Christmas Story 3. The Birth of Jesus: Matthew.

Matthew begins his narrative of Jesus’ birth with the information that Mary was betrothed to Joseph. And before they came together as sexual partners, it’s discovered that she’s already pregnant. Matthew says the pregnancy is by the Holy Spirit, but he doesn’t mean that other people knew this—he makes you an insider here. He’s writing from long distance, many years after the events (and we don’t have any idea how he can know stuff like this—in fact, he probably does some interpolation of tradition—back writing the gospel narrative into the preamble of the birth as we will see that Luke does. Matthew and Luke also incorporate their contemporary knowledge here and there—imparting a presentism to the story—more on this later).

Coming back to Matthew’s narrative, he is going to explain and explore the struggle of Joseph over the news that Mary is pregnant. Matthew’s story is really a story of Joseph—it’s Joseph’s genealogy for example. Luke tells Mary’s story, without knowing the complementarity of Matthew.
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Early National Systems: Millennial Hopes, III (Catholics in America)

Catholics in America were Millennialists, not in name or official doctrine, but in other more fundamental ways. Should a visiting alien observe antebellum America’s religious practice, he/she/it would find rather interesting parallels among the practices of Protestant pre-millennialist sects, post-millennial socialism, and Roman Catholics. To be sure, Catholics were more staid, less free to experiment in some ways, but they didn’t shy from revival methodology, and centuries long Catholic practice could be seen in double exposure among various American Millennialist offshoots, including Shakers, Owenites, Albert Brisbane, and others.
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Early National Systems: Millennial Hope, II. William Miller.

Joseph Smith seems wedged in the creases of nineteenth-century Protestant worldviews in any number of ways. From Election to Scripture, to Millennial aspiration, he separated, combined, and “synergized” a vibrant world that respected a deep tie between science, such as it was, and a fractured system of religious beliefs that overlay a diverse and growing marketplace of ideas and economies. Smith interacted, mostly at a distance, with the lights of his day and one of those was William Miller. Shaken from a Deistic picture of God’s interaction with the world by what he, as a eighteen-year-old captain in the war of 1812, saw as divine intervention, Miller began a religious journey of devotion and disappointment. That journey turned out to be a microcosm that portended the larger society’s gradual descent from optimism to a grudging acceptance of lesser purpose.
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Early National Systems: Millennial Hope, I

Many Americans in antebellum times saw their nation as an engine for the bright future of biblical end times. Ranging from Henry Clay’s practical and even semi-realistic “American System”[1] to social engineering designed to hurry Christ’s return to earth, it was characteristic of the age that even non-believers saw the idea as a comfortable metaphor for the destiny of what they considered a political example to the world. Modern Americans seem far from such notions, but there are pockets of American society where those nineteenth-century ideas persuade and guide the minds of dedicated souls, Mormons among them.
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Joseph Smith Papers Newsletter: Number 1.

To have a look at the first newsletter for the JSPP, click through.

Preaching in Antebellum America: An Example.

As some of you may know, I am fascinated by Protestant preaching in the decades prior to the Civil War in America. This partly stems from my book project, now nearing publication, A Textual Study of the Funeral Sermons of Joseph Smith. Mormon preaching in Joseph Smith’s time was often modeled on Protestant forms, but there were important exceptions. Much of Joseph Smith’s preaching was the result of the way church government evolved over time. But I won’t digress to that. Funeral sermons in Protestantism during the period often took place in the home of the deceased. This was often true even in the special case of preachers themselves, especially those in smaller interior churches.
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Connecticut Readers: Talk on John Eliot’s Translation of the Bible

On Saturday, March 1, from 1-3 pm, the Mashantucket Museum, in Mashantucket, Connecticut, will host a talk and exhibit of “America’s Oldest Bible,” John Eliot’s translation into the Massachusetts language. The talk will feature Wampanoag language specialist Jesse Little Doe Baird and Linford Fisher of Brown University. For more information, go to the Yale Indian Papers Project’s facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/yaleindianpapersproject.