Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hugh Nibley 1910-2005

Renowned LDS scholar, Hugh W. Nibley, passed away Thursday at the age of 94. He made an incalculable contribution to LDS scholarship. FARMS is expected to publish his magnum opus on Abraham facsimile No. 2, One Eternal Round, which he did not finish in his lifetime.

I took Nibley's Pearl of Great Price class twice, once for credit and once I attended with my wife who was taking it for credit. Some classmates regularly taped his lectures (which my father once described as trying to take a drink from a fire hose -- read his foreword in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless), so there were often two or three tape recorders on the table at the front of the classroom. Nibley was completely oblivious to them. During one lecture, he tripped over the electrical cord of one of the machines, and it crashed to the floor breaking into several pieces. Nibley didn't even pause, but simply continued on giving his lecture.

I also had the opportunity to check his footnotes for "Treasures in the Heavens" -- there were more pages of footnotes than pages of the essay itself -- before it was published in Old Testament and Related Studies (the first volume in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley series published by FARMS). It was a daunting task because the sources were in a dozen languages: German, French, Greek, Latin, Coptic, Egyptian, Hebrew, Italian. It was made easier because Nibley's pencil notes (!) in the books in the BYU Library he had used as his sources often guided me to the quotes. I relied heavily on senior scholars to confirm Nibley's translations. But often, I simply had to consult with Nibley himself.

Given his incredible gifts and the cosmic sweep of his scholarship, the man himself was completely unpretentious. I was gratified that he remembered me and greeted me by name whenever we passed on campus.

Well fought the fight, good soldier. "May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

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