Recommendations

Hello! Shalom! Aloha! Mabuhay!

If this is your first visit to Modern Apocrypha, I have only two recommendations for continuing on with minimal confusion:


1) Please begin with the first introductory post (found HERE) and work your way forward. Almost all the posts on this blog flow chronologically and will make more sense with the background and context of previous ones. Jumping in anywhere might be disorienting.

2) Please read along in the texts posted off to the right. I try not to summarize too much in the commentary and discussion, and being at least somewhat familiar with what we're discussing or I'm commenting on will be most beneficial and edifying for all involved. Plus, going along with the theme of this blog, any hidden truths to be brought to light will be found within the text itself and not necessarily within my ramblings.

Okay, fine, three recommendations:

3) Please read with an open heart, mind, and spirit. See what truths you can find in these works--ones which speak to you. Namaste : )

Thursday, April 24, 2014

INTRODUCTION & PURPOSE

Hello All -

Years ago I became interested in ancient languages and texts, especially those of a religious nature. I've been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to study many of them in their original language during my college years. Among my favorites are the Judeo-Christian apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, esoterica, etc. (h/t Dad) (A quick source for English translations of many of these texts can be found HERE.)

Following his translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible in the late 4th Century AD (which would later become the approved Bible of the Catholic church), the great theologian, Jerome, began distinguishing canonical from apocryphal (meaning "hidden away" or "secret") books of the Bible (although all were included in his version). It seems his was a rigid conception of canonicity, one demanding that a book, to be canonical, must be received by all, have the sanction of antiquity, and above all, be suited not only to spiritual edification and enlightenment but also to the establishment and confirmation of church doctrine. Despite this early beginning, an official Catholic canon would not be decreed until the Council of Trent in 1546, in response to the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church or Mormons), I belong to one of the few Christian denominations that believes in an open canon. While the Church has canonized its "standard works" (the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) by the principle of common consent, there is room yet on the its scriptural shelf. Its founder, Joseph Smith, wrote:
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
The question then becomes, "Which non-canonical writings--past, present, or future--could be considered inspired of God and for potential inclusion?" I'll address this to some extent later in this post and throughout subsequent ones. (On the other hand, which writings should be kicked out? ; ) Joseph Smith considered Song of Solomon not inspired of God and, therefore, apocryphal, even though it was included in the LDS canon.)

The past century has seen several new apocryphal texts come to light--some world-renowned, others much more obscure--claiming to have been divinely inspired, and each holds some pertinence for Latter-day Saints specifically (my primary audience here) and Christianity at large. The Nag Hammadi Library, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Gospel of Judas fit into the first camp of more well-known texts. There have been countless commentaries written on the more popular apocrypha (ancient and "modern"), but none, that I know of, on the more obscure of the modern apocrypha, especially those from outside the Judeo-Christian core of the Middle East. This blog will serve as a forum to address the latter group (modern, obscure, non-Middle Eastern) in the form of running commentaries. I've already read through most of the texts I'll be covering in this blog and have found value in them, even if some come off as odd. But that's the nature of apocrypha : )

In March 1833, Joseph Smith was engaged in the "translation" of the Old Testament. (We don't have time here to go into the method, process, or semantics of Joseph Smith's various "translations"; "transmission" seems to be a more appropriate word.) He didn't know what to do with the Biblical apocrypha, inquired of the Lord, and received what is now Section 91 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated. Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom; And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated.
Bruce R. McConkie summed up these directions:
Obviously (everything seemed obvious to E. McConkie ; ), to gain any real value from a study of apocryphal writings, the student must first have an extended background of gospel knowledge, a comprehensive understanding of the standard works of the Church, plus the guidance of the Spirit.
Finally, D&C 88:118 records the Lord's commandments to His people in this regard:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
This is the intent of this blog. With all the texts I will cover, it is my goal to address them prima facie, at face value, and avoid undue value judgments, that is judging their rightness, wrongness, usefulness, etc. It is also my goal to avoid ad hominem attacks, arguments, or even deep examination, whereby the claims of the text could be rejected based on potential character flaws, etc. of the author (if known). Rather, I hope to put forth a critical and objective commentary on these texts (but not a full critical analysis of them), while working with an LDS framework, paradigm, and worldview. Each post will be considered a work in progress, and I will continue to amend and edit them into the future. Above all, I hope this blog will be fun, insightful, and thought-provoking. (Also, reading between the lines, grasping sarcasm, following tongue-in-cheek asides, chasing tangential rabbits down their proverbial holes, etc. are often requirements of my writing and teaching style.)

To conclude, I believe Moroni's promise at the end of the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:4-7) is not reserved strictly for that volume but is meant to be applied liberally:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is. And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.
It seems he'd heard this from his father, Mormon (Moroni 7:13-14,16):
But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
With this introduction, let's see what hidden things we can bring to light.

13 comments:

  1. Brad, you were meant to share your knowledge, and this is the perfect forum for it. I eagerly await what you choose to write about next! Your words bring to light what many of us have been taught all our lives—that we believe God still speaks to his children on earth and that the records His children have written, recording their personal testimonies of Christ, are not limited to what we currently have in the Bible or the Book of Mormon. Your blog is now asking us to take our beliefs seriously and openly accept that there is more . . . it's not a question of "if" there's more. Thanks for being so articulate and for letting your personality shine through your words—that's my favorite part so far about your writing.:) You are definitely in your element here, and I love seeing that. It inspires me.

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    1. Thanks for your words, Katie. Feel free to share this with whomever you feel inspired.

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  2. Brad, thanks for your work! This is exciting and fun! I've felt a connection to this subject for so many years (thanks to Br. Nibley and the Charlesworth commentaries in the pseudepigrapha books), and so your thoughts will be welcomed. I look forward to reading more!

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  3. Hi Newby, I was wondering if you had approached your Bishop or Stake President about this book. As I am convinced that this book is special, I have been thinking of doing so myself. If you have approached someone in leadership about this, I was hoping to hear your experience. Thank you for your great research, and keep it up :)

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    1. Hi Shawn -

      I've been able to share doctrines and principles of the Gospel as found in the Aklatan that witness to the truth of and clarify modern scripture in my talks, testimonies, lessons, and comments in classes, but I haven't yet felt the necessity to share all of this directly with my own local leaders. I don't feel like I'm being deceptive in this, but rather allowing things to flow, build, and spread naturally and organically. If the time comes where I feel the need to address them or when I'm asked to explain these things, I feel confident in doing so.

      On the other hand, I have had the opportunity to share the Aklatan with friends and family, some of whom have leadership callings in their own wards and stakes, and have seen the Spirit speak to them of the truth of these things. So far, I've been winning the game of leadership roulette... or maybe it's because I'm choosing my battles ; )

      When we're done with the Book of Visions, I think I'll post captmoroni's experience with his leaders from his New Mormon Scripture blog. I think you're familiar with it.

      Good luck and follow the Spirit -

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  4. The Aklatan Facebook page has recently made a new post. If you haven't yet seen it, it says, "Elisha Enoc needs some believers in the Aklatan to help share its message of Christ. You would be responding to questions, helping to maintain our website and Facebook, and representing Elisha in this work. If you are interested please comment below or send us a message on this page." Thought you might be interested!

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  5. Thanks for noticing that, Shawn. I'll definitely check it out. I've been meaning for a while now to start a Facebook page connected specifically to this blog where we can have broader discussions and share it more widely with others.

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    1. That would be pretty cool! I'd be more than happy to help in any way.

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    2. I'll post about it when it's ready. Getting it up and running is my goal for this weekend.

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  6. It's funny what you find, and where you find it comes from. I suspect you and I knew each other once, Newby ("frere"). Either way, thanks for the blog. It will take me a while, but I'm hoping to read through it...

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    1. Frere! Mbote! Nsango nini? Comment vas-tu? : )

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    2. The closest I get to remembering Lingala anymore is "Tu veux de jus?" and gagging at the thought of Molleroff oatmeal cookies. But yeah, ca va bien and all that. I've become a computer geek and hobby farmer living in the desert in almost the exact center of Utah, with a wife and soon to be seven kids (we're foster parents, so some of the kids are more closely spaced than typical biology would allow). How are you?

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    3. I messaged you on FB so that we don't bore these people with our personal chat ; )

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