Kuten eräs entinen BYU:n historian professori
huomioi v. 1984, "[Nibley] on toiminut pelastusrenkaana niille
myöhempien aikojen pyhille, joille dissonanssi*
on sietämätöntä. ... Hänen panoksensa
dissonanssin käsittelemiselle ei niinkään ole siinä,
mitä hän on kirjoittanut, vaan siinä, että
hän on kirjoittanut. Tunnettuani Hugh Nibleyn neljänkymmenen
vuoden ajan, olen sitä mieltä, että hän on
leikitellyt lukijoidensa kanssa koko ajan. ... Suhteellisen harvat
myöhempien aikojen pyhät lukevat niitä Nibleyn
kirjoja, joita he antavat toisilleen, tai niitä runsaasti
viitteillä varustettuja artikkeleita, joita hän on tuottanut
kirkon julkaisuihin. Useimmille meistä riittää
se, että ne ovat olemassa."
Gary Bergera ja Ron Priddis teoksessaan BYU: A House
of Faith, s. 362.
... koska halusimme yhteyskohtia, me löysimme
yhteyskohtia aina, kaikkialla, ja joka välissä.
Umberto Eco kirjassaan Foucault's Pendulum
Mormoniuskon arkkipuolustaja Hugh Nibley sai epätavallisen
arvostelun Kent P. Jacksonilta v. 1988 BYU Studies-julkaisusarjassa.
On virkistävää kuulla näitä rehellisiä
mielipiteitä ortodoksiselta mormonikirkon jäseneltä.
The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. Osa 1,
Vanha testamentti ja siihen liittyvät tutkimukset. Toim. John
W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum ja Don E. Norton. Salt Lake City: Deseret
Book ja FARMS (the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies),
1986. xiv; 290 pages. $15.95.
Hugh Nibley on tunnetuin ja arvostetuin myöhempien
aikojen pyhien oppineista. Yli neljänkymmenen vuoden ajan hän
on kiehtonut lukijoitaan ja kuulijoitaan tietokirjamaisella tietoudellaan,
ymmärryksellään ja väsymättömällä
mormonioppeja puolustavalla tutkimuksellaan. Ei ole liikaa väittää,
että hänestä on tullut legendaarinen hahmo akateemisissa
He has developed a remarkable following among his
readers and former students, several of whom now continue his work
in academic professions of their own. This book, published by Deseret
Book and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies,
inaugurates an ambitious multivolume project to gather and publish
"all of Hugh Nibley's published books and articles, as well as many
other previously unpublished papers and transcribed talks"(vi).
The Collected Works series represents a major effort to honor him
for his many accomplishments.
Nibley has had his detractors as well. Because
of his unhesitating willingness to speak out in defense of Latter-day
Saint positions, he often finds himself a target for the Church's
critics. Since his 1946 publication of No
Ma'am, That's Not History, he has been seen by many as the
Church's chief apologist. ... My own serious misgivings about his
methodology do not detract from my admiration for his life of scholarship
consecrated to the highest cause.
In the present volume, eleven items are collected
which are related in some way to the Old Testament. They were presented
originally either in print or from the speaker's platform between
1956 and 1980. Only three of the eleven (chaps. 1,4, and 6) had
not been published previously. Echoing the feelings of Nibley's
followers throughout the Church, editor John W. Welch suggests in
his Foreword that most of Nibley's lifetime total of nearly two
hundred titles are classics (ix). If that is in fact the case, then
this volume has been severely shortchanged; nothing in it can be
called a classic. It is, in fact, a disappointing collection.
There are several areas about which I have concerns
regarding the material in this book:
1. In most of the articles Nibley shows a tendency
to gather sources from a variety of cultures all over the ancient
world, lump them all together, and then pick and choose the bits
and pieces he wants.
By selectively including what suits his presuppositions
and ignoring what does not, he is able to manufacture an ancient
system of religion that is remarkably similar in many ways to our
own--precisely what he sets out to demonstrate in the first place.
There are serious problems involved in this kind
of methodology. The various religious communities from whose documents
Nibley draws his material had mutually exclusive beliefs in many
areas. By removing their ideas from their own context (thus rendering
them invalid) and joining them with ideas from other communities--similarly
removed from their own context--Nibley creates an artificial synthesis
that never in reality existed. The result would be unacceptable
and no doubt unrecognizable to any of the original groups.
Generalization is the key ingredient. Such phrases
as "the ancient world is now all one" (13), "ancient civilization
was ..." (43), and "according to the ancients" (131) presuppose
a common worldview for all the disparate cultures of the ancient
world. But this idea is as unhelpful as "according to modern man"
would be to postulate a common ideology for Ottoman bureaucrats,
Bolshevik revolutionaries, Nazi fascists, Afghan peasant women,
and Manhattan Yuppies. In spite of influences such as Hellenism,
the Roman Empire, and Christianity, the ancient world was as diverse
as our own, if not more so--a fact that is generally ignored in
Nibley's chapter "Treasures in the Heavens" is one
of the most sophisticated in the book, but in it the most puzzling
examples of this methodological pitfall can be found. It speaks
of the " 'treasure' texts," a term which is not defined but which,
judging from the sources cited, must include documents from the
Old and New Testament pseudepigrapha, the Essenes, the Mandaeans,
the Gnostics, the Manichaeans, the Early Christian Fathers, the
ancient Egyptians, and the classical Greek poets.
If we define an artificial collection like this--which spans hundreds
of years, thousands of miles, and widely diverse societies and religions--as
all being the same (they were "all teaching very much the same thing,"
), we can bring forth proof that "the ancients" believed anything
we want them to believe.
This kind of method seems to work from the conclusions
to the evidence--instead of the other way around. And too often
it necessitates giving the sources an interpretation for which little
support can be found elsewhere. I found myself time and time again
disagreeing with this book's esoteric interpretations of Qumran
passages. In several places Nibley
sees things in the sources that simply don't seem to be there
(for example, most of the preexistence references in the Dead Sea
Scrolls, cited in chap. 7). This is what inevitably happens when
scholars let their predetermined conclusions set the agenda for
the evidence. The work in this book is better informed and more
sophisticated than the Dead-Sea-Scrolls-prove-the-gospel-is-true
firesides and tapes that have been popular around the Church, but
the methodology is not much different.
2. In this book Nibley often uses his secondary
sources the same way he uses his primary sources--taking phrases
out of context to establish points with which those whom he quotes
would likely not agree. I asked myself frequently what some authors
would think if they knew that someone were using their words the
way Nibley does (the same question I asked myself concerning his
ancient sources as well).
3. Several of the articles lack sufficient documentation
and some lack it altogether. This is to be expected in a collection
that includes popular articles and transcripts of speeches. The
editors clearly deserve our praise for trying to bring Nibley's
footnotes up to professional standards. But given the complexity
of the material, it was not always possible.
The first article, for example, is riddled with
undocumented quotations. Some of Nibley's most puzzling assertions
remain undocumented--or unconvincingly documented--even in those
articles that are footnoted heavily. The two most extensively referenced
articles, "Treasures in the Heavens" and "Qumran and the Companions
of the Cave," display the opposite problem. The seemingly endless
footnotes in those articles suffer from dreary overkill, and yet
too often I was disappointed by searching in vain in them for proof
for the claims made in the text.
4. Nibley's wit has made him one of the most sought-after
speakers in the Church. But I am dismayed to find in this collection
several passages in which his
satire tends toward sarcasm and name-calling, which have no
place in serious scholarship. A frequent vehicle for this is the
straw-man approach. Nibley frequently misrepresents his opponents'
views (through overstatement, oversimplification, or removal from
context) to the point that they are ludicrous, after which he has
ample cause to criticize them. This may make amusing satire, but
it is not scholarship. Nibley has made a fine career of responding
to those who have either willfully or unknowingly misrepresented
Joseph Smith and the gospel. Thus I am troubled that this book would
contain the same kind of distortion. If it is unfair when directed
against us, is it somehow an acceptable method when directed at
Among those satirized in this book are "the learned"
(8), archaeologists (chap. 2), "the clergy" (38-39), "professional
scholars" (39), "secular scholars" (39), "the doctors" (217-18),
"the schoolmen" (217), and "the doctors, ministers, and commentators"
(221). We read that recent document discoveries "have proven so
upsetting" (8), "startling" (241), "disturbing" (241), and "maddening"
(241) to people of this sort, and that "there was a lot of political
and other pressure to keep them from coming out" (125). These are
frequent, but inaccurate and grossly unfair, leit-motifs in this
book. "The clergy," according to Nibley (I have no idea who this
means here), exhibited "marked coolness" to the Dead Sea Scrolls
(39). Why would they be "warm" to them, or "cold," or anything else?
The Dead Sea Scrolls are irrelevant to what clergy do; most don't
know or care that they exist.
5. My final area of concern is more properly directed
at the editors than at Hugh Nibley. What is the point of publishing
some of this material? There clearly is merit in republishing significant
material that has been unavailable to readers for many years. But
few thinkers in the history of the world have been so good that
everything they ever wrote or spoke should be memorialized in this
way. Several of the chapters in this book, particularly 9 and 10,
are so weak that the editors would have been doing Nibley a much
greater honor if they had left them out. What is the point of resurrecting
such material, which is now completely out-of-date and was not even
quality work when first published three decades ago? In doing so
they have not done Nibley a service, nor have they served his readers.
*dissonanssi = ristiriitaisuus,
BYU Studies sivusto (off-site)
kritiikki Nibleyn kommentaariin Aabrahamin
kirjasta löytyy teoksessa The
Word of God Ed Ashmentin esseessä "Dealing with Dissonance"