Thursday, March 5, 2009

Prophecies in Nephi Using New Testament Language.

In 1 Nephi there are records of supposed prophecies that are troubling on many levels. These prophecies uses language, terms and phrases some of which not only would be unfamiliar to Israelites of the 7th or 6th centuries B.C., but actually would have been impossible. That problem occurs often throughout the rest of 1 Nephi, and in what I have read so far of 2 Nephi. Language has a history, words are not made up in a vacuum. The study of the history of words is called etymology, and is important to study when translating, and reading so as to understand what the people meant. Etymology itself records the influences of other languages on another language as different peoples come in contact with each other. So when certain terms are used before they would have any meaning amongst a people you can tell that whoever was writing the historical fiction did not do their homework.
The other problems occur more on a theological level than a factual level, and shows the Book of Mormon to be in further opposition to the Bible. In relation to this you have some things presented as fact, that not only could not be factual, but betray a latent racism and bigotry that unfortunately was all too common to the 19th century environment in which Joseph Smith grew up, and wrote his lies. There is betrayed an anti-papism. Me being Lutheran have my grudges with the pope. But theologically Joseph Smith crosses the line here. He also records that the Virgin Mary was white, fair and beautiful “like my people.” This is so problematic that there could be and probably should be write a whole other blog post dealing with not only the latent racism hidden here, but also the factual impossibility of this.
Some of the words and phrases that Joseph Smith uses in writing these ”prophecies” of 1 Nephi, under the guise of “translating” ancient golden plates supposedly written in the 6th and 7th century B.C. are: The Son of God (1 Nephi 11:6), The Lamb of God (1 Nephi 12:6), Church (1 Nephi 13:4) Crucify (1 Nephi 19;3) and baptism (1 Nephi 20:1).
One reading the prophecies of the Old Testament obviously finds references to future events, both of events that are going to happen in the prophet’s lifetime, and the life time of the hearers, and of things that are going to happen long in the future. Prophecies of events that are going to happen in the prophets life time are needed, they verify that the man is a true prophet. And these are not merely moral speeches addressing an issue of the day as passes for “prophecies” in the Mormon Church today. (Don’t call your little tirade against homosexuality a prophecy. I’ve seen better and more reasoned tirades against homosexuality carried out in a bar. I want you to predict something no one else sees happening and see it happen. I don’t need you to tell me homosexual activity is immoral. That is not a prophecy. I can read the Bible myself. Tell me Canada is going to invade Mexico next year.) However the prophecies use language that the people can understand, terms that are intelligible to the people hearing the prophecy. Sometimes the full meaning of the prophecy is a bit cryptic because of these constraints, but later you find what they are talking about when they come to pass. Ezekial makes what today one would see as an obvious reference to baptism saying: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” (Ezekiel 36:25 (ESV) However, he doesn’t use the word baptism, because that word was not in their vocabulary yet, and would have been unintelligible. In fact there was not even a term in Hebrew that could encompass what the term baptism means. So he just describes what is going to happen. People can understand that they are going to be sprinkled with water, and this water is going to clean them spiritually. Jesus Christ introduces Christian baptism (as opposed to the baptism of John the Baptist, which was not in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit). That is Christ tells the disciples to go and baptize all nations. Baptism is a Greek word that literally means to wash, and is often used interchangeably with wash. “ (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash (nipto) their hands, holding to the tradition of the elders, [4] and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash (Baptizo). And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing (Baptizing) of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) (Mark 7:3-4 (ESV) In other words, the Greeks had to words for wash, Baptizing later came to be used as a term for a washing with religious ceremonial significance. Looking back from our experience today we can see that Ezekial was talking about baptism, because in baptism we are sprinkled with clean water and made clean. But Ezekial would not have named the rite, or called it baptism, because that would have been unintelligible, as it would have been for a bunch of Hebrews that had never seen a Greek in the 6th or 7th century B.C. The upshot of all this is that far from being a prophecy that is recorded in the 20th Chapter of 1 Nephi, you have a fraudulent prophecy. You have a discourse written in the 19th century trying to pass itself off as a prophecy written in the 6th or 7th century B.C.
This is shown with the other terms mentioned above. Due to space I will not be going into them in great detail, but will list them and briefly outline the problems with them being used.
The Son of God (1 Nephi 11:6): the phrase The Son of God would not have been used. It is a phrase used exclusively in the New Testament, and has no counterpart in the Old Testament. It refers directly to Jesus Christ. The first time it is used is Matthew 4:3 by Satan tempting Jesus. Satan and the Demon’s seem to be the first to identify Jesus with this phrase. The disciples later used it when they were convinced of the phrases veracity concerning Jesus. The closest Old Testament parallel is an expression uttered by King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:25: He answered and said, "But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods." (Daniel 3:25 (ESV) The King James version does translate this as “the Son of God.” But being as Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan and believed in many gods this translation has very little merit. Neither does the grammatical structure of the phrase seem to have much to warrant translating it as “the son of God.” Though as irony would have it, I do believe it was the pre-incarnate Son of God who was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in that fiery furnace.

The Lamb of God (1 Nephi 12:6): The Lamb of God is another phrase that has its roots in the New Testament, and is not found in the Old. It is used by John the Baptist to designate Jesus after he had baptized him. Only twice is this phrase used, though elsewhere Christ is referred to as the Lamb and always exclusively in writings by John. John the Baptist uses the phrase to signify that Jesus Christ would be a sacrifice and propitiation for us, atoning for our sins. Kittel informs us that the designation of the redeemer as a lamb was “unknown in later Judaism “ (Vol I pg 338). However, this phrase would have brought to mind in the people Isaiah’s prophecy: Isaiah 53:7 (ESV)
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted.
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
Again the differences in the manner and substance of the prophecies between the Bible and the Book of Mormon are highlighted.

Church (1 Nephi 13:4): There is no old testament Hebrew term that could possibly be translated church. Even the concept is foreign to the Old Testament. In the old testament you had different gods, and the different gods had different cults, or rites. Israel did not think of itself as a church, but at best a religion. By the time Christ comes along there are different sects in this religion, Pharisees , Sadducees, Zealots etc. The Greek term ecclesia which Christ uses in Matthew 16:18 to reference the building of His church, may have had some similitude with synagogue, but even that is a term of later Judaism and would not have been used by 6th or 7th century Jews. Neither would they have had a concept of it. It is doubtful that they even had sects within Judaism at the time of Jeremiah. You had believers and nonbelievers.
Nephi’s prophecies concerning The Church are also troublesome as he claims the devil and the apostles create an abominable Church. Abominable and Church were words often used since the time of the reformation to designate the Roman Catholic Church. But most Protestants would not maintain that this church was founded by the devil, but corrupted by the devil. And there is a difference. The Devil would found no “church,” but perhaps a cult. In verse 26 Nephi identifies this church with the work of the 12 apostles. The 12 apostles did not create the Roman Catholic Church as such, but they founded “the one, holy and apostolic church,” with their doctrine, their teaching about Christ. They had their commission straight from Jesus Christ, Matthew 28:18-19. The one church they founded is composed of all who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior, no matter what denomination they belong too, even if that denomination is the Roman Catholic Church. However there is a “church” that purports to have 12 apostles to this day, and I tend to believe that one was created by the devil because of the lies it spreads concerning Jesus Christ.

Crucify (1 Nephi 19;3) Crucify comes into the language with the Romans as a verb used to mean to kill by crucifixion. Crucifixion was a form of capital punishment developed by the Romans, and as far as anyone can tell was unknown before them. Originally it was meant to be merely a tortuous punishment. Jews in the 6th and 7th century B.C. would not have known what this word meant. Interestingly the New Testament makes reference though to the Old Testament in regards to crucifixion only by comparing it to hanging on a tree.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"— (Galatians 3:13 (ESV)
"And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, [23] his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. (Deut. 21:22-23 (ESV)
There was actually no concrete prophecy to the effect that the Messiah would hang on a tree. But had there been the phrase would have been translated hung on a tree, not crucify.
One might try to make the argument that Joseph Smith was translating, but so were the translators of the King James. The question becomes what was he translating? What words were the original words he translated? These are quite silly questions. He wasn’t translating anything. He was making a bunch of skubala up, as is painfully obvious from the fact that these terms and phrases would have been unintelligible to the supposed Israelites who would have heard them. The factual inaccuracies of the text disprove its authenticity. What term would he be translating that would translate crucify? It doesn’t have a counterpart in Hebrew, or any language before the Roman’s come along. Whereas the Israelites were able to understand Isaiah they would not have been able to understand what Nephi was talking about. These are not prophecies, they are 19th century lies of the devil meant to deceive.


Steve Martin said...

Oh that wacky Joseph Smith.

Can't a guy even be deceived by the devil and make up a wacky religion, that is really goofy except for the self-justification project(that is old hat), without people trying to expose him and his goofy religion for what it is?

You'd think that something really depended on it! Like salvation! does!

mollo said...

You forgot Alpha and Omega. They are spoken by Jesus in the BoM.