Reviving the Hebraic

January 25, 2010 | 15 comments
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TorahEvery four years we have a celebrated ritual during the second hour of church: it is the discussion by all members present on the topic of being uncomfortable studying the Old Testament.  Sometimes this broadens to statements such as “I just don’t get why we read it” or “It has a lot of stories with morals, but how does it lead us to Christ?” It’s striking how we often take the Old Testament to be something akin to the apocryphal works (see D&C 91). In celebration of this quadri-annual event my wife and I have stayed up late discussing all of reasons we passionately love the Old Testament.

As we did so, our conversation soon turned to the connection between all of the ordinances that we practice in Mormonism and their basis in the Old Testament (we can’t really think of one that is not based in the Old Testament; maybe the Gift of the Holy Ghost?). We then began to discuss aspects of the LDS church that are unique to us in the Christian arena. Bushman put it eloquently when he said:

It is sometimes said that Mormonism is to Christianity as Christianity is to Judaism.  Both Mormonism and Christianity established themselves by reinterpreting a preceding faith.  Christianity built on Judaism but emphasized the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; Mormonism began with Christianity but accepted new revelation through a modern prophet.

Ironically, many of the most distinguishing features of Mormonism are Hebraic.  In a sense, Mormonism differentiated itself from Christianity by returning to Christianity’s roots in the religion of ancient Israel.  Joseph Smith claimed to have recovered the Hebrew priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek and to have revived the prophetic tradition of Moses and Isaiah.  Going back to the rituals of ancient Israel, Smith restored temple worship under the direction of a sacral priesthood.  Smith even adapted instructions for ordaining priests in the book of Exodus for portions of Mormon temple rites.

Throughout Smith’s life, the Old Testament was a major source of inspiration.  His restoration can be thought of as a purging of Hellenistic influences in Christianity and reviving the Hebraic.  When he undertook to educate his unlearned followers, Smith passed over the classical languages and hired a Jewish instructor to teach them Hebrew.  In the end Joseph Smith’s restoration pressed Christianity into an Old Testament mold. (Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction, 62-3)

Below is a quick list we drew up of Mormonism’s “reviving the Hebraic.” We are hoping that you can add to this list and help us revive a genuine passion for this truly foundational book of scripture. We can all disseminate this passion next week in Sunday School as we joy in the choices of Eve.  Let’s continue the revolution began by Joseph Smith and being carried forth today by Jim Faulconer and others to make the Old Testament a revered book rather than the red-headed stepchild of our canon.

1. First, our general orthopraxy is definitely OT
2. Ordinances:

  • Baptism (ancient temple priesthood initiations (Ex 19, 29, 40, Lev 8) ? Jewish proselyte immersions, miqvah purity washings, and John the Baptist/Christian baptisms. Also, compare the Mormon notion of baptism as a covenant in Mosiah 18:8-13 and D&C 20:37, similar to the covenants listed above, as opposed to sectarian notions of baptism as merely “an outward symbol of an inward faith.”
  • Sacrament: in temple, table of shewbread (see “shewbread” in BD); ritualistic bread and wine of Passover feast appropriated by Christ (see Ex 12 and Lev 23 and BD “feasts” to read about Passover, and Matt 26:26-27 where Jesus keeps the OT ritual Passover meal, and converts the drinking of the wine and eating of the bread into the sacrament)
  • All of the temple Temple; specifically: Initiatories; Sealings (note the language; and of course, there’s also Parley’s witty noting that Adam & Eve were married pre-fall when they were immortal); Garments; Women in the temple; Temple prayers; Baptismal font/laver; Veil; Holy of Holies/Celestial Room; Zones of holiness
  • Covenants generally, and particularly the importance of the Abrahamic covenant
  • Name & Blessings (presentation at temple)

3. Zion

  • Gathering
  • Stakes
  • Israel as covenant people of God

4. Urrim & Thummim
5. Aaronic & Melchizedek Priesthoods

  • Ordination
  • Bishops

6. Patriarchal Blessings
7. Premortal life/Foreordination
8. Open Canon

  • Related to this, we think it’s conspicuous that we have all this additional scripture concerning OT (covenantal) figures – Adam & Eve, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Joseph of Egypt, Moses – with comparatively very little new scripture about NT figures. Exceptions I can think of include scriptures on/from Jesus & John the Beloved, along with the canonized appearances of John the Baptist, Peter, James & John, who were, incidentally, revealing OT priesthoods.
  • Likewise, the language of the D&C is conspicuously OT in tone and expression.

9. Dispensational history
10. Conversion as literal adoption, including blood change (e.g., Ruth, gentile convert and great-grandmother to King David)
11. Prophets (there’s a lot to say here, but our fallible, fully mortal, but divinely appointed notion of a prophet is all throughout the OT, and rarely seen in Christianity)
12. Commandments as a blessing (see D&C 59:4); the Christian understanding transforms the notion of commandments into a taskmaster at best, or utter vanity at worst
13. And finally, just for fun, there’s circumcision. Ok, ok, so it’s not exactly a religious practice for us, but it certainly predominates in our culture, and you just don’t get more OT than that!

15 Responses to Reviving the Hebraic

  1. Velska on January 25, 2010 at 5:23 am

    Could you elaborate on your quip about circumcision? I haven’t heard that much about circumcision. A recent stat said that a majority of American men are circumcised, if memory serves.

  2. Bill of Wasilla on January 25, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Other than the verses and such that Sunday School and Seminary teachers had directed us to and quoted often, I had never really read the Old Testament until I went on my mission. And then I found it full of all sorts of things that bothered me, of which you haven’t even hinted – like ordering women with periods to be shunned as unclean, laying out the holy circumstances under which parents should kill their own children and, most of all, God ordering the genocide of other peoples who were in competition with the Israelites for the same land and resource.

    These were the things about the Old Testament that troubled me. And they still do.

  3. Blake Messinger on January 25, 2010 at 7:52 am

    The Old Testament has roots in Norse mythology. The beliefs of the Norse bore a striking resemblance to the religion and culture of the Hebrew, Canaanites, Assyrians, and Babylonians. These cultural “cross-currents” were not unusual, and indicate a Semitic wave of colonisation in early Europe.

    With a closer look at Greek mythology you see the Bible in the Apocrypha is correct in I Maccabees 12:21, where we read;, ‘It has been found in a writing concerning the Lacedaemonians (Greeks) and Jews (Judah), that they are kinsmen, and that they are descended from Abraham.’ Yes, Israelites colonised Greece in early times, and the Greek religion shows us proof of an Hebrew origin, as stated in the Apocrypha in the Bible.

    The most well known Greek God-hero was the one known as Hercules (the Latinised form of the Greek “Heracles”), whose most distinguishing characteristic was immense physical strength. Interestingly enough, the “Encyclopedia of the Classical World, ” states, ” The tales of his heroic deeds lend to the supposition that Hercules was originally an historic figure.” Who do we know in the Bible that exhibits a like characteristic? The answer, of course, is the Israelite hero known as Samson, whose life was detailed in the Bible in Judges chapters 13 through 16.

    One important event in Hercules’ life involved his escaping from the clutches of a symbolic woman, who is called “Pleasure.” This corresponds directly to the troubles Samson got himself involved in with the harlots of Canaan.

    But the most celebrated event in the life of Hercules involved the labours he was ordered to perform by God through the Oracle of Delphi. (Incidently, “12” was an important divine number in Hebrew religion.) What do you suppose was the very first labour Hercules had to perform? You might have guessed it! He had to slay a lion with his bare hands! Let’s read a paragraph from the book, “God ‘s Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece ” by W.H.D.Rouse:

    “Heracles threw down his bow and arrows and leapt upon the lion’s back … while he put his hands round the lion’s neck … gripped the lion’s throat with his two hands, and bending him backwards, throttled him. There lay the lion dead on the ground. ” (p. 59). In our Bible, Judges 13:6 says that Samson actually tore the lion in two, but the ancient historian Flavius Josephus in his “Antiquities of the Jews ” also tells us that Samson first strangled the lion, which is exactly as Hercules is said to have done. I don’t even know if there ever were any lions in Greece. The Biblical Archaeologist Magazine somewhat tersely comments, “Lions, we may remark are not frequent in Greece.” (59:1,p.17). In fact, the Greek myths explain this one away as the offspring of a monster! But whether there were lions in Greece is not important; Hercules needed to find one anyway. Why? Simply because the Biblical Samson inspired the Greek legend called Hercules, and provided the basis for his life!

    Another of Hercules’ labours involved his live capture of a wild animal, which he brought home and threw at the feet of Eurystheus. In Judges 15:4, Samson is said also to capture live wild animals, which he released in the cornfields of the Philistines.

    A fascinating bit of additional information regarding Hercules is his connection with the Biblical tribe of Dan. The Bible Samson was born of the tribe of Dan. (Judges l3:2-25) Greek history tells us that a people called ‘Danioi’ came to trade and colonise Greece in ancient times, settling in a region called ‘Argos.’ The word Hercules in Greek is, ‘Heracles,’ which is virtually identical with the Hebrew plural word for traders,’Heraclim,’ and Heracles is said to have come from ‘Argos,’ himself. The Greek myths tell that the Danioi were descended from a patriarch ‘Danaos’ who was the son of ‘Bel,’ and sailed from Egypt. In the Bible, the Hebrew patriarch Dan was the son of the concubine ‘Bilhah'(Genesis 30:3-6), and the Israelites were in Egypt at the time that ‘Danaos’ set sail to Greece from there! Heracles, further, is said to marry a girl named ‘Hebe,’ an obvious and well-known short form of the word, Hebrew! Since the tribe of Dan were traders and colonists who did so much sailing that they “stayed in their ships ” (Judges 5:17), it is not surprising to find such connections with ancient Greece.

    In another tale from Greek mythology, we read how God through the oracle at Delphi seemingly ordered a king to sacrificially slay his son Phrixos, as a sign of his obedience to God.. But let me quote the story from my Greek commentary: “The oracle said, kill Phrixos and Helle at the altar for a sacrifice, or your corn will grow no more. This was a dreadful blow to the king; but he had to obey what he believed to be god’s wish, like Abraham and Isaac in the Bible. And in this case, too, there was a ram, but a different sort of ram from the ram which was sacrificed instead of Isaac. There stood at the altar the two children, ready to be killed; there stood the sacrificer with his knife; there stood the king, full of sorrow, and lo and behold, down came the ram, and up got the boy and girl upon his back, and away he flew into the sky” (Ibid. p. 92). This is obviously not an exact retelling of the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, but an historical kernel obviously exists, which was corrupted into the present Greek mythology over time.

    Another interesting Bible comparison can be made with the Greek hero Achilles, who could only die by having his heel wounded. What a strange story to tell! That is, it would be strange were it not for the fact that we read such an account in the Bible in the form of a prophecy concerning the coming Christ in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. ” It can easily be seen how a misinterpretation of this verse (especially in the early pre-Christian centuries, before Christ’s fulfilment of prophecy was made manifest) could inspire a story of someone dying through a wound in his heel!

    The strong connection between the Hebrew and Greek civilisations is well known to scholars of ancient history. Perhaps the leading American archaeologist of the twentieth century is Cyrus H. Gordon. The Biblical Archaeologist Magazine (March 1996, p.22) reported, ‘Professor Gordon had been delivering a popular lecture on ‘The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilisations,’ particularly about the Heroic Age both in Late Bronze Age Greece and in pre-monarchic Israel. Citing the Iliad of Homer and the Biblical book Samuel, he pointed out that the heroes David and Achilles performed essentially the same warlike exploits in search of imperishable glory, the only bulwark against oblivion. The milieu of Achilles and of David were therefore closer to one another than was that of Achilles to Classical Greece or that of David to the Age of the Prophets in Israel. Following the lecture, a little old lady wide-eyed with astonishment and admiration, made her way up to the distinguished lecturer and asked, ‘Does that mean, Professor Gordon, that Achilles was Jewish?’ This insightful woman was on the right track in her thinking, for the ancestors of the early Greeks were Israelites, as the close parallels between the religion of these two nations implies.

    Near-Eastern scholar, Dr. Louis H. Feldman, concurs with this in a lengthy article in the same journal pointing out the connection between Greek mythic literature and its source in both the Bible and Mesopotamian religion. He states, “Likewise, Mondi (1990:187) cites the parallel between the Homeric shield of Achilles”:

    ‘And upon it he made the earth and the sky and the sea, the tireless sun and the waxing moon, and all the constellations which wreathe the sky.’ (lliad 18.483- 485)

    And Psalms 136:5-9:

    “to him who made the heavens, the earth upon the waters …. the great lights …. the sun …. the moon and the stars. ”

    Dr. Feldman continues, “Furthermore, the scenes on the shield of a city at peace in which the leaders are dispensing justice, repelling aggression, and harvesting, while the king stands by watching happily correspond to the description in Psalm 72.” An obvious inference is that the Greek myths are so chock full of Hebraisms because of Hebrew colonisation of Greece in ancient times.

    Parallels with Assyrian and Babylon religion are also commonplace in Greek mythic literature. On this, Dr. Feldman comments, “Furthermore, there are parallels in motifs between Near Eastern epics and Homer. In the first place, as Professor Gordon, followed by Considine and Walcot … noted there are eight striking parallels between the Baal-Anath text 137, where Baal is restrained from doing violence to the envoys by the goddesses Anath and Ashtoreth, and the scene in the Iliad (1. 188-222), when Achilles is about to slay Agamemnon, but is restrained by the two goddesses, Athena and Hera.” Dr. Feldman’s article continues on these themes for many pages, proving without doubt the connection between Greece and the Near East, including Israel, in very early times. Feldman concludes by saying, “Some would say, as they did with Professor Gordon’s “Homer and Bible ” (1955) and “Before the Bible” (1962), that several of these parallels are commonplaces; but the total effect is what counts. There is now fairly general agreement that the near east … influenced Homer.” (ibid. p.19).

    It is clear that early Greek mythology shows evidence of not only Hebrew, but Canaanite, Assyrian, and Babylonian religious culture. That the Greek religion could be influenced by so many streams of different Semitic culture may seem incredible until we remember that Israelite religion was also influenced by these same foreign nations. This heavily mixed amalgam may therefore have been brought to Greece by the Hebrews themselves. At the very least, the strong evidence of Hebrew colonisation and culture in ancient Greece should not be ignored.

    The story of the Noahic Flood is also told in Greek mythology, where Deucalion and Pyrrha built a wooden “chest” to save them. Historian Olive Beaupre Miller, in “A Picturesque Tale of Progress ” says, “The similarity of these flood stories [Greek and Hebrew] is interesting. Here, as in the Bible, the flood is sent to destroy mortals because of the evil in the world, the chest goes aground on a mountain top and the survivors at once offer sacrifice.”

    Before closing this discussion on Greece and its ancient ties to Hebrew religion, it is interesting to mention that the Greek god-hero, “Adonis,” also received his name from from the Semitic word, “Adon” or Lord. For example, one of the New Testament titles applied to Christ was “Adonay.”

    THE GOD WHO IS ABOVE ALL GODS

    Greek heroes such As Hercules and Achilles were called children of God, but they were not immortal. ‘Ihey lived on earth, died, and their spirits were believed to sometimes be lifted up into heaven. Above these heroes in importance and power were said to be a pantheon of Gods. Yet, some of the Greek people also worshipped a One True God, eternal in the heavens,

    unnamed except to be called “the Unknown God.” This brings us down to New Testament times, where we pick up the rest of our story in the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles (verses 22 -23). “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mar’s Hill and said: Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious; for as I passed by and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription: To the Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him I declare to you. ”

    Yes, these people were not adopting a new religion with the coming of Christianity, they were rediscovering their old religion in its purified form, as sent unto them by our Lord in the flesh, Jesus Christ. By God’s design, our forefathers forgot who they were, where they came from, and what their past religion was, all in His plan of purifying and preparing them to again become united with the One True God, who came unto them in the form of man, Jesus Christ.

  4. Ryan Bell on January 25, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Very interesting post. I agree strongly with your desire to help Latter-day Saints not just find truth in the Old Testament, but to find ownership in it. A few that weren’t on your list:

    Abraham tithing to Melchizedek (and Malachi’s promises) are foundational to our doctrine of tithing,

    Doctrines relating to the different houses of Israel (the leadership of Ephraim, the Sons of Levi, the future of Judah)

    I think the Word of Wisdom echoes the health code of the Mosaic law far more than it does any New Testament principle

    The doctrine of sacrifice (Adam, Samuel, Saul, Moses, Job)

    The idea of being a chosen people, selected for extra blessings, protection, and trials

    Historical foundations of the Book of Mormon- Jeremiah, Zedekiah, stick of Ephraim, pride cycle, etc.

    and, of course, plural marriage!

  5. Will on January 25, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Loved this and found it interesting. It bothers me, however, that in our OT classes we don’t really focus much on any of this. Rather, all we seem to focus on is whatever seems to foretell the coming of Jesus. That’s obviously important, but in the process, we seem to be ignoring many wonderful things.

  6. Dan on January 25, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Blake,

    The Old Testament has roots in Norse mythology.

    As Norse mythology is written after the Old Testament, wouldn’t this be the other way around?

  7. James Olsen on January 25, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Velska – my quip was just that, a quip. In my mind the cultural dominance is linked to OT practice, but I really have no idea.

    Bill – I think you bring up important points, things we ought not ignore but have candid discussions about. I’m not a fan of either burying your head in the sand or tossing out the baby with the bath water. Nevertheless, I’ve not the time, nor is this exactly the forum in which I want to have this discussion; perhaps I’ll write a post later. But let me say that between Joseph Smith and ancient studies I think we have all the resources we need to contextualize the OT, and have an understanding of the OT that maintains both faith and integrity.

    Blake – this is one way of guest posting at T&S I suppose. It looks like you have some interesting points to make. Rather than cutting and pasting from a term paper, however, if you make your point concisely and in a manner that links up with the content of the post I will respond.

    Ryan – nice additions. I think that the similarity b/w WofW and kashrut (kosher laws) is striking, and actually brought out by the fact that neither is primarily a health code. “Chosen People” is what I meant by our being a people of God (under #3). And how could I have left out polygamy?

    Will – I’m all for “finding Christ in the OT,” and actually wish that as Mormons we found our Christ much more in the OT and much less in contemporary evangelical literature. I absolutely agree with your point, we miss the vast richness of the OT when our main approach is prooftexting for Christ. This is especially pernicious when we don’t allow the OT to inform and enrich our understanding of a Messiah, but rather insist on OT meanings and symbols shedding their original meanings and instead conforming to whatever we already understand.

  8. Craig H. on January 25, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Thanks for this James, very thoughtful. I like the OT too, probably for all of the “wrong” reasons, like the fantastic puzzling stories, as well as the reminder, present even before Jesus, that the two great commandments were to love God and neighbor. I also agree that in a sense Mormonism was a return to Hebrew roots—but this can be seen as a puzzling thing, given the claim to be restoring the New Testament church, a good part of which left behind some of the OT things, such as circumcision and dietary laws. And the claim that Joseph Smith purged Christianity of Hellenistic influences is dubious to me: I think he meant to, yes. But I doubt anyone’s ability to weed out any cultural influences completely from a religion, or to disentangle them. He’d have to weed out some of Paul too, then. There are always cultural influences on any religion, at any time. If he could have managed to purge Hellenism, then 19th century American things could have easily filled the void, along with other lingering elements of western culture over the centuries. And was ancient Judaism any more purged of cultural influences than ancient Christiainty? Did Abraham assume it was okay to take plural wives because it was then an acceptable custom, or because it was the eternal law? In short, do you think Mormonism not only has connections to the Old Testament, but is even fundamentally more an OT religion than anything else?

  9. BTD Greg on January 25, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Good post.

    I don’t really understand the whining about the Old Testament. The OT has it all, really–sex, violence, and a variety of great stories (and often, all three). It is difficult to read cover-to-cover, but it’s fascinating, and not nearly as hard to understand as it seems if you give it some time.

    As a former Gospel Doctrines teacher, I probably had more fun teaching the Old Testament than any of the other courses. Maybe it was because the subject matter lets you take it wherever you want, or maybe it was because the class members had such low expectations. I’m not sure. But it was almost always enjoyable.

  10. Eduard A. Erdtsieck on January 25, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I like the OT and am fascinated & enjoy reading it. Especially of the many and quaint ways in which ordinances are carried out and loose their purpose.

    Many of the prophets in the OT were contempories of Lehi & Nephi and I get a better understanding what Lehi saw, while in worshipping in the wilderness and a column of smoke descended from heaven revealing to him what will be the future of the nation Israel. Afterwards he was depressed laying at home for a few days. When he started making preperation to carry out Jehovah’s command; his son Nephi wanted confirmation and received the same information his father received and the proceeded to move their families as demanded.

    All major milestones in the life of Jesus of Nazareth are referenced by a quote or statement by these ancient prophets. That apparently carried a lot of weight by the writers of the NT. The Lord, after performing His many healings, tells the the recipients of His blessing to go and report it to the priest of the Temple of Herod and to complete the needed requirement of the ordinances instituted by Moses.

    The Bible can not be read without assistance by the Holy Spirit. As Mormons we don’t have to worry about what’s in the OT. Jesus Christ has chosen my prophet, seer and revelator, Joseph Smith. Have you noticed the thin Priesthood and Relief Society manuals? It is sprinkled with numerous Joseph Smith quotations. For example in the first lesson; “God is the Supreme and Absolute Being . . . . the Great Parent of the universe.”

    The key of understanding the OT is Abraham and the promise God made to him; to make him the father of many nations with Jehovah as his mentor. The knowledge that my God is the Father of universe just fills me with humility.

    The gospel is not about to returning to the “Hebraic”, it is about righteousness. There is nothing wrong with the “Hebraic”, it had it’s time and place.

    This is what I think is wrong with the OT. It has been redacted, not by one, but by many sources. Our government often releases redacted documents, when it has to answer to congressional inquiries. It is interesting to read them, because what they reveal is often confusing. Sometimes the same document will have follow up redacted versions. What they show is that what is left out makes sense, because government is an ongoing enterprise and they do not want to show persons or facts not immediately related with the issue.

    Who is doing the redaction of the OT. Certainly not the prophets or their followers, they were killed or kept away from important issues. They are the ones, who do the killing in order to preserve their power for another day in our period of grace.

    The Holy Spirit, prayer and prophets are the Way of the Father of the universes.

  11. James Olsen on January 25, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Craig H – I think you’re bringing up more good reasons, not wrong reasons for liking the OT. I think Nephi’s “plainness” is great. But even Nephi couldn’t deny the fantastic value of Isaiah, and is probably a bigger proponent than anyone else of a text that on numerous levels is very difficult (including the levels you raise).

    As to purging, I think you’re taking Bushman too literally, or exhaustively, or perhaps some other adverb. Surely he would agree with you that there is no revelation and no religion in a cultural vacuum and that Joseph would not have been able to fully purge “Hellenism” any more than 19th century Protestantism. The point is not a “pure” achievement, but the way in which Mormonism transcends Christianity – by “reviving the Hebraic” as opposed to a progressive building on/jettisoning Christianity.

    As to your final question, I don’t think it’s an either/or (either more or less OT than other things). But I think that the centrality of the temple cult undeniably and irretrievably roots us in the OT. And this is something we should champion and not shy away from.

    BTD Greg – One difficulty, I think comes from our approach to the OT. If we see the OT as simply a collection of moralistic stories (as opposed to say very complexly intertwined Law, literary writings, and prophetic religion enmeshed in a dynamic culture, among other things), than we’ve got some serious problems (i.e., we’re left with the serious problems that Bill raises above). I obviously think that a cure for our discomfort with the OT is more OT.

  12. Craig H. on January 25, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Thanks James. I read Bushman to say that Mormons were claiming to purge Hellenism from Christianity, not that they actually did it–sorry for my vagueness. But my experience is that many Mormons think that it actually occurred and is possible, thus my statement.

    I’m not clear how reviving the Hebraic tradition constitutes a transcending of Christianity. It just seems to be going back to some things which the New Testament religion seemed to do away with. Thus my question of whether it’s primarily an OT or NT church. I’d say OT, and I find it more and more curious the older I get, given the frequent repetition during OT Gospel Doctrine classes of the rejection of the old law in favor of a higher law (found in the NT). Yet we seem to be saying (maybe unknowingly) that the higher law is the old law. Maybe Mormonism’s understanding of the relationship between OT and NT is a separate discussion; I don’t mean to distract you. But these fundamental questions keep coming to mind.

  13. Erik H. on January 25, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    And — it seems all of this pasting together and restoring and searching old records and giving room for changes in culture over the centuries is protected and given solely to those with the SPIRIT OF PROPHECY. We teach the restored ordinances, faith, love of God and man, patience, humility, and THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY puts the rest together for us. I finally discovered that all of the beautiful orderly words in sacred bibles (of course we only ever have a portion of it) are confused and noisy to all who need conversion… unless we give and receive that Spirit. We always think it was so complex to put this together when we think of men doing it. When we notice that it is from the atonement and The Atoning One as a gift of The Spirit, it is less frustrating. Old Testament, New(er) Testament, Modern Testaments – All One… with a “bunch” of other stuff we’ve never seen!

  14. Rosalynde on January 26, 2010 at 12:50 am

    Great post and great list, James. This past weekend our stake hosted an interfaith event with a local Jewish congregation, so I’ve been thinking about some of these issues.

    I would just add to your comments that it is possible to recognize and appreciate the extent to which Old Testament myth and ritual informs Mormonism, and to revere the text itself as scripture, but still to find it remote, deeply strange and elusive.

  15. Dane Laverty on January 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    The Old Testament was my favorite book of scripture (until I recently rediscovered the Doctrine and Covenants, but that’s a different topic). As a youth, I enjoyed it for its authenticity — not that it’s necessarily historically authentic (I’m not qualified to make any judgments there), but that it’s authentic to life. It tells stories about human beings I can identify with. They feel human to me.