Saturday, July 26, 2008


Word number four in the Hebrew Bible: Shamayim, translated "heavens."

From a root meaning lofty.

In the Satires of Juvenal, a Roman work of the 1st Century AD, Juvenal speaks of Jews worshipping the numen of the heavens. In the footnote to my edition of the Satires, by Dr. Peter Green, numen is suggested as the translation of shamayim, and Dr. Green suggests that shemayim is one of the alternate names of God in Jewish tradition, to avoid pronouncing His actual name.

Is shamayim then a synonym for Great Mind or did Dr. Green confuse the term with HaShem, another alternate name for God?

I have put the question to a Jewish webgroup of which I am a member and have not yet received a response.

From whence we came ...

The idea that we came from heaven to this earth is instinctively felt and cherished by many in Christianity though their clergy officially revile it.

The pre-Earth existence -- not reincarnation but simply the idea that we once lived as spirits with God our Father and now live here, clothed in mortal flesh -- is one of the beautiful doctrines explained in the restoration of the Gospel.

While reading in 1st John the other day, I came across this exquisite verse:

"I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father."

If we did not once live, as conscious, sentient beings, with our Heavenly Father, what could this verse possibly mean?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Some people are very disturbed by one of the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, namely:

"We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly." (The Article continues with: "We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." That will be the subject of another discussion.)

Why should this be a problem? Should Christians be bound to believe that an incorrectly translated passage in the Bible is still the word of God? That's rather scary, to me. I cannot believe that every person in the world who takes up the job of translating the Bible is inspired or infallible. Some make glaring errors, such as the infamous edition which left out a very important "not" from the "thou shalt nots" of the Ten Commandments.

The above statement and common sense also proves that it IS possible to incorrectly translate the Bible. In fact, critics of the Prophet Joseph Smith routinely accuse him of having done so himself.

I love the Bible. I read it as often as I can. I firmly believe that it is inspired of God. I also believe that it does contain some errors suffered in the many thousands of years that it passed through the hands of man, but that those errors are few and that the Book remains Scripture.

Check out this very good, non-LDS essay on the whole concept of Bibliolatry -- worshipping the Bible.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A question of perspective

Psalms 116: 15: is translated in some cases: "Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints/holy ones;" elsewhere, as in the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh, "Grievous in the eyes of the Lord ..."

The word in question is yakar, dear or expensive. Is the word in this context better understood as a great loss, therefore grievous, or as something valuable, therefore precious, as in these holy ones die in God and are taken to Him?

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Hebrew word-play?

In Alma, chapter 1, in the Book of Mormon, covering events circa 90 B.C., the abridger Mormon describes the organization of the congregation of the righteous -- their shul, I suppose.

He lays emphasis on the priests imparting the "word" of God. Word in Hebrew is "dabar." And what was the effect of imparting that word? They did establish the "affairs" of the church. "Affairs, " as in business, not infidelity, is a rare word in scripture. It shows up only a handful of times. One of those times is in Psalms 112:5, which very passage Mormon seems to have had in mind. For the psalmist talks about a good man handling his affairs with discretion -- and being generous, lending to those in need.

Which is exactly what Mormon says that Nephite congregation did. (cf. Alma 1: 27).

Strong's Concordance of the Bible informs us that "affair" in Hebrew is "dabar," too, perhaps because business involves words.

So we have two instances of dabar, one leading to the other: imparting the dabar of God ... leads to the establishment of the dabar of the church.


This month's National Geographic features Iran, and in a few minutes, I am going to sit down and enjoy reading it.

Iran -- such a puzzle of a country! To many minds today, the word evokes a shudder. Yet, by its ancient name, Persia, the most romantic of imagery is conjured up: Persian rugs, Persian cats, etc.

To the ancient West, Persia was the perennial enemy -- whether the Evil Empire that threatened heroic Greece, the land of the once Great King who fell to Alexander the Great, or the Parthians who frustrated Roman advancement into the East.

Ironically, when the West embraced Christianity, it embraced a book which portrayed a completely different Persia. To the Jews before the Common Era, Persia was a benevolent master, much preferred to the horrible Babylonians that came before. Cyrus, king of Persia, may have been a hiss and a byword to the Athenians but the Bible venerates him. And the Jews had far more trouble from the Hellenizing legions of Alexander than they ever did from the Persians.

Yet this very land of Persia, today's Iran, has to be modern Israel's greatest nightmare.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

In the image of God

We look like God.

Does that bother you?

It shouldn't.

Genesis says that we are created in His image. The Apostle Paul boldly declared that we are His offspring.

Of course, as mortals, we are but pale shadows of His perfect and eternal image. No man can look upon His glory and live -- unless transfigured, strengthened as it were for the purposes of God. He which is of God, he hath seen the Father ...

Does Genesis refer only to a spiritual image, personality or something non-physical? Not likely. The Hebrew word is tselem, and it is used elsewhere in scripture to refer to the carved idols that pagans made which they believed to be the very likenesses of their gods. It does not have reference to some airy allegory.

The Bible, word by word, continued

The third word in the Tanakh is Elohim, bereshit bara Elohim. It is always translated God, and therefore perhaps the mystery surrounding the word is appropriate.

For, literally, in the Hebrew, Elohim should be translated "Gods." Plural. eloh + im. But nobody does that, not even the Mormons, accused though we are of polytheism. We designate Elohim as the sacred, personal name of the Father, who is one Being, as differentiated from Jehovah, the Son.

I am told that Allah of the Muslims derives from the same root, without that puzzling pluralization.

Perhaps a secularist would resolve the mystery by deciding that the early Hebrews were polytheists and Elohim is a leftover from that distant age, preserved like literary amber in the text of the Tanakh by the reluctance of later scribes to alter the ancient wording.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I visited some pathetic anti-Mormon site the other day that practically cackled in glee to announce that more anti than pro Mormon sites and blogs exist on the Internet. This, the writer exulted, signals the beginning of the decline of the Church.


The Church has always been outnumbered. A hundred years ago, far more printing presses cranked out attack literature about the Church than ever anything positive. And yet, the Church survived.