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Messianic History: Walter Benjamin and the Book of Mormon

TitleMessianic History: Walter Benjamin and the Book of Mormon
Publication TypeExcerpt
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMiller, Adam S.
Book TitleRube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology
Book Chapter3
PublisherGreg Kofford Books
Place PublishedSalt Lake City
KeywordsAnachronisms; Early Christianity; Messiah; Scholarship
Early Christian history is haunted by anachrony. More than a hundred years of biblical scholarship has shown that most New Testament Christology comes late and is discontinuous with the historical Jesus. While Jesus appears to be properly historical, Christ does not. His messianicity appears anachronistic. Mormon history is vexed by the same ghosts. Historical incongruities are abundant in the Book of Mormon and in accounts dealing with both the First Vision and the restoration of the priesthood. But, in this respect, the Book of Mormon is exemplary. Page after page, its pre-advent Christian message typifies these kinds of anachronisms. Its anachrony is manifest both in terms of the details it gives about future events in the life of Christ and in terms of the highly developed Christian vocabulary its sermons use. 
It is my argument that this anachrony is neither accidental nor debilitating. Rather, this anachrony is essential because the messianic, as messianic, is what retroactively reconfigures history itself. This essay reflects, in serial fashion, on the implications of this idea for the Book of Mormon’s historicity. Each unit in the series consists of (1) a concise re-formulation of the initial thesis, (2) an elaboration of the thesis in terms of the work of Walter Benjamin, and (3) an exploration of the thesis in relation to the Book of Mormon.