Sunday, August 31, 2008

Astounding Claims

Tonight I studied 1st John, which epistle launches with a sober yet astounding claim:

Its author, traditionally John the Apostle, declares without equivocation, that he has seen, heard and touched the Word of Life, even Jesus Christ.

This was not the typical literature being published in the 1st century A.D. The bestsellers of the day were more likely to speak of ancient myths in which no educated person still believed; of philosophy, such as the Stoicism of Epictetus; or of the natural sciences, such as the writings of Pliny or Strabo.

Christianity was completely out of step with the jaded, materialistic, oh-so-modern temper of the times, and was most unwelcome.

1,800 years later, in a veritable age of railways, as the late Dickens dismissively noted, a New York farmboy had the audacity to relaunch Christianity with all its original fervor, miracles and bold doctrines. He would even dare to announce that he had personally seen the Father and the Son, as well as a host of other notables that some of the learned Christians in his society had dismissed as mere myths, such as Moses and Elijah; and others whom the skeptics of the day might agree had once lived but were long vanished from the universe: John the Baptist and Paul, for example.

He would declare even that the Apostle John had never tasted of death but had received the call from the Lord to walk the earth and minister until He saw fit to call him back.

Which claim would surely lead to the consideration that John is no stranger to the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City and might even have a desk there.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A question

Jesus identified Himself clearly in the New Testament as I Am, which any Jew of the time knew meant Jehovah. Therefore, they took up stones to execute Him for blasphemy.

So a question to believers in the Trinity: How can Jesus be God but not the Heavenly Father if God the Heavenly Father is Jehovah -- I Am -- but not Jesus?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chains and cords

I noticed a few weeks ago the similarities, in words and tone, between Psalms 116, in the Bible, and Alma 36, in the Book of Mormon.

It is quite possibly that the author of Alma 36, being of Hebrew derivation, knew and loved this psalm, though it is not as familiar as others to our modern ears.

Psalms 116: 3-4, 16:

"The sorrows of death compassed me,
and the pains of hell gat hold upon me:
I found trouble and sorrow.

Then called I upon the name of the Lord;
O Lord, I beseech thee,
deliver my soul

...Oh Lord, thou hast loosed my bonds."

Alma 36: 18:

"... I cried within my heart:
O Jesus, thou Son of God
have mercy on me,
who am in the gall of bitterness
and am encircled about
by the everlasting chains of death ...

In my study of the Hebrew Tanakh today, I learned that the word, (chbl) translated "sorrows" in this Psalm can also be translated as "bonds" or "cords." The authors of the King James Version preferred to stick with "sorrows" but the authors of the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh use "bonds," which runs a clearer thread of continuity through the psalm. The bonds (chbl) mentioned at the beginning are released at the end.

The latter translation also more closely matches Alma's psalm, he who had found himself encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. True, "chains" (ziyqah) is a different word from cords or bonds, yet easily a synonym.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alphabet, Word, Creation

A Jewish associate of mine on another website reports that the first sentence of the Bible – bereshit bara elohim shamayim eretz – actually is a little bit grammatically more complex than that. It requires an “et” before shamayim (heavens).

“ET is a word that is not translatable into English. It is like a marker that says - "a definite direct object is next." Thus there needs to be an ET before THE heavens and THE earth. If there was no the, there would not need to be an ET, but there is a deeper meaning. ET is spelled - Aleph Tav. And Aleph Tav is an abbreviation for the Aleph -BET. Aleph is the first letter of the ALPHABET and Tav the last. So in a beginning God created the ALPHA-BET. And God did this before creating the heavens and the earth. God used the letters, the building blocks, to create the world.”

Could John have had this very concept in mind when he spoke of Logos, The Word, which was with God and was God? When you create Alphabet, you create Word. And it seems to connect as well with the Savior’s statement that He is Alpha and Omega, the Greek equivalent of Aleph-Tav, the beginning and the end.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


"And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days, and years."

-- Genesis 1:14

The ancient Hebrews did not reckon time by minutes or by hours, according to Mary Ellen Chase's classic work, Life and Language in the Old Testament. The word "hour" does not appear in the Old Testament, except for one instance in the late Book of Daniel, and was not part of the Hebrew lexicon.

Even the Hebrew word "mowed," translated as "seasons" above , does not match our modern conception of the word: spring, summer, etc., but is far more indefinite.

"When the ancient Hebrew writer told of events in the past, he did not remember them as we do in the light of the present but instead took himself back into their time, real and living, if indefinite to him. His time knew no perceptible beginning or end, no clearly defined past, no circumscribed present and no discernible future except that in the Infinite Mind of God," Chase writes.

[Thus the famous KJV, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,' betrays the mindset of the 17th century English translators, and some versions of the scripture opt instead for, 'When God began to create ...']

Chase quotes the late Willa Cather: "This same dreamy indefiniteness, belonging to a people without any of the relentless mechanical gear which directs every moment of modern life ... we are among a shepherd people; the story has almost the movement of grazing sheep."

I am reminded of the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob, a Hebrew, who wrote: "Our lives passed away as a dream ..."(Jacob 7:26).

The word "hour," I have also discovered, appears only once in the Book of Mormon, which was the product of a Hebrew people. That single reference is quite vague, referring to the coming of the Messiah, not time on a clock. The original word translated hour could easily have been the Hebrew"mowed." [Ed. update: "hours" in the plural appears once as well, in Lehi's dream, 1 Nephi 8., i.e., he traveled for many hours in darkness -- again a very vague concept]

Yet, in the Doctrine and Covenants, a modern work of scripture, "hour" makes frequent appearances, as it also does in the New Testament, written in a different era than the Old Testament.

But of course Old Joe Smith, that pretended prophet, just got lucky once again.