Early Christian and Jewish Rituals Related to Temple Practices
by John A. Tvedtnes
A number of early Jewish and Christian documents deal with elements found in modern LDS temples. As such, they are confirmation of the antiquity of our temple rites.1 The volume of information is such that it will not be possible to discuss all aspects in this brief paper. In addition to some of the articles I have written, I would refer you to the temple research written by such LDS researchers as Hugh Nibley, John M. Lundquist, Donald W. Parry, Stephen D. Ricks, and Matthew B. Brown.
Just as an example, let me note that I have, to date, found fifteen early Christian documents that speak of baptism for the dead, along with several Mandaean and Jewish texts. This information will be included in my article “Baptism for the Dead in Early Christianity,” scheduled for publication later this year in another FARMS temples volume.
In my previously published “Olive Oil as a Symbol of the Holy Ghost”2 and “Temple Clothing in Bible Times,”3 I discussed the initiatory nature of washing, anointing, and investiture, which are known from priestly as well as royal initiations. All three elements are found in the priestly ordination of Levi, described in one of the second-century B.C. Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs:
And I saw seven men in white clothing, who were saying to me, ‘Arise, put on the vestments of the priesthood, the crown of righteousness, the oracle of understanding, the robe of truth, the breastplate of faith, the miter for the head, and the apron for prophetic power.’ Each carried one of these and put them on me and said, ‘From now on be a priest, you and all your posterity.’ The first anointed me with holy oil and gave me a staff. The second washed me with pure water, fed me by hand with bread and holy wine, and put on me a holy and glorious vestment. The third put on me something made of linen, like an ephod. The fourth placed . . . around me a girdle which was like purple. The fifth gave me a branch of rich olive wood. The sixth placed a wreath on my head. The seventh placed the priestly diadem on me and filled my hands with incense, in order that I might serve as priest for the Lord God. (Testament of Levi 8:2-10.)4
The heavenly setting of this ceremony is also reflected in the story of Enoch’s ascension to heaven found in the medieval 2 Enoch 22:8-10:
And the Lord said to Michael, “Go, and extract Enoch from [his] earthly clothing. And anoint him with my delightful oil, and put him into the clothes of my glory.” And so Michael did, just as the Lord had said to him. He anointed me and he clothed me. And the appearance of that oil is greater than the greatest light, and its ointment is like sweet dew, and its fragrance like myrrh; and it is like rays of the glittering sun. And I looked at myself, and I have become like one of his glorious ones.5
A parallel account in 1 Enoch 71:3, written in the second century B.C., has Enoch declaring, “And the angel Michael, one of the archangels, seizing me by my right hand and lifting me up, led me out into all the secrets of mercy; and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness.”6
Such accounts are reminiscent of the medieval Jewish text attributed to the second-century A.D. Jewish Rabbi Akiba, in which, in the day of redemption, the Lord will be seated in Paradise explaining the Torah when he hears voices from Gehenna answering, “Amen.” In response, he sends the angels Michael and Gabriel with keys to open the gates of Gehenna and bring out these repentant souls. The text continues:
What, then, do Michael and Gabriel do? In that hour they got hold of the hand of each one of the wicked and pull them up, like a man who raises his fellow man and pulls him up from a pit . . . And Gabriel and Michael stand over them in that hour, and wash them, and anoint them with oil, and heal them of the wounds of Gehenna, and clothe them in beautiful and good garments, and take them by their hand, and bring them before the Holy One, blessed be He . . . And when they reach the gate of the Garden of Eden, first Gabriel and Michael enter and take counsel with the Holy One, blessed be He, answers them and says: “Let them enter and see my Glory.” (Midrash Alpha Beta diRabbi Akiba.)7
In early Christianity, following the apostasy, temple initiation eventually merged with the baptismal initiation, which included both washing and anointing with oil, along with donning of white clothing and sometimes the reception of a new name.8 Thus, in Acts of Thomas 157, we read that the apostle instructed one Mygdonia to unclothe her sisters and put “girdles” on them, after which he blessed the oil and anointed one of the sisters, then had Mygdonia anoint the others. He then led them into the water and baptized them.9 In another passage (Acts of Thomas 5), the apostle anoints the top of his head, his nostrils, his ears, his teeth, and the area around his heart.10
Especially significant in this respect are the five catechetical lectures delivered by the fourth-century bishop St. Cyril to newly-baptized Christians, comprising lectures 19-23 in the collection. In the first lecture (19:10-11), he speaks of the converts being “clothed in the garment of salvation, even Jesus Christ.” And reminds them that “these things were done in the outer chamber. But if God will, when in the succeeding lectures on the Mysteries we have entered into the Holy of Holies, we shall there know the symbolical meaning of the things which are there performed.”11 In the second lecture (20:2-4), he reminds his listeners that “those things, which were done by you in the inner chamber, were symbolical. As soon, then, as ye entered, ye put off your tunic; and this was an image of putting off the old man with his deeds. Having stripped yourselves, ye were naked . . . Then, when ye were stripped, ye were anointed with exorcised oil, from the very hairs of your head to your feet, and were made partakers of the good olive-tree, Jesus Christ . . . After these things, ye were led to the holy pool of Divine Baptism.”12 In the third lecture (21:3-4, 6), he explains that the ointment is symbolically applied to the forehead and “thy other senses; and while the body is anointed with the visible ointment, the soul is sanctified by Holy and life-giving Spirit. And ye were first anointed on the forehead . . . Then on your ears; that ye might receive the ears which are quick to hear the Divine Mysteries . . . Then on the nostrils . . . Afterwards on your breast,” then he notes that the anointing is for the high priest and king, suggesting that the initiate becomes a priest and king.13 In the fourth lecture (22:8), Cyril cites Ecclesiastes 9:8 (“Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment”) and adds, “But now, having put off thy old garments, and put on those which are spiritually white, thou must be continually robed in white: of course we mean not this, that thou art always to wear white raiment; but thou must be clad in the garments that are truly white and shining and spiritual.”14
The initiation as king and priest (or bishop), even in our century, also involves receiving a new name. Indeed, the giving of a new name during initiation rites is common in many cultures, as I learned while working on my BA in anthropology. Though much additional information could be added to what has already been published, I refer you to the excellent study by Bruce H. Porter and Stephen D. Ricks on this topic.15 I shall add just one reference from the Mandaeans, a religious community of Iraq and Iran who claim to be descendants of the disciples of John the Baptist. Here we quote from the document known as Diwan Masbuta d Hibil Ziwa (“The Scroll of the Baptism of Hibil Ziwa”), which refers to seals, handclasps (called kuöta in Mandaean), and names:
And the kings (spirits) took kuöta with him and (each) conferred on him some of his own glory. They gave him seven coverings and sealed him with a first seal; its name, a secret name, was graven thereon. Then (they sealed him with) a second seal, “the-seal-Maköiel” was graven thereon. (Then) a third; its name was “Zarziel-that-guardeth-him” and a secret name was engraven thereon. The fourth seal, “Great-Light” was graven thereon, a secret name. The fifth seal, “Light” was graven thereon, a secret name. The seventh seal, “Name-of-the-Life” was graven thereon (and?) “Radiance,” a secret name. Such were the sealings daily.16
The clasping of hands while revealing secrets is known from a number of early documents.17 Here, we shall examine just a few. In one of the fifth-century Christian Gnostic documents found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945, the Second Apocalypse of James (V,4), Jesus tells the apostle that he would reveal things to him, then told him “stretch out your [hand]. Now, take hold of me.”18 One of my favorite passages is found in the pseudepigraphic Joseph and Aseneth, which has been variously dated to as early as 100 B.C. and as late as 200 A.D.
And Levi was on Aseneth’s right (side) and Joseph on (her) left. And Aseneth grasped Levi’s hand. And Aseneth loved Levi exceedingly beyond all of Joseph’s brethren, because he was one who attached himself to the Lord, and he was a prudent man and a prophet of the Most High and sharp-sighted with his eyes, and he used to see letters written in heaven by the finger of God and he knew the unspeakable (mysteries) of the Most High God and revealed them to Aseneth in secret, because he himself, Levi, would love Aseneth very much, and see her place of rest in the highest, and her walls like adamantine eternal walls, and her foundations founded upon a rock of the seventh heaven. (Joseph and Aseneth 22:12-13.)19
The handclasp plays a role in a story told in the Ethiopic Christian Conflict of Adam and Even with Satan I, 70:11-16. Satan appeared to the first couple in the guise of an angel and wanted Adam to swear that he would receive the word of God from him. “Then Adam said, ‘I know not how to swear and promise.’ And Satan said to him, ‘Hold out thy hand, and put it inside my hand.’ Then Adam held out his hand, and put it into Satan’s hand; when Satan said unto him, ‘Say, now – so true as God is living, rational, and speaking, who raised the heavens in the space, and established the earth upon the waters, and has created me out of the four elements, and out of the dust of the earth – I will not break my promise, nor renounce my word.’ And Adam swore thus.”20
Many of the early Church Fathers wrote about mysteries and secret teachings. Just to list all the references alone would take more time than we can spare. So let’s concentrate on a few passages that discuss secret words.
From the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, we find that Judah, son of Jacob (Israel), twice broke his vow of secrecy as a result of drunkenness. He warned his children, “The mysteries of God and men wine discloses, just as I disclosed to the Canaanite woman the commandments of God and the mysteries of Jacob, my father, which God had told me not to reveal” (Testament of Judah 16:4).21 Judah also discussed his adulterous liaison with his daughter-in-law Tamar, who had disguised herself as a harlot (Genesis 38:13-26). Her pregnancy discovered, Judah was about to punish her when she presented to him certain of his belongings that he had left with the “harlot,” and he recognized them. But she apparently gave him yet another sign: “I summoned her and heard the words spoken in a mystery, when I was drunk and sleeping with her. So I could not kill her, because it was from the Lord” (Testament of Judah 12:6).22
The Acts of Thomas has several passages that seem to apply to temple rites, some of which we have already seen. In one passage, the apostle stands to pray and says, “thou Lord art he that revealeth hidden mysteries and maketh manifest words that are secret” (Acts of Thomas 10).23 During a subsequent prayer, he began, “Jesu, the hidden mystery that hath been revealed unto us, thou art he that hast shown unto us many mysteries; thou didst call me apart from all my fellows and spakest unto me three (one, Syr.) words wherewith I am inflamed, and am not able to speak them unto others” (Acts of Thomas 47).24
The second-third century Christian writer Hippolytus wrote that the “heretics” Basilides and Isodorus “say that [the apostle] Matthias communicated to them secret discourses, which, being specially instructed, he heard from the Saviour.”25
The prayer circle is also known from early Christian texts, and has been discussed at length by others.26 In my “Temple Prayers in Ancient Times,” that will appear this year in the next FARMS temples volume, I discuss other aspects of ancient temple prayer, notably posture and how prayer opens the veil to allow one to enjoy the presence of God.
Particularly impressive are the descriptions of the prayer circle given in the Christian Gnostic works known as the Pistis Sophia and the Books of Jeu, thought to date to the second century. In 1 Jeu 41, the resurrected Christ “said to them, the twelve: ‘Surround me, all of you.’” He then instructed them to “answer me and give glory with me as I give glory to my Father,” and offered a lengthy prayer. At the end of each utterance of the prayer, the apostles, in chorus, repeated, “Amen. Amen. Amen.”27
One of the most remarkable descriptions is in the fifth book of the Pistis Sophia, where we find Jesus standing at the altar praying, surrounded by his apostles and women disciples clad in linen garments (Pistis Sophia 138). A short while later, Jesus commands the disciples to set out an offering of wine, water, and bread. He then stands before the offering, with the disciples behind him clad in linen garments and making signs with their hands as Christ prays (Pistis Sophia 142).
The account of this offering is also found in another Coptic document, 2 Jeu 45-47, where Jesus has the disciples, men and women, dress in linen garments and surround him while he makes offerings at the altar and prays. The scene is followed by Jesus’ instructions on how the disciples can use the signs and names to pass by both gods and angels to enter the presence of the Father (2 Jeu 48-50). In 1 Jeu 41, Jesus has the twelve surround him while he prays and they repeat after him. In the following chapters (2 Jeu 42-43, rather than 1 Jeu), Jesus asks that the twelve and the women disciples surround him so he can teach them the mysteries of God. What then follows in the text is a discussion of signs, seals, and how to pass by the guardians at the veils to the presence of God.
Passing the Angels
A number of other early documents also discuss the guardians at the heavenly veils. In order to place these early witnesses into perspective, we must note the definition of the endowment as given by Brigham Young:
Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell (Journal of Discourses 2:31, emphasis added).
President Young spoke on this topic a number of times,28 as did some of the other apostles of his day.29 The Lord also told Joseph Smith that those who enter into eternal marriage, if they remain worthy, “shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19).
The guardians of the heavenly gates or veils are mentioned in a number of ancient texts. The third-century Christian writer Origen noted that the Orphian Gnostics believed that seven archons guarded the gates by which the soul ascends to heaven (Contra Celsum 6:24-38).30 According to 3 Enoch 18:3-4, an angel guards each of the doors of the seven heavenly palaces. The angels who guard the doors of heaven are mentioned in 3 Enoch 18:3; Chronicles of Jerahmeel 18:1, cf. 20:1-2; and Hekalot Rabbati 22:1. The guards of the gates of the aeons are also mentioned in Pistis Sophia 32, while Pistis Sophia 86 notes the nine guardians of the treasury of the light, which is the highest of the heavens in Gnostic lore. Even the Bible notes (Revelation 21:12-13) that twelve angels guard the twelve gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. In this respect, these heavenly gatekeepers are paralleled by the Levitic porters (doorkeepers) who served at the tabernacle and in the temple.31
The role of the heavenly sentinels, often called “thrones” because they are sometimes described as sitting on thrones, is noted in the third-century A.D. Apocalypse of Elijah 1:7-11:
“Therefore become sons to him since he is a father to you. Remember that he has prepared thrones and crowns for you in heaven, saying, ‘Everyone who will obey me will receive thrones and crowns among those who are mine.’ The Lord said, ‘I will write my name upon their forehead and I will seal their right hand, and they will not hunger or thirst. Neither will the son of lawlessness prevail over them, nor will the thrones32 hinder them, but they will walk with the angels up to my city.’ Now, as for the sinners, they will be shamed and they will not pass by the thrones, but the thrones of death will seize them and rule over them because the angels will not agree with them.”33
In one of the Nag Hammadi texts (Second Treatise of the Great Seth), Jesus promises that those who accept him “will pass by every gate without fear and will be perfected in the third glory.”34 Epiphanius, a fourth-century bishop of Cyprus, cited the Gospel of Philip as saying, “The Lord revealed unto me what the soul must say as it goeth up into heaven, and how it must answer each of the powers above” (Against Heresies 36:13).35
Chapters 33-40 of the Coptic 1 Jeu describe how Jesus instructed the apostles regarding the seals, names, and ciphers (hand-signs) they must use in order to prompt the “watchers” or guardians of the various heavens to open the veils and allow them entry.36 The account in 1 Jeu 33 is typical. It uses blanks and number-codes to conceal material that should not be revealed.
When you come to this place, seal yourselves with this seal: This is its name: . . ., while the cipher 70331 (?) is in your hand. Furthermore say this name . . . three times, and the watchers and the veils are drawn back, until you go to the place of their Father and he gives (you his seal and his name) and you cross over (the gate into his treasury).37
Another revealing passage is found in 1 Jeu 49:
But when you reach the six aeons [archangels], they will restrain you until you receive the mystery of the forgiveness of sins, because it is the great mystery which is in the treasury of the innermost of the innermost. And it is the whole salvation of the soul. And all those who will receive that mystery will surpass [pass by] all the gods, and all rulerships of these aeons, which are the twelve aeons of the invisible God, for this is the great mystery of the unapproachable one which is in the treasury of the innermost of the innermost. Now because of this, every man who will believe in the Son of the Light must receive the mystery of the forgiveness of sins, so that he will be completely perfected and completed in all mysteries . . . Then again when the pathways are purified I will give to you the mystery of the forgiveness of sins, and its defences and its seals and its ciphers and its interpretations. You yourselves, my disciples, if you have received these, when you are about to come forth from the body you will become pure light. And you will hasten upwards one after another, and go forth to the places in which all the aeons are spread out, until there are none upon the pathways, until you reach the Treasury of the Light. Then the watchers of the gates of the Treasury of the Light see the mystery of the forgiveness of sins which you have performed and its defences and all its injunctions. And they see the seal on your foreheads, and they see the cipher in your hands. Then the nine watchers open to you the gates of the Treasury of the Light, and you go into the Treasury of the Light. The watchers will not speak with you, but they will give you [their] seals and their mystery.38
Most of chapter 50 contains a list of the various individuals who will give to the individual their seals, mysteries, and the name of the Treasury of the Light. Regarding the soul’s destination, the text says,
Again you will pass in to their interior to the rank of the veils which are drawn before the great ruler (king) of the Treasury of the Light. They will give to you their great mystery and their seal and the great name of the Treasury of the Light. And they will be drawn back until you cross over and pass into them, until you reach the great Man, he who is the ruler (king) of this whole Treasury of the Light, whose name is Jeu.39
In one of the Nag Hammadi texts, the Apocalypse of Paul (V,2) 23, we find the apostle encountering angels at the gate of each of the ten heavens, who open to him because he was accompanied by the Holy Spirit. When he arrived at the seventh heaven, he encountered an old man who interrogated him. The Spirit instructed the apostle, “Give him [the] sign that you have, and [he will] open for you.’ And then I gave [him] the sign . . . and then the [seventh] heaven opened.”40
In a Mandaean text about the ascent of the soul to the realm of light, the soul is told, “O Soul! You are ascending to the Place of Light, wherefore do you cry to the great and sublime Life? Give your name and your sign which you received from the waves of water.”41
Jewish lore has similar beliefs. In Hekalot Rabbati 17:1-20:3, the adept passes through the seven doors of the seven heavenly temples, past angels whose name he must give, while presenting a seal, in order to enter the presence of God. The names and seals given to the angels are also mentioned in 3 Enoch 48D:5.
In the Pistis Sophia, the resurrected Christ tells how, when he descended from heaven, “the heavens opened” (Pistis Sophia 4). During the post-resurrection ascension, when he arrived at the gate of the first sphere, the gates opened and the dwellers of the sphere saw “the mystery of their name” on his garment and were surprised that he passed without them knowing (Pistis Sophia 12). The same thing happened in the second sphere (Pistis Sophia 13). When he ascended to the gates and veils of the twelve aeons, both opened for him (Pistis Sophia 14). He then ascended to the veils of the thirteenth aeon, which drew apart for him (Pistis Sophia 29).
A similar story is found in the account of the vision attributed to the prophet Isaiah but thought to have been written in the mid-second century A.D. We learn that Jesus had to give passwords to angels while descending through the seven heavens to be born on earth:
And those who kept the gate of the (third) heaven demanded the password, and the LORD gave (it) to them in order that he should not be recognized . . . And again I saw when he descended into the second heaven, that there again he gave the password, for those who kept the gates demanded (it), and the LORD gave (it) . . . And again I saw when he descended into the first heaven, that there he gave the password to those who kept the gates . . . And again he descended into the firmament where prince of this world dwells, and he gave the password to those who (were) on the left . . . And I saw when he descended and made himself like the angels of the air . . . he did not give the password (Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah 10:24-25, 27, 29, 31).42
In some early Jewish stories, the individual ascending to heaven is challenged by one or more angels who threaten to kill him, but is then rescued. Thus, Rabbi Ishmael reported that when he arrived at the heavenly palace, the angels were about to cast him out, but God sent the angel Metraton. “He grasped me with his hand before their eyes and said to me, ‘Come in peace into the presence of the exalted King’” (3 Enoch 1:1-5).43
The Jewish Zohar, though compiled in the thirteenth century, contains many elements taken from earlier sources. Zohar Leviticus 78b says,
Blessed are the righteous in this world and the next, because God desires to honour them and reveals to them profound secrets of the Holy Name which He does not reveal to celestial holy ones (angels). And therefore Moses was able to crown himself among those holy ones and they were not able to touch him, though they are like a burning flame and coals of fire. For otherwise how could Moses have stood among them. When God commenced to speak with Moses, the latter desired to know His holy names, disclosed and undisclosed, each one in fitting manner, and thus he came closer and learnt more than any other man. When Moses entered into the cloud and came among the angels, one named Gazarniel came up to him with flames of fire, with flashing eyes and burning wings, and sought to wound him. Then Moses mentioned a certain holy name which was traced with twelve letters, and the angel was utterly confused; and so with all the others.44
This story seems to be reflected in Zohar Exodus 58a, which says that when Moses went on the mountain, “a certain great angel, whose name, according to tradition, is Kemuel, and who is appointed guardian and chief over twelve thousand messengers, sought to attack him. Thereupon Moses opened his mouth and uttered the twelve letters of the Holy Name which the Holy One had taught him at the bush, and the angel departed from him to a distance of twelve thousand parsangs. And Moses walked in the midst of the cloud, his eyes flaming like coals of fire.”45
Admitted into God’s Presence
The ultimate goal in passing the heavenly sentinels is to enter into the presence of the Lord, which is achieved by passing through gates or veils. In the Testament of Isaac 6:4, we read, “Then they (the angels) took me by the hand and led me to the curtain before the throne of the father.”46 In the medieval Sepher Hekhalot (“Book of the [Heavenly] Temples”), Rabbi Ishmael reports being presented at the curtain that hangs before God.47
Compare this with a Nag Hammadi text, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth 58:7-14, which has the resurrected Christ speaking of those who “did not put me to shame, they were not put to shame. Since they were not afraid before me, they will pass by every gate without fear and will be perfected in the third glory.”48
A Final Note
Let me conclude with just a brief word about temple teachings. Whether anciently or in our day, temple ritual has always been accompanied by structural teachings intended to provide additional insights. For example, the temple teaches us things about the creation and our first parents that are not found in the Scriptures. While reviewing the following passage from an Armenian document, Concerning the Creation of Adam and the Incarnation of Christ our God 14-31, you should think of how the story of the Fall is presented in the temple in comparison with what we read in the book of Genesis.
When Adam departed and was walking around in the garden, the serpent spoke to Eve and said, “Why do you taste of all the trees, but from this one tree which is beautiful in appearance you do not taste?” Eve said, “Because God said, ‘When you eat of that tree, you shall die.’” But the serpent said, “God has deceived you, for formerly God was man like you. When he ate of that fruit, he attained this great glory. That is why he told you not to eat, lest eating [it] you would become equal to God.” When she heard the advice of the serpent, she wanted to become divine. She promptly picked and ate of the fruit. And immediately she became stripped.49 Now Adam came and saw his wife stripped, [and] he turned and said, “What is this you have done? Why did you eat of that fruit and become stripped?” Eve said, “This fruit is extremely sweet and tasty; you take also [and] eat.” She wanted to deceive Adam. Adam said, “Shall I eat and be stripped like you?” And Eve said, “I ate too much and was stripped because of that. You eat just a little.” Adam said, “I cannot taste it and become like you.” Eve said, “Even if you eat too much, you will not become stripped, because God loves you.” When Adam heard this he took the fruit into his hand, but he was afraid to eat. But Eve cried and begged him and said, “Eat and do not separate me from you. If we live, let us live together, and if we die, let us die together.” Now Adam thoroughly examined the fruit in his hand for three hours. Now he would want to eat it, and then he would not. But when he looked at the woman’s begging and [her] tears, he felt pity in his heart. When he saw her nakedness, he was afraid to eat. When he saw her beauty, he became foolish. Even though she was stripped, she was nevertheless beautiful because she was newly created and she glistened like a white pearl. But Adam, because of his love for the women, could not restrain himself and he ate of the fruit and stripped himself of the light. (Emphasis added.)50
1 When Joseph Smith introduced the temple endowment in May 1842, he referred to it as “the order of the Ancient of Days” (History of the Church 5:1-2), referring to one of Adam’s titles (D&C 27:11; 116:1; 138:38). This suggests that temple ceremonies go back to the beginning of mankind on earth.
2 John A. Tvedtnes, “Olive Oil as a Symbol of the Holy Ghost,” in Stephen D. Ricks and John W. Welch, The Allegory of the Olive Tree (Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book Company, 1994), 427-459.
3 Donald W. Parry, Temples in Antiquity (Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book Company, 1994).
4 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Garden City: Doubleday, 1983), 1:791.
5 Ibid., 1:138-9. Compare with the story in Moses 7:2-4.
6 Ibid., 1:49.
7 The Hebrew text was published in Adolph Jellinek, Bet haMidrasch (orig. 1938; reprint, Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1967), 3:27-29. The English translation used here is from Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1988), 252-53.
8 Though he does not discuss baptism as part of the initiation, see William J. Hamblin, “Aspects of an Early Christian Initiation Ritual,” in John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also By Faith (Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book Company, 1990), volume 1.
9 Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, 1955), 433.
10 Ibid., 366-67.
11 Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series (original 1894; reprint, Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1994), 7:146.
12 Ibid., 7:147.
13 Ibid., 7:150.
14 Ibid., 7:152.
15 Bruce H. Porter and Stephen D. Ricks, “Names in Antiquity: Old, New, and Hidden,” By Study and Also By Faith, edited by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book Company, 1990), 1:501-522.
16 E.S. Drower, The Haran Gawaita and the Baptism of Hibil-Ziwa (Vatican: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1953), 32.
17 For a study of this subject, see Todd M. Compton, “The Handclasp and Embrace as Tokens of Recognition,” By Study and Also By Faith, volume 1, edited by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks.
18 James M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library (3rd ed., San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1990), 274.
19 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:239.
20 S.C. Malan, The Book of Adam and Eve, also called The Conflict of Adam and Eve With Satan (London: Williams and Norgate, 1882), 85-86.
21 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:799.
22 Ibid., 1:798.
23 Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament, 368-369.
24 Ibid., 387.
25 Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers (original, 1886; reprint, Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1994), 5:107.
26 For ancient Christian prayer circles, see Hugh Nibley, “The Early Christian Prayer Circle”, BYU Studies 19/1 (Fall 1978): 41-47, reprinted as chapter 3 in Hugh Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity (Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book Company, 1987), 45-99, and Hugh Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies (Salt Lake City: FARMS and Deseret Book Company, 1986), 158-63, 182-3. For LDS prayer circles, see D. Michael Quinn, “Latter-day Saint Prayer Circle,” BYU Studies 19/1 (Fall 1978): 79-105, and the entries for “Altar” and “Prayer Circle” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992). The reader should note, however, that Todd Compton was correct when he wrote that “some of the examples cited by Nibley are not really group prayers, are not circles, and so on, though there are some similarities to prayer circles” (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 3:?).
27 Carl Schmidt and Violet MacDermot, The Books of Jeu and the Untitled Text in the Bruce Codex (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 92-98.
28 Here is a collection of statements on this subject by Brigham Young:
“Will you abide our counsel? I say again, my soul for any man’s, if they will abide our counsel, that they will go right into heaven. We have the signs and token to give to the porter at the door, and he will let us in” (History of the Church 7:240).
“I and my brethren have received our endowments, keys, blessings – all the tokens, signs, and every preparatory ordinance, that can be given to man, for his entrance into the celestial gate” (Journal of Discourses 1:278).
“When we talk of the celestial law which is revealed from heaven, that is, the Priesthood, we are talking about the principle of salvation, a perfect system of government, of laws and ordinances, by which we can be prepared to pass from one gate to another, and from one sentinel to another, until we go into the presence of our Father and God” (Journal of Discourses 2:139).
“He has taught you how to purify yourselves, and become holy, and be prepared to enter into His kingdom, how you can advance from one degree to another, and grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, until you are prepared to enter the celestial kingdom; how to pass every sentinel, watchman, and gate keeper” (Journal of Discourses, 2:315).
“All the riches, wealth, glory and happiness that we shall ever possess in heaven will be possessed on and around this earth when it is brought up into the presence of God in a sanctified and glorified state; and the sanctified ones who enter through the gate and pass the sentinel into the New Jerusalem, and into the presence of the Father and the Son, are the ones who will inherit the new heavens and the new earth in the presence of God, for here is the eternity, the glory and the power” (Journal of Discourses 10:35).
“Those who are counted worthy to dwell with the Father and the Son have previously received an education fitting them for that society; they have been made fully acquainted with every pass-word, token and sign which have enabled them to pass by the porters through the doors into the celestial kingdom” (Journal of Discourses 10:172).
“It is absolutely necessary that the Saints should receive further ordinances of the house of God before this short existence shall come to a close, that they may be prepared and fully able to pass all the sentinels leading into the celestial kingdom and into the presence of God” (Journal of Discourses 12:163-164).
29 Here are some of these declarations:
Heber C. Kimball: “Joseph always told us that we would have to pass by sentinels that are placed between us and our Father and God. Then, of course, we are conducted along from this probation to other probations, or from one dispensation to another, by those who conducted those dispensations” (Journal of Discourses 6:63).
Orson Pratt: “We shall enjoy all that has been put upon our heads, and, through the Priesthood, and signs and tokens that have been revealed, come forth in the first resurrection, and pass by the sentinels and the Gods that stand to keep the way of eternal lives” (Journal of Discourses 8:106).
Orson Hyde: “I tell you, Joseph holds the keys, and none of us can get into the celestial kingdom without passing by him. We have not got rid of him, but he stands there as the sentinel, holding the keys of the kingdom of God; and there are many of them beside him. I tell you, if we get past those who have mingled with us, and know us best, and have a right to know us best, probably we can pass all other sentinels as far as it is necessary, or as far as we may desire. But I tell you, the pinch will be with those that have mingled with us, stood next to us, weighed our spirits, tried us, and proven us: there will be a pinch, in my view, to get past them. The others, perhaps, will say, If brother Joseph is satisfied with you, you may pass. If it is all right with him, it is all right with me” (Journal of Discourses 6:154-5).
30 Compare the seven steps to God mentioned in Questions of Ezra A:19-21.
31 1 Chronicles 9:17-27; 15:18; 16:38, 42; 26:1-19; 2 Chronicles 8:14; 23:4-5, 19; 31:14; 34:13; 35:15; Ezra 2:42, 70; 7:7, 24; 10:2?; Nehemiah 7:1, 45, 73; 10:28, 39; 11:19; 12:25, 45, 47; 13:5. The band and officers sent by the chief priests to arrest Jesus were undoubtedly Levitic guards.
32 The thrones are of the angelic host (cf. Colossians 1:16 and many early Christian pseudepigraphic works). Hence, in ascending heaven, one must “pass by” these angels.
33 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:736-37.
34 James M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library, 366.
35 Cited in Montague Rhodes James, The Apocryphal New Testament, 12.
36 The term “watcher” is used in both the Bible and in pseudepigraphic texts to denote angelic guardians around the throne of God.
37 Carl Schmidt and Violet MacDermot, The Books of Jeu and the Untitled Text in the Bruce Codex, 83. In 2 Jeu 44, some of the names and seals are given only when one arrives at the various heavenly gates.
38 Ibid., 117-119.
39 Ibid., 122.
40 James M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library, 259.
41 Werner Foerster, Gnosis: A Selection of Gnostic Texts, translated by R. McL. Wilson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1974), 2:247.
42 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2:174.
43 Ibid., 1:255-256.
44 Maurice Simon and Harry Sperling, The Zohar (New York: Rebecca Bennet Publications, 1958), 5:86.
45 Paul P. Levertoff, Maurice Simon, and Harry Sperling, The Zohar (New York: Rebecca Bennet Publications, 1958), 3:180.
46 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1:909.
47 The Hebrew text was published in Adolph Jellinek, Bet haMidrasch, 5:187.
48 James M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library, 366.
49 That is, stripped of the heavenly garment with which Adam and Eve were clothed before the Fall. The story is quite common in early Jewish and Christian literature. See the discussion in my forthcoming “Baptism for the Dead in Early Christianity.”
50 W. Lowndes Lipscomb, The Armenian Apocryphal Adam Literature (Armenian Texts and Studies 8) (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1990), 262-264.