Revelation volume now in print

We are happy to announce that the print version of the book The Revelation of John the Apostledraperrhodesrevelation is now available for $29.99. It can be purchased through the BYU Studies website or by calling our office at 801-422-6691. The ebook is also available through the BYU Studies website in Kindle and Deseret Bookshelf app. If you have previously purchased the ebook, an update is now available through your vendor.

The book is 900 pages of commentary that explains the text phrase by phrase, using LDS doctrine and both LDS and non-LDS scholarship, going back to the original Greek. See Sample pages and the Table of Contents.

Others in this series are The Testimony of Luke by S. Kent Brown, which is available in print or ebook. The volume Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, by Richard Draper and Michael Rhodes, is available only in ebook at this time.

July 29, 2016, Conference: New Mormon Ideas about Mark and Hebrews

Announcing the 4th Annual BYU New Testament Commentary Conference: 

New Mormon Ideas about Mark and Hebrews

Friday, July 29, 2016,  9:00 am to 3:00 pm,  Hinckley Center Assembly Hall, Brigham Young University. All are welcome to attend. Admission free.

9:00  Welcome and Opening Prayer

Introduction: About this New Testament Commentary Series and this conference

Morning Session: The Epistle to the Hebrews

9:10  Michael D. Rhodes, “Thoughts on the Authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews”

9:45  Joshua M. Matson, “‘Whoso Readeth It, Let Him Understand’: The Use of Extra-Canonical Jewish Traditions in Hebrews”

10:05  Q&A on the Authorship of Hebrews

10:15  Richard D. Draper, “‘Now Since the Children Share Flesh and Blood, [Christ] also, in Just the Same Way, Shared Their Humanity’: The Low Christology of the Lord as Viewed in Hebrews 1–2”

10:50  Avram R. Shannon, “‘I Have Sworn’: Ancient Exegesis and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood”

11:10  Ben Spackman, “Joseph Smith, JST Hebrews 9:15-20, and Covenant Curses”

11:30  Nathaniel Pribil and Chris Brockman, “The Many Uses of Hebrews by LDS Leaders”

11:50  Q&A on Main Themes of Hebrews

12:00  Lunch Break. Food courts and buffets are available on campus, or bring a box lunch to eat on the patio.

Afternoon Session: The Gospel of Mark

1:00  Reconvene

1:10  Julie M. Smith, “The Purpose of Parables: A Closer Look at Mark 4:10-13”

1:45  Andrea Brunken, “Messianic Secret in the Book of Mark”

2:05  Philip Abbott, “The Markan Sandwich of Mark 5: A Reflection of Christ”

2:25  Andy Mickelson, “‘[He] Fled from Them Naked’: Uncovering the Significance of Mark 14:51-52”

2:45  Q&A on LDS Interests and Perplexities in Mark

2:55  Thanks and Closing Prayer

Parking is available at the visitor lot near the BYU Museum of Art or the Wilkinson Center. Handicap parking is available for vehicles with a hangtag or plate in any “A” lot, except in specially marked parking stalls.

Lunch options are available at the Wilkinson Center or the Cannon Center, or bring a box lunch.

No registration is required. Click here for a printable schedule: ntc_conference_schedule_2016_3

Seven Versions of Jesus’ Prophecy on the Mount of Olives

By S. Kent Brown

For Latter-day Saints, Luke chapter 21 presents readers with one of seven versions of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount of Olives. Naturally, we know the versions that are presented in Mark 13 and Matthew 24–25. But there are more. We first notice that the Joseph Smith Translation completely freshens the reports of the sermon preserved by Mark and Matthew with a large number of changes that render their records largely the same; fewer adjustments appear in Luke 21. In each of the JST versions of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the alterations bear on the meaning and thrust of Jesus’ words. Thus far, we see six versions—those in the three synoptic Gospels and those in the JST version of those Gospels, one of which is partially reported in Joseph Smith—Matthew of the Pearl of Great Price. The seventh record of the sermon lies in Doctrine and Covenants 45:16–59. As a preface, the Lord tantalizingly declares that “I will speak . . . and prophesy, as unto men in days of old. And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh” “upon this mount,” the Mount of Olives (D&C 45:15–16, 48). With these words, we learn the vivid detail that Jesus imparts in the sermon while standing before his disciples, as a distinguished teacher, not sitting with them as Matthew 24:3 and Mark 13:3 lead us to believe.

In contrast to Mark 13 and Matthew 24–25, Luke chapter 21 provides two delectable dishes, not just one, ending with crowds still seeking Jesus’ company (see Luke 21:38). The first small dish consists in the refreshing story of a poor widow’s two mites, complete with tasteless displays of wealth that contrast with her tiny gift to the temple that glows with her adoring devotion (see Luke 21:1–4). Why is this story in this place? Possibly because of Mark’s placement of it just before the Savior’s sermon on the future (see Mark 12:41–44). On this view, the fact that Luke includes this story here may demonstrate a dependence on Mark’s order of events for Jesus’ last week. Perhaps significantly, Matthew omits the story, effectively dulling the notion that Mark serves as Luke’s main or only source for Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, including the sermon on the Mount of Olives. Another possibility glimmers in front of us: Jesus’ mention of “widows’ houses” in the foregoing (Luke 20:47) may instead form a verbal bridge that brings the widow’s story here, pointing to a catchword association, a feature that may also infuse Mark 12:40–42.

But why recount this story about the widow before rehearsing the sermon about the fate of Jerusalem and its citizens? Because, after a first glance, her story brings together a raw, untouched comparison between her situation and the gleaming opulence of both the temple and its contributors, the latter offering a practiced yet worn piety that will not save the temple from destruction. In addition, we sense that, while the temple’s importance remains strong in the minds and hearts of even the poor, its officials and major contributors are out of touch with common persons, rudely flaunting their wealth in their presence. Such a perception may also give flavor to Jesus’ prior talk about those who “devour widows’ houses” (Luke 20:47).

In the eschatological discourse on the Mount of Olives, the second and longest part of this chapter that rehearses Jesus’ grand and often frightful vision of the future (see Luke 21:5–36), the words of Jesus stir together a number of prophecies that appear elsewhere in Luke’s Gospel. The list is short: the exhortations to watch (see Luke 12:35–48; 21:34–36; especially JST 12:35–57); the warnings about deceptions (see Luke 17:20–24; 21:8–9); the desolation that stalks Jerusalem (see Luke 13:34–35; 21:20–24; JST 13:35–36); and the signs of the Second Coming (see Luke 17:26–37; 21:25–28; JST 17:26–40). The main question is whether the Savior indeed speaks such words away from Jerusalem, as Luke reports Jesus’ teachings. The answer is Yes, as both the JST version of Luke 12:41–45 and Jesus’ declarations about Jerusalem’s fate and the future kingdom make abundantly clear (see Luke 13:33–35; 17:20–37). Hence, we should see Jesus’ discourse on the Mount of Olives as one wherein he brings together sayings uttered on other occasions, along with fresh prophecies, and shapes them into a whole piece that addresses the issues of the future of Jerusalem, of the disciples, and of the end-time.

In light of the Savior’s introduction to the sermon preserved in modern scripture, “As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming” (D&C 45:16), no compelling reason exists to suppose that it is Luke who selects some of these sayings from their original setting in this sermon and inserts them into other, earlier contexts, or vice versa. Even so, we find what may be hints that Luke pens his version of the sermon after the Jewish War (AD 66–70), for he tops it with the vivid notation, “ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies” (Luke 21:20; also 19:43). The other accounts omit this detail. Instead, they feature the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14), an expression from the book of Daniel which the Joseph Smith Translation interprets as “the destruction of Jerusalem” (JST Matt. 24:12; JST Mark 13:14; see Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). This said, reasons exist to question the scholarly insistence that Luke writes in hindsight, after the end of the war.

This view of the discourse does not enjoy widespread support. Many see the sermon as a collection of disparate sayings that Mark, the first Gospel writer, artfully stitches together into an absorbing sermon that simply reflects the major concerns in the primitive church’s preaching, that is, warnings against false Christs and prophets, the sufferings of believers, the judgment upon Jerusalem, and the requirement of disciples to watch for Jesus’ return. In this view, much of the sermon illumines Jesus’ teachings, but Mark alone, or his source, is responsible for its ordering and flavoring, or even its composition.[1] For Latter-day Saints, both the inspired changes introduced into the Joseph Smith Translation of the synoptic Gospels and the first-hand account of the sermon that the Savior rehearses in Doctrine and Covenants 45:16–59 stand firmly against such a view. Instead of Mark presenting a table of teachings based on the church’s preaching interests, it seems more likely that it is Jesus’ words in the sermon that set the agenda for those interests.

In a completely different vein, this sermon will save the lives of uncounted disciples who, knowing of Jesus’ warnings about the fall of Jerusalem and its temple, will flee from the capital city which becomes the headquarters of the church in its early days. Rather than retreat into the city for safety, as thousands do when war breaks out with Rome late in AD 66 and again when Roman armies approach Jerusalem’s gates in AD 70, Christians flee northward, many of them settling in a gentile town, Pella, on the east bank of the Jordan River. There they wait out the war and survive intact.

This text is extracted from S. Kent Brown, The Testimony of Luke, 929–932. 

[1]Bultmann, History, 125; Francis W. Beare, The Earliest Records of Jesus (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), 216; Fitzmyer, Luke, 2:1323–25; George R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Last Days: The Interpretation of the Olivet Discourse (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 350–65.

Palm Sunday

By Eric D. Huntsman
This post is excerpted from Dr. Huntsman’s blog, http://huntsmanseasonal.blogspot.com.

Palm Sunday is not a regular part of Latter-day Saint observance, and not even all Christian churches celebrate it.  Nevertheless, recounting Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem has a long history in the Christian tradition, and it plays an important in the liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some Protestant churches.  For me celebrating Palm Sunday truly opens Holy Week, setting it apart from other weeks by focusing my thoughts and faith on Christ my king. Continue reading

Witnesses of the Resurrection

 

by Michael D. Rhodes

In Paul’s first letter the Corinthians, he had to deal with the claim made by some of the members at Corinth that there was no resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12). In response to this he refers to the fundamental principles of the Gospel that he had taught them: “that Christ died for our sins … that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).  Paul then refers to the many people who saw the resurrected Christ. He begins with Peter, whom he calls “Cephas” (1 Cor. 15:5), which was the leading Apostle’s nickname.[1] The next witnesses Paul mentions are “the twelve [apostles]” (1 Cor. 15:5).  The New Testament confirms his point describing several occasions where Christ appeared to the apostles shortly after his resurrection (see Matt. 28:9, 18; Luke 24:15, 36-50, John 20:19-23, 26-29; 21:4-23; Acts 1:3).

Paul then refers to an appearance of Christ  “to more than five hundred brothers and sisters[2] at one time, of whom most are still alive, although some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:6, author’s translation). This remarkable appearance of Christ to such a large group of people is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament. This appearance must have been similar to Christ’s appearance to the Nephites (3 Ne. 11:8–10), where men, women, and children were all present. It is notable that Paul states that most of these witnesses were still alive at the time of his writing, approximately 55 AD, more than twenty years after the event.

The next person Paul calls upon as a witness is James (1 Cor. 15:7). This is most likely James, the half-brother of Christ[3] and author of the Book of James, rather than one of the two original apostles named James.[4] Early Christian tradition maintains that it was Christ’s appearance to James that converted him.[5] James’ experience parallels rather closely the conversion of Paul himself. The event, in a revolutionary way, produced a strong conversion in both apostles.[6]

Paul then says that Christ was seen by “all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:7). The word “apostle,” in this instance, seems to refer not only to the original members of the Twelve, whom Paul has already mentioned, but also to those who—like James, the brother of Christ; Jude; Barnabas; and perhaps others we do not know of—were ordained to the holy office of Apostle; those men who were charged with and set apart for bearing special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As a final witness, Paul states, “last of all he was seen of me” (1 Cor. 15:9). The phrase “last of all,” should not be taken to mean that Paul saw himself as the last person who ever saw the risen Lord. He is rather saying that, on his list, he is the last witness he will mention. It is of note that Paul lists Peter as the first witness with himself as the last. In doing so, he ties both of them together. Of all these appearances, the most personal to Paul is, of course, Christ’s appearance to him. As President Howard W. Hunter noted:

“Thus Paul adds his personal witness, referring to his experience on the way to Damascus when he was suddenly changed from a persecutor to one of the greatest exponents. He refers to himself as ‘one born out of due time.’ . . . His dramatic change and conversion is used in his argument as the final point to prove the actual resurrection of Jesus. Paul was anxious that the saints would not only believe, but should never have the least doubt as to this basic fact upon which eternal life hinges.”[7]

Though Paul may have been able to mention more appearances of the Lord, he lists enough to defuse any idea that only a scattered few witnessed the event. Indeed, the Apostle presents “a formidable gallery of witnesses waiting to testify they that have seen [the Lord] alive.”[8] The appearance to more than five hundred Saints at one time—most of whom were still alive and could, therefore, verify the experience—was a tremendous witness to the reality of the Resurrection.

To Paul’s list of witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, Latter-day Saints also add the witness given in the Book of Mormon.  The resurrected Savior descended out of heaven and visited his faithful followers in the New World. During this visit, he taught them the gospel, healed the sick and gave blessings, instituted the sacrament, and called twelve disciples to lead the church in their land. These witnesses of the Savior provided the foundation for an era of unprecedented peace in that land.

 

 

[1] Danker, Frederick William, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). 544. Cephas is the Greek rendering of כֵּיפָא (kēypā’), Aramaic for “the rock,” The English transliteration of the Apostle’s nickname “Peter” comes from the Greek πέτρος (petros), which is the masculine form of πέτρα (petra), “rock,” a designation the Savior gave the fisherman the first time they met (John 1:42). Identifying the importance of this title, the Joseph Smith Translation notes that the word has reference to a “seer stone,” thus, the nickname foreshadowed Simon’s eventual Church leadership as its Seer. See also Matt. 16:18; compare D&C 10:69; 33:13.

[2] The Greek noun ἀδελφοί (adelphoi), which the King James Version translates as “brethren,” can also include females, and is here better translated as “brothers and sisters.”

[3] Galatians 1:19.

[4] Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13.

[5] Bruce, F. F. Men and Movements in the Primitive Church (Exeter: Paternoster, 1979), 86–119; see also the study by Walter Schmithals, Paul and James, trans. Dorothea M. Barton (London: SCM Press, 1965). A pseudepigraphical account of this visit can be found in Gos. Heb. §7. Jerome, vir. ill, 2, also tells the story of such a meeting.

[6] Bruce, Men and Movements, 87; compare Archibald T Robertson., and Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. 2d ed. (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1958), 338.

[7] Howard W. Hunter, in CR, April 1969, 137.

[8] Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. (Louisville, Ky.: John Knox Press, 1997), 257. See also Fee, Gordon D. First Epistle of the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987), 729–30.

Resurrection Sunday

by Eric D. Huntsman
This post is excerpted from God So Loved the World and from Dr. Huntsman’s blog.

The experience of Mary Magdalene in finding the tomb empty is much expanded in the account of John.  In the account of Jesus’ burial in John 19:41, the sepulchre is specifically described as being in a garden.  It is in this garden that Mary’s touching experience with the Risen Lord is then described in John 20:1–18.  In this account Mary came to the garden tomb alone, and, finding it empty, she ran to tell the disciples that Jesus’ body was missing.  Upon hearing this news, Peter and another disciple, usually assumed to be John, ran to the garden, stooped to enter the tomb, and found in it only the linen cloths with which Jesus’ body had been wrapped. (John 20:3–10). Continue reading

Crucifixion in Antiquity

By Gaye Strathearn

In antiquity crucifixion was a choice of punishment since the time of the Persians, but it was undoubtedly the Romans who perfected it as a form of torture. The Jewish historian Josephus described crucifixion as “a most pitiable death” (Jewish War 7.203).

We have numerous ancient accounts that mention crucifixion, but few of them describe the process in any detail. Nevertheless, these accounts generally corroborate the descriptions recorded in the four New Testament Gospels.

In antiquity crucifixion was performed in a number of different ways. Some victims were impaled;[1] others were tied to a cross or a tree[2]—sometimes they were nailed.[3]

An ancient heel bone with a nail piercing it. From the Israel Museum.

An ancient heel bone with a nail piercing it. From the Israel Museum.

Archaeologically, only one set of remains has been found of a person who was crucified in Palestine prior to 70 AD. We know that the person was crucified because the nail was still in the right calcaneum (or heel bone). [See the picture taken at the Israel Museum]. Sometimes the victims were crucified while alive, but sometimes it was after they were dead.[4] Sometimes the legs were broken in conjunction with the crucifixion.[5] By Roman times, crucifixion was preceded by flogging[6] and the victims were sometimes required to carry the beam of the cross.[7] Usually the bodies were left to be devoured by birds and wild animals,[8] but in Roman times, it was possible for the family to petition to take the body and bury it once death had been verified.[9]

Crucifixion was chosen as a form of execution, especially for murderers, thieves and traitors, and slaves because it was public and humiliating, and because the torture could be extended for long periods of time.[10] Continue reading

Why should the cross be meaningful to Latter-day Saints?

By Gaye Strathearn

As I have thought about Christ’s crucifixion and the central place that Good Friday has historically and theologically held in Christianity, I would like to suggest four reasons why I believe that the cross should hold an important place in Latter-day Saint private and public discourse.

  1. The events on the cross are an integral part of the atonement

The most important reason that we should consider the cross is that both doctrinally and functionally, it is part of Christ’s atonement. I think that it is fair to say that traditionally Latter-day Saints have emphasized the atonement as taking part in Gethsemane. Yet the scriptures, both the Bible and Restoration scripture, repeatedly teach that the events on the cross also have an important part to play in our redemption. Paul taught the Romans that “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. . . . by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:10–11). The Book of Mormon frequently teaches that redemption is made possible through the “sufferings and death of Christ” (Mosiah 18:2; Alma 21:9; 22:14; 3 Nephi 6:20). The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that Christ “was crucified for the sins of the world” (D&C 53:2; 54:1), and that “redemption had been wrought through the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross” (D&C 138:35).

All of these passages from our restoration scripture support the biblical message of Paul that the crucifixion of our Lord was an essential part of the atonement and thus was an essential part of our personal and collective redemption. Elder Holland described Easter Friday as “atoning Friday, with its cross.”[1]

  1. The scriptural metaphor that we can be “lifted up” because Christ was lifted up on the cross is a symbol of God’s great love for his children.Good Friday processional_Antonnia Fortress

On day two of the Savior’s visit to the Americas the Savior himself describes his gospel and the atonement in terms of the cross: “My Father sent me that I might be lifted upon the cross . . . so that I might draw all men unto me.”[2] The context here is one of judgment, but it is also the hope that through repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end we will be sanctified by the Holy Ghost so that we “may stand spotless before me at the last day” (3 Nephi 27:16–20). In other scriptural texts we learn that the opportunity to be lifted up is evidence of God’s love for his people. When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, he made reference to Moses’ lifting up a brass serpent to heal the Israelites, who had been infiltrated by a plague of serpents. Jesus specifically identified the act of raising up a pole with a serpent as a type of his crucifixion. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14–15). Then note the famous verses that immediately follow: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him should be saved” (John 3:16–17). The context of this passage indicates that the evidence of God’s great love for the world is that his Son was lifted up on the cross so that they could have eternal life. Continue reading

The Last Supper and the Timing of Passover

by Eric D. Huntsman

All four Gospels agree that on the last night of his mortal life, Jesus shared a special meal with his closest disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem.  Described as a large, well-furnished room, it was probably in one of the larger houses in the upper city, a wealthy area now known as Mount Zion.

The Cenacle (from the Latin cenaculum, for “dinner), the traditional Catholic site of the  Last Supper

The Cenacle (from the Latin cenaculum, for “dinner), the traditional Catholic site of the Last Supper

Continue reading

Farewell Discourses and the High Priestly Prayer

By Eric D. Huntsman

One of the beautiful contributions of John to our understanding of the events and teachings of Jesus’ last night are passages that include Jesus’ last discourses and his beautiful Intercessory Prayer (John 13:31–17:26).  Delivered in the Upper Room where the Last Supper was held and then along the way to the Mount of Olives, chapters 14 and 16 focus on the imminent departure of the Savior.  However, they also frame—and hence emphasize—chapter 15 with its beautiful image of the disciples abiding in Jesus as branches in a vine.

I Am the True Vine, said Jesus.

I Am the True Vine, said Jesus.

In other words, while he may be going away physically, he will nonetheless be present among believers in a real way.  Just as branches derive their life and strength from the main vine, so we draw our spiritual life from Christ, without whom we would die spiritually.  Abiding in him we live and receive strength—or grace—to bring forth “much fruit” and enjoy his love (John 15:1–10).

Continue reading