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Defending the Faith: 'In God's Image and Likeness'

Published: Thursday, March 27 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Mormon publishing may not see a physically heavier book during 2014, and there will be few LDS books this year, if any, that can match the beauty of its more than 100 illustrations.

Much more importantly, though, “In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel” (Mormon Interpreter and Eborn Books, $49.99) by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen, contains a comprehensive commentary on the stories of the Tower of Babel and the great patriarchs Enoch and Noah as those stories appear in the Book of Moses and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. Researchers and students who want to pursue its discussions even further will also value its extensive annotated bibliography on the relevant ancient and modern sources.

(Out of full disclosure, the Interpreter Foundation, a nonprofit organization for which I serve as chairman, helped finance the book's publication. The foundation, however, will not share in any potential profits.)

The subject matter is dramatic. Someday, for example, somebody could conceivably even make a Hollywood movie about Noah. And the character of Enoch, though he figures in only a few rather mysterious biblical verses, has exerted disproportionate influence for many centuries in the art and lore of Judaism, Christianity and (under the name “Idris”) Islam. Likewise, the story of Babel’s arrogant challenge to God and its spectacular failure has spoken, in one way or another, to countless generations.

The commentary combines thematic overviews of entire sections of the texts with meticulous, phrase-by-phrase analysis, drawing along the way on insights from modern prophets, excerpts from ancient biblical and extrabiblical documents, current scientific perspectives, literary discussions, and contemporary biblical scholarship. It’s written from a Mormon point of view that’s both richly informed and deeply faithful, and of particular interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the temple themes that it identifies throughout the scriptural chapters discussed. As the Protestant Old Testament scholar L. Michael Morales comments, this book “demonstrates the significance of a temple-oriented approach.”

Bradshaw and Larsen, the authors of “In God’s Image and Likeness 2,” bring remarkable and remarkably varied backgrounds to their work.

Bradshaw earned a doctorate at the University of Washington, and is currently a senior research scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola. His professional writings have explored a wide range of topics in human and machine intelligence. However, he also serves as a vice president of The Interpreter Foundation (online at www.mormoninterpreter.com) and as a member of the Academy for Temple Studies Group Advisory Board (online at www.templestudies.org/home). He has written a detailed commentary on the first five chapters of the Book of Moses (published in 2010 as “In God's Image and Likeness 1: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Book of Moses”), as well as “Temple Themes in the Book of Moses,” “Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” and articles on temple studies and the ancient Near East for “Studies in the Bible and Antiquity,” “Element: A Journal of Mormon Philosophy and Theology,” “Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture” and “BYU Studies.”

Having previously earned a bachelor of arts in Near Eastern Studies from Brigham Young University and a master's degree in biblical theology from Marquette University under Andrei Orlov, Larsen received his doctorate at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where he wrote his dissertation, “Royal Themes in the Psalms and in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” under the direction of James R. Davila. A contributing editor to “Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture,” his research interests include Jewish and Christian apocalypticism and mysticism, pseudepigraphic and apocryphal literature, royal/messianic themes in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and traditions of “ascent to heaven.” (He blogs at heavenlyascents.com.)

They’ve brought their talents and their wide reading together to create a book that’s big in every sense of the term. Readers will, I think, come to share my excitement as their understanding of these stories deepens.

“This extraordinary reference work,” writes FARMS founder John W. Welch, “guides readers through the corridors of the temple, the windows of heaven, and the covenantal gate into eternal life.”

This is the first book to be published by the Interpreter Foundation. Others are in the pipeline.

“In God’s Image and Likeness 2” offers a wealth of insights into some of the greatest stories ever told. As Terryl Givens has remarked, it’s “a visual as well as an intellectual feast.”

For more about “In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel” please see www.mormoninterpreter.com/books.

Daniel Peterson teaches Arabic studies, founded BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, directs MormonScholarsTestify.org, chairs www.mormoninterpreter.com, blogs daily at www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson and speaks only for himself.

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