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The Art of Finding Anything in the OT: Christianity and Mormonism

October 27, 2012

“As for the notion that anything can be found in the OT; I don’t think so.”
Daniel Boyarin

“And just as the gold completely covers the acacia wood, so that one cannot see the wood except through the gold, even so do Christians see the Shared Scriptures only through the Christian Scriptures, which is why we name them the Old Testament, and our own scriptures the New Testament, and together they comprise our Bible.”
Victoria Gaile Laidler

“The translating [Joseph] Smith undertook was an imaginative attempt to change history. This is a brilliant idea, and it was not the only time he did this. Also found in the Pearl of Great Price is the Book of Moses, wherein Smith rewrote parts of Moses’ life story, therefore changing this pivotal character’s story from the way it was originally described in the Bible.”
Mike Furness

“But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made -with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.”
— Nephi ( ► Gospel Library ► Scriptures ► Book of Mormon ► 1 Nephi ► 1)

Daniel Boyarin does not yet see the face of American president candidate Mitt Romney in the face of the prophet Nephi.  And Victoria, my co-blogger here at BLT, does not yet see in Nephi’s hand the hand of Christ or of John the Baptist or of Aristotle.  But Neima Jahromi does in “Adventures in Mormon Art History.”

And Mike Furness sees in Joseph Smith a “prophet, seer and artist,” a translator of the Scriptures.  Smith “claims to have not only seen, but spoken with, God and Jesus Christ, thus beginning his controversial and remarkably ambitious creation—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

And now, still, the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reveres and respects the Bible.”  For the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is nonetheless more art, the art of finding more in the OT:

The Christian Bible has two divisions, commonly known as the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament consists of the books of scripture used among the Jews of Palestine during the Lord’s mortal ministry. The New Testament contains writings belonging to the Apostolic age and regarded as having the same sanctity and authority as the Jewish scriptures. The books of the Old Testament are drawn from a national literature extending over many centuries and were written almost entirely in Hebrew, while the books of the New Testament are the work of a single generation and were written mainly in Greek….

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reveres and respects the Bible and affirms also that the Lord continues to give additional revelation through his prophets in the last days that supports and verifies the biblical account of God’s dealings with mankind.

  • The stick of Judah (the Bible) and the stick of Joseph (the Book of Mormon) will become one in the Lord’s hand, Ezek. 37:15–20
  • The Bible’s truthfulness will be established by latter-day scripture, 1 Ne. 13:38–40
  • The Bible will be joined by the Book of Mormon in putting down false doctrine, 2 Ne. 3:12
  • A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, 2 Ne. 29:3–10
  • All who believe the Bible will also believe the Book of Mormon, Morm. 7:8–10
  • Elders shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, D&C 42:12
  • We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, A of F 1:8

This is all very interesting and fascinating to me. The metaphor of translation, of Bible translation, as art and as imagination and as scripture making and as interpretation.

And so I am all the more intrigued by what my friend Courtney Druz has asked me:

“Are you pointing out that even the relatively straightforward translations in the Septuagint (not dealing with virgins, etc.) enact a radical displacement of the text, severing its ties with Jewish interpretive traditions and embedding it in Greek culture?”

Courtney, I confess I do not know what The Virgin is doing in the Septuagint.  I confess I glossed over this in your question!  I confess I don’t know what we’ve found when we find that the OT is translated as

διὰ τοῦτο δώσει κύριος αὐτὸς ὑμῖν σημεῖον ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Εμμανουηλ – Isaiah 7:14

It sure makes artwork of the opener of the New Testament. Matthew translates, interprets, when chapter 1, verse 23, “reveres and respects the Bible and affirms also that the Lord continues to give additional revelation through his prophets in the last days that supports and verifies the biblical account of God’s dealings with mankind.” Here’s that additional, with its additional translation:

Ἰδού, ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν, καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ, ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον, Μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός.

Which is also why it’s so fascinating today that Boyarin’s Jewish gospels contain the Jewish Christ. What can be found in the OT, in the NT, in the gospels, in the Church, in Jesus Christ, in all that’s beyond these?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2012 1:04 pm

    Cannot disagree more with this page..but that’s just my opinion. We need to ask god if he revealed himself to Joseph Smith and if he indeed brought forward scriptures on the account of the people in South America. I understand we get caught up on biblical scripture that says no man is to add to the bible etc, however, we cannot say God cant add to his word. Why do we think so proud of ourselves that God can’t do this. Let’s not lack faith in God’s ways. He has been revealing himself and his word all through biblical prophets, why would he ever stop doing this..he is the same yesterday, today, forever. He still communicates to us through spirit revelation, visions, dreams, and when he wills it he will take those and show them his kingdom to come and tell us, warn us, and call us to repentance. When we rely on ourselves and others for our answers we can be decieved by the adversary. Today, god is revealing himself and his works to people all around the world. The Lord is coming friends, lets seek him, pray for him to reveal himself to ourselves. god bless.

  2. October 27, 2012 2:14 pm

    Thank you for reading and expressing your opinion. You say, “Cannot disagree more with this page.” Two questions: Are you a Mormon, and if so, what here in my post is it that you have to disagree with as a Mormon?

  3. October 28, 2012 4:53 pm

    Sorry, some of the wording confused me ie. Joseph Smith undertook an imaginative attempt to change history…when I read that it didn’t make sense. This was not in his imagination, nor was an attempt to change history…what he claimed to see was nothing imaginative, it was God the father and Jesus Christ in real life…if we are Christian, we must believe that God and Christ can reveal themselves to us if they will..the spiritual realm is all around us and God grants whomever is a believer to see into the spirit realm…I am LDS, although I speak to all true followers of Christ on this matter…lets not use fancy words to express the Savior..he did reveal himself to Joseph Smith or he didn’t…we can pray to know if he did…ask god, and he will give an answer. God bless.

  4. October 30, 2012 6:00 pm

    I wasn’t sure who is disagreeing with whom here. I have had a conversation on things outside the canon recently. One problem with an open canon is very simple: too much information. It is impossible to do justice to an open canon.

    Works earlier than the canon – like the Chinese classics, Lao Tsu etc may give insight and confirm what is known from the canonical source. E.g. the low estate of water, and the image of humility.

    Works later than the canon are also of interest like Herbert’s Easter or Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129 or Donne on Batter my Heart or his Sermons. These poems take metaphor from the source. Even the Qur’an has merit as poetry though it does not always acknowledge its dependency on its own sources.

    If one were going to add to the scriptures of the Hebrew or Christian canon, one has two possibilities – dispute – ‘this is in’, ‘not-this is in’; or something truly new. If the new song is incomplete, then the Spirit is incomplete. That is so blatant a contradiction within the faith that it cannot hold.

    In summary: what is already complete does not need completing. What is already complete is a serious study as it stands.

    Another problem: “All who believe the Bible will also believe the Book of Mormon.”
    What is it to believe a book? It is the Torah that is important. such Teaching is only possible in relation to the One who teaches humanity knowledge (Kimhi). Those who love Torah do not ‘believe’ a book. They are not ‘People of the Book’ as Islam notes. They are people of God. It is God who teaches that those who seek the Spirit are to worship in spirit and in truth. It is not possible to prove this or know as Kimhi notes by syllogism based on a text even if the text is used as witness. It may well be and is beyond my judgment to say if Joseph Smith or Muhammad or anyone else is given revelation by the Spirit. Even if they were, their books would not be ‘in the canon’ qua book. From the point of view of one who is taught, they can add nothing.

    Unfortunately, this question is important today. It is possible to be wrong. Certainly the other half of the nomination – Ayn Rand is wrong and self-contradictory at the heart. The sign over NY with the lights out is not a dollar sign.


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