Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sacred Objects in Israelite and Nephite Temple Worship

Occasionally, an essay, book, or presentation hits you in a way that substantially changes your perspective on a given topic. Don Bradley's presentation at the 2012 FAIR Conference provided a very interesting take on the topic of temple worship in the Book of Mormon. His talk was entitled, "Piercing the Veil: Temple Worship in the Lost 116 Pages." This post serves as a snapshot of his presentation in identifying the corollaries between Nephite sacred objects and Israelite temple objects, although I would refer the reader to the full talk where these concepts are more fully developed.

The Book of Mormon clearly identifies the existence of temples in Nephite territories (2 Nephi 5:16; Mosiah 2:1-7; Helaman 10:8; Alma 10:2; Alma 16:13; 3 Nephi 11:1), but the text provides minimal description of their functionality. Brother Bradley prefaces his discussion of Nephite temple objects by asking "what do we know about their temple worship, how it worked and what was it for?" The following Nephite/Israelite parallels provides some potential answers to these interesting questions.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Noah's Ark and the Temple

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The following information was used as introductory material for a Gospel Doctrine lesson that I taught. My goal, as always, was to try and show how incredibly interesting the scriptures can be in order to encourage and inspire greater personal engagement with the scriptures. The following information, however, consists of a liberal borrowing of information from Interpreter and Benjamin the Scribe. For all quotations below, please refer to these two sources.

There are compelling reasons to connect Noah's ark with Moses’ tabernacle and the temple. The ark is the only instance in the Bible, outside of temple construction, in which the Lord provides revelation regarding building dimensions (Gen 6:14-16). The ark had three decks (Gen. 6:16), which correspond to the three divisions in the tabernacle. Each of the three decks of Noah’s ark were exactly the same height as the tabernacle, and three times the area of the tabernacle court. Both the ark and the tabernacle used mikceh, or animal skins (Gen. 8:13) as a covering for these structures. The ark was made of gopher wood (Gen. 6:14), commonly believed to be cypress wood, which was also used for the two doors and flooring of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6:15, 34). Noah is instructed to “pitch [the ark] within and without with pitch” (Gen. 6:14).  The first word “pitch” is kaphar and the second word “pitch” is kopher. The second pitch, kopher, “looks to be an Egyptian loan word…it originally meant chest, or coffin, so Noah is quite literally building his own coffin, that he is figuratively going into death, and then being brought out of death.” Similarly, after Moses’ mother put him on the Nile on an “ark” (tebah – tāvah “vessel”), the same word as Noah’s ark, and seals it with pitch (Ex. 2:3).

Friday, May 2, 2014

Jacob the Supplanter

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An interesting observation made by Umberto Cassuto regarding the narrative of Jacob's life in Genesis provides a bridge to some Hebraic wordplay frequently observed by Biblical scholars. Jacob's name, which means "supplanter" is used by Esau in Gen 27:36 in referring to the two instances in which he was 'supplanted':
And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
In other words, Esau is basically saying that Jacob has 'Jacobed' him twice now, or that the supplanter has supplanted him twice now. Cassuto observes poetic retribution in the story of Jacob initially marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Regarding Rebekah and Jacob's plan to obtain Isaac's blessing, Cassuto writes: