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Joseph or Jung? A Response to Douglas Salmon

TitleJoseph or Jung? A Response to Douglas Salmon
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsHamblin, William J., and Gordon C. Thomasson
JournalFARMS Review of Books
KeywordsParallelism; Scripture Study

Review of “Parallelomania and the Study of Latter-day Saint Scripture: Confirmation, Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious?” (2000), by Douglas F. Salmon


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Joseph or Jung? A Response to Douglas Salmon

William J. Hamblin with an appendix by Gordon C. Thomasson

Review of Douglas F. Salmon. “Parallelomania and the Study of Latter-day Scripture: Confirmation, Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious?” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 33/2 (2000): 129-56.

Nibley treats Mormon scripture primarily through parallels. While we need not pay any attention to those shallow critics of Nibley who merely shout “Parallelomania,” as if it were a magical incantation, and reject his whole methodology and corpus out of hand (drawing parallels is a necessary technique for any scholar; one must simply judge each parallel separately to see what validity it offers—and many of Nibley’s parallels are convincing and valuable, while others are less persuasive or informative)—this technique requires careful analysis of the passages to be compared.[1]

In a recent issue of Dialogue, Douglas F. Salmon offers a foray into the debate surrounding the historicity of unique Latter-day Saint scriptures. His paper attempts to make two basic points. First, the search for parallels between LDS scripture and antiquity is methodologically flawed (pp. 130-45). Second, whatever seemingly authentic parallels have been found are better explained by a Jungian collective unconscious than by an authentic historical connection between LDS scripture and antiquity (pp. 145-54). I find his arguments unconvincing. Although Salmon does not make an explicit claim (and I may therefore be mistaken on the matter), I sense a corollary assumption that, while Latter-day Saint scriptures could perhaps be called “inspired” in the Jungian sense that they reflect Joseph Smith’s “inspired” connection with the collective unconscious, they are not “revealed” in the traditional sense that they represent authentic records of the Nephites, Enoch, or others.

Faulty Methodology Seeking Faulty Methodology

A fundamental problem with Salmon’s paper is that he attempts to demonstrate the failure of an entire methodology (the study of parallels between purportedly ancient LDS scripture and other ancient writings) by attempting to demonstrate that Hugh Nibley, in a single work written a quarter of a century ago, has allegedly made half a dozen errors.[2] As I will demonstrate below, Salmon is mistaken about several of the errors he claims to have found. But even if he were correct that Nibley is mistaken in all half a dozen cases, at best this would demonstrate that Nibley is human and makes errors. Of course all scholars make errors. This does not demonstrate that Nibley’s entire thesis on Enoch is wrong since Salmon does not acknowledge, let alone begin to deal with, either Nibley’s overall argument or his strongest evidence. Suppose Nibley claimed to have discovered fifty parallels between Enoch materialsin the Book of Moses and ancient Enoch traditions. And suppose that Salmon conclusively demonstrated that half of these are not authentic parallels. Still, twenty-five parallels would remain unchallenged. More important, Salmon does not deal with Nibley’s overall argument. Arguments are composed of multiple pieces of evidence and analysis. The demonstration that a fewpieces of evidence are in error does not necessarily mean that the argument as a whole is wrong, especially when multiple pieces of evidence supporting the argument remain. Salmon has the responsibility to demonstrate that the parallels he believes he has undermined are essential to Nibley’s overall argument and therefore that the argument is faulty. A critique must deal not only with errors of fact, but also with broader analysis and arguments.

Furthermore, discovering errors in one of Nibley’s books does not demonstrate that all of Nibley’s other books are equally unsound, and it particularly fails to demonstrate that all works by all other scholars supporting the historicity of unique Latter-day Saint scriptures are likewise methodologically flawed. Moreover, it certainly does not demonstrate that the method of adducing parallels is inherently defective. The fact that someone uses a methodology incorrectly does not demonstrate that the methodology itself is flawed, only that it was improperly used. If a doctor botches a heart surgery and a patient suffers, it does not mean that the doctor has therefore killed all his other patients, and it certainly should not lead us to abandon heart surgery altogether.

Another serious error in the application of Salmon’s theory is that he fails to see he is wielding a double-edged sword. If the search for ancient parallels with LDS scripture is methodologically flawed, is the search for nineteenth-century parallels not also flawed? There are actually two separate questions here: (1) Is the search for cultural and literary parallels a useful (but not the only) method in attempting to discover the original context of a document of uncertain provenance? and (2) Does Nibley attempt to apply this method, and does he do so properly? Salmon never clearly engages these questions. On the one hand, he uses parallels to attempt to demonstrate that Joseph could have obtained the idea of multiple worlds from his early nineteenth-century environment (pp. 142-43). And finding parallels to the Book of Abraham through a nineteenth-century reading of the Bible (pp. 144-45) seems to indicate he accepts the usefulness of this method, at least in principle. On the other hand, he insists that “the use of parallels from apocryphal literature to prove the prophetic status of Joseph Smith is a misguided endeavor” that is “simply ill suited for the task” (p. 155). Why searching for ancient parallels should be “particularly interesting” (p. 142) but searching for ancient parallels “misguided” (p. 155) is never explained.[3] In fact, the method of adducing parallels in an attempt to determine historical context—although it can certainly be abused—is a widely accepted methodology used by scholars in a number of fields. For example, Mircea Eliade, whom Salmon cites with favor in his paper (pp. 148-50), uses parallelism extensively in his highly regarded works on comparative religions. And parallelism is the foundation of Jungian archetypes, which Salmon advocates (see section below, “Jung to the Rescue”).

Rather than paying careful attention to the implications of the “truly staggering” (p. 129) parallels that have been discovered by Latter-day Saint scholars, Salmon is more concerned with continually raising the bar. Whenever a parallel is found to one characteristic in LDS scripture, no matter how impressive, some critics always reply, “Yes, but there is no parallel to this other characteristic,” as if this somehow undermined the parallels that do exist. Salmon’s treatment of parallels between the Book of Abraham and ancient Abraham traditions is a case in point. After summarily dismissing a number of “weak” parallels to ancient traditions about Abraham (pp. 144-45)—without mentioning more than a dozen others that I find much stronger[4]—he writes, “what is missing here, and would indeed be quite remarkable if found, is an ancient source that mentions the star named ‘Kolob’ which is nearest to the throne of God” (p. 145).[5] In fact, there is a possible reference in Jewish literature to a governing star named KLB. In the Ethiopic Book of Enoch (1 Enoch), we find mention of stars which are “leaders” or governors of the year.[6] One of these is called in Ethiopic zlbs’l, transliterated Zelebsa’el.[7] Now the Ethiopic Book of Enoch derives ultimately from an Aramaic original, and many of the star names in this book bear recognizable Aramaic names: for example, Berke’el, “the Lightning of God,” and Narel, the “light of God.”[8] However, the name Zelebsa’el makes no sense in Aramaic, and according to Michael A. Knibb, the editor of the Ethiopic manuscript, “the form of this name [Zelebsa’el] would appear to be corrupt.”[9] Otto Neugebauer agrees that there was probably “an early mutilation of the manuscript.”[10] Indeed, there are several variant readings of this name in the various Ethiopic manuscripts.[11] Is there another possible reading of the Ethiopic Zelebsa’el that would make sense in Aramaic? In Ethiopic, the letter za  bears a very close resemblance to the letter ka ; the latter has a small additional mark on the upper right part of the letter. Thus the two letters could be easily confused. Assuming then an Ethiopic scribal error of za for ka for the admittedly corrupt reading of Zelebsa’el, we arrive at KLBS’L, which in Aramaic would translate as the “KLB of God” (sha ‘el meaning simply “of God” in Aramaic). Since early Aramaic and Hebrew lacked vowels, it is quite possible to read KLB as Kolob.[12]

Salmon’s accusation that “Nibley and his followers” lack a “clearly articulated methodology” (p. 154) for the study of parallels is defensible only because Salmon is either unaware of such articulations or has chosen not to mention them. I have written on aspects of the matter a number of times.[13] Indeed, Salmon must be at least partially aware of this fact, since he cites me—whom, I suspect, many would view as a follower of Nibley—as advocating precisely the proper methodology which Salmon claims Nibley’s “followers” don’t follow and have never articulated (p. 139 n. 40).[14] Specifically with regard to the question of the proper use of parallels, I argued a decade ago:

If one wishes to discuss divergent models for the origin of the Book of Mormon, the proper methodology to be followed is: 1-Assume that the book is an authentic ancient record and analyze it from this perspective; . . . 2-Assume that the book is a nineteenth-century document and analyze it from this perspective; 3-Compare and contrast the successes, failures, and relative explanatory power of the results of these studies; 4-Attempt to discover which model is the most plausible explanation for the origin of the text.[15]

For the most part, Nibley is generally engaged only in phase one of this four-part process.

Furthermore, I have twice noted elsewhere that I believe the proper method of dealing with parallelisms is to follow the procedures advocated by Jonathan Z. Smith, one of the leading contemporary historians of religion:

Homology [causal antecedent] is a similarity of form or structure between two species shared from their common ancestor; an analogy is a similarity of form or structure between two species not sharing a common ancestor. . . . It is agreed that the statement “x resembles y” is logically incomplete . . . [because it] suppress[es the] multi-term statement of analogy and difference capable of being properly expressed in formulations such as:

x resemblesy more than z with respect to . . . ;” or,

x resemblesy more than w resembles z with respect to . . . ”

That is to say, the statement of comparison is never dyadic, but always triadic; there is always an implicit “more than”, and there is always a “with respect to.”[16]

Now Salmon may find Smith’s approach to the methodology of analyzing parallelisms faulty; if so, he should argue accordingly. But,in all fairness, he can hardly claim that no one associated with the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) has ever dealt with the methodological issues before—several of us have.

Nibley also has clearly articulated his methodology and its limits:

Our purpose is to illustrate, explain, suggest, and investigate. We are going to consider the Book of Mormon as a possible product not of Ancient America (for that is totally beyond our competence) but of the Ancient [Near] East (which is only slightly less so). . . . “Proving” the Book of Mormon is another matter.[17]

A major problem with many critics of Nibley, such as Salmon, is that they assert that Nibley is alleging a probative value for his parallels which he himself never claims. They critique Nibley for his failure to accomplish phase four (in my categorization) when he is clearly engaging only in phase one.

Many other scholars associated with FARMS have written on methodological issues as well. Why does Salmon not engage these discussions? Why simply assert that such discussions don’t exist (see p. 129)? Salmon provides no evidence that Nibley’s “followers”—whom he never precisely identifies but clearly links to FARMS (see pp. 128, 131)—have committed the same errors that Salmon claims to have found in Nibley. Assertion in this regard is not even evidence, let alone proof. If Salmon wishes his claims to be taken seriously, he must engage each author and argument individually.[18] In scholarship there is no communal responsibility for error: We believe that scholars will be punished for their own books and not for Nibley’s transgressions.[19]

Contra Nibley

Salmon claims that his specific criticisms of Nibley demonstrate not only the methodological malpractice of Nibley, but that of all his followers.[20] Some of these criticisms will be briefly discussed here. But first it is important to note Nibley’s own views on errors in his scholarly work, as reported by David Seely:

Nibley has never claimed for himself the kind of infallibility that some have attributed to him. He has always maintained that scholarship is a high-spirited and open conversation. For example, in regard to his own work on the Abraham facsimiles, he once said, “I refuse to be held responsible for anything I wrote more than three years ago. For heaven’s sake, I hope we are moving forward here. After all, the implication [is] that one mistake and it is all over with—how flattering to think in forty years I have not made one slip and I am still in business! I would say about four-fifths of everything I have put down has changed, of course.” I have always assumed Nibley would be delighted for us to read his work critically, and statements such as the above should be taken as invitations to join the fray.[21]

Salmon first insists that Nibley claims that the seventh-century Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan contains “perhaps the oldest Adam traditions” (p. 134). Salmon criticizes Nibley because the Conflict is a seventh-century text with Christian interpolations and therefore cannot be “the oldest Adam tradition” (pp. 134-35). Here is what Nibley actually says:

Perhaps the oldest Adam traditions are those collected from all over the ancient East at a very early time, which have reached us in later Ethiopian and Arabic manuscripts under the title of “The Combat of Adam and Eve against Satan.” It contains at least thirteen different showdowns between Adam and the Adversary. . . . [T]he motif was characteristically repeated with variations (the monkish mind could not resist the temptation to work a good thing to death).[22]

From Nibley’s entire statement in context, it is quite clear that Nibley recognizes that the Ethiopian and Arabic Combat is not itself the oldest tradition but is in part a collection of earlier Adam material, a fact on which all scholars agree. Nibley even alludes to the Christian interpolations in the text by mentioning the “monkish” editors. Salmon has distorted Nibley’s position, claiming Nibley is in error.

He also criticizes Nibley for a “lack of precision” (p. 136). His single example: in a published work from 1975 Nibley discusses R. H. Charles’s list of 128 examples of the possible “influence” of 1 Enoch on the New Testament, whereas a decade later in a transcript from a classroom lecture, Nibley misstates that there are 128 examples of “quotations” from 1 Enoch in the New Testament (pp. 136-37).[23] I’m sorry, but such a simple misstatement in a lecture in which Nibley had a few seconds to formulate a sentence hardly amounts to a demonstration of serious methodological error in Nibley’s work. After giving thousands of lectures to students, often with limited or no notes, we should not be surprised to find that Nibley made misstatements on occasion.[24] Salmon claims Nibley misrepresents the significance of the parallel between the baptism of Adam in Moses 6:52 and the baptism of Adam in the Apocalypse of Adam (see p. 137).[25] For Salmon, the baptism in the Apocalypse of Adam is purely metaphorical or spiritualized (see p. 137). Nibley therefore misrepresents a metaphorical baptism of Adam as a literal water baptism—though how this undermines Adam’s association with baptism is unclear. To emphasize his point, Salmon correctly cites Kurt Rudolph as saying “the act of ‘knowledge’ (gnosis) is understood as baptism at the close of the ‘Apocalypse of Adam'” (p. 137).[26] Unfortunately, like the legendary sorcerer’s apprentice, Salmon should have read a little farther in the book since Rudolph gives numerous examples of physical baptism among the gnostics as well.[27] The two were not mutually exclusive: a physical baptism symbolically represented the spiritual reception of saving knowledge (gnosis). Thus the mere fact that baptism includes a spiritual transformation through gnosis does not necessarily imply that an actual ritual was not practiced as well. Other Christians understood the dual nature of baptism; the church father Justin wrote: “this washing [baptism] is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings.”[28] Does this mean that no physical ritual took place among early Christians? Or merely that they saw a spiritual reality symbolized by the physical ritual?

Several of Salmon’s other criticisms of Nibley also disappear under careful scrutiny. When Nibley finds an interesting parallel between Enoch’s observation of God weeping in Moses 7:28-29 and Jewish traditions about a similar event,[29] Salmon protests that God is also described as weeping in the Old Testament, citing Jeremiah 13:15, 17, which, he claims, could therefore have been the source for this incident in the Book of Moses (see p. 140).[30] Salmon quotes the following verses from Jeremiah 13:15, 17 REB: “Pay heed; be not too proud to listen, for it is the Lord who speaks. . . . If in those depths you will not listen, then for very anguish I can only weep bitterly; my eyes must stream with tears, for the Lord’s flock is carried off into captivity” (p. 140). Salmon, by leaving out verse 16, attempts to have it appear that the Lord is weeping here. In reality, it is Jeremiah, not the Lord, who weeps for Judah.[31] This is what the reader of the entire passage in the KJV would have understood.

Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock is carried away captive. (Jeremiah 13:15-17)

Throughout this passage it is clear that the Lord is spoken of by Jeremiah in the third person; Jeremiah is speaking in the first person, and it is therefore Jeremiah who weeps. Indeed, Jeremiah is sometimes called “the weeping prophet” because of the repeated weeping and lamentations mentioned in his writings (e.g., Jeremiah 9:1, 10). Thus Nibley’s point stands: both the Book of Moses and Jewish traditions describe Enoch observing God weeping; the Bible does not. Salmon’s critique of Nibley engages in precisely the type of selectivity and misreading of which he accuses Nibley.

Salmon is also in error in his discussion of the plurality of worlds (see pp. 140-43). He rightly quotes Nibley as claiming that the idea of multiple worlds found in Moses 1:33-37 was “offensive” to the “doctors” or fathers of the church (p. 141).[32] He then quotes Origen, who was indeed a doctor of the church, as stating, “God did not begin to work [on creation] for the first time when he made this visible world, but . . . just as after the dissolution of this world there will be another one, so also we believe that there were others before this one existed” (p. 141).[33] But, contra Salmon, Origen is not saying there are multiple simultaneously existing “worlds” as described in the Book of Moses 1:35: “There are many [worlds] that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man.” Rather, Origen is talking about a succession of worlds, one after the other, with only one existing at any given time: “We must not suppose, however, that several worlds existed at the same time, but that after this one another will exist in its turn.”[34] Thus, Salmon has misread Origen, blaming his confusion on Nibley, who is in fact correct.

Salmon attempts to further undermine Nibley’s position that the Christian fathers rejected a multiplicity of simultaneous worlds by quoting the pagan philosophers Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius, none of whom were church fathers (see pp. 141-42). In reality, by citing these three examples, Salmon has provided additional evidence that the idea of multiple worlds found in the Book of Moses was an ancient one—which is Nibley’s real point. Nibley is arguing that the idea of the multiplicity of worlds, though rejected by the Christian fathers, was accepted by many others in antiquity; therefore, the Book of Moses’ discussion of multiple worlds makes sense in an ancient milieu. Salmon criticizes Nibley for allegedly taking his sources out of context (see p. 135) and misrepresenting his sources (see p. 137), which is precisely what Salmon has done in this case.

If Salmon is correct in his assumption that methodological mistakes by Nibley do not simply invalidate a single argument but undermine all of Nibley’s other works, and—through guilt by association—all the writings of Nibley’s “followers” at FARMS (pp. 129, 131, 154), could we reasonably conclude that Salmon’s entire article is invalidated by his misreading of Origen and Jeremiah, and, furthermore, that the work of all authors who have ever published in Dialogue should also be summarily dismissed? Perhaps a careful analysis of each argument by each author is a superior method to the sweeping dismissal advocated by Salmon based on a mere half-dozen alleged errors, many of which turn out to be claims based on mistakes and misinterpretations by Salmon himself.

Salmon also provides four early nineteenth-century sources that talk about the idea of plurality of worlds (see pp. 142-43),[35] concluding that “in the case of the notion of a plurality of worlds, Enochic literature is by no means unique in providing parallels” (p. 143). Quite true; but neither are the early nineteenth-century parallels that Salmon adduces. Why should the nineteenth-century parallels provided by Salmon be seen as methodologically privileged and hence acceptable, while the ancient parallels provided by Nibley are considered methodologically faulty and therefore unacceptable? Both use precisely the same methodology: attempting to contextualize a document whose date and origin is disputed by examining parallels to the proposed original culture. In fact, on this particular point, both the ancient and nineteenth-century models can explain Moses 1:33-37.

Jung to the Rescue?—Parallelomania Run Wild

On the other hand, despite the errors he claims to have found in Nibley’s writings, Salmon admits that “this is not to say that there are no legitimate parallels between documents from the ancient Near East and latter-day scripture” (p. 145). In fact, he finds these parallels a “truly staggering” (p. 129), “undeniable fact” (p. 130). And, indeed, the vast majority of Nibley’s parallels in his Enoch studies—let alone his entire literary corpus—are not examined by Salmon nor even mentioned. Thus he is admitting that, despite occasional errors and disputed cases, authentic parallels between LDS scriptures and ancient writings have indeed been found by Nibley and others. But, since he apparently does not wish to consider the possibility that “the existence of a parallel in an ancient text can confirm the prophetic insight of Joseph Smith” (p. 130), Salmon attempts to offer an alternative theory to explain the unchallenged parallels—thereby, I suspect, tacitly hoping to undermine the historicity of Smith’s scriptures. In fact, Salmon’s issue with Nibley is not really parallelomania. The odd irony here is that the Jungian psychology that Salmon advocates necessitates the acceptance of far more parallels between religions of many different times and places than does Nibley’s approach to ancient scripture.

In the second half of his paper (pp. 147-54), Salmon offers what he considers a superior alternative to the historical comparative analysis of textual and cultural parallels by turning to Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes and the “collective unconsciousness” (pp. 150-52), for which he attempts to enlist the support of the magisterial historian of religions, Mircea Eliade. To begin with, Salmon simply misunderstands Eliade. Salmon seems to think that because Eliade and Jung “both used the term ‘archetype,'” they were therefore “kindred spirits” (p. 151). This seriously misrepresents the ideas of both Jung and Eliade. While Salmon acknowledges that the term archetype “meant subtly different things to each man” (p. 151), he fails to define this distinction, which is fundamental, not subtle. For Eliade, archetype is a historical concept used “to name the sacred paradigms that are expressed in myth and articulated in ritual.” For Jung, archetype refers to “the dynamic structures of the unconscious that determine individual patterns of experience and behavior.”[36] Although they use the same term, in reality, “Jung knew and accepted the concepts of Eliade—archetype as transcendent model. . . —but, in addition, for Jung, the archetype was also active in determining the inner [psychological] life of man.”[37] For comparison purposes, Eliade’s archetypes should be called “historical archetypes,” while Jung’s should be called “psychological archetypes.”

Thus the agreement between the two was only at Eliade’s historical level; Eliade did not accept Jung’s idea of a collective unconscious,nor did he believe that myths and archetypes were created by this collective unconscious.[38] And this disagreement centered on Jung’s main point. This is obvious even in a quotation given by Salmon when attempting to demonstrate the affinity of Eliade and Jung. Eliade states explicitly: “We do not mean to say that mythologies are the ‘product’ of the unconscious”—precisely contradicting Jung on this point.[39] It is unclear why Salmon thinks that this passage demonstrates that Eliade and Jung are in essential agreement about psychological archetypes and the collective unconscious.

Salmon’s major argument is that Jungian psychology offers a superior model for explaining the parallels between LDS scripture and antiquity that Nibley and many others have found. The potential compatibility of Jungian psychology—which essentially reductionistically downgrades religious experiences to merely psychological experiences—with LDS ideas is a question that could merit a detailed and nuanced study.[40] Unfortunately, Salmon does not provide this. Instead he asserts that the LDS concept of the Light of Christ “in many regards is an analog to the [Jungian] notion of the collective unconscious” (p. 152). But this is nonsense. The LDS idea that all people have the Light of Christ—sometimes described as a combination of reason, intelligence, intuition, and inspiration—is not at all parallel to the Jungian “collective unconscious.” A collective conscience must not be confused with a collective unconscious. The Light of Christ is an external force that proceeds from God (see D&C88:11-13). It is not an internal psychological instinct. It is a divine power exterior to man.

Likewise, the idea that all religions have important truths and that many religious leaders—including non-Christians such as Muhammad, Zoroaster, the Buddha, and Confucius—were inspired by God is not a closet form of the Jungian collective unconscious. Inspiration from God has never been understood in the LDS tradition as some form of collective unconscious or even as an individual psychological intuition or instinct. If we are to move down the path Salmon proposes, we should first clearly understand exactly what it is that Salmon is suggesting: a radical transformation of our understanding of inspiration, revelation, and scripture. Moses, Jesus, Paul, and Joseph Smith would thereby become nothing more than additional instances of people who articulated ideas inherent in all of humanity’s most basic psychological structures. But they would not be termed world prophets—nor would Jesus be the Christ.

Salmon’s attempt to replace careful historical analysis of parallels and comparison of the possible nineteenth-century or ancient contexts of LDS scripture with vague Jungian archetypes fails at another level. Whereas Salmon’s Jungian psychology might be able to explain why many different groups throughout history have worshiped the sun as a god, it is quite unhelpful in explaining why so many different groups represent the sun-god as riding in a chariot. Whereas Jungian theory might help us to understand why many different religions have myths of great spiritual heroes who reveal divine truths, it is monumentally unhelpful in explaining why one of these was called Enoch, who is said to have done and said very specific things that sometimes find parallels in the Book of Moses—such as ascending to heaven. And it is certainly useless in explaining the appearance of the name Mahujah/Mahijah in both the Book of Moses and the Enochian materials in the Dead Sea Scrolls.[41] (Or are we to believe that all people have the name Mahujah in their collective unconscious?) In other words, the Jungian theory of the collective unconscious can at best explain parallels in the most general and vague patterns in “religion” (if that), but it cannot explain parallels in the details of specific historical manifestations of those generic patterns. Whether Nibley is right or wrong about specific ancient parallels he claims to have found to the Book of Moses, Jungian theory cannot explain them.

Thus, if Salmon is calling for using ever more sophisticated methods in studying and comparing the proposed nineteenth-century and ancient parallels to LDS scripture, I vigorously support this call and encourage him to begin such an effort by applying them to his own work. If there are faulty arguments, and Salmon has perhaps found a few, we should weed them out—on both sides of the debate. But if, as it seems, he is calling for the abandonment of the scholarly, critical, historical enterprise to be replaced by attribution of parallels between LDS scripture and ancient texts to a Jungian collective unconscious, I’ll stick with Joseph over Jung.


Gordon C. Thomasson

A combination of a plush offer to Mircea Eliade of a visiting position in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, during our winter quarters, combined with his lack of interest inspending those same winter months in Chicago, brought me into contact with him both as a student in a graduate seminar and as an assistant for his advanced undergraduate seminar.

Eliade’s methodology in dealing with archetypes was, at its best, subjective (as all methodologies must be). But it had its publicly recognized downside as well. Some common criticisms of Eliade’s work included his being highly reliant on secondary sources and on translations for the countless texts he employed from outside of the Indo-European tradition (in many Indo-European languages—including Sanskrit—he was quite able) and for presenting as parallels or archetypes images that could only be sustained when taken out of context or given in translation. (C. G. Jung’s linguistic skills were far more limited than Eliade’s, of course, and the archetypal “parallels” he adduced were far more problematic.) Moreover, when pressed as to how archetypal resemblances were shared among peoples and cultures, Eliade verbally admitted that as far as he could tell the archetypes had to be based in a common genetics. This raises far more problems than it can ever answer, of course. As a result, I believe, he avoided questions of cultural diffusion about which other Europeans—unlike most North Americans, especially in the field of cultural anthropology—are quite open.

I witnessed something with Eliade when I worked in his undergraduate seminar that term. We did not have a clear thread visible in the syllabus as to where he was headed, but I began to see the red line of Ariadne’s clue running through his seminar in the direction of Nibley’s article “The Expanding Gospel.”[42] The next week, at the end of the seminar, I gave Eliade a copy of that article and suggested that he might find it relevant. The following week he was nearly jumping out of his skin and could hardly wait to shoo the undergrads out after class. Then he sat me down and asked, “Who is this Hugh Nibley and why haven’t I ever heard of him?” and so forth. “He knows my field better than I do,” Eliade continued, “and his translations are elegant.”

I explained, among other things, that he published in the journals of a number of different disciplines outside of the history of religions, depending on his research and the texts he was working on at the moment. We then spent the better part of an hour going over the article, and I noted to him as the discussion progressed, without being too explicit, where or how an LDS apologetic/esoteric subtext ran through the article. He replied (paraphrasing here), “Who cares? His evidence and logic are faultless.”

He then went on to ask explicitly if he could hire Hugh to teach in his History of Religions program at Chicago. I said I didn’t think so, that he had unlimited book-buying power (the Jackling Fund) and all the library he needed where he was and that Hugh had already been at Chicago. “Impossible! I would have known him!” replied Eliade.

I then dropped what I knew was an explosive depth charge, thinking it might well end the discussion: “But he was at the Oriental Institute.” And Professor Anthon tore up the transcript . . . well, not quite. We continued the discussion, but not until after he had said, “You’re right, he wouldn’t fit in our program, I suspect.” (There was no love or academic respect between the Oriental Institute, which advocated the use of primary sources only, and Eliade’s History of Religions school, where a dissertation could be done using mainly secondary sources.) But at his request, I spent the rest of the semester giving him copies of what I thought were the most appropriate Nibley articles. He devoured them in turn and then quizzed me about them after class each week, in case he had missed something. Eliade knew that all scholars have a bias. (Once, in an unguarded moment, he allowed that his Rumanian Orthodox Christianity really was it). More important to him in our discussions was how well scholars read and quote (in context), translate, use logic, or, in other words, play by the rules. Only his return to Chicago ended our private “seminar.”

In my direct, personal experience and at my invitation, other research university and world-class scholars have, like Eliade, read and given very positive ratings to Nibley’s work when it has overlapped their own and when I submitted it for their consideration with no preface other than “What do you think of this?” None has read Nibley as Salmon does.[43]


I would like to thank Louis Midgley, George Mitton, John Gee, M. Gerald Bradford, and Daniel Peterson for helpful comments and suggestions.

  1. Todd Compton, review of Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites; An Approach to the Book of Mormon; Since Cumorah, by Hugh Nibley, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 1 (1989): 115. This passage is noted by Salmon (pp. 131-32), but apparently without taking full consideration of its significance. Compton’s essay is a helpful introduction to the strengths and weaknesses of Nibley’s work.
  2. Hugh W. Nibley, “A Strange Thing in the Land,” in Enoch the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1986), 89-301, which is a reprint of a series of articles entitled “A Strange Thing in the Land: The Return of the Book of Enoch,” originally published in the Ensign from October 1975 to August 1977.
  3. Although Salmon never recognizes this as problematic, it seems that the real unexamined assumption at work here is that since Joseph’s scriptures really are nineteenth-century documents, then using nineteenth-century parallels is legitimate. If so, Salmon is engaging in question-begging.
  4. Referencing John A. Tvedtnes, “Abrahamic Lore in Support of the Book of Abraham,” transcript of a lecture given in the 1999 Abraham Lecture Series, available from FARMS. An extensive collection of such sources is now available: John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, eds. and comps., Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2001).
  5. In his request for Kolob as an ancient star name, Salmon simply ignores the discovery of a number of proper names in the Book of Abraham in ancient Near Eastern sources, such as Olishem and several gods’ names; see John M. Lundquist, “Was Abraham at Ebla? A Cultural Background of the Book of Abraham,” in Studies in Scripture: The Pearl of Great Price, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985),225-37.
  6. Matthew Black, trans., The Book of Enoch, or I Enoch: A New English Edition with Commentary and Textual Notes (Leiden:Brill, 1985), 412 (82:11); a more accessible translation can be found in E. Isaac, “1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1983), 1:5-89.
  7. 1 Enoch 82:17, in the Ethiopic edition.
  8. 1 Enoch 82:17, 13; see Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud, Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (New York: Judaica, 1982), 196, 936.
  9. Michael A. Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978), 2:191.
  10. In his astronomical notes to Enoch 82, in Black, Book of Enoch, 413 (comments to verses 7 and 8).
  11. Isaac, “1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” 1:61 n. h2.
  12. Another possible reading for KLB is KaLeB, or “dog,” perhaps with reference to the “dog-star” Sirius.
  13. William J. Hamblin, “Time Vindicates Hugh Nibley,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 2 (1990): 123-26; “Sharper Than a Two-edged Sword,” Sunstone, December 1991, 54; “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/1 (1993): 161-97; “An Apologist for the Critics: Brent Lee Metcalfe’s Assumptions and Methodologies,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994): 502-4 and passim; with Daniel C. Peterson and George L. Mitton, “Mormon in the Fiery Furnace, or, Loftes Tryk Goes to Cambridge,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/2 (1994): 44-45; “‘Everything Is Everything’: Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Kabbalah?” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 8/2 (1996): 278-81; “That Old Black Magic,”Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 12/2 (2000): 225-393 and passim. Examples could be further multiplied.
  14. Citing Hamblin, “Time Vindicates Hugh Nibley,” 124.
  15. Hamblin, “Sharper than a Two-edged Sword,” 54.
  16. Jonathan Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 51; see 47 n. 15. I have referenced Smith’s work and encouraged scholars dealing with issues surrounding the origin of the Book of Mormon to follow Smith’s method in Hamblin, Peterson, and Mitton, “Mormon in the Fiery Furnace,” 44-45; Hamblin, “‘Everything Is Everything,'” 278-81.
  17. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 3-4.
  18. Salmon also seems to be under the bizarre impression, increasingly asserted in certain polemical circles, that FARMS is a monolithic organization filled with robotic hacks who march in mindless lockstep to the drumbeat of a methodless apologia. FARMS is not a single, great throbbing brain, but a consortium of dozens of scholars with many different perspectives who often disagree among themselves on a broad range of issues. The only guiding assumptions on which all agree is that God exists, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that his restored scripture is historical.
  19. Salmon seems unaware that, despite the great achievements and contributions of Nibley to Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and related studies, the discourse on these matters has now moved beyond the foundation he began laying half a century ago. It seems rather pointless to critique a quarter-century-old book by Nibley while failing to engage current thinking on these issues.
  20. My defense of Nibley here should not be understood to mean that I believe Nibley is without fault. All scholars, including Nibley (and including me, for that matter), make mistakes. I have noted a number of Nibley’s errors in a review (Hamblin, “Time Vindicates Hugh Nibley,” 123-26). My real objection to Salmon is his fabricating unfounded or weak criticisms of Nibley—while ignoring Nibley’s strong arguments—and thereafter attempting to dismiss all works by other authors supporting the historicity of scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of a couple of errors he claims to have found in Nibley.
  21. David Rolph Seely, review of Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, by Hugh Nibley, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 5 (1993): 195, citing Hugh Nibley, “The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham: A Response,” Sunstone, December 1979, 49.
  22. Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, 167-68.
  23. Citing Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, 95; and Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price: Transcripts of Lectures Presented to an Honors Pearl of Great Price Class at BYU, Winter Semester 1986 (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1986), lecture 1, p. 10.
  24. For an excellent review of the strengths and weaknesses of Nibley’s lecture transcripts, see Seely, review of Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, 190-97, especially 193-95. Salmon seems oddly unaware of this review.
  25. Translations can be found in James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 277-86; Bentley Layton, trans. and ed., The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations and Introductions (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), 52-64.
  26. Citing Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), 220.
  27. Rudolph, Gnosis, 226-28. Rudolph also provides some interesting photographs of surviving Gnostic Mandean baptism in Iraq, plates 36-39, following p. 346; see discussion on Mandean baptism on pp. 360-62. It should be noted that there were many different Gnostic sects, each interpreting a number of matters differently; the understanding of baptism differed among various groups.
  28. Justin, Apology 1.61, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 1:183; see also Elaine H. Pagels, “A Valentinian Interpretation of Baptism and Eucharist—and Its Critique of ‘Orthodox’ Sacramental Theology and Practice,” Harvard Theological Review 65 (1972): 153-69.
  29. Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, 189-91.
  30. Note Salmon’s use of the supposedly faulty parallel methodology to argue his case. Note also that Salmon’s example from Jeremiah is not about Enoch observing God weeping; the parallels Nibley discovered are therefore superior to Salmon’s.
  31. I would like to thank David Seely, who is currently writing the Eerdmans Commentary on Jeremiah, for his assistance on this matter. For a detailed study of this theme, see Daniel C. Peterson, “On the Motif of the Weeping God in Moses 7,” forthcoming in a Festschrift for Truman Madsen.
  32. Citing Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, 237-38.
  33. Citing Origen, On First Principles 3.5.3; see G. W. Butterworth, trans. (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1936), 238-39.
  34. Origin, On First Principles 3.5.3; Butterworth trans., 239.
  35. He finds Thomas Dick’s 1829 Philosophy of a Future State “particularly interesting” because Joseph Smith owned a copy in 1844 in Nauvoo. Salmon does not make it clear how this book could have been used by Joseph fourteen years earlier in allegedly writing the Book of Moses. It is, of course, just as possible that the idea of the plurality of worlds, revealed to Joseph Smith in the Book of Moses, created an interest in that idea, leading him to read Dick’s book.
  36. Beverly Moon, “Archetypes,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan, 1995), 1:379. This distinction is such a common place in religious studies that it is found in standard reference works such as the one cited here. For a more detailed study of Eliade’s views on archetypes, see The Myth of the Eternal Return: Or, Cosmos and History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954), 3-48. Although this book was written in 1945, it was not published in French until 1949 and not translated into English until 1954. Jung’s theories are not even mentioned in Eliade’s discussion of archetypes, nor are Jung’s works included in Eliade’s bibliography. Jung’s views are studied by Jolande S. Jacobi, Complex, Archetype, Symbol in the Psychology of C. G. Jung, trans. Ralph Manheim (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959).
  37. Moon, “Archetypes,” 1:381. Another very important distinction between Eliade and Jung is, of course, that Eliade believed in God’s existence, while Jung was apparently an agnostic; for Jung, God was essentially a psychological image or construct (which he called the god-imago), with an ontological reality only in the mind. For Jung, a belief in God could be psychologically healthy and yet ontologically unfounded. This makes a great deal of differenceas to how they understood both archetypes and the nature of religious experience. This is not to say that a follower of Jung can’t believe in God—many Jungians are no doubt theists. Rather, it is to say that it is not necessary to believe in God to be a Jungian; the existence of God is not required by Jung’s theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious.
  38. In fact, a comparative reading of Eliade and Nibley shows that both broadly use similar methodologies to approach comparative religions, probably because both were influenced by the Myth and Ritual School. For a general introduction, see Robert A. Segal, ed., The Myth and Ritual Theory: An Anthology (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998).
  39. Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1959), 209, quoted by Salmon (pp. 151-52).
  40. For purposes of full disclosure, I personally find that, although Jungian works often cite numerous interesting primary sources in interesting ways,the overall theory is essentially unhelpful and fundamentally incompatible with the gospel.
  41. Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, 277-79. Salmon ignores this and other strong parallels in Nibley’s book on Enoch. It would have been helpful if Salmon had explained how he deals with the strongest arguments of parallels to Enochian traditions of antiquity rather than the weakest.
  42. Hugh W. Nibley, “The Expanding Gospel,” BYU Studies 7/1 (1965): 3-27.
  43. This appendix is an excerpt from a larger discussion Thomasson plans to publish elsewhere.