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Benjamin McGuire

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  1. It seems to me that Richards is probably the one who is cherry picking. The first line in Richard's text comes from the preface to Lead's 1696 volume: The Tree of Faith; or the tree of life; springing up in the paradise of God; from which all the wonders of the new Creation, in the virgin church of the first-born of wisdom must proceed: "Having given an Account of the Confusion of the Babylonish Forms, being rejected by the head Shepherd; from whom an angel is gone forth that hath sounded the Trumpet, to proclaim, That all Formal Worships set up by Man, and constituted by Rational Inventions, as a Shadow must pass away: For nothing in this Day shall stand but the Power and Spirit of the Lamb; that will cast up his Church into no other Mold, but that in which he himself in his Resurrection-State did Appear. So that the Gathering together of his flocks from all Parts, shall be for the making up this Resurrection Church, as new born into the Faith. ..." The capitals exist in the source. It highlights what might be considered technical language referring to specific ideas - ideas that do not survive the double translation well. I can understand the confusion in Steve Fleming's blog post on the Juvenile Instructor that was linked over the potential sources. Silbermann's 1807 volume, Es Wird alles Neu Werden: Wichtige Offenbarungen der Jane Leade, is a compilation of several earlier texts - all using the 1696 German translation. They are not re-paginated, so every time a new work begins, the pagination restarts. The second section is titled "Offenbarungen der Jane Leade die letzten zeiten betreffend, nebst Anmerkungen und einer Lebensbeschreibung dieser Engländerin" (roughly translated: Revelations of Jane Leade concerning the last days, together with notes and a biography of this Englishwoman). And it starts right off with a translation of the preface to The Tree of Faith. It seems likely that it was Richards who cut it short. What follows in Richard's text comes from another of Lead's writings (and I would wager that there is some interpolation on Richards' part). https://www.google.com/books/edition/Es_wird_alles_neu_würden/TnZPAQAAMAAJ If you download the book as a PDF, you can find that first part on pp. 41-42 of the PDF file. Jane Lead was one of the most prolific published female writers of her time. But, she was virtually ignored in England (this is to answer Calm's question). Her writings found more engagement in Germany, and were translated into and published much more heavily in German and Dutch (her texts remained in circulation and were discussed through the 18th and 19th centuries). English copies of her work had become quite rare until it was republished in English in 1830 (in Nottingham). Richards wrote his Millennial Star article in 1858. In 1857, he was sent on a special mission to Europe to help bring the missionaries home (in preparation for Johnson's army). It seems reasonable to believe that he encountered Jane Lead's writings during this trip and brought a German text back with him. Jane Lead was a founding member of a religious group that called themselves The Philaldelphian Society (after the reference in the Book of Revelation). This group didn't last long (it largely fell apart when Lead passed), but they had a long lasting impact - in particular because they were some of the first to seriously incorporate the thought of Jakob Böhme and universalist theology. They were some of the first millinarians, and they also had a number of beliefs that would eventually be further developed within the restorationist movement in which early Mormonism participated. For an academic overview of later engagement with Lead's writings (including a very brief mention of LDS connections), I recommend Jane Lead and her Transnational Legacy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) https://link.springer.com/book/10.1057/978-1-137-39614-3 The Mormon connection is in Chapter 11, and isn't terribly interesting. Mormonism didn't really engage with Lead despite this mention. The connection to Mormon beliefs can only be achieved by this sort of high level presentation of similarities. Close reading of Lead isn't nearly as productive. Beyond this, as Mormonism abandoned much of its restorationist theology, the potential for significant connections to Lead's theology also shrank. And while Lead has a strong precursor to millenialism, it is different enough from the historic premillennialism (or post-tribulation premillennialism) that Mormonism developed to limit the usefulness of sustained comparisons (I say this even as I recognize that these formal descriptive labels wouldn't exist for quite some time - and so have a limited value in describing the development of early LDS thought). Lead found a much more receptive audience in the United States in the Shakers and Southcottians. Having said all of that, much of the current interest in Jane Lead comes out of second wave feminism.
  2. Isn't it the point to be a little deeper? One of the fascinating things about scripture - as a genre of its own - is that our cultural understanding of it changes. Unlike the textual development of the Old Testament, we have amazing manuscript evidence for the production of the D&C and its individual sections. It was fairly fluid. Mormonism's view of scripture today is quite different from Mormonism's view of scripture 200 years ago - we have effectively embraced a Protestant view of scripture (at least in practice), and especially with regard to modern scripture (the D&C, the PoGP, and the BoM). But these views were not held by Joseph Smith or any of the earliest Mormons with their restorationist theology. For them, the text had a great deal more flexibility, and it was meant to be corrected and updated (new scripture as well as old). Understanding the history of scripture in early Mormonism helps me understand how a work like the Book of Esther could become a part of the canon. Ben
  3. There are a couple of issues. First, the title of this thread uses the word "historicity." This term refers to the actuality of the events and the people. The fact that there is no mention of Esther and Mordecai in a time frame in which we have every expectation that they would have been found in the historical record if they had been real, is a very strong argument against the historicity of the Book of Esther. What I mean by this is that we have a relative wealth of information about the time period and events/people in Persia at the time that this story was supposed to have taken place, and the individuals and events in this story don't have any corollaries in the historical record. This doesn't mean that the text doesn't have verisimilitude. This is a term that describes when a text reads as if it came from the time period that it claims and describes events that could have happened even if they didn't. The text displays a considerable amount of familiarity with Persia in the 5th century BCE (even if it gets some things wrong). The general view is that it is a fictional novella (a form of literature that was becoming popular within Persia at that period of time). The Book of Esther wasn't written as fiction meant to "teach a principle" but was just written as fiction - and for those who are familiar enough with the genre as it was produced contemporary to this text, it isn't particularly novel of unique. As Adele Berlin describes it: This sort of need to justify the place of the text in the canon, or to try and make the narrative special in some way, is part of the issue that we have in our modern treatment of the text (and by modern I mean the last few hundred years). We can certainly find lots of meanings in the text, if we choose to, but those meanings reflects more about ourselves than it does about any original text or author. Those who think that the meanings that later audiences draw from a story like this should be attributed to its original authorship and context are engaging in a literary presentism. The story is entertaining. It has humor, it has well defined heroes and villains; its plot has reversals, and the bad guys get what they deserve (even if it happens for the wrong reasons). Good literature is good literature, and it shouldn't surprise us that it became popular enough within certain cultural contexts to move beyond its original audience. It became (to use a bad sort of pun) a cult classic. You should read the entire article I link above. It is very good. Ben McGuire
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