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Nephi And His Asherah


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#121 Bob Crockett

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 05:57 AM

He's an agnostic.


Let me correct my statement. In Does God Have a Wife? he says he is a secular humanist and a skeptic of the Bible.

It is one thing to rely upon him for his archeological conclusions and quite another to cite him for LDS doctrine.
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#122 robuchan

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 06:35 AM

Sounds like a kangaroo cult, or court, to me. Perhaps you'd like explain why you reject those Scriptures telling us about the many plain and precious parts removed from Scripture. Do I need to cite them?



I might be misunderstanding you. I'm good with logic, but I'm not nearly as knowledgeable about history and the Bible as you guys.

Bob expressed the logic that (which seems very clear to me--at least the first part--the Asherah/heresy connection I'm not qualified to judge) that you are rejecting a simple Christian/Biblical connection between the love of God and the condescension of Jesus Christ with this heretical doctrine of Asherah. In your response are you implying that the Asherah doctrine is one of the plain and precious parts of the Bible that was removed?

If so, my question would be that since a purpose of the BOM is to restore lost plain and precious truths of the Bible, and here Nephi is shown a vision making a connection to the Asherah doctrine. Wouldn't he then plainly write it into his scripture account?
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#123 CASteinman

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 07:41 AM

If so, my question would be that since a purpose of the BOM is to restore lost plain and precious truths of the Bible, and here Nephi is shown a vision making a connection to the Asherah doctrine. Wouldn't he then plainly write it into his scripture account?


Only if the so-called "Asherah Doctrine" was the truth and was relevant to his point. However, the vision he received might have been given to him in a context of his culture that he would understand some connections without necessarily being an affirmation that the culture was pure and right in all it did.
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#124 Ron Beron

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 08:59 AM

My experience as a priesthood administrator is that persons who persist in the practice in the church are corrected. Sonia Johnson claims she was excommunicated although we don't know the real reason.

I believe that the evidence shows that any Israelite who worshipped Asherah was in apostasy. Some here would ignore the OT condemnation. Whereas I am willing to admit the scriptures can be flawed, when a teaching is picked up by General Conference sermons and manuals, to gainsay that teaching is to flirt with apostasy. So there was no practice to restore.

Agreed. However, while the Greater Tradition is adhered to as a matter of "law", the lesser traditions of folk religion was practiced regardless of any threat of punishment.
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#125 Robert F. Smith

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 01:01 AM

Here is part of the context, but you should reread the entire thread to understand what is actually going on here:

Robert F. Smith, post #19,

rcrocket, on 17 December 2011 - 09:35 AM, said:
Robert, I am familiar with your argument. And I am familiar with Brant's suggestion that the condemnation of asherim is a post exillic edit. But, I maintain, the scriptural texts I have call this theory detestable.


Not necessarily, and bear in mind that the text of the Bible has been carefully redacted in line with a narrow theology which you and I could not live with.

--------------------------------------

Robert F. Smith, post #30,

rcrocket, on 17 December 2011 - 02:03 PM, said:
There is something fundamentally wrong with a rejection of a common ground, the scriptures, in favor of a highly speculative theory based upon a destable fertility cult.


Sounds like a kangaroo cult, or court, to me. Perhaps you'd like explain why you reject those Scriptures telling us about the many plain and precious parts removed from Scripture. Do I need to cite them?


I might be misunderstanding you. I'm good with logic, but I'm not nearly as knowledgeable about history and the Bible as you guys.

Bob expressed the logic that (which seems very clear to me--at least the first part--the Asherah/heresy connection I'm not qualified to judge) that you are rejecting a simple Christian/Biblical connection between the love of God and the condescension of Jesus Christ with this heretical doctrine of Asherah. In your response are you implying that the Asherah doctrine is one of the plain and precious parts of the Bible that was removed?

If so, my question would be that since a purpose of the BOM is to restore lost plain and precious truths of the Bible, and here Nephi is shown a vision making a connection to the Asherah doctrine. Wouldn't he then plainly write it into his scripture account?

Crockett's monomaniacal focus on the Ashera cult masks the much larger problem of the vast and cross-cutting nature of the larger culture from which both Israelite and Canaanite religions come forth. Scholars have learned much from study of ancient Ugaritic and Phoenician documents, and it is clear that the biblical religious vocabulary and symbolism share much in common with Canaanite mythological background.

By ignoring that reality, Crockett adopts what is the very flawed estimation of the nature of Scripture which one expects from ardent fundamentalist Protestants. Moreover, he might as well have adopted the Jewish view that Mary was not only not a virgin, but that she certainly could not be the Mother of God. From the Jewish point of view this is as detestable a position as one could take, and (as I pointed out in detail earlier in this thread, at post #29) this actually led some Jews to "correct" the Septuagint Greek version of Isaiah upon which the Christian notion of virginity partly depended. Why do I mention this? Because Crockett rejects the notion that biblical Scripture is flawed in some way. No revisions. No more wrong position could be taken by him.

Edited by Robert F. Smith, 02 July 2012 - 01:03 AM.

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#126 Bob Crockett

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 07:48 AM

]Crockett's monomaniacal focus on the Ashera cult masks the much larger problem of the vast and cross-cutting nature of the larger culture from which both Israelite and Canaanite religions come forth. Scholars have learned much from study of ancient Ugaritic and Phoenician documents, and it is clear that the biblical religious vocabulary and symbolism share much in common with Canaanite mythological background.

By ignoring that reality, Crockett adopts what is the very flawed estimation of the nature of Scripture which one expects from ardent fundamentalist Protestants. Moreover, he might as well have adopted the Jewish view that Mary was not only not a virgin, but that she certainly could not be the Mother of God. From the Jewish point of view this is as detestable a position as one could take, and (as I pointed out in detail earlier in this thread, at post #29) this actually led some Jews to "correct" the Septuagint Greek version of Isaiah upon which the Christian notion of virginity partly depended. Why do I mention this? Because Crockett rejects the notion that biblical Scripture is flawed in some way. No revisions. No more wrong position could be taken by him.


I don't even know the meaning of monomaniacal, so you have me at a disadvantage.

I don't subscribe to the view that Mary was not a virgin. I don't know why you paint me with that brush. I accept the Septuagint's rendering, and my view on that has nothing to do with Asherah. Indeed, I take umbrage at having my views on the LDS intellectual embrace of the fertility goddess clouded by criticizing an argument I do not make and which have nothing to do with poles erected in the temple.

I ignore no reality. I have read some of the technical and popular works on the subject of Asherah. I can see for myself her extensive presence in Israelite households and the popular religion. I can see the tension between the various scholars, those who trust the Deuternomical rendering of the Hebrew Scriptures as to what is the Yahweist tradition and what is not. They disagree.

Latter-day Saints are different than the atheists and secular humanists who comment upon Canaanite tradition. "What makes us different than most other Christians in the way we read and use the Bible and other scriptures is our belief in continuing revelation. . . . . Those who believe the scriptural canon is closed typically approach the reading of scriptures by focusing on what was meant at the time the scriptural words were spoken or written. In this approach, a passage of scripture may appear to have a single meaning and the reader typically relies on scholarship and historical methods to determine it. The Latter-day Saint approach is different." Dallin Oaks, "Scripture Reading and Revelation," Ensign Jan. 1995.

Thus, continuing revelation is what drives the Latter-day Saint tradition, not atheism and secular humanism. When the NIV derides the Asherah cult as "detestable," and the LDS manuals and General Conference materials agree with that assessment, and applaud without question the reforms of Josiah, it causes ignorant folk like me to question and challenge LDS scholarship fascination with Asherah.

In fact, the rabbit hole this esoterica leads us is inescapable. As my friend and acquaintance Kevin Barney (I labored in his DeKalb ward as a young missionary) puts it in his Dialogue article: "I personally regard it as very significant that we actually know the name of our Mother in Heaven: Asherah." That's like saying that the name "Lucifer" is just another name for El, or that "hell" is a fabrication of Old Testament scribes.


So, I come into this forum to challenge the esoterica that passes as LDS scholarship about mother in heaven. (As well, I may question other secular scholarship passing as LDS intellectualism, so I am not monomaniacal. I am a traditionalist. I also believe that we can't really talk about "mother in heaven" because there no such individual exists in the singular.) Most here who are wedded to this particular detestable theory treat me in a friendly fashion, and point to their beliefs that the OT cannot be accurate on a number of fronts. I just disagree. I respect your views and your scholarship; I just think you are incorrect.


Edited by Bob Crockett, 02 July 2012 - 08:15 AM.

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#127 Nevo

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 11:04 AM

Scholars have learned much from study of ancient Ugaritic and Phoenician documents, and it is clear that the biblical religious vocabulary and symbolism share much in common with Canaanite mythological background. By ignoring that reality, Crockett adopts what is the very flawed estimation of the nature of Scripture which one expects from ardent fundamentalist Protestants.... Crockett rejects the notion that biblical Scripture is flawed in some way. No revisions. No more wrong position could be taken by him.


I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. You seem to be arguing that Brother Crockett's view of the OT is wrongheaded because he approaches the biblical text with a hermeneutic of trust rather than seeing it as fundamentally flawed. But why should he? The Bible is one of the Standard Works of the Church. Why shouldn't Latter-day Saints—who accept the Bible as inspired scripture—give the benefit of the doubt to the biblical writers.

I don't discount the insights of recent scholarship into the "religious realities" of ancient Israel and Judah, which Francesca Stavrakopoulou and John Barton summarize here:

'Religion' is not uniform but pluriform, and can vary from place to place—whether temple, tomb or home—and within and among different groups of people—from rural households to royal households, from garrison troops to women's local networks. Indeed, it is now understood that the religious worlds of these groups were likely populated by different combinations of various deities and divine beings, such as Yhwh, Asherah, Baal, specialized craft deities and household ancestors. Moreover, despite certain shared features, there was likely notable diversity across various cults, so that, for example, the Yhwh worshipped in the temple in Samaria was not the same deity as the Yhwh worshipped in the Jerusalem temple. These changing scholarly perceptions thus reflect a now widespread recognition that the biblical presentation of the religious past is often at odds with the likely religious realities fo ancient Israel and Judah ("Introduction," in Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah, ed. Francesca Stavrakopoulou and John Barton [London: T&T Clark, 2010], 1).


But I do find it a bit troubling to see LDS intellectual faddists (invariably acolytes of Margaret Barker) discounting the Deuteronomists as lying scribes and viewing Josiah's reforms as a suppression of the "true" worship. To my mind, this stance essentially decanonizes the OT, stripping it of any scriptural authority. If we're going to claim that Asherah worship was legitimate (as Jeremy Orbe-Smith does), on what grounds can we say that other notorious "First Temple" practices—such as child sacrifice (see, e.g., Francesca Stavrakopoulou, King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities. [BZAW 338; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2004])—were not?

Edited by Nevo, 02 July 2012 - 11:20 AM.

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#128 robuchan

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 12:07 PM

Here is part of the context, but you should reread the entire thread to understand what is actually going on here:




--------------------------------------







Crockett's monomaniacal focus on the Ashera cult masks the much larger problem of the vast and cross-cutting nature of the larger culture from which both Israelite and Canaanite religions come forth. Scholars have learned much from study of ancient Ugaritic and Phoenician documents, and it is clear that the biblical religious vocabulary and symbolism share much in common with Canaanite mythological background.

By ignoring that reality, Crockett adopts what is the very flawed estimation of the nature of Scripture which one expects from ardent fundamentalist Protestants. Moreover, he might as well have adopted the Jewish view that Mary was not only not a virgin, but that she certainly could not be the Mother of God. From the Jewish point of view this is as detestable a position as one could take, and (as I pointed out in detail earlier in this thread, at post #29) this actually led some Jews to "correct" the Septuagint Greek version of Isaiah upon which the Christian notion of virginity partly depended. Why do I mention this? Because Crockett rejects the notion that biblical Scripture is flawed in some way. No revisions. No more wrong position could be taken by him.


Yes, I read your exchanges. I understand the gist, though it is all largely over my head. My question, I believe, is unrelated to your exchange. My question is related to your mention of plain and precious truths being lost from the Bible related to Asherah.

My question would be that since a purpose of the BOM is to restore lost plain and precious truths of the Bible, and here Nephi is shown a vision making a connection to the Asherah doctrine. Wouldn't he then plainly write it into his scripture account?
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#129 JeremyOrbe-Smith

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 07:16 PM

I think it's a good idea to examine what we mean when we say that the scriptures are "inspired." If the original writings were inspired, does that mean that they are inerrant? Does inspiration in the original preclude tampering during the process of transmission?

While we're working to answer these questions, I think it'd be good to keep in mind some ideas that Brigham Young expressed very well:

Every true philosopher, so far as he understands the principles of truth, has so much of the Gospel, and so far he is a Latter-day Saint, whether he knows it or not. Our Father, the great God, is the author of the sciences, he is the great mechanic, he is the systematizer of all things, he plans and devises all things, and every particle of knowledge which man has in his possession is the gift of God, whether they consider it divine, or whether it is the wisdom of man. [...] A fact is a fact, all truth issues forth from the Fountain of truth, and the sciences are facts as far as men have proved them. [...] "Mormonism," so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to "Mormonism." The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belongs to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. "Mormonism" includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it us bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods."


So please, let's stop using anyone's affiliations as marks against them. It doesn't matter if Dever is an atheist or a secular humanist, if Barker is a Methodist, so long as their arguments are sound.

When we look at the D&C, there are plenty of revisions and edits; it suggests that scriptures are merely one way of putting down the inspired information into words. Joseph Smith's editing on the Book of Mormon shows that if he found a better way to express the same information, he had no qualms about revising it. There's no such thing as a perfectly equivalent translation which preserves every nuance of the original. As the Book of Mormon says: "If we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record" -- meaning, in other words, that there are imperfections in the record!

I keep D&C 91 in mind as a general principle when dealing with scripture:

"There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; there are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. [...] Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; and whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom."


The Book of Mormon is itself only the "most" correct book. If it's only "most", that implies that even the keystone of our religion is not 100% accurate. And how does the Bible fare?

Joseph Smith said that "from sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled." I agree with that opinion very much.

He goes on to say: "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors." After discussing some of the translation issues he finds (some of which I do not agree with), Smith then says "If any man will prove to me, by one passage of Holy Writ, one item I believe to be false, I will renounce and disclaim it as far as I promulgated it." He doesn't care about preserving some imagined pristine orthodox view of the scriptures. He wants truth, regardless of where it comes from.

The point is: we should not use the Bible as the criterion by which we measure it in a circular attempt to remain pious. The scriptures are not somehow immune to a wider context. We are perfectly free to judge whether the principles contained within are in accordance with the laws of justice. Insofar are they are not, they cease to be worth upholding. For instance, if the only correct view of God is the one which tells Joshua to slaughter innocent children, then I am either an atheist or a heretic, because I refuse to worship that view of God.

As Brigham Young so brusquely said, "you can write that information to the States, if you please -- that I have publicly declared that I do not believe that portion of the Bible as the [traditional] Christian world do. I never did, and I never want to."

As Joseph Smith said, "I am now gong to take exceptions to the present translation of the Bible in relation to these matters. Our latitude and longitude can be determined in the original Hebrew with far greater accuracy than in the English version. There is a grand distinction between the actual meaning of the prophets and the present translation." (He then goes on to discuss Revelation -- a discussion which contains many things I personally disagree with, because we've learned more about the context since the 1830s.)

It wearies me when exegetes try to harmonize the disparate texts into one flawless inerrant univocal whole. Smith again: "This learned interpretation is all as flat as a pancake! 'What do you use such vulgar expressions for being a Prophet?' Because the old women understand it -- they make pancakes. [...] The whole argument is flat, and I don't know of anything better to represent it. The world is full of technicalities and misrepresentation, which I calculate to overthrow, and speak of things as they actually exist."

But "is not the canon of the scriptures full?"

"If it is, there is a great defect in the book, or else it would have said so."

2 Nephi has some of my favorite stuff on this theme (and see also Nibley's "New Light on Israel and Her Neighbors"):

Many people "shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible. [..] O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.


Couldn't the folk tradition of Asherah be part of what has been "cursed" and "hated" by the people who claim they already have enough Bible?

"Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."

"Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written."

For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it."

"And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews."


"For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile."


And again:

"Because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God -- because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble."


For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn't matter which particular plain and precious truths that have been taken out of the book he's talking about; what matters is the principle he's outlining here, i.e., the principle that the Bible is not inerrant, that there can be things wrong with it. (And if there are things which are not true in the Bible, we'd better start getting to work on finding out what they are.)

In other words, we need to be absolutely open to the idea that God spoke to others besides those who compiled our current scriptures. All the nations of the earth! That means that when we find commonalities between our scriptures and the stories of the Canaanites and Egyptians and Babylonians and Greeks and Hindus are we justified in discounting them without a moment's thought because they are clearly detestable pagan abominations, mere "primitive myths" with no claim to our exalted status of Real Religion? Nope. The gospel was known from before the foundation of the earth, and we're all part of the same human family.

(Are we somehow above worshipping "fertility gods"? Then why do we make such a big deal out of God making his promise with Abraham concerning his seed and the fruit of his loins, that they should continue as innumerable as the stars or the sand of the seashore? The predictable tactic of dismissing Asherah as a mere "fertility Goddess" -- as if that's a bad thing! -- is only consistent if we dismiss Yahweh as well as El, the Begetter of Heaven and Earth. We are no different than any other people who are concerned about the functioning of our lingams and yonis.)

So why should we face some crisis of faith when the Deuteronomist propaganda tells us that those abominable folks in the rural parts sacrificed their children? It very well might not have happened, and if it did happen, then they were wrong to do so! We don't need God to tell us that killing children is wrong, and if it says it's right in the Bible, then the Bible is no better than any other scrap of paper. I frankly hate a lot of what goes on in the Old Testament. Does that mean it's not a valuable book? Not at all. It just means it's not a flawless one.

(It really disturbs me, for instance, when we use the story of Abraham and Isaac as some sort of faith-promoting thing -- the traditional interpretation, in which Abraham is a Good Guy because he's willing to sacrifice his own son just because God told him to is deeply disturbing to me. I far prefer the interpretation in which Abraham knows the entire time that a lamb will be provided, and therefore the story is part of a ritual reenactment of the Savior's sacrifice for others.)

The vital thing, here, is to be able to separate the spin in the Bible from the actual events it records. If the author of the text asserts that Hezekiah or Josiah or Hilkiah or whoever is righteous and those who oppose them are "detestable", do their actions as recorded support that assertion? There's a difference between what God says, and what people have said He says. And we're perfectly justified in using our own brains to determine whether the Reforms were a Good Thing. Personally, I think they were a Horrible Thing, and always have, ever since the first time I read through the Bible. "What," I asked myself, "is wrong with planting trees for Our Lady?" The answer I came up with then and now is "Not a thing."

That's why I find Lehi's journey so interesting; the way I read the Book of Mormon, these folks agreed with my view of what has come down to us as much of the historical sections of the Old Testament! From the very first page, we have Lehi the Visionary Man, seeking Revelation from the Pillar of Fire (itself quite possibly a Goddess symbol), trying to preserve a place for the Healing Serpent and the Holy Spirit of Wisdom -- the Tree of Life to those who hold Her -- after they'd been banished from the Great and Spacious Building of the Temple.

It's also worth pointing out that I am not an "acolyte" of Barker's. I find her views fascinating, but I don't agree with every last one of them. More to the point, I came to my conclusions about Asherah completely independent of her and Dever; when I read their work (and others) it comes as a welcome confirmation. This is how I have always read the Bible. I have never seen the reformers as The Good Guys.

It's also worth noting that while both critics and some members have focused their ire on Daniel Peterson's brilliant essay on Nephi's Asherah, as if he's the only one to have made the connection, they're curiously silent on Nibley's stuff which says essentially the same thing. I don't know which portions of his Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri were included in the first edition way back when, but in the second edition, at least, he has extremely detailed information in Part 4: The Garden Story, commenting in such sections as The Lady in the Garden, The Lady and the Tree, The Noble Ished-Tree and Other Sacred Trees, The Ritual Garden, The Lady Offers Fruit, The Sacred Marriage (Hieros Gamos) in the Garden, etc..

For instance:

The Lady is often identified with a tree, and in the vignettes to the Book of the Dead, she appears in different degrees of incorporation with the tree, the concept varying to suit the fancy of the individual tomb owner. As Ludwig Keimer explains it, "the dead in his voyage in the other world was received by a good goddess who gave him food and drink. She usually bears the names of Nut, Hathor, and Isis but is often simply called 'Lady of the Sycamore,'" the sycamore being a type of fig tree. Though she is first depicted as being actually incorporated in the tree in the Eighteenth Dynasty, her identification with it goes back to prehistoric times. The life-giving sycamore recalled the biblical tree of life to Eugene Lefebure, who identified it with the mfk3.t (turquoise)-tree, the tree of the Lady of the Land of Mafek that grew in the Field of Reeds. The tree that receives the travel-weary Osiris into its arms performs the function of the Lady, who is so often identified with that tree. W. M. Flinders Petrie noted that in Palestine holy trees are still called "Our Lady." It has often been suggested that the sycamore was the original form of Hathor herself, whose proper function as Lady of the Tree, whatever name she may go by, is to receive the newcomer to a strange land with refreshment after an arduous and dangerous journey. (287)


Hathor ... who was Qudshu ... who was Asherah.

The tree-goddess gives birth or rebirth, the archaic Hathor of the southern sycamore being herself the "birth house of the king." Let us recall that our Breathings texts were found in "fourteen coffins, on each of which was placed a bunch of sycamore branches." (288)


Note also that in Facsimile 2, Joseph Smith shows that Figure 7 is "revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove."

The Queen of Heaven = Asherah = Lady Wisdom/Tree of Life = The Holy Spirit of Wisdom = The Dove Goddess = The Keyword of the Priesthood

Which brings us to D&C 121, in which knowledge will be given by the Holy Spirit of Wisdom about the Gods of the Divine Council and all their principalities and powers. And D&C 88, the Olive Leaf plucked from the Tree of Paradise promising the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. And Moses 6, where Adam ('adm, humankind, "Many") learns that we must all be Born Again (certainly a feminine conception) and "brought forth" out of the amniotic waters of Baptism by the Spirit, who carries the record of heaven; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

Edited by JeremyOrbe-Smith, 02 July 2012 - 07:30 PM.

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#130 Nevo

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 09:39 PM

I think it's a good idea to examine what we mean when we say that the scriptures are "inspired." If the original writings were inspired, does that mean that they are inerrant? Does inspiration in the original preclude tampering during the process of transmission?


Hi Jeremy,

I think we're in agreement that the scriptures need not be inerrant or transmitted perfectly to be considered "inspired." I also agree that the scriptures are not univocal, and I fully share your conviction that we need to approach them with discernment since they do not all contain the same measure of revealed truth.

That said, however, I am disinclined to dismiss the biblical condemnations of idolatry as mere "propaganda." You say that "we're perfectly justified in using our own brains to determine whether the Reforms were a Good Thing" and that we should allow the possibility that Canaanite, Phoenician, Egyptian, and Babylonian myths also conveyed divine truth. Perhaps. But then the question becomes, at least for me, why did God ordain our current Bible—with all its imperfections—as one of the Standard Works of the Church, and not also, say, Pritchard's anthology of ancient Near Eastern texts? Why does the Church, which presumably is not entirely bereft of divine guidance, continue to teach Josiah's reform as a Good Thing? Why do we have a canon of scripture at all—is this just an atavistic holdover from the Great Apostasy, or are these texts to be privileged over others?

Anyway, I always appreciate your thoughtful, stimulating posts—and this one was no exception. You've given me lots to think about.

Edited by Nevo, 02 July 2012 - 11:33 PM.

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#131 robuchan

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 09:48 PM

I think it's a good idea to examine what we mean when we say that the scriptures are "inspired." If the original writings were inspired, does that mean that they are inerrant? Does inspiration in the original preclude tampering during the process of transmission?

While we're working to answer these questions, I think it'd be good to keep in mind some ideas that Brigham Young expressed very well:



So please, let's stop using anyone's affiliations as marks against them. It doesn't matter if Dever is an atheist or a secular humanist, if Barker is a Methodist, so long as their arguments are sound.

When we look at the D&C, there are plenty of revisions and edits; it suggests that scriptures are merely one way of putting down the inspired information into words. Joseph Smith's editing on the Book of Mormon shows that if he found a better way to express the same information, he had no qualms about revising it. There's no such thing as a perfectly equivalent translation which preserves every nuance of the original. As the Book of Mormon says: "If we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record" -- meaning, in other words, that there are imperfections in the record!

I keep D&C 91 in mind as a general principle when dealing with scripture:



The Book of Mormon is itself only the "most" correct book. If it's only "most", that implies that even the keystone of our religion is not 100% accurate. And how does the Bible fare?

Joseph Smith said that "from sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled." I agree with that opinion very much.

He goes on to say: "I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors." After discussing some of the translation issues he finds (some of which I do not agree with), Smith then says "If any man will prove to me, by one passage of Holy Writ, one item I believe to be false, I will renounce and disclaim it as far as I promulgated it." He doesn't care about preserving some imagined pristine orthodox view of the scriptures. He wants truth, regardless of where it comes from.

The point is: we should not use the Bible as the criterion by which we measure it in a circular attempt to remain pious. The scriptures are not somehow immune to a wider context. We are perfectly free to judge whether the principles contained within are in accordance with the laws of justice. Insofar are they are not, they cease to be worth upholding. For instance, if the only correct view of God is the one which tells Joshua to slaughter innocent children, then I am either an atheist or a heretic, because I refuse to worship that view of God.

As Brigham Young so brusquely said, "you can write that information to the States, if you please -- that I have publicly declared that I do not believe that portion of the Bible as the [traditional] Christian world do. I never did, and I never want to."

As Joseph Smith said, "I am now gong to take exceptions to the present translation of the Bible in relation to these matters. Our latitude and longitude can be determined in the original Hebrew with far greater accuracy than in the English version. There is a grand distinction between the actual meaning of the prophets and the present translation." (He then goes on to discuss Revelation -- a discussion which contains many things I personally disagree with, because we've learned more about the context since the 1830s.)

It wearies me when exegetes try to harmonize the disparate texts into one flawless inerrant univocal whole. Smith again: "This learned interpretation is all as flat as a pancake! 'What do you use such vulgar expressions for being a Prophet?' Because the old women understand it -- they make pancakes. [...] The whole argument is flat, and I don't know of anything better to represent it. The world is full of technicalities and misrepresentation, which I calculate to overthrow, and speak of things as they actually exist."

But "is not the canon of the scriptures full?"

"If it is, there is a great defect in the book, or else it would have said so."

2 Nephi has some of my favorite stuff on this theme (and see also Nibley's "New Light on Israel and Her Neighbors"):



Couldn't the folk tradition of Asherah be part of what has been "cursed" and "hated" by the people who claim they already have enough Bible?





And again:



For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn't matter which particular plain and precious truths that have been taken out of the book he's talking about; what matters is the principle he's outlining here, i.e., the principle that the Bible is not inerrant, that there can be things wrong with it. (And if there are things which are not true in the Bible, we'd better start getting to work on finding out what they are.)

In other words, we need to be absolutely open to the idea that God spoke to others besides those who compiled our current scriptures. All the nations of the earth! That means that when we find commonalities between our scriptures and the stories of the Canaanites and Egyptians and Babylonians and Greeks and Hindus are we justified in discounting them without a moment's thought because they are clearly detestable pagan abominations, mere "primitive myths" with no claim to our exalted status of Real Religion? Nope. The gospel was known from before the foundation of the earth, and we're all part of the same human family.

(Are we somehow above worshipping "fertility gods"? Then why do we make such a big deal out of God making his promise with Abraham concerning his seed and the fruit of his loins, that they should continue as innumerable as the stars or the sand of the seashore? The predictable tactic of dismissing Asherah as a mere "fertility Goddess" -- as if that's a bad thing! -- is only consistent if we dismiss Yahweh as well as El, the Begetter of Heaven and Earth. We are no different than any other people who are concerned about the functioning of our lingams and yonis.)

So why should we face some crisis of faith when the Deuteronomist propaganda tells us that those abominable folks in the rural parts sacrificed their children? It very well might not have happened, and if it did happen, then they were wrong to do so! We don't need God to tell us that killing children is wrong, and if it says it's right in the Bible, then the Bible is no better than any other scrap of paper. I frankly hate a lot of what goes on in the Old Testament. Does that mean it's not a valuable book? Not at all. It just means it's not a flawless one.

(It really disturbs me, for instance, when we use the story of Abraham and Isaac as some sort of faith-promoting thing -- the traditional interpretation, in which Abraham is a Good Guy because he's willing to sacrifice his own son just because God told him to is deeply disturbing to me. I far prefer the interpretation in which Abraham knows the entire time that a lamb will be provided, and therefore the story is part of a ritual reenactment of the Savior's sacrifice for others.)

The vital thing, here, is to be able to separate the spin in the Bible from the actual events it records. If the author of the text asserts that Hezekiah or Josiah or Hilkiah or whoever is righteous and those who oppose them are "detestable", do their actions as recorded support that assertion? There's a difference between what God says, and what people have said He says. And we're perfectly justified in using our own brains to determine whether the Reforms were a Good Thing. Personally, I think they were a Horrible Thing, and always have, ever since the first time I read through the Bible. "What," I asked myself, "is wrong with planting trees for Our Lady?" The answer I came up with then and now is "Not a thing."

That's why I find Lehi's journey so interesting; the way I read the Book of Mormon, these folks agreed with my view of what has come down to us as much of the historical sections of the Old Testament! From the very first page, we have Lehi the Visionary Man, seeking Revelation from the Pillar of Fire (itself quite possibly a Goddess symbol), trying to preserve a place for the Healing Serpent and the Holy Spirit of Wisdom -- the Tree of Life to those who hold Her -- after they'd been banished from the Great and Spacious Building of the Temple.

It's also worth pointing out that I am not an "acolyte" of Barker's. I find her views fascinating, but I don't agree with every last one of them. More to the point, I came to my conclusions about Asherah completely independent of her and Dever; when I read their work (and others) it comes as a welcome confirmation. This is how I have always read the Bible. I have never seen the reformers as The Good Guys.

It's also worth noting that while both critics and some members have focused their ire on Daniel Peterson's brilliant essay on Nephi's Asherah, as if he's the only one to have made the connection, they're curiously silent on Nibley's stuff which says essentially the same thing. I don't know which portions of his Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri were included in the first edition way back when, but in the second edition, at least, he has extremely detailed information in Part 4: The Garden Story, commenting in such sections as The Lady in the Garden, The Lady and the Tree, The Noble Ished-Tree and Other Sacred Trees, The Ritual Garden, The Lady Offers Fruit, The Sacred Marriage (Hieros Gamos) in the Garden, etc..

For instance:



Hathor ... who was Qudshu ... who was Asherah.



Note also that in Facsimile 2, Joseph Smith shows that Figure 7 is "revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove."

The Queen of Heaven = Asherah = Lady Wisdom/Tree of Life = The Holy Spirit of Wisdom = The Dove Goddess = The Keyword of the Priesthood

Which brings us to D&C 121, in which knowledge will be given by the Holy Spirit of Wisdom about the Gods of the Divine Council and all their principalities and powers. And D&C 88, the Olive Leaf plucked from the Tree of Paradise promising the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. And Moses 6, where Adam ('adm, humankind, "Many") learns that we must all be Born Again (certainly a feminine conception) and "brought forth" out of the amniotic waters of Baptism by the Spirit, who carries the record of heaven; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.

So, if the truth about Asherah is one of the plain and precious truths removed from the Bible, why isn't it plainly taught in the BOM?
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#132 JeremyOrbe-Smith

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 12:09 AM

Hey, thanks for the kind words, Nevo! I appreciate your posts here as well. :)

I am disinclined to dismiss the biblical condemnations of idolatry as mere "propaganda."


For my part, I think that we have to be pretty discerning about which Biblical condemnations we accept at all. I'm very much in favor of "Thou shalt not kill" for instance. *grin* But on many other things I'm much more ambivalent.

I certainly don't think we should worship idols, and I think Jeremiah is right to condemn the folks who perform insincere rituals. But that doesn't mean that the ritual itself is bad, only the use it has been put to. I mean really, what's wrong with baking little cakes to the Queen of Heaven? If some people had in fact perverted Asherah's worship into human sacrifices and whatnot, then that's obviously not cool, but people do that all the time with God Himself: "Jesus told me to assassinate that political figure who disagrees with me!" The solution is not to ban "idols" such as the cross; the solution is to offer a better understanding so people can govern themselves and not resort to that sort of nonsense.

You say that "we're perfectly justified in using our own brains to determine whether the Reforms were a Good Thing" and that we should allow the possibility that Canaanite, Phoenician, Egyptian, and Babylonian myths also conveyed divine truth. Perhaps. But then the question becomes, at least for me, why did God ordain our current Bible—with all its imperfections—as one of the Standard Works of the Church, and not also, say, Pritchard's anthology of ancient Near Eastern texts?


Well, for one thing, it wasn't published until 1958. *grin*

That's actually a serious point, tho. There's been so many new discoveries made since the 1830s! I'd happily re-canonize the Apocrypha, all the Books of Enoch, and a bunch of stuff from Nag Hammadi (not to mention the King Follett Discourse, the Sermon in the Grove, and our Temple scripts). The more context, the better, I say -- tho at a certain point, considerations of, uh, sheer weight and book-binding limitations come into play, heh. And again, I actually think that the Book of Mormon itself is the corrective to a lot of the nasty stuff in the Old Testament, and a continuation of the good stuff. In that sense, we already have what we need, and the good stuff in the OT functions as another testament to the Anointed One's mission, while the BoM lets us see the Reforms for what they were. (robuchan, I think Asherah is taught pretty plainly in the BoM, once we know what we're looking at.)

It's sort of like how the Pearl of Great Price highlights very well the switch from polytheism to monotheism -- note the "Gods" in Abraham versus the "God" in the much later reediting done in Moses. Why do we keep both, since they're so obviously contradictory? (And why did we keep the Creation story in Genesis, and institute yet another one in the Temple? Four creation stories! Worse and worse!)

Me, I think it's a sort of triangulation. The written story isn't the actual story, if you see what I mean; you can tell a story in many different ways, but underlying all the linguistic efforts is the deeper causal structure of the sequence of events you're trying to convey. You can tell The Odyssey Homer's way, or Joyce's way. (And man, I prefer Homer's.)

Where others might see the difference in these texts as proof that the Church isn't true, I think it's actually a really useful contradiction! That is, we see how the Divine Council was phased out of existence in favor of philosophical monotheism. We see that texts are not inerrant. It's a lesson in historical transitions; for instance, witness how in Pritchard's compilation of the Poems about Ba'al and Anath, Lady Asherah of the Sea, the Progenitress of the Gods, is El's consort, whereas in other inscriptions she becomes Yahweh's, and then they get rid of Her altogether. Things get mixed up, and we have to see the entire context to untangle it.

Why does the Church, which presumably is not entirely bereft of divine guidance, continue to teach Josiah's reform as a Good Thing? Why do we have a canon of scripture at all—is this just an atavistic holdover from the Great Apostasy, or are these texts to be privileged over others?


Again, I think we should be careful not to introduce a false dichotomy -- that is, the Church can have divine authority to administer ordinances such as baptism and the Endowment, while still teaching incorrect things at certain points during its history. (I think of Brigham Young's speculations on Priesthood, etc.) It's also important to consider that even those of us in the Priesthood learn line upon line, precept upon precept; no one is God's sock puppet. I think D&C 1 is crucial; knowledge is given to God's servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

"And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; and inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; and inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; and inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time."

So there's no shame in learning new things from new discoveries and recontextualizing our previous understanding. If a generation of LDS students was exposed to Dever and Barker, I think there'd be no qualms about revising the student manuals when they're the ones producing the next batch of lessons. Talmage's book on Christ was based on the good stuff from his day; we should make sure our current views aren't becoming like the Creeds Pratt talks about which "seem to have been cast in the mould of other ages" and are "not sufficiently elastic to expand with the expansion of mind, to grow with the growth, and advance with the progressive principles of the age." Cultural shifts like that happen all the time; perspectives change. Remember that our historical perspective on the Reforms is very much conditioned on a very specific set of assumptions we have inherited from a very particular tradition. I think stuff like Barker's work is really helpful in seeing the Book of Mormon for what it is: a corrective to some of perspectives in the Old Testament, a continuation of the underlying good things there (such as the Melchizedek and Wisdom traditions), and another witness to the New Testament! Exciting stuff!

What is the canon, after all? It's not a repository of All Knowledge. It's a tool to help us remember the Covenant made between our world and the world above. Sometimes tools break and we need to patch 'em up. And while we have a canon of books we're all obligated to read, let's not forget the D&C injunction that we are to "hasten to translate [God's] scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion." Add in a little from places like section 118: "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."

You actually have me seriously considering whether it is possible that the Holy Spirit is female!


Hah! :) Hey, don't take my word for it, read stuff like the Gospel of the Hebrews, which says "Even so did my mother, the Holy Spirit, take me by one of my hairs, and carry me to the great Mount Tabor." (Of course, the Church Fathers allegorized it all away later -- see Graves -- but hey. Not that it's fashionable to admit to liking Graves these days, either. Whatevs.)

[Edit: Whoops, sorry, I didn't see you edit that last bit out. I type too slow! Lemme know if I should delete that last quote.]

Edited by JeremyOrbe-Smith, 03 July 2012 - 12:50 AM.

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#133 Robert F. Smith

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 02:31 AM

Yes, I read your exchanges. I understand the gist, though it is all largely over my head. My question, I believe, is unrelated to your exchange. My question is related to your mention of plain and precious truths being lost from the Bible related to Asherah.

Since you have read the entire thread, then perhaps you would like to tell me where I said that "plain and precious truths being lost from the Bible related to Asherah." Unlike Crockett, I am not a monomaniac, and am not much concerned with Asherah.

My question would be that since a purpose of the BOM is to restore lost plain and precious truths of the Bible, and here Nephi is shown a vision making a connection to the Asherah doctrine. Wouldn't he then plainly write it into his scripture account?

I made no such connection. What Crockett misses is the fact that no such connection is proven. It is merely speculation, even if it seems convincing to some who have been quoted here in this thread. What I cannot understand with Crockett is why he adopts the Protestant fundamentalist position on Scripture being infallible, something which Mormonism condemns. He goes on from there to lash out at anyone who suggests or asserts that the human authors of Scripture can make mistakes, which is the Mormon position. He also lashes out at anyone who uses scholarship to show that the Scriptures contain a variety of points of view, as though the priests, prophets, and scribes who produced and transmitted Scripture have no individual personalities, were perfect, and were not influenced by the surrounding culture. To see ancient cultures as all black and all white, with no shades of grey, is basically to reject reality and to adopt a rigid and brittle position (and to influence others to do so) which will lead them to grief when they discover that he has sold them a bill of goods.

I attempted to compare this erroneous approach to an actual Jewish approach to Christian beliefs about Mary & Jesus. The denial by the Jews of both the virginity of Mary and of the deity of Jesus is offensive and detestable to Christians, and it was wrong for Jews to actually change the LXX text to bolster their theology. I was suggesting not only that Scriptures have actually been changed, but that we ought not to make offensive suggestions about the religion of others, even those who lived over two millennia ago. We ought to be more understanding and tolerant of diverse points of view, without however urging the adoption of every odd POV which comes our way.
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#134 Robert F. Smith

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 02:51 AM

Hi Jeremy,
I think we're in agreement that the scriptures need not be inerrant or transmitted perfectly to be considered "inspired." I also agree that the scriptures are not univocal, and I fully share your conviction that we need to approach them with discernment since they do not all contain the same measure of revealed truth.

That said, however, I am disinclined to dismiss the biblical condemnations of idolatry as mere "propaganda."

I'm glad to find that you do not view the Scriptures as univocal. So think for a moment how we should take the destruction of Nehushtan by some reformers under the label of anti-idolatry. This was the same brazen serpent which had lain in the temple for centuries after Moses had used it to heal his people. The Book of Mormon discusses it in proper context as a type of Christ who is to come. Plus ca change?
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#135 Robert F. Smith

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 03:22 AM

I'm not sure I understand what you're saying here. You seem to be arguing that Brother Crockett's view of the OT is wrongheaded because he approaches the biblical text with a hermeneutic of trust rather than seeing it as fundamentally flawed. But why should he? The Bible is one of the Standard Works of the Church. Why shouldn't Latter-day Saints—who accept the Bible as inspired scripture—give the benefit of the doubt to the biblical writers.
I don't discount the insights of recent scholarship into the "religious realities" of ancient Israel and Judah, which Francesca Stavrakopoulou and John Barton summarize here.

I don't know what "a hermeneutic of trust" is, and I don't think that Scripture is "fundamentally flawed." What concerns me most is Bob Crockett's belief in the infallibility of the Scriptures, a belief foreign to Mormonism. Moreover, when we read Scripture, we are reading an ancient, arcane document which exhibits behaviors nearly entirely out of synch with our own times. And we are reading it in translation. The biblical and Book of Mormon texts, are moreover, heavily redacted/edited. Much is left out, and it can be difficult to understand events in our own terms. We try our best through Sunday School, early morning seminary, institutes, and even college courses in religion. Some of us take trips to the Holy Land, hoping thereby to get a better take on the lay of the land. Others of us buy and utilize books such as the wonderful Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament (Deseret, 2009), so I am glad that you are broadening your purview.

But I do find it a bit troubling to see LDS intellectual faddists (invariably acolytes of Margaret Barker) discounting the Deuteronomists as lying scribes and viewing Josiah's reforms as a suppression of the "true" worship. To my mind, this stance essentially decanonizes the OT, stripping it of any scriptural authority. If we're going to claim that Asherah worship was legitimate (as Jeremy Orbe-Smith does), on what grounds can we say that other notorious "First Temple" practices—such as child sacrifice (see, e.g., Francesca Stavrakopoulou, King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities. [BZAW 338; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2004])—were not?

I think it very interesting and helpful to be made aware of the child sacrifice practiced by the Edomites under King Mesha and to compare it with the Judaic practice. That is one of the ways that biblical archeology helps us understand those strange and shocking times. I don't equate worship of Ashera with child sacrifice, and I am not as willing to condemn those who practiced a folk religion which included Ashera. I let Yahweh take care of such matters as he will. The evidence is pretty clear that he was able to end that practice among the Jews, but it took time. I'm sure that our modern society is confronted by equally problematic beliefs, and you can probably think of some right off hand.

No name calling please.
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#136 Bob Crockett

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:39 AM

What I cannot understand with Crockett is why he adopts the Protestant fundamentalist position on Scripture being infallible, something which Mormonism condemns. He goes on from there to lash out at anyone who suggests or asserts that the human authors of Scripture can make mistakes, which is the Mormon position. He also lashes out at anyone who uses scholarship to show that the Scriptures contain a variety of points of view, as though the priests, prophets, and scribes who produced and transmitted Scripture have no individual personalities, were perfect, and were not influenced by the surrounding culture.


I don't believe in inerrancy of the scriptures. Instead, I believe that we should trust in revelation rather than the weak arm of the flesh. If the Brethren have spoken on a subject in the scriptures, then we should be inclined to reject secular humanism to the contrary. Here, the Josiah reforms are championed in Church publications and sermons, meaning, out with Asherah and her heresy and in with the great Jehovah.

I believe in the doctrine of the resurrection, not so much because the New Testament describes it, but because Joseph Smith taught it.

I believe that the Hill Cumorah in New York is the same Hill Cumorah as maintained in the Book of Mormon and the same as the Hill Ramah, because that's what Joseph Smith and the Brethren have taught.

I suppose that if there were conflicting views among the Brethren, then I'd take a look at the champions of atheism for assistance in formulating a view. But there isn't. So I won't.
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#137 J Green

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 06:52 AM

But then the question becomes, at least for me, why did God ordain our current Bible—with all its imperfections—as one of the Standard Works of the Church, and not also, say, Pritchard's anthology of ancient Near Eastern texts? Why does the Church, which presumably is not entirely bereft of divine guidance, continue to teach Josiah's reform as a Good Thing? Why do we have a canon of scripture at all—is this just an atavistic holdover from the Great Apostasy, or are these texts to be privileged over others?

Nevo,

I think your questions here make a good case study for a larger issue:

1. Do you think what we have in the Church curriculum re Josiah's reform represents divine guidance through prophets about the textual and historical accuracy of these pericopes?

2. Should we assume as a rule of thumb that every pericope used to illustrate a principle in official curriculum is through its use thereby divinely authenticated in terms of its textual and historical accuracy?

3. Acknowledging the complex editing process of the Hebrew Bible, are there any pericopes that you feel are historically or textually questionable that are used to illustrate good principles in official curriculum?

4. Do you think there is an exact correspondence between theology, terminology, and ritual between the disparate texts in the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Mormon? If not, does there need to be? And if there isn't a correspondence, what does it mean that both are part of the Standard Works?

Always appreciate your insights.

Regards
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Literary Themes in the Book of Mormon: ordinary thoughts on an extraordinary volume of scripture

"FRANCESCA prided herself on being able to see things from other people's points of view, which meant, as it usually does, that she could see her own point of view from various aspects." Saki, in The Unbearable Bassington

#138 J Green

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 07:03 AM

I don't believe in inerrancy of the scriptures. Instead, I believe that we should trust in revelation rather than the weak arm of the flesh. If the Brethren have spoken on a subject in the scriptures, then we should be inclined to reject secular humanism to the contrary. Here, the Josiah reforms are championed in Church publications and sermons, meaning, out with Asherah and her heresy and in with the great Jehovah.

I believe in the doctrine of the resurrection, not so much because the New Testament describes it, but because Joseph Smith taught it.

I believe that the Hill Cumorah in New York is the same Hill Cumorah as maintained in the Book of Mormon and the same as the Hill Ramah, because that's what Joseph Smith and the Brethren have taught.

I suppose that if there were conflicting views among the Brethren, then I'd take a look at the champions of atheism for assistance in formulating a view. But there isn't. So I won't.

Bob,

A few questions:

1. Do you consider Barker a champion of Atheism?

2. Given your views, do you think it ill-considered for Elder Samuelson to have invited Barker to address BYU faculty of religion on the topic of what Josiah reformed and to encourage prominent members of the faculty to engage these ideas with her at conferences, etc.?

Cheers
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Literary Themes in the Book of Mormon: ordinary thoughts on an extraordinary volume of scripture

"FRANCESCA prided herself on being able to see things from other people's points of view, which meant, as it usually does, that she could see her own point of view from various aspects." Saki, in The Unbearable Bassington

#139 Bob Crockett

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 08:24 AM

As the Church News said on July 28, 1990:

Josiah was among Judah's few "godly kings," those who reigned in righteousness.

When he was only 8 years old, Josiah succeeded his father, Amon, as king in Judah. Years before Josiah came to the throne, Judah had turned toward idolatry. During the reign of Amon, wickedness prevailed.

Although he was but a boy, Josiah "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David . . . and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." (2 Kgs. 22:2.)
. . . .

The book of the law was read publicly. Josiah and people of Judah entered into a solemn covenant to act according to its injunctions. When Josiah heard the book read, "he rent his clothes," an ancient sign of despair. In this case, Josiah must have been showing his distress at how far astray Judah had gone from the law. (v. 11.)

Because of what he heard read from the book of the law, Josiah instituted a reform program. He ordered the destruction of idols and groves (places where idols of nature were worshipped).

Josiah ordered all the altars be removed, except in Jerusalem, thereby making that city the only sanctuary in all Judah. The conclusion of the reforms instituted by Josiah was marked by the celebration of the Passover in a new manner and with unusual solemnity. (2 Kgs. 23:21.)

As John A. Tvedtnes said in “Masada and Religion in First Century Judea, BYU Studies vol. 36 (1996-97): “Josiah came to power in Israel. His reign may be summarized as an attempt to steer Israel back toward God, and Josiah spent much of his time suppressing false forms of worship in his kingdom”



As Hugh Nibley said in Teachings of the Book of Mormon, vol 1, in Lecture 6, where he calls Josiah the “great reformer” and compares him to King Mosiah.

David Rolph Seeley, in the 2005 Sperry Symposium, compares Josiah’s reforms and ejection of the idols to renewal of temple covenants.

There are, of course, many more examples of Church teaching on this, including correlated Church teaching. My seminary Church calling requires me to teach the youth from the manuals, and the OT manual without any ambiguity condemns the idols in the temple before Josiah's reforms. Out with the Asherah pole, in with the true worship of Jehovah. That is what we learn from correlated Church teachings.

No, I don't think that people who are deceived by Dever's philosophy or who study them are atheists. No, I don' t think that a major university like BYU should not study the writings of Canaanite and OT scholars.

Edited by Bob Crockett, 03 July 2012 - 08:25 AM.

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#140 Kevin Christensen

Kevin Christensen

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 08:26 AM

The Biblical texts as we have them in both form and content and inner tesions, leave open questions. I've yet to see any formal instructional materials that deals with the questions that have led me to my current conclusions regarding the Reform. My opinons have changed, from naive uncritical acceptance and never even imagining that Lehi must have been an eye-witness) to encountering Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? and later Barker's The Great Angel. That led to a lot more reading and Paradigms Regained. In 2003, at BYU, Barker spoke on What King Josiah Reformed, which raised more questions. The key statement for me was that "Josiah's changes concerned the high priests and were thus changes at the very heart of the temple." Before that, I had largely followed Friedman and seen the reform as progressing in phases, and aligned the first phases with good things, and later Exilic phases with bad things. But Barker's observation seemed inescapable once she pointed it out. So I went back to Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Lehi to check up on things from close up. It was my close readings of Jeremiah that confirmed her view for me. Where Friedman had claimed that Jeremiah agreed with Deuteronomy "on every important point," he had missed the important point about the changes to the heart of the Temple. When I re-read Jeremiah, I found that he contradicted Deuteronomy on the points that Barker identified as key to the Reform. And Lehi and Nephi and Jacob agree.

The scriptures nowhere promise that "if you fail to inquire, to seek or search out things, to ask questions, not to worry, it could not be important." I think the condition of the texts as we have them is part of their message to us. The story of the texts is part of their message. The tensions in the text are clues.

For instance,

http://www.thinlyvei...n/restored2.pdf
http://www.thinlyvei...n/restored3.pdf

We have a picture of willful blindness associated with people in Jerusalem rejecting wisdom as represented by a fountain and a tree of life, someone making deliberate changes to the role of the anointed high priest (that is, the messiah), someone publicly killing prophets, and changing scripture, and rejecting old paths and ancient traditions. So having assembled a preliminary profile of the crimes, the next step is to look to the time and place to see if we can identify “whodunit.”


If not the Deuteronomists, who else could have done it? If no one considers the issues that raise the questions, why presume that we already have the answer?

http://maxwellinstit...16&num=2&id=547

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen
Pittsburgh, PA
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