Is the Old Testament True or is it Fiction?

»Posted by on Sep 17, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

Many people today view the Old Testament with a great deal of skepticism. Some believe that parts of the Old Testament are deeply flawed and fall far short of the truth. There are also many who reject the Bible in its entirety—both Old and New Testament—because they do not believe in God. Some others believe that many of the Bible’s stories are myths that have been preserved to teach us gospel principles, but that the stories of the Old Testament have little basis in fact. Most of us also know people who believe the Old Testament may have some truth in it, but that it is not relevant to our times because, as they say, everything in the Old Testament message was superseded by the New Testament. Many believe that even the Ten Commandments are out of date—that today they can, at best, be considered as “ten suggestions.” Another point of view relates to the fact that we have the Bible today courtesy of the Jews, a people known for their ancient myths, many of which were nothing more than legends, superstitions, and folklore. The Talmud, for example, which includes many strange and unusual accounts, was developed from centuries of Jewish oral tradition and written to help the people understand the Jewish Bible (the Tanakh). The Tanakh consists of three parts: the law (or the Torah), the prophets (Nebiim), and the writings (Kethubim). Some so-called authorities believe that the Talmud was just an extension of the writings in the Tanakh and that the Old Testament writings, especially the early chapters of Genesis, are the true beginning of Jewish mythology. And certainly there are other variations of belief on this issue. There are many reasons why people neglect the Old Testament. On the other hand, many other people believe the Bible is perfect and infallible. They claim that God’s hand so carefully shepherded the writing, preservation, compilation, translation, and transmission of the scriptural text that every word must be considered as the absolute word of God. The Latter-day Saints take the position that the Bible is the word of God “as far as it is translated correctly” (Article of Faith 1:8). The word “translated,” as used here, seems to mean much more than rendering the text from one language to another, but rather the whole process that brought the Bible from its ancient originators down to us. As one looks carefully at various Bible translations, it is apparent that there are errors in the text, as well as some significant differences between the various translations. There are also contradictions when the same story is told by two (or three) different Biblical authors. One example of an error is in 2 Samuel 21:8. Here it is clear, from the known facts, that King Saul’s second daughter Michal was named when it should have been her elder sister Merib. The scripture mentions the five sons of Michal “whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai.” The error in this verse becomes obvious when we consider that Michal had no children and it was Merib who was married to Adriel. Many other examples of errors could be cited. Another significant point is that the Old Testament has to do with the not-so-ancient Hebrew language texts from which all modern translations have been made. In the First Century AD, when the scriptural canon was finally set, there were no Hebrew texts in existence—only the Greek Septuagint texts. Sensing the significance of this problem, scholars in the Third Century took the Greek Septuagint Bible, which was created five centuries earlier, and translated it back into Hebrew. And, as if the problems of translating were not enough, consider also that the Hebrew language of the Third Century AD was very different from the Hebrew language of the Third Century BC. It is truly amazing—perhaps nothing short of a miracle—that there are not many more problems than there are. God surely had a hand in this. Another important thing to consider is that many Old Testament stories are told with the use of symbolism, a practice well known in the prophecies. An excellent example of this is the story of the Creation. The Creation story is a true story. God did indeed create the earth and all the things on its face. He also created mankind in His own image and likeness from the dust (i.e., the elements) of the earth. There is no doubt about the actuality of the Creation, but the Biblical account tells the story with the use of symbolism. God, apparently, has not seen fit, or has not found it to our advantage, to share with...

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Cleansing of Lepers Under the Law of Moses As a Type (or Shadow) of the Atonement of Christ

»Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

You will recall the Apostle Paul’s statement that the Law of Moses was a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (see Galatians 3:24). That is a great description of the law. It was given to the children of Israel to help them understand the reality of Christ’s future coming and atonement and to prepare their hearts for those events. Virtually every facet of the law pointed them to Christ. Jacob, the Book of Mormon prophet, stated the matter plainly when he said, “Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end has the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.” One problem you and I face as we read the Old Testament is that we have trouble seeing past the words and the complicated procedures, which seem to have little relevance in the modern world, to the richly symbolic message of Christ that is contained therein. But, whether we see it or not, the message is there. To illustrate this point, let’s discuss just one small facet of the law of Moses—that part which relates to the cleansing of lepers, keeping in mind that the same vistas can also be opened up in other parts of the law—for, truly, “all things” do indeed testify of him. The ritualistic instructions relating to the cleansing of lepers under the Law of Moses are found in Leviticus chapter 14. In that chapter, Jehovah explains to Moses in some detail how the leper, whose plague has been healed, must proceed to gain readmittance into the congregation of Israel. As you read the requirements of this procedure, think of the healing of this physical ailment as if it were the healing of a spiritual ailment (we call it sin) and the workings of the Atonement of Christ become apparent in that process. My discussion of these points is based on two separate explanations of this process. One of these explanations is found in a chapter written by Gerald R. Lund (chapter 2, “Old Testament Types and Symbols”) in a book by Neal A. Lambert entitled Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft and BYU Religious Studies Center, 1979). The other is in a book entitled Gospel Symbolism by the late Joseph Fielding McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Publishers, 1985). Let’s look at the scriptures themselves, a few verses at a time, analyzing them as we go. 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying 2. This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest. 3. And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of the leprosy be healed in the leper; The leprosy itself, the loathsome disease in the infected person, represents sin and corruption. It causes the sinner to be separated from the fellowship of the rest of Israel. The healing process actually begins as the one who has sinned recognizes his sin and stops the plague. At this point, he recognizes that he is in need of the healing power available through priesthood authority. It can do for him what he cannot do for himself. To begin the healing process, he seeks that priesthood authority in order to be cleansed from his sin. 4. Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet [woolen thread], and hyssop: 5. And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running [or fresh] water: 6. As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet [woolen thread], and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running [or fresh] water. 7. And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field. 8. And he that is cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean: and after that he shall come into the camp, and shall tarry abroad out of his tent seven days. Both of these birds  represent the leper (or the repentant sinner), and two birds are needed because of the two...

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Christ and the Old Testament

»Posted by on Sep 15, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

There are three questions that come to mind when we discuss the subject of Christ and the Old Testament. These questions are: Were the mortal ministry and mission of Jesus Christ foretold in the Old Testament? Was the mortal Christ aware of Old Testament prophets and their prophecies during His ministry? What is the relationship between Jehovah in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ? We shall explore here only the second and third questions. The first question, about Old Testament prophecies of Christ’s mortal mission, is discussed in some depth on this web site under Messages of the Old Testament. Christ’s Awareness of Old Testament Prophecies   The scriptures used by the Jews during Christ’s ministry would have been the Greel Septuagint. This was a translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, made in the third century before Christ. Its name came from the tradition that it was translated in 70 (actually 72) days by 70 Palestinian Jews, at the order of Ptolemy, for use by the Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria. The Septuagint was of immense value to the Jews because they were no longer able to read the Hebrew language. All Old Testament scriptures quoted in the New Testament are from this Greek Septuagint. Thus, the reading is somewhat different from what we find in those same Old Testament verses in the King James Version of the Bible. From the very beginning of His ministry, Christ showed His familiarity with the scriptures—the scriptures in general and also those scriptures that specifically prophesied of Him. In the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, he announced His divine Sonship by reading Isaiah 61, verse 1 and part of verse 2. He read thus: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). After reading, he closed the book, and said, “This day is this scripture, fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). When Christ was tempted by Satan following His 40-day fast in the wilderness, He responded to Satan’s enticings by quoting scriptures. In response to each of the three temptations, He responded by saying, “It is written,” and then proceeded to quote from a scripture. When tempted to turn stones into bread, He said, “It is written, Man shalt not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), a clear reference to Deuteronomy 8:3 where Moses explained to the Israelites that God had given them manna in the wilderness that He might make them know that “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” When Jesus was tempted to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, He responded: “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7). This is a reference to Deuteronomy 6:16 where Moses told the Israelites, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God…” When tempted to worship Satan in exchange for the kingdoms and glories of the world, Jesus answered, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4: 10). This is an obvious reference to the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), with the same message also being found in Exodus 34:14 and Deuteronomy 6:14. When Jesus taught the multitude concerning the mission of John the Baptist, He bore witness to them that “this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Matthew 11:10). This was a reference to Malachi 3:1: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple.” When Jesus drove the money changers from the temple, He said to them, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). The Savior’s reference here is to Isaiah 56:7. Here Isaiah expounded on the glorious blessings that will be bestowed on those who keep the commandments. As he talked about those who keep the Sabbath, he said, “Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house...

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Is “How Often Would I Have Gathered You” Just For Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

»Posted by on Sep 14, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

When I wrote my book, How Often Would I Have Gathered You, I subtitled it, Stories from the Old Testament and Related Sources for Latter-day Saints. Many have asked what that subtitle means and why I would limit my stories just to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those are both good questions, and I will attempt to give a good answer. First, I will say that the stories are for anyone who wishes to read them and not just for Latter-day Saints. The stories are told in a straightforward fashion that will be familiar and meaningful to anyone who loves the Old Testament. The main difference between these stories and non-Latter-day Saints stories (if there are such) is in the use of what the subtitle refers to as “related sources.” The Old Testament translation from which these stories have been drawn is the King James Version; and it is no different from what you remember it. But, because I have used these “related sources,” the perspective of the stories is broadened and I have been able—in some of the stories—to provide a clearer view of Old Testament meanings. In essence, these “related sources” enable us to view the Old Testament through high-definition spectacles. These sources include other ancient writings: the Book of Mormon, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, and the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, both of which are in a compilation known to Latter-day Saints as  the Pearl of Great Price. I have also used information provided by Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews, as well as various Old Testament commentaries in order to add important background and clarity. There are many references to (as well as explanations from) these related sources in the footnotes of the book. In these footnotes, I attempt to clarify most of the differences between my stories and what is written in the King James Translation. There are cases where an entire story (or significant parts of a story) comes from these other sources. In those cases, there is no mention of that fact in the footnotes, but the source is clearly identified at the top of the story, just below the title. One example of a difference is the Latter-day Saints’ understanding that the Great Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ are the same being. The Biblical scriptures to support this identity are outlined in the article on this page entitled “Christ and the Old Testament.” There (in the article entitled “Christ and the Old Testament”) I have also included some Biblical references to clarify the Latter-day Saint understanding that Jesus Christ and God the Eternal Father are not the same personal entity but are two separate personages—though certainly one in unity and purpose. Latter-day Saints also believe that God does not change—that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (see Malachi 3:6). In keeping with that belief, we contend that the gospel taught by Jesus during his earthly ministry was the same gospel taught to Adam and to all the ancient prophets and patriarchs. The Law of Moses, which was a lesser law, was given to a people who had been in bondage for more than 400 years and were not prepared to live the fullness of the gospel—the higher law. The Law of Moses was, as the Apostle Paul wrote, a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24). With the infinite Atonement at the end of the mortal advent of Jesus Christ, that lesser law was fulfilled. Latter-day Saints also believe that all things, including humankind, were created spiritually by our Father in Heaven before they were created physically upon the earth—that humankind, as His spirit children, lived with God in a spiritual existence prior to our earth life. The eternal existence of mankind has been likened unto a three-act play with the three acts comprising our pre-mortal existence, our mortal earthly existence, and our existence after mortality. For those who come into this second act (mortality) with no understanding of the other two acts, the purpose behind the second act—and of the entire play—is very hard to comprehend. In fact, it makes no sense at all. Just as the Lord told Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4-5), so it was with each of us. Jehovah also hinted at this pre-mortal life when he asked Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou...

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