Two new items went up today in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. The first is by A. Keith Thompson, and the second is by Blake T. Ostler:
Abstract: The Book of Mormon contains little information about what the Brass Plates contain. Nephi said it was a larger record than the Hebrew Bible brought to America by the Gentiles. But it could not have contained the records of Old Testament prophets who wrote after Lehi’s party left Jerusalem or the New Testament. We know it contained some writings from Zenos, Zenock, Neum, and Ezias, but what else could it have contained? Though the “Documentary Hypothesis” idea that the Christian Bible is the product of redactors is distasteful to many Christians, this article suggests this scholarship should not trouble Latter-day Saints, who celebrate Mormon’s scriptural abridgement of ancient American scripture. This article also revisits the insights of some Latter-day Saint scholars who have suggested the Brass Plates are a record of the tribe of Joseph, and this may explain its scriptural content. The eight verses from Micah 5, which Christ quoted three times during His visit to the Nephites and which did not previously appear in Mormon’s abridgment, receive close analysis.
Review of Mark A. Wrathall, Alma 30–63: A Brief Theological Introduction (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2020). 176 pages. $9.95 (paperback).
Abstract: Mark A. Wrathall’s analytic treatment of Alma 30–42 is a sheer gift that inspires insight into the theological depth of Alma’s thought. His reading of Alma teases out insights not previously recognized and not easily discovered regarding belief and knowledge and their relation to faith and committed action. This extremely rewarding introduction provides a glimpse at the best any writer in the Latter-day Saint tradition has written on Alma’s thoughts and goals.
And, just in case you missed them or have forgotten about them, here are links to some articles from a previous number of Interpreter:
Abstract: Students of the Book of Mormon who have attempted to establish a rough (internal) date for the composition of Mormon’s two letters in Moroni 8–9 have come to different and inconsistent conclusions. Nonetheless, there seems to be evidence enough from the text to arrive at reasonably certain conclusions as to when the letters are supposed to have originated. At the same time, the fact that the text never bothers to state the exact circumstances under which the letters were produced is theologically suggestive. What might be the interpretive and especially theological implications that follow from the establishment of rough dates for the letters? This essay argues from textual evidence that the reader should understand the two letters to have been written at rather different times: Moroni 8 in the years 345–50, and Moroni 9 in the years 375–80. It then draws interpretive and theological conclusions about the import of these dates: principally that Moroni’s inclusion of the letters forces readers to recognize that Mormon’s history is inventive and theologically motivated.
Abstract: A discussion is presented on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, including the departure of the young man into a faraway land, his return, and the welcome he received from his father. To better understand the cultural significance of this story, a Middle Eastern scholar (Kenneth Bailey) is referenced. The prodigal son breaks his father’s heart when he leaves home, but at the same time his older brother fails in his duty to his family. The father in the parable represents Christ, who is seen to take upon himself the shame of his returning boy and later of his older brother. The reinstatement of the prodigal son is confirmed by the actions of the father, who embraces him, dresses him in a robe, puts shoes on his feet, has a ring placed on his finger, brings him into his house, and kills the fatted calf for him. These actions have deep gospel and cultural significance. The older son’s failure to come into the feast for his brother is a public insult to his father, and his words to his father in the courtyard are a second public insult. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is shown to be similar to other stories from the scriptures, including Jesus’s meal with Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36–43), the Parable of the Man and His Great Supper (Luke 14:16–24), the Parable of the King and His Son’s Wedding (Matthew 22:2–14), and Lehi’s dream in 1 Nephi 8. Consistent elements across these stories include a feast/meal, a male authority figure who initiates or invites others to the feast, well-to-do guests who refuse the invitation, their criticism of the host of the feast and their fellowman, an application of grace, and the presence of the less favored individuals at the feast at the end of the stories. It is shown that the prodigal son represents the publicans and sinners of Jesus’s day, while the older son represents the scribes and Pharisees. Emphasis is placed on the remarkable countercultural and benevolent role played by the father/patriarch in these stories.
Abstract: In light of Noel Reynolds’ hypothesis that some material in the Book of Moses may have been present on the brass plates that Nephi used, one may wonder if Nephi or other authors might also have drawn upon the use of chains in the Book of Moses, particularly Satan’s “great chain [that] veiled … the earth with darkness” (Moses 7:26) and the “chains of darkness” (Moses 7:57). Though the phrase “chains of darkness” is not used in the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 1:23, quoting Lehi, combines chains and obscurity, where obscurity can have the meaning of darkness. In fact, there may be a Hebraic wordplay behind Lehi’s words when he tells his wayward sons to “come forth out of obscurity and arise from the dust,” based on the similarity between the Hebrew words for “obscurity” and “dust.” The association between dust and chains and several other newly found linkages to Book of Moses material is enriched by a study of Walter Brueggemann on the covenant-related meanings of “rising from the dust” and “returning to the dust” in the Bible, a topic we explore in Part 2. Then, after showing how dust-related themes in the Book of Mormon can enhance our understanding of several important passages, we build on that knowledge in Part 3 to “dust off” the most famous chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, where we will show that some apparent gaps and wordy regions in the complex chiastic structure of Alma 36 are more compact and meaningful than we may have realized. Both dust-related themes and themes from the Book of Moses assist in better appreciating the richness of that masterpiece of Hebraic poetry. Overall, a small amount of exploration motivated by Reynolds’ work may have led to several interesting finds that strengthen the case for Book of Moses content on the brass plates and deepen our appreciation of the use of ancient Near Eastern dust themes in the Book of Mormon, that majestic “voice from the dust.”
Abstract: In light of Noel Reynolds’ hypothesis that some material in the Book of Moses may have been present on the brass plates that Nephi used, one may wonder if Nephi or other authors might also have drawn upon the use of chains in the Book of Moses. Further examination of this connection points to the significance of the theme of “dust” in Lehi’s words and the surrounding passages from Nephi and Jacob, where it can involve motifs of covenant keeping, resurrection, and enthronement. Recognizing the usage of dust-related themes in the Book of Mormon can enhance our understanding of the meaning and structure of several portions of the text. An appeal to the Book of Mormon’s use of dust may also help fill in some gaps in the complex chiastic structure of Alma 36 (to be treated in Part 3) and add meaning to other portions of that “voice from the dust,” the Book of Mormon.
Abstract: In light of Noel Reynolds’ hypothesis that some material in the Book of Moses may have been present on the brass plates that Nephi used, exploration of concepts related to chains in the Book of Moses led to several insights involving a group of related motifs in the Book of Mormon where shaking off Satan’s chains and rising from the dust are linked, as discussed in Parts 1 and 2. Here we argue that an appeal to the Book of Mormon’s use of dust may fill in some gaps in the complex chiastic structure of Alma 36 and strengthen the case that it is a carefully crafted example of ancient Semitic poetry.
Abstract: Nephi is the prototypical wise son of the Wisdom tradition. As Proverbs advocates that a wise man cherishes the word of God, so Nephi cherishes the words of the wise. Nephi’s record begins with a declaration of his upbringing in the Wisdom tradition and his authenticity and reliability as a wise son and scribe (1 Nephi 1:1–3). His is a record of the learning of the Jews — a record of wisdom. If the Wisdom tradition is a foundation for Nephi’s scribal capabilities and outlook, perhaps the principles and literary skills represented by the scribal Wisdom tradition constitute the “learning of the Jews” that Nephi references so early in his account. Thus, if Nephi’s is a record of the learning of the Jews — a record of wisdom — we would be wise to read it with Wisdom — that is, through the lens of ancient Israelite and Middle Eastern Wisdom traditions.
Posted from Richmond, Virginia