And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118.)
Rabban Gamaliel says: Provide thyself with a teacher, and eschew doubtful matters, and tithe not overmuch by guesswork. (The Living Talmud, tr. Judah Goldin [New York: New American Library, 1957], 72.)
Some years ago, I was teaching seminary in the Church Educational System. I had already come under the influence of Hugh Nibley and had largely set my life's course based on his example. Above all else, I considered him to be a great and inspiring teacher, the very best teacher I had ever known. During that period, I would occasionally have good-natured discussions with my seminary coordinator about the characteristics and qualities of a great teacher. At that time, there was a book that was widely used by seminary teachers to improve themselves as teachers. It was a book that emphasized "techniques," including flashy, cute, clever approaches to teaching, many of which seemed to me little more than shallow gimmicks meant to keep young peoples' attention for a few minutes at a time. I presented Nibley as my example of a great teacher, one who by the dynamic and compelling power of his intellect, combined with humility and spiritual greatness, was able to lead people of all ages to deeper understanding and commitment. I remember the supervisor granting that Dr. Nibley was a great scholar, but, he would say, "Nibley's no teacher!" We now have many years of Hugh Nibley's enormous influence on thousands of people at Brigham Young University, throughout the Church, and around the world to demonstrate, if demonstration is still needed, his greatness as a teacher.
This Festschrift, or collection of essays, in honor of Hugh Nibley had its genesis in a class in Near Eastern Archaeology that I taught for the Department of Anthropology at Brigham Young University during the Winter Semester of 1984. I brought up the subject one day in class with my students, many of whom were also "Nibleyites." Although I expressed to them my enthusiasm for the project, still I was skeptical about being able to actually bring it off, realizing as I did that such a Festschrift would be no ordinary scholarly undertaking and that it would challenge all participants to make it equal to its subject. After class one day, several of my students encouraged me to persist with the plan, and several also offered their assistance.
With this encouragement, I sent a proposal to the directors of the Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center (the most likely publishers) on February 7, 1984. One of the directors, S. Kent Brown, answered my proposal on March 16, stating that the directors had accepted the project and had appointed me its editor. Early in April, I sent Brown a tentative list of contributors, which he circulated among the other directors. In the meantime, I was consulting with colleagues at Brigham Young University and elsewhere as I prepared the first list of potential contributors. This list, consisting of thirty-four names, was completed in May 1984. Of the forty-five authors represented in the present two volumes, twenty-seven were on the first list. An additional seven papers were added to this Festschrift from "Tinkling Cymbals, Essays in Honor of Hugh Nibley," which were papers delivered in Provo, Utah, on the occasion of Nibley's sixty-fifth birthday in 1975, and were issued in typescript. These papers include those by Robert K. Thomas, Richard F. Haglund, Jr., C. Terry Warner and Arthur Henry King, Gordon C. Thomasson, John A. Tvedtnes, "The Melchizedek Material in Alma 13:13 – 19" by John W. Welch, and the bibliography by Louis Midgley, subsequently expanded and revised. An additional eight papers were brought into the volume as a result of the contacts of my good friend, colleague, and Nibley Festschrift coeditor Professor Stephen D. Ricks; and four more were added as a result of my contacts after coming to New York City. The resulting total is forty-seven papers contributed by forty-five authors, as well as a plate contributed by the noted artist Wulf Barsch, resulting in this massive and impressive two-volume work.
The original target date for the receipt of manuscripts was April 4, 1985. The final product will thus have been published very close to five years after that target date, six years after the first potential contributors were contacted. And so my original fears about the monumental nature of this undertaking were justified. And yet, after all of the difficulties, the delays, even the times when it appeared that the project might not be concluded, it is one of the greatest joys of my life to see it appear. During the six years since the inception of the idea, many people have made significant contributions to the success of the final product. There have been two assistant directors of publications of the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University, Professors S. Kent Brown and Charles D. Tate, Jr., who gave very considerable time, encouragement, and editorial skill and advice during their respective tenures in that position. The same holds true for their secretary, Charlotte Pollard. And from the very beginning, Professor Robert J. Matthews, dean of religious instruction at Brigham Young University and director of the Religious Studies Center, supported the project and gave his encouragement. Others who have lent invaluable assistance include Johnny Bahbah, Lyle Fletcher, Diane D. Gonzalez, Rebecca Ann Harrison, Cie Mason-Christian, Adam Lamoreaux, Susan Ullman Lamoreaux, Art Pollard, Dennis Ray Thompson, and James V. Tredway. Particular thanks are due to Shirley Smith Ricks, whose timely assistance during the final stages of the production of these volumes has prevented further delays in their completion. Thanks are also due to Deseret Book Company, especially Jack M. Lyon, Patricia J. Parkinson, Patti L. Tayor, Kent Ware, and Emily Watts, for assistance in seeing this project through to completion.
In the spring of 1989, the responsibility for the publication of the Festschrift was transferred from the Religious Studies Center to the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (F.A.R.M.S.) and Deseret Book Company. The founder and current member of the board of directors of F.A.R.M.S., Professor John W. Welch, and F.A.R.M.S. president, Professor Stephen D. Ricks, have been the main figures, who, from the spring of 1989 on, ensured and guaranteed that the accumulated papers would be published intact and suggested that they be published in a format conformable to the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. We owe them, as well as F.A.R.M.S., an inestimable debt of gratitude for their support of this project, and indeed for the magnificent publication of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley.
It was in the fall semester of 1959 that I walked into a Brigham Young University history course entitled "Early Oriental History," taught by Hugh Nibley. I wish that every young student could have the experience that I still recall so vividly, of being dazzled, inspired, awestruck, challenged, and stretched to the very limits of my ability and beyond. Each lecture was a fabulous new journey into what was for me uncharted territory. But Nibley himself was leading the way, reading from books and journal articles that he had just discovered the day or the hour before class, sharing with us his unbridled excitement and enthusiasm for the ancient Near Eastern cultures, teaching us the process of scholarship – how theories change, how weak and human scholars are, and instilling in us a love for languages. He always brought us to the very leading edge of current scholarship. He didn't patronize us or pander to us; in his own way he treated us as equals and assumed that we had the same interests, the same enthusiasms, and the same capacity for work that he had. I still have my notes for the class, as well as my exam booklets. Although Nibley will probably be horrified to read this, I still refer to those notes and use them in my own teaching. Although some of the facts and dates in them may be outdated, the underlying ideas are not, and indeed I have been amused to note in recent years that some of Nibley's main ideas from those years, which in the meantime went out of fashion, have now come back into fashion, are again current, and, most important, are being validated by the newest discoveries from archaeological excavation in the Soviet Union and Central Asia!
There were always those who quibbled over NIbley's footnotes, a complaint that I still hear. My experience is that his footnotes, by which I mean the underlying foundation of his scholarship, have withstood the test of time remarkably well. But more important to me, I have always felt that many scholarly careers could be built on his footnotes, by which I mean following his leads, pursuing topics that he touched on briefly, brilliantly pointing the way that he himself did not take at that time but that would be fruitful for someone else to pursue. And it is a tribute to him that many of the papers included in this Festschrift are based on his footnotes, so to speak, representing scholarship that the author learned from Nibley, a hint that one might have found in one of his books or articles and followed up on, or a subject that the writer learned at Nibley's feet. We, the editors, feel that every major subject that Dr. Nibley has encompassed in his vast learning and scholarly production is represented here by at least one article, or by an outstanding expert in that field. The table of contents lists papers on subject areas that include the Bible and the ancient Near East, early and Eastern Christianity and formative Judaism, aspects of kingship and the sacred, the religion and society of Asia, the Classics, scriptures of the Latter-day Saints, and modern themes dealing religion, literature, and society. We are especially proud of the many papers included here by world-renowned scholars, including Drs. Aziz Atiya (now regrettably deceased), James Charlesworth, Cyrus Gordon, Jacob Milgrom, Jacob Neusner, and Raphael Patai, whose papers attest to the wide respect in which Dr. Nibley's work, as well as his personal example, is held. Finally, depending on how one counts these things, we can say that there are represented in the volumes the second or the third generations of Nibley's influence. As editors and publishers, we wish to state that the opinions cited in the various articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily coincide with those of our own.
Five possessions did the Holy One, blessed be he, set aside for himself in this world, to wit: Torah, one possession; the Heavens and the Earth, another possession; Abraham, another possession; Israel, another possession; the Temple, another possession. (The Living Talmud, 238.)
John M. Lundquist
New York City
November 21, 1989