The following is a photo of a linen and wool screen curtain (velum) that comes from a monastery at Antinoë (Antinopolis), Egypt, and dates from the 5th-6th century. It is likely an artifact of the early Coptic Christians. It depicts a praying couple beneath an apse in a church or temple, with a Coptic inscription written in Greek script underneath. The apse of a church building is near the east end, where the altar is located. There are columns on the left and right, perhaps symbolizing Boaz and Jachin, pillars that flanked the entrance in the porch of Solomon’s Temple, and have come to symbolize the temple ever since. The figures are dressed in liturgical clothing, including what appears to be a mitre, a veil, and robes, and in the traditional early Christian attitude of prayer with uplifted hands. Size: 1.05 x 0.86 m. It is located at the Benaki Museum, Athens. (Thanks Chad!)
I again return to a former post I wrote in 2008 about an obscure book I stumbled across entitled The Light of Truth as Revealed in the Holy Scriptures, published in 1916 by one Levi Rightmyer, a hefty book at 967 pages, and freely downloadable from Google. I have still been unable to find any more information more about this author Levi Rightmyer, unfortunately, and would be interested to know more about his background if anyone is aware. Although not LDS (although he does mention the Mormons once in the book), he came very close to approximating many of the more esoteric LDS beliefs regarding Melchizedek, the priesthood, the temple, the judgement, theosis or deification, and the afterlife. It seems that Levi had an experience similar to Joseph Smith, which caused him to turn to the scriptures to find the truth, this from the preface:
Familiar with many of the conflicting religious beliefs of these and former days, Mr. Rightmyer was early filled with an earnest determination to search the Scriptures for himself, and if possible to find out the truth contained therein. (Preface)
It’s been a long time coming, since September 2008 to be exact, and I’d like to finally complete this series of posts on the seal of Melchizedek. It is probably one of the most trafficked series of posts on this website. It’s drawn a lot of attention, and may have even been part of what compelled a BYU scholar, Alonzo L. Gaskill, to publish an article about it in The Religious Educator at BYU in 2010, which article I’d like to talk about.
But first, there are a few other artifacts related to the symbol that I’d like to share. As I pointed out in Part 2, this seal is most prominently found as displayed in the mosaics and iconography in the basilicas of Ravenna, Italy. Indeed, this is very likely where Hugh Nibley saw this symbol originally, as perhaps did Michael Lyon, and where he may have coined the name the “seal of Melchizedek.” The symbol is shown on the altar cloths in these mosaics, shown next to Melchizedek, Abel, and Abraham, in making sacrificial offerings to God. The altar cloth also shows gammadia in the corners, right-angle marks like the Greek letter gamma, which is also very interesting, and worthy of a study in and of itself.
To begin, I want to note again that to date I have not found any evidence for this symbol being called the “seal of Melchizedek” by any other scholar, historian, or historical figure in recorded history before Hugh Nibley and Michael Lyon. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but it is likely a conception that began with the Latter-day Saints, making a logical connection between the symbol and the Biblical figure found adjacent to it in the mosaics. [Read more…]
The Christmas story from Luke 2 reads in part:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:8-20)
Most of us are very familiar with these scriptures, as it is tradition in many families to read this story at Christmastime every year to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.
But who were the shepherds? Have you, like me, considered the angelophany to the shepherds in their fields something that was completely random? Were the angels announcing the birth of the Savior abroad in the land, and this was just one of the accounts that was recorded in scripture? Or was there a greater purpose to the angelic revelation specific to these shepherds? [Read more…]