JEF Sunday School Lesson #2

January 3, 2006 | 2 comments
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Lesson 2: Abraham 3; Moses 4:1-4

Abraham 3

Verses 1-19: Why did the Lord reveal these things to Abraham? Why did he think it important to reveal them to us?

Verses 6 and 8: The word “fact” isn’t often used as we use it until the mid- to late-nineteenth century—after the Book of Abraham was translated. Prior to that, it usually meant “something done.” (The word “feat” is a variation of the word “fact.”) That is probably the meaning it had for Joseph Smith and those reading this Abraham in the first half of the nineteenth century. If you use that meaning for the word “fact” to understand these verses, what do they say?

Verses 11-12: How does the Lord give his revelation to Abraham differently than he did to Moses (Moses 1)? Do you see any meaning in those differences? What things might each teach us?

Verse 11: Here and in verses 12 and 21, the Lord speaks of the things his hands have made. The creation stories show the Father making things by his word, by commanding them to happen and being obeyed, rather than making them by his hands. Why do you think he uses the image of hands here?

Verse 15: Does this answer the question about why the Lord revealed these things to Abraham? What does the Lord mean when he says “that ye may declare all these words”? What would be the point of such a declaration in Egypt? Does this verse help us understand why the Lord revealed these things to us?

Verse 16: Is the word “exist” here parallel to the word “facts” in verses 6 and 8? If so, what do you make of that parallel?

Verse 20: Verse 19 is about the relation of intelligences and verse 21 is about God’s relation to intelligences. Why is this verse inserted between them?

Verse 21: What does it mean to say that the Lord dwells “in the midst,” in other words, in the middle, of all the intelligences? We could paraphrase the first part of this verse in this way: “Because I dwell in the midst of all the intelligences, I have come down to tell you of the works I have made.” How does the first claim (“I dwell in the midst of all intelligences”) explain the second (“I will tell you . . .”), as the word “therefore” (“because”) suggests that it does?

What is prudence? In 2 Chronicles 2:12, it translates a Hebrew word meaning “understanding.” (The Hebrew word translated “understanding” in that verse means “ability to discriminate.”) The King James translators also translated the Hebrew word as “understanding,” “wisdom,” and “knowledge.” Sometimes the Hebrew word in Proverbs is translated by “subtlety” or “guile” (as in Proverbs 8:12) as well as by “understanding” and “wisdom.” In Ephesians 1:8, “prudence” translates a Greek word meaning “reason, cleverness, or insight.” What do you think the word meant in Joseph Smith’s day?

Verse 23: To which intelligences does “these souls” refer to? What does it mean to be chosen before one is born? What does it mean to be chosen at all? Chosen for what?

Verses 24-26: Who is speaking in these verses? To whom is he speaking? Is he suggesting a plan or telling them what is going to happen? What is said in this chapter that answers that question? In verse 26, why does he speak of those who do not keep their first estate when that has not yet happened? Why do you think the verse uses the word “estate” to describe the various states of existence? What does it mean to keep an estate? Will those who did not keep their first estate have glory in a kingdom? If not, why is this worded as it is: “They who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate” (my emphasis)?

Verse 27: Why does the Lord ask “Whom shall I send?” after the one “like unto God” has already said what he will do? Why does this say that the first person to respond was “like unto the Son of Man” rather than that he was the Son of Man?

In the Old Testament, the phrase “Here I am” translates a Hebrew verb that could also be translated “Look at me” or “I am ready.” It is the standard, idiomatic response to someone if one’s name is called. If we assume that the same Hebrew word is in Abraham’s original account, what does the meaning of the word say about the answer to God’s question? You can find the same phrase in these scriptures: Genesis 22:1, 7, 11; 27:1, 18; 31:11; 37:13; 46:2; Exodus 3:4; 1 Samuel 3:4, 5, 6, 8, 16; 12:3; 22:12; 2 Samuel 1:7; 15:26; 6:8; 58:9; 2 Nephi 16:8; and Moses 4:1. Do any of those uses add depth to your understanding of what is happening here?

Moses 4

Verse 1: Why does the Lord say “that Satan” rather than just “Satan”? What does it mean to say that Satan was with the Father from the beginning? Compare the offer, “I will be thy son,” with what happens in Moses 1:19 and 5:13. What do we see? Why does Satan say “I will be thy son” rather than “I am thy son?” Isn’t he already a son of God? Does D&C 29:36 shed any light on why Satan’s request, “Give my thine honor,” was wrong?

Verse 2: What do you make of the difference between the way that the Father describes Satan in the previous verse and the way he describes Christ in this verse: “my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning”? Does that tell us anything about what Satan was suggesting in the previous verse?

Verse 3: When did Satan rebel? Have we seen that happen in yet? Where? What do you make of the difference between the way Satan describes his plan—”I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost”—and the way the Father describes his plan: “Satan . . . sought to destroy the agency of man”?

Verse 4: What does it mean to say “he became Satan” (my emphasis)? Why is “father of all lies” such a descriptive title for Satan? What does it mean to say that those who follow him will be led “captive at his will”? What does it mean to say that those who follow Satan are those who will not hearken to God’s voice?

SOME NOTES ON THE PHRASE “SON OF MAN”

From Hugh Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, pages 36-37:

There is one parallel that has exercised the experts more than all the others put together, and that is the puzzling relationship between Enoch and the Son of Man. No question has been more diligently discussed in the journals than the identity of the son of Man; few scholars can resist the temptation of pointing out with magisterial ease just who he is, but with little or no agreement among themselves. Aside from Jesus, it is Enoch who of all the candidates lays by far the most convincing and challenging claim to the Son of Man title “as teacher, wise one, advocate, prophet, ideal man, bringer of salvation, revealer of hidden mysteries, etc.” The key to the identification as R. Otto sees it is that Christ “lived and preached in the role and in the name of the Son of Man, just as Enoch also in his preaching was a functionary of the Son of Man and his Righteousness.” In 1 Enoch 37:71, “Enoch has become the eschatological Saviour himself, the ideal of the pious community,” officially designated as the “Son of Man.” Though earlier scholars were disturbed by the outright identity of the two (R. H. Charles deliberately alters the ancient text to avoid it), their identity was fully recognized by ancient theologians; indeed, the Christian “tendency to identify Adam in all his characteristics with Jesus, who similarly is represented as ‘The Perfect Man,’” matches the practice of identifying Enoch also with Adam. Eusebius states the case thus: “The Son of Man and the Son of Adam are the same thing, so that Adam and Enosh are the same; carnal (sarkikon) through Adam, rational (logikon) through Enosh.” He also makes it perfectly clear that by Enosh he means Enoch: “The Hebrews say that Enosh not Adam was the first true man. . . . He ‘was not found’ [said only of Enoch] means that truly wise men are hard to find. He withdrew from the world of affairs and thereby became the Friend of God [cf. Abraham]. The Hebrews call him ‘The Friend,’ signifying thereby the favor (charin) of God.” For the Mandaeans, the Son of Man is necessarily the Son of God, “for he is Enosh, the first man created,” in the direct image of God.

In the intertestamental period, “the Son of Man tradition [was] in a fluid state and could be adapted to any Messianic Figure.” The individual is unique, but the type can be shared. Thus in the Dead Sea Scrolls Michael is the Son of Man, but for that matter so is Melchizedek. “The fact that the prophets spoke in the person of God or Christ was a common observation,” as Rendell Harris pointed out. “It [was] inevitable that this impersonation should cause difficulties of interpretation.” Impersonation? Was it not enough to be the agent without actual impersonation? Time and again when we think we have discovered an overlooked “Enoch figure,” it turns out that the ancient author was quite aware of the parallel. Thus Zerubbabel or Paul or Rabbi Ishmael or Isaiah in their heavenly journeys all meet with Enoch before the story is over. Are these men guilty of impersonation? The question concerns C. P. Van Andel, who acquits them all: A man who performs the function of Enoch has, he concludes, a perfect right to assume the name of Enoch.

Today emphasis is being placed on the society of the faithful itself as the actual embodiment of the Son of Man: “Enoch has become the eschatological Saviour himself, the ideal of the ‘pious community’” officially designated as the “Son of Man.” Such “Enoch circles” naturally identified whoever was their leader with Enoch. Matthew Black, seeing the Metatron title “Man as the Measure,” equates “the elect community” with the “Head of the Community, the immortalized patriarch, the elect one, the Son of Man.” The communities that followed John the Baptist regarded him as both Enoch and Elijah. “How could John [the Baptist also] be Elijah?” L. E. Keck asks. This was one of the great mysteries to which various sects claimed to have the key, secretly passed down from the Lord to the Apostles. The passing down thus took place during the forty-day ministry of the Lord, at which time he appears exactly in the manner of Enoch as one whose comings and goings are as thrilling and mysterious as are the great secrets of knowledge he imparts.

In the Old Testament, the expression “Son of Man” is found only in four poetic passages, in which it is hardly more than an expression for an ordinary human. In the New Testament, it is not, as anyone would naturally expect, the unassuming title of one who would depict himself humbly as a common mortal “delicately and modestly,” or even in “self-depreciation.” For in all the occurrences of the title in the New Testament, it refers to the Lord in his capacity as the exalted one from on high whose real nature and glory are hidden from men.

From Encyclopedia of Mormonism

Page 740:

SON OF MAN. From his mother Jesus inherited mortality. Hebrew ben ‘adam denotes “a son of Adam,” that is, any mortal man (Dan. 8:17). Thus, as a son of Adam, Jesus represents Adam’s children, acting as their agent with the Father. As both Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus stands between God and man as mediator. With the definite article, the Son of Man described an expected apocalyptic heavenly figure, identified with the Messiah (Dan. 7:13). Jesus is the son of the archetypal Man, the perfect heavenly Man, the Eternal Father (Moses 6:57; 7:35). In this sense, “Son of Man” equals “Son of God” and conveys an intentional ambiguity, reflecting both Jesus’ mortal and immortal parentage.

Page 852:

Man of Holiness

According to Enoch’s record, Man of Holiness is one name of God: “In the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ” (Moses 6:57). God further declared in the revelation to Enoch: “Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name” (Moses 7:35). This name reinforces the observation that God the Father is an exalted man of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22), and that every aspect of his character is holy.

In almost a dozen instances, the pre-Christian Nag Hammadi text “Eugnostos the Blessed” uses similar terms—”Immortal Man,” “First Man” and “Man”-for the Father (Robinson, pp. 229-31). Another Nag Hammadi tractate, “The Second Treatise of the Great Seth,” refers to God as “the Man” and “Man of Greatness” (Robinson, p. 364). Thus, ancient authors likewise seem to have defined the Father as a glorified person with a body in whose image man was created.

[See also God the Father: Names and Titles of.]

Bibliography

Brown, S. Kent. “Man and Son of Man.” In The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and C. Tate. Provo, 1989.
Robinson, James M., ed. The Nag Hammadi Library, 3rd rev. ed. San Francisco, 1988.

From Anchor Bible Dictionary

The Anchor Bible Dictionary (s.v., “Son of Man”) points out that the phrase is mostly used to refer to the prophets in the Old Testament (e.g., Ezekiel 37:16; see also Moses 1:13). It is used 93 times in Ezekiel alone. One interpretation of the phrase is that the prophet is the one person out of all humanity who has been singled out to talk with God and to be his messenger.

For the phrase, “one like the son of man,” see Daniel 7:13. Daniel 7 makes the parallel between Adam and the one it refers to clear, and it is clear to Christians that the one like the son of man is Jesus.

In the New Testament, almost every use of the term is by Jesus in reference to himself. (If I recall, there are only two exceptions.)

In Mark, “Son of God” refers to Jesus’s pre-existent glory and “Son of Man” refers to his post-resurrection glory. The usage in the other Gospels seems similar.

What about “like”?

I think there are several possible answers. Given the New Testament usage of the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to the post-resurrection glory of Jesus, it can indicate that Christ has not yet received his full glory. He is not yet the “Son of Man.”

Given the use of the phrase to describe prophets, another possibility is that this is to remind us the prophets are a “type” of Jesus, who is their “anti-type.” Using Book of Mormon language, Jesus is the figure and the prophet is the shadow of that figure, so we can say that the figure is like its shadow when we have only seen the shadow previously.

Most Protestant interpreters understand “like” to be there to remind us that Jesus was incarnate, that he took on himself the form of a man.

I don’t think any of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.

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2 Responses to JEF Sunday School Lesson #2

  1. jp in lv nv on January 4, 2006 at 1:28 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your notes/lesson. Much more stimulating than my gospel doctrine class….

  2. Jim F. on January 4, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    I’m glad that you find them helpful. However, let me make one note: I don’t see these as material for a lesson, in themselves. There’s too much here for that. Rather, they are questions about the scriptures covered by the lesson manual. Presumably some of them could be used as part of a lesson. I try to use some of them for the lessons that I teach. But as a whole they wouldn’t make a good lesson. Using these for a lesson requires picking and choosing the ones that fit the theme of your lesson and, I hope, it also requires coming up with some thought questions of your own. I suppose I see them more as study materials for the scriptures in question than I do as lesson materials, though obviously what can be used for one can be used for the other. As I’ve used these, creating the questions has helped me prepare the lesson by making me look closely at the scriptures to be used. Then I’ve given the questions to class members in advance so that those who wish can use them for their personal study.

WELCOME

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