Saturday, June 9, 2012

The celestial yeshiva

"Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one [a wicked soul] can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?" Alma 5:24.

There is often so much more to scripture than the casual reader ever catches. The late LDS scholar Hugh Nibley cited this verse in Approaching Zion, p. 585, noting that "sitting down" is literally the meaning in English of the famous Hebrew yeshiva. A gathering together of holy men to contemplate and discuss the sacred word.

What Alma speaks of in this passage might be termed the celestial yeshiva. I wonder if, trained up at the feet of his father Alma the Elder, with stories of the latter's early life in the court of the loathsome King Noah, he thought as he wrote these words of Noah's counterfeit yeshiva. The priests of Noah "spent the greater part of their days studying and teaching iniquity" but convinced themselves somehow that they were great scholars of the Mosaic law. Even dared to think of themselves as fulfillment of the Isaiahic prophecy, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that publisheth peace."

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