Moses Falls to the Earth

Book of Moses Essay #35

Moses 1:9-11

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Though most readers will be much more familiar with the well-known masterpiece of Michelangelo showing Adam’s creation being effected by the fleetingly light touch of the index fingers of God and the reclining Adam, the version of the scene executed by Lorenzo Ghiberti above, which includes a firm handclasp whereby the Lord can raise Adam up on his feet, is more faithful to ancient Jewish and Christian tradition.1  In Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 2:7, the revered Jewish exegete connects the themes of creation and atonement to the idea of standing in God’s presence:2

God took [Adam’s] dust from the place of [the temple altar, signifying His] wish that [Adam might] gain atonement, and that he may be able to stand.

In contrast to cattle, which Rashi said “do not stand to be judged”3  (in other words, are not held accountable for their actions4), Jewish accounts of Adam’s creation specifically highlight his first experience after being filled with the breath of life:5  namely, the moment when God “stood him on his legs.”6  According to Avivah Zornberg, it is in the ability to stand in the presence of God that one specifically demonstrates the attainment of full “majesty and strength.”7

Figure 2. The Harrowing of Hell from the Exultet Roll: Codex Barberini Latinus 592. (f. 4) , ca. 1087

Medieval artistic convention makes it clear that Christ was imagined by at least some Christians as raising the dead to eternal life by the same gesture that was used to create Adam and stand him on his feet in Ghiberti’s sculpture.8  Similarly, we note the Old Testament literary formula that nearly always follows descriptions of miraculous revivals from figurative or literal death with the observation that they “stood up upon their feet.”9

More generally, in Christian iconography this gesture is used in scenes representing a transition from one state or place to another. For example, a depiction at the Church of San Marco in Venice shows God taking Adam by the wrist to bring him through the door of Paradise and to introduce him into the Garden of Eden.10  Another Christian scene shows God taking Adam by the wrist as he and Eve receive the commandment not to partake of the Tree of Knowledge.11  Likewise, scripture and pseudepigrapha describe how prophets such as Enoch,12  Abraham,13  Daniel,14  Ezra,15  and John16  are grasped by the hand of an angel and raised to a standing position in key moments of their heavenly visions.17

Figure 3. Stephen T. Whitlock, 1951–: Tree Near British Camp, Malvern Hills, Worcestershire, England, 2009.

Significantly, Jewish writings tell of how Adam lost the divine ability to stand through his taking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. For example, in an account that plays on the nuances of Hebrew terms for standing, we read:18

Before the sin, Adam could “hear God speaking and stand on his legs… he could withstand it.”19 … In another midrash, God says, “Woe Adam! Could you not stand in your commandment for even one hour?

It is by being raised by the hand to the upright position that we are made ready to hear the word of the Lord. It is no mere coincidence that before heavenly messengers can perform their errands to Ezekiel,20  Daniel,21  Paul,22  Alma the Younger,23  and Nephi24  they must first command these seers to stand on their feet.25  As biblical scholar Robert Hayward has said: “You stand in the temple,26  you stand before the Lord,27  you pray standing up28—you can’t approach God on all fours like an animal. If you can stand, you can serve God in His temple.”29  If you are stained with sin, you cannot stand in His presence.30

Moses Falls to the Earth

With the context above in mind, we are ready to understand the significance of the “fall” and “raising” of Moses and Abraham.

Hugh Nibley describes what happened to Moses following his initial divine encounter:31

As soon as we leave the Prologue in Heaven, we find [Moses] in the dark. The presence of God withdrew from Moses, and his glory was not on Moses. The lights go down. As he was left unto himself, he fell to the earth. Remember, Joseph Smith says, “I found myself lying on my back. … I had no strength.” It’s the same thing here. … So as the play opens we have Moses lying there in the dark and dreary world, all alone and out cold, the picture of helplessness; he has reached the bottom.

Figure 4. Resemblances for Moses Falls to the Earth (Moses 1:9–11)

Consistent with Nibley’s description, the table above describes how both Moses and Abraham experienced a “fall to the earth” that left them vulnerable to the will of the Adversary.32  Abraham is reported as saying: “I … fell down upon the earth, for there was no longer strength in me,” closely resembling the description in Moses 1 where we are told that he “fell unto the earth” and lost his “natural strength.”33

Figure 5. Abraham Falls to the Earth and Is Raised by Yaho’el

While modern readers might easily skim over the description of the fall and the raising of the two prophets, thinking it of little interest, it was clearly a significant event to the ancient illustrator, who found it important enough to include it among the six passages he highlighted with visual depictions.34  The drawing depicts Abraham being raised up out of sleep—or perhaps death35—by the hand of Yaho’el, who, using the right hand, lifts him firmly by the wrist.36  The rays emanating from hand of God37  impart the spirit of life, recalling the creation of Adam, when God “breathed … the breath of life” into the first man, and he became “a living soul.”38

Nibley describes what happens next:39

As [Moses] begins to receive his natural strength, he pulls himself together and he says to himself this great truth, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.”40  … He has seen what is up there, and he has seen what is down here. …

That’s the end of that act. A new scene is when a new character enters. Now, the play begins because you have to have an antagonist and a protagonist in a play. Now Satan enters the scene. Notice, when the hero is at his lowest, when he is the most helpless, that is the time that Stan strikes. … Satan does not play fair.

In the next Essay,41  we will describe how, in remarkably similar fashion, Moses and Abraham defeat Satan.

This article is adapted from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock. “Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham: Twin sons of different mothers?” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 179-290.

Further Reading

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 51-52. https://archive.org/download/140123IGIL12014ReadingS.

———. “Standing in the Holy Place: Ancient and modern reverberations of an enigmatic New Testament prophecy.” In Ancient Temple Worship: Proceedings of the Expound Symposium, 14 May 2011, edited by Matthew B. Brown, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Stephen D. Ricks and John S. Thompson. Temple on Mount Zion 1, 71-142. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014. Reprint, Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 37, 163-236, https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/standing-in-the-holy-place-ancient-and-modern-reverberations-of-an-enigmatic-new-testament-prophecy/http://www.templethemes.net/publications/04-Ancient%20Temple-Bradshaw.pdf.

———. “What did Joseph Smith know about modern temple ordinances by 1836?” In The Temple: Ancient and Restored. Proceedings of the 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Symposium, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and Donald W. Parry. Temple on Mount Zion 3, 1–144. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016, pp. 16-33. http://www.jeffreymbradshaw.net/templethemes/publications/01-Bradshaw-TMZ%203.pdf.

———, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock. “Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham: Twin sons of different mothers?” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 179-290.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 22–23.

Nibley, Hugh W. “To open the last dispensation: Moses chapter 1.” In Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless: Classic Essays of Hugh W. Nibley, edited by Truman G. Madsen, 1–20. Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978, p. 8.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004, pp. 215–216.

References

Alexander, P. “3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 223-315. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Book of Moses. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2010.

———. “The Ezekiel Mural at Dura Europos: A tangible witness of Philo’s Jewish mysteries?” BYU Studies 49, no. 1 (2010): 4-49. www.templethemes.net.

———. Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2010. www.templethemes.net.

———. “Standing in the Holy Place: Ancient and modern reverberations of an enigmatic New Testament prophecy.” In Ancient Temple Worship: Proceedings of the Expound Symposium, 14 May 2011, edited by Matthew B. Brown, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Stephen D. Ricks and John S. Thompson. Temple on Mount Zion 1, 71-142. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net.

———. “What did Joseph Smith know about modern temple ordinances by 1836?”.” In The Temple: Ancient and Restored. Proceedings of the 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Symposium, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and Donald W. Parry. Temple on Mount Zion 3, 1-144. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016. www.templethemes.net.

Freedman, H., and Maurice Simon, eds. 1939. Midrash Rabbah 3rd ed. 10 vols. London, England: Soncino Press, 1983.

Goldin, Judah, ed. 1955. The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan. Yale Judaica Series 10. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983.

Hachlili, Rachel. Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology in the Diaspora. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1 The Near and Middle East 35. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1998. https://books.google.com/books?id=cKGpa-FJ3XsC. (accessed October 30, 2019).

Hayward, Robert. “An Aramaic paradise: Adam and the Garden in the Jewish Aramaic  translations of Genesis.” Presented at the Temple Studies Group Symposium IV: The Paradisiac Temple—From First Adam to Last, Temple Church, London, England, November 6, 2010.

Kraeling, Carl H., C. C. Torrey, C. B. Welles, and B. Geiger. The Synagogue. The Excavations at Dura-Europos Conducted by Yale University and the French Academy of Inscriptions and Letters: Final Report VIII, Part I. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1956.

Kulik, Alexander. Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha: Toward the Original of the Apocalypse of Abraham. Text-Critical Studies 3, ed. James R. Adair, Jr. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004.

L’Orange, H. P. 1953. Studies on the Iconography of Cosmic Kingship in the Ancient World. Oslo, Norway: Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning and H. Aschehoug, 1982. Reprint, New Rochelle, NY: Caratzas Brothers. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.105206/page/n5/mode/2up. (accessed April 26, 2020).

LaCocque, André. The Trial of Innocence: Adam, Eve, and the Yahwist. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2006.

Lindsay, Jeffrey Dean. ““Arise from the Dust”: Insights from Dust-Related Themes in the Book of Mormon. Part 1: Tracks from the Book of Moses.” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 22 (2016): 179-232. https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/jnlpdf/lindsay-v22-2016-pp179-232-PDF.pdf. (accessed August 7, 2019).

———. Personal Communication to Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, August 5, 2019.

Metzger, Bruce M. “The Fourth Book of Ezra.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 2, 517-59. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

Mopsik, Charles, ed. Le Livre Hébreu d’Hénoch ou Livre des Palais. Les Dix Paroles, ed. Charles Mopsik. Lagrasse, France: Éditions Verdier, 1989.

Neusner, Jacob, ed. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis, A New American Translation. 3 vols. Vol. 1: Parashiyyot One through Thirty-Three on Genesis 1:1 to 8:14. Brown Judaic Studies 104, ed. Jacob Neusner. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1981. Abraham in Egypt. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 14. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2000.

———. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004.

Nickelsburg, George W. E., ed. 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 1-36; 81-108. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001.

Nickelsburg, George W. E., and James C. VanderKam, eds. 1 Enoch: A New Translation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004.

Novickij (Novitskii, Novitsky), P. P., ed. Откровение Авраама (Otkrovenīe Avraama [Apocalypse of Abraham]) (Facsimile edition of Silʹvestrovskiĭ sbornik [Codex Sylvester]). Reproduced from RGADA (Russian State Archive of Early Acts, formerly TsGADA SSSR = Central State Archive of Early Acts), folder 381, Printer’s Library, no. 53, folios 164v-186. Общество любителей древней письменности (Obščestvo Li︠u︡biteleĭ Drevneĭ Pis’mennosti [Society of Lovers of Ancient Literature]), Izdaniia (Editions) series, (= OLDP edition, 99:2). St. Petersburg, Russia: Tipo-Lit. A. F. Markova, 1891. Reprint, Leningrad, Russia, 1967. http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/spart1.pdf, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924028567927&view=1up&seq=1. (accessed December 3, 2019).

Ouaknin, Marc-Alain, and Éric Smilévitch, eds. 1983. Chapitres de Rabbi Éliézer (Pirqé de Rabbi Éliézer): Midrach sur Genèse, Exode, Nombres, Esther. Les Dix Paroles, ed. Charles Mopsik. Lagrasse, France: Éditions Verdier, 1992.

Rashi. c. 1105. The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Vol. 2: Shemos/Exodus. Translated by Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg. ArtScroll Series, Sapirstein Edition. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1994.

———. c. 1105. The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Vol. 1: Beresheis/Genesis. Translated by Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg. ArtScroll Series, Sapirstein Edition. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1995.

Riesenfeld, Harald. The Resurrection in Ezekiel XXXVII and in the Dura-Europos Paintings. Uppsala Universitets Arsskrift 11. Uppsala, Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksells, 1948.

Zornberg, Avivah Gottlieb. Genesis: The Beginning of Desire. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1995.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Public Domain. https://arthive.com/artists/3821~Lorenzo_Ghiberti/works/198490~The_creation_of_Adam_and_eve (accessed June 18, 2020).

Figure 2. Public domain. https://combonianum.org/2013/04/03/fp-francais-52013-2/ (accessed June 18, 2020). Note that Jesus is depicted as having two right hands. As evidence that this is not a simple error on the part of the illustrator, we note that both Jewish midrash and the art of Dura Europos depict God protecting Israel with two right hands (see C. H. Kraeling, et al., Synagogue, p. 83 n. 251. Cf. H. Freedman, et al., Midrash, Exodus, 22:2, p. 276; R. Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art, p. 145).

Figure 3. Copyright Stephen T. Whitlock.

Figures 4. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

Figure 5. Photographs of the originals of the illustrations are from Otkrovenie Avraama (Apocalypse of Abraham or ApAb), which comprises pages 328–375 of the Codex Sylvester. The Codex Sylvester, “the oldest and the only independent manuscript containing the full text of ApAb” (A. Kulik, Retroverting, p. 3), is known to scholars as manuscript “S.” It is the only illustrated manuscript of ApAb. Photographs of the illustrations from the original manuscript are published in this article for the first time with the kind permission of the Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv drevnikh aktov (RGADA — Russian State Archive of Early Acts, formerly TsGADA SSSR = Central State Archive of Early Acts) in Moscow. We express our sincere gratitude to Evgeniy Rychalovskiy, Head of the Publication Department and Vladislav Rzheutsky of the German Historical Institute in Moscow, for their assistance on 4 and 6 December 2019. Within the RGADA collection, the Codex Sylvester is catalogued as folder 381, Printer’s Library, no. 53, folios 164v-186. The six illustrations can be found in these folios: 182v, 174, 172v, 170v, 168b v, and 168a.

Photographs of the illustrations from a rare printed copy of the first facsimile edition (1891) were taken on 26 April 2009 and are © Stephen T. Whitlock and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. We express our special thanks to Carole Menzies and Jennifer Griffiths who facilitated our access to the facsimiles for filming purposes in the Taylor Bodleian Slavonic and Modern Greek Library, Oxford University, Oxford, England. The facsimile edition was originally published as N. Novickij (Novitskii, P. P., Otkrovenie Avraama and later as a reprint. Whitlock’s Image IDs are as follows: ApAb-OX10, ApAb-OX19, ApAb-OX20, ApAb-OX26, ApAb-OX30, ApAb-OX33, ApAb-OX50. For this article, the photos have been enhanced digitally for readability and size consistency, and a colored mask has been added to the backgrounds of all photos except ApAb-OX10.

Footnotes

 

1For a more extensive discussion of the ancient symbolism of the sacred handclasp and embrace, see J. M. Bradshaw, What Did Joseph Smith Know, pp. 16–33.

2Zornberg’s translation of Rashi, Genesis 2:7, in A. G. Zornberg, Genesis, p. 16. Compare Rashi, Genesis Commentary, 2:7, p. 23; J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 14:8:1, p. 156.

3Zornberg’s translation of Rashi, Genesis 2:7, in A. G. Zornberg, Genesis, p. 16. Compare Rashi, Genesis Commentary, 2:7, p. 23.

4A. G. Zornberg, Genesis, p. 16. 

5Ibid., p. 22.

6E.g., M.-A. Ouaknin et al., Rabbi Éliézer, 11, p. 78; J. Goldin, Fathers, 1, p. 11.

7A. G. Zornberg, Genesis, p. 23.

8See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 471-473, 681-686; J. M. Bradshaw, Moses Temple Themes, pp. 38-39.

9Ezekiel 37:10. Cf. 2 Kings 13:21.

Alma the Younger experienced a fall and a figurative death when he and his companions were visited by an angel, and a rebirth three days later when his mouth was opened and he was again able to stand on his feet: “I fell to the earth; and it was for the space of three days and three nights that I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs… But behold my limbs did receive their strength again, and I stood upon my feet, and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God” (Alma 36:10, 23; cf. King Lamoni and his people in Alma 18:42–43, 19:1–34).

Falling in weakness after a vision of God is a common motif in scripture. Daniel reported that he “fainted, and was sick certain days,” and of a second occasion he wrote: “I was left alone… and there remained no strength in me… and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground” (Daniel 8:26; 10:8–9). Saul “fell to the earth” during his vision and remained blind until healed by Ananias (Acts 9:4, 17-18). Lehi “cast himself on his bed, being overcome with the Spirit” (1 Nephi 1:7). Of his weakness following the First Vision, Joseph Smith wrote: “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength…” (JS-H 1:20). See also discussion of A. Kulik, Retroverting Apocalypse of Abraham 10:1-4, p. 17 below.

10See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 683 figure 53-11.

11Ibid., p. 228 figure 4-10.

12G. W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 1 Enoch 14:24, p. 267: “And one of the holy ones came to me and raised me up and stood me [on my feet]”; G. W. E. Nickelsburg et al., 1 Enoch, 71:3, p. 93: “And the angel Michael… took me by my right hand and raised me up”; P. Alexander, 3 Enoch, 1:5, p. 256: “He grasped me with his hand before their eyes and said to me, ‘Come in peace into the presence of the high and exalted King”; ibid., 48A:2, p. 300: “I went with him, and, taking me by his hand, he bore me up on his wings.”

13J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 684 figure 53-13.

14Daniel 8:18: “he touched me, and set me upright”; Daniel 10:9–10: “then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground. And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees.”

15B. M. Metzger, 4 Ezra, 10:29–33, p. 547:

As I was speaking these words, behold the angel who had come to me at first came to me, and he looked upon me,; and behold I lay there like a corpse and I was deprived of my understanding. Then he grasped my right hand and strengthened me and set me on my feet, and said to me, “What is the matter with you? And why are your troubled? And why are your understanding and the thoughts of your mind troubled?”

I said, “Because you have forsaken me! I did as you directed, and went out into the field, and behold, I saw, and still see, what I am unable to explain.”

He said unto me, “Stand up like a man, and I will instruct you.”

16Revelation 1:17: “I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me.”

17In Alma 19:29–30, the raising of two individuals who have fallen in rapturous vision is performed by mortal women.

18A. G. Zornberg, Genesis, p. 23.

19Zornberg’s translation. Compare H. Freedman et al., Midrash, Numbers 1, 11:3, 5:419.

20Ezekiel 2:1–2: “And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.”

21Daniel 10:11: “O Daniel, … understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent.”

22Acts 26:16: “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness.”

23Alma 36:7–8: “And behold, he spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet; and we all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us. But behold, the voice said unto me: Arise. And I arose and stood up, and beheld the angel.”

243 Nephi 11:19–20: “And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet. And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him.”

25Nickelsburg explains (G. W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 14:24-15:1, p. 270):

The seer must be rehabilitated and accepted into the divine presence before he can receive his commission. Restoration by an angel becomes a typical feature in visions, where, however, it is the angel whose appearance causes the collapse.

See also Joshua 7:6, 10–13:

And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads .… And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

26E.g., Deuteronomy 10:8, 18:7; 2 Chronicles 29:11.

27E.g., Luke 1:19.

28See, e.g., Luke 18:13.

29Notes taken by David J. Larsen on a unpublished talk by Robert Hayward (R. Hayward, Aramaic Paradise).

30E.g., 1 Esdras 8:89–90.

31H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, p. 215.

32Moses 1:9–11; A. Kulik, Retroverting, 10:1-3, p. 17. For a broader exploration of the significance of this motif, see J. M. Bradshaw, Standing in the Holy Place, pp. 80–81, 118–120.

33Moses 1:9–10.

34Translation of caption: “I heard a voice saying, Here Oilu, sanctify this man and strengthen (him) from his trembling and the angel took me by the right hand and stood me on my feet and said to me, stand up oh friend of God who has loved you.” Kulik’s translation of the corresponding text in ApAb reads: “And when I was still face down on the earth, I heard the voice of the Holy One, saying, ‘Go, Yaho’el, the namesake of the mediation of my ineffable name, sanctify this man and strengthen him from his trembling!’ And the angel whom he sent to me in the likeness of a man came, and he took me by my right hand and stood me on my feet. And he said to me, ‘Stand up, <Abraham,> the friend of God who has loved you, let human trembling not enfold you. For behold I am sent to you to strengthen you and to bless you in the name of God.” (A. Kulik, Retroverting, 10:3-6, pp. 17-18). For similar accounts in the heavenly ascent literature, see C. Mopsik, Hénoch, pp. 170–171 n. 1:16. In 3 Enoch, the angel who raises Rabbi Ishmael to his feet is Metatron (ibid., 1:7–10, pp. 99–100). Comparing that experience to the one recounted in ApAb, Mopsik notes that Yaho’el is one the names of Metatron and that he is the angel of resurrection (ibid., pp. 170–171 n. 1:16; pp. 261–262 n. 18:21).

35In the Ezekiel mural at Dura Europos, the “hand from heaven” is specifically associated with the “revivication of the dead” (H. Riesenfeld, Resurrection, p. 34; J. M. Bradshaw, Ezekiel Mural, pp. 22–23). In a formula repeated throughout the rabbinical literature, the “Key of the Revival of the Dead” is mentioned as one that “the Holy one … has retained in His own hands” (H. Riesenfeld, Resurrection, p. 12).

36The scene recalls Rashi’s exegesis of the account of how the children of Israel fell back at the power of the voice of God at Sinai, after which “the angels came and helped them forward again” (A. G. Zornberg, Genesis, pp. 32-33. See Rashi, Exodus Commentary, pp. 240-241). Compare John 18:4–6, where the arresting guards fell back when Christ declared His divinity. On the symbolic significance of these and similar events, see J. M. Bradshaw, Standing in the Holy Place, pp. 82–87.

37In classic iconography, the gesture being given by God represented the spoken word. This is consistent with the mention of the heavenly voice in the caption. In medieval Christianity, the meaning later changed to that of blessing (H. P. L’Orange, Cosmic Kingship, pp. 171-183).

38Moses 3:7. See the insightful discussion regarding the creation of Adam in this context in A. LaCocque, Trial, pp. 60–64. Nibley also cites a resemblance with Abraham 1:18 (“Behold I will lead thee by my hand”), and sees a corresponding theme in the Book of Abraham when Abraham is delivered from the altar (H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, p. 16, see also p. 42):

The expressions “loose the bands of Hades” and “him who stareth at the dead” signify the nature of the deliverance and are both typically Egyptian, the latter of which Box finds quite bizarre. Facsimile 1 is a very proper illustration to the story.

In a personal communication, Jeff Lindsay noted that arising from the dust in this fashion “can refer to entering into a covenant relationship, receiving life, reigning power, authority, and resurrection” (J. D. Lindsay, August 5 2019. Cf. J. D. Lindsay, Arise, Part 1). See J. M. Bradshaw, What Did Joseph Smith Know, pp. 18–33 for a discussion of the handclasp and the embrace in the context of ritual and heavenly ascent.

39H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, pp. 215–216.

40Moses 1:10.

41See Essay #36

Moses in the Spirit World

Book of Moses Essay #34

Moses 1:1-8

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In this Essay, we will describe the first part of the heavenly ascent of Moses 1 which, like the Apocalypse of Abraham 9:8, opens on “an exceedingly high mountain.”1

Although our text of primary interest is Moses 1, we felt that the particular affinities of Apocalypse of Abraham (ApAb) to the visions of the premortal spirit world in the Joseph Smith translation of the Book of Abraham were of such importance and relevance that they should not be ignored. These affinities, among others, will be discussed in the present Essay.

Prologue

Figure 2. Resemblances for the Prologue (Moses 1:1–2; Abraham, Facsimile 2, figure 2)
Figure 3. Abraham’s Sacrifice Is Accepted of the Lord

Setting. Like the Book of Moses, the first chapter of the heavenly ascent section of ApAb mentions a high mountain.

Sacrifice. In ApAb, the high mountain is to be a place of sacrifice. The prophet wears his robe on the left shoulder, in priestly fashion, as he performs the sacrifice.2  Consistent with the settings and situations described in ApAb and in Genesis 15, a figure from Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham states that knowledge was “revealed from God to Abraham, as he offered sacrifice upon an altar, which he had built unto the Lord.”3  Though this detail is not explicitly mentioned in the Book of Moses, the implicit presumption of a similar setting is not implausible.4

The Prophet in the Spirit World

Figure 4. Resemblances for Moses in the Spirit World (Moses 1:3–6; Abraham 2:12)

Aretology. In both the Book of Moses and ApAb, the prophet is given a description of God’s majesty. Formally, such a description is termed an “aretology.” The titles “Almighty” (Book of Moses) and “mighty” (ApAb ) recall the demonstration of God’s power over the waters as the first act of Creation5  and in the destruction of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea.6  Significantly, Moses will later “be made stronger than many waters … as if thou wert God.”7

Both “Endless” (Book of Moses) and “primordial”  (ApAb)8 are related to the characterization of God as being “without beginning of days or end of years.” “Endless”9  corresponds to the Hebrew Ein Sof (“without end,” “beyond all limits”), a concept that in the medieval Kabbalah is sometimes depicted visually as a set of concentric circles with their “end embedded in their beginning, and their beginning in their end.”10  Such imagery recalls the description in Latter-day Saint scripture of God’s course as “one eternal round.”11

God to show a vision of eternity. In both texts, a vision of eternity is promised. In Alexander Kulik’s translation of ApAb, he elaborates on ApAb’s mention of “secrets,”12  describing them as “great things” that are “kept”13  (or “hidden”14). These ancient descriptions resonate with the Book of Mormon prophet Ether’s mention of “greater things, the knowledge of which is hid up.”15  In Jewish tradition, such “secrets” include both a knowledge of “the system by which the whole cosmos is put together”16  (what the Lord describes to Moses as “the workmanship of my hands”17) and also the revelation of what God is about to do18  (i.e., the things that will be shown in vision to Moses and to Abraham19).

Reason for God’s favor. In the Old Testament, the promise of seeing the face of God is frequently associated with whole-hearted searching of the petitioner.20

The prophet is commissioned. Because each of the two prophets had found God’s favor, they both received personal titles and commissions. Stephen O. Smoot has shown that the conferral of the title of God’s “son”21  on Moses might be seen as ratifying the prophet’s membership in the divine council.22  Though at first glance the words “Only Begotten” and “full of grace and truth” in Moses 1 might seem to be nothing more than obvious borrowings in language from the Gospel of John, biblical and extrabiblical texts convincingly demonstrate that these expressions are arguably at home in a text about Moses.23

In Arabic, Abraham is often referred to as al-Khalil, “the Friend,” meaning the friend of God.24 The teachings and revelations of Joseph Smith sometimes use “friend” as a technical term,25  denoting one who is on intimate terms with the Lord and, like the members of the divine council, who has firsthand knowledge of the divine will.26

Figure 5. Resemblances for Moses in the Spirit World (Moses 1:8; Facsimile 2, Abraham 3:22–23)

Vision of the spirit world. Both Moses 1 and ApAb include a vision of the premortal spirit world. Moses is shown the “world upon which he was created”—which most likely refers to the creation of humankind in the preexistent spirit realm before the physical Creation took place27 —and “all the children of men which are, and which were created.”28  Likewise, in ApAb, Abraham is shown “a great crowd of men, and women, and children” before they “came into being.”29  In an exceptional deviation of narrative sequence between the two texts, we note that Abraham’s vision of premortal spirits occurs toward the end of his vision rather than near the beginning as in Moses 1.

Figure 6a, b. Two Egyptian hypocephali, representing circular depictions of the cosmos. Left: British Museum 35875 (formerly 8445c); Right: Louvre Museum E 6208

Cosmic circle with opposing premortal forces. After passing through the celestial curtain, Abraham will see a “picture” on a “visionary screen,”30  that is “projected” on the backside of the heavenly veil. By means of this image, accompanied by God’s explanations, he will obtain “a knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.”31  Rubinkiewicz is careful to clarify that the term used for “picture” likely refers to something more like a “model” or “likeness”32  of heaven and earth than a photographic reproduction.33  He observes that “the idea that the model of the created world existed before Creation is widespread in the apocryphal literature.”34

Hinting at the geometrical shape of the model Abraham will be shown, Yaho’el tells him: “I will … shew thee … the fulness of the whole world and its circle.”35  In biblical cosmology, circles are used to “indicate the horizon where the earth comes together with the sky.”36

In light of Hugh Nibley’s extensive analysis of circular depictions of the cosmos,37 it becomes possible to conjecture a possibility for what Abraham’s peculiar (and otherwise difficult-to-explain) vision of the premortal spirits of humankind in ApAb was supposed to look like—namely, “a graphic representation of ‘the whole world [and] its circle,’38  in which the human race, God’s people and the others,39  confront each other beneath or within the circle of the starry heavens, on opposite halves of the picture”:40

[In ApAb, Abraham] sees the division of the earth’s inhabitants into opposing hosts, “half … on the right side of the portrayal and half … on the left side of the portrayal.”41  …

In light of the possibility of Egyptian influences in ApAb (as mentioned in a previous Essay42), Nibley’s recognition of resemblances between Egyptian hypocephali and the portrayal of the cosmos in AbAb merits consideration:43

Almost all hypocephali [including Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham] … are … marked by strong vertical divisions right down the middle. … This cosmic bisecting is prominent in Egyptian temples [where] “everything on the right side of the worshipper in the temple was on the south side, the side of light and life, while everything on the left side was north, darkness and death.”

Nibley also observed that in the ApAb account of Abraham’s vision he sees a “throne of fire under which are four fiery creatures, each with four faces, those of a lion, man, ox and eagle.” 44 Significantly, these figures correspond to “the canopic figures, figure 6 on [Book of Abraham] Facsimile 2.”45  Moreover, Michael Rhodes notes that the first part of the description of the picture in ApAb 12:10 (“what is in the heavens, on the earth and in the sea, in the abyss”46) “is almost an exact translation of the Egyptian words in the left middle portion of Facsimile Number 2 of the Book of Abraham (figures 9 and 10).”47

Some of the spirits are chosen. In the Book of Abraham, the Lord points out the many “noble and great ones” that were chosen before they were born.48 Likewise, in ApAb (and in similar fashion within other Jewish and Islamic accounts49), a premortal group of spirits shown “on the right side … of the portrayal”50 is “set apart … to be born of [Abraham]” and to be called “[God’s] people.”51

Although some scholars take this and other passages as evidence of a strong belief in determinism that pervades ApAb, Amy Paulsen-Reed has pointed to other passages in ApAb that demonstrate a belief in free will. She has convincingly concluded that ApAb “seems to fit quite comfortably into the category called ‘compatibilism.’”52 In the specific version of compatibilism that appears to be espoused in ApAb, “a belief in divine election, i.e., that God has a predetermined plan for the world, including his election of Abraham and the people of Israel, [is] combined with the belief that individuals have the power to choose their lot.”53

Conclusions

The resemblances between the Book of Abraham and ApAb to the initial sacrificial setting and the vision of the spirit world are impressive and illuminate the meaning of both texts. Despite the absence of detail in the corresponding description in Moses 1:8, the context of this verse as well as additional details in Moses 1 provide evidence that it is also an account of a similar premortal scene.

In subsequent Essays, it will become apparent that the major elements of the narrative structure of Moses 1 are well-represented in the text of ApAb—and, importantly, in identical sequence.

 

This article is adapted from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock. “Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham: Twin sons of different mothers?” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 179-290.

Further Reading

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 42–50.

———. Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2014, pp. 34–37.

———, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock. “Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham: Twin sons of different mothers?” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 179-290.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 20–24.

Nibley, Hugh W. “To open the last dispensation: Moses chapter 1.” In Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless: Classic Essays of Hugh W. Nibley, edited by Truman G. Madsen, 1–20. Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978, pp. 7–8.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004, pp. 193–215.

References

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Andersen, F. I. “2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 91-221. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

Ashton, John. 1991. Understanding the Fourth Gospel. Second ed. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Barguet, Paul. Le Livre des Morts des Anciens Égyptiens. Littératures anciennes du Proche-Orient: Textes Égyptiens, ed. François Daumas. Paris, France: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1967.

Blumenthal, David, ed. The Merkabah Tradition and the Zoharic Tradition. Understanding Jewish Mysticism: A Source Reader 1. Jersey City, NJ: Ktav Publishing House, 1979.

Bowen, Matthew L. E-mail message to Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, August 15, 2019.

Box, G. H. 1918. The Apocalypse of Abraham. Translations of Early Documents, Series 1: Palestinian Jewish Texts (Pre-Rabbinic). London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1919. https://www.marquette.edu/maqom/box.pdf. (accessed July 10, 2020).

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net.

———. Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net.

Charlesworth, James H. “Odes of Solomon.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 2, 725-71. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

Clark, E. Douglas. “A prologue to Genesis: Moses 1 in light of Jewish traditions.” BYU Studies 45, no. 1 (2006): 129-42.

Faulkner, R. O., and Carol A. R. Andrews, eds. 1972. The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead Revised ed. Translated by R. O. Faulkner. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Josephus, Flavius. 37-ca. 97. “The Antiquities of the Jews.” In The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish Historian. Translated from the Original Greek, according to Havercamp’s Accurate Edition. Translated by William Whiston, 23-426. London, England: W. Bowyer, 1737. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1980.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. 2 vols. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003.

Kugel, James L. The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the Bible. New York City, NY: The Free Press, 2003.

Kulik, Alexander. Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha: Toward the Original of the Apocalypse of Abraham. Text-Critical Studies 3, ed. James R. Adair, Jr. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004.

———. “Apocalypse of Abraham.” In Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, edited by Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel and Lawrence H. Schiffman. 3 vols. Vol. 2, 1453-81. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 2013.

Kuyper, Lester J. “Grace and truth: An Old Testament description of God, and its use in the Johannine Gospel.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 18, no. 1 (1964): 1-16. https://repository.westernsem.edu/pkp/index.php/rr/article/view/283/295. (accessed August 7, 2019).

Larsen, David J. “Ascending into the hill of the Lord: What the Psalms can tell us about the rituals of the First Temple.” In Ancient Temple Worship: Proceedings of the Expound Symposium, 14 May 2011, edited by Matthew B. Brown, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Stephen D. Ricks and John S. Thompson. Temple on Mount Zion 1, 171-88. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014.

———. “Psalm 24 and the two YHWHs at the gate of the temple.” In The Temple: Ancient and Restored. Proceedings of the 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Symposium, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and Donald W. Parry. Temple on Mount Zion 3, 201-23. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016.

Ludlow, Jared W. “Abraham’s visions of the heavens.” In Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, edited by John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid. Studies in the Book of Abraham 3, 57-73. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2005. http://farms.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=40&chapid=164. (accessed October 10).

Marmorstein, A. 1920-1937. The Doctrine of Merits in Old Rabbinical Literature and The Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God (1. The Names and Attributes of God, 2. Essays in Anthropomorphism) (Three Volumes in One). New York City, NY: KTAV Publishing House, 1968.

Matt, Daniel C., ed. The Zohar, Pritzker Edition. Vol. 1. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.

Monogenēs.  In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monogenēs. (accessed August 8, 2019).

Neusner, Jacob, ed. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis, A New American Translation. 3 vols. Vol. 2: Parashiyyot Thirty-Four through Sixty-Seven on Genesis 8:15-28:9. Brown Judaic Studies 105, ed. Jacob Neusner. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985.

Nibley, Hugh W., and Michael D. Rhodes. One Eternal Round. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 19. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2010.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1981. Abraham in Egypt. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 14. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2000.

Novickij (Novitskii, Novitsky), P. P., ed. Откровение Авраама (Otkrovenīe Avraama [Apocalypse of Abraham]) (Facsimile edition of Silʹvestrovskiĭ sbornik [Codex Sylvester]). Reproduced from RGADA (Russian State Archive of Early Acts, formerly TsGADA SSSR = Central State Archive of Early Acts), folder 381, Printer’s Library, no. 53, folios 164v-186. Общество любителей древней письменности (Obščestvo Li︠u︡biteleĭ Drevneĭ Pis’mennosti [Society of Lovers of Ancient Literature]), Izdaniia (Editions) series, (= OLDP edition, 99:2). St. Petersburg, Russia: Tipo-Lit. A. F. Markova, 1891. Reprint, Leningrad, Russia, 1967. http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/spart1.pdf, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924028567927&view=1up&seq=1. (accessed December 3, 2019).

Orlov, Andrei A. Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2011.

———. “‘The likeness of heaven’: The kavod of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham.” In With Letters of Light: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, Magic, and Mysticism, edited by Daphna V. Arbel and Andrei A. Orlov. Ekstasis: Religious Experience from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, ed. John R. Levison, 232-53. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 2011.

———. The Atoning Dyad: The Two Goats of Yom Kippur in the Apocalypse of Abraham. Studia Judaeoslavica 8. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2016.

———. Divine Scapegoats: Demonic Mimesis in Early Jewish Mysticism. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2016.

Paulsen-Reed, Amy Elizabeth. The Origins of the Apocalypse of Abraham (Dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Theology in the subject of the Hebrew Bible). Harvard Divinity School. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2016. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:27194248. (accessed August 4, 2019).

Philo. b. 20 BCE. “A treatise on the sacrifices of Abel and Cain.” In The Works of Philo Judaeus, edited by Charles Duke Yonge. 4 vols. Vol. 1. Translated by Charles Duke Yonge, 207-41. London, England: George Bell and Sons, 1890. https://archive.org/stream/worksofphilojuda01yonguoft#page/206/mode/2up. (accessed August 8, 2019).

———. b. 20 BCE. “On the Migration of Abraham (De migratione Abrahamo).” In The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, edited by C. D. Yonge. New Updated ed. Translated by C. D. Yonge, 253-75. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.

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———. 1997. The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later.  In FARMS Prelijminary Report. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0LuDGvEmEgJM0g1dkxwRTlqME0/edit. (accessed June 20, 2020).

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———. L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave : Introduction, texte critique, traduction et commentaire. Towarzystwo Naukowe Katolikiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego, Zrodlai i monografie 129. Lublin, Poland: Société des Lettres et des Sciences de l’Université Catholique de Lublin, 1987.

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Taylor, John H., ed. Journey Through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (Publisehd to accompany the exhibition at the British Muesum from 4 November 2020 to 6 March 2011). London, England: The British Museum Press, 2010.

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Notes on Figures

Figure 1. iStock.com, Image ID: 657020424. Licensed by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

Figures 2, 5. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

Figure 3. Photographs of the originals of the illustrations are from Otkrovenie Avraama (Apocalypse of Abraham or ApAb), which comprises pages 328–375 of the Codex Sylvester. The Codex Sylvester, “the oldest and the only independent manuscript containing the full text of ApAb” (A. Kulik, Retroverting, p. 3), is known to scholars as manuscript “S.” It is the only illustrated manuscript of ApAb. Photographs of the illustrations from the original manuscript are published in this article for the first time with the kind permission of the Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv drevnikh aktov (RGADA—Russian State Archive of Early Acts, formerly TsGADA SSSR = Central State Archive of Early Acts) in Moscow. We express our sincere gratitude to Evgeniy Rychalovskiy, Head of the Publication Department and Vladislav Rzheutsky of the German Historical Institute in Moscow, for their assistance on 4 and 6 December 2019. Within the RGADA collection, the Codex Sylvester is catalogued as folder 381, Printer’s Library, no. 53, folios 164v–186. The six illustrations can be found in these folios: 182v, 174, 172v, 170v, 168b v, and 168a.

Photographs of the illustrations from a rare printed copy of the first facsimile edition (1891) were taken on 26 April 2009 and are © Stephen T. Whitlock and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. We express our special thanks to Carole Menzies and Jennifer Griffiths who facilitated our access to the facsimiles for filming purposes in the Taylor Bodleian Slavonic and Modern Greek Library, Oxford University, Oxford, England. The facsimile edition was originally published as N. Novickij (Novitskii, P. P., Otkrovenie Avraama and later as a reprint. Whitlock’s Image IDs are as follows: ApAb-OX10, ApAb-OX19, ApAb-OX20, ApAb-OX26, ApAb-OX30, ApAb-OX33, ApAb-OX50. For this article, the photos have been enhanced digitally for readability and size consistency, and a colored mask has been added to the backgrounds of all photos except ApAb-OX10.

Figure 4. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. Moses 1:4: “workmanship of my hands” (compare Psalm 19:1).

Figure 6. Photographs by Stephen T. Whitlock of items on display. a: Hypocephalus of Hor (2005); b. Hypocephalus of Ti (21 April 2007) Copyright Stephen T. Whitlock. According to Hugh Nibley (H. W. Nibley, et al., One Eternal Round, pp. 194–195): “the Joseph Smith hypocephalus [Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2] is almost identical with the Ws.t-wr.t hypocephalus in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna [Wien 253 a/2, published in H. W. Nibley, et al., One Eternal Round, Appendix 4, p. 636] and the one belonging to Ḥr [Horus] in the British Museum” (included herein as Figure 6). In addition to finding the latter hypocephalus interesting because of its resemblance to Facsimile 2, Michael Rhodes wonders whether the owner of the hypocephalus was “the same as the owner of the Book of Breathings papyrus in the Church collection” (M. D. Rhodes, Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later, p. 2), i.e., the source of Facsimiles 1 and 3 of the Book of Abraham (see M. D. Rhodes, Hor). In his translation of the Hor Book of Breathings, Rhodes cites Quaegebeur, who identifies Hor as the son of Usirwer (M. D. Rhodes, Hor, p. 3):

the founding father of a family of priests of Min-Amon in Thebes during the Ptolemaic period, thus dating to approximately the first half of the second century BCE. This identification, if accurate, would make this Book of Breathings the oldest that can be dated. Marc Coenen has identified parts of an abbreviated Book of the Dead in the Musée du Louvre that belongs to this same Hor.

None of the 158 currently catalogued and published hypocephali are exactly alike—they have each been custom made for their individual owner (The Purpose and Function of the Egyptian Hypocephalus – Book of Abraham Insight #30, Purpose and Function).

Spell 162, which explains the function of the hypocephalus (literally “under the head”), originated in Thebes at the end of the 25th Dynasty and came into widespread use in the 26th Dynasty as part of the Saite recension of the Book of the Dead (664–525 BCE. See Irmtraut Munro, “The Evolution of the Book of the Dead,” in J. H. Taylor, Journey Through the Afterlife, pp. 58–59). For more on the purpose of the hypocephalus in Egyptian tradition, see The Purpose and Function of the Egyptian Hypocephalus – Book of Abraham Insight #30, Purpose and Function; J. H. Taylor, Journey Through the Afterlife, p. 130. For translations of Spell 162, see, e.g., P. Barguet, Le Livre des Morts, pp. 228–229; R. O. Faulkner, et al., Book of the Dead, pp. 156, 158.

Footnotes

 

1Moses 1:1.

2Translation of caption: “And the angel said to me, all these many (+2 words??) but the bird do not divide and give to men which I will show standing by you since these are the altar on the mountain to bring a sacrifice to the eternal. And I gave to the angels which came (that?) which had been divided. And an unclean bird flew down to me. And spoke to me, the unclean bird, and said, Why, Abraham, are you on the holy heights? In them neither eat nor drink, and no food of men but all are scorched by fire. Leave the man who is with you. Run away. As they will destroy you. And it was [when?] I saw the bird speaking, and said to the angel, what is this, oh lord? And he said this is from Azazel and the angel said: Go away. You cannot deceive this man.” Cf. A. Kulik, Retroverting, 12:8-9, 13:1, pp. 19, 20.

The sacrificial animals required are consistent with those in Genesis 15, whose symbolism was a source of rabbinic speculation (R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, pp. 123, 125 n. 5). The mention of a “pure sacrifice” recalls the “pure offering” mentioned in Malachi 1:11 (ibid., p. 125 n. 5).

Note that Satan appears as a bird, which is apparently how Yaho’el appeared. Thus it seems that Satan is here imitating the form of an angel of God Himself (A. A. Orlov, Divine Scapegoats; A. A. Orlov, Atoning Dyad; A. A. Orlov, Likeness; A. A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors, pp. 11-26). Kulik renders the text corresponding to the second part of the caption as: “And an impure bird flew down on the carcasses, and I drove it away. And the impure bird spoke to me and said, ‘What are you doing, Abraham, on the holy heights, where no one eats or drinks, nor is there upon them food of men. But these will all be consumed by fire and they will burn you up. Leave the man who is with you and flee! Since if you ascend to the height, they will destroy you.’ And it came to pass when I saw the bird speaking I said to the angel, ‘What is this, my lord?’ And he said, ‘This is iniquity, this is Azazel!’ And he said to him, ‘Reproach on you, Azazel! … Depart from this man! You cannot deceive him” (A. Kulik, Retroverting, 13:3-7, 12-13, p. 20).

3Abraham, Facsimile 2, figure 2.

4See endnote regarding “Shelem” above. A context of calling upon God is also implied in both accounts, as in the similar experiences of Lehi, Joseph Smith, and Abraham (i.e., in the Book of Abraham).

5Moses 2:1–2.

6A. Marmorstein, Doctrine, Names and Attributes, p. 64 #5. In addition, the authority of God’s law, given through Moses, rested on the argument that it came “from the mouth of the all-powerful, Almighty” (ibid., Names and Attributes, p. 82 #32).

7Moses 1:25. See additional discussion of this verse below.

8This title, which literally means, “He who was before the world,” appears 23 times in ApAb. For more on this term and its correspondences in Hebrew and Greek, see R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 123 n. 3.

9The endlessness of God, His works, and His words is stressed throughout Moses 1: “without end,” “numberless,” “without number,” “innumerable,” “cannot be numbered,” “no end” (Moses 1:4, 28, 33, 35, 37, 38).

10D. C. Matt, Zohar 1, p. xlvii, citing Sefer Yetsirah (D. Blumenthal, Merkabah, 1:7, p. 17).

11E.g., 1 Nephi 10:19. The imagery associated with the inner “rung of being” in the Kabbalah is the crown: keter—but Daniel Matt urges us to “also recall that the more primary meaning of the word keter is ‘circle’; it is from this that the notion of crown is derived” (D. C. Matt, Zohar 1, p. xlvii).

12See his discussion in A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1462 n. 9:6.

13Ibid., 9:6, p. 1462. See e.g., J. H. Charlesworth, Odes , 8:10, p. 742: “Keep my mystery, you who are kept by it.”

14R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 9:6, p. 125: “choses cachées” = hidden things.

15Ether 4:13. Cf. Jeremiah 33:3: “I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”

16D. Blumenthal, Merkabah, p. 59 n. 1. Cf. Hekhalot Rabbati 16:1: “the secrets and mysteries which have been suppressed, [the] wonders and weaving of the tractate upon which the betterment of the world, the setting (of the world) on its path, and the beautification of heaven, and earth depend, for all the ends of the earth and the universe and the ends of the upper heavens are bound, sewn, and connected, dependent upon it [i.e., the secret knowledge]” (ibid., Hekhalot Rabbati, 16:1, p. 59). For an extensive discussion of similar lists of “revealed things” that are shown to the prophets in the apocalyptic visions, see M. E. Stone, Lists of Revealed Things.

17Moses 1:4.

18Cf. J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 2, 50:9:1B, p. 218. Cf. Deuteronomy 29:28; Daniel 2:8–29.

19In ApAb, God announces that he will show the “worlds created,” the covenants to be renewed,” and “what will happen” to humankind: “And there [on the high mountain] I will show thee the worlds created by my word and the oaths [= covenants] that I have fulfilled and [those that will be] renewed. And I will tell you what will happen to those who do evil and those who (do) good among the race of men” (R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 9:9–10, pp. 125, 127). In Moses 1, God will show the “earth, and the inhabitants thereof [presumably past, present, and future—“not a soul which he beheld not” (v. 28)], and also the heavens” (v. 35).

In contrast to the translation of Rubinkiewicz that, following a conjectural emendation in one of the source manuscripts in an appropriate parallel to Genesis 15:18, mentions “covenants,” Kulik gives a less plausible translation of a term that literally means “worlds” as “ages” (A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, 9:5 and 9, p. 1462. Cf. 1983 translation by Rubinkiewicz [R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 9:5 and 9, p. 693]). See ibid., n. 9c, p. 693 and R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 125 n. 5 for additional details.

Kulik’s interpretation seems to have been made in support of the assumption that the history of ApAb ended before the last destruction of the temple in 70 CE (A. Kulik, Retroverting, 1.3.6, pp. 46-47; A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1462 n. 9:9). However most scholars now date the text to the decades following 70 CE (see, e.g., A. E. Paulsen-Reed, Origins, p. 6).

J. W. Ludlow, Visions, p. 62 n. 19, following an earlier translation in R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 9:9, p. 693 (“things … affirmed, created, and renewed”), asks: “Could this be referring to stages of God’s creative processes? Affirmed—spiritual creation, created—physical creation, renewed—restoration to pre-fall conditions?”

20E.g., Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 15:12, 31:21; Ecclesiastes 1:13; Jeremiah 29:13. See D. J. Larsen, Ascending. Cf. D. J. Larsen, Psalm 24. See also the insightful discussion by J. L. Kugel, God of Old, pp. 37–70 of the increased emphasis of searching for God as He is increasingly portrayed as less personal and more remote as biblical history goes on.

21Moses 1:6.

22S. O. Smoot, I Am a Son of God, pp. 134–137.

23In the writings of the Jewish scholar Philo Judaeus, the terms “only begotten” and “firstborn” (often treated as synonyms) are closely identified with Moses himself. The meanings of “firstborn” and “begetting” are strongly interrelated in the writings of Philo and his contemporaries (see an excellent discussion in C. S. Keener, John, 1:412–416). Likewise, the interpretation of the uniqueness of monogenēs in New Testament usage partly depends on understanding of Hellenistic Jewish ideas about inheritance. For example, Philo wrote:

In the second place, after he [Abraham] had become the father of this his only legitimate [agapetos kai monos = loved-and-only] son, he, from the moment of his birth, cherished towards him all the genuine feelings of affection, which exceeds all modest love, and all the ties of friendship which have ever been celebrated in the world. (Philo, Abraham, 35 (194), p. 427)

And he [Jacob] learnt all these things from Abraham his grandfather, who was the author of his own education, who gave to the all-wise Isaac all that he had, leaving none of his substance to bastards, or to the spurious reasonings of concubines, but he gives them small gifts, as being inconsiderable persons. For the possessions of which he is possessed, namely, the perfect virtues, belong only to the perfect and legitimate son (Philo, Treatise on the Sacrifices, 10 (43), p. 99)

Yonge’s rendering of “loved-and-only son” (agapetos kai monos uios) as “only legitimate son” (Monogenēs, Monogenēs):

is not unreasonable given Philo’s parallel comments in On Sacrifice 10:43 [above]. It also parallels Josephus’ use (see F. Josephus, Antiquities, 20:2:1 (20), p. 415) for a legitimate son of the main royal wife.

Likewise, in the later Jewish Septuagint revisions:

Genesis 22:2 of Aquila “take your son Isaac, your only-begotten (monogenēs) son whom you love”

Genesis 22:12 of Symmachus “now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only-begotten (monogenēs) son, from me.”

In contrast in Proverbs 4:3 Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion all have of a mother’s only-begotten son where legitimacy is not an issue.

With respect to “full of grace and truth,” we note that the phrase in Greek (plērēs charitos kai alētheias) is a rendering of the Hebrew in Exodus 34:6 of God’s declaration to Moses that He is “abundant in steadfast love and faithfulness (rab-ḥesed weʾĕmet)” (L. J. Kuyper, Grace and Truth, p. 1; C. S. C. S. Keener, John, 1:416; see also J. Ashton, Understanding, pp. 299–300). Significantly, in both Exodus 34 and Moses 1, God makes this declaration immediately after appearing to Moses in glory. In John 1, the sequence of events, as applied to Jesus, is the same: “We beheld his glory … full of grace and truth.”

Thus, the ostensibly New Testament terms relating to Jesus are completely at home in Joseph Smith’s story of Moses’ heavenly ascent. Thanks to Samuel Zinner and David Seely for their helpful suggestions on this topic.

24“This title comes from Isaiah 41:8, where the Lord designates Abraham “my friend” (ʾōhăbî) [cf. 2 Chronicles 20:7]. James, alluding to this passage, calls Abraham “the friend of God” (philos theou, James 2:23)” (M. L. Bowen, August 15 2019).

25For more on this topic, see J. M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Oath, pp. 73–79.

26John 15:15, emphasis added.

27Though our reading of Moses 1:8 as a vision of premortal spirits makes sense in terms of its sequence in the overall story of the plan of salvation, this interpretation can be further argued by considering other verses in the same chapter.

First, we note that the statement in Moses 1:8 about “the world upon which he was created” seems to be made in deliberate contradistinction to the reference to “the earth upon which thou standest” in Moses 1:40—the qualifications used in each case would be unnecessary if the “world” and the “earth” were one and the same place.

Moreover, if the world Moses is shown in v. 8 were the same as the earth he beholds in vv. 27–28, why the need for two separate visions? These puzzles are resolved if we take “world” in the Book of Moses as most often referring to the realm of the human family in premortal life (15 consistent occurrences; two possible exceptions in Moses 1:33, 35; two exceptions in 6:59; and one in 7:4). This also sets a context where the phrase “thou art in the world” in Moses 1:7 can be understood, not as an obvious truism, but as a comprehensible justification for why it was expedient to show Moses the world of spirits at that particular time.

Finally, assuming we also accept this reading as applying later in the Book of Moses, Moses 6:51 can function as an instance of deliberate parallelism (“I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh”) rather than simply as a pair of loosely related assertions.

28Cf. Moses 6:36.

29A. Kulik, Retroverting, 21:7, 22:2, p. 26.

30A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1470 n. 21:2.

31D&C 93:24. Cf. Jacob 4:13.

32See discussion of the translation of this and related terms in A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1470 n. 21:2.

33R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 175 n. 1. Note that in references to Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, figures 3, 6, and 7, as well as to Facsimile 1 (Abraham 1:12), Joseph Smith characterizes the illustrations as “representations.”

34Ibid., p. 175 n. 1.

35Following the literal translation of G. H. Box, Apocalypse, 12:8, p. 51. R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 12:10, p. 695 gives the phrase as “I will … show you … the fullness of the universe. And you will see its circles in all.” Cf. Ibid., 21:5, p. 699; A. Kulik, Retroverting, 21:5, p. 26: “I saw there the rivers … and their circles.”

In his 1983 translation and commentary, Rubinkiewicz finds the mention of circles in the Slavonic manuscript to be “obscure,” a signal that the text is “possibly corrupt” (R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 695 n. 12c). Similarly puzzled by the text, Kulik, in his 2013 translation and commentary, responds to the seeming difficulty of rendering the text literally by translating ApAb’s explicit reference to circles with an overly loose reading: “round about it you will see everything” (A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, 12:10, p. 1465).

Surprisingly, neither the commentaries of Rubinkiewicz nor Kulik seemed to connect this imagery to other Jewish visionary descriptions of the circles of the heavens surrounding the waters of the earth—notably including the “celestial circles” (F. I. Andersen, 2 Enoch, 48:1 and 3, p. 174. Cf. 27:3–28:1, p. 146) described in the creation vision of 2 Enoch, another Slavonic ascension text. However, in the 1987 critical text edition of ApAb prepared by Rubinkiewicz, he reverses his previous conclusion that the reference to “circles” was a corruption of the text (see R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 141 n. 10).

36R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 141 n. 10. He cites these biblical references as examples: Job 22:14; 26:10; Isaiah 40:22; Proverbs 8:27–28. He also cites references to celestial spheres in 2 Baruch 19:3 and 48:9. Compare the Egyptian conception shown in H. W. Nibley et al., One Eternal Round, p. 42 Figure 4. See also related discussions in Essay #24.

37Hugh Nibley notes that on the “great round” (H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, p. 45) of the shield of Achilles is depicted “a crowded representation of the cosmic drama.” Similarly, Book of Abraham Facsimile #2 is divided “into two antithetical halves, the one the reverse or mirror image of the other” (ibid., p. 50).

As one of his arguments for this seemingly far-fetched comparison of a symbol from pagan antiquity and the apocalyptic visions of Moses and Abraham, Nibley cites both modern scholarship and the “most revered of ancient Christian apologists, Justin Martyr … who sees in the Shield of Achilles a most obvious borrowing from the book of Genesis, explaining the coincidence that Homer became acquainted with Moses’ cosmic teachings while he was visiting Egypt” (ibid., p. 46). In a book-length study, Nibley discusses related depictions and stories of heavenly ascent from antiquity in great detail (See H. W. Nibley et al., One Eternal Round).

38G. H. Box, Apocalypse, 12:8, p. 51.

39See A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, 22:5, p. 1471.

40H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, p. 45.

41R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 21:7, pp. 699–700.

42See Essay #33.

43H. W. Nibley et al., One Eternal Round, pp. 596, 597. See also pp. 286–288. For other possible allusions to hypocephalus-like imagery in ApAb, see Essay #40. For more on allusions to circular maps of the cosmos in the ancient Enoch literature, see Essay #24.

44See R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 18:3–5, p. 698.

45H. W. Nibley et al., One Eternal Round, p. 354. Going further, he continues:

Abraham is now instructed to consider the expanse of the universe and the hierarchical powers and orders of the seven firmaments and sees the “hosts of stars, and the orders they were commanded to carry out, and the elements of earth obeying them” (see R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 19:9, p. 699. Cf. Abraham 3:10–12, 18). … Powers? Obey? Governed? We begin to catch echoes of the Joseph Smith explanation to figures 1–3, 5.

 

46R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 12:10, p. 141.

47M. D. Rhodes, Book of Abraham: Divinely Inspired, p. 123, as cited in J. W. Ludlow, Visions, p. 63. Rhodes further observes that ApAb 18:5 “describes the four animal-headed figures labeled number 6 in Facsimile Number 2.”

48Abraham 3:22–23. The idea of making the chosen ones rulers does not appear in ApAb. However, the idea of divine selection of “rulers” from among a larger congregation is echoed in the story of the Exodus (e.g., Exodus 18:21, 25; Deuteronomy 1:13).

49For example, Clark cites a rabbinic source as saying that “‘God did shew unto Adam every Generation,’ meaning ‘all the Souls, which were to come into the World, … so that Adam could perfectly distinguish them,’ later ‘thus it happened on Mount Sinai’ with Moses, so that ‘the Souls, which were not then born into the world, were present on Mount Sinai, in the same form in which they were to appear in the World” (E. D. Clark, Prologue, p. 138. Cf. Qur’ān 7:172; 30:30; 33:7; 53:56; M. i. A. A. al-Kisa’i, Tales, pp. 63-64; G. Weil, Legends, pp. 39-40; B. M. Wheeler, Prophets, pp. 32–33). A related Jewish tradition recounts that “the unborn souls of future generations … were present at Sinai to receive the Torah” (H. Schwartz, Tree, p. 164). For a more general discussion of this subject, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Excursus 48: The Nature and Scope of Premortal Covenants, pp. 649–650.

50R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 21:7, pp. 699–700.

51A. Kulik, Retroverting, 21:7, 22:5, pp. 26-27. Cf. A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1471 n. 22:4. R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 22:5, p. 177 n. 5 observes that the term “my people” is used in the Bible as a title for Israel, the people of God. Cf. Exodus 3:7; 5:1; 7:16; Isaiah 1:3, 3:12, etc.

52A. E. Paulsen-Reed, Origins, p. 93.

53Ibid., p. 98. For more details, see the thorough discussion of the issue in ibid., pp. 88–100. See also the discussion in Essay #41.

Moses 1 as a Missing Prologue to Genesis

Book of Moses Essay #33

Moses 1

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In this Essay, we will describe how the heavenly ascent of Moses 1 provides a compelling prologue to the covenant-related themes of ritual ascent that can be found in the remaining chapters of the Book of Moses. Intriguingly, Moses 1 also provides a fitting introduction to the Book of Genesis. By calling this prologue “missing,” however, we are not claiming that it was ever an actual part of any early equivalent to Genesis.1

After describing how Moses 1 functions as a prologue to Genesis, we will outline resemblances between Moses 1 and a corresponding account from the Apocalypse of Abraham (ApAb), one of the earliest and most important Judaeo-Christian accounts of heavenly ascent. A comparison of the texts demonstrates a sustained sequence of detailed affinities in narrative structure that seem to go beyond what Joseph Smith could have created out of whole cloth from his environment and his imagination.2

The Role of Revelation in Temple Architecture and Ordinances

John M. Lundquist has described the ancient expectation that temple plans are to be received by revelation:3

Central to temple covenant systems all over the ancient Near East is the idea that the temple plan is revealed to the king or the prophet by deity. … Perhaps the best example of this aspect of temple building is the Sinai episode itself, in which, according to D. N. Freedman, “this heavenly temple or sanctuary with its throne room or Holy of Holies where the deity was seated on his cherubim throne constituted the tabnît or structure seen by Moses during his sojourn on the same mountain.”

Likewise, various accounts relate the process of revelation in the designs for modern temples.4  And what is true for temple architecture is true for temple ordinances. Just as Moses received laws and instructions for temple worship by revelation, so also both initial instructions5  and ongoing modifications6  of temple ordinances and covenants in our day have come by revelation.

The Temple Vision of Creation, Fall, and Atonement Given to Moses

Given the nature of the textual linkages between Moses 1 and what follows in Moses 2–8, it seems reasonable to infer that the story of the Creation, Fall, and Atonement that provides the narrative backbone for the modern temple endowment was revealed to Moses immediately following his heavenly ascent.

Jewish tradition speaks of “several ascensions of Moses”: a first “at the beginning of his career,” a second “at the revelation of the Torah,” and a third “shortly before his death.”7  The heavenly ascent recounted in Moses 1 corresponds to the first reported ascension, having taken place sometime after Jehovah called Moses out of the burning bush8  but before Moses had returned to Egypt to deliver the children of Israel.9

Consistent with the basic two-part narrative pattern described in a previous Essay,10  Moses’ experience in chapter 1 takes him from a vision of his first home in the spirit world, downward to the telestial world, and, finally, upward in a step-by-step return to God. Unlike the figurative journeys that are represented in earthly temples, Moses 1 ends in an actual encounter with the Lord.

Of importance to this present article is the fact that the heavenly ascent described in the first chapter of the Book of Moses is presented as a prologue that culminates in a vision of the Creation and the Fall—the first part of the primary narrative backbone of the modern temple endowment for Latter-day Saints.11  Following Moses’ vision of the Creation and the Fall, chapters 5–8 of the Book of Moses, like other scripture-based temple texts, describe the elements of the Atonement that allow a return to the presence of God.

Remarkably, the stories in chapters 2–8 follow a pattern exemplifying both faithfulness and unfaithfulness to a specific sequence of covenants that is familiar to Latter-day Saints who have received the modern temple endowment. Specifically, the story illustrates how Enoch and his people lived the law of consecration, providing a vivid demonstration of the final steps on the path that leads the faithful back to God and upward to exaltation.12  Notably, the grand vision of Enoch in Moses 6–7 contains some of the same elements as the heavenly ascent of Moses 1, with some variation in sequence and emphasis.13

Consistent with Moses 1, two Jewish texts from the Second Temple period also recount how Moses received the stories of the Creation and the Fall in vision. As to the first text, Douglas Clark has ably compared Moses 1 to the vision of Creation received by Moses in the book of Jubilees.14  Similarly, Fourth Ezra preserves a tradition that the Lord led Moses “up on Mount Sinai, where I kept him with me many days; and I told him many wondrous things, and showed him the secrets of the times and declared to him the end of times. Then I commanded him saying, ‘These words you shall publish openly, and these you shall keep secret.’”15

Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham (ApAb)

Building on the earlier work of Hugh Nibley,16  Jared Ludlow,17  Douglas Clark,18  and Bradshaw and Larsen19  previously identified ApAb as a promising candidate for detailed comparison with Moses 1.20  With the added collaboration of Steve Whitlock, this initial study has been significantly extended and updated.21   We will draw on selected elements from that study in future Essays.22

The Apocalypse of Abraham is thought to be Jewish in origin, though it has been preserved by Christian hands.23  Contrary to early assessments that saw ApAb as a work that would have appealed mainly to fringe groups with mystical interests, recent scholarship embraces the conclusion that, when it was first composed, the teachings of ApAb reflected views held in large measure by mainstream Judaism.24

Though probably written in the first century CE, the work was not “introduced to Western readers” until 1897, through the German translation of Bonwetsch,25  and thus could not have been known to Joseph Smith. However, given the relevance of some portions of ApAb to Latter-day Saint teachings and scripture, members of the Church were enthusiastic to have it read as widely as possible. It is noteworthy that the first translation of an English edition of ApAb, based on Bonwetsch’s German translation, was made by Latter-day Saint Richard T. Haag and published in the Church’s Improvement Era magazine in 1898.26

The comparison that we will be making to Moses 1 focuses on the middle chapters of ApAb (9–23) that describe Abraham’s heavenly ascent. An earlier section of ApAb relates the dispute with his idol-worshipping father (chapters 1–8) and a later portion of the text contains a detailed theological discussion between Abraham and the Lord (chapters 24–31).

As both “the earliest mystical writing of Judaeo-Christian civilization”27  and as a foundational text for Islamic scripture,28  ApAb plays a prominent—and in some respects unique—role in its genre. Of importance to Latter-day Saints, ApAb is “the only Jewish text to discuss foreordination, Satan’s rebellion, and premortal existence.”29  Also of significance is another resemblance between ApAb and Moses 1: following the heavenly ascent of Abraham, ApAb, like Moses 1, recounts a vision of the Creation and the Fall.

General Comparison of the Narrative Structure of ApAb to Moses 1

A common explanation for Joseph Smith’s account of Moses’ heavenly ascent is that it was inspired by the story of Jesus’ encounter with Satan in Matthew 4. However, analysis of a preliminary study by Colby Townsend30  has demonstrated that Matthew’s account is a relatively unfruitful source of comparison. Twelve resemblances in vocabulary were found in the verbal battles with Satan described in Moses 1 and Matthew 4. However, closer examination revealed that eleven of these resemblances come from only three verses in Matthew. And each one is based on an occurrence of one of two key terms: ‘worship’ and “depart.” Moreover, every resemblance identified, except the first, score on the weaker end of the spectrum of the classification scale used—corresponding to a 1 or 2 out of a possible strength of 5. In short, although Moses 1 and Matthew 4 share some general elements of one particular type scene in common and out of which they both may have grown,31  the specific resemblances are weak and limited to a small fraction of the Moses 1 narrative.

Figure 2. Resemblances with ApAb chapters 9–23 superimposed on the narrative of Moses 1

By way of contrast, in the overview diagram above, thematic resemblances of the heavenly ascent chapters of ApAb to the narrative themes of Moses 1 have been roughly classified according to the section of the Moses 1 account in which they appear.32  The frequency of resemblances of ApAb to Moses 1 in a given section is represented by a number.

The slash and second number that appear in the first two sections refer to a few of the significant resemblances of ApAb to the Book of Abraham in the early part of the account. Although our text of primary interest is Moses 1, we felt that these particular affinities of ApAb to another of Joseph Smith’s translations were of such importance and relevance that they should not be ignored.

By the term “thematic resemblances” we mean instances where reasonably similar topics of discussion occur in both texts, even when perspectives on that topic may differ. The criterion of thematic similarity, rather than identical vocabulary, is appropriate because we are comparing two English translations.

The summary of resemblances shown above paints an interesting picture. It is evident that the resemblances are not confined to limited sections of Moses 1, as is the case of Matthew 4, but rather are spread throughout the account.33  The resemblances themselves are highly varied and tend to be unique within a given section of the narrative.

Importantly, not only the occurrence but also the sequence of common elements of the two texts is similar, satisfying a stronger comparative criterion wherein resemblances form part of “a highly intricate pattern rather than [the simple matching of] an isolated ‘motif.’”34  There is only one important exception to this consonance in narrative order: Moses’ vision of premortal spirits occurs near the beginning of his vision whereas Abraham receives a similar view near the end of his vision. This anomaly is discussed in more detail in another Essay.35

Value of the Accompanying Illustrations

Over and beyond the value of the account itself, the beautiful accompanying illustrations in the Codex Sylvester manuscript of ApAb add to our understanding. The illustrations shed light on how medieval Christians in the East understood the text. In at least one case, it is clear that these Christians interpreted these stories differently than the first- or second-century redactor.

Figure 3. The House of Terah Destroyed by Fire. Original at left, facsimile at right

In addition to their appearance in the 14th century manuscript, the illustrations are included in a facsimile edition first published in 1891. Though a reproduction of one of the facsimile images was used previously in an article by Hugh Nibley,36  so far as we have been able to learn, the full set of six illustrations from the facsimile edition had not been in print for more than a century when Whitlock and Bradshaw first photographed them.37  Moreover, the photographs of the corresponding pages in the original manuscript are published for the first time in the 2020 article upon which this and several subsequent Essays will draw. While the facsimile versions reveal some things that might otherwise be obscure, the photographs of the original manuscript are better witnesses of the care and artistry with which the miniatures were executed, particularly with respect to facial features and other minute details.

Figure 4. Abraham with Sacrificial Animals

As would be expected in an account of heavenly ascent, the illustrations depict ordinances (such as sacrifice), along with various symbols associated with the temple and its priesthood.38  Above, Abraham appears with a group of sacrificial animals. 39 The figure at right is Yaho’el, an angel bearing the name of Deity who will accompany Abraham in his heavenly journey. His body, face, and hair are also meant to signal the reader that his presence is akin to that of God Himself. The turban, blue robe, and golden staff recall a royal high-priestly figure.40

Although Yaho’el is depicted in the illustration above in human form, the text of ApAb describes him as a composite being: both man and bird.41  While his anthropomorphic (human-like) aspects feature high-priestly imagery, his pteromorphic (bird-like) aspects are those of a griffin42 —a mythical creature that combines the form and powers of a hawk43  and a lion. Other angelic beings in ApAb are described as birds, including the Satan-like Azazel (specifically referred to as an “impure bird.”44 ).45

Despite scattered references to “griffin-like” angels who provide transport to heaven for visionaries that appear in Jewish mystical texts and medieval legends, Andrei Orlov finds the birdlike imagery in ApAb “puzzling,” especially in light of the fact that “the primary angels in the apocalyptic and Merkabah materials are usually depicted as anthropomorphic creatures.”46  Intriguing possibilities about plausible Egyptian influences that may help account for the bird-like qualities of Yaho’el and Azazel have been suggested. Taken together with other passages within ApAb discussed in later Essays,47  these Egyptian themes may shed light on how some of the obscure passages in ApAb might be understood.48

From the discussion above, it should be clear why ApAb is uniquely positioned as a comparative cohort to the Moses 1 account of heavenly ascent. In subsequent Essays,49  we will draw on specific phrase-by-phrase comparisons of themes in the corresponding narrative structure of Moses 1 and ApAb, supplemented by references to relevant material in the Book of Abraham and other ancient texts. These detailed comparisons demonstrate why ApAb is a powerful and, in several respects, unique witness of the antiquity of Moses 1.

 

This article is adapted and updated from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock. “Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham: Twin sons of different mothers?” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 179-290.

Further Reading

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 561–563.

———. Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2014, pp. 23–29. https://archive.org/details/140123IGIL12014ReadingS.

———. “The LDS book of Enoch as the culminating story of a temple text.” BYU Studies 53, no. 1 (2014): 39–73. http://www.templethemes.net/publications/140224-a-Bradshaw.pdf. (accessed September 19, 2017).

———, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock. “Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham: Twin sons of different mothers?” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 179-290. journal.interpreterfoundation.org/moses-1-and-the-apocalypse-of-abraham-twin-sons-of-different-mothers/.

Clark, E. Douglas. “A prologue to Genesis: Moses 1 in light of Jewish traditions.” BYU Studies 45, no. 1 (2006): 129–142.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 18–19.

Johnson, Mark J. “The lost prologue: Reading Moses Chapter One as an Ancient Text.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 36 (2020): 145–186. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-lost-prologue-reading-moses-chapter-one-as-an-ancient-text/. (accessed June 5, 2020).

Ludlow, Jared W. “Abraham’s visions of the heavens.” In Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, edited by John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid. Studies in the Book of Abraham 3, 57–73. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2005.

Nibley, Hugh W. “To open the last dispensation: Moses chapter 1.” In Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless: Classic Essays of Hugh W. Nibley, edited by Truman G. Madsen, 1–20. Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004, pp. 193–194, 204.

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Notes on Figures

Figures 1, 3, 4. Photographs of the originals of the illustrations are from Otkrovenie Avraama (Apocalypse of Abraham or ApAb), which comprises pages 328–375 of the Codex Sylvester. The Codex Sylvester, “the oldest and the only independent manuscript containing the full text of ApAb” (A. Kulik, Retroverting, p. 3), is known to scholars as manuscript “S.” It is the only illustrated manuscript of ApAb. Photographs of the illustrations from the original manuscript are published in this article for the first time with the kind permission of the Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv drevnikh aktov (RGADA — Russian State Archive of Early Acts, formerly TsGADA SSSR = Central State Archive of Early Acts) in Moscow. We express our sincere gratitude to Evgeniy Rychalovskiy, Head of the Publication Department and Vladislav Rzheutsky of the German Historical Institute in Moscow, for their assistance on 4 and 6 December 2019. Within the RGADA collection, the Codex Sylvester is catalogued as folder 381, Printer’s Library, no. 53, folios 164v-186. The six illustrations can be found in these folios: 182v, 174, 172v, 170v, 168b v, and 168a.

Photographs of the illustrations from a rare printed copy of the first facsimile edition (1891) were taken on 26 April 2009 and are © Stephen T. Whitlock and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. We express our special thanks to Carole Menzies and Jennifer Griffiths who facilitated our access to the facsimiles for filming purposes in the Taylor Bodleian Slavonic and Modern Greek Library, Oxford University, Oxford, England. The facsimile edition was originally published as N. Novickij (Novitskii, P. P., Otkrovenie Avraama and later as a reprint. Whitlock’s Image IDs are as follows: ApAb-OX10, ApAb-OX19, ApAb-OX20, ApAb-OX26, ApAb-OX30, ApAb-OX33, ApAb-OX50. For this article, the photos have been enhanced digitally for readability and size consistency, and a colored mask has been added to the backgrounds of all photos except ApAb-OX10.

One of the illustrations, taken from the facsimile edition and reproduced in black and white, appeared in “The Dictionary of Angels” (see G. Davidson, Angels, pp. 316-317), and may have been the source for the figure used in H. W. Nibley, Apocryphal, p. 278.

Stephen Whitlock discovered differences in the page ordering of the original manuscript held in Moscow with some of the facsimile editions. Based on his careful research he makes the follow observations:

While all of the currently available digital reproductions of the Apocalypse of Abraham manuscripts derive from the RGADA original of the Codex Sylvester in Moscow described above (Slavonic Manuscript “S,” the only complete manuscript of ApAb, the pagination varies from the original in some cases. The RGADA original of the Codex Sylvester in Moscow and copies made from it (including the copy of Novickij’s 1891 facsimile edition at the Taylor Bodleian Library at Oxford) differ in pagination with respect to six pages from two other copies we have located online: a digitized scan by Google of a copy of the facsimile edition from the Cornell University Library hosted on the HathiTrust website (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924028567927 [accessed March 28, 2020])and a black and white scan of the facsimile edition hosted by Andrei Orlov at Marquette University (https://www.marquette.edu/maqom/spart1.pdf, https://www.marquette.edu/maqom/spart2.pdf, https://www.marquette.edu/maqom/spart3.pdf [accessed March 28, 2020]).

ApAb occupies pages 328–375 of the Sylvester Codex, making 48 pages in all. Pages 9–13 of the Moscow original and the Oxford facsimile edition are in the following order in the Cornell and Marquette scans of the facsimile edition: 11, 10, 13, 12, 9. The text of the English translations of ApAb (G. H. Box, Apocalypse; A. Kulik, Retroverting; A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham; R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham) as well as the critical text prepared by Rubinkiewicz in French translation (R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham) follow the page order of Cornell and Marquette. We do not know whether or not the Cornell and Marquette scans came from a reprint of the 1891 facsimile edition that was created with different pagination or if the pages were re-ordered afterward as part of the scanning process. Finally, we do not know why the page ordering of the Codex Sylvester is not consistent with the sequence of the critical text edition.

 

Figures 2, 5. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, 2020.

 

Footnotes

 

1See Book of Moses FAQ.

2For a more detailed comparison, see J. M. Bradshaw et al., Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham.

3J. M. Lundquist, Temple, Covenant, and Law, p. 302. See Exodus 25:8.

4See, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Excursus 16: The Role of Revelation in Temple Building, pp. 561–563.

5Although it is clear that Joseph Smith knew much about the specifics of temple-related matters early in his ministry, his understandable reluctance to share details of sacred events publicly (see, e.g., R. O. Barney, Joseph Smith’s Visions; R. Nicholson, Cowdery Conundrum) has resulted in our possessing only very general descriptions of how these things were revealed to him. And, of particular relevance as we try to picture the kind of instruction about temple work that is described in the Dell Paul letter, we know even less about how the Prophet gained the knowledge necessary for teaching these things to others. While Joseph Smith’s exposure to Masonic ritual no doubt led him to seek further revelation as he prepared to introduce the ordinances of temple worship in Nauvoo, there is evidence that he received crucial knowledge about the pedagogical aspects of temple work by divine means well prior to that time. For instance, Matthew B. Brown has summarized some of the accounts that speak in broad terms about heavenly visions and visits from one or more heavenly messengers (M. B. Brown, Gate, p. 207):

Elder Parley P. Pratt stated in early 1845 that Joseph Smith had given the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “a pattern in all things pertaining to the sanctuary and the endowment therein” and explained to them that this pattern had been shown to him in a “heavenly vision” (P. P. Pratt, Proclamation, p. 151). On another occasion Elder Pratt asked: “Who instructed [Joseph Smith] in the mysteries of the Kingdom, and in all things pertaining to Priesthood, law, philosophy, sacred architecture, ordinances, sealings, anointings, baptisms for the dead, and in the mysteries of the first, second, and third heavens, many of which are unlawful to utter? Angels and spirits from the eternal worlds” (P. P. Pratt, 6 April 1853, p. 44). Elizabeth A. Whitney likewise stated her understanding, in a Church periodical, that an angel of God committed the temple rituals to Joseph Smith.

 

Whitney wrote (E. A. Whitney, Leaf (15 December 1878), p. 105):

It was during the time we lived at the Brick Store that Joseph received the revelation pertaining to celestial marriage; also concerning the ordinances of the House of the Lord. He had been strictly charged by the angel who committed these precious things into his keeping that he should only reveal them to such persons as were pure, full of integrity to the truth, and worthy to be trusted with divine messages.

 

From the statement, it seems that Whitney was referring specifically to the ordinances of sealing associated with celestial marriage, not the temple ordinances that had been revealed previously. For a late, third-hand account of a remembrance of how the ordinances were revealed to the Prophet in Kirtland, see J. M. Bradshaw et al., How Thankful.

6See, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, Freemasonry, pp. 182–184; First Presidency Statement on Temples, First Presidency Statement on Temples.

7L. Ginzberg, Legends, 5:417.

8Moses 1:17.

9Moses 1:25–26.

10Essay #32.

11See J. E. Talmage, House of the Lord (1912), pp. 99–100.

12J. M. Bradshaw, LDS Book of Enoch. For a more thorough analysis of these steps, see J. M. Bradshaw, What Did Joseph Smith Know.

13Like Moses, Enoch “beheld the spirits that God had created” (Moses 6:36), and then received a separate vision of “all the inhabitants of the earth” (Moses 7:21). As the Book of Abraham, the Apocalypse of Abraham, and Islamic accounts describe the division of the righteous and the wicked in the premortal world, a similar division of those in the mortal world is described in Enoch’s vision (Moses 7:22–23). A telescoped account of Enoch’s vision of Satan, emphasizing his power on earth, is given (Moses 7:24–26), followed by the return of angelic messengers and what seems to be the administration of priesthood ordinances (“the Holy Ghost” and “the powers of heaven”).

These ordinances enabled individuals to be “caught up” and translated to dwell in the heavenly “Zion” of Enoch’s redeemed city (Moses 7:27), in a fashion similar to Enoch and the three Nephites, who were “transfigured” for the duration of their mortal lives (i.e., translated; see 3 Nephi 28:8, 15, 17, 36–40 [see J. Smith, Jr., Words, p. 97 n. 10]; cf. Hebrews 11:5; Doctrine and Covenants 107:49; J. Smith, Jr., Instruction on Priesthood, 5 October 1840, pp. 6–7 [see J. Smith, Jr., Words, pp. 50-53 nn. 1, 13, 16]; J. Smith, Jr., Discourse, 3 October 1841 (Richards), p. 1; J. Smith, Jr., Discourse, 3 October 1841 (Times and Seasons), p. 577) after having been “caught up into the heavens” (3 Nephi 28:36; cf. v. 13). The process of “translation” was analogous to Moses having been “caught up into an exceedingly high mountain” (Moses 1:1) where he was temporarily transfigured during his vision (Moses 1:11, 14).

Both Moses and Enoch were granted a vision of “all things, even unto the end of the world” (Moses 7:67).

14O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 2:52, p. 54. Clark summarizes resemblances between Moses 1, the book of Jubilees, and various Jewish traditions about the ascension of Moses. Summarizing significant passages in Jubilees, he writes that (E. D. Clark, Prologue, p. 135. See also H. W. Nibley, To Open, pp. 7–19):

In contrast to Genesis, the creation account is preceded by an entire chapter of prologue that describes the setting for the subsequent divine revelation to Moses. Moses is divinely summoned to a mountain where he experiences God’s glory and is instructed to record what he would be told. He is then apprised of the future apostasy of the children of Israel after they are settled in the promised land and how they would kill the prophets and go into captivity. He learns that eventually, however, the children of Israel would repent and be transplanted back as a righteous plant. Following Moses’ intercessory prayer, in which he pleads with the Lord to show mercy and salvation to the people, Moses is again instructed to write everything that should be made known to him, and the “angel of the presence” is told to dictate to Moses the whole account of the creation and the division of years until all creation would be renewed by the powers of heaven.

15B.M. Metzger, Fourth Ezra, 14:4–6, p. 553.

16H. W. Nibley, To Open; H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, pp. 1-73.

17J. W. Ludlow, Visions.

18E. D. Clark, Prologue.

19J. M. Bradshaw et al., Apocalypse of Abraham; J. M. Bradshaw, Moses Temple Themes (2014), pp. 23–50.

20J. M. Bradshaw et al., Apocalypse of Abraham.

21 J. M. Bradshaw et al., Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham.

22See Essays #34-41.

23A. Kulik, Retroverting, pp. 2–3; R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, pp. 681–683.

24A. E. Paulsen-Reed, Origins, pp. 261–262. “There is no indication that the text was intended for an elite few” (ibid., p. 194). For a detailed analysis, see pp. 207–232, 253–255.

Underscoring the importance of ApAb for an understanding of heavenly ascent, the eminent Jewish scholar Gershom Scholem stated that it “more closely resembles a Merkabah text (i.e., having to do with prophetic visions of the heavenly chariot-throne, as in Ezekiel 1) than any other in Jewish apocalyptic literature” (G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, p. 23). More recently, Kulik concluded that, in its original Jewish form, ApAb constituted “the earliest mystical writing of Judaeo-Christian civilization and [a] representative of a missing link between early apocalyptic and medieval Hekhalot traditions [i.e., heavenly palaces encountered in a tour of the heavens]” (A. Kulik, Retroverting, p. 1. Cf. A. E. Paulsen-Reed, Origins, p. 263, who concludes that it “appears to be one of the earliest examples we have of Jewish mysticism.”). Consistent with the strong relationship between heavenly ascent and ritual ascent, Andrei Orlov and others have written extensively on priestly and other temple symbolism in ApAb (A. A. Orlov, Heavenly Priesthood).

Importantly, Paulsen-Reed points out that the chapters at the heart of ApAb that describe Abraham’s heavenly ascent are surprisingly outsize in volume when compared with later chapters that describe the new knowledge that he purportedly received from God afterward (A. E. Paulsen-Reed, Origins, p. 167):

The actual revelations Abraham receives only constitute the last third of the book. He must pass through many stages and tests, some of which require angelic tutelage. This probably reflects the mystical orientation of the author.

The large proportion of the text dedicated to the details of the ascent itself raise the possibility that, notwithstanding connecting passages and themes throughout, the redactor may have composed ApAb by drawing on and elaborating older, lengthy traditions of heavenly ascent attributed to figures such as Abraham and Moses and then added, to fit his immediate purpose, shorter, theological reflections that seem to address concerns of his contemporaries. While the account of heavenly ascent itself was not irrelevant to the theological questions raised by the redactor, it may have also served to legitimize his personal theological views, showing that the answers Abraham received were grounded in an authentic revelatory experience.

With respect to Islamic tradition, Geneviève Gobillot includes ApAb as one of the key textual corpora that constitute the “hermeneutical threshold of the Qur’an” (seuil herméneutique du Coran [C. A. Segovia, Those on the Left, p. 3]) — the basis of its conceptual framework as a whole. Segovia cites Gobillot’s conclusions that have “rightly emphasized the role presumably played by the Apocalypse of Abraham and by the Testament of Abraham—another 1st-century-CE Jewish pseudepigraphon—both in the composition of several key-passages of the Qur’ān (e.g. 17:1, 5, 7; 20:133; 53:33–41; 87:16–19) and in the development of some equally significant Muhammadan legends (including Muḥammad’s celestial journey).”

More specifically, Gobillot, along with some other scholars, dispute that the claim (especially in light of Qur’ān 6:35 and 17:93) that Muhammad was originally the “servant” (ʿbd or ʿabd) mentioned in an allusion to the “night journey” in Qur’an 17:1 can be argued with “any measure of finality” (G. Gobillot, Apocryphes, p. 58). Indeed, Carlos Segovia specifically concludes: “Most likely, this passage [which is generally taken as referring to Muhammad’s “night journey”] was modeled after Abraham’s ascension as outlined in the Apocalypse of Abraham” (C. A. Segovia, Thematic and Structural Affinities p. 238. Cf. ApAb chapters 15–18. M. Shaddel, Apocalyptic Reading provides a brief and highly readable summary of the issues and open questions in trying to understand Mohammad’s “night journey” in the context of Judaeo–Christian apocrypha, including ApAb.).

Given the conclusion of credible scholars that ApAb provided inspiration for at least some elements of the accounts of Muhammad’s night journey, the conjecture that, in similar fashion, earlier traditions about the heavenly ascents of Abraham and Moses could have been appropriated for use in ApAb is strengthened. The Qur’an itself mentions the “books of Moses … and of Abraham” (A. A. Y. Ali, Qur’an, 53:36–37, p. 1382; 87:19, p. 1638), which are also called “the Books of the earliest [Revelation] [al-ṣuḥuf al-ūlā]” (ibid., 87:18, p. 1638). We should not automatically assume that this sacred text imagined the kinds of stories one reads about these prophets in the Bible. Rather, it seems more plausible to presume, as some scholars have argued explicitly (e.g., ibid., p. 1638 n. 6094; Elsewhere, Ali writes that the text means “apparently not the Pentateuch, or the Tawrat [Torah], but some other book or books now lost” (ibid., p. 570 n. 50) that early readers of the Qur’an were familiar with accounts of the heavenly ascents of Abraham. Note that the Testament of Abraham exists in Arabic translation (see E. P. Sanders, Testament of Abraham, p. 871) and there is late evidence for an Arabic ApAb (see A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1477 n. 3).

See Nicolai Sinai as an example of a scholar who follows Hamilton Gibb in taking the view that references to the books of Abraham and Moses in the Qur’ān are simply “a loose way of referring to the Biblical corpus—including the New Testament” (N. Sinai, Interpretation, p. 17). Alternatively, al-Tha’labi preserves traditions that the “pages” revealed to and written by Abraham contain admonitions and proverbs (A. I. A. I. M. I. I. al-Tha’labi, Lives, pp. 168–169). This view is probably based on a passage in the Qur’ān (A. A. Y. Ali, Qur’an, 53:38–56, pp. 1382).

25A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1454. The German translation of Gottlieb Nathanael Bonwetsch (1848–1925) was published in 1897 (G. N. Bonwetsch, Die Apokalypse Abrahams). For brief biographies of Bonwetsch, see Nathanael Bonwetsch, Nathanael Bonwetsch; Gottlieb Nathanael Bonwetsch, Gottlieb Nathanael Bonwetsch.

26See E. H. Anderson et al., Abraham; H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, pp. 11–13. A little over two decades later, a second English translation was made by Box (G. H. Box, Apocalypse).

27A. Kulik, Retroverting, p. 1.

28See C. A. Segovia, Those on the Left, pp. 2–3.

29J. W. Ludlow, Visions, p. 70.

30C. Townsend, King James Bible 1.

31For an insightful discussion of pseudepigraphal themes echoed in Matthew 4, see A. A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors, pp. 107–112.

32Of course, the opposite course could have been taken—comparing Moses 1 against the narrative structure of ApAb. However, we concur with J. W. Ludlow, Visions, p. 73 n. 60 that extracanonical traditions should be measured against the standard works, not vice versa. “This comparison may appear to be a circular argument, attempting to “prove” [modern scripture] by analyzing [ancient] traditions against them, but the truthfulness of [modern scripture] will certainly not be proved by … any … intellectual endeavor,” though such analysis “may help eliminate some possible explanations (like Joseph Smith’s having made up these stories …). If one has a testimony of [works of modern scripture], however, one can then use [them] as standards against which other traditions can be measured.

33We used the following list to come up with the count of thematic resemblances in the figure. More detail on these resemblances is given below:

·         Prologue: 1: Moses 1:1/ApAb 9:9. Additionally, Book of Abraham Facsimile 2 and ApAb 9:5.

·         Moses in the spirit world. 4: Moses 1:3/ApAb 9:3; Moses 1:4/ApAb 9:6; Moses 1:6/ApAb 9:6; Moses 1:8/ApAb 21:7, 22:2. Additionally, Abraham 2:12/ApAb 9:6; Facsimile 2, Book of Abraham/ApAb 12:10, 21:7; Abraham 3:22, 23/ApAb 22:5).

·         Moses falls to the earth. 1: Moses 1:9–11/ApAb 10:2.

·         Moses defeats Satan. 7: Moses 1:12/ApAb 13:4-5; Moses 1:13/ApAb 13:6; Moses 1:13, 14/ApAb 13:7; Moses 1:16/ApAb 13:12–13; Moses 1:16/ApAb 13:14; Moses 1:18/ApAb 14:7; Moses 1:18/ApAb 14:9–10. Additionally, Moses 1:21/The Book of the Mysteries of the Heavens and the Earth, p. 17.

·         Moses calls upon God; hears a voice. 3: Moses 1:25/ApAb 16:3; Moses 1:25, 27/ApAb 17:1; Moses 1:25/ApAb 17:1. Additionally, 2 Nephi 4:25/ApAb 15:2-3.

·         Moses’ vision at the veil. 3: Moses 1:27/ApAb 21:1; Moses 1:28/ApAb 21:1; Moses 1:30/ApAb 20:7, 26:1.

·         Moses in the presence of the Lord. 3: Moses 1:31/ApAb 26:5; Moses 1:31/ApAb illustration; Moses 2, 3, 4/ApAb 21:3–5, 21:6, 23:1-14.

 

34Welleck and Warren, cited in J. H. Tigay, On evaluating claims of literary borrowing, p. 251. Cf. Speiser: “the proof that the … passage must be literarily (even if not directly) dependent … is the identical order in which the ideas are presented” (also cited in ibid., p. 251).

35Essay #34.

36See H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, p. 44.

37To our best knowledge, the first formal publication of the illustrations published in the facsimiles since their original appearance in 1891 was in the 2010 edition of J. M. Bradshaw, Moses Temple Themes (2014), pp. 31–50. Photographs of the 1891 facsimile edition have since been published in the University of Vienna Masters Thesis of Kerstin Mayerhofer (K. Mayerhofer, Die Slavische Abrahamsapokalypse und ihre Ügerlieferung) and have also been made available in an online version of the entire 1891 facsimile edition is now available through the HathiTrust (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924028567927). Unfortunately, the high-contrast results of the online version compromises the fidelity of some details in the illustrations.

38A. A. Orlov, Heavenly Priesthood.

39Translation of caption: Go make a sacrifice. And (he) put me on my feet and led me to the glorious mountain of God Oriv [Horeb]. And I said to the angel, Oh, singer of the eternal, I have no sacrifice with me. How can I make a sacrifice? And (he) said, turn around and I turned around and lo, coming after us (+1 word??) were the sacrifices: calf, goat, sheep, turtledove and pigeon. Cf. A. Kulik, Retroverting, 12:3-6, p. 19. The first part of the caption comes from 9:5, which Kulik translates as: “Go … and set out for me a pure sacrifice” (ibid., 9:5, p. 17). The phrase “And (he) put me on my feet” has no equivalent here but probably relates to 10:4. The next part of the caption comes from 12:3–6, which Kulik renders as: “And we came to the glorious God’s mountains—Horeb. And I said to the angel, ‘Singer of the Eternal One, behold, I have no sacrifice with me, nor do I know a place for an altar on the mountain, so how shall I make the sacrifice?’ And he said, ‘Look behind you.’ And I looked behind me. And behold, all the prescribed sacrifices were following us: the calf, the she-goat, the ram, the turtledove, and the pigeon” (ibid., 12:3-6, p. 19).

40Ibid., 11:3, p. 19; A. A. Orlov, Heavenly Priesthood, pp. 95–96; M. Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, p. 62.

41A. A. Orlov, Angelology. See also A. Kulik, Retroverting, p. 83; B. Lourié, Review.

42A. Kulik, Retroverting, p. 83. See also A. A. Orlov, Angelology, pp. 205–207. For an erudite description of the proliferation and usages of this mythical animal from its origins in Egypt from the late fourth millennium onward, see N. Wyatt, Grasping the Griffin. Wyatt suggests “a symbolic equivalence” (ibid., p. 30) of the griffin and the sphinx in its Egyptian form. He argues that the figure of an eagle in Judeo-Christian iconography derived from Ezekiel’s chariot vision is actually a falcon, derived from Egyptian royal symbolism. Wyatt relates the griffin to the iconography of the cherubim and seraphim, and to solar and royal symbolism down to modern times.

43Though, as Wyatt notes, in Egyptian art the wings are not explicitly portrayed (N. Wyatt, Grasping the Griffin, p. 29).

44R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 13:3, p. 143; A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, 13;3, p. 1465, alluding to the cadaver-eating “fowls” that descended on Abraham’s sacrifice in Genesis 15:11. See, more generally, A. A. Orlov, Angelology, pp. 209–212.

45Cf. Ezekiel 1:10; B. Lourié, Review, 2:1, p. 257, 24:9, p. 278, 26:3, p. 280, 44:5, p. 295, 47:4, p. 300. Andrei A. Orlov (A. A. Orlov, Divine Scapegoats; A. A. Orlov, Atoning Dyad) has argued that in Jewish apocalyptic accounts, including the ApAb, the demonic realm is maintained by mimesis of divine reality—the satanic “bird” imitating the angelic “bird.” Going further, Orlov argues that, with respect to the two sacrificial goats in the Yom Kippur ritual depicted in ApAb, “the protagonist of the story, the patriarch Abraham, takes on the role of a celestial goat for YHWH, while the text’s antagonist, the fallen angel Azazel, is envisioned as the demonic scapegoat” (https://brill.com/abstract/title/32266 [accessed July 25, 2019]).

46A. A. Orlov, Angelology, p. 206.

47See Essays #34 and #40.

48For a more complete discussion of Egyptian influences in ApAb, including possible hints of themes relating to the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham, see J. M. Bradshaw et al., Moses 1 and the Apocalypse of Abraham.

49Essays #34-41.

The Two-Part Pattern of Heavenly and Ritual Ascent

Book of Moses Essay #32

Moses 1

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In a previous Essay,1  we discussed similarities and differences between heavenly ascent, an actual encounter with Deity within the heavenly temple,2  and ritual ascent, a figurative journey into the presence of God such as the one experienced in earthly temples.

In this Essay, we will introduce the general two-part narrative pattern of departure and return used in ancient and modern literature. We then illustrate how narratives of heavenly and ritual ascent often conform to a similar two-part structure of descent and ascent—a down-road followed by an up-road. Recognizing this pattern can help us better identify the intended narrative structure of the Book of Moses. In particular, it allows us to see Moses 2–8 as a sequence of illustrative stories that relate to ritual descent and ascent in the temple, and also to see analogous elements in Moses 1, which offers an account of literal heavenly descent and ascent.

The Two-Part Narrative Pattern of Departure and Return

The story of Adam and Eve’s departure from and return to the Garden of Eden parallels a common three-part pattern in ancient Near Eastern writings: departure from home, mission abroad, and happy homecoming.3  The pattern is at least as old as the Egyptian story of Sinuhe from 1800 BCE4  and can be seen again in scriptural accounts of Israel’s apostasy and return5 as well as in the lives of biblical characters such as Jacob.6  The theme appears in modern literature as often as it did in those times.7

To the ancients, however, it was more than a mere storytelling convention, since it reflected a sequence of events common in widespread ritual practices for priests and kings.8  More generally, it is the story of the plan of salvation in miniature, as seen from the personal perspective. This pattern can be found in the Savior’s parables of the Prodigal Son9  and the Good Samaritan.10  The life of Jesus Christ Himself also followed this two-part pattern perfectly, though, unlike ordinary mortals, He was without sin: “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.”11

No poem expresses the theme of mankind’s mortal passage and return to a celestial home more movingly than Eliza R. Snow’s O My Father.12  Latter-day Saints will also find resonance in an apocryphal account that is known today as The Hymn of the Pearl. John W. Welch and James Garrison aptly described the Hymn as “an ancient counterpart to ‘O My Father.’”13  It appears as part of a larger work of New Testament Apocrypha called the Acts of Thomas14  and was very popular among early Christians. Briefly, the story describes heavenly parents who send their son on a journey to recover a pearl. The pearl represents his soul. They clothe him with special clothing and give him special food. While on his journey (which represents earth life), he forgets his mission. They send a messenger who causes him to remember his mission, and he returns to receive heavenly glory and to live again with his divine parents.

Margaret Barker describes how the thinking of early Christians applied this pattern to the story of Adam and Eve, and how it may have reflected their own hopes for a return to the original faith, the authentic priesthood, and the true temple:

The Christian vision reverses the story in Genesis 1–3, and has humans restored to Eden. … Adam was remembered as the first high priest, and Jesus was described as the new Adam. The Christians remembered and hoped for the earlier Eden—the true temple—and saw themselves returning to the place and the priesthood from which they had been driven. This was their world view.15

The Two-Part Narrative Pattern of Ritual Descent and Ascent in the Temple

When seen in detail, the narrative pattern that accompanies ritual ascent is more complex than a simple, unbroken rise to glory. As it turns out, there are two main parts to the story: ritual ascent is preceded by ritual descent. For example, the Latter-day Saint temple endowment opens part one of the story with a recital of the events of Creation.16  Notably, the pattern of beginning with the beginning—an explicit telling of the Creation—is a near universal feature of temple rites throughout the ancient Near East.17

After a recital of the Creation, part 1 of the endowment continues with an account of the Fall of Adam and Eve and then, in part 2, concludes with the story of their upward journey back to the presence of the Father.18  This approach to teaching the plan of salvation emphasizes what Elder Bruce R. McConkie called the “three pillars” of eternity—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It appears throughout modern scripture and in the temple.19

Figure 2. Adapted from Michael P. Lyon, 1952–: Sacred Topography of Eden and the Temple, 1994. The outbound journey of the Creation and the Fall at left is mirrored in the inbound journey of the temple at right.

Building on the “three pillars” outline of the plan of salvation, Latter-day Saint scholar Donald W. Parry has shown that the outbound journey of the Creation and the Fall is mirrored in the inbound journey of the temple.20  The Garden of Eden can be seen as a natural “temple,” where Adam and Eve lived in God’s presence for a time. Significantly, each major feature of Eden (e.g., the river, the cherubim, the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Life) corresponds to a similar symbol in the Israelite temple (e.g., the bronze laver, the cherubim, the veil,21  the menorah22).

Thus, the course taken by the Israelite high priest through the temple can be seen as symbolizing the journey of the Fall of Adam and Eve in reverse. In other words, just as the route of Adam and Eve’s departure from Eden led them eastward past the cherubim with the flaming swords and out of the sacred garden into the mortal world, so in ancient times the high priest would return westward from the mortal world, past the consuming fire, the cleansing water, the woven images of cherubim on the temple veils, and, finally, back into the presence of God.23  “Thus,” according to Parry, the high priest has returned “to the original point of creation, where he pours out the atoning blood of the sacrifice, reestablishing the covenant relationship with God.”24

About the journey made within the temple, Hugh Nibley explained:25

Properly speaking, one did not go “through” the temple—in one door and out another—for one enters and leaves by the same door, but by moving in opposite directions. … The Two Ways of Light and Darkness are but one way after all, as the wise Heraclitus said: “The up-road and the down-road are one”26 ; which one depends on the way we are facing.27

 

In remarkable consistency with this pattern, both the Book of Moses and the modern temple endowment relate how the posterity of Adam and Eve trace the footsteps of their first parents—initially, as they are sent away from Eden, and later, in their subsequent journey of return and reunion.28  Chapters 2–4 of the Book of Moses tell the story of the Creation and the “down-road” of the Fall, while chapters 5–8 follow the journey of Adam and Eve and the righteous branches of their posterity along the “up-road” enabled by the Atonement.29  In the Book of Moses, the “up-road” is called the “way of the Tree of Life”30 —signifying the path that leads to the presence of God and the sweet fruit held in reserve for the righteous in the day of resurrection.

Heavenly Descent and Ascent in Moses 1

Several of the individual episodes in Moses 1 are well known to students of the Book of Moses—Moses’ confrontation with Satan,31  his comprehensive vision of the earth and all its inhabitants,32  and God’s declaration about His “work and glory.”33  Yet how all these pieces join beautifully into a coherent whole has been generally underappreciated.

At first glance, some elements of the vision might appear to be repetitive. For example, at the beginning of his vision, Moses saw the “world … and all the children of men” (Moses 1:8). Then, near the end of the vision, he seems to have experienced the same thing again when he saw the “earth, and … the inhabitants thereof” (Moses 1:27–29). Why is this so?

Figure 3. The Two-Part Narrative Structure of Moses 1.

The answer to this question becomes apparent when one realizes that the two-part narrative pattern of descent followed by ascent is just as operative in the account of literal heavenly ascent in Moses 1 as it is in the account of ritual ascent in Moses 2–8 (see the figure above). The prophet’s experience in Moses 1 was a tutorial on the plan of salvation from a personal perspective, including his departure from God’s presence in the beginning and his glorious return to that presence in the end through his faithfulness. Thus, in verse 8, early on in the vision, it appears that Moses saw the premortal world and all the spirits that God had created (compare Abraham 3:22–23). Later, in verses 27–29, he seems to have experienced a view from heaven of the mortal earth and all its inhabitants.

Each element of the narrative structure of Moses 1, as informed by our understanding of the two-part structure of the narrative, is summarized below:34

Prologue (vv. 1–2).35  The opening verses to Moses 1 provide what Bible scholar Laurence Turner calls an “announcement of plot”36 —a brief summary of the most important events that will take place in the rest of the story. In this case, the prologue declares that Moses will be “caught up” to “an exceedingly high mountain” where he will receive the glory of God and, after conversing with Him face to face, will enter into His presence.37

Moses in the spirit world (vv. 3–8).38  Following the prologue, Moses was given a description of God’s attributes and a confirmation of Moses’ own foreordained calling and status as a “son” of God “in the similitude of [the] Only Begotten.”39  He was then shown the “world upon which he was created”—which appears to refer to the preexistent spirit realm40 —and “all the children of men which are, and which were created”41 —which appears to correspond to the view of premortal organized intelligences given in the Book of Moses’ vision of Enoch42  and in the Book of Abraham.43  Note that precedents for similar visions of “the children of men” in their premortal state are not confined to Latter-day Saint scripture, but are also attested in Jewish and Islamic tradition.

Moses falls to the earth (vv. 9–11).44  Having left the presence of God and no longer being clothed with His glory, Moses fell to the earth—meaning literally that he collapsed in weakness and figuratively that he descended again to the relative darkness of the telestial world. In this way, his experience recapitulated the journey of Adam and Eve as they left the Garden of Eden, “landing” on earth “as a natural man,” as Nibley put it.45  Moses was then left to himself to be tested in a dramatic encounter with Satan.46

Moses defeats Satan (vv. 12–23).47  Satan tempted Moses—now in a physically weakened state—to worship him. A context of priesthood ordinances is implied, as we will argue in more detail below. For example, having banished Satan by calling upon the name of the Only Begotten48  (a motif that precedes baptism in some ancient Christian sources49), Moses was immediately afterward “filled with the Holy Ghost.”50

Moses calls upon God and is answered by a voice from behind the heavenly veil (vv. 24–26).51  Having continued to press forward, Moses “call[ed] upon the name of God”52  in sacred prayer. Since the moment he “fell to the earth,” Moses could no longer speak face to face with the Lord, having been “shut out from his presence.”53  Following his prayer, however, Moses was answered by a voice from behind the heavenly veil enumerating specific blessings, including the promise that his commands would be obeyed “as if thou wert God.”54

At the heavenly veil, Moses sees the earth and all its inhabitants (vv. 27–29).55 While “the [divine] voice was still speaking,”56 Moses was permitted to pass through the heavenly veil and, from within, look downward and outward toward God’s handiwork. He beheld every particle of the earth, all of its inhabitants, and “many lands; … each … called earth.”57

Moses stands in the presence of the Lord (vv. 30–39).58  The culminating sequence of the ascension begins in verse 31 after Moses, having continued to inquire of the Lord,59  came to stand in His presence. God spoke with Moses face to face, describing His purposes for this earth and its inhabitants.60  Moses was then shown the events of the Creation, the Fall, and the manner by which the Plan of Redemption was given to Adam and Eve. From Moses 1:40, it appears that Moses was commanded to record an account something like, but arguably not identical to, what we have today as chapters 2–5 of the Book of Moses.

Epilogue (vv. 40–42).61  The epilogue in the final verses of Moses 1 describes the loss and restoration of the story of Moses 1, followed by language that retrospectively mirrors verse 1 and warns that the words of Moses’ vision should not be shown “unto any except them that believe.”62

In subsequent Essays,63  each element of the narrative structure outlined above will be discussed one by one in more detail. But first, in the next Essay, we will outline how Moses 1, in likeness to other ancient texts, functions as a “missing” prologue to Genesis.

 

This article is adapted and updated from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. “The LDS book of Enoch as the culminating story of a temple text.” BYU Studies 53, no. 1 (2014): 39–73. http://www.templethemes.net/publications/140224-a-Bradshaw.pdf, pp. 44-47. (accessed September 19, 2017).

Further Reading

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 36–39.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2014, pp. 17–22.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. “The LDS book of Enoch as the culminating story of a temple text.” BYU Studies 53, no. 1 (2014): 39–73. http://www.templethemes.net/publications/140224-a-Bradshaw.pdf, pp. 44-47. (accessed September 19, 2017).

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 18–19.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004, pp. 193–194, 204.

References

Alexander, T. Desmond. From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2008.

Barker, Margaret. The Older Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 1987.

———. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Which God Gave to Him to Show to His Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation 1.1). Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 2000.

———. Temple Theology. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 2004.

———. The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 2007.

———. Christmas: The Original Story. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2008.

Beale, Gregory K. The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God. New Studies in Biblical Theology 1, ed. Donald A. Carson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. “The tree of knowledge as the veil of the sanctuary.” In Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the Old Testament, edited by David Rolph Seely, Jeffrey R. Chadwick and Matthew J. Grey. The 42nd Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (26 October, 2013), 49-65. Provo and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2013. https://rsc.byu.edu/ascending-mountain-lord/tree-knowledge-veil-sanctuary ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfIs9YKYrZE.

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Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and Matthew L. Bowen. ““By the Blood Ye Are Sanctified”: The Symbolic, Salvific, Interrelated, Additive, Retrospective, and Anticipatory Nature of the Ordinances of Spiritual Rebirth in John 3 and Moses 6.” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 24 (2017): 123-316. Reprint, In Stephen D. Ricks and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, eds. Sacred Time, Sacred Space, and Sacred Meaning. Proceedings of the Third Interpreter Foundation Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference, 5 November 2016, Temple on Mount Zion Series. Vol. 4. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2020, pp. 43-237. http://www.templethemes.net/publications/Bradshaw%20and%20Bowen-By%20the%20Blood-from%20TMZ4%20(2016).pdf . https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/by-the-blood-ye-are-sanctified-the-symbolic-salvific-interrelated-additive-retrospective-and-anticipatory-nature-of-the-ordinances-of-spiritual-rebirth-in-john-3-and-moses-6/. (accessed January 10, 2018).

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Parry, Donald W. “Garden of Eden: Prototype sanctuary.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry, 126-51. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?filename=8&article=1075&context=mi&type=additional. (accessed August 25, 2020).

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Smith, Mark S. The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.

Stordalen, Terje. Echoes of Eden: Genesis 2-3 and the Symbolism of the Eden Garden in Biblical Hebrew Literature. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2000.

Talmage, James E. The House of the Lord. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1971.

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van Gennep, Arnold. 1908. The Rites of Passage. Translated by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1960.

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Welch, John W., and James V. Garrsion. “‘The Hymn of the Pearl’: An ancient counterpart to ‘O My Father’.” BYU Studies 36, no. 1 (1996-1997): 127-38.

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Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Public domain, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/AshburnPenatuchtFolio076rMosesReceivingLaw.jpg. Bibliothèque Nationale, nouv. acq. lat., no. 2334, folio 76 recto.

Figure 2. Published in D. W. Parry, Garden, pp. 134–135. We have modified Lyon’s original drawing by moving the Tree of Life to the top of the mountain. It was originally placed slightly downhill. For the rationale for this modification, see J. M. Bradshaw, Tree of Knowledge.

Footnotes

 

1See Essay #31.

2See J. A. Parry et al., Temple in Heaven.

3A. Gileadi, Literary, p. 12.

4J. B. Pritchard, ANET, pp. 18-22.

5J. E. Coleson, Life Cycle; J. B. Pritchard, ANET; A. Gileadi, Decoded; S. D. Ricks, Prophetic.

6Genesis 27–33.

7N. Frye, Secular Scripture.

8See e.g., D. E. Callender, Adam, pp. 211-218. From a ritual perspective, these three parts correspond to van Gennep’s classic stages of separation (préliminaire), transition (liminaire), and reintegration (postliminaire) (A. van Gennep, Rites, pp. 11).

9Luke 15:11–32. See R. L. Millet, Lost; M. R. Linford, Parable.

10Luke 10:29–37. See J. W. Welch, Samaritan (1999); J. W. Welch, Samaritan (2007).

11John 16:28.

12Hymns (1985), Hymns (1985), #292.

13J. W. Welch et al., Pearl.

14E. Hennecke et al., Acts of Thomas. A readable summary of the account is given by Hugh Nibley (H. W. Nibley, Treasures, pp. 177–178. For his more detailed translation and summary, see H. W. Nibley, Message (2005), pp. 487–501). Nibley’s summary is also reprinted in J. M. Bradshaw, Moses Temple Themes (2014), pp. 20–22.

15M. Barker, Temple Theology, pp. 4, 7; see also M. Barker, Revelation, pp. 20, 327.

16See, e.g., J. E. Talmage, House of the Lord (1971), p. 83.

17See, e.g., J. H. Walton, Ancient, pp. 123–127; H. W. Nibley, Meanings and Functions, pp. 1460–1461. For more on the structure and function of the story of Creation found in Genesis 1 and arguably used in Israelite temple liturgy, see, e.g., J. H. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One; M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision. W. P. Brown, Seven Pillars, provides perspectives on other biblical accounts of creation. See J. H. Walton, Genesis 1, pp. 17–22, for a useful table that highlights similarities and differences among creation accounts in the ancient Near East. Cf. W. P. Brown, Seven Pillars, pp. 21–32.

18See, e.g., J. E. Talmage, House of the Lord (1971), p. 83.

19See, e.g., 2 Nephi 2:22–26; Alma 18:36, 39; 22:13; Mormon 9:12, Doctrine and Covenants 20:17–18, 20–25; Moses 6:54–59; Articles of Faith 1:1–3. This “Christ-centered” presentation of the plan of salvation, consistent with temple patterns of teaching, is a stark contrast to the “location-centered” diagram that is used widely in classroom settings to illustrate the sequence of events that chart the journey of individuals from premortality to the resurrection. As Nathan Richardson observed (N. Richardson, Two Views; N. Richardson, Three Pillars), something essential is missing in the latter approach: there is no mention of Jesus Christ and His role as Savior and Redeemer. This is a way of thinking about the Plan that, regrettably, leaves out its very heart. See J. M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Oath, pp. 7–10.

20D. W. Parry, Garden, p. 135. Cf. J. M. Lundquist, Reality; J. A. Parry et al., Temple in Heaven; T. Stordalen, Echoes, pp. 112-116, 308-309; T. D. Alexander, From Eden, pp. 20-23; G. K. Beale, Temple, pp. 66–80; G. J. Wenham, Sanctuary Symbolism; J. A. Parry et al., Temple in Heaven; R. N. Holzapfel et al., Father’s House, pp. 17–19; J. Morrow, Creation; D. R. Seely et al., Crown of Creation.

21For more on the correspondence between the symbolism of the Tree of Knowledge and the temple veil, see J. M. Bradshaw, Tree of Knowledge.

22In most depictions of Jewish temple architecture, the menorah is shown as being outside the veil—in contrast to the Tree of Life, which is at the holiest place in the Garden of Eden. However, Margaret Barker cites evidence that, in the first temple, a Tree of Life was symbolized within the Holy of Holies (e.g., M. Barker, Hidden, pp. 6–7; M. Barker, Christmas, pp. 85–86, 140; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 366–367). Barker concludes that the Menorah (or perhaps a second, different, representation in arboreal form?) was both removed from the temple and diminished in stature in later Jewish literature as the result of a “very ancient feud” concerning its significance (M. Barker, Older, p. 221, see pp. 221–232). Mandaean scripture describes a Tree of Life within the heavenly sanctuary as follows: “They … lifted the great veil of safety upward before him, introduced him, and showed him that Vine,” meaning the Tree of Life (M. Lidzbarski, Ginza, GL 1:1, p. 429:3–20; cf. E. S. Drower, Prayerbook, 49, pp. 45–46).

23See D. W. Parry, Garden, p. 135.

24Ibid., p. 135.

25H. W. Nibley, Message (2005), pp. 442–443. See also J. M. Bradshaw, LDS Book of Enoch, pp. 44–47; J. M. Bradshaw, Moses Temple Themes (2014), pp. 17–22. Sometimes the pattern is analyzed as a structure of three parts rather than two.

26ὁδὸς ἄνω κάτω μία καὶ ὡυτή (Heraclitus, Fragments of Heraclitus, Fragment DK B60).

27For an excellent summary of the doctrine of Two Ways in the Book of Mormon as contrasted with elsewhere in the ancient world, see N. B. Reynolds, Ancient Doctrine of the Two Ways. David Calabro provides an insightful comparison between the Garden of Eden and Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life (D. Calabro, Lehi’s Dream). See especially pp. 275ff. for a discussion of the “strait and narrow path” that leads, in both cases, to the Tree. Cf. N. B. Reynolds, Ancient Doctrine of the Two Ways, pp. 51–52.

28Cf. John 16:28.

29See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 328-351.

30Moses 4:31. See ibid., p. 282.

31Moses 1:12–23.

32Moses 1:27–29.

33Moses 1:39.

34For detailed commentaries on Moses 1, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 32–81; R. D. Draper et al., Commentary.

35See Essays #34 and #42.

36L. Turner, Announcements, pp. 13-14.

37Moses 1:31. Though God speaks to Moses near the beginning of the chapter, the parallel wording regarding Moses’ “face to face” experience does not appear until verse 31, strengthening the case that this is the event to which the prologue is pointing us.

38See Essay #34.

39Moses 1:3–7.

40We will outline our reasons for this conclusion in Essay #34.

41Moses 1:8.

42Moses 6:36. This vision of the premortal spirits, like the vision of Moses 1, preceded a second, separate vision of “all the inhabitants of the earth” (Moses 7:21).

43See Abraham 3:22–23.

44See Essay #35.

45H. W. Nibley, Assembly, p. 128.

46Moses 1:9–23.

47See Essay #36.

48Moses 1:21.

49See, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw et al., By the Blood Ye Are Sanctified, pp. 144–146.

50Moses 1:24.

51See Essays #37-39.

52Moses 1:25.

53Moses 5:4. Cf. Moses 1:9.

54Moses 1:25–26.

55See Essay #40.

56Moses 1:27.

57Moses 1: 27–29. Cf. Moses 7:21.

58See Essays #41-42.

59Moses 1:30.

60Moses 1:35–40.

61See Essay #42.

62Moses 1:42.

63Essays #34-41.

Enoch, the Prophet and Seer: The End of the Wicked and the Beginnings of Zion

Book of Moses Essay #24

Moses 7:12–18

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

This Essay relates the end of the end for the wicked, and the beginning of the beginning for the people of God who start to lay the foundation of Zion. Similar events are well-attested in the ancient Enoch literature.

“The Earth Trembled and the Mountains Fled”

The Book of Moses records that when Enoch had finished prophesying to the people, “the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, … and the rivers of water turned out of their course.” The pattern whereby the voice of warning is immediately followed by the voice of the elements is also described in Doctrine and Covenants 88:89–90:

For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, … and also the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

In a previous Essay, we described ancient and modern witnesses to Enoch’s turning of rivers “out of their course.” In this section, we will describe similar ancient witnesses to the shattering seismic events that came “according to [the] command” of Enoch.

Whereas most of the prophecies of destruction in 1 Enoch describe events of the “latter days,” its Epistle of Enoch is also addressed to the “double audience” of Enoch’s living posterity, called his “sons.” Echoing the themes of Moses 6:46–47, Enoch reminds the sinners that their actions are recorded in a heavenly book of remembrance,” telling them that “from the angels inquiry will be made into your deeds in heaven.” Then, Enoch asks them:

When [the Most High] hurls against you the flood of the fire of your burning,
      where will you flee and be saved?
And when he utters his voice against you with a mighty sound,
      will you not be shaken and frightened?
The heavens and all the luminaries will be shaken with great fear;
      and all the earth will be shaken and will tremble and be thrown into confusion.
All the angels will fulfill what was commanded them;
      and all the sons of earth will seek to hide themselves from the presence of the Great Glory,
      and they will be shaken and tremble.
And you, sinners, will be cursed forever;
      You will have no peace.

Note that the passage from the Epistle cited above not only echoes the “trembling of the earth” in Moses 7:13 but also the shaking of the heavens in Moses 7:61. The shaking and trembling of the elements reverberates sympathetically to the shaking and trembling of the wicked, an ancient motif found in the Book of Moses that we have discussed in a previous Essay. The “curse upon all people that fought against God” in Moses 7:15 is consistent with the declaration in the Epistle that the sinners “will be cursed forever.”