Brown Bag Wrap-Up:
Structure of Enoch's Vision
On 23 February Terry Szink, an instructor in BYU’s Department of Ancient Scripture, analyzed the structure of Enoch’s vision recorded in Moses 7-8 and discussed how understanding that structure reveals insights about the meaning of the vision. The vision covers three general time periods (the time of the Flood, the meridian of time, the last days) and uses similar terms to express parallel meanings about all three.
For example, Szink noted that scripture describes each period as a time of wickedness, and the Lord’s attitude toward the majority of the people during these times is similarly described-as the “fire of his indignation” at the time of the Flood and as “vengeance” during the other two periods. Scripture also refers to the protection of the righteous during each period: at the time of the Flood Zion is removed, in the meridian of time the righteous are resurrected, and in the last days the Lord will preserve his people. Moreover, each period involves similar natural phenomena, such as seismic activity.
Book of Enoch
On 15 March George Nickelsburg, the Daniel J. Krumm Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Reformation Studies at the University of Iowa, discussed his recent completion of the first volume of an extensive commentary on 1 Enoch, a pseudepigraphic work fully extant only in Ethiopic. He noted that his commentary devotes significant attention to the reception of 1 Enoch in early Christendom and to its position in the Jewish and Ethiopic traditions. For example, the church fathers Origen and Tertullian liked the text; but even though it provided a major paradigm used in the second and third centuries A.D. to explain the problem of evil in the world, the book fell into disuse after Augustine rejected it.
Later that day Nickelsburg, in addressing an audience gathered in the auditorium of BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library, lectured on the book of Enoch and compared its worldview with that of the Dead Sea Scrolls community of Qumran. He explained that the corpus of the book of Enoch is ascribed to a sage who brought from heaven revelations on how to set the world straight. Similarly, the people of Qumran had a Teacher of Righteous-ness to guide them, God’s chosen people, in the way of truth and righteous living before God. Nicklesburg discussed several scroll texts that reflect an apocalyptic world view, recounted the demise of the Qumran people, related aspects of their worldview to modern society, and concluded with a general call for humanity to avoid mistakes by learning the lessons of history.
Hellenization and the Early Christian Church
On 22 March Noel Reynolds, a professor of political science and former FARMS president now serving as a BYU associate vice president, examined the influence of Hellenization on the early Christian church in the context of the apostasy. He began by reporting on a new initiative that is reconsidering the causes of the apostasy. Whereas the usual LDS approach to explaining the apostasy has emphasized early Christianity’s adoption of Greek philosophy and the resulting loss of vital gospel doctrines and ordinances, a developing view is that the apostasy was under way much earlier, well before the end of the first century A.D. Reynolds believes that the apostasy likely began soon after the death of the apostles (perhaps even during the lifetimes of the last surviving apostles), when the church lost its ability to speak with authority and maintain unity as its branches repudiated the Apostle Paul’s authority and slipped into sin and error.
Reynolds considered the question of whether Greek philosophy of the second and third centuries A.D. was fundamentally incompatible with the prophetic perspective of the Bible or whether it was essentially salvational, enabling the church to pull together over the next century and to deal with heresy and persecution. He discussed points on both sides but indicated that much work remains to be done before conclusions can be drawn.
The Binding of Isaac
On 24 March David Bokovoy, a graduate student at Brandeis University and a Nibley Fellow, discussed literary, historical, and doctrinal aspects of the binding of Isaac, recorded in Genesis 22. He began by pointing out that early Rabbis were concerned about the difficult theological implications of Genesis 22, issues greatly clarified by additional information in the Book of Mormon (see Jacob 4:5) and the Book of Abraham. Bokovoy then highlighted scriptural passages dealing with the altar as a place of refuge and deliverance and with the “Abraham cycle” (a literary pattern of promise, frustration, and renewal of the promise or covenant).
Egyptian Ba-Sending Texts
On 12 April John Gee, an assistant research professor at FARMS, discussed some of his research on Egyptian religion that he had previously presented at the Eighth International Congress of Egyptolo-gists in Cairo, Egypt. He discussed a category of ancient Egyptian texts that dealt with sending or summoning the ba (a type of Egyptian spirit often translated as “soul”) to appear in various places. Texts explicitly dealing with this sending or summoning the ba appear first in the Middle Kingdom (about 2000 B.C.) and can be found as late as Roman times (A.D. 300). Archaeological evidence corresponding to this rite has been found from the Old Kingdom (about 2500 B.C.) through Roman times (about A.D. 400). Discussions of the practice also appear in many Egyptian literary works and are even mentioned in early Christian literature. A summoned ba can serve as an attendant and help or hinder other people, and even deliver messages. Ba-sending texts have certain implications for the classification of spirits in ancient Egyptian religion and for certain literary works, and Gee spent much of the time discussing the various categories of ba from his research. His work will be published in the proceedings volume from the Cairo conference.