A Literary Masterpiece: Many-Great Waters and Moses’ Mission to Baptize

Book of Moses Essay #43

Moses 1:25-26

With contribution by Matthew L. Bowen and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In the immediately preceding set of Essays,1  we focused on the narrative of Moses 1 and its interpretation. However, beginning with this Essay, we will turn our attention to some of the beautiful and meaningful ritual allusions and literary details of the chapter.

One of the most striking and neglected motifs in the Book of Moses — and for that matter in the Old Testament — is that of baptism. The truth that baptism was taught from the beginning as part of the doctrine of Christ constitutes one of the most precious teachings of the Pearl of Great Price.2  As we have discussed elsewhere,3  the Book of Moses describes how the name, titles, and aspects of the mission of Jesus Christ were known since the time of Adam and Eve. Vestiges of these ancient teachings survive in Jewish and early Christian tradition.

The Book of Moses situates references to baptism within the Primeval History between the creation of the Earth (including the creation of the “great waters”4 ) and the “uncreation” and “re-creation” of the Flood.5  Heading up the descriptions of the events of Creation and the retrospective references to baptism is the heavenly ascent of Moses.6 Following the defeat and expulsion of Satan (a motif that precedes baptism in some ancient Christian sources7  ), Moses’ interview with God resumes and God promises him, “thou shalt be made stronger than the many waters; for they shall obey thy command even as if thou wert God.”8

Below, we give an overview of the references to “many waters” and “great waters” in scripture and show how similar symbolism is associated with the bronze “sea” of Solomon’s temple. Then we will show how Moses, Enoch, and John the Baptist reenact this same symbolism as they fulfill their mission to baptize.

Many-Great Waters in Scripture and in the Symbolism of the Bronze Sea of Solomon’s Temple

The “many waters” or “great waters” found throughout scripture correspond to the “great waters” gathered together as “Sea” (including, oceans, rivers, lakes). In fact, the Moses account of creation describes them as such: “And I, God, made the firmament and divided the waters, yea, the great waters under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament, and it was so even as I spake.”9  Likewise, the creation account in the Book of Abraham designates the “gathered” waters on the earth as “Great Waters.”10

Isaiah’s use of the phrase mê tĕhôm rabbâ (“waters of the great deep” or “waters of the mighty Tehom”) is semantically and conceptually associated with the phrase mayim rabbîm (“many waters”11  or “mighty waters”12 ). Herbert G. May long ago connected Isaiah 51:9-10 with texts like Habakkuk 3:1513  where Habakkuk uses “many waters” (mayim rabbîm) in parallel with the sea (yām, cf. the Ugaritic/Canaanite deity Yamm): “Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap [surging] of great waters [many waters, mayim rabbîm].” He also notes that in Habakkuk 3:15 the “many waters” are “associated with the ‘rivers’ and the ‘sea’ which Yahweh fights and conquers with divine power and authority, even as Baal struggled with the Sea and River in the Ugaritic myth.”14

In the Book of Mormon, the collocations “many waters”15  and “great waters” both appear.16  Moreover, Nephi defines the Lehite name Irreantum17  in terms of the “many waters” that they beheld from the shores of the land Bountiful on the Arabian peninsula—waters which separated them from their final destination in the land of Promise and that they would thus need to cross.

Using similar symbology, Jacob, the brother of Nephi, understood Isaiah’s mythic telling of the exodus event in Israel’s salvation history as a metaphor for the Savior’s atonement and his bringing to pass the resurrection of the dead. Jacob connected the primordial deities or sea “monsters” of Isaiah 51:9-10 with Mot and Sheol18 —i.e. personified and deified Death and Hell: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell [cf. Mot and Sheol]” (2 Nephi 9:10); “And because of the way of the deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death [cf. Mot], of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead.”19  And both Nephi and Jacob understood Isaiah’s mythic language as ritual language, equating “the way” (Heb. derek) through the “sea” (yām) in the Exodus as envisaged in Isaiah 43:16 and 51:9-11 with the “the way” of “the doctrine of Christ” or the covenant path, which included the ordinance of baptism.20

Figure 2. Baptismal Font in the Salt Lake Temple, ca. 1912

The “many waters” or “great waters (mayim rabbîm) gathered and subordinated in the creation and the “Sea” (yām, or divinized Yamm) defeated by Yahweh in the Exodus appear to find their ritual and architectural realization in the bronze sea (or “brazen sea” yām hannĕḥōšet),21  also called the molten sea (yām mûṣāq)22  that stood in the outer court of Solomon’s temple. Regarding that bronze sea, David Calabro asserts: “While there is no evidence that the temple laver was used as a baptismal font, it was definitely large enough to suggest such a use, and Joseph Smith’s specifications for a baptismal font modeled after the Solomonic laver for the Nauvoo Temple show that he understood it in this connection.”23  The purification that preceded entry into the holy place in the temple corresponds to baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost in what Nephi called the doctrine of Christ.24

Moses’ Mission in Drawing Israel Out of Many-Great Waters

The dual etiology for Moses’ name given in Exodus 2:10 and Moses 1:25-27 both looks forward to his divinely appointed mission in which he will be “made stronger than many waters” and defeat “the Sea” (Hebrew yām, cf. the Canaanite deity Yamm) during the Exodus25  and also backward to the Creation of the “great waters” by “the word of [God’s] power.”26  A comparison of Moses 1:25-26 to Exodus 2:10, the Song of David parallel text, and Isaiah 63:11 helps us recognize and more fully appreciate the interrelationship between the name Moses and the act of “drawing” or “pulling” Israel out of the Sea (yām, cf. Yamm) or “many waters”:

Exodus 2:10; Psalms 18:16 [MT 17] / 2 Samuel 22:17; Isaiah 63:11

Moses 1:25-26

And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses [mōšeh]: and she said, Because I drew him out [mĕšîtihû] of the water. (Exodus 2:10)

 

He sent from above, he took me[;] he drew me out [yamšēnî] of many waters [Heb. mayim rabbîm] (Psalm 18:16/2 Samuel 22:17)

 

Then they [He] remembered the ancient days

Him [He] who pulled [mōšeh] His people out [of the water]

Where is He who brought them up from
the Sea [yām, cf. deified Yamm]? (Isaiah 63:11, njps)

 

And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses [Egyptian, “begotten”; Heb. mōšeh “drawer” or “puller”] for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters [Heb. mayim rabbîm] for they shall obey thy command even as if thou wert God. And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen. (Moses 1:25-26)

Each one of these texts attests the name Moses (Hebrew “drawer,” “puller”; cf. Egyptian “begotten” < ms[i]),27  the verb mšy (or both), and the image of birth/delivery from water. The phrase “many waters” in the Song of David28  and Moses 1:25 constitutes an important lexical link between these two texts. Realizing that the Psalms were the hymnal of the Jerusalem temple would suggest a ritual dimension to Psalm 18:16 (“He sent from above, he took me[;] he drew me out of many waters [mimmayim rabbîm]”) and the similarly-worded Psalm 144:7: “Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters [mimmayim rabbîm].” The image of the divine “hand from above” may, in addition, suggest a symbolic or ritual gesture.

Significantly, the term mayim rabbîm could also be translated as “mighty waters.”29  Thus, one way of reading the Lord’s promise to Moses’s calling to deliver Israel is that he would be made mightier than “mighty waters” through his priesthood.

Indeed, it is Moses’ power in the priesthood that allows him to overcome the waters, as described by Hugh Nibley: “This is the de profundis. That’s the 130th Psalm. … ‘Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord’”30  With similarity to the Egyptian myth of Osiris,31  the “final test is the baptism. … Moses is delivered from the waters and comes out.”32  In the typology of such tests, the righteous are raised in glory while the wicked drown and perish:33

Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.

Moses experiences something similar to Jonah the prophet who, when swallowed by the fish “for three days and three nights,”34  and “in the midst of the seas [yāmmîm; cf. Yamm]; and the floods [wĕnāhār, literally, ‘and the river’] compassed [him] about,”35   he cried “out of the belly of hell [mibbeṭen šĕʾôl].”36  Assaulted by Satan’s rage, “Moses began to fear, and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell [Sheol]. Nevertheless calling upon God, he received strength…”37  Just as the Lord answered Jonah’s prayer and “brought [his] life up from corruption,”38  Moses defeats Satan through the Lord’s “strength”—strength which the Lord subsequently promises would reside in Moses himself: “thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.”39

“Because There Were Many Waters There”

Figure 3. Dramatization of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River.

The foregoing provides the necessary backdrop for understanding the symbolism of the place where John the Baptist encountered his disciples: “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water [Greek hydata polla, many waters40 ] there: and they came, and were baptized.”41

This statement, like so many words and images in the gospel of John, constitutes a double entendre. To be sure, John baptized in Aenon or ʿēnayim (“double spring”)42  because “water was abundant there” (NRSV)—meaning there was water sufficient to completely immerse an individual. However, it appears that John also wished to draw a connection between the waters of baptism and the “many waters” (hydata polla = mayim rabbîm) in the extant scriptural tradition and to draw upon the Old Testament symbolism and typology of that image.43   If the collocation “many waters” seems too dramatic44  as a description for the springs in Aenon, which are near the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized45  (though the river itself remains unmentioned in John 3),46  perhaps this should be taken as further evidence that John is using the description evoke the “many waters”/“great waters” passages from Psalms 18:16; 29:3; 32:6; 77:19; 93:4 107:23; 144:7.47

Jesus’ baptism was much more than a ritual ablution. He was baptized in the river Jordan, because baptism requires “many waters” that are “overcome” or “defeated” by divine power (priesthood power) as an essential aspect of the typology and symbolism.

Conclusion

In the figure of Moses a salient aspect of baptism’s symbolism thus emerges: the one who baptizes acts “as if [the baptizer] wer[e] God.”48  The baptizer, having earlier been “drawn from the water”49  and “made stronger than the many waters”50  draws or pulls others and, in terms of ritual, “ma[kes them] stronger than the many waters.”51  The “many waters” or “great waters” ultimately obeyed Moses’ “command even as if [he] wer[e] God,” obeying the same divine authority with which one baptizes—namely, the authority through which one “draws” or “pulls” (mōšeh) from the “many waters.”

In light of the pattern exemplified in Moses 1, it is no surprise that Enoch later states that the Lord specifically called him to baptize: “And he gave unto me a commandment that I should baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, which is full of grace and truth, and of the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son.”52

 

Adapted and updated from Bowen, Matthew L. “‘Thou Shalt Be Made Stronger than the Many Waters’: The Interlingual Meaning of Moses and Its Implications for Moses 1:25-26 and John 3:23 (Unpublished manuscript).” 2020.

Further Reading

Belnap, Daniel. “‘I Will Contend with Them That Contendeth with Thee’: The Divine Warrior in Jacob’s Speech of 2 Nephi 6–10.” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Restoration Scripture 17, no. 1-2 (2008): 20-39.

Bowen, Matthew L. “Messengers of the covenant: Mormon’s doctrinal use of Malachi 3:1 in Moroni 7:29-32.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 31 (2019): 111-38.

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. 60-61, n. 32a; pp. 93-94 n. 1d;. pp. 102-103 n. 5c.

Calabro, David. “Joseph Smith and the architecture of Genesis.” 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, 165-81. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016.

References

Belnap, Daniel. “‘I Will Contend with Them That Contendeth with Thee’: The Divine Warrior in Jacob’s Speech of 2 Nephi 6–10.” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Restoration Scripture 17, no. 1-2 (2008): 20-39. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1438&context=jbms. (accessed July 26, 2020).

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘Most desirable above all things’: Mary and Mormon.” In Name as Key-Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and the Temple in Mormon Scripture, edited by Matthew L. Bowen, 17-47. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2018.

———. “Messengers of the covenant: Mormon’s doctrinal use of Malachi 3:1 in Moroni 7:29-32.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 31 (2019): 111-38. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/messengers-of-the-covenant-mormons-doctrinal-use-of-malachi-31-in-moroni-729-32/. (accessed July 26, 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.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and David J. Larsen. Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel. In God’s Image and Likeness 2. Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net.

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. www.templethemes.net. (accessed January 10, 2018).

Calabro, David. “Joseph Smith and the architecture of Genesis.” 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, 165-81. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016. https://interpreterfoundation.org/conferences/2014-temple-on-mount-zion-conference/program-schedule/. (accessed October 27, 2014).

Clines, David J. A. “Noah’s Flood: I: The Theology of the Flood Narrative.” Faith and Thought 100, no. 2 (1972-1973): 128-42. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.730.8892&rep=rep1&type=pdf. (accessed July 25, 2020).

Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

Frederick, Nicholas J. “Line within line: An intertextual analysis of Mormon scripture and the prologue of the gospel of John.” Doctoral Dissertation, Claremont Graduate University, 2013.

Hoskisson, Paul Y., Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee. “What’s in a Name? Irreantum.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11, no. 1 (2002): 90-93. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1349&context=jbms. (accessed July 26, 2020).

May, Herbert G. “Some cosmic connotations of Mayim Rabbîmi.” Journal of Biblical Literature 74, no. 1 (1955): 9-21. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/3261949.pdf?seq=1. (accessed July 26, 2020).

Newheart, Michael Willett. “Aenon.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld. Vol. 1, 60. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2006.

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.

Parker, Jared T. “The doctrine of Christ in 2 Nephi 31-32 as an approach to the vision of the tree of life.” In The Things Which My Father Saw: The 40th Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, edited by Daniel L. Belnap, Gaye Strathearn and Stanley A. Johnson, 161-78. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2011.

Reynolds, Noel B. “This is the way.” Religious Educator 14, no. 3 (2013): 79-91. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1477/. (accessed July 26, 2020).

———. “The ancient doctrine of the two ways and The Book of Mormon.” BYU Studies Quarterly 56, no. 3 (2017): 49-78. https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/ancient-doctrine-two-ways-and-book-mormon. (accessed August 15, 2019).

Talmage, James E. The House of the Lord. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Deseret News, 1912. https://archive.org/stream/houseoflordstudy00talm#page/n0/mode/2up. (accessed August 5, 2014).

Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament: A Side-by-Side Comparison with the King James Version. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2009.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Photograph by Matthew L. Bowen.

Figure 2. Photo by C. R. Savage Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, published in J. E. Talmage, House of the Lord (1912), p. 262 Plate 11. Public Domain. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Salt_Lake_temple_baptismal_font.jpg (accessed July 25, 2020).

Figure 3. The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17), The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos, about 2:14. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bible-videos/videos/the-baptism-of-jesus?lang=eng (accessed July 25, 2020).

Footnotes

 

1 Essays #31-42.

2 Moses 6:53, 60, 65-66; 7:11; 8:24.

3 See Essays #15.

4 Moses 2:7.

5 See, e.g., D. J. A. Clines, Noah’s Flood 1; J. M. Bradshaw et al., God’s Image 2, pp. 252-336.

6 Moses 1.

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

8 S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, OT1 Moses 1:25, p. 85. See also T. A. Wayment, Complete JST of the OT, Moses 1:26, p. 3.

9 Moses 2:7.

10 Abraham 4:10: “And the Gods pronounced the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, pronounced they, Great Waters; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed”; Abraham 4:22: “And the Gods said: We will bless them, and cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas or great waters; and cause the fowl to multiply in the earth.”

11 Numbers 24:7; Psalm 18:16 [MT 17]/1 Samuel 22:17; Psalm 29:3; 93:4; Song of Solomon 8:7; Isaiah 17:13; Jeremiah 51:13; Ezekiel 19:10; 43:2.

12 Psalms 32:6; 77:19 [MT 20]; 107:23; 144:7; Isaiah 23:3; Jeremiah 41:12; 51:55; Ezekiel 1:24; 27:26; 32:13; Habakkuk 3:15.

13 H. G. May, Some Cosmic Connotations, p. 10.

14 Ibid., p. 10.

15 1 Nephi 13:10, 12-13, 29; 14:11-12; Ether 2:6; 6:7; and possibly Mosiah 8:8 and Mormon 6:4.

16 1 Nephi 17:17; Omni 1:16; Ether 6:3. In 1 Nephi 17:17.

17 P. Y. Hoskisson et al., What’s in a Name? Irreantum, pp. 92-93.

18 See especially D. Belnap, I Will Contend.

19 M. L. Bowen, Messengers of the Covenant, pp. 123-127.

20 See especially 2 Nephi 31:13-18, 21. On Nephi’s identification of the “doctrine of Christ” as “the way,” see N. B. Reynolds, This Is the Way; see also N. B. Reynolds, Ancient Doctrine of the Two Ways.

21 2 Kings 25:13; Jeremiah 52:17; 1 Chronicles 18:8.

22 1 Kings 7:37.

23 D. Calabro, Joseph Smith and the Architecture, p. 172.

24 J. T. Parker, Doctrine of Christ, p. 173. See also his broader discussion of the correspondence between the doctrine of Christ, Lehi’s Dream, Nephi’s Vision, and the temple in pp. 172-175.

25 Exodus 10:19; 13:18; 15:4, 22; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2; 1 Nephi 4:2, 17:26; Helaman 8:11; Doctrine and Covenants 8:3. The definite article in “the many waters” is omitted in the canonized version.

26 Moses 1:32, 2:1, 5. See Essay #39 and J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 60-61, n. 32a; pp. 93-94 n. 1d;. pp. 102-103 n. 5c. Nicholas Frederick observes (N. J. Frederick, Line Within Line., p. 336):

While “word” is written in lower-case in Moses 1:32, when the phrase “word of my power” occurs again in Moses 2:5, the original JST manuscripts record a reading of “Word of my power” [S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, OT1, p. 86. The term “word” is in lower case in OT2, p. 595], perhaps suggesting that Joseph viewed “Word” or “word” as something more than just a spoken command, closer to the Johannine Logos.

27 M. L. Bowen, Most Desirable, pp. 23-24.

28 Psalm 18:16 [MT 17]; 1 Samuel 22:17.

29 Cf. Exodus 15:10 “mighty waters” (bĕmayim ʾaddîrîm); Isaiah 43:16 “mighty waters” (ûbĕmayim ʿazzîm).

30 H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, 18, p. 219. See Psalm 130:1.

31 Cf. the text of the Shabaka stone as described by Nibley in, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 515.

32 H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, 10, p. 118.

33 Exodus 15:10. See Exodus 14:27-30; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2; Hebrews 11:29; 1 Peter 3:18-21.

34 Jonah 1:17 [MT 2:1].

35 Jonah 2:3 [MT 2:4].

36 Jonah 2:2 [MT 2:3].

37 Jonah 2:1 [MT 2:3], 6 (same as in MT).

38 Moses 1:21-22.

39 Moses 1:25.

40 Revelation 1:15; 14:2; 17:1; 19:6.

41 John 3:23.

42 M. W. Newheart, Aenon, writes: “It is uncertain as to where Aenon was, but two sites are often mentioned. The first is 6-8 mi. south of Scythopolis, in the southwestern corner of the DECAPOLIS. Eusebius (Onomasticon 40:1) and Jerome (Epistle 73) both support this location. The second suggested site is on the eastern side of the Jordan, in Perea. This suggestion is supported by a 6th cent. map on a church floor in MEDEBA, which places Aenon opposite BETHBARA” (capitalization in original). He further notes: “Also from the 6th cent. Is the tradition from the pilgrim guide Antonius that there was a cave on the eastern location where John baptized and Jesus stayed at the time of his baptism.”

43 See, e.g., Psalms 18:16 [LXX]; 144:7.

44 Samuel Zinner (personal communication, notes in possession of authors) remains unconvinced that John’s use of hydata polla constitutes an echo of Hebrew Bible mayim rabbîm passages. He asks, “would we not expect at least a river (even granted that the Jordan is there, but unmentioned)?” We answer: not necessarily. We recall Jeremiah’s description of the pools of Gibeon in Jeremiah 41:12 as “great waters”/“many waters” (mayim rabbîm; LXX Jeremiah 48:12, hydatos pollou). Zinner further suggests that “the many waters of John [3] hint at Ezekiel 1’s many waters, since the river Jordan’s etymology can be associated with the descent to the chariot. The descent of a dove at Jesus’ Jordan baptism is of a piece with this. To this we would add that if Jordan can be understood in as “descent” or “place of descent” we can detect additional wordplay in Jordan in Nephi’s vision of the tree of life, which includes a vision of Jesus’s baptism and the descent of Holy Ghost and other heavenly beings (1 Nephi 11:16, 26-27, 30; study forthcoming).

45 See Matthew 4:13-17; Mark 1:9.

46 John earlier mentions John the Baptist’s baptizing activities in “Bethabara beyond Jordan” in John 1:28. Cf. 1 Nephi 10:9.

47 LXX Psalms 17:17 (=Psalms 18:16 [17]); 28:3 (=29:3); 31:6 (=32:6); 92:4 (=93:4); 106:23 (=107:23); 143:7 (=144:7) all employ forms of hydata polla (hydatōn pollōn, hydasi pollois) to translate Hebrew mayim rabbîm.

48 S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, OT1 Moses 1:25, p. 85.

49 Cf. Exodus 2:10.

50 S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, OT1 Moses 1:26, p. 85.

51 Ibid., OT1 Moses 1:25, p. 85.

52 Moses 7:3.

The Words of God

Book of Moses Essay #42

Moses 1:1–7, 35, 40–42

With contribution by Matthew L. Bowen and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Moses 1 constitutes a self-contained literary unit and prologue1  to the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, demarcated by an inclusio.2  The Latin word inclusio (literally, an “inclosing” or “closing-in”) serves as “a technical term for a passage of scripture in which the opening phrase or idea is repeated, paraphrased, or otherwise returned to at the close.”3

Furthermore, this inclusio begins with an incipit,4  another Latin term meaning “it begins.” An incipit—or an incipit title—is derived from the opening word or words of a text and is typically provided in the absence of an official name or title for a work. In this case, the incipit is signaled by the following text: “The words of God, which he gave  unto Moses.”5  While this seems to clearly mark the beginning of the inclusio, one can plausibly argue for a closing bracket that occurs in any one of three adjacent texts.

The first possible closing bracket occurs in Moses 1:40: “And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest; and thou shalt write the things [words6] which I shall speak.” The second candidate for a closing bracket comprises part of the parenthetical statement in Moses 1:42: “These words were spoken unto Moses in the mount.”7  This option works if one counts the words in this verse as part of the vision.8  The third potential closing bracket is found in Moses 2:1a: “write the words which I speak.”9  Under any of these three scenarios, the Moses 1 (or Moses 1:1–2:1a) text with its inclusio establishes a dominant theme that threads its way throughout the early chapters of JST Genesis, namely the divine “word” and its efficacy.

The opening phrase “The words of God, which he spake unto Moses” looks and functions much like the incipit of the Book of Deuteronomy: “These be the words [Hebrew, ʾēlleh haddĕbārîm] which Moses spake unto all Israel.”10  In both Deuteronomy and the vision of Moses, the incipit title establishes a claim of divine authority for what follows. In the vision of Moses, “The words of God” claims divine authority for not only the account of Moses’ vision, but also the subsequent revelation and its inspired textual recuperations. Moreover, the incipit (“The words of God which he spake unto Moses”) together with the subsequent temporal clause (“at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain”) establishes a temple context for the vision recorded in vv. 2–9, the temptation that follows in vv. 12–23, and the second, grander vision which begins thereafter in vv. 24–41.

Additional repetition of words and phrases within Moses 1 emphasizes that the “endlessness” of God’s works are mirrored in the “ceaselessness” or “endlessness” of God’s words. This tight genetic pairing begins with the Lord’s declaration to Moses in the first vision, “And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.11 The Lord reiterates and reinforces this idea to Moses in the second vision when he states in the OT1 manuscript of Moses 1:38–39: “And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. For behold this is my work to my glory to the immortality & the eternal life of man.”12

Thus one of the most noteworthy aspects of the divine word/language theme in the Book of Moses is that the narrative directly links the “endlessness” of God’s “works” and “words” to the notion of endless scriptural “words.”13  This theme directly bears on what we recognize today as the notion of an open-ended concept of scripture.14  The Lord commanded Moses to write the words spoken on this occasion, words with intrinsic sacral15  and authoritative character: “And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest; and thou shalt write the things [words] which I shall speak.”16  Nevertheless, he also anticipated the human diminution of those written words during a process of textual transmission at the hands of unbelieving tradents:17

            A         And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught

                        B           and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write,

                                    C         behold, I will raise up another like unto thee;

                        B         and they shall be had again

            A        among the children of men—among as many as shall believe.

As has been noted elsewhere,18  the Lord’s words in Moses 1:41 anticipate a future “taking [away]” or diminution of those same words similar to the diminution of the divine “word” anticipated in the Deuteronomic iterations of the so-called “canon formula.” Moses charges Israel: “Ye shall not add [lōʾ tōsipû] unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”19  This type of text has sometimes been called a “canon-formula,” because it “makes it clear that its intent is to preclude both literary and doctrinal innovation by safeguarding the textual status quo.”20  Some scholars also refer to it as a Textsicherungsformel, literally a “text-securing-formula”—something like the ancient equivalent of today’s “digital signatures” that can be used to protect the integrity of a document.

The Deuteronomic canon-formula, in turn, constitutes the source of the more famous canon-formula in Revelation 22:18–19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”21

The Lord’s earlier statements that his “words” have “no end” and “never cease” become the basis for His promise that “they shall be had again”—in other words, re-added. By implication, human efforts “to take many of them” away from “the book which [Moses] would write” and from future repositories of divine words22  or otherwise limit them through a closed “canon” will ultimately fail.

In sum, the view of the written “word” presented at the outset of the Book of Moses is that the Lord’s words can be “taken” away or otherwise diminished in their human repositories by human custodians. Nevertheless, these words “shall be had again.”23  And, as this revelation will later emphasize, they must be fulfilled.24

This article is adapted from Bowen, Matthew L. “‘By the word of my power’: The divine word in the Book of Moses,” Presented at the conference entitled “Tracing Ancient Threads of the Book of Moses” (September 18–19, 2020), Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 2020.

Further Reading

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘And They Shall Be Had Again’: Onomastic Allusions to Joseph in Moses 1:41 in View of the So-called Canon Formula.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 32 (2019): 297–304. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/and-they-shall-be-had-again-onomastic-allusions-to-joseph-in-moses-141-in-view-of-the-so-called-canon-formula/. (accessed July 20, 2020).

Calabro, David. “Joseph Smith and the architecture of Genesis.” 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, 165–181. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016. http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/events/2014-temple-on-mount-zion-conference/program-schedule/. (accessed October 27, 2014).

Holland, Jeffrey R. “‘My words… never cease’.” Ensign 28, May 2008, 91–94. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2008/05/my-words-never-cease?lang=eng. (accessed July 9, 2020).

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).

Morrison, Alexander B. “The Latter-day Saint concept of canon.” In Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, edited by Paul Y. Hoskisson, 1–16. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 2001.

Levinson, Bernard. “‘You must not add anything to what I command you’: Paradoxes of canon and authorship in ancient Israel.” Numen 50, no. 1 (2002): 1–51. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228204266_%27_%27You_Must_Not_Add_Anything_to_What_I_Command_You%27_Paradoxes_of_Canon_and_Authorship_in_Ancient_Israel%27. (accessed July 9, 2020).

References

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘And They Shall Be Had Again’: Onomastic Allusions to Joseph in Moses 1:41 in View of the So-called Canon Formula.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 32 (2019): 297-304. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/and-they-shall-be-had-again-onomastic-allusions-to-joseph-in-moses-141-in-view-of-the-so-called-canon-formula/. (accessed July 20, 2020).

Calabro, David. “Joseph Smith and the architecture of Genesis.” 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, 165-81. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016. http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/events/2014-temple-on-mount-zion-conference/program-schedule/. (accessed October 27, 2014).

Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

Holland, Jeffrey R. 1999. “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence” (BYU Devotional Address, 2 March 1999).  In BYU Speeches (Reprinted in Ensign, 30:3 [March 2000]). https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/jeffrey-r-holland/cast-not-away-therefore-your-confidence/ , https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2000/03/cast-not-away-therefore-your-confidence?lang=eng . Video dramatization: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/video/2011-03-50-i-am-a-son-of-god?lang=eng. (accessed June 13, 2020).

———. “‘My words… never cease’.” Ensign 28, May 2008, 91-94. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2008/05/my-words-never-cease?lang=eng. (accessed July 9, 2020).

Hoskisson, Paul Y. “Straightening things out: The use of ‘strait” and ‘straight’ in the Book of Mormon.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12 (2003): 58-71, 114-17. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1326&context=jbms. (accessed July 9, 2020).

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): 145-86. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-lost-prologue-reading-moses-chapter-one-as-an-ancient-text/. (accessed June 5, 2020).

Levinson, Bernard. “‘You must not add anything to what I command you’: Paradoxes of canon and authorship in ancient Israel.” Numen 50, no. 1 (2002): 1-51. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228204266_%27_%27You_Must_Not_Add_Anything_to_What_I_Command_You%27_Paradoxes_of_Canon_and_Authorship_in_Ancient_Israel%27. (accessed July 9, 2020).

Morrison, Alexander B. “The Latter-day Saint concept of canon.” In Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, edited by Paul Y. Hoskisson, 1-16. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 2001.

Soulen, Richard N., and R. Kendall Soulen. Handbook of Biblical Criticism. 3rd, revised ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2001.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. From the video dramatization of J. R. Holland, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence” (BYU Devotional Address, 2 March 1999).

Footnotes

 

1 See, e.g., M. J. Johnson, Lost Prologue.

2 Ibid., pp. 156, 161.

3 R. N. Soulen et al., Handbook of Biblical Criticism, p. 85.

4 From the Latin word, incipit, which means “it begins.” An incipit—or an incipit title—is provided in the absence of an official name or title for a work.

5 S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, Moses 1:1, OT1 Page 1, p. 83, emphasis added by the authors in all scriptural citations.

6 Hebrew dābār can denote both “word” and “thing.” See, e.g., P. Y. Hoskisson, Straightening Things Out , p. 71. The same is true of Egyptian md.t (later mt.t).

7 D. Calabro, Joseph Smith and the Architecture, p. 169.

8 Ibid. , p. 169.

9 M. J. Johnson, Lost Prologue, p. 156.

10 Deuteronomy 1:1.

11 Moses 1:4.

12 S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, Moses 1:38-39, OT1 Page 2, p. 86.

13 J. R. Holland, Words.

14 A. B. Morrison, Canon.

15 Cf. The Lord’s words to Oliver Cowdery in Doctrine and Covenants 9:9: “you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.”

16 Moses 1:40.

17 Moses 1:41.

18 M. L. Bowen, And They Shall Be Had Again.

19 Deuteronomy 4:2; see also Deuteronomy 12:32 [MT 13:1]; cf. 5:22 [MT 18].

20 B. Levinson, You Must Not Add, p. 7.

21 In recent centuries, the canonical position of the book of Revelation has had the practical effect of making its canon-formula (possibly itself an addition to the text of Revelation) a de facto canon-formula for the entire biblical corpus, as viewed by some Protestants who also embrace the notion of sola scriptura (“by scripture alone”). However, as Bernard Levinson notes to the contrary: “The association [of the ‘canon-formula’] with any notion of canon … marks a post-biblical development.” Ibid., p. 6. See, e.g., this statement (https://zrhaydon1.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/canon-vs-scripture-are-they-different-the-same-or-complicated/):

Stephen Chapman rightly suggests that understanding the tension between “canon” and “scripture” means understanding the “interpretive value” of these concepts in reference to Ancient Israel (87). How would these ancient communities have thought of “canon” or “scripture”? It seems anachronistic to impose something like “canon” (a closed list of books) on Ancient Israel, especially if books were still “migrating” between corpuses (like Daniel between the Prophets and the Writings). Equally extreme is to believe that “scripture” has no relationship with the constraining aspect of “canon,” as if to think “scripture” meant a free-flowing stream of religious books that moved (and continue to move) in and out of authoritative status depending on the whim of the community.

22 See, e.g., 1 Nephi 13:26–29.

23 Moses 1:41.

24 Moses 4:30; 5:15, 59; 6:30.

Moses in the Presence of God

Book of Moses Essay #41

Moses 1:31, chapters 2-4

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Matthew L. Bowen, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock

In this Essay, we will discuss how Moses and Abraham speak with the Lord, and how both are given a vision of the Creation, the Garden of Eden, and the Fall from within the heavenly veil. Significantly, in explicit contradiction to the text of ApAb where Yaho’el declared to Abraham: “the Eternal One… himself you will not see,”1  the fourteenth–century Christian illustrator of the Codex Sylvester seems to have had no qualms about representing God visually.2  Commenting on these sorts of contradictions, Margaret Barker observes:3

To see the glory of the Lord’s presence — to see beyond the veil — was the greatest blessing. The high priest used to bless Israel with the words: “The Lord  bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”4  … Seeing the glory, however, became controversial. Nobody knows why. There is one strand in the Old Testament that is absolutely opposed to any idea of seeing the divine… [On the other hand,] Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”;5  and John saw “one seated on the throne.”6  There can be no doubt where the early Christians stood on this matter.

Figure 2. Resemblances for the Prophet in the Presence of God (Moses 1:31–40)

God’s Purpose and Will Are His Own

As the Book of Moses refers to “mine own purpose” and the “wisdom [that] remaineth in me,”7  so ApAb, in the answer to Abraham’s second question after his vision of the Fall, God declares “the will desired by me” is “inevitable” [i.e., “sure to come”8 ] just “as the will of your father is in him.” Kulik sees a “very similar context” in Ephesians 1:11, which combines the concepts of “purpose” and “will”: “predestined according to the purpose of him who does all things according to the will desired by him.”9

Alexander Kulik concludes that “we are dealing here [in ApAb] with the rabbinic conception of free will combined with the inevitability of God’s will (predetermination).”10  Similarly, in the Jewish Mishnah we read: “Everything is foreseen, and free choice is given.”11

The Book of Moses phrase “it remaineth in me” subtly echoes scriptural passages that depict God and wisdom as inseparably associated since before the creation of the earth.12  This exclusive relationship makes the mysteries of true wisdom inaccessible to man except as made known through God Himself.13  The Book of Mormon employs similar phraseology to describe how God’s hidden intentions—in this case the preservation of Nephite records — are “wise purposes in him” — things that can only be known by direct revelation.14  Note that in Moses 1:31, although God is saying he has a wise purpose, it does not seem that He tells Moses what the reason is.

Seeing the Lord Face to Face

In the illustration above, Abraham and Yaho’el are “traveling … about the air”15  with “no ground [beneath] to which [Abraham] could fall prostrate.”16  The figure pictured on the throne seems to be the Christ.17  His identity is indicated by the cruciform markings on His nimbus. Behind the enthroned Christ is a second figure, perhaps alluding to the statement in ApAb that “Michael is with me [i.e., the Lord] in order to bless you forever.”18

Beneath the throne are fiery seraphim and many-eyed “wheels” praising God. The throne is surrounded by a series of heavenly veils19  separating the Lord from the material world — the latter being signified by the outermost dark blue veil. The representation of the veils as multicolored may stem from an interpretation of Ezekiel 1:28, where the glory of the Lord is likened to a rainbow. In the depiction shown here, the illustrator has deliberately chosen to use the colors of red, green, and blue.20

Vision of the Creation, the Garden of Eden, and the Fall

At this point, just as Moses is shown the events of the Creation and the Fall,21  ApAb describes how the great patriarch looked down to see the affairs of what is called in modern revelation the “kingdoms of a lower order.”22  The Lord’s voice commanded Abraham to “look,” and a series of heavenly veils were opened beneath his feet.23  Like Moses, Abraham is shown the heavenly plan for creation — “the creation that was depicted of old24  on this expanse” (21:125 ), its realization on the earth (21:3–5), the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Adam and Eve (21:6), and the spirits of all men — with certain ones “prepared to be born of [Abraham] and to be called [God’s] people (21:7–22:5).” 26 When Abraham is told again to “Look … at the picture,” he sees Satan inciting the Fall of Adam and Eve (23:1–14),27  just as Moses saw these events following his own heavenly ascent (Moses 2-4).28

Conclusion

A close examination of the details of the account of Moses’ heavenly ascent in the context of its overall structure throws important light on the significance of temple ordinances performed in our day. As we have seen in the evidence assembled in the series of Essays #31–41, parallels with other ancient texts, such as the Apocalypse of Abraham, confirm the basic temple pattern both in its content and sequence, and constitute an impressive witness of the antiquity of the text restored by Joseph Smith’s revelations. Hugh Nibley concluded as a result of his study: “These parallel accounts, separated by centuries, cannot be coincidence. Nor can all the others.”29

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. www.templethemes.net.

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. 64-65. www.templethemes.net.

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 36 (2020): in press.

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, p. 32.

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. 13.

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. 222-223.

References

Alexander, Philip S. “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.

Barker, Margaret. The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 1991.

———. The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God. Louisville, KY: Westminster / John Knox Press, 1992.

———. An Extraordinary Gathering of Angels. London, England: MQ Publications, 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.

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.

Collins, Adela Yarbro. “Paul, Jewish mysticism, and spirit possession.” In Apocalypticism and Mysticism in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, edited by John J. Collins, Pieter G. R. de Villiers and Adela Yarbro Collins. Religious Experience From Antiquity to the Middle Ages 7, eds. David Aune, Jan Bremmer, John J. Collins, Dyan Elliott, Amy Hollywood, Sarah Iles Johnston, Gabor Klaniczay, Paulo Nogueira, Christopher Rowland and Elliot R. Wolfson, 81-101. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 2018.

Hurlbut, Jesse. E-mail message to Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, February 17a, 2020.

Knibb, Michael A. “Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 2, 143-76. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

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.

———. “Slavonic apocrypha and Slavic linguistics.” In The Old Testament Apocrypha in the Slavonic Tradition: Continuity and Diversity, edited by Christfried Böttrich, Lorenzo DiTommaso and Marina Swoboda Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism, 245-70. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. https://www.scribd.com/document/124601634/Article-Slavonic-Apocrypha-and-Slavic-Linguistics-1. (accessed December 3, 2019).

———. “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.

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).

Malan, Solomon Caesar, ed. The Book of Adam and Eve: Also Called The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan: A Book of the Early Eastern Church. Translated from the Ethiopic, with Notes from the Kufale, Talmud, Midrashim, and Other Eastern Works. London, England: Williams and Norgate, 1882. Reprint, San Diego, CA: The Book Tree, 2005.

Mayerhofer, Kerstin. “‘And they will rejoice over me forever!’ The history of Israel in the light of the catastrophe of 70 C.E. in the Slavonic Apocalypse of Abraham.” Judaica Olomoucensia 1-2 (2014): 10-35. https://judaistika.upol.cz/fileadmin/userdata/FF/katedry/jud/judaica/Judaica_Olomucensia_2014_1-2.pdf. (accessed December 3, 2019).

Neusner, Jacob, ed. The Mishnah: A New Translation. London, England: Yale University Press, 1988.

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. http://farms.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=71. (accessed October 10).

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).

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).

Rowland, Christopher. The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity. New York City, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1982.

Rubinkiewicz, Ryszard. “Apocalypse of Abraham.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 681-705. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

———. 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.

Scholem, Gershom, ed. 1941. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. New York City, NY: Schocken Books, 1995.

Wintermute, O. S. “Jubilees.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. Vol. 2, 35-142. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Translation of caption: “Abraham bowing with an angel before the throne of God in the heavens.” Cf. A. Kulik, Retroverting, 18:3, p. 24.

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 2. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

Footnotes

 

1 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 16:3, p. 22, emphasis added.

2 Jesse Hurlbut, a specialist of illustrated medieval manuscripts gives his views on the discrepancy between the text and illustration as follows (J. Hurlbut, February 17a 2020; ibid.):

As for contradictions, it is not uncommon for medieval illustrations to differ from the texts they represent. The scribes almost never did their own illustrations, and the communication between scribes and illuminators wasn’t always successful, especially in cases where the illuminator could not (or did not) read the text. …

I’ve also had another thought about your illumination of the face-to-face encounter with God/Christ. It may be that the veil is pulled back for the benefit of the viewer–but not for Abraham. This was a frequent convention in 14th-15th-century illuminations. Here’s an example from one of the Bibles Moralisées that shows Zacharias (father of John the Baptist) serving in the temple. The walls are stripped away so we can see what’s going on, but the other present observers (“multitude de peuples“) are certainly not able to see him. Similarly, I think the artist has exposed God’s face to the reader in the ApAb, even though He remains concealed to Abraham.

3 M. Barker, Christmas, pp. 14-15.

4 Numbers 6:24-26.

5 Matthew 5:8.

6 Revelation 4:2.

7 Moses 1:31.

8 See A. Kulik, Slavonic Apocrypha and Slavic Linguistics, p. 263.

9 Ibid., p. 263. Cf. J. W. Ludlow, Visions, p. 63 and n. 20.

10 A. Kulik, Slavonic Apocrypha and Slavic Linguistics, p. 264.

11 J. Neusner, Mishnah, 3:15 I A, p. 680. See also the discussion of the views of Paulsen-Reed on ApAb’s “compatibilism,” in contrast to previous views of its “determinism,” in Essay #34.

12 E.g., Proverbs 8:22-30.

13 Job 28; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Alma 12:9-11; Doctrine and Covenants 76:7, 10; 84:19; 107:18-19. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Excursus 53: Comparative Explorations of the Mysteries, p. 663.

14 1 Nephi 9:5. See also e.g., 1 Nephi 3:19; 5:22; 19:3; Words of Mormon 1:7; Alma 37:12, 14, 18. The term “wisdom” recurs once in the Book of Moses, in an exposition on the gifts of the Comforter (Moses 6:61). See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 4:11-a, b, c, p. 253, 4:12-c, p. 255, and Excursus 2: Ancient Concepts of Wisdom, p. 516.

15 From the text of manuscript K. See R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 697 n. c.

16 Ibid., 17:5, p. 697.

17 Adela Yarbro Collins explains her view of the relationship between God the Father, Christ, and the angels in the writings of Paul as follows (A. Y. Collins, Paul, Jewish Mysticism, p. 94):

In the prose poem or hymn of Philippian [2:6], Paul portrays the pre-existent Christ as being “in the form of God.” This phrase does not refer to being God or being divine in the fullest sense. Otherwise, the “hyper-exaltation” after his death on the cross would lose its rhetorical force (Philippians 2:9). Thus “being in the form of God” is best understood as being a heavenly being, probably some sort of angel. The hyper-exalted state of Christ, historically interpreted, is best thought of as being the principal angel. The principal angel in some ancient Jewish texts is the angel who bears the name of God, such as Yahoel in the Apocalypse of Abraham, and is closest to and most like God. That the pre-existent Christ, who became the earthly Jesus, was transformed and became the highest angel is analogous to the transformation of the human Enoch into the exalted angel Metatron, whom God gives the name “The lesser YHWH” (P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, 12:5, p. 265). Thus, when the bodies of Paul and the members of his communities are “conformed to his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21) they will become like those of the angels.

Curiously, however, the Christian illustrator of ApAb represents Christ, sitting on the throne of God, separately from Yaho’el, the angelic companion of Abraham, whereas the earliest Christians might have more easily seen a fusion of Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ, His earthly manifestation (e.g., M. Barker, Angel).

18 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 10:17, p. 18. The figure may also represent Metatron, whose name, according to one interpretation, is short for the Greek Metathronios, i.e., “he who stands beside the (God’s) throne,’ or ‘who occupies the throne next to the divine throne” (G. Scholem, Trends, p. 69), or perhaps Metaturannos, “the one next to the ruler” (P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, p. 243). “Metatron was merged with two other heavenly figures, (1) the archangel Yaho’el (ibid., 1:4, p. 257, 48D:1(1), p. 313), and (2) translated Enoch … From other texts, however, we know of an angel Yaho’el quite independent of Metatron (e.g., A. Kulik, Retroverting, 10, pp. 17-18)” (P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, p. 244).

Christopher Rowland speculated that Yaho’el, “like Wisdom (Wisdom 9:4) was the companion of God’s throne. While there is no explicit evidence that [Yaho’el] was the one whose seat was on the throne of God, it is not impossible that we have a theological description here which reflects that found in Ezekiel 1 and 8, where the human figure on the throne leaves the throne to function as the agent of divine will” (C. Rowland, Open Heaven, p. 103).

Other, more distant possibilities for the identity of this figure might include the “angel of the Holy Ghost” (mentioned in M. A. Knibb, Isaiah, 11:33, p. 176) or the Father, with Christ serving as his Face, in front, and the more invisible/formless Father behind.

19 For a description of the terms used to describe the different levels represented by the veils, see A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1480 n. 46.

20 Significantly, the veil in Israelite temples was woven with different colors, as described by Barker (M. Barker, Angels, p. 14. Cf. M. Barker, Gate, pp. 108-111; M. Barker, Hidden, pp. 18-19.):

The veil marked the division between the visible and the invisible creation. It represented matter, and was woven from red, blue, purple, and white threads, to represent the four elements from which the material world was made: earth (white), air (blue), fire (red), and water (purple). It was embroidered with cherubim, the winged heavenly beings found throughout the temple — in the Holy of Holies, on the walls of the great hall, and on the veil between them. They could move between the two states of creation, and transmitted heavenly knowledge to earth.

21 Moses chapters 2–4. Other ancient writings affirm what the book of Moses says about how the stories of the Creation and the Fall were revealed in vision. For example, the book of Jubilees prefaces a recital of the Creation and other events of Genesis with the Lord’s instructions to Moses to record what he would see in vision (O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 2:26, p. 54).

22 D&C 130:9.

23 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 19:1, 4-5, 9, pp. 24-25; cf. Abraham 3:1–18.

24 I.e., formerly shadowed, sketched, outlined, prefigured (R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 699 n. 21a). A. Kulik, Retroverting, 21:1, p. 26 translates this phrase as “the creation which was previously covered over.”

25 Cf. Abraham 5:3–5.

26 Cf. Abraham 3:22–23. See the discussion of this passage earlier in this article.

27 A. Kulik, Retroverting, pp. 26-28. Whereas R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 177 n. 5 sees ApAb 23:4-10 as an insertion by a Bogomil editor, this idea is refuted in the more recent analysis of A. E. Paulsen-Reed, Origins, pp. 122-124.

Consistent with the emphasis in the first part of ApAb, which condemns idolatry through the story of Terah, the ApAb version of the Fall supposes that Adam, Eve, and Cain also practiced idolatry. Mayerhofer further explains the point of these illustrations for the protagonist of ApAb: “Abraham, who manages to stand up against his father’s ungodly practices, can escape both the crisis and the punishment” (K. Mayerhofer, And They Will Rejoice, p. 15). See also the discussion of idolatry in A. E. Paulsen-Reed, Origins, pp. 108-117.

28 J. W. Ludlow, Visions, p. 64 sees a parallel in ApAb 19:9, “and [Abraham saw] the orders they [the hosts of stars] were commanded to carry out, and the elements of earth obeying them” (R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 19:9, p. 167) as echoing “the idea found in the Book of Abraham that greater stars had power or governed over lesser stars (see Abraham 3:2-6; 4:14-17).” The idea that the stars could be commanded to carry out God’s orders also corresponds to Abraham 4:18: “And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.”

29 H. W. Nibley, To Open, p. 15. Nibley also cites extensive parallels between Moses 1 and S. C. Malan, Adam and Eve.

Moses’ Vision at the Veil

Book of Moses Essay #40

Moses 1:27-30

With contribution from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Matthew L. Bowen, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock

Having traversed the veil, Moses and Abraham experience a comprehensive vision of the earth and its mortal inhabitants through the ages. In both texts, this raises questions for the prophets, but the nature of the questions differs somewhat in Moses 1 than in the Apocalypse of Abraham (ApAb).

Figure 2. Resemblances for Moses’ Vision at the Veil (Moses 1:27–30)

Moses and Abraham Behold the Earth

The change in perspective as Moses passes upward through the heavenly veil is related in subtle beauty in the Book of Moses. Previously, as Moses stood on the earth, he “lifted up his eyes unto heaven.”1  Now, after ascending to heaven, he “cast his eyes” down to see the earth and all of its inhabitants.2  Similarly, Abraham is told: “Look now beneath your feet at the expanse [i.e., heavenly veil3 ] and contemplate the creation and those who inhabit it.”4

Significantly, Kulik notes that “Abraham’s exploration of the heavenly world in a downward direction as the heavens open below” is “unique” in the relevant heavenly ascent literature. He writes: “Other visionaries either moved from lower to upper firmaments or wandered in a horizontal direction.”5  Remarkably, this feature, unique to ApAb in the pseudepigraphal literature, also appears in Moses 1.

Figure 3. Hypocephalus British Museum 35875 (formerly 8445c)

The translation of Rubinkiewicz is stronger than that of Kulik, indicating that Abraham is not merely required to “contemplate” the creation and the inhabitants of the earth, but rather to “pay attention [to] … and understand” it!6  How can Abraham come to understand the universe? In terms that echo the vertical and horizontal divisions of hypocephali such as the one included as Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham,7  Rubinkiewicz explains:8

If we pay attention to our account, we will see an astonishing thing. Abraham sees the earth peopled by the wicked (v. 3), but he also sees Eden inhabited by the righteous (v. 6); God shows him the sea ruled by Leviathan (v. 4), but Abraham also contemplates the “upper waters” that are above the firmament (v. 5). At the conclusion, he sees people at the left and right of the picture. What should Abraham understand by this vision? The answer is simple: the division between the righteous and the wicked is based on the structure of the world, where both the forces of evil (the earth and the wicked; the sea and Leviathan) and the forces of good (the “upper waters,” Eden) each have their place. The entire universe has thus been projected by God and “it is pleasing to Him” (22:2).9

In other words, as Lehi declared: “it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things” or else “there would have been no purpose in … creation.”10

The Inhabitants of the Earth

In their visions, both Moses and Abraham seem to have not only seen the inhabitants of the earth but also witnessed the earth’s entire history from beginning to end—like Adam, Enoch, the Brother of Jared, John the Beloved, and others.11  Moroni taught that those with perfect faith cannot be “kept from within the veil” (i.e., cannot be kept outside the veil12 ). The veil in question is the heavenly veil behind which God dwells in glory, whose earthly counterpart is the temple veil that divides the holy place from the holy of holies.13

Consistent with Jewish,14  Islamic,15  and other16  ancient accounts, Abraham and Moses do not receive their cosmic visions until after they have passed through the heavenly veil. This is because the visions in such accounts, derived from a “blueprint”17  of eternity that has been worked out before the Creation, are usually described as being depicted inside the heavenly veil.18  Writes Margaret Barker:19

Those who passed beyond the veil found themselves outside time. When Rabbi Ishmael ascended and looked back he saw the curtain on which was depicted past, present and future. ‘All generations to the end of time were printed on the curtain of the Omnipresent One. I saw them all with my own eyes’…20  [Similarly,] Enoch was taken up by three angels and set up on a high place whence he saw all history, past, present and future.

The heavenly veil corresponding to the firmament of the Creation is sometimes represented as a shining pavement on which the Lord stands21  or as the “sea of glass” where God resides.22  Islamic and Jewish sources imply that the unenlightened might mistakenly confuse such a crystal pavement with water.23  Such descriptions also relate to the white stone that will be given to the Saints “whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known.”24

Jesus Himself, when He was tempted in the desert saw “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,”25  an experience that Barker recognizes as “a characteristic of the temple mystics’ overall view of history.”26  Islamic tradition preserves the same motif in the story of how “Adam took out the cloth and spread it out. Upon it were the forms of the prophets [i.e., the pious] and the pharaohs [i.e., the wicked], rank after rank.”27

Moses and Abraham Question God

Now standing in the presence of God, Moses asks about the Creation: “Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so?”28  However, in an important divergence from Moses 1, ApAb, Abraham asks two questions of a somewhat different nature, the first about the origin of evil in the world (“Why … have you set yourself with [Satan]?”29 ) and later the other about the origin of evil in humankind (“Eternal, Mighty One! Why did you ordain it to be so?”30 ).

Moses will receive a partial answer to his question about “by what” God made these things through a vision of the Creation.31  He will also be told something about “why these things are so.”32

As with Moses, the answer to Abraham’s first question will be found in his vision of the Creation and the Fall. However, the answer to his second question will come he sees the unfolding of the history of Israel.33  Scholars, especially those who date this section of ApAb to the years following the destruction of the temple, see the subsequent material as the sort of thing that a first-century redactor might have inserted into a potentially pre-existing heavenly ascent text as a means of providing a plausible context for the theological questions he aimed to answer for his contemporaries.34

By way of contrast to ApAb, the questions about Creation posed by Moses are more universal and timeless.35

In the mystical Islamic work The Mother of Books, a petitioner also prays with a “typical list of questions”: “My Lord, how did the high king create all these spheres and palaces? From where did he make the spirits? What was the origin of his creation?” and receives an answer similar to the one given to Moses: “The creation of these realms is hard to fathom. Not everyone knows the way to knowledge, and its secret [is] well-concealed.”36  The Gospel of Philip specifies the mechanism of concealment in asserting that it is the “veil [that] at first concealed how God controlled the creation.”37

Conclusion

Joseph Smith may have been alluding to an ineffable experience of seeing behind the veil like that of Moses when he wrote the following to William W. Phelps:38

Oh, Lord, when will the time come when Brother William, Thy servant, and myself, shall behold the day that we may stand together and gaze upon eternal wisdom engraven upon the heavens, while the majesty of our God holdeth up the dark curtain until we may read the round of eternity, to the fulness and satisfaction of our immortal souls? Oh, Lord, deliver us in due time from the little, narrow prison, almost as it were, total darkness of paper, pen and ink;—and a crooked, broken, scattered and imperfect language.

We are told that Moses discerned his vision “by the spirit of God.”39  By this we comprehend that the power behind Moses’ experience was “not just God’s ability to produce a comprehensive vision, but an ability to change Moses so that he could comprehend it.”40

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. www.templethemes.net.

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. 62–64. www.templethemes.net.

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.

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. 31–32.

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. 12.

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. 220–223.

References

al-Kisa’i, Muhammad ibn Abd Allah. ca. 1000-1100. Tales of the Prophets (Qisas al-anbiya). Translated by Wheeler M. Thackston, Jr. Great Books of the Islamic World, ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Chicago, IL: KAZI Publications, 1997.

al-Tha’labi, Abu Ishaq Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim. d. 1035. ‘Ara’is Al-Majalis Fi Qisas Al-Anbiya’ or “Lives of the Prophets”. Translated by William M. Brinner. Studies in Arabic Literature, Supplements to the Journal of Arabic Literature, Volume 24, ed. Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

Alexander, Philip S. “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.

Barker, Margaret. “Beyond the veil of the temple: The high priestly origin of the apocalypses.” In The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, edited by Margaret Barker, 188-201. London, England: T & T Clark, 2003.

———. “The veil as the boundary.” In The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, edited by Margaret Barker, 202-28. London, England: T & T Clark, 2003.

———. 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.

Barnstone, Willis, and Marvin W. Meyer. “The Mother of Books (Umm al-kitab).” In The Gnostic Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer. Translated by Willis Barnstone, 655-725. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2003.

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.

Dan, Joseph. Jewish Mysticism. 4 vols. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998-1999.

Ginzberg, Louis, ed. The Legends of the Jews. 7 vols. Translated by Henrietta Szold and Paul Radin. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909-1938. Reprint, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Hamblin, William J., and David Rolph Seely. Solomon’s Temple: Myth and History. London, England: Thames & Hudson, 2007.

Isenberg, Wesley W. “The Gospel of Philip (II, 3).” In The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M. Robinson. 3rd, Completely Revised ed, 139-60. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990.

Kee, Howard C. “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. Vol. 1, 775-828. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

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.

McConkie, Bruce R. “Christ and the creation.” Ensign 12, June 1982, 8-15.

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.

———. 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.

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

———, ed. The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary. Studies in the Book of Abraham 2, ed. John Gee. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2002.

Rubinkiewicz, Ryszard. “Apocalypse of Abraham.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 681-705. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

———. 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.

Salisbury, Frank B. The Creation. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1976.

Scholem, Gershom, ed. 1941. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. New York City, NY: Schocken Books, 1995.

Smith, Joseph, Jr., Matthew C. Godfrey, Mark Ashhurst-McGee, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley. Documents, Volume 2: July 1831-January 1833. The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, Richard Lyman Bushman and Matthew J. Grow. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church Historian’s Press, 2013.

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1902-1932. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Documentary History). 7 vols. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1978.

Thomas, M. Catherine. “The Brother of Jared at the veil.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry, 388-98. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994.

Wheeler, Brannon M. Prophets in the Quran: An Introduction to the Quran and Muslim Exegesis. Comparative Islam Studies, ed. Brannon M. Wheeler. London, England: Continuum, 2002.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/image/jehovah-creates-earth-rane-fa3141a?lang=eng (accessed July 6, 2020).

Figure 2. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

Figure 3. Photographs by Stephen T. Whitlock of Hypocephalus of Hor (2005), whose owner may have been “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). For more on the nature and function of the hypocephalus, see Essay #34, Note on Figure 6.

Footnotes

1 Moses 1:24.

2 Moses 1:27–28.

3 The KJV term “firmament” in Genesis 1:6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 17, 20 translates the Hebrew term raqia‘ (רָקִ֖יעַ = “expanse”) which describes how the waters were “‘divided’ between the surface of the earth and the atmospheric heavens that surround it” (B. R. McConkie, Christ and the Creation, p. 11). Figuratively, however, it alludes to the veil that divided off the Holy of Holies in the temple (see, e.g., the selection of sources summarized in L. Ginzberg, Legends, 1:51), corresponding to the veil in the heavenly “temple” (P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, 45:1, p. 296 n. a.

4 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 21:1, p. 26.

5 A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1469 n. 19:3.

6 Prête attention maintenant à l’espace sous tes pieds, et comprends (mon) dessein” = “Pay attention now to the space beneath your feet and understand my design” (R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 21:1, p. 171). Cf. Daniel 9:23: “Understand the matter, and consider the vision.”

7 For more on the hypocephalus and possible allusions to its general imagery in ApAb, see Essay #34. For more on allusions to circular maps of the cosmos in the ancient Enoch literature, see Essay #24. In addition to the right-left mirroring that evoked for Hugh Nibley the opposing hosts of the righteous and the wicked described in ApAb (see H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, p. 45; H. W. Nibley et al., One Eternal Round, pp. 596, 597), the circle is “divided by straight lines into three horizontal zones. … The upper part of the hypocephalus represents the earth and sky, while the lower part, which is reversed, resents the netherworld or realm of the dead, which together depict the entire universe” (ibid., p. 595). See also pp. 286–288.

8 R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 171.

9 Ibid., p. 171 n. adds: “This idea is not unique, for it is also found in the Testament of Naphtali 2:7–8” (see H. C. Kee, Testaments, p. 811).

10 2 Nephi 2:11, 12. Lehi specifically connected the universal need for opposition to the symbolism in Eden: “it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter” (2 Nephi 2:15). Intriguingly, the Lord expresses a similar sentiment in Moses 6:55: “And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good” (emphasis added).

11 D&C 107:56, Moses 7:4–67, Ether 3:25, 1 Nephi 14:25, 1 Nephi 14:26, Luke 4:5, M. C. Thomas, Brother of Jared.

12 Ether 3:20; cf. Moses 1:27.

13 P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, 45:1, p. 296 n. 45a.

14 Gershom Scholem wrote descriptively that “this cosmic curtain, as it is described in the Book of Enoch, contains the images of all things which since the day of creation have their pre-existing reality, as it were, in the heavenly sphere. All generations and all their lives and actions are woven into this curtain. … [All this] shall become universal knowledge in the Messianic age” (G. Scholem, Trends, p. 72).

15 For example, Islamic tradition speaks of a “white cloth from Paradise” upon which Adam saw the fate of his posterity (M. i. A. A. al-Kisa’i, Tales, p. 82). For a description of an account by al-Tha’labi, see H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, 10, p. 117.

16 See, e.g., H. W. Nibley et al., One Eternal Round, pp. 188–585; H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, pp. 42–73.

17 P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, 45:1, p. 296 n. 45a. The English term “blueprint” is an apt choice to describe the vision of Rabbi Ishmael (ibid., 45:1, p. 296 [cf. 45:6, pp. 298–299]):

Come and I will show you the curtain of the Omnipresent One, which is spread before the Holy One, blessed be he, and on which are printed all the generations of the world and all their deeds, whether done or to be done, till the last generation.

Citing precedents in translations of similar visions in Jewish tradition, Kulik translates the relevant term in ApAb 21:2 as a “likeness” or In 22:1, 3, 5; 23:1, and “many other instances” he translates it as “picture” (East Slavic obrazovanie) (A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1470 n. 21:2).

18 For more on this subject, see, e.g., M. Barker, Beyond; M. Barker, Boundary; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Moses 1:27b, pp. 62–63.

19 M. Barker, Temple Theology, p. 28. See also M. Barker, Boundary, pp. 215–217.

20 P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, 45:6, p. 299.

21 E.g., Exodus 24:9-10; Daniel 10:6; Doctrine and Covenants 110:2.

22 Revelation 4:6, 21:18, 21; Doctrine and Covenants 130:8–9, 137:4; Ezekiel 1:22, 26.

23 A. I. A. I. M. I. I. al-Tha’labi, Lives, pp. 534–535; J. Dan, Mysticism, 1:276-279; W. J. Hamblin et al., Solomon’s Temple, pp. 131, 270; G. W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 14:10, p. 257; B. M. Wheeler, Prophets, p. 270; Qur’an 27:38–44. See also 1 Kings 10:1–13; Ezekiel 1:22; Exodus 24:10; Revelation 21:18, 21.

24 Doctrine and Covenants 130:4–11; cf. Revelation 2:17; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 3:19-b, p. 177; Figure 4-4, p. 219; Endnote 4-9, p. 299; Endnote 4-22, p. 304; Excursus 53: Comparative Explorations: Jewish and Christian Analogues, p. 679. See also Commentary 1:6-g, p. 48 and 2:1-e, p. 94 regarding God’s timelessness and the scope of divine knowledge.

25 Luke 4:5.

26 M. Barker, Hidden, p. 95.

27 M. i. A. A. al-Kisa’i, Tales, p. 82.

28 Moses 1:30.

29 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 20:7, p. 25.

30 Ibid., 26:1, p. 30.

31 See Moses 2.

32 See Moses 1:39.

33 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 27:1–31:12, pp. 30–35. Nibley nonetheless sees resemblances between these passages in the Apocalypse and the Books of Moses and Abraham (H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, pp. 25-26).

34 For example, R. Rubinkiewicz concludes, consistent with most recent scholarship: “Our pseudepigraphon was written after 70 CE, because the author describes the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. chapter 27)” (R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 683).

35 Demonstrating that similar questions are not unknown elsewhere in the heavenly ascent literature, we note this example from the Islamic Mother of Books: “My Lord, … From where did he make the spirits? What was the origin of his creation?” (W. Barnstone et al., Mother, p. 685).

36 Ibid., p. 685.

37 W. W. Isenberg, Philip, 84:23–25, p. 159.

38 J. Smith, Jr. et al., Documents 2, July 1831-January 1833, Letter to William W. Phelps, 27 November 1832, p. 320, spelling and punctuation modernized. Cf. J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 27 November 1832, 1:299.

39 Moses 1:27.

40 F. B. Salisbury, Creation, p. 65.

The Names of Moses as “Keywords”

Book of Moses Essay #39

Moses 1:25

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Matthew L. Bowen, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock

Temple Names as Signposts on the Covenant Pathway

The use of temple names as signposts on the covenant pathway is ancient. It is reflected in the second-century account of the early Christian theologian, Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215 CE). His account is drawn from a group of “initiates” (= Greek mystai) who described the three successive names that they understood to have been given to Moses at different junctures of his life: “‘Joachim,’ given him by his mother at circumcision; ‘Moses,’ given him by Pharaoh’s daughter; and ‘Melchi,’1  a name he had in heaven which was given him, apparently by God, after his ascension.”2  Though interpretations of the name “Melchi” vary, the eminent scholar of Second Temple Judaism, Erwin Goodenough, saw it as representing the “eternal priesthood of Melchizedek,”3  reported in Genesis as being a “king” and “the priest of the Most High God.”4  Going beyond these three names reported in Clement’s account, Moses 1:25 can be seen as the bestowal of a final, fourth name, implied in the divine declaration that Moses is to be “made stronger than many waters.”

Who were the “initiates” from whom Clement received this information? It is possible that he received it as part of his own initiation into the mysteries of Christ, an event to which he alludes indirectly in his own writings.5  Among other things, such mysteries seem to have included unwritten temple teachings not to be shared with new Christian converts or with the world at large.6  In addition, a controversial letter purportedly written by Clement and discovered by Morton Smith, mentions certain “secret” doings and writings that were part of the “hierophantic teaching of the Lord [that would] lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth,” but that were “most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.”7  Other alternatives have also been advanced. For example, although Clement “names as his immediate informants a circle of religious savants,” some scholars conclude that “the ultimate source” for this reference “was presumably a written document.”8

In support of the idea that the practice of applying a series of sacred names to individuals was known not only by some early Christians but also hundreds of years earlier in some strands of Second Temple Judaism, we turn to a non-sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls manuscript entitled the Visions of Amram. Texts such as this one might have attracted the attention of groups of Jewish initiates that outsiders called Essenes and Therapeutai about whom the Philo of Alexandria (ca. 15 BCE–45 CE) wrote in treatises with which Clement was very familiar.9  In one of three examples this naming pattern included in the Visions of Amram, an angel identifies his three names as being Michael, Prince of Light, and Melchizedek — the latter being interpreted as a title that means “Ruler of Righteousness.”10  In further support of the idea that the Michael’s third name of Melchizedek is meant as a title rather than as a unique individual name is that it corresponds to the third name of Moses as reported by Clement. Intriguingly, a later passage in the Visions of Amram seems to portend the giving to Moses of his own names.11  The relevant line begins with the words “I will tell you your(?) names,” but unfortunately the text breaks off there and the names are not mentioned elsewhere in the fragments.12

In this Essay, we will argue that the elegantly reflective, multi-lingual nuances of the series of names and titles ascribed to Moses by Clement’s initiates can be seen as various enriched likenesses of himself, interpreted and amplified to reveal the latent character and identity of the prophet as a “God in embryo.”13  Although we cannot know whether the report that a particular series of names was given to Moses is historically authentic, the suggestions remain of interest because the meanings of the names are so remarkably apropos. A series of names of this sort would have helped Moses to discover aspects of his past, present, and future destiny while also enabling him to accomplish his heavenly ascent. It does not seem impossible that the initiates who reported these names may have known that such names were meant to be used as “keywords” in heavenly or ritual ascent.

Below, we will argue that each one of the three “ciphered” names for Moses reported by Clement is rich in meaning when “deciphered” in light of Moses’ premortal and mortal mission. And, remarkably, when the fourth title (“stronger than many waters,” foreshadowing Moses’ eternal destiny) is appended to the rest, each member of the complete set of four names is arguably “present” in Moses 1.

We will begin with a brief overview of the function of names as “keywords” in temple contexts. We will then show how the four names he was purportedly given serve to illuminate Moses’ life and mission. Finally, we offer concluding thoughts about patterns of ritual and heavenly ascent.

Figure 2. J. James Tissot, 1836–1902: Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod Seen from the East, ca. 1886–1894

Temple Names as “Keywords”

The idea of “keywords” has been associated with temples since very early times. In a temple context, the meaning of the term “keyword” can be taken quite literally: the use of the appropriate keyword or keywords by a qualified worshipper “unlocks” each one of a successive series of gates, thus providing access to specific, secured areas of the sacred space.14

In temples throughout the ancient Near East, including Jerusalem, “different temple gates had names indicating the blessing received when entering: ‘the gate of grace,’ ‘the gate of salvation,’ ‘the gate of life,’ and so on,”15  as well as signifying “the fitness, through due preparation, which entrants should have in order to pass through [each one of] the gates.”16  In Jerusalem, the final “gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter,”17  very likely referred to “the innermost temple gate”18  where those seeking the face of the God of Jacob19  would find the fulfillment of their temple pilgrimage. The last gate, like each of those previously encountered, could be opened only to entrants who had passed every prior test. Importantly, these tests were designed not only to demonstrate knowledge relating to specific keywords but also to assess whether the entrant met the qualifications of moral fitness and experience.

These keywords can also be associated with names. As Joseph Smith taught, “The new name is the key word.”20  In this regard, it is important to understand that in each stage of that passage one was expected not only to know something but also to be something.21  Some ancient exegetes went so far as to assert: “all ancient traditions agree that the true name of a living thing reflects precisely its nature or its very essence.”22  For example, as René Guénon illustrates this particular view:23  “It is because Adam had received from God an understanding of the nature of all living things that he was able to give them their names” in the Garden of Eden.24  The idea of a strong connection between names and personal attributes is evident in Old Testament examples of figures such as Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob, who received new names only after they had been sufficiently tested and found worthy of them.25

Figure 3. Harold I. Hopkinson, 1918–2000: The Commissioned

Joachim

The first name, Joachim, meaning “Yahweh has raised up”26  is closely associated with the well-known prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 that speaks of a prophet “like unto” himself that the Lord will later “raise up.”

However, more pertinent to the present discussion than references to later prophets that the Lord would “raise up” is the question of how the meaning of the name “Joachim” — “Yahweh has raised up” — might be shown as being relevant to Moses himself, he being the one to whom these subsequent figures were likened. While no relevant passages justifying the application of the name to Moses are given in the Bible, these allusions to the meaning of the name appear in Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith Translation passages containing the prophecies of Joseph, son of Israel, long prior to Moses’ birth. In one of these passages, the Lord declared that He would surely “raise up” Moses “to deliver [Israel] out of the land of Egypt.”27

Thus, it is apparent that Joachim, the first name said to have been given to Moses — and which would have been consistent with the premortal foreordination he received in anticipation of his earthly mission — would have been completely at home if it had been explicitly included in Moses 1:41. There, the Lord, in subtle wordplay that functions by omission, refers directly to the meaning of the most important element of Moses’ first purported sacred name (“raise up”) without explicitly mentioning the name itself in the English text.

Moses

Figure 4. Arnold Friberg, 1913–2010: The Finding of Moses by the Daughter of Pharaoh, 1953

The Hebrew etymology of Moses is given in Exodus 2:10: “And she called his name Moses [mōšeh] and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.” On the other hand, the commonly accepted Egyptian origin of the name Moses means “begotten” or “born.” Significantly, the Egyptian form of the name Moses is typically paired with the name of a god, e.g., Ramesses (“Rēʿ is begotten”), Thutmose ( “Thoth is begotten”), Ahmose ( “the moon [-god] is begotten”), and so forth.

Despite the surface level differences between the Hebrew and Egyptian etymologies, it can be shown that the two derivations function very well together. To be “drawn” from evokes “birth” imagery of being “drawn” from amniotic waters.28  One can virtually substitute the meaning of the Egyptian verb for the meaning of the Hebrew verb in the explanation for Moses’ name in translation: “And she called his name Moses: and she said, ‘Because I birthed him from the water.’”29

Significantly, the words of Joseph in JST Genesis 50:29 further illuminate the dual derivation of ‘Moses’: “For a seer will I raise up to deliver my people out of the land of Egypt; and he shall be called Moses. And by this name he shall know that he is of thy house; for he shall be nursed by the king’s daughter, and shall be called her son.30

Finally, it should be observed that Moses’ second name, the name he was given by his adoptive mother in Egypt and by which he was known throughout his mortal life, appears a remarkable twenty-five times within the forty-two verses of Moses 1. As we will see later on, the initial Hebrew and Egyptian meanings of the name “Moses” that can be seen in Exodus 2:10 anticipate the richer significance of the name that will unfold in Moses 1:25.

Figure 5. J. James Tissot, 1836–1902: The Offerings of Melchizedek, ca. 1886–1894

Melchi

Erwin Goodenough comments as follows with respect to “Melchi,” the third name of Moses that is reported by Clement: “The significance of ‘Melchi’ is not explained, but it at least suggests the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek.”31  In this context, we concur not only with Goodenough but also with Margaret Barker, who goes on to say that Melchizedek (Melchi-zedek32 ) should be regarded as a title as much as a name.33  According to Barker, the title:34

was associated with the original temple priesthood in Jerusalem, and it was a title that the first Christians gave to Jesus. … The account of Solomon’s enthronement in 1 Chronicles 29 originally described how he became the human presence of the Lord, the king (“I have begotten you with dew” [i.e., with a confirmatory anointing35 ], Psalm 110:3) and also the high priest (“a priest for eternity,” Psalm 110:4). He became Melchi (king) – Zedek (righteous one).

In this connection, it should be remembered that the blessings of the fulness of the Holy Priesthood, given to Moses and representing the roles of a king and priest, were originally connected not with the name of Melchizedek but rather with the “Son of God.”36  Only later was the name of “Melchizedek Priesthood” substituted as a description of this priesthood order, “out of respect or reverence” to the sacred name of the “Son of God,” so as “to avoid [its] too frequent repetition.”37

Thus there is no inconsistency in the fact that Moses 6:68 describes an individual who has received the fulness of the priesthood as having become, when divinely ratified, “a son of God.”38  This description resonates with the royal rebirth formula of Psalm 2:7: “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee,” spoken on the occasion of the Davidic king’s enthronement.

Thus, we should not be surprised that God’s description of Moses as “my son” appears three additional times in Moses 139  — which we take, for the reasons just mentioned, as being equivalent to his being called “Melchizedek.” The importance of Moses’ status as “a son of God” is highlighted by Satan himself when the legitimacy of that title is the subject of the opening controversy in his challenge to the prophet.40

We further note that the declaration that Moses is “a son of God” hints at one possible reason why previously, in Exodus 2:10, he was given only “half a name.” Remember that the name “Moses” is lacking the theophoric prefix that is often present in the names of royal Egyptian figures with similar names, names like Ra-messes, Thut-mose, Ah-mose, and so forth. Remember that the names of these figures declared them to have been begotten as one or another of the Egyptian gods. Only now, in the account of Moses 1, is it revealed that Moses has been begotten with the name of the God of Israel, the heretofore missing theophoric prefix.

Figure 6. Moses Enthroned and Holding Stone Tablets,
the Tetragrammaton in top center (detail), ca. 1616

“As If Thou Wert God”

The closest statement to the phrase “as if thou wert God” (Moses 1:25) in the Bible is found in Exodus 7:1. Surprisingly, the verse does not say that Moses was to be “like a god” to Pharaoh. Rather, the Lord’s words to the prophet in Hebrew read literally: “I have made you God/god to Pharaoh.”41  This concept has been difficult for some scholars to accept. For example, Gary Rendsburg sees “Moses’ [temporary] elevation to the divine plane” as violating “a basic tenet of the ancient Israelites” in order to respond to “the exigency of the moment.”42  However, there are both ancient and modern sources that argue that Moses’ divine status was neither exceptional nor provisional.

Figure 7. Arnold Friberg, 1913–2010: The Lord Speaks to Moses from the Burning Bush, 1953

Moses as god and king. Drawing on Jewish sources, Wayne Meeks has written a classic chapter citing sources that portray Moses as “God and King.”43

In some accounts, Moses’ divine status is associated with that of Yahweh. For example, the promise to Moses of power over the waters resembles that given to David in Psalm 89:25.44  Like Moses, David is there depicted as a god — a “lesser YHWH” — on earth,45  consistent with the extended discussion by David J. Larsen of the enthronement of Moses and other figures in the literature of the ancient Near East.46

In other accounts, Moses’ ultimate divine status is compared to Elohim rather than Yahweh. For example, Wayne Meeks finds instances in the Samaritan literature where “the name with which Moses was ‘crowned’ or ‘clothed’ is … Elohim.”47  He further reports that the name of Elohim, conferred on Moses, was “distinguished from YHWH, ‘the name which god revealed to him’”48  on Mount Sinai.49

The theme of God’s personal disclosure of His own name to those who approach the final gate to enter His presence is reminiscent of the explanation of Figure 7, Facsimile 2 from the Book of Abraham. In the Prophet’s interpretation of that figure, God is described as “sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood.” The same concept was operative elsewhere in the ancient Near East. For example, in the Old Babylonian investiture liturgy, we might see in the account of the fifty names given to Marduk at the end of Enuma Elish a description of his procession through the ritual complex in which he took upon himself the divine attributes represented by those names one by one.50  Ultimately, it seems, he would have passed the guardians of the sanctuary gate to reach the throne of Ea where, as also related in the account, he finally received the god’s own name and a consequent fusion of identity with the declaration: “He is indeed even as I.”51

Figure 8. Arnold Friberg, 1913–2010: Moses Subdues the Shepherds at Jethro’s Well, 1953

The “rod” and “word” of Moses as symbols of his authority. Of interest in this context is that the “rod” and the “word” of Moses are associated with the authority of God through Egyptian and Hebrew wordplay. This wordplay is woven throughout both ancient and modern accounts of the life of Moses (e.g., the slaying of the Egyptian, the crossing of the sea, and the smiting of the rock).

In connection with this idea, Nephi’s multi-lingual puns on “rod” and “word” revolve around the polysemy of Egyptian term for “rod, staff”; “word” and the homonymy of the Egyptian term with the Hebrew maṭṭeh (“rod,” “staff”), the latter Hebrew term perhaps being derived from the Egyptian former.52  Moses’ repeated use of “word” and “rod” in close proximity brings together the “word of God” as creative act (“word of my power”) with power of command over the “many waters”53  and the “word of God” as scripture: “and he shall smite the waters of the Red Sea with his rod. And he shall have judgment, and shall write the word of the Lord”;54  “I will raise up a Moses; and I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing.”55

Figure 9. Arnold Friberg, 1913–2010: The Crossing of the Red Sea (detail), 1953

Moses the deliverer. Remarkably, the Hebrew derivation of Moses’ name is invoked in another elegant literary twist. Moses, who was said in Exodus 2:10 to have been delivered from the water as a weak and helpless infant, is told in Moses 1:25 that he is to be “made stronger than many waters.”56  The most obvious allusion here is to the power Moses will be given to divide the Red Sea.57  However, the phrase also recalls God’s subduing of the waters at Creation, particularly in light of the phrase that follows: “as if thou wert God.” Moreover, as God Himself explains the significance of Moses’ name, He links it with one of His own titles: “Almighty.”58  Fittingly, the divine name of “Almighty”59  in Moses 1:4, 25 is also closely tied to the demonstration of God’s power over the waters of chaos as the first act of Creation60  as well as the divine destruction of the Egyptian army.61

Consistent with this idea, ancient sources universally witness that the name Moses, rather than suggesting the “passive” meaning of one who is “drawn” or “pulled” out of the water as one would expect in the context of the naming scene in Exodus, is instead vowelled as a “pseudo-active” participle suggesting his future as one who will “draw” or “pull” others out of the water.62  The “many waters” or “great waters” ultimately obeyed Moses’ “command even as if [he] wer[e] God” (Moses 1:25–26) as he provided temporal deliverance to the Israelites at the time of the Exodus. Moses also used the same divine authority—the authority with which one “draws” or “pulls” (mōšeh) from the water—to deliver the Israelites spiritually through baptism.63  Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented on this idea as follows:64

Moses—mighty, mighty Moses—acting in the power and authority of the holy order, gathered Israel once. What is more fitting than for him to confer upon mortals in this final dispensation the power and authority to lead latter-day Israel out of Egyptian darkness, through a baptismal Red Sea, into their promised Zion?.65

In summary, speaking of Christ as the premortal prototype not only for Moses, but also for all those who were foreordained to priestly offices and subsequently ordained in mortal life, the Gospel of Philip suggests that the general meaning, symbolism, and sequence of the ordinances has always been the same: “He who … [was begotten] before everything was begotten anew. He [who was] once [anointed] was anointed anew. He who was redeemed in turn redeemed (others).”66  Thus, in the declaration that Moses is to be “made stronger than many waters,”67  God is saying that Moses, the delivered, will now become Moses, the deliverer.68

Conclusion

We have seen how the four names that were said to have been given to Moses fittingly summarize the whole of his divinely appointed mission. “Joachim,” a personal name that is first in sequence, anticipated the mission he was “raised up” to fulfill in the premortal world. The second, “Moses,” also a personal name, reflected the dual role he played during his mortal life as an Egyptian prince and a Hebrew prophet. The title “Melchi” was bestowed upon Moses “after his ascension” when he became “a son of God,” holding the fulness of the higher priesthood and, in likeness of Melchizedek, becoming a king and a priest forever in the holy order. And his final, fourth name was a title that represented the name of God the Father Himself. Philo Judaeus likewise argued that Moses was not only as a prophet, priest, and king, but also (like Jesus) a god, having been “changed into the divine” through his initiation into the “mysteries.”69

Elsewhere it has been argued that the narrative of Moses’ visions in chapter 1 of the Book of Moses fits squarely into the ancient literary genre of “heavenly ascent.”70  But there is evidence that the symbolism of this journey may also have been enacted in various forms of ritual ascent among Jews and early Christians. For example, in his discussion of late Second Temple Jewish mysticism, Erwin Goodenough summarized Philo’s descriptions of “two successive initiations within a single Mystery,” constituting “a ‘Lesser’ Mystery in contrast with a ‘Greater,’” as follows:

For general convenience we may distinguish them as the Mystery of Aaron and the Mystery of Moses. The Mystery of Aaron got its symbolism from the great Jerusalem cultus. … The Mystery of Moses … led the worshipper above all material association; he died to the flesh, and in becoming reclothed in a spiritual body moved progressively upwards … and at last ideally to God himself. … The objective symbolism of the Higher Mystery was the holy of holies with the ark, a level of spiritual experience which was no normal part of even the high-priesthood. Only once a year could the high priest enter there, and then only … when so blinded by incense that he could see nothing of the sacred objects within. The Mystery of Aaron was restricted to the symbolism of the Aaronic high priest.71

According to Goodenough “Philo had himself been ‘initiated under Moses’ [i.e., received the mysteries of the higher priesthood] and it seems to me quite likely that the Elder Samuel [who built the synagogue of Dura Europos] may have been so ‘initiated’ also.72  Hinting at the possibility of such ritual in the synagogue at Dura Europos, Goodenough noted: “In [a] side room were benches and decorations that mark the room as probably one of cult, perhaps an inner room, where special rites were celebrated by a select company. … So far as structure goes, it might have been the room for people especially ‘initiated’ in some way.”73  Bradshaw has written at length how the Ezekiel mural at the synagogue might be seen as a witness of ancient Jewish mysteries of the sort that Philo described.74  The controversial idea of initiation rites at the Dura synagogue receives support from Crispin Fletcher-Louis’ subsequent findings on what he calls the “angelomorphic priesthood” of the Qumran community.75  Of equal significance is David Calabro’s research hinting that the Christian Church at Dura Europos, just down the road from the synagogue, may have likewise partaken of teachings and ordinances of an esoteric nature, including baptism for the dead.76

In all this Moses was not only the model disciple, but also the model leader. Observes Old Testament scholar C. T. R. Hayward: “Philo saw nothing improper … in describing Moses as a hierophant: like the holder of that office in the mystery cults of Philo’s day, Moses was responsible for inducting initiates into the mysteries, leading them from darkness to light, to a point where they are enabled to see [God].”77  Hayward’s view echoes the teachings of Doctrine and Covenants 84:21–23:

21  And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

22  For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.

23  Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God.

 

This article is adapted from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and Matthew L. Bowen. “‘Made Stronger Than Many Waters’: The Names of Moses as Keywords in the Heavenly Ascent of Moses.” In Proceedings of the Fifth Interpreter Foundation Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference, 7 November 2020, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. Temple on Mount Zion 6, in preparation. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2020. www.templethemes.net.

Further Reading

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘What meaneth the rod of iron?’.” FARMS Insights 25, no. 2 (2005): 2–3. https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/sites/default/files/archive-files/pdf/farms-staff/2019-10-07/insights_25-2.pdf. (accessed July 11, 2020).

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. “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.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 53–79. www.templethemes.net.

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 36 (2020): in press.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and Matthew L. Bowen. “‘Made Stronger Than Many Waters’: The Names of Moses as Keywords in the Heavenly Ascent of Moses.” In Proceedings of the Fifth Interpreter Foundation Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference, 7 November 2020, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. Temple on Mount Zion 6, in preparation. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2020. www.templethemes.net.

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, p. 31.

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).

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. 12.

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. 220–221.

Reynolds, Noel B, and Jeff Lindsay. “‘Strong like unto Moses’: The case for ancient roots in the Book of Moses based on Book of Mormon usage of related content apparently from the Brass Plates.” Presented at the conference entitled “Tracing Ancient Threads of the Book of Moses’ (September 18–19, 2020), Provo, UT: Brigham Young University 2020.

References

Adler, William. “Introduction.” In The Jewsih Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity, edited by James C. VanderKam and William Adler, 1-31. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

Arp, Nathan J. “Joseph knew first: Moses the Egyptian son.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 32 (2019): 187-98. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/joseph-knew-first-moses-the-egyptian-son/. (accessed July 11, 2020).

Baker, LeGrand L., and Stephen D. Ricks. Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord? The Psalms in Israel’s Temple Worship in the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2009.

Barker, Margaret. “Who was Melchizedek and who was his God?” Presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Session S19-72 on ‘Latter-day Saints and the Bible’, San Diego, CA, November 17-20, 2007.

———. King of the Jews: Temple Theology in John’s Gospel. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2014.

Bednar, David A. Power to Become: Spiritual Patterns for Pressing Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2014.

Berlin, Adele, and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds. The Jewish Study Bible, Featuring the Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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Bowen, Matthew L. “‘What meaneth the rod of iron?’.” FARMS Insights 25, no. 2 (2005): 2-3. https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/sites/default/files/archive-files/pdf/farms-staff/2019-10-07/insights_25-2.pdf. (accessed July 11, 2020).

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Notes on Figures

Figure 1. BYU Magazine, Fall 2017, https://magazine.byu.edu/article/eight-heads-ten-commandments/ (accessed July 12, 2020). “Through the generosity of Rex G. (’62) and Ruth Methvin Maughan (BS ’60), BYU acquired eight Arnold Friberg portraits used for Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments. Photo by Roger Layton.” With permission from Bruce Patrick, Art Director, BYU Magazine.

Figure 2. Image: 8 7/8 x 16 3/8 in. (22.5 x 41.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.7. Published in J. F. Dolkart, James Tissot, p. 204. With permission.

Figure 3. With the kind permission of Glen Hopkinson, son of Harold I. Hopkinson. As published in “The Foreordination of Abraham,” Book of Abraham Insight #21, https://www.pearlofgreatpricecentral.org/the-foreordination-of-abraham/ (accessed October 14, 2020).

Figure 4. From 1957 packet containing reprints of a series of inserts which appeared in “The Instructor” magazine beginning in March 1957 (https://ia802800.us.archive.org/2/items/instructor923dese/instructor923dese.pdf [accessed July 12, 2020]). © 1957 by The Arnold Friberg Foundation and Friberg Fine Arts.

Figure 5. Offerings. J. J. Tissot, Old Testament, 1:47. The Jewish Museum, No. 52–94. Public domain. See Genesis 14:18–20.

Figure 6. The British Museum, Asset Number 978337001, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/image/978337001. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license for non-commercial use.

Figure 7. From 1957 packet containing reprints of a series of inserts which appeared in “The Instructor” magazine beginning in March 1957 (https://ia802800.us.archive.org/2/items/instructor923dese/instructor923dese.pdf [accessed July 12, 2020]). © 1957 by The Arnold Friberg Foundation and Friberg Fine Arts.

Figure 8. From 1957 packet containing reprints of a series of inserts which appeared in “The Instructor” magazine beginning in March 1957 (https://ia802800.us.archive.org/2/items/instructor923dese/instructor923dese.pdf [accessed July 12, 2020]). © 1957 by The Arnold Friberg Foundation and Friberg Fine Arts.

Figure 9. From 1957 packet containing reprints of a series of inserts which appeared in “The Instructor” magazine beginning in March 1957 (https://ia802800.us.archive.org/2/items/instructor923dese/instructor923dese.pdf [accessed July 12, 2020]). © 1957 by The Arnold Friberg Foundation and Friberg Fine Arts.

Footnotes

1 Other sources where this name or similar variants appear include (H. Jacobson, Pseudo-Philo, pp. 492-493 n. 9:16; R. R. Duke, Social Location, p. 75): Melchiel (“God is my king” H. Jacobson, Pseudo-Philo, 9:16, p. 492; 135 BCE-100 CE), Melchias (“king” George Syncellus, Chronographia (9th century CE) and George Cedrenus, Synopsis historion (11th-12th centuries CE), Amlâkâ (Shelemon, Book of the Bee, 29, p. 48), Malkēl (probably a corruption of “Malkel” — “God has ruled” M. Sprengling et al., Barhebraeus’ Scholia, Part 1, pp. 102-103; 13th century C), and Yamkil (Ishodad, Commentary on Exodus, 2:10, cited in H. Jacobson, Pseudo-Philo, p. 493 n. 9:16).

Robert Duke (R. R. Duke, Social Location, pp. 69-79) suggests that the Visions of Amram 1:9 records “Moses’ original Hebrew name. He renders the Aramaic ml’kyh, [more commonly] translated as “the messengers” as the Hebrew name, Malachiah, which he argues refers to Moses” (A. D. Gross, Visions of Amram, p. 1508 n. 1:9). Differing in this regard with Duke, Edward Cook, along with Gross, translate the passage as “the messengers” (D. W. Parry et al., DSSR (2013), 4Q583, Fragment 1 a-c, line 10, p. 883; A. D. Gross, Visions of Amram, 1:9, p. 1508).

2 E. R. Goodenough, Light, pp. 292-293. The whole of the relevant passage in the writings of Clement reads as follows (Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 1:23, p. 335 (ca. 198-203 CE)):

Thereupon the [Egyptian] queen gave the babe the name of Moses, with etymological propriety, from his being drawn out of the water, — for the Egyptians call water mou,— in which he had been exposed to die. For they call Moses one who breathed [on being taken] from the water. It is clear that previously the parents gave a name to the child on his circumcision; and he was called Joachim. And he had a third name in heaven, after his ascension, as the mystics say — Melchi.

Apart from the digression on the names given to Moses at circumcision and “in heaven,” Clement’s account is based on Philo, Moses, 1:5, op. 279ff.

3 E. R. Goodenough, Light, pp. 292-293. See Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 1:23, p. 335 (ca. 198-203 CE).

4 Genesis 14:18. See also JST Genesis 14:25–40.

5 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 1:5, p. 307. For more about Clement’s view of Christianity as a “mystery religion,” see J. Ferguson, Achievement of Clement, pp. 62–63.

6 Mark 4:11. Cf. M. Barker, King of the Jews, p. 84.

7 Purported letter of Clement to Theodore, published in M. Smith, Secret Gospel, p. 14. Though some scholars dispute the nature of the “Secret Gospel of Mark” cited in the latter and some of Smith’s interpretations, most accept that the letter is an excellent match to the style of Clement. Hugh Nibley cites the work without qualification in H. W. Nibley, Message (2005), p. 515. For a summary of the debate on the nature and authenticity of this document, see, e.g., B. D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities, pp. 67–89; Secret Gospel, Secret Gospel.

8 W. Adler, Introduction, p. 22. Whereas J. Tromp, Assumption of Moses, pp. 270-285 argues that Clement obtained his information from the lost ending of the pseudepigraphal Assumption of Moses (ca. 100 BCE–100 CE), some other scholars hold differing views (see W. Adler, Introduction, p. 22 n. 96).

9 For more on these groups and their names, see G. Vermes, Etymology of ‘Essenes’; G. Vermes, Essenes – Therapeutai – Qumran; G. Vermes, Essenes and Therapeutai. On Clement’s familiarity with the writings of Philo, see D. T. Runia, Clement, pp. 256–258.

10 The extant text and English translation of the relevant passage is published in D. W. Parry et al., DSSR (2013), 4Q544 (4QVisions of ’Amramb ar), fragment 2 line 13 and fragment 3 line 2, p. 891. Though the complete set of names is not preserved in the extant text, J. T. Milik has made a strong case for his reconstruction of the missing names based on related texts (11Q13 and 1QM 13 1. 10–11. See J. T. Milik, 4Q Visions de ‘Amram, pp. 85-86; P. J. Kobelski, Melchizedek and Melchireša’, p. 28; K. Dalgaard, A Priest for All Generations, pp. 57-60). Here is text, with reconstructed portions shown within brackets:

[And these are his three names: Belial, Prince of Darkness], and Melchiresha’ … [and he answered and sa]id to me: [My] three names [are Michael, Prince of Light and Melchizedek].

“Milik and others since him have found this hypothetical list of names to represent the most plausible reconstruction of the surviving text” (ibid., p. 58). For a brief overview of Melchizedek in Second Temple literature, see B. A. Jurgens, Reassessing the Dream-Vision, pp. 29-33

11 According to R. Jones, Priesthood and Cult, p. 17 n. 69, at 4Q545, fragment 4 line 15b “the angelus interpres has likely just finished a description of Moses in the material preceding line 15, and is now beginning a description of Moses’ brother Aaron.” Thus, according to this view, the statement “I will tell you your(?) names” is being addressed to Moses.

12 D. W. Parry et al., DSSR (2013), 4Q545 (4QVisions of ’Amramc ar), fragment 4 line 14, p. 895.

13 J. E. Talmage, Articles (1984), p. 474 n. 4, citing J. E. Talmage, Story and Philosophy of ‘Mormonism’, p. 109.

14 See, e.g., S. Mowinckel, Psalms, 1:180, 1:181 n. 191; J. H. Eaton, Psalms Commentary, 118:19–22, p. 405; J. Gee, Keeper; J. M. Bradshaw et al., Investiture Panel, pp. 11, 20–22.

15 S. Mowinckel, Psalms, 1:181 n. 191.

16 J. H. Eaton, Psalms Commentary, 118:19–22, p. 405. See also Psalm 24:3–4.

17 Psalm 118:20.

18 S. Mowinckel, Psalms, 1:180.

19 Psalm 24:6. Donald Parry sees an allusion to a prayer circle in this verse (D. W. Parry, Psalm 24).

20 D&C 130:11, emphasis added.

21 See D. H. Oaks, To Become, p. 32. See also J. E. Faulconer, Self-Image; D. A. Bednar, Power to Become, pp. 1–35.

22 R. Guénon, Symboles, p. 36. Others, such as Basil of Caesarea in the 4th century, held, less radically, that each name had a distinct primary meaning, or notion, as well as signifying, secondarily, certain properties, but not essence itself (M. DelCogliano, Basil of Caesarea’s Anti-Eunomian Theory of Names, pp. 153–260). For a discussion of modern name theory, see S. Cumming, Names

23 R. Guénon, Symboles, p. 36, emphasis added.

24 Genesis 2:19–20.

25 Genesis 17:5, 15; 32:28.

26 F. Brown et al., Lexicon, p. 220c.

27 2 Nephi 3:10. Cf. v. 17; JST Genesis 50:26, 28.

28 Philo (like Josephus ) gave a derivation from Egyptian, explaining that “Mou is the Egyptian word for water” (Philo, On the Life of Moses, 1:17, p. 168). Niehoff explains: “Philo’s interpretation takes into account the historical background of the story, assuming that it is far more likely for an Egyptian princess to call her adopted son by an Egyptian name” (ibid., p. 968 n. 1:17).

29 The insistence of the Egyptian princess that Moses was literally begotten through her is clearly reflected the name she gave him. It is also consistent with the careful actions she is said to have taken to mimic the conditions of expectant motherhood, as reported by Philo: “[She] took him for her son, having at an earlier time artificially enlarged the figure of her womb to make him pass as her real and not a supposititious child” (ibid., 1:19, p. 968).

30 Note that the JST Genesis phrase “and shall be called her son” corresponds neatly to the “adoption” or “rebirth” formula or notice in Exodus [2:10]: “and he became her son.” The JST Genesis prophecy also points to the or double-meaning of Moses. The expression “her son” constitutes a pun on the Egyptian meaning of Moses in terms of ms (or mesu), “child”/“son,” as Nathan Arp has noted (N. J. Arp, Joseph Knew First). Nevertheless, the prophecy indicates that the name Moses would be a sign by which he would know that he belonged to the house of Israel (and the house of Joseph[?]). In other words, the phrase “by this name he shall know that he is of thy house” seems to indicate that the name Moses would mark him an Israelite thus implying the intelligibility of the Moses/mose/mōšeh in Hebrew also. Moses would have a “double-identity” as an Egyptian and an Israelite.

31 E. R. Goodenough, Light, pp. 292–293. See Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 1:23, p. 335 (ca. 198–203 CE). For an assessment of Goodenough’s views on ancient Jewish mysteries grounded in ritual, see J. M. Bradshaw, Ezekiel Mural, especially pp. 32–34.

32 The appearance of “Melchizedek” as two words is not consistent in the Bible and ancient texts. On the one hand, it is written as two words in the Masoretic Text of Genesis 14, Psalm 110, the Samaritan Pentateuch (S. Lowy, Principles, p. 320), the Targums (J. W. Etheridge, Onkelos, 14), and 11QMelchizedek (F. G. Martinez, Melchizedek, 2:9, p. 140). On the other hand, Samuel Zinner notes these counter-examples: “The LXX read it as one word, that is, as a name. In subtle ways we can determine that the gospels presuppose the LXX interpretation of the Hebrew text, whereas Shepherd of Hermas Command 1 seems to understand it as two words. … It is written as one word in the Genesis Apocryphon (J. A. Fitzmyer, Now This Melchizedek, pp. 312–313)” (S. Zinner, November 3 2020).

It may be possible to identify how four additional ancient authors read “Melchi-zedek,” either as a title consisting of two words or as a name consisting of one word. Zinner extends the evidence by using arguments that take into account the possibility that the numerical architecture of some biblical passages “are based on numerical values of the letters of the names of God” (I. Knohl, Sacred Architecture, p. 189). For example, the Song of Moses’ exordium (Deuteronomy 32:1-3) contains a total of 26 words, congruent with a hint at the numerical value of YHWH — namely 26 (ibid., p. 194). In an in-progress monograph (S. Zinner, Recovering), Zinner points out that:

MT Psalm 110 has a total of 65 words, congruent with the numerical value of the divine name ʾAdonai that occurs in the text. The 65 words are divided between a 2-word superscription + a 63-word main text, the result of the MT reading mlky-ṣdq in v. 4 as 2 words. By contrast, the LXX translators read in Psalm 110:4 mlkyṣdq, a single word, that is, the name Melchizedek. The LXX translators therefore counted only 62 words in the main text. The NA28 text of Mark 12:35-37, Jesus’ discussion of Psalm 110, contains 62 words. The NA28 text of the parallel in Matthew 22:41-45 also contains 62 words, despite Matthew’s significant variations in wording. The main parallel in Luke is found in 20:41-44. However, given the introductory elements gar and de in vv. 39 and 40 respectively, it seems that Luke intended these two transitional verses to introduce vv. 41-44. The parallel passage in Luke 20:39-44 shows even more variation in wording than does Matthew compared to Mark, but the NA28 text of Luke 20:39-44 also keeps the word total to exactly 62. These three examples’ matching word counts are hardly the result of chance. Arguably, they seem to indicate that the three gospel writers counted 62 words in the Hebrew text of Psalm 110, in accord with the LXX translators, and thus read not mlky-ṣdq but mlkyṣdq, i.e., the name Melchizedek. In Matthew and Mark, the discussion of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (The Greatest Commandment) and of Psalm 110 form a single pericope. Shepherd of Hermas Commandment 1 almost doubtless has in mind the gospel pericope of the Greatest Commandment and Psalm 110. Hermas Commandment 1 in Bart Ehrman’s Loeb Greek text has a 2-word superscription and a 63-word main text, matching the MT word count for Psalm 110. Apparently, Hermas read mlky-ṣdq, not mlkyṣdq, in Psalm 110:4.

33 M. Barker, Who Was Melchizedek. That the third name in the sequence of names is meant as a title is supported by similar passages in the Visions of Amram that were reconstructed by Józef Milik. See J. T. Milik, 4Q Visions de ‘Amram, pp. 85–86; P. J. Kobelski, Melchizedek and Melchireša’, p. 28; K. Dalgaard, A Priest for All Generations, pp. 57–60.

34 M. Barker, King of the Jews, pp. 81-82, 83.

35 Note that in Israelite practice, as witnessed in the examples of David and Solomon, the moment when the individual was made king would not necessarily have been the time of his first anointing. The culminating anointing of David corresponding to his definitive investiture as king was preceded by a prior, princely anointing. See L. L. Baker et al., Who Shall Ascend, p. 353–358. See also 1 Samuel 10:1, 15:17, 16:23; 2 Samuel 2:4, 5:3; 1 Kings 1:39; 1 Chronicles 29:22. Cf. J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 519–523.

36 See Doctrine and Covenants 107:2. The various names of this order are also illustrated elsewhere in scripture: “after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was [ultimately] after the order of the Only Begotten Son” (D&C 76:57. Compare B. Young, 26 June 1874, p. 113).

37 Doctrine and Covenants 107:4.

38 Emphasis added. See J. M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Oath, pp. 53–65; B. R. McConkie, Mortal Messiah, 1:229; B. R. McConkie, Ten Blessings, p. 33.

39 Moses 1:6, 7, 40, emphasis added.

40 Satan’s first words to the prophet are “Moses, son of man” (Moses 1:12, emphasis added). In immediate response, Moses highlights the difference in title and glory between himself and his adversary: “Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory that I should worship thee?” (Moses 1:13, emphasis added).

41 B. Wells, Exodus (Zondervan), Exodus 7:1. For a more extensive treatment of this topic, see J. M. Bradshaw, What Did the Lord Mean.

42 G. A. Rendsburg, Moses as Equal, p. 204.

43 W. A. Meeks, Moses.

44 Zinner observes that verse 25 in the King James Bible is verse 26 in the Hebrew Masoretic Text (counting the superscription as verse 1)—suggesting the numerical value of YHWH (26) (S. Zinner, November 3 2020).

45 See D. J. Larsen, Psalm 24, pp. 212–213. Speaking more broadly, Peter Schäfer is reluctant to take passages with similar implications taken to their logical conclusions in the medieval Jewish mystical literature “at face value” because they are so “common,” leaving one to conclude that there must be an “enormous number of deified angels in heaven” (P. Schäfer, Jewish Jesus, p. 137). However, he does concede that this is “just one more indication that the boundaries between God and his angels in the Hekhalot literature … become fluid” and that when references to individuals bearing God’s name are made, “we cannot always decide with certainty whether God or his angels are meant” (ibid., p. 137). Cf. J. L. Kugel, God of Old, pp. 5-36.

46 See D. J. Larsen, And He Departed.

47 W. A. Meeks, Moses, p. 359.

48 Ibid., p. 360.

49 Nevertheless, it must be mentioned that Jarl Fossum takes issue with Meeks’ reading, arguing that in the instances cited by Meeks name “Elohim” is “a secondary notion, derived from the original idea of his investiture with the Tetragrammaton.” See J. E. Fossum, Name of God, p. 90. For the full argument, see pp. 88–92.

50 Talon elaborates (P. Talon, Enūma Eliš, p. 27):

The importance of the names is not to be understressed. One of the preserved Chaldaean Oracles says: “Never change the Barbarian names” and in his commentary Psellus (in the 11th century) adds “This means: there are among the peoples names given by God, which have a particular power in the rites. Do not transpose them in Greek.” A god may also have more than one name, even if this seems to introduce a difficult element of confusion, at least for us. We can think, for example, of Marduk, who is equated with Aššur and thus named in many texts (especially Assyrian texts written for a Babylonian audience). He then assumes either the aspect of the One himself or the aspect of only an emanation of the One. The same occurs when Aššur replaces Marduk in the Assyrian version of Enuma Elish.

51 E. A. Speiser, Creation Epic, 7:140, p. 72. Foster elaborates (B. R. Foster, Epic, pp. 437-438):

The poem begins and ends with concepts of naming. The poet evidently considers naming both an act of creation and an explanation of something already brought into being. For the poet, the name, properly understood, discloses the significance of the created thing. Semantic and phonological analysis of names could lead to understanding of the things named. Names, for this poet, are a text to be read by the informed, and bear the same intimate and revealing relationship to what they signify as this text does to the events it narrates. In a remarkable passage at the end, the poet presents his text as the capstone of creation in that it was bearer of creation’s significance to humankind.

52 See M. L. Bowen, What Meaneth the Rod of Iron?

53 Moses 2:7.

54 JST Genesis 50:35.

55 2 Nephi 3:17.

56 Moses 1:25, emphasis added. Jeff Lindsay illustrates the resonance of this imagery with the Book of Mormon. He points out an allusion to the strength of Moses in 1 Nephi 4:2 that corresponds to Moses 1:20–21, 25 while having no strong parallel in the Bible (J. D. Lindsay, Arise, Part 1, pp. 189–190). In a personal communication, Lindsay further explains that 1 Nephi 4:2 “has Nephi urging his brethren to be strong like Moses, as if they were familiar with this concept, but the [King James Bible] has nothing about Moses being strong” (J. D. Lindsay, August 5 2019). Elsewhere, Noel Reynolds and Jeff Lindsay write (N. B. Reynolds et al., Strong Like Unto Moses):

Mark J. Johnson (M. J. Johnson, Lost Prologue, pp. 178-179) observed that the three references in Moses 1 to strength involving Moses describe a three-tiered structure “for personal strength and spirituality” in which strength is described in patterns reminiscent of sacred geography, each tier bringing Moses closer to God. The first instance depicts Moses having “natural strength like unto man,” which was inadequate to cope with Satan’s fury. In fear, Moses called upon God for added strength, allowing him to gain victory over Satan. Next, Moses is promised additional strength which would be greater than many waters. “This would endow Moses with powers to be in similitude of YHWH, to divide the waters from the waters (similar to Genesis 1:6) at the shores of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21).” Johnson sees the treatment of the strength of Moses as one of many evidences of ancient perspectives woven into the text of Moses 1. In light of Johnson’s analysis, if something like Moses 1 was on the brass plates as a prologue to Genesis, to Nephite students of the brass plates, the reference to the strength of Moses might be seen as more than just a random tidbit but as part of a carefully developed literary tool related to important themes such as the commissioning of prophets and becoming more like God through serving Him. If so, the concept of the strength of Moses may easily have been prominent enough to require no explanation when Nephi made an allusion to it.

57 Exodus 14:21–22; Joshua 3:14–17.

58 Moses 1:25.

59 Note the plausible connection between šadday and Akkadian šadu(m) (= “mountain, range of mountains”), significant in a creation context. See D. Biale, God with Breasts. “The ancients thought of breasts as mountains, for obvious reasons, so one cannot really separate mountains and breasts in the tradition” (S. Zinner, November 3 2020).

60 Moses 2:1–2.

61 A. Marmorstein, Doctrine, 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., p. 82 #32, emphasis added).

62 As one example of how the relevant participle is interpreted as active rather than passive, we can compare the King James Bible translation of Isaiah 63:11 (“Then he remembered … Moses”) to the Jewish Publication Society translation (“Then they remembered … Him, who pulled His people out [of the water]” [A. Berlin et al., Jewish, Isaiah 63:11, p. 909]). While it is not directly consequential to the active-passive interpretation of the name, we note a comment from the editors of the JPS Study Bible stating that “it is not clear whether ‘He [he] who pulled …’ refers to God or to Moses” (ibid., p. 909 n. 11).

63 Cf. analogous symbolism used in 1 Peter 3:18-21.

64 B. R. McConkie, New Witness, p. 529.

65 See Doctrine and Covenants 110:11.

66 W. W. Isenberg, Philip, 70:36–71:3, p. 152.

67 Moses 1;25.

68 President Russell M. Nelson has recently pointed attention to the similar role reversal reflected in the two names given to Jacob/Israel (R. M. Nelson, Let God Prevail). In reviewing this reversal, Victor P. Hamilton observes that up until his “wrestle” with God in Genesis 32, “Jacob may well have been called ‘Israjacob,’ ‘Jacob shall rule’ or ‘let Jacob rule.’ In every confrontation he has emerged as the victor: over Esau, over Isaac, over Laban”—and now, startlingly, he attempts to prevail in his conflict with God (V. P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, p. 334). Speaking of this “crucial turning point in the life of Jacob,” President Nelson taught:

Through this wrestle, Jacob proved what was most important to him. He demonstrated that he was willing to let God prevail in his life. In response, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 32:28), meaning “let God prevail.” God then promised Israel that all the blessings that had been pronounced upon Abraham’s head would also be his (Genesis 35:11–12).

69 Philo, Exodus, p. 70. For an up-to-date review of the literature on the deification of Moses, see M. D. Litwa, Deification of Moses . For more on the specifics of how this description of the deification of Moses might be understood, see J. M. Bradshaw, Ezekiel Mural, pp. 41–42, Endnote 68. See also ibid., pp. 19–21.

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

71 E. R. Goodenough, Light, pp. 95–96. See Philo, Giants, 54, 2:473. See C. T. R. Hayward, Israel, pp. 156–219, regarding Philo’s explanation of the name Israel as meaning “the one who sees God.”

72 E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 9:118, 121, 122. Observes Hayward, “Philo saw nothing improper … in describing Moses as a hierophant: like the holder of that office in the mystery cults of Philo’s day, Moses was responsible for inducting initiates into the mysteries, leading them from darkness to light, to a point where they are enabled to see [God]” (C. T. R. Hayward, Israel, p. 192).

Philo said the following about his initiation: “I myself was initiated (muetheis) under Moses the God-beloved into his greater mysteries (ta megala mysteria),” and readily became a disciple of Jeremiah, “a worthy minister (hierophantes) of the same” (Philo, Cherubim, 49, 2:37).

73 E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 10:198; see also, E. R. Goodenough, Summary, 12:190–97. Often criticized for his interpretations, Goodenough showed ambivalence in his writings about the terms “initiation” and “mystery,” speaking in his early writings in ways that at least sometimes seemed to imply a literal ritual, while in his last writings leaning toward a figurative sense of the word (R. S. Eccles, Pilgrimage, pp. 64–65).

74 J. M. Bradshaw, Ezekiel Mural.

75 C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Glory, pp. 212–13, 476 (emphasis in original).

76 D. Calabro, From Temple to Church.

77 C. T. R. Hayward, Israel, p. 192, emphasis in original.

Moses Passes Through the Heavenly Veil

Book of Moses Essay #38

Moses 1:25-27

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock

In light of our cultural and conceptual distance from the milieu of Moses 1, we are fortunate that imperfect documents from antiquity like the Apocalypse of Abraham (ApAb) may nevertheless provide keys for understanding that “mysterious other world,”1  even when existing manuscripts were written much later and, not infrequently, have come to us in a form that is riddled with the ridiculous.2  C.S. Lewis once addressed the potential of ancient sources, even those of poor quality, to inform modern scholars in surprising ways. He illustrated his point by saying:3

I would give a great deal to hear any ancient Athenian, even a stupid one, talking about Greek tragedy. He would know in his bones so much that we seek in vain. At any moment some chance phrase might, unknown to him, show us where modern scholarship had been on the wrong track for years.

In a few instances, our experiences in comparing Moses 1 to ApAb have revealed the truth of Lewis’ claim. For example, as we looked carefully at Moses 1:27, a seemingly gratuitous and initially inexplicable phrase stood out: “as the voice was still speaking.”4  Surprisingly, we found that ApAb repeated similar phrases in analogous contexts.5  This discovery provided a welcome clue to a possible meaning of this enigmatic phrase in both Moses 1 and ApAb—a finding we will describe in more detail below.

Figure 2. Moses and Abraham pass through the veil (Moses 1:25, 27)

Passing Through the Heavenly Veil: The Voice of God

In ApAb 17:3, the voice that accompanies Abraham’s passage through the veil is that of the angel Yaho’el. Yaho’el mediates God’s self-revelation to Abraham, as he previously mediated Abraham’s dialogue with Satan.6  Yaho’el, standing with the prophet in front of the veil, gives encouragement to a fearful Abraham, provides instructions to him, and promises to remain with him, “strengthening” him, as he comes into the presence of the Lord.7

In contrast to ApAb’s account of mediated revelation, Moses experiences the voice of God directly. At first, Moses hears God’s voice but does not yet see Him “face to face.”8  His experience parallels that of Adam and Eve, when they also “called upon the name of the Lord” in sacred prayer.9  We read that “they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not,10  for they were shut out from his presence.”11  The “way toward the Garden of Eden” is, of course, the path that terminates in “the way of the Tree of Life.”12  In the corresponding symbolism of the Garden of Eden and the temple, the Tree of Knowledge hides the Tree of Life, just as the veil hides the presence of God in His heavenly sanctuary.13  To proceed further, the veil must be opened to the petitioner.

In Moses 1 and ApAb, multiple openings of various veils are signified explicitly, if somewhat cryptically. We observe that in Moses 1:25, a significant inclusio opens with a description of how, after “calling upon God,” the Lord’s glory “was upon” Moses “and he heard a voice.” In verses 30–31, the inclusio closes in similar fashion but states, significantly, that Moses sees God rather than just hearing Him: “Moses called upon God … the glory of the Lord was upon Moses so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face.” Sandwiched between the opening and closing of the inclusio is a phrase that is intriguing because at first blush it seems both gratuitous and inexplicable: “as the voice was still speaking.”14

Figure 3. The phrase “as the voice was still speaking” within an inclusio in Moses 1, and at junctures representing traversals of the veil in ApAb

To our surprise, we discovered that ApAb repeats variants of a similar phrase (e.g., “And while he was still speaking.”15). Further examination of these instances revealed a commonality in each of the junctures where it is used. In short, in each of the four instances where this phrase appears in ApAb,16 —as in its single occurrence in Moses 1:27—the appearance of the phrase seems to be associated with an opening of a heavenly veil.17

In Moses 1, the phrase appears at the expected transition point in Moses’ ascent. We have already argued that when he “heard a voice” in v. 25, he was still positioned outside the veil. Immediately following the phrase “as the voice was still speaking,” he seems to have traversed the veil, allowing him to see every particle of the earth and its inhabitants projected on the inside of the veil. In this fashion, the veil serves in the Book of Moses as it typically does in similar accounts of heavenly ascent,18  namely as “a kind of ‘visionary screen.’”19  After the vision closes, Moses stands “in the presence of God” and talks with him “face to face.”20

We see a similar phenomenon repeated in ApAb. For example, the account explicitly describes how Abraham, after his upward ascent and while the angel “was still speaking,” looked down and saw a series of heavenly veils open beneath his feet, enabling his subsequent views of heavenly things.21  Moreover, as Abraham traverses the heavenly veil in a downward direction as part of his return to the earth, the expression “And while he was still speaking” recurs.22  Consistent with the change of glory that typically accompanies traversals of heavenly veils in such accounts, Abraham commented immediately afterward, “I found myself on the earth, and I said … I am no longer in the glory which I was above.”23

Passing Through the Heavenly Veil: The Voice of the Petitioner

In ancient literature, passage through the veil is frequently accompanied not only with the sorts of divine utterance just described but also with human speech. For example, instances of formal prayer24  and exchanges of words at the veil are variously described in Egyptian ritual texts,25  Jewish pseudepigrapha,26  and the Book of Mormon.27  Similarly, in ApAb, a recitation of a fixed set of words, often described as a “hymn,” “precedes a vision of the Throne of Glory.”28

Figure 4. Moses with the sun, moon, and seven stars (i.e., planets) above his head from the Jewish synagogue at Dura Europos. It represents Moses’ recitation of a “hymn” near the end of his heavenly ascent

In ApAb, Abraham is enjoined by the angel Yaho’el to recite a “hymn” in preparation for his ascent to receive a vision of the work of God.29  Significantly, Martha Himmelfarb observes that ApAb, unlike other pseudepigraphal accounts of heavenly ascent, “treats the [hymn] sung by the visionary as part of the means of achieving ascent.”30  Near the end of Abraham’s recitation, he implores God to accept the words of his prayer and the sacrifice that he has offered, to teach him, and to “make known to your servant as you have promised me.”31  Then, “while [he] was still reciting the [hymn],” the veil opens and the throne of glory appears to his view.32

Also of importance is that Abraham’s “form of ascension, where the literary protagonist reaches the highest sphere [of heaven] at once [rather than in stages] is only described in ApAb and cannot be found in any other apocalyptical text.”33  Thus, ApAb’s account of Abraham’s direct entry to the highest heaven without first traversing a set of lower heavens provides another unique resemblance to Moses 1.34

“Stronger Than Many Waters”

Figure 5. Parallels with Moses 1:25 to “many waters”

While both texts explicitly invoke the same concept of “many waters,” their contexts initially seem to be rather different. In Moses 1:25, the promise that Moses would be “made stronger than many waters” seems to relate most directly to the power he would be given to part the Red Sea, allowing his people to escape the advancing Egyptian army. As Moses communes through the veil, God enumerates specific promises to him, including the promise that he will “be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.”35

By way of contrast, in ApAb the “many waters” is part of several sensory images involved Abraham’s heavenly ascent. After Abraham traverses upward through a veil “while [the angel] was still speaking,” he sees “a fire” and hears a “sound [i.e., voice] … like a sound of many waters.”36  Though a “comparison with the tumult of an army camp is not drawn explicitly here [like it is in Ezekiel 1:24], one may recognize in the sound an allusion to the triumphant procession of a conqueror returning from war.”37  “The heavenly light is of dazzling brilliance, the divine voice is like thunder.”38  The resulting sensory-infused description announces to all the arrival of the Lord of Hosts in the fulness of His glory.

While the “many waters” images may seem at first glance to be unrelated, a connection becomes more apparent when the context of the Moses account is more fully understood. Rather than just signaling Moses’ future parting of the Red Sea and describing the godlike power that he will exercise in that and other regards, the imagery of “many waters” may evoke one of four symbolic names that ancient sources claim were given to Moses. These names seem to be ciphers for “keywords” related to temple worship, which would allow Moses to discover his past, present, and future destiny and eventually allow him to enter into God’s presence.

In the next Essay, we will discuss these names in more detail.

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. 59–62.

———, 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, p. 31.

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. 11–12.

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, p. 220.

References

Alexander, Philip S. “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.

Attridge, Harold W., and Helmut Koester, eds. Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Frank Moore Cross, Klaus Baltzer, Paul D. Hanson, S. Dean McBride, Jr. and Roland E. Murphy. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1989.

Barker, Margaret. King of the Jews: Temple Theology in John’s Gospel. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2014.

Barney, Kevin L., ed. Footnotes to the New Testament for Latter-day Saints. 3 vols, 2007. http://feastupontheword.org/Site:NTFootnotes. (accessed February 26, 2008).

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———. “Faith, hope, and charity: The ‘three principal rounds’ of the ladder of heavenly ascent.” In “To Seek the Law of the Lord”: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch, edited by Paul Y. Hoskisson and Daniel C. Peterson, 59-112. Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, 2017. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/faith-hope-and-charity-the-three-principal-rounds-of-the-ladder-of-heavenly-ascent/.

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Gregory Nazianzen. ca. 350-363. “Oration 39: Oration on the Holy Lights.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. 14 vols. Vol. 7, 351-59. New York City, NY: The Christian Literature Company, 1894. Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.

Hanhart, Robert, and Alfred Rahlfs. 1935. Septuagint with Logos Morphology: Rahlfs Edition. Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1979.

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Hyde, Orson. 1853. “The man to lead God’s people; overcoming; a pillar in the temple of God; angels’ visits; the earth (A discourse delivered by President Orson Hyde, at the General Conference held in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, October 6, 1853).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 1, 121-30. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.

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Mayerhofer, Kerstin. “‘And they will rejoice over me forever!’ The history of Israel in the light of the catastrophe of 70 C.E. in the Slavonic Apocalypse of Abraham.” Judaica Olomoucensia 1-2 (2014): 10-35. https://judaistika.upol.cz/fileadmin/userdata/FF/katedry/jud/judaica/Judaica_Olomucensia_2014_1-2.pdf. (accessed December 3, 2019).

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Nibley, Hugh W. 1975. The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment. 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

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———. 1993. “A house of glory.” In Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple, edited by Stephen D. Ricks. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 17, 323-39. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2008.

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Orlov, Andrei A. The Enoch-Metatron Tradition. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 107. Tübingen, Germany Mohr Siebeck, 2005.

Palmer, Richard E. The liminality of Hermes and the meaning of hermeneutics. In MacMurray College Faculty Writings. https://www.scribd.com/document/256305040/The-Liminality-of-Hermes-and-the-Meaning-of-Hermeneutics-Richard-Palmer. (accessed August 21, 2020).

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Philo. b. 20 BCE. “On drunkenness (De Ebrietate).” In Philo, edited by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker. 12 vols. Vol. 3. Translated by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker. The Loeb Classical Library 247, ed. Jeffrey Henderson, 307-435. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930.

———. b. 20 BCE. “On the Virtues (De Virtutibus).” In Philo, edited by F. H. Colson. 12 vols. Vol. 8. Translated by F. H. Colson. The Loeb Classical Library 341, 158-305, 440-50. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1939.

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Romney, Marion G. “The oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.” Conference Report, April 1962, 16-20.

Rona, Daniel. Israel Revealed: Discovering Mormon and Jewish Insights in the Holy Land. Sandy, UT: The Ensign Foundation, 2001.

Rubinkiewicz, Ryszard. “Apocalypse of Abraham.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 681-705. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

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Sandmel, Samuel, M. Jack Suggs, and Arnold J. Tkacik, eds. The New English Bible with the Apocrypha, Oxford Study Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976.

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Van Orden, Bruce A. We’ll Sing and We’ll Shout: The Life and Times of W. W. Phelps. Provo, UT and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2018.

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Weitzman, Steven. “The song of Abraham.” Hebrew Union College Annual 65 (1994): 21-33. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23508527. (accessed September 6, 2015).

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Notes on Figures

Figure 1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reidersche_Tafel_c_400_AD.jpg (accessed June 22, 2020). In Hebrews 6:18‑20 Paul addresses as his audience all those who “have claimed his protection by grasping the hope set before us” (S. Sandmel, et al., New English Bible, Hebrews 6:18, p. 280). Continuing the description, he writes: “That hope we hold. It is like an anchor for our lives, an anchor safe and sure. It enters in through the veil, whose Jesus has entered on our behalf as a forerunner, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (S. Sandmel, et al., New English Bible, Hebrews 6:18–20, p. 280). Cf. Ether 12:4: “which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast.” See J. M. Bradshaw, Faith, Hope, and Charity, pp. 97–100.

Alluding to the blessings of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (D&C 84:33–48. See also M. G. Romney, Oath, p. 17 and J. M. Bradshaw, Temple Themes in the Oath), Paul wanted to assure the Saints of the firmness and unchangeableness of God’s promises symbolized in “grasp[ing] the hope set before [them]” (S. Sandmel, et al., New English Bible, Hebrews 6:18, p. 280). The “two irrevocable acts” that provide that firm assurance to disciples are “God’s promise and the oath by which He guarantees that promise” (K. L. Barney, NT Footnotes, 3:82; See also M. G. Romney, Oath, p. 17). By these verses, we are meant to understand that so long as we hold fast to the Redeemer, who has entered “through the veil on our behalf … as a forerunner,” we will remain firmly anchored to our heavenly home, and the eventual realization of the promise “that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3. See also Hebrews 4:14; H. W. Attridge, et al., Hebrews, pp. 118–119).

Christian use of anchor imagery goes back at least to “the first century cemetery of St. Domitilla, the second and third century epitaphs of the catacombs” (Christian Symbols, Christian Symbols). Comparing the symbol of the anchor to an image in Virgil, Witherington concludes that he was “thinking no doubt of an iron anchor with two wings rather than an ancient stone anchor” (B. Witherington, III, Letters, p. 225). The shape of the anchor recalls God’s two assurances: the covenant itself and the oath by which the former is “made sure” (2 Peter 1:10). The symbol of the anchor evokes the tradition of pounding nails into the Western Wall of the Jerusalem Temple. Daniel Rona writes: “Older texts reveal a now forgotten custom of the ‘sure nails.’ This was the practice of bringing one’s sins, grief, or the tragedies of life to the remains of the temple wall and ‘nailing’ them in a sure place. The nails are a reminder of Isaiah’s prophecy [22:23–25] that man’s burden will be removed when the nail in the sure place is taken down” (D. Rona, Revealed, p. 194). Victor Ludlow concurs, concluding that “some of the terminology of [the wording in Isaiah 22:20–25] seems to refer to the priesthood keys and atoning powers of Jesus Christ” (V. L. Ludlow, Isaiah, p. 235. Cf. D. W. Parry, et al., Isaiah, p. 202). In an unsigned article in the Times and Seasons, probably written by William W. Phelps or John Taylor (see B. A. Van Orden, We’ll Sing, pp. 333-337), we read: “‘The nail fastened in a sure place,’ remains a mystery to the world, but the wise understand” (Keys, Keys, p. 748).

According to Margaret Barker, there is undoubtedly the sense in Hebrews 6:18–20 that “Jesus, the high priest, [stands] behind the veil in the Holy of Holies to assist those who [pass] through” (M. Barker, King of the Jews, pp. 42–43. Cf. 2 Nephi 9:41. See also Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 39, 7:358; Origen, Luke, p. 103; 1 Corinthians 3:13). According to Harold Attridge: “The anchor would thus constitute the link that ‘extends’ or ‘reaches’ to the safe harbor of the divine realms … providing a means of access by its entry into God’s presence” (H. W. Attridge, et al., Hebrews, p. 184; cf. pp. 185, 222–24. See also L. T. Johnson, Hebrews, pp. 172–73).

David Moffitt argues that just as Jesus was “exalted … above the entire created order—to the heavenly throne at God’s right hand,” so “humanity will be elevated to the pinnacle of the created order” (D. M. Moffitt, Atonement, pp. 300–3011). And just as the Son received “all the glory of Adam,” so “His followers will also inherit this promise if they endure … testing” (D. M. Moffitt, Atonement, p. 301).

The phrase “all the glory of Adam,” applied by Moffit to Jesus Christ and His followers, originated with the Jews in Qumran. See Rule of the Community (1QS), 4:22–26 in G. Vermes, Complete, p. 103. For a more detailed study of the meaning of this phrase in the context of the theology of the Qumran Community and of early Christians, see C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Glory.

Figures 2, 3, 5. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

Figure 4. E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 11, Plate V. Jewish tradition avers that “when the righteous see the Shekinah, they break straightway into song” (H. Schwartz, Tree, p. 341). Such “hymns” are often described as hymns of praise, emulating the Sanctus of the angels. For a broader overview of the function of hymns in later Jewish accounts of heavenly ascent in G. Scholem, Trends, pp. 57–63. For a discussion of the “tongue of angels” in 2 Nephi 31 and the hymn Moses sang during his heavenly ascent as recounted by Philo (Philo, Virtues, 72–78, pp. 207–209; cf. Deuteronomy 32:1–43) as illustrated in this mural (J. M. Bradshaw, Ezekiel Mural, pp. 17–19), see J. M. Bradshaw, Faith, Hope, and Charity, pp. 103–104. See also The Inquiry of Abraham, in R. Bauckham, et al., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, pp. 59–63.

Footnotes

1 As Richard Palmer observed (R. E. Palmer, Liminality):

Ancient texts are, for moderns, doubly alien: they are ancient and they are in another language. Their interpreter … is a bridge to somewhere else, he is a mediator between a mysterious other world and the clean, well-lighted, intelligible world in which “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

2 For a summary of arguments and sources bearing on this question, see J. M. Bradshaw et al., Could Joseph Smith Have Drawn (2019), pp. 320–321.

3 C. S. Lewis, Descriptione, p. 13.

4 Moses 1:27.

5 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 17:1, p. 22; 18:1, p. 23; 19:4, p. 25; 30:1, p. 34.

6 Explaining the mediating function of the angel Metatron (who is sometimes identified with Yaho’el (A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1463 n. 10:3) and whose name is sometimes derived from the Latin mediator (ibid., p. 1663 n. 10:8)), Andrei Orlov writes (A. A. Orlov, Enoch-Metatron, p. 114 n. 125):

The inability of the angelic hosts to sustain the terrifying sound of God’s voice or the terrifying vision of God’s glorious Face is not a rare motif in the Hekhalot writings. In such depictions Metatron usually poses as the mediator par excellence who protects the angelic hosts participating in the heavenly liturgy against the dangers of direct encounter with the divine presence. This combination of the liturgical duties with the role of the Prince of the Presence appears to be a long-lasting tradition with its possible roots in Second Temple Judaism. James VanderKam notes that in 1QSb 4:25 the priest is compared with an angel of the Face.

7 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 16:2–4, p. 22. G. Scholem, Trends, p. 69 mentions the teaching in “a manuscript originating among the twelfth century Jewish mystics in Germany [Ms. British Museum, Margoliouth n. 752 f.; published in M. Margalioth, Midrash ha-Gadol] that Yaho’el was Abraham’s teacher and taught him the whole of the Torah. The same document also expressly mentions Yaho’el as the angel who—in [a] Talmudic passage [A. Elkaïm-Sartre, Ein Yaakov, Sanhédrin, 39a, p. 1031]—invites Moses to ascend to heaven.”

8 Moses 1:31. The opening inclusio in v. 25, corresponding to Moses 1:30, seems to be an “announcement of plot,” previewing what is going on generally in verses 25–31. What vv. 25–30 appear to emphasize is the voice in response to Moses’ calling upon the Lord as a prelude to the climactic encounter in v. 31.

9 Moses 5:4. For more on the nature of the prayer that is implied in this verse, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 5:4a, pp. 355–357; J. M. Bradshaw, Moses Temple Themes (2014), pp. 185–192.

10 Cf. “whom himself you will not see” (A. Kulik, Retroverting, 16:3, p. 22).

11 H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, 19, p. 233:

[Adam and Eve] could hear [God’s] voice speaking from the Garden, but they saw him not. They were shut out from his presence, but the link was there. This is what the rabbis call the bat ḳōl. The bat ḳōl is the “echo.” Literally, it means the “daughter of the voice.” After the last prophets, the rabbis didn’t get inspiration, but they did have the bat ḳōl. They could hear the voice. They could hear the echo. You could have inspiration, intuition, etc. (not face-to-face anymore, but the bat ḳōl).

12 Moses 4:31.

13 For more on this symbolic correspondence, see J. M. Bradshaw, Tree of Knowledge, pp. 52–54.

14 Moses 1:27.

15 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 17:1, p. 22; R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 17:1, p. 696.

16 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 17:1, p. 22; 18:1, p. 23; 19:4, p. 25; 30:1, p. 34. The first time the speaker is the angel Yaho’el (just before they bow and worship as the divine Presence approaches), the second time it is Abraham (reciting the “hymn” just prior to the vision of the seraphim), and in the last two instances God is the interlocutor (first, prior to Abraham’s vision of the firmaments, and then as Abraham descends again to earth).

17 Our search through the relevant literature revealed no commentary discussing this odd, repeated phrase in ApAb. However, from a sampling of contexts for the use of similar phraseology in the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 24:15, 45: “before he/I had done speaking”; Job 1:16, 17, 18: “while he was yet speaking”; Daniel 7:20, 21: “whiles I was speaking”), it seems to indicate the immediacy of the subsequent action. In the Genesis and Job passages, it is a person who appears before the speech can conclude, while in Daniel, the words herald the coming of an angel.

The most relevant usage to the context in Moses 1 and ApAb is in the Septuagint version of Isaiah 58:9, which reads a little differently than in the Hebrew Bible to describe the immediacy of God’s appearance when a righteous individual petitions Him in the most perilous of circumstances by means of the most sacred form of prayer: “Then you shall cry out, and God will listen to you; while you are still speaking, he will say, ‘Here I am’” (A. Pietersma et al., Septuagint, Isaiah 58:9, p. 869). Greek: τότε βοήσῃ, καὶ ὁ θεὸς εἰσακούσεταί σου, ἔτι λαλοῦντός σου ἐρεῖ Ἰδοὺ πάρειμι (R. Hanhart et al., Septuagint, Isaiah 58:9, electronic edition). Citing the experience of Stephen, who saw the Lord “in the agonies of death,” Elder Orson Hyde taught (O. Hyde, 6 October 1853, p. 125):

True it is, that in the most trying hour, the servants of God may then be permitted to see their Father, and elder Brother. “But,” says one, “I wish to see the Father, and the Savior, and an angel now.” Before you can see the Father, and the Savior, or an angel, you have to be brought into close places in order to enjoy this manifestation. The fact is, your very life must be suspended on a thread, as it were. If you want to see your Savior, be willing to come to that point where no mortal arm can rescue, no earthly power save! When all other things fail, when everything else proves futile and fruitless, then perhaps your Savior and your Redeemer may appear; His arm is not shortened that He cannot save, nor His ear heavy that He cannot hear; and when help on all sides appears to fail, My arm shall save, My power shall rescue, and you shall hear My voice, saith the Lord.

18 E.g., P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, 45:1, p. 296. Cf. 45:6, pp. 298–299.

19 A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1470 n. 21:2. Kulik notes that the “visionary screen” is called a “pargod`, ‘veil`,’ … in hekhalot literature.” For an extensive notes on the derivation and usage of this Persian loanword, see P. S. Alexander, 3 Enoch, 45:1, p. 296 n. a; C. Mopsik, Hénoch, pp. 325–327 nn. 45:1–2.

20 Moses 1:31.

21 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 19:4-9, pp. 24-25; cf. Abraham 3:1–18.

22 Ibid., 30:1, p. 34; R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 30:1, p. 704.

23 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 30:1, p. 34; R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 30:1, p. 704.

24 Accounts purporting to reproduce the words of such prayers have long puzzled interpreters, principally because the introductions to such prayers or the prayers themselves are frequently portrayed as being given in unknown tongues. For example, during the ascent of ApAb, Abraham describes “a crowd of many people … shouting in a language the words of which I did not know” (A. Kulik, Retroverting, 15:6–7, p. 22; cf. A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1467 n. 15:7, probably referring to the special language of angels [A. Kulik, Slavonic Apocrypha and Slavic Linguistics, p. 252]). For more on this motif, see J. M. Bradshaw, Faith, Hope, and Charity, pp. 102–104.

Repetition is another hallmark of solemn prayer. For example, at the dedication of the Kirtland temple the Prophet prayed following the pattern of “Adam’s prayer” (H. W. Nibley, House of Glory, p. 339) with threefold repetition: “O hear, O hear, O hear us, O Lord! … that we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne” (D&C 109:78-79). Similarly in ApAb, Abraham, having “rebuilt the altar of Adam” at the command of an angel (H. W. Nibley, Prayer Circle, p. 57), is reported as having repeatedly raised his voice to God, saying: “El, El, El, El, Yaho’el … Accept my prayer” (cf. A. Kulik, Retroverting, 17:13, 20, p. 23). Kulik conjectures that “the fourfold repetition of the transliterated Hebrew ‘God’ might have come as a substitution for the four letters of God’s ineffable name [the Tetragrammaton]” [A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1467 n. 17:13]). Abraham’s prayer was also in imitation of Adam (“May the words of my mouth be acceptable” [L. Ginzberg, Legends, 1:91]; cf. Psalm 54:2: “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth”).

25 Compare H. W. Nibley, Message (2005), pp. 449-457.

26 See J. M. Bradshaw, Faith, Hope, and Charity, pp. 103–104.

27 See ibid., p. 103.

28 A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 1468 n. 18:1–14.

29 Drawing on Philo (Philo, Drunkenness, 105, p. 373) and Midrash Rabbah (J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 2, 43:9 C-E, p. 123), Steven Weitzman (S. Weitzman, Song of Abraham, pp. 27–33) argues that the Hymn of Abraham in ApAb 17 is an exegesis of Genesis 14:22–23. This reading interprets Abraham’s raised hand (Genesis 14:22) or perhaps the raise of both his hands (“he lifted up his right hand and his left hand to heaven” [J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 2, 43:9 C, p. 123]) prior to the opening of the veil to him as a prayer or “hymn” rather than as an oath.

30 M. Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, p. 64, emphasis added.

31 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 17:20–21, p. 23.

32 Ibid., 18:1–3, pp. 23–24.

33 K. Mayerhofer, And They Will Rejoice, p. 28. Cf. M. Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, p. 63. See also p. 137 n. 59.

34 Of course, it could be argued that Moses has implicitly ascended from the telestial world (where he encountered Satan) to the terrestrial world (where he called upon God in formal prayer) prior to his passage through the veil that defines the boundary of the celestial realm. Be that as it may, Moses’ upward journey, like Abraham’s upward journey, bears very little resemblance to the elaborately described passages through a series of lower heavens typically found in the extracanonical literature.

35 Moses 1:25.

36 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 17:1, p. 22. See similar imagery in Ezekiel 43:2; Revelation 1:15, 14:2, 19:6; D&C 133:22. Cf. Psalm 29:3; 2 Samuel 22:14. “The same terms are used in the ‘Greater Hekhaloth’ in describing the sound of the hymn of praise sung by the ‘throne of Glory’ to its King—‘like the voice of the waters in the rushing streams, like the waves of the ocean when the south wind sets them in uproar’” (G. Scholem, Trends, p. 61).

37 D. I. Block, Ezekiel 25-48, 43:1–2, 4, p. 579.

38 G. H. Box, Apocalypse, 17 n. 9, p. 36. Cf. 2 Enoch 39:7: “like great thunder with continual agitation of the clouds” (ibid., 17 n. 9, p. 36). See further discussion of this imagery in R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, pp. 155, 157 n. 1.

Moses Ascends to Heaven

Book of Moses Essay #37

Moses 1:24

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock

In this Essay, we compare the symbolism in the Apocalypse of Abraham (ApAb) description of the ascent of Abraham to the Book of Moses and other accounts in Latter-day Saint scripture. Though, in contrast to Moses 1, ApAb rejects the idea that God can be seen by man, it accepts the idea that God can reveal Himself from behind the veil by means of His voice. God’s voice was depicted for centuries in the art of Jewish synagogues and Christian churches as a divine hand, often shown as emerging from behind a cloud or veil.

Moses and Abraham Ascend to Heaven

In the figure above, we see Abraham and Yaho’el ascending to heaven on the wings of the two birds that were provided by God but not divided at the time of the sacrifice.1  The imagery of heavenly ascent on the wings of birds is a convention that goes back at least two thousand years.2  As in other ApAb illustrations, Yaho’el holds Abraham firmly by the wrist, using the right hand.3

Figure 2. Resemblances in ApAb for Moses’ and Nephi’s Ascents to Heaven (Moses 1:24)

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi was similarly “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which [he] never had before seen.”4  Nephi later said that “upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains,”5  imagery that is arguably similar to the ApAb description of Abraham being raised up to heaven on the wings of a bird.6

In the Book of Moses, a context of priesthood ordinances seems implied in the account. For example, having banished Satan by calling upon the name of the Only Begotten7  (a motif that precedes baptism in some ancient Christian sources8), Moses was immediately afterward “filled with the Holy Ghost.”9

Further support for this idea is found in the fact that the description of Moses being “caught up”10  (as Nephi was “caught away”) is phrased in what is sometimes termed the “divine passive.”11  This syntactic form implies that his ascent was accomplished by God’s power and not his own.12  The scriptural use of the divine passive may also indicate a context of priesthood ordinances. For example, we are told elsewhere that Adam was “caught away by the Spirit of the Lord” into the water and baptized.13  Note that the Apostle Paul, in a description similar to that of the experiences of Moses and Abraham, was “caught up” to the third heaven.14  Going further, Hugh Nibley explained:15

In the Old World accounts the hero is taken up to heaven by a dove; in the Joseph Smith revelations, it is by the Holy Ghost. The two are strikingly brought together in Abraham’s cosmic chart ([Book of Abraham,] facsimile 2), which has as its central theme the theophany, a design which does not depict but “represents God sitting upon His throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham in the form of a dove” (explanation of Facsimile 2, figure 7). So there you have the whole situation—the dove that takes one to heaven is the Holy Ghost, who also instructs and teaches “through the heavens,” “revealing … the grand Key-words … as, also, the sign” by which alone supernal knowledge can be conveyed. It is exactly the same scenario in the Abraham apocrypha as in the Joseph Smith Book of Abraham.

Figure 3. Resemblances for Moses Seeing God (Moses 1:25)

Seeing God

Moses 1:25 tells us that Moses “beheld [God’s] glory.” However, in an important divergence from the Book of Moses, ApAb has Yaho’el declare to Abraham: “the Eternal One … you will not see.”16  Thus, the redactor of ApAb explicitly rejects any visualization of God and “insists on expressing the divine Presence in the form of the Deity’s Voice”17  alone.

Importantly, however, the divine whisper or echo (Hebrew bat ḳōl בּת קול—literally, “daughter of the voice”) through which, in Jewish tradition, divine revelation continued aurally even after the open visions of the prophets had ceased,18  was depicted for centuries in the art of Jewish synagogues and Christian churches as a divine hand. In portrayals of ritual or heavenly ascent, this hand was often shown as emerging from behind a cloud or veil, representing the obscuring boundary that separates earth from heaven.19

Figure 4. Detail from the Torah shrine of the Dura Europos synagogue

A relevant example is shown in this illustration from a decoration on the Torah shrine of the synagogue at Dura Europos. It is the “earliest known depiction of the hand of God in either Jewish or Christian art.”20  Isaac, depicted behind the scene of his near sacrifice and clad in white clothing marked with red clavi,21  is shown entering behind the veil of a tent sanctuary at the top of Mount Moriah.22  This reading is supported by Jewish and early Christian texts suggesting that, in the Akedah, Isaac literally died, ascended to heaven, and was resurrected.23  The disembodied hand, a visualization of God’s body in “pars pro toto24  (i.e., the part shown representing all the rest) and of His heavenly utterance from behind the veil (i.e., the bat ḳōl25), is shown above the scene of the arrested sacrifice and to the immediate left of the tent sanctuary.26

Moses 1:25–31 describes the revelation of God as a progressive phenomenon, beginning with “a voice” and ending with a “face to face” encounter. Notably, the same sequence of divine disclosure is present in the story of the brother of Jared’s intimate encounter with the Lord “at the veil.”27  In that account, the prayer of the brother of Jared is answered first with a divine voice,28  then with seeing the finger of the hand of the Lord,29  and finally with a view of the “body of [His] spirit.”30

When the accounts of Moses’ and Abraham’s subsequent passage through the veil in the Book of Moses and ApAb are combined, the details revealed are illuminating. These surprising details will be the focus of the next Essay.31

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, p. 59.

———, 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. 30–31.

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. 11.

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, p. 220.

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Notes on Figures

Figure 1. 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.

Figures 2-3. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

Figure 4. C. H. Kraeling, et al., Synagogue, plate 51.

Footnotes

1 They had been told not to divide these birds, evidently so that the birds could provide the means of their ascent (A. Kulik, Retroverting, 12:8, p. 19, cf. 15:2, p. 22). Translation of caption: “And the angel took two birds and the angel took me by the right hand and set me on the wing of a pigeon, on the right, and himself set on the wing of a turtledove. And we ascended into the regions of fiery flame and went up into the heights.” Cf. Ibid., 15:2–3, p. 22. Note that Abraham is shown on the left wing, though ApAb reads that he was set on the right wing. Though both Abraham and Yaho’el are both described in the text and shown in the illustration mounting to heaven on the wings of birds, Brian Hauglid mistakenly concluded that only one of them is ascending. He wrote: “It is not Abraham who ascends to heaven on the ‘wings of the birds’ (which is the main force of the parallel) but the angel to whom Abraham is talking” (B. M. Hauglid, New Resource, p. 59).

2 Lourié notes “a medieval legend of the ascension of Alexander the Great, which goes back to the Hellenistic era. In the legend Alexander reaches the heaven (or even heavenly Jerusalem) transported by four griffins. This motif suggests that the griffins as the psychopomps transporting visionaries to heaven were not an invention of the authors of the hekhalot literature but were a part of the early Jewish environment” (B. Lourié, Review, p. 233).

3 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 12:10, p. 19; 15:2, p. 22; R. Rubinkiewicz, Apocalypse of Abraham, 12:10, p. 695; 15:2, p. 696. Cf. H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, p. 18; Genesis 15:9ff.

4 1 Nephi 11:1. Cf. Exodus 19:3, Ezekiel 40:2; JST Matthew 4:8; Revelations 21:10; Moses 7:2.

5 2 Nephi 4:25. Cf. “wings of his Shekinah” (J. Goldin, Fathers, p. 68). Joseph Smith explained that: “The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the Devil cannot come in the sign of a dove” (J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 29 January 1843, p. 276; cf. B. R. McConkie, Mortal Messiah, 1:404; J. Smith, Jr., Words, 21 March 1841, p. 66).

6 Brian Hauglid argues that “equating the ‘Spirit’ with ‘birds’” in this case “is a stretch” (B. M. Hauglid, New Resource, p. 59). However, in G. H. Box’s comment on the ascent of Abraham and Yaho’el (G. H. Box, Apocalypse, XIII, note 8), he had no qualms about this association, reminding readers of the “symbolism of the dove” as it “applied to the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 3:16). R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 151 n. 1, citing the symbolism of the angel mounting on the left wing of the turtledove, noted that the turtledove is “identified [in Jewish tradition] with the Holy Spirit, the source of prophecy” (see C. Perrot et al., Pseudo-Philon, p. 147, cited in F. J. Murphy, Pseudo-Philo, p. 111 n. 23, referencing in turn Targum Canticles 2:12). Moreover, because the turtledove is said explicitly elsewhere to be a symbol of the prophets (Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities, 23:7, p. 142), he conjectured that the scene in ApAb is a way to describe the prophetic investiture of Abraham.

The resemblance between ApAb and 2 Nephi was first proposed in H. W. Nibley, To Open, p. 11, who has written extensively on the symbolism on related imagery in H. W. Nibley, Approach to Abraham.

7 Moses 1:21.

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

9 Moses 1:24.

10 Moses 1:1.

11 K. L. Barney, June 21 2006.

12 Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Moses 7:27.

13 Moses 6:64.

14 2 Corinthians 12:2.

15 H. W. Nibley, Abraham 2000, pp. 56–57.

16 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 16:3, p. 22, emphasis added. This Jewish belief is found in Exodus 33:20 and rabbinic commentaries (R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 155 n. 3).

17 A. A. Orlov, Gods of My Father, p. 53; see also A. A. Orlov, Praxis, p. 160. Andrei Orlov has argued that there may be some connection between the anti-anthropomorphism in the heavenly ascent of Abraham and its prelude in the destruction of Terah’s idols (A. A. Orlov, Divine Manifestations, pp. 217–235). He has also shown that this attitude has Deuteronomic precedents (ibid., pp. 8-12). Importantly, Robin M. Jensen depicts similar ambivalence to divine anthropomorphism in early Christianity (R. M. Jensen, Invisible Christian God).

18 “A. When the latter prophets died, that is, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, then the Holy Spirit came to an end in Israel. B. But even so, they made them hear [Heavenly messages] through an echo [bat ḳōl]” (J. Neusner, Tosefta, Sotah 13:3, 1:885).

19 Citing E. R. Goodenough, Hugh Nibley explained (H. W. Nibley, Atonement, pp. 561–562):

In a stock presentation found in early Jewish synagogues [see, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, Ezekiel Mural, pp. 11–12, 22–23] as well as on very early Christian murals [see, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, Faith, Hope, and Charity , pp. 64-65, 96], “the hand of God is represented, but could not be called that explicitly, and instead of the heavenly utterance, the bat ḳōl [echo, distant voice, whisper] is given (E. R. Goodenough, Archeological Evidence, 1:246). From the hand “radiate beams of light” (ibid., 1:246). “To show the hand and light thus emerging from central darkness,” writes Goodenough, “is as near as one could come in conservative Judaism to depicting God himself” (ibid., 1:248). In early Christian representations the hand of God reaching through the veil is grasped by the initiate [i.e., in ritual ascent] or human spirit [i.e., in heavenly ascent] who is being caught up into the presence of the Lord.

Goodenough is specifically describing a hand that appears next to an illustration of the Akedah in the Beth Alpha synagogue (E. R. Goodenough, Illustrations, figure 638), where the message of the bat ḳōl is represented in Hebrew words written below the hand explicitly tell Abraham “do not raise [your hand against the boy]” (al tishlaḥ [yadkha el ha-naʻar]) in order to stop the sacrifice (Genesis 22:12). The same symbolism is in play in the Dura synagogue Torah shrine (E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 9:71; cf. C. H. Kraeling et al., Synagogue, p. 57). However, extending the meaning of the hand in Beth Alpha, the hand at Dura may have been intended to signify two events at the same time: God’s speech at the altar as well as at the entrance to the sanctuary-tent. Significantly, Rachel Hachlili notes that the hand of God in this scene “differs from all the others [in the Dura synagogue] by the addition of two lined borders” (R. Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art, p. 144). She interprets this border tentatively as “a cloud?” but the two-lines more plausibly resemble layered fabrics of a veil, as in the illustration of the veils surrounding the throne of God from the Codex Sylvester shown below.

20 S. Lander, Revealing and Concealing, p. 205.

21 A. Grabar, Le Thème, p. 145: “clavi rouges.” In this image, the clavi can be seen as reddish purple stripes descending diagonally from left to right on what is usually taken to be a white chiton (tunic or outer robe). More generally Goodenough comments ((E. R. Goodenough, Garments, pp. 228–229):

The feeling of a special meaning in the Jewish-Christian version of the pallium tradition [large rectangular cloak associated with Greek philosophers and still used, e.g., as an emblem of the pope in the Roman Catholic Church] is intensified by the common use of the marks in the corners of the himation [outer garment associated with the ancient Greeks worn over the left shoulder and under the right] as well as of the stripes on the chiton. … I find it hard to believe that even the stripes were “purely ornamental,” though I cannot trace their origin or explain their meaning. … [The mark] came in Christianity [in the shape of a half-square] to be called a gam or gamma or gammadia. Whatever it originally represented, obviously it had some sort of religious potency, perhaps explained or re-explained as it went from religion to religion, or perhaps just persisting as a symbol in its own right without explanations.

In a speech by Tertullian, On the Mantle [De Pallium], he describes how the pallium was used in Greek mysteries, but “now that Christians have adopted it, … it surpasses all the clothing of the gods or priests” (Tertullian, On the Mantle, 4:10 as paraphrased in E. R. Goodenough, Garments, p. 228).

Some scholars have dismissed the depictions of distinctive clothing of this sort as merely the product of slavish copying by the mural makers from standard design books. Others assert that different marks may serve merely to distinguish between male and female garments (M. Avi-Yonah, Critique, pp. 120–121). However, Erwin Goodenough notes that distinctive marks are found not only in the Dura murals, but also in a cache of white textile fragments also discovered at Dura that “may well have been the contents of a box where sacred vestments were kept, or they may have been fetishistic marks, originally on sacred robes, that were preserved after the garments had been outworn” (E. R. Goodenough, Garments, p. 225; cf. E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 9:127–129; see also discussion of “cultic refuse pits” in A. Wrathall, Cult Objects). Such marks on Christian robes, as well as on clothing in Hellenistic Egypt, Palmyra, and on Roman figures of Victory are thought to be “a symbol of immortality” (E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 9:163). For further discussion of Goodenough’s conclusions and a report of similar patterns found at Masada and elsewhere, see J. W. Welch et al., Gammadia. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 571–573, 654–657; H. W. Nibley, Vestments.

22 A. Grabar, Le Thème, pp. 145–146 (translation by Bradshaw):

[The Targum] explains every detail of this particular image, including its setting. The hut with the child at its door is “The House of God” at the summit of the mountain. Before it stands the youth Isaac that his father has brought there as an offering[, clad in a tunic adorned with red clavi]. The crimson color of the interior of the modest hut raises its status to that of a sanctuary (according to the Pirke de R. Eliezer, chapter 31, this summit had already served as the site of the sacrifices of Adam, Abel and Noah [M.-A. Ouaknin et al., Rabbi Éliézer, 31, p. 186]). Each of the figures are seen from the back because, having been placed between the observer and the mountain, they are turned toward its summit and the sanctuary that crowns it. Abraham and Isaac, according to what is written in the Targum, thus foreshadow the “future generations” of Israel reunited behind them who stand before the Torah of the synagogue. Thus, the setting of the scene is completely explained, as well as the connection, within the same panel, between the sacra of the Temple and this Sacrifice of Isaac that includes an image of the first sanctuary of Yahweh.

On the tradition of Abraham’s vision of God’s presence on the top of Mount Moriah and the identification of this site of sacrifice with the Jerusalem Temple mount, see, e.g., M. McNamara, Targum Neofiti, 22:14, p. 119; H. N. Bialik et al., Legends, p. 41; L. Ginzberg, Legends, 5:253 n. 253; W. G. Braude, Midrash on Psalms, Psalm 76:3, 2:14-15; Rashi, Genesis Commentary, 22:14, 2:237; A. J. Rosenberg, Mikraot, Genesis 22:14 Vayera, 1:259; M. Zlotowitz et al., Bereishis, Genesis 22:14, 1:806–807; H. Freedman et al., Midrash, Genesis (Vayera) 56:10, pp. 500–501.

23 See M. Barker, Hidden, p. 36. “This motif is based in part on the fact that only Abraham is mentioned as returning after the incident in Genesis 22:19” (J. L. Kugel, Traditions, p. 325).

H. Schwartz, Tree, p. 171 gives the following summary of relevant Jewish traditions about “Isaac’s Ascent”:

When the knife touched Isaac’s throat, his soul flew from him. … Then the angel spoke “Lay not your hand upon the lad,” and at that instant Isaac’s soul returned to his body. And when Isaac found that his soul had been restored to him, he exclaimed: “Blessed is He who quickens the dead!” (cf. M.-A. Ouaknin et al., Rabbi Éliézer, 31, p. 187, which adds” “Then Isaac became acquainted with [connut] the resurrection of the dead and knew that the dead would someday live again”).

Afterward, “the angels on high took Isaac and brought him to the schoolhouse of Shem the Great” (M. Maher, Pseudo-Jonathan, 22:19, p. 81). While he was there (H. Schwartz, Tree, p. 171):

all the Treasuries of Heaven [were] opened to Isaac[, including] the celestial Temple, which has existed there since the time of Creation …, for no mystery of heaven was deemed too secret for the pure soul of Isaac. There, too, Isaac found his own face on the curtain [heavenly veil] of God known as the Pargod. [Regarding the tselem (= image) of souls of individuals on the veil, see C. Mopsik, Hénoch, pp. 51ff., 326–327.]

Regarding ancient sources for relevant Jewish traditions of the “death” and “resurrection” of Isaac, see H. Schwartz, Tree, p. 172; L. Ginzberg, Legends, 5:251 n. 243; H. Freedman et al., Midrash, Genesis (Vayera) 56:11, p. 502.

Barker refers to early Christian texts that “compared the death and resurrection of Jesus to Isaac; others contrasted the death of Jesus and the Akedah, because Abraham offered a ram in his place, implying that Isaac did not die” (M. Barker, Temple Themes, p. 31. Cf. p. 28). See also J. L. Kugel, Bible As It Was, pp. 177–178; J. L. Kugel, Traditions, pp. 306–307, 324–325; Hebrews 11:17–19; S. Kierkegaard, Fear, Preliminary Expectoration, pp. 47–48; J. D. Levenson, Death and Resurrection, especially pp. 111–114, 125–142 (an argument against the story of Abraham as an etiology for animal sacrifice). In this regard, James L. Kugel notes one particularly revealing passage (J. L. Kugel, Traditions, pp. 324–325):

The allusion in Romans 8:32 to the Genesis narrative came to have great significance, indirect though it may have been. The allusion itself is certainly felt in Paul’s use of the word “spare,” but it also may be carried in the expression “His own son,” Greek tou idíou huiou. This phrase is sometimes rendered “only son” since idíou here may represent a translation of Hebrew “your only [son]” … in Genesis 12:2, 12, and 17; see also John 3:16. It was taken up by Origen (Homilies in Genesis, 8) and Irenaeus (Against the Heresies, 4:5.4). [See also Augustine (City of God, 16:32).]

Kugel also notes that “the same idea was sometimes represented visually, with the ram depicted as hanging from a tree (= crucified)” ((ibid., pp. 324–325. Cf. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 20:3), as in the Akedah mosaic at Beth Alpha.

24 S. Lander, Revealing and Concealing, p. 205.

25 According to ibid., p. 208, Joseph Gutmann sees “the whole image [of the Akedah at Dura Europos as] ‘symbolic of the bat ḳōl = voice from heaven.’ This view is supported by the use of the bat ḳōl in the expansive Palestinian Targum Neofiti on Genesis 22:10 (M. McNamara, Targum Neofiti, Genesis 22:10, p. 118; see also p. 39). … According to Jensen, late antique Christianity shares this understanding of the divine hand, yet the divine voice is identified with the first person of the Trinity. … Jensen ponders the choice of this human body part to represent God’s voice: ‘Does God have hands?’”

26 Other scholars have given different interpretations, but none account for all the data as well as Grabar and Du Mesnil de Buisson. Goodenough (E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 9:71), Kraeling (C. H. Kraeling et al., Synagogue, p. 57), and Perkins (A. Perkins, Art, p. 57) are in agreement that the structure with the figure at the entrance is a tent. However, despite the fact that every woman depicted elsewhere in the synagogue is wearing a head covering and colored clothing (see W. G. Moon, Nudity, pp. 596–597), Goodenough differs from these and other scholars in insisting that the figure is a female (Sarah) rather than a male (E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 9:72–75; cf. E. R. Goodenough, Method, pp. 189–190). Goodenough also clearly misinterprets the figure at the door of the tent as looking outward from the tent rather than inward toward its interior (E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 9:73: “Sarah face[s] the hand of God” vs. A. Grabar, Le Thème, p. 145: “Turning his back to the observer—like the other two figures in the scene—the child [Isaac] seems to be entering the hut” [Tournant le dos au spectateur — tout comme les deux autres figures de la scène—l’enfant semble entrer dans la cabane]). Though admitting that many aspects of Goodenough’s interpretations are brilliant, Michael Avi-Yonah faults him at times for “disregarding inconvenient facts” when they contradict his overarching “vision” of the meaning of the murals (M. Avi-Yonah, Critique, pp. 121, 120)—which, in his analysis of the Dura Europos wall painting of the binding of Isaac, required him to define a key role for Sarah.

Alternative interpretations suffer from their own problems (for a list of these interpretations see R. Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art, p. 239). For example, C. H. Kraeling et al., Synagogue, p. 58, although accepting that the small figure at the entrance of the tent is a male, implausibly concludes that he is intended to represent “one of the two ‘young men’ left behind a short distance before proceeding to the sacrifice” (similarly A. Perkins, Art, p. 571). However, as E. R. Goodenough, Dura Symbolism, 9:72 points out, this interpretation is made improbable because the young men in Genesis 22:5 are occupied with tending an ass, not keeping a tent (as shown in the related mural at the Beth Alpha synagogue—see E. R. Goodenough, Illustrations, figure 638). Moreover, only one male figure rather than the expected two young men is depicted.

In light of all the data, the interpretation of Grabar, Hopkins (C. Hopkins, Discovery, pp. 144–145), and Du Mesnil de Buisson seems the best resolution of these difficulties. From de Buisson’s perspective, “the tent has been interpreted as a temple or the Temple, and the small figure on its threshold as either Abraham (which is unlikely because of the dress) or Isaac himself” (C. H. Kraeling et al., Synagogue, pp. 57–58, citing the findings of C. Du Mesnil de Buisson, Les Peintures, pp. 23–27; A. Grabar, Le Thème, pp. 144–146). See also M. Barker, Temple Themes, p. 28.

27 For a description of this Book of Mormon account as an encounter “at the veil,” see M. C. Thomas, Brother of Jared.

28 See Ether 2:22–25.

29 See Ether 3:6–10.

30 See Ether 3:13–20.

31 See Essay #38.

Moses Defeats Satan

Book of Moses Essay #36

Moses 1:12-23

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David J. Larsen, and Stephen T. Whitlock

In Moses 1:21 we read the dramatic culmination of Moses’ confrontation with Satan: “And Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.” Carl Bloch’s dramatic painting of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness above parallels Moses’ encounter with Satan. The placement of the prostrate adversary at the feet of Savior recalls the prophecy that the head of the serpent would be crushed beneath the heel of the seed of the woman—meaning Jesus Christ.1

In this Essay, we will describe the defeat of Satan as portrayed in Moses 1:12–23 and the Apocalypse of Abraham (ApAb). Though the general similarity between the type scenes depicted in Matthew 4 and Moses 1 is indisputable, the detailed resemblances between ApAb and Moses 1:12–23 are even more striking.

Figure 2. Resemblances for Moses Defeats Satan (Moses 1:12–14)

Satan disrupts the worship of God. Recalling Satan’s encounter with Christ in the wilderness,2  the Adversary tempts the prophet—in his physically weakened state—to worship him (Moses 1) or, in the case of ApAb, to “Leave [Yaho’el] and flee!” In the Book of Moses, the title conferred by Deity on Moses as a son of God is explicitly challenged by Satan, who calls him a “son of man.”3

According to David Halperin, Satan’s tactics to deceive Abraham are a “last-ditch effort to retain his privileged place in heaven.”4  If he can persuade Abraham “not to make his ascent, he will perhaps be able to keep his own privileged status.”5

Satan’s identity is questioned. Each prophet asks his adversary for credentials, which, not unexpectedly, he fails to provide.6  In the Book of Moses, the prophet questions Satan directly. By way of contrast, in ApAb, the angel Yaho’el mediates Abraham’s question. But it is an interesting sort of mediation, as indicated by the following summary of the conversation flow:

1.       Satan addresses Abraham;

2.       Abraham ignores Satan and converses with Yaho’el;

3.       Yaho’el directly addresses Satan;

4.       Abraham addresses Satan but only when and how Yaho’el instructs him to. Later, in 14:9, Abraham slips up and addresses Satan directly, for which he is sharply rebuked by Yaho’el.

Nowhere does Satan address Yaho’el.

Satan contrasted with the prophet. In both accounts, Satan’s attempt to disguise his identity is recognized. Lacking divine glory and heavenly inheritance, the Devil is easily and humiliatingly exposed.7

Figure 3. The Temptation of Christ, King Gagit I of Kars Gospels, ca. 1050

Documenting related instances of the Adversary’s deception, the Apostle Paul, drawing on early Jewish tradition,8  spoke of Satan transforming himself “into an angel of light.”9  With similar language, Joseph Smith also spoke of the Devil having appeared deceptively “as an angel of light.”10

Michael Stone sees a passage in the Latin Life of Adam and Eve as implying that “all Satan lacked to look like a heavenly angel was the glory. He lost the glory when he fell, and he could take it on temporarily in order to deceive Adam and Eve.”11  Thus, Satan is depicted in illustrations of the temptation of Christ, as elsewhere in early Christian art, as angelic in form but differing in color—e.g., appearing with “false glory” in a blue tint rather than in a bright whiteness of glory.12 Alternatively, one might interpret Satan’s blue color as his appearing, deceptively, in a form corresponding to the blue robe of the high priest, a robe which represented being clothed in the likeness of the body—the blue-black “shadow”—of the incarnate Logos.13

Moses, having received a taste of the celestial heights, had already learned to distinguish God’s glory from Satan’s pale imitation.14  He challenged the Adversary, saying: “Where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God.”15

Figure 4. Resemblances for Moses Defeats Satan (Moses 1:16–18)

Satan told to depart and cease his deception. In similar terms, the Book of Moses and ApAb both relate a first command for Satan to depart. Both accounts specifically admonish him not to engage in further deception. In ApAb, as previously, Yaho’el mediates Abraham’s dialogue with Satan.

The prophet received the glory that Satan lost. Satan is reminded that the glory he previously possessed now belongs to the prophet. Moses’ words constitute a second “humiliating exposure of Satan” as an enemy rather than a son of God—reminding him of the divine declaration that Moses “actually is what his adversary falsely claims to be.”16  In ApAb, Satan’s false pretensions and the prophet’s right to glory are both confirmed by the affirmation of Yaho’el that Satan’s heavenly garment is now reserved for Abraham17  and that his erstwhile glory will be exchanged for Adam’s bodily “corruption.”18

Satan told to depart a second time. In both texts, Satan is again forcefully told to leave with no further discussion. Moses curtly commands, “Depart hence, Satan,” while in ApAb he is told: “Vanish from before me!”—or, in Rubinkiewicz’ translation, “Get away from me!”19

The wider context of Moses’ command for Satan to depart is noteworthy. In verse 6, Yaho’el instructs him to preface his command for Satan to depart by saying: “May you be the fire brand of the furnace of the earth!” which sounds like an artful way to say “Go to hell!”

Figure 5. Resemblances for Moses Defeats Satan (Moses 1:19–23)

Satan’s final attempt to win the prophet’s worship. In ApAb, Abraham momentarily gives in to Satan’s ploy to continue the dialogue, answering him deferentially: “Here am I, your servant!”20  To ward off further danger, the angel gives Abraham a stern warning: “Answer him not! … lest his [i.e., Satan’s deceptions] will affect you.”21  In the Book of Moses, the goal of Satan’s demand is expressed more directly: “Worship me” (Moses 1:19).

Significantly, the cosmic battles depicted in Moses 1 and ApAb are not head-on clashes between the titanic forces of opposing gods or demi-gods. Rather, they are the conflicts of mortals who are caught between those forces, being compelled to choose by devilish adversaries while at the same time being enabled to stand by heavenly powers. Marc Philonenko’s analysis of this unusual aspect of ApAb applies equally well to Moses 1:22

The interaction between the [good and malevolent powers] does not occur directly but rather through a medium of a human being — Abraham. … Abraham thus becomes [the] place of … battle between two spiritual forces. … In [this] struggle … the Prince of Lights and the Angel of Darkness are fighting in the heart of a man.

Satan’s definitive departure following the invocation of the name of the Son of God. In contrast to Satan’s warrantless demand, Moses executes his authoritative command; forcing his adversary to depart through the power of the priesthood after the order of the Son of God.23  The dramatic turning point of this episode hinges on Satan’s desperate, false claim to be the Only Begotten, countered by Moses’ triumphant invocation of the name of the true Only Begotten.

No corresponding passage is found in ApAb. However, a medieval Ethiopian text provides a relevant parallel. As in Moses 1, it argues the potency of the name of God in driving Satan away. In an account of the battle between Satan’s rebellious armies and the hosts of heaven, the angels twice charged Satan’s ranks unsuccessfully. However, prior to their third attempt, they were given a cross of light inscribed “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and “when Setna’el [Satan] saw that inscription he was vanquished.”24

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. 52–59.

———. Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2014, pp. 40–41.

———, 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. 24–29.

Holland, Jeffrey R. 1999. “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence” (BYU Devotional Address, 2 March 1999).  In BYU Speeches (Reprinted in Ensign, 30:3 [March 2000]). https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/jeffrey-r-holland/cast-not-away-therefore-your-confidence/ , https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2000/03/cast-not-away-therefore-your-confidence?lang=eng. Video dramatization: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/media/video/2011-03-50-i-am-a-son-of-god?lang=eng (accessed June 13, 2020)

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. 8–11.

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. 204, 208-209, 216-220.

References

Anderson, Gary A., and Michael Stone, eds. A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve 2nd ed. Society of Biblical Literature: Early Judaism and its Literature, ed. John C. Reeves. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1999.

Barker, Margaret. The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 1991.

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.

Cowdery, Oliver. “Letter 8 on the rise of the Church.” Kirtland, OH: Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 2:1, October, 1835, 195-202. https://ia802700.us.archive.org/18/items/latterdaysaintsm01unse/latterdaysaintsm01unse.pdf. (accessed October 30, 2014).

Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

Jackson, Kent P. The Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 2005. https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/book-moses-and-joseph-smith-translation-manuscripts. (accessed August 26, 2016).

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.

Malan, Solomon Caesar, ed. The Book of Adam and Eve: Also Called The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan: A Book of the Early Eastern Church. Translated from the Ethiopic, with Notes from the Kufale, Talmud, Midrashim, and Other Eastern Works. London, England: Williams and Norgate, 1882. Reprint, San Diego, CA: The Book Tree, 2005.

Matthews, Robert J. “What is the Book of Moses?” In The Pearl of Great Price, edited by Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson. Studies in Scripture 2, 25-41. Salt Lake City, UT: Randall Book Co., 1985.

Mika’el, Bakhayla. ca. 1400. “The book of the mysteries of the heavens and the earth.” In The Book of the Mysteries of the Heavens and the Earth and Other Works of Bakhayla Mika’el (Zosimas), edited by E. A. Wallis Budge, 1-96. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1934. Reprint, Berwick, ME: Ibis Press, 2004.

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. http://farms.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=71. (accessed October 10).

Orlov, Andrei A. “The garment of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham.” In Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology, edited by Andrei A. Orlov, 47-81. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2011.

———. Heavenly Priesthood in the Apocalypse of Abraham. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Pratt, Parley P. Key to the Science of Theology. Liverpool, England: F. D. Richards, 1855. https://books.google.com/books?id=-rJWAAAAcAAJ. (accessed November 12, 2015).

Rubinkiewicz, Ryszard. 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.

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Smoot, Stephen O. 2012. ‘I am a son of God’: Moses’ ascension into the divine council.  In 2012 BYU Religious Education Student Symposium. https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/byu-religious-education-student-symposium-2012/i-am-son-god-moses-ascension-divine-council. (accessed September 29, 2018).

Stone, Michael E. Adam’s Contract with Satan: The Legend of the Cheirograph of Adam. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2002.

Vermes, Geza, ed. 1962. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English Revised ed. London, England: Penguin Books, 2004.

Williams, Wesley. 2005. The Shadow of God: Speculations on the Body Divine in Jewish Esoteric Tradition.  In The Black God. http://www.theblackgod.com/Shadow%20of%20God%20Short%5B1%5D.pdf. (accessed December 21, 2007).

Witherington, Ben, III. Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1995.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Copyright original is located in the chapel of the Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark. Used by permission of the Frederiksborgmuseum, with the assistance of Erik Westengaard. Thanks also to the Visual Resources Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the assistance of Carrie Snow, Nancy Sargent, and Bruce Pearson.

Figures 2, 4-5. Copyright Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

Figure 3. Jerusalem: Armenian Patriarchate, Calouste Gulbenkian Library, Armenian Cathedral of St. James, Ms. 2556, fol. 244 (Index of Armenian Art Number: J2556G) Public Domain. http://armenianstudies. csufresno.edu/iaa_miniatures/image.aspx?
index=0178 (accessed January 19, 2015).

Footnotes

1 Moses 4:21. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 4:21-d, p. 266.

2 Matthew 4:8–9.

3 For more on this topic, see S. O. Smoot, I Am a Son of God, p. 136.

4 A. A. Orlov, Heavenly Priesthood, p. 140.

5 David Halperin, cited in ibid., p. 140.

6 See D&C 129:8.

7 Rubinkiewicz concludes that the phrase “Reproach upon you!” is an explicit allusion to Zechariah 3:2 (cf. Jude 1:9) (R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 145 n. 7).

8 B. Witherington, III, Conflict, p. 449.

9 2 Corinthians 11:14.

10 D&C 128:20. See also 2 Nephi 9:9; D&C 129:4–7; J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 1 April 1842, pp. 204–205. Elder Parley P. Pratt wrote that “although [spirits not worthy to be glorified] often attempt to pass as angels of light there is more or less of darkness about them. So it is with Satan and his hosts who have not been embodied” (P. P. Pratt, Key, p. 72.).

11 M. E. Stone, Adam’s Contract, p. 18. Cf. S. C. Malan, Adam and Eve, 1:27, pp. 27–29, 1:60, pp. 67–70, and 2:5, pp. 110–111.

12 M. E. Stone, Adam’s Contract, pp. 18-19. See also A. A. Orlov, Garment of Azazel, pp. 69–71.

13 M. Barker, Gate, pp. 119–120; W. Williams, Shadow.

14 Moses 1:13–15.

15 Moses 1:15, emphasis added. Similarly, in the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, God warns Adam and Eve about Satan, saying: “This is he who promised you majesty and divinity. Where, then, is the beauty that was on him? Where is his divinity? Where is his light? Where is the glory that rested on him?” (S. C. Malan, Adam and Eve, 1:51, p. 56). Orlov describes the very face or countenance of the Devil as being clothed with darkness, while the face of the glorified visionary is bathed in light (A. A. Orlov, Garment of Azazel, p. 79).

Joseph Smith also had to learn “by experience, how to discern between the spirit of Christ and the spirit of the Devil (O. Cowdery, Letter 8, p. 200, spelling and capitalization modernized). According to an account by Oliver Cowdery, the Prophet, prior to obtaining the Book of Mormon plates, “beheld the prince of darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates” and afterward was told the purpose of this vision by the angel Moroni: “All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness, that you may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one” (ibid., p. 198).

16 H. W. Nibley, To Open, p. 5.

17 For the role of sacred clothing in ApAb, see A. A. Orlov, Heavenly Priesthood, pp. 119–153. Cf. Zechariah 3:3, 5.

18 A. Kulik, Apocalypse of Abraham, 13:14, p. 1466. Similarly, in the Apocalypse of Moses, God tells Adam that he will be “seat[ed[ on the throne of [his] deceiver” (G. A. Anderson et al., Synopsis, 39:2, p. 86).

19 Écarte-toi de moi !” (R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 14:7, p. 149). See a discussion of the translation of this phrase in ibid., p. 149 n. 7.

20 A. Kulik, Retroverting, 14:9, p. 21. Cf. Genesis 22:1, 11.

21 Ibid., 14:10, 12, p. 21. R. Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, p. 149 n. 10 notes that according to the Qumran Rule of the Community 10:16 it is forbidden to argue with the ungodly (G. Vermes, Complete, p. 111).

22 As summarized in A. A. Orlov, Garment of Azazel, p. 154 n. 63.

23 The rhetorical complexity of Moses 1:20–21 seems deliberate. In v. 20, Moses received strength after calling upon God. In v. 21, these events are reported in reverse order. Rather than seeing in vv. 20–21 two instances of the same command for Satan to depart, we would suggest that the threefold report (calling upon God, receiving strength, command to depart) in the two verses is a description of the same event, repeated twice for emphasis. The description of the command to depart in verse 20 highlights the exclusivity of Moses’ worship and the corresponding description of the same event in verse 21 underlines the use of the name of the Only Begotten as part of the formal command.

Note that v. 21 has a complex history of revisions. Cf. S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, p 84; ibid., p. 593; 1866–67 RLDS Publication; and current edition of the Book of Moses used by Latter–day Saints. See also K. P. Jackson, Book of Moses, p. 62; R. J. Matthews, What Is, pp. 35–36.

24 B. Mika’el, Mysteries, p. 17.