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Explanation for "Nephi and His Asherah"


Bill Hamblin

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Why don't you start with Dan Peterson's "Nephi and his Asherah" article.  Explain (don't ignore or assert) how the characteristics Peterson describes could have occurred by coincidence, or that his analysis is illusory.

No, Bill, why don't YOU start by addressing the example I gave FIRST:

I answered your question in the new thread on Acts 3:22-3. Now it's your turn.

Dan Peterson

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She was strongly linked with the Canaanite coastal city of Sidon, at least in the period following Lehi and Nephi's departure from the Old World, and probably before.9

Hmm thats an intresting Parallel. Isn't the Nephite River that empties into the many waters called Sidon?

You also have the Joseph tree growing over the wall and waters in Isaiah.

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I'm nasty, Bill. And a mercenary hack.

Thus, there's no need to address or even acknowledge any argument I've ever made.

Sheesh. Didn't you know that?

I saw what you and my alter-ego Lou did on that mormonstories blog.

I can't believe the depths you'll plumb in your mad quest to slay the white whale of anti-Mormonism.

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I'm nasty, Bill. And a mercenary hack.

Thus, there's no need to address or even acknowledge any argument I've ever made.

Sheesh. Didn't you know that?

Dan, you are beneath being beneath contempt. Civil people won't even acknowledge your existence, let alone any so-called "argument" you "claim" to have produced (which we all know is nothing but pure nasty invective. I gagged when I read your article; sickening.)

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What I think neither Mssrs Hamblin or Peterson understand is that any time a parallel gets a little too close for comfort, it is easily dismissed with a shrug and a "so what?"

At least, that's what I have observed . . .

All the Best!

--Consigilieri

That reaction is on both sides -

Critic: JS married teenage wives

TBM: shrug....zzzzz...so what? My testimony isn't based on history, etc.

FYI, calling someone out like this in a separate/new thread is pretty lame.

But Duder can take care of himself...

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So, my question for Dude is: how does the modern theory explain the evidence and analysis presented here by Dan? It has been out for eight years. I have never seen any critic or anti-Mormon engage the evidence. (Maybe I missed some; if so, I'd like to see it.)

Easy my uranium rock theory can explain everything. Usee, Joseph Smith's seer stone was actually uranium. When he looked into the hat, with the uranium rock inside, it altered the chemistry in his brain. He had a flash back of when 1) his father talked about his visonary experiences and 2) when he fell out of a tree and called for his momma. Its all a strange coincidence thatis made possible by uranium isotopes he found will digging a well

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I'm nasty, Bill.  And a mercenary hack.

Thus, there's no need to address or even acknowledge any argument I've ever made.

Sheesh.  Didn't you know that?

Dr. Peterson, I respectufully ask that you please refrain from this kind of sarcasm. I think it detracts from your message. It's distracting.

I looked at your article and I think you have some interesting things to say about Ashera and the early Hebrew/Canaanite connection. But I think that your link with the quoted passage from Mormon scripture is a leap of faith. It is very speculative. I don't think a pretty tree and a pretty woman add up to much in the passage. To be more specific, it is speculative to say from that passage that the "virgin is the tree in some sense".

The similar language to describe the beauty of the tree and the woman is not necessarilly significant. It is the type of description of purity and divine beauty expressed in metaphor as whiteness or lightness quite a bit in the BOM. Certainly in itself, in context the similar language is not enough to base your conclusion on.

This is especially true in light of the fact that the bible is full of botanical metaphors. In Mathew there is a parable of a fig tree presaging the coming Kingdom of God. There is also a burning shrub, that focuses Moses on the word of God. I think that these types of images particularly the first one are closer links to what the quoted passage in your article is primarilly, a statement on the future coming of Jesus signaled by a living tree.

Without the lady of the tree your article is not relevant to the BOM, though as I said it still makes some interesting points on early Hebrew/Canaanite connections.

Something else bothers me about the article though. The fact that you search for such esoteric connections as this only draws attention to another conundrum in the Mormon scripture. Although people such as Lehi and the son of Lehi are nominally jewish, the scripture does not paint us a picture of observant jews, even ones of the period described by the scripture.

Another bothersome thing is Joseph Smith's reference to a "city of Nazareth" in the passage that you quote in the article. To the best of my knowledge, the existance of Nazareth, at best, only preceded the birth of Jesus by one or two centuries. That makes it something of an anachronism in the Mormon scriputres, as there time period is much earlier than that.

Thanks for the opportuninty to comment and best wishes.

David

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Searching the web, I found this:

The oldest known human life in the region of Nazareth is attested by the skull found in 1934 by R. Neuville in a cave about one and one-half miles southeast of the city, a skull which may be older than that of Neandertal man. In Nazareth itself a complex of burial caves was found in the upper city in 1963, in which there was pottery of the first part of the Middle Bronze Age (Revue Biblique 70 [1963], p. 563; 72 [1965], p. 547). Down in the area of the Latin Church of the Annunciation there was certainly an ancient village of long continuance. Archeological investigation in and around this church was conducted by Benedict Vlaminck in 1892, by Prosper Viaud in 1889 and 1907-1909 and by Bellarimo Bagatti in 1955 and thereafter when the previously standing eighteenth-century (1730) church was demolished to make way for the new and larger Basilica of the Annunciation (No. 49). The area under and around the church, as well as at the Church of St. Joseph not far away, was plainly that of an agricultural village. There were numerous grottoes, silos for grain, cisterns for water and oil; presses for raisins and olives, and millstones. While the silos are of a type found at Tell Abu Matar as early as the Chacolithic Age (Israel Exploration Journal 5 [1955], p. 23) the earliest pottery found in them here at Nazareth is of Iron II (900-600 B.C.).
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So, my question for Dude is: how does the modern theory explain the evidence and analysis presented here by Dan? It has been out for eight years. I have never seen any critic or anti-Mormon engage the evidence. (Maybe I missed some; if so, I'd like to see it.)

Easy my uranium rock theory can explain everything. Usee, Joseph Smith's seer stone was actually uranium. When he looked into the hat, with the uranium rock inside, it altered the chemistry in his brain. He had a flash back of when 1) his father talked about his visonary experiences and 2) when he fell out of a tree and called for his momma. Its all a strange coincidence thatis made possible by uranium isotopes he found will digging a well

I think you're onto something there.

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bentleye writes to Daniel Peterson:

Something else bothers me about the article though. The fact that you search for such esoteric connections as this only draws attention to another conundrum in the Mormon scripture. Although people such as Lehi and the son of Lehi are nominally jewish, the scripture does not paint us a picture of observant jews, even ones of the period described by the scripture.

I've made a case that it does, though I expect the evidence and perspectives will be new to you. It has to do with the difference between First Temple Judaism, and the version that came later, in repsonse to the upheavals of the reforms of Josiah and the Deuteronomists, the destruction of Jerusalem, the monarchy, and the temple, and the experience of the exile. For starters, see this:

http://www.ldsmag.com/ideas/050916restored.html

And then various other things here:

http://www.thinlyveiled.com/kchristensen.htm

And here:

http://www.margaretbarker.com/Temple/default.htm

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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I'm nasty, Bill.  And a mercenary hack.

Thus, there's no need to address or even acknowledge any argument I've ever made.

Sheesh.  Didn't you know that?

Dr. Peterson, I respectufully ask that you please refrain from this kind of sarcasm. I think it detracts from your message. It's distracting.

I respectfully ask that you learn the diffference between sarcasm and irony, and that you fund a personality transplant for me. I request the Humor-Free Bland 666 model. And, in order to help you in your counseling with me, I suggest that you devote a year or two to studying the long history that lies behind my remarks above.

I looked at your article and I think you have some interesting things to say about Ashera and the early Hebrew/Canaanite connection.  But I think that your link with the quoted passage from Mormon scripture is a leap of faith.  It is very speculative.  I don't think a pretty tree and a pretty woman add up to much in the passage.  To  be more specific, it is speculative to say from that passage that the "virgin is the tree in some sense".

If that summary exhausted my argument, I might be tempted to agree with you. But it doesn't.

Incidentally, did you skim through the long version of my article, or the greatly condensed one?

Something else bothers me about the article though.  The fact that you search for such esoteric connections as this only draws attention to another conundrum in the Mormon scripture.  Although people such as Lehi and the son of Lehi are nominally jewish, the scripture does not paint us a picture of observant jews, even  ones of the period described by the scripture.

One of the major points of my argument is that apparently devout Jews did, in fact, venerate Asherah at various points, particularly in pre-exilic Israel. This veneration even shows up in fossil traces in medieval Kabbalistic Judaism, as Raphael Patai has shown.

On the matter of Nazareth, I vaguely remember somebody discussing this question somewhere. I have an extraordinarily busy day ahead of me (which includes putting my son in the MTC this afternoon), and an extraordinarily busy week thereafter (which includes not only two full days of the FAIR conference but three days and nights at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City). But if I can figure out where that discussion exists, if it does, I will provide you with the citation.

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DCP:

I have an extraordinarily busy day ahead of me (which includes putting my son in the MTC this afternoon), and an extraordinarily busy week thereafter (which includes not only two full days of the FAIR conference but three days and nights at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City).

H.M.S. Pinafore -- ***

Merry Wives of Windsor -- ****

Hamlet -- *****

We haven't seen the others yet.

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Dr. Peterson, have ever done a follow up article on Joseph Smith Sr.'s Asherath? Ciould it be Joseph Smith Sr. had a bit of the Jewish lore in him as well?

In Joseph Smith Sr's dream, given in 1819, I believe, he also sees the river of water, and the pure, white tree:

"Traveling a short distance further, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water which ran from the east to the west. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor yet the mouth, but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope, running along the bank of it about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me was a low but very pleasant valley in which stood a tree such as I had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible, whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so, the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles, or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description.

Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, pp. 64-66.

Hmmm....Joseph Smith Sr's dream also has a white tree with fruit, and a river of water. While he doesn't provide the virgin-wisdom connection that Nephi supposedly does, could it be that Joseph Smith Sr. was secretly a believer in the Asherath as the divine wife of Yaweh?

Surely, the inclusion in Joseph Smith Sr's dream of two authentically preexilic religious symbols (Asherah and Wisdom), that could scarcely have been derived by a New York farmer from the Bible, strongly suggests that Joseph Smith Sr. was, indeed, divinely tutored in the ways of ancient Israel, or was, as some scholars believe, actually a resurrected ancient Israelite.

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Cinepro,

You question, of course, assumes that Lucy Smith's account (late) of her husband's dream was untainted by her knowledge of the description of the Lehi/Nephi visions from the Book of Mormon.

Also, if you read Dr. Peterson's essay you will discover that what triggers the Ashera connection is the Q/A between Nephi and the Angel regarding various images and symbols that he was being shown. No such exchange occurs (to my knowledge) occurs in the purported dream of the senior Smith.

C.I.

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D'oh! I mistook your kidding, Dr. Peterson, for sarcasm without knowing the context. Sorry. I hate it when I do that. No personality transplant necessary. I'll just go in for a sense of humor tune up.

I read the online version of your article which I think was cited in this thread somewhere. I stand by my remarks based on the version I saw. The link between the BOM text and Ashera is highly speculative. That makes the relationship between the ancient jews and Asherah irrelevant. The beliefs of the ancient jews are not relevant until we see that Lehi and Nephi believed it too.

Your point seems to be that documented facts point to a link between ancient jews and Asherah; and Scriptural evidence links Lehi and Nephi to her as well. Therefore, Lehi and Nephi are linked to ancient Jews through her. (If A likes Asherah and B likes Asherah, then A and B are alike in ways that noone knew until very recently.) I don't dispute the link between Asherah and ancient jews. Heck,I'm sure if you go back far enough the distinction between "jew" and "canaanite" is meaningless. The old testament is full of people running off to worship Baal. I just don't see anything beyond speculation (or to be fair -- faith) that links Lehi and Nephi to Ashera. Without linking Lehi and Nephi to Asherah, the part about the ancient Jews and Ashera becomes merely an interesting essay about the ancient Jews with no application to the BOM.

As to a city of Nazareth, that is probably another thread and a digression (which is my fault). Suffice to say for now, ancient habitation in the area does not equal a City of Nazareth.

I've gotta go. More later hopefully.

David

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I answered your question in the new thread on Acts 3:22-3. Now it's your turn.

I really appreciated that. :P

So, my question for Dude is: how does the modern theory explain the evidence and analysis presented here by Dan? It has been out for eight years. I have never seen any critic or anti-Mormon engage the evidence. (Maybe I missed some; if so, I'd like to see it.)

I read the on line version, and, to be honest, I can see how this new perspective on Nephi's vision answers a question for BoM-believers. I do remember reading the vision of the tree of life, and getting to the part where the angel doesn't anwer Nephi's question about the tree but instead shows him Mary and the baby Jesus, and somehow Nephi decides that the tree represents the love of God. To me, as a believer, this part seemed like a bit of a disconnect in the narrative. How did Nephi make the connection? Was something left out of the story because there wasn't enough room on the plates, or because Nephi was forbidden to write all that he saw? A strength of Daniel's article is that it offers an answer for believers.

Critics may not engage the argument simply because they are satisfied with the option that Joseph Smith's storytelling sometimes failed to carry his message, and this apparent disconnect in the vision narrative is just another example. Nothing more than that.

Christian anti-mormons might not accept the argument because the explanation (as I understand it) says God used idolatrous imagery to teach Nephi, when He could just as easily have used something else. For mature LDS this should not be a problem, since it is believed by some that God used folk magic and treasure hunting to train Joseph Smith as a prophet. So why not use a pagan fertility symbol familiar to Nephi as a representation God's love?

This might not sit well with some traditional LDS, and for them Asherah has nothing whatsoever to do with how Nephi made the connection between the tree, Mary/Jesus, and the love of God. For them, it is just a mystery -- and Dan's link is as fanciful as the anti-mormon notion that "secret combinations" is a reference to 19th century Freemasons. Since Nephi couldn't write all his thoughts because of space, the real connection in his mind could have been anything. Furthermore, we know he was shown things that God told him not to write on the plates.

In the final paragraph Dan claims that this imagery could not have been derived by the "farmboy" Joseph Smith and therefore it strongly suggests that the BoM is an ancient historical record. (Heh, the article wouldn't have been complete without such a bold claim, I guess.) I agree with Dan that JS could not have purposefully planted this imagery in the Book of Mormon, and I agree with Bentleye that the link of Asherah to Nephi is speculation about what Lehi's family knew and what they believed.

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There is really nothing to say here.

Dan provides detailed and extensive ancient evidence linking tree symbolism with life, mother, etc. This symbolism precisely parallels the BOM account on a number of levels. A non-Mormon scholar recognizes the legitimacy of these parallels. The analysis neatly explains what is otherwise inexplicable in the BOM, a passage, by the way, that has never been explained from the modernist perspective.

But Dude thinks its all speculation. It means nothing.

Alternatively Dude provides nothing but assertions and speculation.

It is really an astonishing performance.

So, each will have to decide for himself which model best explains the evidence.

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There is really nothing to say here.

Dan provides detailed and extensive ancient evidence linking tree symbolism with life, mother, etc. This symbolism precisely parallels the BOM account on a number of levels. A non-Mormon scholar recognizes the legitimacy of these parallels. The analysis neatly explains what is otherwise inexplicable in the BOM, a passage, by the way, that has never been explained from the modernist perspective.

But Dude thinks its all speculation. It means nothing.

Alternatively Dude provides nothing but assertions and speculation.

It is really an astonishing performance.

So, each will have to decide for himself which model best explains the evidence.

If that's all you have to say (and I'm not surprised or astonished in the least) then perhaps I can add that my main disappointment about Dan's article is his title: "Nephi and His Ashera" In the past I've remarked favorably about Dan's flare for titles, but this one is uncharacteristically boring, if you ask me. Maybe I'm missing the joke.

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But Dude thinks its all speculation. It means nothing.

And what do you think it is? Proof of something? If the only reasonable interpretation is your ancient document hypothesis then i guess it really would be the proof we have all been waiting for.

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I can add that my main disappointment about Dan's article is his title: "Nephi and His Ashera"  In the past I've remarked favorably about Dan's flare for titles, but this one is uncharacteristically boring, if you ask me.  Maybe I'm missing the joke.

You're missing the joke -- or, at least, the allusion. It's a reference to a rather well-known earlier article on the topic, from a famous non-Mormon scholar, entitled "Yahweh and His Asherah," which, in turn, refers to a centrally important ancient inscription.

*****

Sigh. It seems that no critic will ever substantively engage this article.

The best nao crer can muster, for instance, is a statement that it's "laughable" and a vow that he's not gonna read it.

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