Friday, April 11, 2014

Plan of Salvation

Every missionary of my generation was at least aware of and probably used the familiar diagram which laid out in visual form the Church's teachings regarding our premortal, mortal and post mortal existence. The diagram is an attempt to simplify the Church's teachings and help investigators understand these new ideas.

While the diagram is very useful, especially in missionary work and when teaching children, and not inaccurate per se I do believe there is another way the diagram could be presented that is more consistent with the plan as it is presented in the temple. I have put together a diagram illustrating this alternative but I really want to emphasize that this is all very tentative and subject to revision. I do believe, however, that this diagram is consistent with the teachings of the Church and the teachings found in ancient and modern temples, so here is the diagram, let me know what you think:

You'll notice that the diagram is chiastic which I believe is significant and that it is consistent with this diagram which is fairly well known:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Divine Mother

I came across the photograph to the left recently of a really intriguing mosaic located at the Collegio San Lorenzo da Brindisi in Rome. Created by Friar Marko Ivan Rupnik it depicts the very well known event found in Exodus 3 of when Yahweh (aka Jehovah) appeared to Moses in the burning bush.

The mosaic depicts Moses with a veil over his face conversing with Jesus Christ (Yahweh) who is in the embrace of his mother Mary. Jesus and his mother are both seated within the burning bush. The presence of the veil on Moses evidently refers to the veil he wore when he returned to the camp of Israel after speaking with God as recorded in Exodus 34:29-35.

The presence of Mary or a divine mother figure in this depiction may be puzzling as Exodus fails to mention any other persons in Moses's encounter with the burning bush. However, one of the more curious qualities of the burning bush is that it is an unambiguously feminine symbol. The golden lampstand (aka menorah) in the temple was almost certainly a stylized representation of the burning bush. It was adorned with golden almond blossoms and contained bowls at the end of each arm containing olive oil into which the wicks were placed (see Exodus 25:31-35). Trees in general and the almond tree in particular were closely associated with the divine mother known as Asherah who was considered in early Israelite religion to be the mother of Yahweh and consort to the father god El. In the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) this divine mother figure was sometimes referred to as "Wisdom" and was associated with Mary the mother of Jesus by the early Christians.

Additionally, Margaret Barker in her book "The Mother of the Lord" asserts that the voice from the burning bush was originally the divine mother and states "'She that dwelt in the bush' is still remembered in the titles and ikons of Mary. Sometimes she is depicted as the bush itself and sometimes she is seated in the burning bush and holding her son." (185) It is important to point out that the early Christians probably did not believe Asherah/Wisdom and Mary were identical persons but that they both filled the role of divine mother. In an LDS context we might look at it in this way: Asherah is the mother of the Lord's spirit and Mary is the mother of his body - both can rightfully be viewed as his mother.

Whether this divine mother figure was in fact the primary agent in the burning bush theophany or played some other supportive role to her divine son Yahweh is unknown but for Latter-Day Saints who possess a doctrine of divinization this is an intriguing idea. It seems probable that both members of an exalted couple would play an active role in the lives of their mortal children. If this is the case it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that the divine mother has in fact participated in at least some, if not all, of the great theophanies which are recorded in the scriptures.

Biblical scholars have successfully demonstrated (via the documentary hypothesis) that the Hebrew Bible has gone through a long process of redaction by various groups promoting their own particular agendas and that many "plain and precious truths" have been removed (see 1 Nephi 13:24-28). Beginning with Joseph Smith the Lord has restored some of these lost truths "line upon line; here a little and there a little" (Isaiah 28:10)  and we believe that God "will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Articles of Faith 1:9).

It appears that one of the truths which Satan has been very eager to vanquish from the earth pertains to the existence of our divine mother. This may be part of his larger effort to denigrate women generally in order to cause them to forget their inherent divinity and nobility. The apostle John evidently witnessed the war that has been waged against her in his great apocalyptic vision in Revelation 12:1-6:

The Virgin Mary as the Woman of the Apocalypse by Rubens.

1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.

And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

There has been some debate regarding the identity of the woman in John's vision with some arguing that she represents the Church. This seems unlikely when the identity of the child is established. Revelation 19:15-16 states that the Lord, like the man child, is to rule the nations with a rod of iron, therefore, it seems reasonable to suppose that they are identical persons. If we assume that to be the case it is unclear how the Church would have given birth to the Lord when he is the one who brought it into existence. It seems more likely that the woman in John's revelation was intended to represent this divine mother figure. It's possible that when John describes the woman fleeing into the wilderness he is describing the world at large losing its knowledge of her.

The divine mother shows up in many, many other places in the scriptures in addition to the two examples that have been cited already. It's beyond the scope of this blog post to list many more but if you do want to read more about it here's a good place to start:

Nephi and His Asherah

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Free M.A. in Biblical Studies

I came across a blog this morning where the author has put together a mock M.A. program in Biblical Studies using open courses offered on iTunes U and some other sites. Very cool. While it won't earn you a degree, reviewing the courses certainly would enrich your understanding of the Biblical world. Click on the link here to see the blog post.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marriage - Gallup Historical Trends

Marriage | Gallup Historical Trends

The results of the poll brought this scripture to mind:

Helaman 5:2

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Most Excellent Theophilus

10th century Byzantine illustration of Luke the Evangelist.
In his gospel and in the book of Acts, Luke addresses his words to a unknown figure by the name of Theophilus. The identity of Theophilus has been debated over the centuries but the BYU New Testament Commentary website has an interesting post by Kent Brown, a portion of which deals with the identity of this figure.

Here are his comments regarding the identity of Theophilus (it can be viewed at its original source here):

"Within five years or so of Jesus’ death, a Jew named Theophilus was appointed High Priest by Vitellius, who was Prefect of Judaea from AD 35 to 39 (Emil Schürer, A History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, rev. ed., 2:230). Nevertheless, in light of the thoroughly Greek cast of Luke’s Gospel and book of Acts, it is safe to see the Theophilus whom Luke addresses as an educated Roman official (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). This observation is made more secure by the fact that the term translated “most excellent” in Luke 1:3 is applied to ranking Roman officials in more or less august situations in Acts 23:26, 24:3, and 26:25. In a different vein, in my opinion, it will not do to argue that the name Theophilus simply bears the meaning “friend of God” or the like, thus shedding it of any tie to the world of living Roman officials. An addition in the Joseph Smith Translation seemingly stands against this sort of reading of the name, making the name very personal in an interesting add-on to the text (see JST Luke 3:19)."

Here is the JST translation of Luke 3:19-20 that he refers to:

19 For it is well known unto you, Theophilus, that after the manner of the Jews, and according to the custom of their law in receiving money into the treasury, that out of the abundance which was received, was appointed unto the poor, every man his portion;

20 And after this manner did the publicans also, wherefore John said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

John 21 - Miraculous Draught of Fish

"The Miraculous Draught of Fishes" by Sebiastiano Ricci, circa 1695-1697, 
oil on canvas, The Detroit Institute of Arts
In John 21:1-14 the apostle John relates his experience of  when he, Peter, James, Thomas and Nathaniel spent a night of fruitless fishing along the shore of the Sea of Galilee following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Toward morning the apostles saw a man standing on shore who called to them asking if they had caught any fish. After answering in the negative the man then instructed them to cast their net one more time on the right side of their boat. After doing so the fishermen caught a "multitude of fishes".

It was at this point that John and the other disciples realized that the man onshore was the Savior and after dragging the net to land they proceed to count the number of fish which turned out to be 153. John also points out that despite the large number of fish the net was not broken.

Stained glass depiction
 of St. John at St. Matthew's
 German Evangelical 
Lutheran Church in 
South Carolina.

The question as to why John would include the exact number of fish in the net has been debated for centuries and no consensus has ever been found. Some have asserted that he included the number to show just how large the haul was to emphasize the miraculous nature of the occurrence. Jerome cites the Roman teacher Oppian who wrote that there were 153 species of fish in the world and contends that John included this number to teach that the gospel was for all the world and to illustrate the inclusivity of Christianity. He makes this argument despite the fact that Oppian lived and wrote more than a century after the time of Jesus, and thus could not have been an influence on the apostle.

An additional explanation has been proposed which looks at Hebrew gematria relationships, especially the phrase "sons of God" (בני האלהים - beni ha-elohim) whose numerical value is 153. The proponents of this idea theorize that John included the fish count to show that the chosen sons of God were to be gathered into the gospel net through the preaching of John and his fellow apostles. This explanation seems plausible and if true it would be helpful to discover what the phrase may have meant to John and his contemporaries.

The Yale Anchor Bible Dictionary (hereafter YABD) explains under the entry "Sons of God" that "The designation 'sons (son) of God' occurs in the OT in three clearly definable categories depending on whether it refers (1) to divine or angelic beings; (2) to Israelites or Israel as a whole; or (3) individually to the king." 

Following the exile and during the intertestamental period the term began to be used mostly to denote chosen Israel. The YABD entry contains a fascinating discussion of how the "sons of God" phrase was utilized in the sacred literature of the period:

“Son(s) of God” (or its equivalent) becomes virtually a synonym for “people of God” (= Israel), while the OT associations of election, closeness to God, and special protection continue. The ethical aspect of the sonship metaphor also continues (Add Esth 16:14–16; Pss. Sol. 17:30; L.A.B. 16:5), often associated with the idea of disciplinary chastisement (Wis 12:20–21; 16:10–11; Pss. Sol. 18:4).
A fresh development, however, is the considerable frequency with which the motif occurs in eschatological contexts. This suggests that it was an epithet felt to be particularly apt to describe the ideal Israel of the end time, the holy and purified people of God, destined to possess or actually in possession of the blessings of salvation (Jub. 1:25–28; Pss. Sol. 17:30; Sib. Or. 3:702–4; 5:248–50). Frequently, acknowledgment of sonship suggests the idea of rescue from or immunity to death. Connected with this is a widespread tendency in the intertestamental period to characterize the future awaiting the righteous as a restoration of the angel-like immunity to death enjoyed by human beings before the fall (1 En. 69:11; 2 En. 30:11; Wis 1:13–14), along with other angelic characteristics and privileges such as a shining countenance, vision of God, and presence at the heavenly liturgy (Wis 5:5; 2 Bar. 51:3–12; Pr. Jos. A). The combination of these motifs in the eschatology of several texts suggests a conflation in the later period of the formerly separate categories of “Israelite” and “heavenly being (angelic)” divine sonship (Byrne 1979). (linked added)

During the New Testament era the YABD states that the phrase "sons of God" was used by the early Christians to refer to the community of believers who followed the fledgling Christian movement while also retaining the eschatological context which was a distinguishing characteristic of the post exile period. 

Whether John was utilizing gematria or not will probably never be known for sure but in the absence of a better explanation it seems like the most likely possibility.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Genesis 32 - Jacob's Wrestle

Jacob Wrestling With The Angel by Gustave Dore.
One of the most puzzling stories found in the Old Testament (aka Hebrew Bible) is the story related in Genesis 32: 22-30 about Jacob's contest with the "man" (איש - 'ish).

The story begins with Jacob and several of his family crossing the Jabbok River at night. Jacob  for some reason is left alone and then begins wrestling with the aforementioned man which continues until the break of dawn at which time the man bestows a new name and blessing upon the head of Jacob after realizing that he is unable to defeat him.

The identity of the "man" is not explicity stated in the text but verse 30 implies that the "man" may have been God himself since Jacob declares at the conclusion of the account that he had seen him. Other possibilities have been explored as noted by Esther Hamori in the introduction to her book When Gods Were Men where she states: "The figure defined as an 'ish who wrestles with Jacob (Genesis 32:23-33) has been identified in modern scholarship as an angel, a demon, a man, God, and various other alternatives" (1). Rabbi Louis Ginzberg's compilation of aggadah in his work the Legends of the Jews states that it was the archangel Michael who wrestled with Jacob and Josephus agrees it was an angel but does not provide a name.

Assuming the figure was a heavenly one it seems inconceivable that the wrestling match would last more than just a few seconds and that Jacob would be able to wrestle the being to a stand still. There are elements of the account that suggest there was more going on than is immediately apparent. In verse 24 the word "wrestled" is translated from אבק (abaq) the definition of which is given by Strong as "A primitive root; probably to float away (as vapor)... to bedust, that is grapple: - wrestle". The reason that the concepts of dust and vapor are linked with wrestling in Biblical Hebrew is that when two individuals wrestled they kicked up a significant amount of dust into the air and became covered in the substance themselves. The author of this account may have used this terminology to conceal what was really happening. The imagery of floating away as vapor is reminiscent of Nephi's description of being carried away in the spirit in 1 Nephi 11:1 and the description of Moses being caught away in Moses 1:1. Additionally, we learn from Moses in the Pearl of Great Price that part of Enoch's vision entailed being clothed upon with glory (see Moses 7:3-4). The imagery of being covered in dust as a result of wrestling may have been intended to invoke this idea.

In verses 27-28 of Genesis 32 after requesting a blessing from the heavenly ministrant Jacob is given the new name of Israel which can be translated as one who prevails with God. Receipt of a new name was a feature of some ancient coronation rituals. The image to the right shows two of the names for Pharaoh Tutankhamun - his birth name and his regnal name. At his birth he was named Tutankhaten (which means "living image of Aten") but subsequently changed it to Tutankhamun ("living image of Amun) on account of pressures to disavow his predecessors policy of worshipping Aten to the exclusion of the rest of the Egyptian pantheon. The cartouche on the left bears the name Tutankhamun. The cartouche on the right bears his regnal name which he assumed at his coronation at the age of nine years. His royal name was Nebkheperure ("Lord of the forms of Re).

Additionally, we know that several of the kings of Judah were given royal names upon their ascension to the throne. That list includes, but is not limited to the following:
  • Eliakim became Jehoiakim
  • Jeconiah became Jehoiachin
  • Mattaniah became Zedekiah
Therefore, Jacob's receipt of a new name may be an indication that this account is to be understood in the context of a coronation. This is reinforced by the fact that Jacob is also called a "prince" (שרה - sarah) by the heavenly messenger.

There is one last element in the account which has caused a great deal of debate among Bible scholars and that is when the man touches Jacob's thigh and it becomes disjointed. In verse 32 the Biblical writer mentions that the Israelites of his day did not eat the corresponding sinew on the animals which were used for food in commemoration of this event. The sinew was emblematic of a person's strength and vigor. Saying that the heavenly messenger put his sinew out of joint may have been a way of saying that Jacob's strength was spent by his encounter with the divine.

It is common for those who commune with divine beings to have their strength exhausted by the experience. Moses experienced this in his great theophany (see Moses 1:9-10) as did Joseph Smith in his encounter with the resurrected Moroni (see JS-H 1:48).

Another possibility is that this part of the story refers to another element of Near-eastern ritual. New Kingdom temple rituals were designed to guide the Pharaoh and other high officials through the hazards of the underworld and into the presence of Osiris. This is illustrated beautifully in the papyrus of the scribe of Hunefer found in the British Museum.

In the papyrus, the initiate (in this case Hunefer's scribe, in white) is required to answer the questions posed by numerous divine beings along the top of the papyrus. They ask questions of him to determine his worthiness to proceed along his path. In the lower portion of the image he is taken by the hand of Anubis who guides him to a scale where his heart is weighed against the feather of Maat which represents truth. Having passed the test he is brought before the partition separating him from Osiris by Horus where he enters the presence of Osiris and himself becomes an Osiris for eternity.

As the initiate passed through the partition or veil to join with Osiris he was welcomed by a ritual embrace. A representation of this is found on the back side of the holy of holies in the Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt. The picture to the left was taken by me when I visited the Karnak Temple in 1999. While it is damaged it is possible to see the ritual embrace of the initiate on the left and the deity on the right.

Clearer images of the ritual embrace can be found in Nibley's book The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, an Egyptian Endowment on page 431 (see below).  Regarding this image Nibley wrote:

"The climax and culmination of the coronation rites was a ritual embrace of father and son designated as shn, the word becoming a terminus technicus for the coronation itself... The shn-rite was taken over from the coronation into the funerary rites, but in either sphere it deals with the embracing of an otherworldly father" (430-1).

This ritual embrace may be alluded to in verse 25 of Genesis 32. Just as the initiate in Egyptian temple rituals was welcomed into the presence of deity following their successful completion of certain tests (or might we say contests?) so Jacob may have experienced something similar in his diving encounter near the Jabbok River. Interestingly, something akin to a ritual embrace was found in LDS temples prior to 1990 which supports the assertion of Joseph Smith that modern temple ordinances are rooted in antiquity.

The description from Nibley's book reads as follows: "Figure 136. (B) The four sides of an eleven-foot pillar, one of eight from the jubilee chapel of Senwosret, show the pharaoh being embraced by four different gods in four different ways, just as the accompanying inscriptions are similar but never the same. Thus the divine family welcomes their son back home. Senwsret I pillar, ca. 1940 B.C. Courtesy of Cairo Museum."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Uzziah the King-Priest

Currently I am slowly making my way through Margaret Barker's most recent book The Mother of the Lord Volume 1: The Lady in the Temple where she makes an interesting assertion which I wanted to note here.

In several of her books she argues that the ancient Israelite kings were also Melchizedek priests who were adherents of a more ancient tradition than the one that is dominantly portrayed in the Bible. Sometime in the 8th century BC a movement lead by a group scholars have named the "Deuteronomists" redacted the Hebrew Bible and "cleansed" the older tradition of elements they disagreed with. They emphasized the Mosaic tradition, were hostile to the monarchy and promoted the power of the Aaronic priesthood.

The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy, byRembrandt, 1635.
One of the kings of Judah during this time was named Uzziah (aka Azariah). 2 Chronicles 26 records that Uzziah clashed with the Aaronite priests (led by the high priest, also named Azariah) on one occasion when he entered the temple to offer incense.

Barker suggests that this clash had to do with the ongoing power struggle between the traditional Melchizedek priest-kings and their Aaronic priest rivals. This is what she says on page 90:

"Did the conflict with Azariah the priest mark the moment when the older royal priesthood lost its power to the rising influence of Deuteronomy, Moses and the Aaronites? Was this the moment when Wisdom and the older ways began to fade from Jerusalem and to be replaced by exclusive emphasis on the Law (Deut 4.6)?...

"According to the Chronicler, Uzziah entered the temple to burn incense and was pursued by Azariah the high priest and 80 warrior priests - 'men of valour' (2 Chron. 26.17). This was a major confrontation over the roles of the chief priests and the king, since Azariah claimed that only the sons of Aaron could burn incense (2 Chron. 26.18)."

Monday, July 15, 2013

William Hamblin On the Esoteric

Last week the Deseret News published a column by Bill Hamblin and Dan Peterson on the esoteric in religion. It is very interesting and well worth reading. You can read the column by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2013 "Lady of the Temple" Conference

Some exciting news was announced this morning by the Academy for Temple Studies. Pasted below is the announcement they emailed out this morning:

"The Academy for Temple Studies and the Utah State University Religious Studies program announce a conference we believe may be of interest to you, to be held on Wednesday, October 23, 2013, on the campus of Utah State University.  We invite you to save the date.

"Registration for the day-long conference will be $50.00. Students with a valid student ID will be admitted for $10.00.
"Seating will be limited.

"You can register on-line at this link."

 The impressive line up of speakers includes the following:
  • Margaret Barker
  • Laurence Hemming
  • Bill Dever
  • Alyson Von Feldt
  • Valerie Hudson

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Mysteries of Solomon's Temple

This past weekend Professor Bill Hamblin gave a fireside presentation entitled "The Mysteries of Solomon's Temple". Here is a link to a copy of the slides from his presentation.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


The Lord Fulfilleth All His Words, by Clark Kelley Price
The account of the prophet Noah as found in Genesis is a fascinating and generally misunderstood pericope which is highly symbolic and recapitulates the story of the creation and the fall. Jeffrey Bradshaw has written some very insightful material on the symbols behind the Noah story which can be found in his books and in  Meridian Magazine. Bradshaw points out a number of parallels between the creation story and the flood. In this post I will mention just a few for the sake of brevity. Additionally, Bradshaw sheds light upon the troubling story of Noah's drunkenness which seems out of character for a prophet of God. As we will see this account as it has come down to us has been subject to misunderstandings and mistranslations and when understood properly does not need to cause concern.


Ancient Hebrews conceived of the existence of a primordial sea of chaos out of which creation emerged. According to this conception the first piece of ground to emerge from chaos was the primordial hillock. Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, upon which the 1st and 2nd temples were built, was associated with this primordial hillock by the Israelites. The primordial hillock was also associated with the Garden of Eden and was considered the axis mundi or the point at which heaven and earth were joined.

Bradshaw writes that the ark built by Noah was designed as a temple with its three decks corresponding to the three areas (most holy place, holy place and outer court) of the Jerusalem temple. He also points out that other than the tabernacle and temple the ark is the only structure mentioned in the Bible whose design was revealed through revelation. 

Genesis 8 states that after drifting across the water the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Ararat is depicted as the primordial mountain upon which the ark/temple rests just as the temple sat upon Mount Moriah. The animals and Noah's family leaving the ark to re-populate the earth can be likened to the placing of animals and man on the earth at the creation. Upon leaving the ark the command to "multiply and replenish the earth" was renewed with Noah and his family as it was originally given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (compare Gen. 1:28Gen 8:17)

Noah's Tent

The story of Noah's drunkenness within his tent is found in Genesis 9:20-27 and many have supposed this incident to be a moment of indiscretion by an otherwise righteous prophet. However, there may be more to the story than is suggested by our modern English translations of the Bible. Bradshaw cites the writings of Rabbi Shim'on in the Zohar where he explains that Noah's tent is to be understood as the tent of the Shekinah or the Divine Presence of Jehovah. This tent, built at the foot of Mount Ararat, therefore, is analogous to the portable Tabernacle which Moses built at the foot of Mount Sinai. (ref)

Tissot, Noah in Vision
What, then are we make of Noah's being drunken and uncovered in the tent? Bradshaw mentions a statement attributed to Joseph Smith in which the prophet explained that Noah was not drunk but was in a vision. Bradshaw's article also cites the Genesis Apocryphon which describes Noah and his family engaging in a ritual drinking of wine after which Noah is shown a vision in which he sees the destiny of his posterity. Therefore, as Bradshaw explains "Noah's drinking of the wine should be seen in a ritual context and not merely as a spontaneous indulgence that occurred at the end of a particularly wearying day." (ref)

Noah's nakedness can be explained by looking at the example of Saul when he joined Samuel's group and "stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night." (1 Sam. 19:24) Bradshaw cites Robert Jamieson who explained that Saul's nakedness in this instance means that he was “divested of his armor and outer robes." (ref)

Hugh Nibley has offered another explanation that the nakedness of Noah referred to the priestly garment which he wore which was the garment of skins given to Adam which had been passed down through the generations. Nibley goes on to explain that Ham either stole the garment from Noah or made a copy of it. (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, pp. 169-170). If this was the case then it would appear that Ham was cursed because he intruded into the sanctuary tent while his father was enwrapped in vision dressed in his priestly vestments. Ham then made an unauthorized copy of the garment and claimed priestly authority by virtue of possessing the counterfeit. 

Understanding the account of Noah in light of the information Jeff Bradshaw has gathered  brings greater appreciation for this story and dispels the more controversial aspects. Additionally, viewing this account in light of the temple creation drama helps the reader understand the account as it was intended to be understood.