I cited also 1 Chron. 9:17-19, not necessarily because it supports the idea I am arguing for, but because it mentions that at the gates of the temple there were “gatekeepers.” We will discuss these a bit later. Let us look first at the principal scripture reference:

Psalm 24:1-10  KJV  <A Psalm of David.> The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.  2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.  3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?  4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.  5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.  6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.  7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.  9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

TT, in one of his responses to me regarding this Psalm, stated: “This is, as I understand it, a part of the ‘entrance liturgy’ to be sung by those coming to worship at the temple.” I agree.  TT further asserted that  “V. 3 is perhaps a question asked by someone outside, and 4-6 are the answers.” I also agree with this. TT, however, then closed off further interpretation of the background or meaning of the passage by concluding: “These are great passages and fascinating insights, but we have no idea how they were used, if at all, or when.” It is clear that through an analysis of the given text, the original life setting of the Psalm remains quite obscure.  However, if we are bold enough to assert, as did TT, that this is an “entrance liturgy” sung by those coming to worship at the temple, there is surely something more that we can discover about said entrance liturgies and about the situation in which individuals or groups would have been attempting to gain entrance to the temple precincts.

We know that at the three major pilgrimage (ḥag) festivals, Passover, Pentacost/Shavuot, and Tabernacles/Succot, the Israelites were supposed to travel to the temple to “appear before the Lord” (Deut. 16:16; cf. Exod. 23:14-17; Exod. 34:23).  So we know that on certain occasions, especially at these festal celebrations, there would be people (not just the men, Deut. 16:11, 14; Deut. 31:11-12)coming from all around to worship the Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem.  We can gain some insight into the special importance of the Feast of Tabernacles in ancient Israel through the prophet Zechariah’s prophecy that in the end times all nations would be required to observe this temple pilgrimage, or they would receive no rain:

Zechariah 14:16  16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.  17   And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.

We also see that Solomon, when he dedicated the Temple, did so at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles (1 Kgs. 8:2, Ethanim=Tishri). This dedicatory ceremony included a procession of Yahweh’s ark to the temple (1 Kgs. 8:1), perhaps much like the procession of the ark that King David once led (2 Sam. 6), which included “all of the house of Israel” following King David and the ark up to the sanctuary.  This first procession was memorialized in Psalm 132, which emphasizes the ascension of the ark to the temple, and also the covenant that God made with David. The psalm was likely used in subsequent re-enactments of this event, as indicated by the accounts of Solomon’s dedicatory remarks, which quote from the Psalm (see 2 Chron. 6:41). A number of the Psalms, some of which may have been used liturgically in temple ceremonies,  seem to refer to this procession (including Pss. 68 (cf. Num. 10:35); 47:5; 118; etc.), which strengthens the idea that at least part of what may have gone on in these annual pilgrimages to the Temple, especially the Feast of Tabernacles, may have included this re-enactment of the ark procession into the temple, most likely led (in early times) by the king. That such a re-enactment may have taken place should not be surprising, as these festivals often re-created/re-lived events of the past, such as the events associated with the Exodus.

Psalm 24 itself can most easily be understood in the context of this procession. The psalm starts out with a doxology (hymn of praise), praising the Lord for his Creation. This parallels the similar hymn (actually Psalm 96) that the Chronicler tells us was sung at the occasion of the David’s ark procession (1 Chron. 16:23-33). Psalm 24:3-4 indicates that the psalm is being sung by someone who desires to go up to the temple. Psalm 24:6 seems to indicate that this is a group of people (NRSV has “company”) that are going up to the temple.  If we take Psalm 118 to describe a festal procession (see, e.g., Ps. 118:27, which has ḥag in the Heb.), we see that this psalm contains a similar exchange at the gates (Ps. 118:19-20) to what we find in Psalm 24:7-10. So what we have in Psalm 24 is likely a procession of pilgrims, led by an individual (likely the king/priest), who are accompanying Yahweh (represented by the ark) up to the temple. They are required to stop when they reach the temple gates.

Question and Answer Dialogue

Craig C. Broyles, in his recent study of temple entrance liturgies, saw a pattern established in Pss. 15, 24, and Isaiah 33:14b-16, of “(a) a double question of who may visit Yahweh’s holy hill, (b) a reply consisting of the qualifications for worshippers, and (c) a promise” (Broyles, “Psalms Concerning the Liturgies of Temple Entry”, in Peter W. Flint and Patrick D. Miller, eds., The Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2005), 248).

In Psalm 24,As Yahweh and his company reach the gates, we hear the questions: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” Basically, what are the qualifications for one to be able to ascend up to the temple? We are not told in the psalm who is asking the question. However, if the psalm was used liturgically, we can imagine that there was likely more than one speaker, although the identity of the speakers involved has not been preserved. However, we have established the possibility that there was a procession that approached the temple gates. At the gates, there were likely levites/priests that were stationed there as gatekeepers. The role of these gatekeepers was debated in the comments of the OP. However, I think that we established that there could have been gatekeepers at the temple in the pre-exilic period. 2 Kgs. 25:18 is one passage (written before Chronicles) that claims that there were. I am willing to concede that we don’t know exactly what their role was.  I don’t think that it is much of a stretch to assert that these gatekeepers likely had a role in the entrance liturgy presented in Psalm 24. While it is difficult to establish who is speaking in verses 3-4, I think it’s fair to assume that the speaker(s) in verses 5, 8a, 10a, could have been the gatekeepers.  While Psalm 15, a parallel psalm representing an entrance liturgy, seems to direct the entry requirement questions to Yahweh himself (Ps. 15:1), I don’t think we need to dismiss the idea that the gatekeepers participated here, especially since there may have been a view that Yahweh himself was the ultimate/final gatekeeper. In Psalm 24, in particular, I believe that the most logical assumption is that the gatekeepers are involved, especially in 8a and 10a, and if we concede this, then I would also assert that the gatekeepers are also involved in the exchange in vv. 3-5, where the qualifications for entry are being established. Verse 5 seems to come from the gatekeepers or accompanying priest(s), declaring the blessings promised to those who fulfill the requirements. V. 6 seems to be an indication from the pilgrims that they do, indeed, comply with the requirements.

I will have to disagree with TT’s assertion that there were no moral requirements to enter the temple. As a matter of fact, in these “entrance liturgy” psalms (Pss. 24; 15; 118), with a few possible exceptions (“clean hands”), the only requirements that are given are moral requirements. In Psalm 118, for example, it is only “the righteous” that are allowed to pass through the gate (Ps. 118:20). Broyles asserts that the “qualifications are ethical, not sacral in nature” (p. 250). While in Psalm 24 there are only a couple of requirements listed, Psalm 15 gives ten qualifications — not dissimilar to the Decalogue given at Sinai, which can be viewed as similar requirements for beginning an ascension of the Holy Mountain to be in Yahweh’s presence. Mowinckel argued (as Broyles implies as well) that at some point the requirements for entry into the temple were likely seen as parallel to the commandments of the covenant given at Kadesh or Sinai. Because the festival was a time for the renewal of the covenant and commemoration of the events of the Exodus, the “toroth (laws) of entry” to the temple were imagined as being the laws which had been given as a covenant by revelation from Yahweh (see Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship, vol. 1, pp. 177ff.). Entering the temple involved the revelation of moral requirements in the form of covenants from God, the acceptance of these on the part of the worshippers, and confirmation that these requirements were being met.

Having confirmed that the pilgrims are living up to the covenantal requirements, there is a call for the gates to be opened so that “the King of Glory may come in” (Ps. 24:7-9; cf. Ps. 118:19). Following this line of interpretation, Ps. 118:27 seems to indicate that the procession has been allowed to go through the gates, has received a blessing from the Lord, and now makes its way to the altar of the temple. Some argue that this is a separate context from that of Psalm 24, that it involves entrance through the innermost gate of the temple as opposed to the outermost in Psalm 24. It seems possible that such a dialogue was required at each of the several gates of the temple. The relevance of this will be noted later.  However, returning to Psalm 24 and the request to open the gates is important.  Broyles argues that in Psalm 24:8, 10, “the name of God [is] used as a ‘password’ through the gates” (p. 252).  Also, he argues that the name “King of glory” used here is a “new name” — we assume this because the respondents in vv. 8 and 10 appear to not know the name.  Following Broyles’ initial assertion, we can assume that this “new name” is also being used as a password to get through the gates.

None of this would seem strange to students of Jewish apocalyptic/mystical literature, which is arguably rooted in temple theology and practice.  For the Jewish mystic to ascend to heaven to see the throne of God (which is, in essence, what is happening in our temple procession as I’ve described it), he had to pass through the various hekhalot (palaces), or heavenly levels, to reach the highest heaven where God resides.  In many accounts, at each level there was a gate guarded by angels who required answers to questions in order to pass. The most common description of these passwords is that they consisted of various names of divine beings (principally God himself) that the mystic was required to know and repeat in order to pass.  A thorough analysis of these ideas is, unfortunately,  beyond the scope of this post, but I think they are important ideas for understanding the context of our psalms.  Although most of these types of texts are late (centuries after the period we’re talking about), the tradition that they follow seems to be a very conservative one, one that I would argue is based on ancient temple practice.

Cristopher Morray-Jones explains that the seven levels of heaven described in the late Rabbinic and Mystical Jewish texts are likely based on the seven levels of holiness of the ancient temple (the immediate temple area was divided into three levels of holiness corresponding to the idea of three heavens). Morray-Jones notes that R. Jose divided the sacred area into the following seven sections: “(1) the area within the balustrade…,  from which gentiles were excluded; (2) the Court of Women; (3) the Court of Israel; (4) the Court of the Priests; (5) the area between the altar and the entrance to the sanctuary; (6) the sanctuary building; and (7) the Holy of Holies” (Morray-Jones, “The Temple Within”, SBL 1998 Seminar Papers, 422ff.).

In the later texts, there would be angelic guards at the gates of each of the celestial levels requiring passwords. I think it is reasonable to argue, based on the above, that the same structure may have existed in the ancient temple, the source of inspiration for these texts.  With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient extra-biblical documents, it has become increasingly clear that (at least some of) the Jews saw their priesthood as having an “angelic” status (see the work of Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Jim Davila, Carol Newsom, and, of course, Margaret Barker, among others).  Both kings and priests are compared to, or described as, angelic/divine beings. I have written a number of posts on my solo blog about this concept.  The liturgy of the temple was meant to represent/parallel  the liturgy of heaven. The priests on earth played the role of the angels in heaven.  In the context of the liturgical procession to the temple, which was arguably supposed to be imagined by the participants as an ascent to heaven, the priests who stood at the gates were likely seen as the angels who stood as sentinels to the various gates that led to God’s throne in the highest heaven.  I realize that these assertions really deserve a full post of their own, but this is all I can do for now.

While I must agree that, in the end, the conclusions here are necessarily conjectural, I do believe that this is the direction that the evidence leads us.  I think it’s reasonable to argue that the pilgrims going to the temple at the major hag festivals, especially the Feast of Tabernacles, participated in processions that ascended the Holy Mountain towards the temple. Also, that these processions participated in an “entrance liturgy” that involved a question-and-answer dialogue at one or more gates of the temple between the pilgrims (perhaps represented by an individual) and the priestly gatekeepers. A list of moral requirements was given (imagined to be laws given by Yahweh as covenantal) and the procession is deemed to be worthy to pass through the gate because of their adherence to these laws.  It is possible that name(s) for God (including a “new name”) were given as passwords to get through the gates.  The procession would have possibly had to repeat this ritual at multiple gates as they progressed towards the holiest areas of the sanctuary.

Now I invite you to compare this to our modern temple practices. There are obvious differences, but I imagine that you can find a number of similarities, as well. I will let you come to your own conclusions as to how these differences and similarities should be interpreted. I would point out that I find that these types of rituals do not generally come to mind when most parties (whether favorable or critical to the Church) attempt to compare/contrast the ancient temple with the modern LDS temple, but I think they are of great value to any such an endeavor.

39 thoughts on “Psalm 24: Temple Gates and Guardians

  1. I just heard about this post. It looks like a good addition to the conversation. I will have to find some time later to more fully respond to your description of the guards at ancient temples (though I may get a few small points in here and there), but I’d say initially that this post at least doesn’t address any of the problems with the comparative method you are implicitly and explicitly using, and I am not sure that saying that these comparisons are in some way tentative, or inviting readers to draw their own conclusions (“wink, wink”) alleviate you from the critique. In any case, I will take a closer look later and offer a more full response then. Thanks!

  2. my one comment regards this:

    “So, in light of the fact that there has been interest (whether in the content of this material or simply in trying to prove me wrong) …

    i could be off base but i don’t think the latter alone is enough to motivate the reading of interminably long and repetitive posts and the production of equally long and repetitive comments. if it is, then the state of affairs is sad indeed. that is, if the opposition is only interested in proving your wrong, and you yourself right.

  3. TT,
    I intentionally did not include any attempt to make comparisons to the modern temple so that we could focus on analyzing the proposed ancient ritual. I wanted to present this aspect alone so that we could consider it for its own merits and not immediately dismiss the whole idea because of a disagreement over the value of making comparisons. After giving the possibility of the existence of such a ritual some consideration, then we can perhaps discuss comparisons. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves now, TT!

    G. Wesley,
    I’m going to ignore your insult to my post (it could have been much longer!!), and agree with your last point — it would be silly for anyone to read my post for this reason and I hope that no one falls into that category. I hope that the post and any following comments can help improve our (and especially my own) understanding of the subject matter.

  4. David,
    My comment was getting longer and longer, and ended up exceeding 4000 words. Seemed too long for a comment, and given the server problems here and its potential loss, I thought it easier, safer, and cleaner to just put it up as a post. After this, we’ve probably exhausted this issue. At least I feel exhausted. In any case, it has been great, and a pleasure.

  5. g.wesley,

    Your comment was particularly ironic right after TT showed so much interest.

    I guess you can assume this is a post for scholars and move along. Nothing wrong with that.

    Great post, David. Keep it coming. If I’m ever in Britain, want to do lunch? (Just kidding.)

  6. Bruce and David,
    I could be wrong, but I dont think that g.Wesley was saying that there was a problem per say with the length, only that David’s argument that the only issue is in proving David wrong. Rather, there are much larger methodological issues that are at issue, not some personal grudge.

  7. Thanks, David. I think in not comparing the modern with the ancient, but just looking at ancient motifs, we may possibly come up with a few standard norms regarding the ancient ascension to the temple/heaven, especially if we look at early Jewish and Christian ascension myths and see what they have in common.

    For example, many (if not most) have a series of heavens that the individual must go through from lowest to highest. Some require an angelic guide through the heavens, and Ezekiel’s vision of the temple also included a heavenly guide. This would fit well with the temple having a priest or Yahweh/ark as the guide leading the individual to the temple gates.

    I’m trying to think of where in the ancient texts there is a password required to enter (Apocalypse of Paul is a very apparent one I can think of off the top of my head, although it is a Gnostic Christian event).

  8. ok, i’ll take the bait and leave one more.

    david, my comment cuts both ways (both posts and comments), though this may have been less than obvious through elision:

    “…if the opposition is only interested in proving your [delete ‘r’] wrong, and (if) you (are only interested in proving) yourself right.”

    that’s not called dialogue. that’s called a waste of time.

    i don’t see how anything is different here. (“of course, you would say that, g.wesley,” you will say. “why don’t you come over to my way of thinking.”)

  9. David,

    I’m particularly impressed on how careful you are really being. You are not making any wild claims, just showing that is it highly ‘plausible’ that the modern temple does in fact fit into a genre that might also include ancient rites. No promises. No claims of proof.

    You are admitting that the sources are too vague to be sure of anything, but you are emphasizing the most ancient sources as much as it possible — which admittedly is a patchwork at best now for us.

    But I do think your assumptions are at least very plausible. For example, the fact that the temple guards were actually priests. First, I didn’t know that. That doesn’t seem to be in contention. But then the idea that they might have had priestly duties at the gate does make a lot of sense. It certainly has a strong inductive appeal. It is therefore a conjecture worth considering.

    I also finally realized that you are only pulling out ideas that non-Mormons first championed as a way of insulating your own beliefs from your analysis as much as possible. I’m slow on the uptake, but this is a marvelous idea!

    Obviously it’s impossible for anyone to really insulate themselves from their own beliefs. But you are at least being as careful here as is possible.

    Finally, I love your new approach of not demonstrating parallels directly. There are so many things different between even this reconstruction of the ancient temple and the modern one to be sure.

    Yet as I read through it, if even part of your suggestions prove true, it really does have this familiar feel to it. It really does help me view our modern temples in a more ancient genre. There is definitive religious value in this sort of scholarship. To banish scholarship like this on the grounds that it’s so tentative and might be ‘tainted’ by religion is, in my opinion, silly.

    And it is good that you have appropriately separated your scholarly reconstruction and the ‘religious value’ side of it like you have. You’re just letting us get what religious value we wish from it. Take it or leave it.

    In short, I love your approach.

  10. David,
    Do you think the events at Sinai, where the Levites were used to slay the wicked of Israel after their disobedience before God, tie in to priests being guards of the holy space?

  11. TT,

    I read through your response to David’s post and was a bit concerned over it. First of all, your tone, in parts, has something to be desired, though for the most part you are very civil. (Something about the Road Runner.)

    But I think the thing that bothers me most is that you and I (and David) have history on this now and I feel you are ignoring all of it.

    On David’s first post you (and others) expressed ‘concern’ that David needs to be careful on how he goes about this. I even got him to put an appropriate ‘warning label’ on his first post so that we know this was all very preliminary and speculative at best.

    Since then has, on his own, taken your warnings even further to heart, substantially changing his approach. Now he first uses his scholarship to do a plausible reconstruction out of texts dating to the first temple and only then asks us to pull our own ‘religious value’ out of it. He has separated scholarship and religious value as far as it is possible to do and to still do it. He’s gone out of his way to accommodate your concerns that Mormons might draw too firm of conclusions from his work.

    Yet this hasn’t satisfied you.

    And I guess I’m particularly concerned because you just got done arguing with me that we need to keep ‘truth’ vs. ‘fraud’ questions at bay in favor of ‘religious value’ questions. I even used David’s and your argument to point out that this isn’t entirely possible and that questions of ‘truth’ and ‘untruth’ continue to be viable questions that need to be specifically evaluated even if we feel something has ‘religious value.’

    Your response to me on that was an outright refusal to engage in specifics when it concerned your own point of view. Even a specific like ‘how could Joseph Smith manufacture the plates yet still think they were a real history’ you avoided engaging in. (Merely insisting it could be true.)

    David is on a blog aimed at a specific sort of Mormon audience offering up some of his tentative scholarship, carefully marked as speculative, so that we can pull religious value from it as we see fit. He has entirely satisfied your entire supposed point of view.

    Plus, David is public figure sticking his neck out with specific and criticizeable conjectures. You are an anonymous avatar that is essentially a vacuum when it comes to actually offering up your own specific points of view. You have created, between yourself and David, an yawning disparity that is unfair and doesn’t even follow your own supposed rules of engagement when it comes to religion and ‘religious value.’

    I would respectfully ask that you treat others how you’d want to be treated. I would recommend that you do one of two things to close the disparity you’ve created between yourself and David.

    First, you could stop playing your avatar as a vacuum and start offering up your own specific counter proposals, starting with my own discussion with you. If you care this much about the ‘scholarship’ vs. ‘untruth’ divide with David, then you need to explore it with everyone and everything and stop claiming ‘religious value’ is a protection from that sort of analysis. I’d be happy with you taking this approach for obvious reason. 😉

    The second possibility I can think of is that you can choose to see David’s posts as ‘religiously valuable’ – which they certainly are – and live by your own beliefs that once we look at something as ‘religiously valuable’ that there is no longer a needs to assess via scholarly means if it is true or not. It doesn’t matter any more because “any explanation will do.” (Obviously I personally disagree with this approach. But it is what you said you believe and I’m just appealing to ‘fairness’ and ‘consistency’ here.)

  12. Pingback: Faith-Promoting Rumor » Guarding the Temple: Our Procession to a Better Understanding; a Response to David L.

  13. Bruce,
    I appreciate your feedback on this issue. I’ve edited my response post at FPR to reflect your concerns over particular sections and if there are others that you see as problematic please bring them to my attention. I apologize to David. Even if an extremely minor portion of the overall discussion, I regret that these were issues at all, and I apologize for letting my frustration over the dismissive tone, testimony bearing, and calls to repentance from other commenters (not David) cloud my judgement. In the end, David and I think that there are real intellectual issues at stake, and that the real focus should be on those issues.

    As for why I think that David and JS should be judged by different standards, I feel like I’ve answered this argument before. You don’t find it convincing. Ultimately, I don’t really see the necessity in making this case for you given that David has not asked that he be judged in the same category as JS.

    My views about how to approach biblical interpretation, the temple, Margaret Barker, the Myth and Ritual school, may be found in each of my comments and by searching these terms on FPR. I have literally dozens of posts outlining my views that are publicly available for criticism. As an example, you might be interested in this: which outlines my views of biblical criticism and how to interpret the LDS canon, which is entirely consistent with what I’ve said elsewhere about how to interpret the temple.

    I appreciate that David blogs under his own name, a decision with its own benefits and risks. You may have noticed that I never included David’s full name in my post so that it would not be googleable to future employers or others interested in his work. At this point, I feel like everyone who really was following this issue has probably read my response and you are free to delete the links to it on this post. As far as I’m concerned, this is an internal blog discussion. Anything that you or he feels is necessary to limit his exposure is totally fair to me.

    You may be interested to know that David and I are planning a joint project of some sort, hopefully soon, time permitting. Personally, I am quite interested in the Psalms, among the oldest Israelite literature, and I look forward to David’s insights on this topic.

  14. Thanks everybody for your comments. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to participate more actively in the discussion.

    Rameumptom and Bruce, I really appreciate the supportive comments. You guys are awesome.

    TT, thank you for your respectful attitude here as well. I have left a more extensive response over on your post at FPR. I appreciate the revision made to your OP and I see the discussion overall being very constructive. I look forward to working with you on this collaboration and hope it contributes to a positive discussion of these issues.

  15. At the risk of sending this back down the rabbit hole…

    Now I invite you to compare this to our modern temple practices.

    I appreciate your reading of Psalm 24. Without much training in Biblical Studies, I have to say that I find it a persuasive reading of the text (more than simply plausible). I do, though, want to engage the issue of comparison.

    The aspects of Psalm 24 you lay out are:

    1) A hag
    2) Ascension
    3) Question and answer at the gate between pilgrim and priest
    4) Check on moral worthiness
    5) Password or new name

    The difficulty of comparison is how or why we connect A with B. In this case Psalm 24 will be A. Given the aspects of Ps. 24 you lay out there are most definitely similarities with our temple ordinances. The problem, though, is how this kind of comparison generates numerous other B’s that share nearly the same similarities. For instance, riding on an airplane.

    It can involve traveling for various kinds of meetings (a hag), flying in the air (ascension), being asked questions by the airline personnel–have your bags been in your possession the entire time (Q & A), a security screening to ensure that you are not a threat to the sanctity of the airport (check on worthiness), and a seat assignment by which one is designated (a new name).

    Now, there are obvious reasons to connect our modern temple rites with those in the Bible such as the fact that those who created our modern rites were reading the Bible and were certainly part of a larger Biblical tradition. However, those things aside, I think we can find as much of (or nearly as much of) traveling on an airplane or attending a sporting event or a number of other things in ancient temple rites as we can in our modern temple rites if we use this as our mode of comparison.

    I should note that I have actually been following the conversation, although I haven’t had time to dedicate to it. I will try to keep my comments short, since I’m sure all of our time is short as well.

  16. Hi SmallAxe,

    I can see where you’re coming from. I would say that perhaps the biggest problem with your airplane comparison is that an airplane flight does not take place in/around a temple (you might fly over a temple, but I don’t think that counts). A comparison between what happened in the ancient temple with what happens in a modern temple at least would share a similar context. Without a shared context, the similarities would likely be nothing more than coincidence.
    As far as our modern rites being part of a larger Biblical tradition, I think you would have to wonder why our rites are set up in this manner in a temple context when those of other Christians are not. Also, as has been noticed in this discussion, these rites are not the most likely ones to occur to someone who is reading biblical texts about what went on in the Jerusalem temple.

  17. I can see where you’re coming from. I would say that perhaps the biggest problem with your airplane comparison is that an airplane flight does not take place in/around a temple (you might fly over a temple, but I don’t think that counts). A comparison between what happened in the ancient temple with what happens in a modern temple at least would share a similar context. Without a shared context, the similarities would likely be nothing more than coincidence.

    What do you mean by “temple” and “context”?

  18. I think by “temple” David means a holy place used specifically for special worship.

    As for “context” I think David means that there may be similar content between modern and ancient temples. There is no real corollary made between ancient temples and airplane flights, as most airplane flights are secular, and except in a symbolic way, could be seen as similar.

    I’m surprised the discussion has gone this far without you figuring out the context of his statements. You attempt to compare apples and oranges (temples and planes). He is trying to compare apples to apples. Big difference when it comes to context.

  19. I know David hasn’t responded yet, but here are some more crystalized thoughts on the matter, which also respond to Rameumptom’s comment.

    If we pose the question: “Does B have origins in A?” and then suggest “yes, possibly, because both B and A share characteristics 1-6,” then we should also conclude that other things that have characteristics 1-6 also possibly have origins in A. In this case, Ps. 24 has characteristics 1-6 and so do our modern temple rites. We should, therefore, at least be open to the possibility that our modern temple rites have origins in practices associated with Ps. 24. If, likewise, airplane travel has characteristics 1-6, why can I not conclude that airplane travel possibly has its origins in the practices associated with Ps. 24? If, you say, airplane travel lacks some characteristics that our modern temples rites have (say it only shares characteristics 1-5 whereas the latter shares characteristics 1-6 with Ps. 24), then it seems that we should simply conclude that it is less possible that airplane travel has its origins in something like Ps. 24; it cannot, however, be ruled out.

    This is the problem with such an approach: You determine a series of shared characteristics and must admit equal plausibility to all things that possess the shared characteristics. Now, you can up the ante by adding more characteristics to thin out the list–airports are not a “holy place used specifically for special worship”. I can say, “Well yes, airports are actually holy places used specifically for special worship, at least those that have chapels (”; or we can knock it off the list and find another fitting candidate (some people do take ballparks as holy places–scattering a loved one’s ashes at Candlestick or getting married under the Green Monster at Fenway, for instance). Point being, there are always other equally plausible, but somewhat ridiculous, candidates when we use this method of comparison. There are logical problems with it. I’d be happy to elaborate on another problem if we can first come to terms with this one.

  20. Smallaxe,

    You are seriously going to pursue this angle? First, it does not add value to the discussion, but just shuts it down. Second, using a straw man (or airplane) to make a point, makes no point whatsoever. It is gibberish.

    You make noise and so do reptiles. Therefore, you must be a reptile. That is basically your point, and both are ridiculous.

  21. SmallAxe
    I agree with Rameumptom that you are comparing apples with oranges here, and I’m sure you realize that.
    The similarities you point out with your airplane comparison (and I’m glad you recognize it as ridiculous) are at most coincidental. There is no real connection between these characteristics of ancient temple ritual and an airplane flight. Of course we must be careful in making comparisons, but that doesn’t mean that all attempts to do so are methodologically faulty.
    For example, comparing the ancient temple and the modern temple is not some random comparison, especially for someone who takes Joseph Smith’s claims seriously. If Joseph Smith claimed to restore features of the ancient temple for use in the modern temple, then we have reason to want to investigate that claim. Unlike your airplane example, we would have reason to believe that there IS some connection between the ancient and modern temple through the medium of revelation from God. According to tradition, the form and function of the ancient temple were revealed by God to figures such as Moses and King David. If we believe that God, through the same process of revelation, instructed Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets to design modern temple practice in similar ways, then we would expect to see many similarities to the ancient temple, and these similarities would not be coincidental. Of course, this argument assumes that one is taking Joseph Smith’s claim seriously (at least seriously enough to investigate it), and that revelation as a means of communication between man and God is taken seriously as well.
    I feel like I’ve said this all before and that we are just running around in circles now. I guess it comes down to what you believe about Joseph Smith and what you believe about God. But even besides that, there are so many correspondences between ancient and modern temples that I think about anyone with any interest in these types of religious topics would be curious about the parallels, unless you absolutely didn’t want (perhaps for theological reasons) there to be any correspondence. Even Harvard’s Frank Moore Cross is on record as having said: “I am both interested and delighted to see so much of ancient religious tradition, particularly biblical tradition, taken up into the religious structures and rituals of the Mormons.”

  22. Rameumptom and David,

    I do believe that JS is a prophet, but I’m not sure exactly how we use this belief as a kind of methodology to move certain things from the category of “coincidence” to “possibility” (i.e., the airport experience vs. modern temple rites).

    Consider these two points:

    1) The practices associated with Ps. 24 have at least 5 points in common with modern temple rites. A certain ancient Egyptian ceremony has 10 points in common with modern temple rites. A certain ancient African ceremony has 15 points in common with modern temple rites. A certain ancient Hindu ceremony has 20 points in common with modern temple rites. A certain ancient Greek ceremony has 1 point in common with modern temple rites. Which of these are coincidences and which of these are possibilities; and how do we decide?

    2) Let’s say that someone named John Lee claimed to receive a revelation that the modern airport experience originated in the practices associated with Ps. 24. His followers believe him and make scholarly arguments for this possibility. How do we evaluate the claims of his followers? I’m being totally serious here. How do we evaluate these claims?

  23. SmallAxe,

    In any testing of a theory, one has to have a basic set of agreed upon rules. Otherwise, no theory would ever get tested or moved forward.

    Do we let the Flat Earthers of the world hold hostage the concept that the world is round, simply because they can make a point: How do we know that it is the earth moving, and not just everything else moving around it? For that matter, when you drive to visit your grandmother, is it the car moving, or the earth moving underneath the car? We can get bogged down in useless apples vs oranges comparisons that do not really discuss the matter, until the cows come home. But the discussion still tends towards the useless.

    Joseph Smith made a claim that he restored the ancient temple rites. Unless you are making the claim that airplanes also restore the ancient temple rite, then it really is a non sequitur. And if you are making such a claim, you should do it on your own post, where we can discuss it separately.

    David may decide to study and discuss how other temples (Mayan, Greek, Hindu, Egyptian) may also have parallels at some time. But that is not his premise here. You obviously are trying to hit the parallelomania concern, and it is noted. But it drags the discussion down to nothing. How can YOU disprove it? We can easily dismiss anything and everything as parallelomania.

    We can dismiss Joseph Smith’s claims and accomplishments as all coincidental. Then we can quickly adjourn all discussion on Mormonism, as we’ve determined through your one concern that nothing can be compared, because of a fear of parallelomania. It is just a coincidence that 11 other men think they saw the gold plates. It is a coincidence that there is a place called NHM/Nahom in the Arabian desert that fits Nephi’s description of a location. It is a coincidence that Alma really is a Hebrew man’s name, along with about 40 other coincidental names.

    Since David is beginning with certain premises: Joseph Smith is a true prophet, Joseph Smith made a claim regarding modern and ancient Jewish temples, There should be some similarities, THEN we should be able to discuss such possible similarities.

    Is it possible that other ancient temple systems may also share in the concepts of theophany, etc? Possibly. And that may be something worth researching sometime. But that is not within the context of his theory.

  24. SA,

    You are admitting that you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, but you are apparently not taking what he claimed into consideration.

    I will answer your two points.

    1) Your first point is again, to a degree, comparing apples and oranges. Joseph Smith didn’t claim to restore an ancient African ceremony or any of the others. There is no real reason to make a comparison between these and our modern temples, except for the fact that many ancient temples were built and functioned following a similar pattern. Similarities that we find between temples from other ancient cultures and our own can be due to this fact. While it is theoretically possible that the Hindu ceremony (or whichever) could share more points of similarity with ours than the Israelite temple, similarities between the two subjects of comparison can be due to a number of reasons, from being purely coincidental on the one hand to resulting from being based on a similar original source on the other. I agree that it is difficult to determine what the exact reasons for the similarities are, but that is when we have to return to the original claim that is the reason for us attempting to make a comparison in the first place. We are comparing the ancient Israelite temple to the modern temple because Joseph Smith claimed that the inspiration behind each of them came from the same source.

    2) Should it really matter, to those followers, what outsiders said about their beliefs? My belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet does not rest on whether anyone can prove that ancient temples are “sufficiently” similar to modern temples. I have other reasons why I believe that he was a prophet — but because of that belief, I also expect that his claims can be demonstrated to be true. And I don’t think that anyone could demonstrate, empirically, that ancient temples are not similar to modern temples. The similarities that we find, however, serve to strengthen the belief that we already have that Joseph was indeed a prophet and that his claims were true.

  25. You are admitting that you believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, but you are apparently not taking what he claimed into consideration.

    No, I think we are disagreeing about how to take what he claimed into consideration.

    We are comparing the ancient Israelite temple to the modern temple because Joseph Smith claimed that the inspiration behind each of them came from the same source.

    I do believe that he made claims broader than that (I’m thinking of Egyptian papyri here), but even if we stick to the area of Israelite temples, you’ve provided no methodology for evaluating which similarities are coincidences and which are possibilities. Does believing that JS restored ancient practices mean that every similarity counts as a possibility?

    Should it really matter, to those followers, what outsiders said about their beliefs?

    About their beliefs, perhaps not; but when they are making claims about how one thing is possibly the origin of another and attempting to support those claims empirically, it seems that they have a responsibility to articulate their empirical claims in ways that are true to rules of that field be it history, comparative religion, etc. So it’s one thing to say that Ps. 24 can be read a certain way, which is substantiated on the basis of empirical scholarship (I’ve already said that I agree with your reading). It’s a whole other thing to then suggest that it can serve as a kind of “possibility” while other equally similar things are only “coincidences”. It’s like doing scholarship, scholarship, scholarship (in interpreting Ps. 24) and then connecting the dots to one’s conclusion by inserting belief at the very end. Why are you allowed to make that move? The answer can’t be because of belief in JS because you haven’t provided a methodology for evaluation as mentioned above.

  26. TT,

    Just to be clear: I am not comparing David and JS.

    I’m comparing David and you. I asked for you to hold yourself to your own standards.

    I look forward to your joint project by the way.

  27. David,

    If I might interject.

    I actually believe your differences with SmallAxe and TT are quite straight forward. They are:

    1. You consider JS’s teachings to be a data point. If JS said he was restoring something ancient that is, to you, the same as finding some piece of evidence proving it’s worth pursuing. They do not see it that way, so they want to eliminate it from the outset as a possibility.

    I think a good analogy here is the Book of Mormon. People look at the BoM as it ‘can’t be true’ because it doesn’t match our findings in other areas. (i.e. no horses, etc.)

    However, if the BoM was a scholarly translation with proper Archeological methodologies to date it’s location and time frame, the BoM would then be a data point. The fact that it mentions ‘horses’ would essentially be a non-issue then. It would be perfectly natural to then work out how to reconcile those points. (Probably using the very same methods the apologists use today.)

    But if you don’t believe the BoM is a data point, then it does seem sort of ‘anti-scholarly’ to use it as a data point.

    2. You do not separate religion and scholarship. Truth is truth. They wish to keep them in water tight compartments.

    This second, I admit, makes no sense at all unless you personally believe that religion has not truth value (Perhaps only ‘religious value’?) At least SA already said he didn’t agree with this. So the need for the water tight compartment makes little sense here. (TT will refuse to say what his position is, so it’s impossible to assess or respond to, so I won’t try.)

    I also think there is some protection of the ‘orthodoxy of scholarship’ going on. Apparently a belief that scholarship that is used religiously can’t be scholarship and should (must) be named something else. Who decided this I’m not sure, but they seem quite sold on it.

    Personally, I have to go with Richard Bushman’s view on this. All scholarship is ‘tainted’ by bias and even religious bias. (I do not doubt that part of what is driving SA and TT’s concerns is their own personal religious beliefs, whatever they are.) Therefore this is nothing wrong with using scholarly means to look at one’s religious beliefs. It’s all good because it’s all scholarship. (Instead, you measure the quality of the scholarship, or more to the point, you compare theories.) There is no ‘orthodoxy of scholarship’ to protect in the first place.

    I do, however, agree with SA that at this point there is no “methodology for evaluation.” However, I guess my question to SA is why this means it shouldn’t be researched (yes, even using scholarship as far as it can take us) and even used religiously? I have not heard a satisfying answer to this so far.

  28. Bruce,
    There is nothing inconsistent about saying that the BoM is religiously valuable even if it is a 19th c text, and suggesting that there are other ways, perhaps even better ways, of reading the Bible than David’s. Both should be evaluated according to historical standards, admitting the limitations of history to make definitive determinations. 

    I have argued that the text of the BoM should be judged on its historical merits, but that this is an independent question from its religious worth. I have also argued that David’s scholarly interpretation should be judged on its historical merits. That his view may or may not have religious value is a separate question. (That it is religious does not necessarily make it valuable).

    Your persistent return to these issues strikes me more as an attempt at stoking some fire than in promoting understanding. It is not clear to me what you think your contribution is since you know nothing about Ps 24, the ancient temple, nor are your familiar at all with the study of religion or the comparative study of religion. (For this latter set of issues, I recommend William Paden, Interpreting the Sacred, for an intro level to the study of religion and some of the interpretive issues that are being debated here. This text may be found for just a few dollars on Amazon.). 
    To deal specifically with these issues you’ve raised, I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood. 
    1. The issue is not whether JS statement about the antiquity of the temple ordinances is a data point worth evaluating, but what it is a data point of. JS claimed the entirety of the temple is of ancient, revealed origin. However, you dont believe that considering your statement that you think much of it has roots in masonry. Now, I have considered the evidence for the ancient origins of the temple and have also, just like you, concluded that while there are some similarities, the differences are rather stark. How then do we interpret that data?  That is the issue.   What does it tell us about what JS thought he was doing?  What does it tell us about how he read the Bible?  It tells us much more about those things than it does about what was happening in the 9th c BCE. 
    I made the argument previously that if one begins from the supposition that the ancient and modern temple are fundamentally the same, and refuses to evaluate the fullness of the evidence in order to preserve that particular article of faith, not only is it an arbitrary choice to choose this particular teaching as a matter of unquestioning truth while allowing other teachings of JS more flexibility, but that it is not a scholarly argument. Now, David and I disagree on this point, which is fine. But the question between David and me has never been whether or not scholarship is the proper tool to evaluate these claims, but rather what counts as scholarship. 
    2.  I don’t think that anyone has suggested that faith and scholarship be absolutely separate, at least i cant find anyone saying anything like that. Nor do I think that anyone is saying that they must be exactly the same. The question is which one receives relative priority. For David, the claims of JS about the ancient world should trump contrary evidence, while for me at least, the evidence about the ancient world should be prioritized over what JS says about it. The implications of my argument are not a separate faith, but a faith which is critically informed rather than fundamentalist. Now, i don’t think that David is starting from a fundamentalist position at all, and i want that to be clear, but I do think that refusing to be critical of certain articles of faith can lead to a fundamentalist position (truth is truth, even when the evidence says otherwise!). 
    To understand and evaluate religious claims by a standard other than propositional, logical, or empirical truth is neither an anti scholarly position, nor one that hostile to religion. Sure, it is not a fundamentalist paradigm, but that hardly qualifies as a serious problem. 

    Now, you aligning yourself with Bushman is a bit much here. He would never make the assertions about “truth” that you have made here. He has been a champion of precisely the view that i am offering about understanding the meaning of the BoM rather than focusing on its historicity. Go read his chapters on this again, and you’ll find that he takes my position exactly on the BoM, a refusal to admit that it is fraud, an argument that is it great religious literature and should be judged on those terms, not its historicity, and a scholarly agnosticism with respect to the origins of the plates. He brackets the issue of truth claims in order to get at the meaning and significance of the Book. In this, he is following american religious historian George Marsden on evangelical visionary and miraculous experiences and Robert Orsi on how to evaluate the presence of the Saints in the lives of Catholics. I have argued for this view on FPR as well. Like me, this is his solution to the prophet/fraud dichotomy. 

    Now, Bushman’s argument that scholarship is situational, historically located, and perspectival is not an argument to suspend certain scholarly principles in favor of an article of faith. It is simply to acknowlege the limits of scholarship, an argument made from within scholarship against certain notions of positivist truth (eg, truth is truth). Rather, it is a call for the mutliplicity of views that can emerge from both scholarship and faith with one brackets some of the presuppositions that limit both. There is nothing about that position that is incompatible with what I’ve said, because you’ll remember that i am not the one insisting that JS is either a prophet or a fraud, or that any particular statement from JS must be an unquestioned assumption that guides one’s research. 

    On the issue of comparison, for me there are two relevant issues. First, a comparison cannot be done that does not also consider the differences as relevant points of analysis. Second, one must be careful about the conclusions that one draws from the appearance of any shared pattern. Is the pattern the result of divine will, or the inevitable result of how any sacred space is organized, whether Greek, African, Masonic, or Catholic?  Is he pattern the result of JS reading and interpretation and adaptation of the ancient texts?  Both of these questions can be addressed by a more clear methodology of comparison, a methodology that both SA and I have outlined. Comparisons should not be arbitrary, but rather have rules that govern them.

  29. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to keep up with this discussion as well as I’d like to. Thank you, Bruce, for your comments.

    TT & Small Axe,
    I feel that you both are trying to sign me up for something I haven’t volunteered for! I think it was quite clear and both of you know that my original post was not a full-blown attempt to compare the ancient temple with the modern temple. I merely suggested that the ancient Israelites could have been performing ceremonies that were much more like our temple experience than we commonly understand from our reading of the Old Testament. I then listed some rituals that are part of a theoretical framework known as the New Year Festival. I think that any Latter-day Saint who studies about this proposed New Year Festival in any depth will notice many parallels to our modern temple experience — and these parallels provide exciting possibilities that merit further exploration.

    I am very aware that a proper scholarly comparison of the ancient temple and modern temple would have to go much further than what I offered in that post, or in any subsequent comments. This is obvious. I am shocked that you seem to think that I think that what I have done here is all that would be required. I was merely throwing out some ideas that I think would be exciting starting points if someone were to try to make such a comparison. I realize that a rigid methodology would have to be applied and that we would have to consider both similarities and differences. A true scholarly study would require this. But have I ever suggested that this is what I was attempting or that I planned on embarking on such an enormous task any time soon? Not with my schedule! Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t think such a study would be worthwhile or positive, because I most certainly believe it would be. But don’t criticize me for not using proper methodology when I haven’t even begun the project yet!

    Now you both obviously feel that such a project would be folly, and you are apparently trying to nip it in the bud before it even gets going. It seems that this is the case because you have been convinced by your studies that the ancient temple cannot possibly have anything to do with the modern temple. TT stated:

    “Now, I have considered the evidence for the ancient origins of the temple and have also, just like you, concluded that while there are some similarities, the differences are rather stark.”

    See, I think you’ve reached this conclusion because you’ve been looking at the wrong data. I don’t think you can get the correct view of the temple through the sources that you’ve been looking at (of course I don’t know exactly what you’ve studied — I’m basing this on things you’ve said). As I said in my comments on FPR, I am convinced that we need to be looking outside of the texts we traditionally associate with the temple, as we have great reason to suspect that they won’t give us a true picture of what the original temple was like. So when you say “the differences are rather stark”, what data is this observation based on? If it’s based on what you’ve read about the Second Temple (or information written well into the Second Temple period), then I believe your conclusions are based on faulty information. If the evidence for your conclusion is distorted, then you are (albeit perhaps unwittingly) misleading people.

    Going back to the point I was making in the beginning, I don’t see either of you volunteering your own study based on your methodologies. You repeatedly assert that a comparison between the ancient and modern temple is fruitless. How do we know that if the study hasn’t been done? I am not attempting to do any such thing at this point. I don’t have any problem with your methodology (as far as I understand it) and agree that both similarities and differences should be taken into consideration in such a project. However, I would argue that this study should not compare “apples and oranges” by comparing the Second Temple and its practices with our modern temple.

  30. I enjoyed the post very much. I just looked in my electronic copy of the Word Biblical Commentary for the Book of Psalms. And note it follows the same general interpretation. It divides the psalm into three parts —

    1. (Psalm 24:1-2) Hymn.

    2. (Psalm 24:3-6) Entrance Liturgy.
    Pilgrims question: Who shall ascend? (v 3)
    Priests answer: “He who has clean hands” (vv 4-5)
    pilgrims affirm: “This is the generation” (v 6: i.e. we are qualified to ascend)

    3. (Psalm 24:7-10) a Procession Liturgy (like the one in 2 Samuel 6:12-19).
    Pilgrims call: “Lift up … gates … doors” (v 7)
    Priests question: “Who is this King of glory” (v 8a)
    Pilgrims respond: “The LORD” (v8b)

    Pilgrims call again: “Lift up … gates … doors” (v 9)
    Priests ask again: “Who is this King of glory” (v 10a)
    Pilgrims answer: “The LORD” (v 10b)

    This is my enhancement of his basic outline, with a few differences (the third part he has pilgrims talking to personified gates/doors; I put priests), but still … another Bible scholar sees it in similar outline.

  31. TT,

    Okay, let me give you some specific examples. You say, for example, that “both should be evaluated according to historical standards”

    Okay, so far, so good.

    But when I asked you for a plausible explanation for the plates based on these historical standards, what did you answer me? You basically told me that because the BoM is of religious value that no answer was necessary and that it didn’t matter.

    Not so good.

    So this is why it really does seem to me that you are being inconsistent. Instead, you really did owe me your best historical analysis of the plates.

    If you don’t owe it to me, there is no way David owes you an explanation to your concerns on the very same grounds.

    As for Bushman, I will do some future posts and quote him and that will clear things up. My off the cuff memory of what he said isn’t probably that accurate, I admit. However, I think he’s said much tha tyou aren’t considering in your analysis.

  32. P.S. For what it is worth, I really do see an inconsistency here. Or at least perceive it that way. (i.e. “Your persistent return to these issues strikes me more as an attempt at stoking some fire than in promoting understanding”)

    I suppose it’s fair to say that this is my axe to grind so to speak. (Not specifically with you, TT, but just in general.) So for what it’s worth, I’m very sincere in my belief that you’ve missed the fact that you have a double standard. I might be wrong here, but that is how it really looks to me.

    In any case, ignore me and carry on. 😛

  33. David,

    I don’t think asking you to clarify how one should distinguish between similarities and coincidences is requiring anything more than you’ve proposed to do.


    I’m only going to respond to your last paragraph since responding to everything will take us in too many directions; although I’d be happy to clarify anything that doesn’t make sense.

    I do, however, agree with SA that at this point there is no “methodology for evaluation.” However, I guess my question to SA is why this means it shouldn’t be researched (yes, even using scholarship as far as it can take us) and even used religiously? I have not heard a satisfying answer to this so far.

    I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be researched, just that it should be done carefully. If we’re going to begin with the premise that JS said X; and then use X as a lens to view the past, it seems fair that we should first discuss how to use X.

  34. I was thinking about Handel’s Messiah’s treatment of Psalm 24:7-10. He has the women sing and the men answer for 7-8, then the men sing and women answer in 9-10. This seems a very natural way to treat the repetition, and causes me to think. If this psalm was ritually acted out centuries ago, and we can only guess at the parts, what do you think of the following? Just on the basis of a more natural reading.

    Priests show Pilgrims how to call: “Lift up … gates … doors” (v 7)
    Pilgrims ask: “Who is this King of glory” (v 8a)
    Priests tell them the name that will open the gate: “The LORD” (v8b)

    Pilgrims call: “Lift up … gates … doors” (v 9)
    Gatekeepers ask: “Who is this King of glory” (v 10a)
    Pilgrims answer with the name that opens the gate: “The LORD” (v 10b)

    I know the repetition gives emphasis, but that isn’t lost, by varying who is speaking.

  35. I also JST Psalm 24:7-10 adds to this discussion It clarifies the personification of the gates in the MT. And even more interesting, to me at least is its expansion of temple themes — the Lord coming to redeem his people, giving them an everlasting name and establishing them upon his everlasting rock.

    JST Psalm 24:7-10

    7. Lift up your heads, O ye generations of Jacob; and be ye lifted up; and the Lord strong and mighty; the Lord mighty in battle, who is the king of glory, shall establish you forever.

    8. And he will roll away the heavens; and will come down to redeem his people; to make you an everlasting name; to establish you upon his everlasting rock.

    9. Lift up your heads, O ye generations of Jacob; lift up your heads, ye everlasting generations, and the Lord of hosts, the king of kings;

    10. Even the king of glory shall come unto you; and shall redeem his people, and shall establish them in righteousness. Selah.

  36. Hi Dean,

    Thanks for commenting here.

    I think your reconstruction (#34) is very interesting and certainly plausible. I would love to know where Handel got the idea from — it he just thought it would work well musically that way, or if there was some precedent, perhaps liturgical, that he was following. Thanks for bring that to my attention — I had never heard that before.

    Your next comment was very helpful, as well. I hate to admit that I haven’t read the JST of Psalm 24 any time recently, so I was pleasantly surprised at his treatment of it. While he is apparently giving a more spiritual rather than liturgical reading, I would agree with you that it does emphasize temple themes in its own way.

    I find it interesting that he personifies the gates, as you mentioned, in this way, especially in light of comparisons that have been made between Psalm 24 and parts of the Ugaritic literature. There is a part when Ba’al, the victorious king, commands the other gods (who fear the destructive power of Yamm), to "lift up your heads, O ye gods, and be lifted up, ye everlasting ones," which is, obviously, similar to Psalms 24; but what is more interesting is how the JST is even more similar!

    Reading your comment reminded me of an article that sees those lines in Ps 24 as describing personified gates. (Perhaps, more precisely, we should see the beings who stand at the gates as being addressed using the title "gates", much like the later category of angels known as "thrones" were the angels whose thrones stood at the portals to the various levels of heaven). The article I’m referring to is by Alan Cooper and is called "Psalm 24:7-10: Mythology and Exegesis" (Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. 102, no. 1, 1983). In the article, Cooper argues that Psalm 24 draws on Ancient Near Eastern mythology that involves the journey of the god-king into the Netherworld. The "gates of eternity" (ancient doors) of Ps 24:7 can be associated with the gates that have to be passed through in the Netherworld in, e.g., Egyptian literature. The command to the gatekeepers to open their gates would have taken place either at the god’s entry to the Netherworld, or at his exit from its depths. The idea is that the god has descended to the Netherworld to conquer Death and is now ascending in victory. The gatekeepers try to block his passage, asking for his credentials, but in the end they are satisfied and let him pass. Cooper notes that since the temple is the point of contact between "heaven" and "hell", the exit through the gates of the Netherworld was effectively an entrance into the temple. Cooper notes that this interpretation is the way many early Christians understood the Psalm, applying it to the descent of Jesus into Hell to conquer Death and free the captive Saints, followed by his ascent into heaven.

    While Cooper emphasizes the mythological interpretation over the liturgical, in my mind, it amounts to the same.

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