Friday, April 15, 2016

Reflections: Old Testament and Related Studies

My favorite non-fiction book of last year was Hugh Nibley's Temple and Cosmos.  His book was an exceptional exploration into literally the deepest and most important concepts and ideas that could possibly cross the mind of man.  I decided after completing Nibley's excellent book that I would read the entire series of Nibley's collected works, which includes 19 volumes in all and begins with Old Testament and Related Studies.  The first volume in Nibley's collection isn't nearly as good as Temple and Cosmos and really lacks much of what I loved in that volume, but it wasn't so bad that it soured my desire to complete the entire series of books. 

My biggest grumble about this volume of Nibley's collected works is that it felt, at times, a bit too arcane.  The commentaries regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls were interesting, but when Nibley delves deep into esoteric Arab stories I lost essentially all of any frame of reference I had.  I can appreciate stories.  I can appreciate myth, ancient religion, etc., but the specificity of Nibley's commentary in this volume exceeded my knowledge and felt unconnected from larger discussions on important topics.  In addition, I was disappointed with one of the chapters, which was a reproduction of a speech he gave rather than an article he wrote, because it relied far too heavily on his paraphrasing rather than his quoting directly from the sources.  Having said that, I can't fault the book for being a poor academic work or having any less academic value than Temple and Cosmos.  Some of it was simply beyond me.

Nibley's intellect is once again on display in this volume, and I have a tremendous respect for him as an academic and a thinker.  When it comes to scriptural or doctrinal commentary, I have not found his equal.  I find myself wanting to know what Nibley thought about various topics, whether they be the creation of the Earth, evolution, the Great Deluge, etc.  I value his opinion far more than most, and I believe he gives a reasoned explanation for his viewpoints even if they're not necessarily correct.  I found many of his commentaries regarding Adam and Eve in this volume to be thought-provoking and intriguing.  In addition, his commentaries which begin with scriptures from Genesis or other holy writ (canon and otherwise) often end up providing insight into seemingly unconnected but nonetheless consequential topics. 

Old Testament and Related Studies adds to the panoply of Nibley's recorded opinions and is certainly worth reading.  It doesn't have the same weight, in my mind, as Temple and Cosmos, which I consider to be one of the finest doctrinal, spiritual, and intellectual commentaries I have ever read.  Yet, it has its own value and has more to recommend itself than not.

Notable Quotes:
  • "Since we cannot prove a negative, being convinced of one is a pure act of faith."
  • "In the business of scholarship, evidence is far more flexible than opinion."
  • "I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of the Lord than mingle with the top brass in the tents of the wicked."

Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: Temple and Cosmos
Reflections: The First Two Thousand Years
Best Books of 2015

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