Saturday, February 19, 2011

The finger of God

Perhaps my long, painful journey through Augustine's City of God will have been worth it for this one astounding insight. In Book 16, verse 43, expounding upon the Exodus, Augustine mentions the "finger of God." That is a very rare Biblical term, in Hebrew etsba Elohim, and first appears as a description of God's power against the magicians of Pharoah. In the N.T., it resurfaces, in Greek of course, dactylo theo, in reference to the Spirit of God. (Cf. Luke 11:20 and Matthew 12:28). The scholar R. Steven Notley

notes that the Greek text, by construction, appears dependent on a Hebrew original. I.e., is a Semitism. He also notes that on Passover, Jews customarily recite an ancient Rabbinical commentary on the concept of the finger of God empowering the Exodus.

Of course, the Book of Mormon has a well-known, singular, finger of God episode, appearing in Ether. The finger of God touches stones upon a mountain, enabling a group of God's chosen to travel across the sea to their promised Land.

Jaredites weren't Hebrews and the Exodus of Israel was still a future event at the time of this theophany. But it is interesting to contemplate God using the same symbolism here as He would later. Can we really credit farm-boy Joseph with such an insight? I doubt he had been to very many Passover sedars when he translated the Book of Mormon, nor was very familiar with St. Augustine.


Michaela Stephens said...

Very intriguing! The link you included had some good stuff in it that made me think..
if the Egyptian magicians recognized the finger of God in the plagues coming upon them, then that certainly adds literal meaning to the number of plagues--ten. As many plagues as God had fingers. (Michaela giggles)

That "finger of God" motif seems to make the Ether account comparable to what's in the Bible, doesn't it?

Clifford said...


There is so much in Ether that is fascinating, deep and ancient. It deserves much more respect and attention than it usually gets.