Category Archives: Article Abstracts

Review of Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, eds. “Blood.”

Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, eds.  “Blood.”  In Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 98-99.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998. [Israel/Solomon/Herod/Christian/Theology]

Symbolically in the Bible, blood is usually not a good sign.  It is a powerful and ominous symbol of death, violence, wrong, guilt and punishment“Only in the framework of sacrifice could blood portend good news.” (p. 100)  Sections of this article deal with blood as death, as guilt, as impurity, as omen, as sacrifice and propitiation, and as wine.  The most relevant to the temple are impurity and sacrifice.  Regarding impurity, the authors write that blood “symbolized a rupture in the fabric of life.”  It destroys the cleanness of creation.  Animal blood must be handled by strict ritual.  Human blood had even more power to defile.  Chronic conditions left sufferers ostracized.  Isaiah contrasts man’s “righteousness” to menstrual rags (Isa. 64:6).

Shedding of blood was a capital offense (Gen. 9:6), but shedding animal blood was allowed, however, only through ritual slaughter.  In this ritual the blood is treated with great respect.  It is an essential element in the temple sacrifice.  It is shed and also brought into contact with the holy that is symbolized , for example, by the altar of the mercy seat.  The blood of the offerer is identified with the blood of the offered animal.  The ritual release of an animal’s blood is viewed as the release of the individual’s life; it is to be used for making atonement for the lives of the offerers (Lev. 17:11).  Shedding the blood is “a surrender of life to the holy as seen, for example, in the sprinkling of blood on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement (Lev.16:15).

This Old Testament background is a proper setting for understanding shedding blood in the New Testament.  For Paul, Christ is not a martyr, but a sacrifice for sin.  Christ is “a mercy seat.”  His blood atones for sin and achieves human justification.  (Rom. 5:9) The letter to the Hebrews further develops the importance of sacrificial blood.  The blood of Jesus does much more than that of sacrificial animals; it “purifies our consciences from dead works to worship the living God (Heb. 9:13-14; 10:4; cf. 4 Macc 6:29) At the Last Supper Jesus speaks of “my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mk. 14;24).  This can be compared to Moses taking the ox blood and throwing half of it against the altar and the other half against the people of Israel.  “In both cases, blood seals a covenant (Heb 9:18; cf. Zech 9:11 and Gen. 15:9-18, where animals were killed to seal Abraham’s covenant with God.

Review of Ovadiah, Asher., Israel Roll and Moshe Fisher, “The Roman Temple at Kedesh in Upper Galilee: A Response.”

Ovadiah, Asher., Israel Roll and Moshe Fisher, “The Roman Temple at Kedesh in Upper Galilee: A Response.”  Israel Exploration Journal 43, n. 1 (1993): 60-63. [Rome/Architecture/Design]

This short article is a rejoinder to a criticism of earlier work done by the authors.  Since 1976 they have published a number of articles about their archaeological dig at Kedesh in Upper Galilee.   Those reports discussed a Roman temple complex found.  It is, according to the authors, “the southernmost link in a chain of temples of the Syro-Phonecian region….”(p. 60)  Its architectural design and decoration are similar to those in the region.

In 1990 Jodi Magness criticized their interpretation of many details, but she primarily argued that the temple they found was an “ocular shrine” to Apollo rather than a temple to Baalshamin.  If this rejoinder is accurate, the authors maintain, that most of Magness’ ideas were dealt with in previous articles.  From their reviews it appears she did not read closely, misunderstood some of their writing, and her criticisms appear to be generally without substance.  On the matter of the complex being a “ocular shrine” to Apollo they write:

“Magness’ discussion of the sanctuaries of Apollo throughout Syria and Palestine during the Hellenistic and Roman periods and the assimilation of Apollo to the Babylonian god Nabu is superfluous, as long as the author has not succeeded in disproving the exclusive connection of the temple at Kedesh to Baalshamin.  We would like to thank Magness for her effort to elaborate on the discussion of this site, but do not believe that anything has been added that negates our conclusions regarding the architectural design and function of the temple at Kedesh, the identification of the deity, or the character of the worship practiced there.  (p. 63)

Review of Holum, Kenneth G. “Caesarea’s Temple Hill: The Archaeology of Sacred Space in an Ancient Mediterranean City.”

Holum, Kenneth G. “Caesarea’s Temple Hill: The Archaeology of Sacred Space in an Ancient Mediterranean City.” Near Eastern Archaeology 67, no. 4 (December 2004): 184-99.
[Rome/Sacred Space/Architecture/Design]

Kenneth Holum directed an international team of excavators at Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel for eleven seasons between 1989 and 2002. They discovered that Herod the Great built a Roman temple there concurrently with the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem. This article recounts what they learned about this building and the subsequent use of the site.

The Caesarean temple was dedicated to the Roman goddess Roma and to Augustus. It was on a ridge overlooking the harbor of Caesarea. Holum speaks of the place as “socially constituted” sacred space, as contrasted with a site such as Delphi in Greece where the natural setting gives to it a sacred aura. Thus, an important emphasis of the paper is to show what Herod’s engineers did to enhance the sacredness of the site. He mentions the following: 1) Its placement on the highest point in front of the harbor, 2) it sat on a large platform which, like the temple mount in Jerusalem, was first leveled, extended with retaining walls and fill, and elevated, 3) its rather monumental size, 4) its height (about 100 feet) which contributed to its visibility from the sea and surrounding territory, 5) it was built of local kurkar stone but covered with a thick layer of stucco with molded fluting on the columns, all of which imitated expensive marble, thus adding to its beauty and sacredness, 6) gates controlled entrance into the site. Excavators also found evidence of a large sacrificial altar, first down below by the harbor quay, but later moved to the temple platform.

The site continued in use for sacred purposes, but gradually became “desacralized.” They found evidence of destruction about AD 400, consistent with Constantine’s abolishment of pagan sacrifice and temples. However, the evidence did not suggest whether it was caused naturally by an earthquake or on purpose. Many of the materials of the temple were given secondary use in an “intermediate building” which burned, followed in AD 490 by a Christian octagonal “martyrion” which probably venerated a martyr, the most likely candidate Holum believes was St. Cornelius. It was built of expensive materials including considerable marble. This structure lasted only a decade or two when it was converted into a congregational church. The structure apparently served both purposes until the Muslim conquest in AD 640. In the Thirteenth Century the Crusaders occupied the site and further demolished underlying structures as they built their typical subterranean vaults. These in turn were destroyed by the Mamlukes about 1287. Thereafter, the site lost its sacred nature.

Review of Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds., “Ascension.”

Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds., “Ascension.” In Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 49. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998.

Although this article is about the ascension of Christ, what it has to say about the way the concept is used symbolically in the Bible is useful in understanding ascent theology and symbolism. The ascent of Christ is narrated only in Luke 24:51 and Acts. 1:6-14, but it is mentioned or alluded to elsewhere in the New Testament, such as Ephesians 4:8 and Colossians 3:1-2. The physical images that surround the ascension connote much. It involves crossing a boundary and making a transition. Jesus ends his earthly existence and begins his life in heaven. “The ascension also completes the cyclic U-shaped life of the incarnate Christ–a descent followed by an ascent, with an obvious sense of completeness and closure.” Second, it is the “ultimate example of the generally positive meanings of the archetype of ascending,” or ascent. Its main meaning is exaltation. Other imagery associated with the ascension reinforces the sense of exaltation. For example Jesus took a position of honor at the right hand of God the Father. He ascended “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.” (Eph 1:21 RSV). Closely liked is the motif of kingly triumph over the forces of evil and enemies of God, anticipated in Psalm 68:18, and applied to Christ in Eph. 4:8. It puts all things under the feet of Christ; he is head over all. (Eph. 1:22) Finally, the ascension is associated with the motif of preparation for a brief return to the earth in glory.

Review of Schiffman, Lawrence H. “Temple Scroll.”

Schiffman, Lawrence H. “Temple Scroll.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, 6:348-50. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
[Israel/Qumran/Temple Scroll]

In encyclopedic form the article deals with the discovery, description, paleography, contents, sources, dating, and relation of the scroll to other Qumran documents. Regarding the contents, the scroll’s evident purpose was “to provide a system of law for the pre-messianic temple.” In addition to the Torah laws relating to the temple it concluded with “the laws of consanguineous marriage”! The largest “non-Pentateuch section” deals with regulating the law of the king. “It emphasizes the separation of roles of the high priest and king….” The author summarizes the scroll’s contents this way. “The scroll does not simply recapitulate the prescriptions of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It collects together the various pentateuchal (and sometimes prophetic) material relevant to the issue at hand and weaves together a unified, consistent text. In this respect it can be said that the text redacts the Torah, combining all materials on a single topic together.” It uses a distinct form of midrash-like exegesis “to reconcile the differences between the various pentateuchal texts so as to create a unified and consistent whole.” It contains extensive passages which are not based on canonical Scripture. The architecture of the temple differs from the Biblical accounts. Most interesting is its extension of a third courtyard so large as to encompass the entire city of Jerusalem. The sacrificial festival calendar includes several festivals which are not part of the Biblica or rabbinic cycle. “Extensive laws deal with the sacrificial procedure and ritual purity and impurity. Here we see a general tendency to provide additional ways to protect the sanctuary from impurity.” Those dealing with the date of the scroll generally assign it to the Hasmonean period, indeed being something of a critique of that period, “desiring to replace it with a temple, sacrificial system, and government which was … the embodiment of the legislation of the torah.” Continued studies are leading to the belief that the scroll may have stemmed from forerunners of the Sadducean sect.

Review of Fowles, John L. “The Gates of [Hebrew word] Hell.”

Fowles, John L. “The Gates of [Hebrew word] Hell.” In The Farm Boy Does It Again: Evidence of the Prophetic Calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith, n.p., Frithurex Press, 2014, 116-133.
[Israel/Mormon/Salvation of the Dead/Theology]

This interesting chapter argues for a more correct meaning of the phrase “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” in Mt. 16: 18. Fowles begins with several statements from Joseph Smith, Alma, and Brigham Young which lay a conceptual foundation. Joseph explains that hell means the “world of departed spirits.” Brigham Young explains that the Spirit World is here and the righteous and wicked mingle together. Thus, hell is not only a place, but a spiritual condition which is not necessarily permanent as shown by D&C 19:6-12, because the gospel can be preached to those in the Spirit World and they can have the necessary ordinance of baptism done for them by proxy. As mortals participate in that great proxy work they become saviors on Mt. Zion. Next brother Fowles turns to 1 Corinthians 15:29, the famous baptism for the dead passage. With the help of Richard Anderson and Hugh Nibley, he shows that the notion of proxy baptism is legitimate and even so expressed in the Phillips Modern English Translation Bible.

Once in the many times Joseph Smith spoke of the doctrine of baptism for the dead, he also said that the doctrine was “the burden of the scriptures.” Brother Fowles asks what this means, and drawing largely on examples given by Joseph Smith from this sermon, shows that Jesus frequently addressed subjects which when properly understood were emphasizing the doctrine of salvation of the dead. He begins by showing that the promise to the thief on the cross that he would be with Christ in paradise was a teaching about salvation of the dead. As is the passage where Jesus laments to the Jewish people that he had often tried to gather them as a hen gathers her chicks but they would not. A third example, comes not from the sermon mentioned earlier, but from the pericope of Peter’s testimony of Christ at Caesarea Philippi, in Mt. 18. There Jesus promises Peter power to bind and loose, and because of that power the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. Considerable space is devoted to showing that the pronoun “it” in this sentence is really feminine and means “her” or a reference to the people in the spirit world. Nibley is invoked to show that gates keep people in or out, so for them to “prevail” against the inhabitants of the spirit world would mean they would not be let out of prison and able to enjoy a condition of paradise. The article concludes with a listing of eleven passages from the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants where the phrase “gates of hell” is accompanied by a personal pronoun, most of them collective personal pronouns–which are consistent with the way the word “it” in Mt. 18:16 should be translated.

Review of Ballard, M. Russell. “The Law of Sacrifice.”

Ballard, M. Russell. “The Law of Sacrifice.” In Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Timeless Gospel Messages with Insights from His Grandfathers Melvin J. Ballard and Hyrum Mack Smith, 113-31. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015. [Mormon/Sacrifice/Symbolism/Theology]

This chapter provides a helpful and insightful review of the Law of Sacrifice from the time of Adam to the Restoration, as understood in LDS theology. As an introduction Elder Ballard begins with the statement that the New Testament describes an era in which the law of sacrifice was changed after the death of Christ and it is helpful to consider how it was observed before and after the Atonement. He identifies two purposes for the law: 1) to test and prove God’s children; and 2) to bring us to Christ. His reasoning on the latter is interesting. “The law of sacrifice has always been a means for God’s children to come unto the Lord Jesus Christ,” he asserts. (p. 116) The first prerequisite is to have faith in Christ, and from the Lectures on Faith, we learn this is dependent upon possessing the idea that God exists, knowing his correct character and that one’s course of life is approved by God. We also learn from the Lectures, that the quality of faith sufficient to “lay hold” of life and salvation is generated by sacrifice. Thus, sacrifice is one means of coming to Christ. Moreover, the sacrifices themselves typified and foreshadowed the Savior’s life and mission. This is followed by a very brief section about the law of sacrifice in the pre-mortal life. D&C 138:56 and a quotation from President Joseph F. Smith are used as authority for this idea. Continue reading

Review of Seeley, David. “Jesus’ Temple Act.”

Seeley, David. “Jesus’ Temple Act.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 55, no. 3 (1993): 263-83.

This is a rejoinder to a response from P. M. Casey to an earlier article on the same subject in the CBQ. Casey considers the cleansing of the temple pericope in Mark to be historical, Seeley thinks it is a Marcan composition. The scholarly discussion of details is helpful as Seeley reviews some of the hard questions scholars ask about the episode. This process of Biblical criticism is best described in Seely’s conclusion. “Which of the alternative explanations mostly easily and simply yields the phenomena before us? The alternatives are then examined, and the logical difficulties associated with each are totaled up. The one with the fewest difficulties wins.” (p. 63) Well, that is the Jesus Seminar way of determining truth. This is another problem which stems from the scholars not understanding the relationship of the temple to the gospel. So, they say things like Seeley here says: The temple’s devastation was “the only fitting recompense for their crimes, [and] opened the way to a new and different path to salvation.” (p. 62, emphasis added.)

Review of Ryken, Lenald, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, eds., “Altar.”

Ryken, Lenald, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, eds., “Altar.”  In Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, 20-21.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998. [Israel/Furnishings]

The most visible sign of one’s devotion in the Bible is the worship and the building of and visiting altars.  This brief but informative article first discusses Old Testament altars and the movement toward one single altar in one place.  The plural of the term is usually found in reference to pagan influences and accompanied by references to destruction.  The “altar of the Lord” was a focal point of “life lived in covenant allegiance.”  Biblical altars convey a number of meanings.  The central one is as a place of blood sacrifice.  The Hebrew word for altar (mizbeah), comes from the word for slaughter (za bah).  Yet they have others uses such as offering incense, and this article considers the table whereon the shewbread sat as an altar and the shewbread an offering.  One always went “up” to the altar, therefore they directed the eyes upward and “thrusts the acts of worship upward toward the threshold of heaven.”  The offerer moves from east to west , “as if to reenter the gates of Eden.”  The first altar mentioned in the Old Testament was the one Noah built after the flood waters receded, but the first offering mentioned were those of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:3-4).  “From that point on, the eating of meat and the forming of covenants are nearly always associated with altars.”  “Before the centralization there were many altars.  With the destruction of the temple and the loss of the altar of sacrifice a great part of Israelite worship was made impossible.”  Altars were monuments in the time of Abraham and Joshua.  They were places of refuge where fugitives could cling to the horns of the altar and gain asylum. (Ex. 21:14)  They are sometimes referred to as the “table for a deity.”  (Ezekiel 41:22; Mal. 1:7)

In the New Testament the altar is a scene of a very different sort of sacrifice.  Martyrs are frequently associated with them.  There is a tendency in the New Testament “to merge all the images of sacrifice into one in Jesus” so the altar itself becomes a symbol of Christ.

Review of Sterling, Mack C. “Job: An LDS Reading.”

Sterling, Mack C.  “Job: An LDS Reading.”  In Temple Insights: Proceedings of the Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference “The Temple on Mount Zion” 22 September 2012, edited by William J. Hamblin and David Rolph Seely, 99-143.  Temple on Mount Zion Series 2.  Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation / Eborn Books, 2014. [Israel/Mormon/Ritual/Covenant/Ascent/Presence]

This is a clear-eyed view of the book of Job, clearly and insightfully written.  Sterling sees the story of Job as a temple-text.  He proposes that “the book of Job is a literary analogue of the temple endowment ritual.”(p. 99).  The essay was enlightening and compelling.

In its most simple outline the story of Job parallels that of the endowment in that Job starts out in the prologue to the story very much like Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden, in the presence of God experiencing great blessings, but with limited comprehension. Job experiences something of a personal fall from this paradisaical state into a dark and bitter world where he loses nearly everything and is beset by three “friends” who serve as opposition to his quest to return and meet God.  His journey through the dreary wilderness is lonely, but he has “four great revelatory insights” that propel him forward in the quest, despite his own misunderstandings and doubts.  He prepares to meet God by binding himself “in covenant fidelity” to God and by withstanding a final onslaught by Elihu, who Sterling views as an emissary/symbol of Satan.  Finally, Job penetrates the veil and enters into the presence of God and a transformed life.