Review of David Rolph Seely and Jo Ann H. Seely, “The Crown of Creation.”

David Rolph Seely and Jo Ann H. Seely, “The Crown of Creation.”   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, 11-22. Temple on Mount Zion Series 2.  Orem/Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation/Eborn Books, 2014. [Eden/Creation/Tabernacle/Solomon’s Temple/

This essay by David and Jo Ann Seely of BYU, treat the subject of the relationship of creation and the temple, an area which covers turf that has undergone extreme study in recent decades.  They acknowledge this and refer to an number of authors, Mormon and non-Mormon who have written on the subject.  Nevertheless they do give us a new emphasis that will be especially appealing to LDS audiences.

They begin with an overview of seven significant symbols connecting the biblical description of creation with elements of the tabernacle/temple, all of which have received rather extensive discussion in the literature.  They are largely symbols that have special interest for Latter-day Saints, such as the trees of life and of the knowledge of good and evil, garments, cherubim/guards, and the Lord’s commission to Adam and Eve.  They also, as have many other authors, directed our attention to the prevalence of the number seven and its multiples in the structure and language of the biblical account of the creation.

With this preliminary review behind them, the Seelys turn their attention to yet another set of symbols found in the accounts and in the literature, but the authors place them within a new synthesis.  They chose to explore the “offices” of king, priest and artisan as these pertain to God in the creation and as this same constellation of symbolic imagery found in the biblical accounts of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Though the creation story does not directly speak of God as king or priest, the Seelys show that some of the language describing God and his work in the creation account contains symbolic imagery relevant to kings and priests.  The same is true of his work as an artisan in the creation.  The Seelys go on to show that the same imagery is attached to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden.  For example, garments (suggesting perhaps both royalty and priesthood) were made for both Adam and Eve, perhaps suggesting Eve was acting as a queen and a priestess and thus the pair are characterized as “co-regents” by the Seelys. (pp. 16-17)

The final section of the essay is a discussion of the creation of Adam and Eve who were created in the “image of God,” another popular topic among recent scholars.  The description of Adam and Eve and the commission given to them in Genesis 1:26-28, which when carefully studied shows the elevated status they had in the Garden.  The authors make the following points.  In Genesis God says to someone, “let us make man in our image.”  Many scholars, they tell us, say this refers to the “Divine Council.”  However Moses 2:26 makes’ it clear God is addressing his “Only Begotten Son.”  Second, unlike other creatures, Genesis differentiates between the genders.  The “man” consists of male and female.  Third, they are created in the “image and likeness of God.”  For the Seeleys this is the most important point.  Together Adam and Eve assume a co-regency of dominion over all the earth.  There is much discussion about the Hebrew terms selem (image) and demut (likeness).  The Seelys suggest that the terms are most likely synonyms and scholars tell us they refer to images which kings set up in their empires and temples.  They also suggest being created in the form of God, having his divine attributes, and physical appearance.  This leads the authors to the, for Latter-day Saints, unavoidable logical implication that God is material, physical, corporeal and humanoid which cannot be left unsaid.  Thus, in God’s garden, like the ancient kings, his image is present in the presence of the man and the woman.

Relative to the imperative in Genesis 1:28 our authors point out that Adam and Eve were endowed with the power of pro-creation, becoming thereby co-creators with God, to bring the creation to fruition.  They cite Elder Holland to the effect that men and women are never “more like God … than when expressing that particular power.” (p. 20) This commission was also given to Noah and the patriarchs.  The Seelys conclude with a strong emphasis on subsequent New Testament and other teachings which suggest that becoming “like” God is the ongoing work of mankind and its ultimate goal.

Much of this is not new to informed Latter-day Saints.  It is the nuances which are beneficial.  When compared with the treatment of this same set of passages by Cambridge trained evangelical scholar Gregory Beale some similarities and differences are fascinating.(1) Beale agrees that Adam is characterized as both priest and king in the Garden, but he does not mention Eve in either of these contexts.  For Beale, however, the commission to “multiply” and have “dominion” over the whole earth is taken a step further than the normal view of the power and dominion given to the primeval couple.  He views it as God’s intent to expand the boundaries of sacred space of the Garden and God’s glory.  As Adam and Eve had children and the population grew there would be an increasing need for space.  God intended this because he wanted his image, presence and luminescent glory to be in the midst of his people and eventually fill the earth.  They were also to be guardians of the sacred space and keep corruption and evil out.   However, Adam and Eve sinned and failed in this design.  It will not be consummated until Christ returns to rule once again.

(1) Beale, G. K.  The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God.  New Studies in Biblical Theology 17.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004, pp. 81-99.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *