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Joseph Smith and the Zohar


volgadon

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I'm interested in hearing from those who believe that Joseph Smith studied the zohar, and, per Lance Owens, taught ideas from it.

This isn't a "gotcha" question. I want to know what proponents of the theory make of the following.

"When Rabbi Hiyya came and related all this to Rabbi [Judah ha-Nasi], he was amazed, and his father, Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel, said to him; My son, Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai is a lion, and Rabbi Eleazar, his son, is a lion. But Rabbi Simeon is not like other lions. Of him it is written,

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I'm interested in hearing from those who believe that Joseph Smith studied the zohar, and, per Lance Owens, taught ideas from it.

This isn't a "gotcha" question. I want to know what proponents of the theory make of the following.

"When Rabbi Hiyya came and related all this to Rabbi [Judah ha-Nasi], he was amazed, and his father, Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel, said to him; My son, Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai is a lion, and Rabbi Eleazar, his son, is a lion. But Rabbi Simeon is not like other lions. Of him it is written,

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Because Joseph never studied the Zohar?

I would agree with you. The interpretation of Genesis 1:1 in the KFD and the Zohar bear only a superficial resemblence to each other which doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Joseph's can easily be shown as independent of the Zohar entirely.

My question however is how would a proponent of the theory overcome an objection like the one I posted. I want to understand that position better.

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I would agree with you. The interpretation of Genesis 1:1 in the KFD and the Zohar bear only a superficial resemblence to each other which doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Joseph's can easily be shown as independent of the Zohar entirely.

My question however is how would a proponent of the theory overcome an objection like the one I posted. I want to understand that position better.

One approach would be showing that Joseph's deconstruction of beresehit comes from Seixas, as seen in the 1832 (1st) ed. of his Hebrew Grammar.

Edit: Opps; I misread. I meant to say "one difficulty with such an approach." I am not a proponent of the thesis of Owen et al.

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One approach would be showing that Joseph's deconstruction of beresehit comes from Seixas, as seen in the 1832 (1st) ed. of his Hebrew Grammar.

Benjamin McGuire has mentioned that. I think it supplies the method by which Joseph saw the verse as a vehicle for teaching about the divine council.

Still, any takers, Mortal Man for instance?

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This is but one example of the prestige and centrality of Rabbi Shimeon Bar Yohai in the Zohar.

Given the prominent position accorded to Rashbi as seen in the example above, why did Joseph make no mention of him?

Why would he weaken his claim to revelation by revealing his sources?

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Why would he weaken his claim to revelation by revealing his sources?

Funny, I remember you stating last year on MADB that the "learned man of God" was Rashbi, as per Owens.

Also, why did Joseph give a copy of Thomas Dik to the Nauvoo library if he was concerned about not revealing his sources?

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I'm interested in hearing from those who believe that Joseph Smith studied the zohar, and, per Lance Owens, taught ideas from it.

This isn't a "gotcha" question. I want to know what proponents of the theory make of the following.

"When Rabbi Hiyya came and related all this to Rabbi [Judah ha-Nasi], he was amazed, and his father, Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel, said to him; My son, Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai is a lion, and Rabbi Eleazar, his son, is a lion. But Rabbi Simeon is not like other lions. Of him it is written,

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I'm not sure I understand your question, but it is possible that Joseph studied the Zohar at least during the Nauvoo period, since the first Jewish convert to Mormonism arrived there then (Alexander Neibaur, the great grandfather of Hugh Nibley) and may have provided Joseph with some stimulating discussion of Jewish literature and ideas, You may recall Rabbi Nissim Wernick's excellent doctoral dissertation at BYU in 1968, "A Critical Analysis of the Book of Abraham in the Light of Extra-Canonical Jewish Writings," including the Zohar.

It might also be worth considering the footnote to Genesis 6:16 in the 1979 LDS edition of the Bible which says of the word "window" in the text: "HEB tsohar; some rabbis believed it was a precious stone that shone in the ark." It then compares Ether 2:23, wherein it is suggested by the Lord that a light in place of windows would be necessary, and in Ether 3:1ff, the Lord prepares 16 special stones for just that purpose.

Well, you first have to demonstrate that Neibaur knew the Zohar. Most Jews, and especially most Haskalah Jews, didn't.

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And that remains his most likely identity.

And here there is a problem with your theory, it seems. If Joseph was concerned about not revealing his sources, then why make any sort of mention to them? Also, your confident statement that the learned man of God is Rashbi ignores pertinent objections, such as my observation that Joseph reffered to himself.

And if he did mention Rashbi, then why not draw more upon his characteristics which would have enhanced Joseph's position and stature? I refer to things such as being able to annul decrees made by God, or the curtains of fire which enveloped Rashbi when he taught the mysteries, or his ability to shake the earth, or his prominent messianic role.

To obtain stock in the institute.

Why donate something which would compromise his claim to revelation, if we concede your point?

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It might also be worth considering the footnote to Genesis 6:16 in the 1979 LDS edition of the Bible which says of the word "window" in the text: "HEB tsohar; some rabbis believed it was a precious stone that shone in the ark." It then compares Ether 2:23, wherein it is suggested by the Lord that a light in place of windows would be necessary, and in Ether 3:1ff, the Lord prepares 16 special stones for just that purpose.

And the concept is pre-Zoharic, and the Book of Ether is pre-Neibaur.

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Mortal Man writes:

And that remains his most likely identity.

Lance Owens article is dismally bad. Owens doesn't have a good grip on Hebrew, and certainly has no idea what sources Joseph had at his disposal. Everything actually related to the Hebrew seems to come to us via Zucker (that Owens relies heavily on). Zucker only used the second edition of the Seixas grammar (I think its arguable that Joseph had a copy of the first edition, not the second), and of course there are some specific details that come from Joseph's use of the smaller student Lexicon published by Gibbs in 1832 as opposed the full version (that Seixas references) published in 1824. Who is the learned man of God? The best candidate is Joseph Smith himself.

Ben McGuire

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I'm interested in hearing from those who believe that Joseph Smith studied the zohar, and, per Lance Owens, taught ideas from it.

This isn't a "gotcha" question. I want to know what proponents of the theory make of the following.

"When Rabbi Hiyya came and related all this to Rabbi [Judah ha-Nasi], he was amazed, and his father, Rabbi Simeon ben Gamaliel, said to him; My son, Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai is a lion, and Rabbi Eleazar, his son, is a lion. But Rabbi Simeon is not like other lions. Of him it is written,

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Who is the learned man of God? The best candidate is Joseph Smith himself.

That is an impossible reading of the KFD, especially when you consider his next sentence.

If you do not believe it you do not believe the learned man of God. No learned man can tell you any more than what I have told you.

JS never referred to himself in the third person as a "learned" man of God. On the contrary, he proclaimed himself on numerous occasions to be "not learned".

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That is an impossible reading of the KFD, especially when you consider his next sentence.

JS never referred to himself in the third person as a "learned" man of God. On the contrary, he proclaimed himself on numerous occasions to be "not learned".

The sermon contrasts Joseph's learning with that of his opponents. He constantly reiterates that he receives revelations and is taught by the Holy Ghost. It obviously is himself he is reffering to when he speaks of the learned man of God.

Does it really sound likely that what he mean was to say "If you don't believe this then you don't believe the learned man of God, that is, Rashbi, a 2nd century rabbi whose name I will not mention and whom you've never heard of, the author of a book of hidden wisdom"?

Again, that brings me back to my question. If Joseph vaguely, but publically, awarded Rashbi such an epithet, why no clearer reference to him, why do we not find any ideas associated with the figure of Rashbi?

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The sermon contrasts Joseph's learning with that of his opponents. He constantly reiterates that he receives revelations and is taught by the Holy Ghost. It obviously is himself he is reffering to when he speaks of the learned man of God.

Does it really sound likely that what he mean was to say "If you don't believe this then you don't believe the learned man of God, that is, Rashbi, a 2nd century rabbi whose name I will not mention and whom you've never heard of, the author of a book of hidden wisdom"?

Again, that brings me back to my question. If Joseph vaguely, but publically, awarded Rashbi such an epithet, why no clearer reference to him, why do we not find any ideas associated with the figure of Rashbi?

He certainly wouldn't mention an anonymous learned man if his goal was to hide the fact that he got an from any learned man at all, whether anonymous or Rashbi. Mortal Man's theory is simply silly.

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Well, you first have to demonstrate that Neibaur knew the Zohar. Most Jews, and especially most Haskalah Jews, didn't.

I would agree with Prof. Hamblin. Neibaur is a direct family ancestor and we have read through his journals. None of them support an understanding or discussion of Jewish matters especially the Zohar.. Remember, he didn't convert directly from Judaism to Mormonism, but was a orthodox Christian first who had studied (dentistry) in England prior to coming to the U.S.

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I would agree with Prof. Hamblin. Neibaur is a direct family ancestor and we have read through his journals. None of them support an understanding or discussion of Jewish matters especially the Zohar.. Remember, he didn't convert directly from Judaism to Mormonism, but was a orthodox Christian first who had studied (dentistry) in England prior to coming to the U.S.

It may well be true that the nature of the haskala and Neibaur's background can be employed to estimate the most likely course of his education and personal knowledge of Judaism. Certainly, Bill Hamblin has successfullly argued that Neibaur most likely got all (or nearly all) his information for that TImes & Seasons article from a recently published book by Manasseh ben Israel (Sefer Nishmat Hayyim), rather than from the Zohar itself, and that Joseph's exposition of Mormon doctrine owed nothing to Kabbalah.

However, it is also true that we know too little about Neibaur to make assured statements about what he knew and when he knew it. We have no idea what he may have read in his father's or someone else's library. We do not actually know whether he was a young prodigy (like his great grandson, Hugh Nibley) who learned languages on his own as a child. We do not know what sort of "unofficial" Jewish mentor(s) he may have had, in addition to whatever standard Jewish education he received. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Too bad that we do not have his memoirs.

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It may well be true that the nature of the haskala and Neibaur's background can be employed to estimate the most likely course of his education and personal knowledge of Judaism. Certainly, Bill Hamblin has successfullly argued that Neibaur most likely got all (or nearly all) his information for that TImes & Seasons article from a recently published book by Manasseh ben Israel (Sefer Nishmat Hayyim), rather than from the Zohar itself,

It also makes much more sense than dozens of volumes of the Zohar, and other rare books and manuscripts being unheard of in Nauvoo, and then vanishing, as it were, into thin air.

and that Joseph's exposition of Mormon doctrine owed nothing to Kabbalah.

If you examine the relevant Zohar passage, the beit is crucial to its interpretation of Genesis 1:1. Nor is reishith split into two.

Positing that Joseph read the Zohar on the strength of this passage is a weak argument indeed. Genesis 1:1 has always been open to unorthodox interpretations.

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When Wilford Woodruff recorded the KFD in his journal, he included these comments (emphasis added):

Another thing the learned Dr. says: the Lord made the world out of nothing. You tell them that God made the world out of something, & they think you are a fool. But I am learned & know more than the whole world, the Holy Ghost does anyhow, & I will associate myself with it.
Ben M.
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