Friday, July 31, 2009

Translating Biblical Phrases Part 2

It is quite obvious that translating from one language to another poses many problems: some words simply do not have any direct equivalent in the receptor language, some expressions are idiomatic and cannot be translated literally, some verb tenses simply cannot be translated as such, etc.

In one part of Africa, revenge is such a normal part of life that there isn’t even a word for forgiveness in the language. However, if you want to make it quite clear that you forgive someone who has wronged you and have no intention of taking revenge, you go to the offender and ‘spit out the wrong’, spitting a mouthful of water over them. So the phrase, “
God will forgive your sins,” (Mark 1:4) was translated, “God will spit your sins out over you.” When one old man heard this, he said, “Ah! Now I understand it! Sin is actually something important to God! What’s more, when He forgives us, He really means it!”

For the Gbeapo people of Liberia, the word "prophet" was translated as "God’s town-crier" a person the people were well familiar with in their own villages because he is the man who goes through the village every morning and evening to deliver the orders of the chief and announce important coming events.

For the Karré people of French equatorial Africa, the best way to translate "
comforter" (paraclete) was to use the expression "the one who falls down besides us" because in their country, when a porter carrying a heavy load would collapse on his way and be in danger of being eaten by wild beasts, the person who would fall down beside the exhausted traveler to encourage him to go on, was a "comforter."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Translating Biblical Phrases part 1

Because of my interest in the language of scripture, I have been fascinated by the experiences of people who took it upon themselves to live in a variety of scary places, just so they could learn obscure dialects and translate the Bible and teach others about Jesus.

The Bible has been translated into 2,018 languages, with countless more partial translations, and audio translations (for unwritten languages). In trying to use the local dialect and metaphors, translators have come up with interesting concepts, not all of them accurate portrayals of the Word. The following examples have been collected from several different sources.

One translator considered himself fortunate when he found a member of his target language group who understood the phrase "What is this?" The translator proceeded to point to an item and ask the man for its identifying name. The language helper gave him a word, and the translator wrote it down. Then he pointed to a second item and asked again, but the helper gave him the same word as before. In fact, no matter what the translator pointed to, he always got the same answer. The translator had not yet discovered that members of this tribal group never used a single finger for pointing. So when the translator stuck out his finger and said, "What is this?" his patient helper told him again and again—a finger.

In an Indian language in Mexico, translators translate John 1:14 "The word was full of chicken and truth," as the only grace gift in their culture is the gift of a live chicken. The Mazatec of Mexico speak of miracles as "long necked things," They are so amazed that they stretch their necks to see what happened. The Cuicatec Indians of Mexico's word for worship comes from the same root word for tail. So worship becomes, "wagging the tail for God."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Keep Your Garments

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Revelation 16:15

In New Testament times, the temple was guarded at night by priests. These priests were commanded to watch diligently and protect the treasures of the Temple. There was a great deal of money in there, as well as sacred objects of gold and silver. So if no one kept guard at night, it might be possible for robbers to break in and steal. These guards were never to fall asleep.

Alfred Edersheim tells us more concerning the Temple customs that this verse alludes to:

During the night the ‘captain of the temple’ made his rounds. On his approach the guards had to rise and salute him in a particular manner. Any guard found asleep when on duty was beaten, or his garments were set on fire–a punishment, as we know, actually awarded. Hence the admonition to us who, as it were, are here on Temple guard, ‘Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments’ (Rev. 16:15). But, indeed, there could have been little inclination to sleep within the Temple, even had the deep emotion natural in the circumstances allowed it. True, the chief of the course and ‘the heads of families’ reclined on couches along that part of the [Temple] in which it was lawful to sit down, and the older priests might lie on the floor, having wrapped their priestly garments beside them, while the younger men kept watch.

But then the preparations for the service of the morning required each to be early astir. The priest whose duty it was to superintend the arrangements might any moment knock at the door and demand entrance. He came suddenly and unexpectedly, no one knew when. The Rabbis use almost the very words in which Scripture describes the unexpected coming of the Master (Mark 13:35), when they say, ‘Sometimes he came at the cock-crowing, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later. He came and knocked, and they opened to him. Then said he unto them, 'All ye who have washed, come and cast lots.’

(Mishnah, Tamid. i. 1, 2). (Edersheim, Alfred. 1994. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. Updated edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers., pg 112)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Entertaining Angels Unaware

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
(Hebrews 13:2 KJV).

The word "entertain" can also be translated as "show love to" (RSV), "show hospitality to" (TEV), "be friendly to" (JNT), and "welcome" (NJB). These actions were a moral obligation for every family in Israel. According to one Middle Eastern scholar,

"The hospitality of the Eastern peoples exceeds all their other virtues. While the greetings of peace from a visitor are received by the host of the house, the women immediately rush to take the shoes from his feet...and bring cold water to wash them. (After being offered a drink) and as a mark of genuine hospitality, a guest is asked as often as seven times to eat. The guest refuses by saying, "Thank you. I have just eaten. I am not hungry." But the host insists by holding on to his garment and urging him, saying, "By God and his Holy Scriptures, you must eat." This is the custom to which Jesus referred in the parable about compelling guests to attend." (My Neighbor Jesus 45)

There were times when a guest was not welcome and none of the members of the house would rise to meet him. George Lamsa tells of such an experience and the response of the rejected guest:

The guest's greetings of peace are returned to him in such a cold manner that he immediately understands that he is not welcome. At such discourtesy, the visitor then loosens the straps of his sandals and shakes the sand out. When this is done near the entrance of the house, it signified that the house has broken the sacred code of hospitality. The dust became a witness. The tired and dusty traveler will refuse to even quench his thirst in that house (MNJ 46).

But such occasions were quite rare. Because of Abraham's experience, they believed that every stranger potentially carried a divine message. To reject the stranger would also be a rejection of the Lord whose message he bore. The host would, by such an action, offend God and cut himself off from further opportunities to receive such important communications. Generally, Easterners were more willing to feed and shelter even their enemies rather than gain a reputation for being inhospitable.

Beloved Bridegroom Chapter 8

Monday, July 27, 2009

Broken Potsherd

And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit. Isaiah 30:14

"This picture, which means little or nothing to our minds, was full of beauty to those who first heard it spoken. Pitchers and jars of earthenware are the usual means of carrying water from the well to the home. These jars are very easily broken. A woman stumbles or falls on her way to the well, the vessel crashes from her head to the ground and there lies in pieces.

Frugality is one of the Eastern woman’s virtues. Even these broken pieces of pottery (sherds) may be turned to service. She selects two of the largest: one she places by the side of the well or water pit; the other she takes home and places beneath the hearth. The piece by the well side will serve some day for the thirsty traveler to stoop down and scoop up the cool waters out of the pit. The sherd by the hearth will be used to carry glowing embers to light another fire, perhaps in a neighbor’s home.

Now we see the full vividness and force of Isaiah’s analogy, which depicts the utter ruin of rebellious and faithless Israel. "

(Bowen, Barbara M., Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944, pgs 56-57)

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Bitter" but not "Bad"

And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigor. Exodus 1:14

Jewish leaders would often say that a Jew in trouble should never describe his situation as “bad,” but rather as “bitter.” Medicine, too, is bitter tasting, but nevertheless serves a beneficial purpose. When the Jews left Egypt, they clearly perceived how the sufferings of their exile had been for their good. God had been with them through every bitter moment as He brought them through the purifying process that would result in their becoming “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” It was after the redemption that the Jews recognized the curative nature of the exile and they gave thanks for it as well.

I like this perspective on adversity and its hidden benefits. I think the Mormon pioneers and the Jews would have a lot to talk about.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Murder

Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13

"One mistranslation is Matthew 5:21, where most English version of the Bible read, "You shall not kill." This is a quotation of Exodus 20:13. The Hebrew word used here is "murder" (ratzach), and not kill (harag).

In Hebrew there is a clear distinction between those two words. The first (ratzach) means premeditated murder, while the second (harag) encompasses everything from justifiable homicide, manslaughter and accidental killing, to taking the life of an enemy soldier in war. The commandment very precisely prohibits murder, but not the taking of a life in defense of oneself or others.

It is difficult to explain how English translators made this mistake since the Greek language also has separate words for "murder" and "kill," and it is the Greek word for "murder" (not "kill") which is used in Matthew 5:21. Even with no knowledge of Hebrew, the English translators of the New Testament should here have correctly translated "murder," and not "kill."'

(Bivin, David, and Roy Blizzard, Jr. 1994. Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights from a Hebraic Perspective. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers., pgs 69-70)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fat and Flourishing

In Psalm 92:14, we read, "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing."

‘Fat’ generally has unpleasant connotations in our day, but in the scriptures, it is almost always a positive image. This particular verse is in reference to the righteous older person. The words 'fat and flourishing' basically mean 'full of sap and green.' This gives the picture of a healthy tree that invites people to sit under it for shade or pick the fruit that is on it.

The righteous individual would be of such character that people will want to be around them. The fruit of righteous living and scripture study will be clearly evident. Others will find that they are given wise, kind and loving words, that they are given encouragement, and that they are given comfort by the older righteous person.

Even in old age there are spiritual fruit that can be produced. By their example and counsel, young people can be encouraged to do what is right. Even though the older person may have many and various physical ailments, they can be very healthy and fruitful spiritually. A big thank you to Grandma Thelma Snarr Nielsen (age 93) for modeling “fat and flourishing” so beautifully for her family and all who know her.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


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, Luke 4:18

Jesus announced his calling and ministry as the Messiah with this verse. Additionally, we know that He is our great Prophet, Priest, and King. Raphael Patai explains the significance of being anointed and those who received it. I believe every righteous person who honored their anointing was privileged to stand as a witness pointing to the the Savior. Patai wrote:

Remarkably and characteristically, the term "Mashiah"—of which “Messiah” is the Anglicized form—had preceded the Messianic concept by many centuries. Originally, in Biblical usage, it simply meant “anointed,” and referred to Aaron and his sons, who were anointed with oil and thereby consecrated to the service of God (Exod. 28:41, etc.). The High Priest was termed “the Anointed [Mashiah] of God” (Lev. 4:3, 5, 16; 6:15). With the establishment of the monarchy, the same term was applied to the king: he was “the Anointed of the Lord” because he was installed in his high office by receiving the sacrament of anointment (1 Sam. 2:10, 35; 9:16; 24:7, etc.). A third type of divinely elected, the prophet, would also undergo the ceremony of anointing: Elijah, we read, was commanded by God to anoint Jehu as king over Israel, and Elisha the prophet in his own place (1 Kings 19:16).

(Patai, Raphael. 1979. The Messiah Texts. Detroit: Wayne State University Press., pgs xxi-xxii)

Monday, July 20, 2009

To Remember and Forget

And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: Genesis 30:22-23

In the Gospels, sometimes words do not always mean what they seem to mean. Here are a few examples: God remembered Rachel...She conceived and bore a son. "Remember" sometimes means "to do a favor for someone" or "to intervene on behalf of," as in Genesis 30:22-23, quoted above. Are we to assume that God forgot Rachel and then suddenly remembered her? Certainly not!

In Genesis 40:14 Joseph requested the chief butler to "remember" him when he was restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court. Yet the butler did not "remember" Joseph, but "forgot" him as stated in verse 23. Should we assume that Joseph only desired the chief butler to think of him from time to time once the chief butler was reinstated? No, Joseph was requesting the chief butler to intercede on his behalf with Pharaoh.

In Luke 23:42 the thief on the cross requested of Jesus, "
Remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus did not wait to grant the favor. His immediate response was, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. "Forget" is another word which does not always mean what is seems to mean in English Bible translations. It can mean "not to intervene on behalf of," or "to abandon." As in Genesis 40:23, noted above, the chief butler "forgot" Joseph, or simply did nothing for him. In I Samuel 1:11, Hannah petitioned the Lord not to "forget," or abandon her, but to "remember" her; in other words, favor her with a son.

(Bivin, David, and Roy Blizzard, Jr. 1994. Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights from a Hebraic Perspective. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers., pgs 58-59)

Donna note: To "remember" always implies that some sort of action will be taken. This is interesting to think of in relationship to the Sacrament. When we covenant to "always remember Him" it means much more than a mental exercise. It means that our actions will always reflect the covenants we have made.]

Friday, July 17, 2009

Talitha Cumi

And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. Mark 5:41

"Throughout the silent years Jesus was learning the meaning of family life. The name for God which came most naturally to the lips of Jesus was Father; and the very use of that word is itself a very beautiful compliment to Joseph. It was said of Martin Luther that he hesitated to pray the Lord’s Prayer and to say “Our Father,” because his own father had been so stern, so unbending, so unsympathetic that the word “father” was not a word which he loved. To Jesus the name “father” was the most natural and the most precious name for God, and it was in the home at Nazareth that he must have learned the meaning of that word.

There were words which Jesus heard in the home in Nazareth which lingered in his mind all his days. Once he came to a little girl whom all others thought to be dead, and said softly: “Talitha, cumi,” which means, as we might say, “Little lamb, get up!” (Mark 5:41) Where did Jesus hear a child called “little lamb?” Surely these were the words which he had heard the gentle Mary croon over himself and over his brothers and sister, when they were very young. Throughout the years Jesus was discovering that it was God indeed who had set the solitary in families (Ps. 68:6). He was no monkish ascetic; he grew up within a home."

(Barclay, William., The Mind of Jesus, HarperSanFrancisco, United States of America, 1960, pgs 11-12)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Seven-fold Testimony

The LORD is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my Strength, in Whom I will trust; my Buckler, and the Horn of my Salvation, and my High Tower. Psalm 18:2

What a testimony given by David! In this single verse, there is a seven-fold ascription of praise to the Lord for His great salvation. Each testimony can be appropriated also by all who trust Him.

1. “My Rock.” The word used here does not mean a stone or even a boulder, but a mighty monolith, immovable and impregnable.
2. “My Fortress.” This word refers to a great bulwark—a strong hold. The Hebrew word is essentially the same as Masada, the high butte where the Jews resisted the Roman armies after the destruction of Jerusalem.
3. “My Deliverer.” “Our God is able to deliver,” even from the fiery furnace, the den of lions, and from the armies of Saul.
4. “My Strength.” This is another word often translated “rock,” this time a rugged, craggy one, most appropriate a symbol of great strength.
5. “My Buckler.” The small movable shield used to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16).
6. “The Horn of my Salvation.” This striking Old Testament symbol is even repeated in the New Testament (Luke 1:69), and applied to the coming Savior, referring either to the “horns of the altar,” where fleeing sinners could cling for refuge, or to the fighting horns of a strong beast.
7. “My High Tower.” Here the word is not for a man-made tower, but for a natural, high, topographic eminence suitable both for watching and for defense.

The great promises of salvation and security in Christ are timeless. The words that bought such hope to David are still a comfort to his followers today.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Counsel from Staff and Stock

My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them:... Hosea 4:12

In this verse, we can hear the Lord's lament that the people of Israel had rejected Him and his word and were asking counsel of their stocks and staffs. They were doing this instead of looking to Him for answers to their problems.

“The pagan people had mythical customs which the Israelites were mimicking. Sometimes they would take two sticks and drop them. Then a 'wise' person would look at how the sticks landed and make an interpretation. This 'reading of the sticks' was supposed to give answers to a question asked. Another custom was to have two sticks in a container. One stick would have a 'yes' answer engraved on it. The other stick would have a 'no' answer engraved on it. A person would reach in and pull a stick out. Whichever one came out was the answer to the question. Another custom was to take a stick and shave all the bark off one side. This stick would then be dropped. Whichever side was facing up gave the answer. If it was the shaved side, it was a 'yes.' If it was the side with bark, it was a 'no.'

There are many today who do similar things. They will look at crystals for answers. Some will look at leaves in a bowl. Some will look at cards being turned over. Some will look at skin creases in their palms. Some will look at the stars. Some will simply look to a fortune teller.”

We will always be blessed when we look to his word for the answers to our problems. It contains the answers to make each of us the person God knows we can be: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). And Heavenly Father rejoices when we pray to Him. He is always ready and willing to help us and give us comfort.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Memorial of Gratitude

And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind [him], and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. Matt.9:20-22

I came across the following anecdote after reading Nibley's book on Early Christianity. He mentioned Origen and Eusebius as credible witnesses of what took place during the first few hundred years after Christ's ministry.

A tradition is preserved by Eusebius connecting the city of Caesarea Philippi with the woman of faith, who was cured of her inveterate disease by touching the border of Jesus' garment. The words of the early historian are :— " But, as we have mentioned this city, I do not think it right to pass by a narrative that deserves to be recorded for posterity. They say, that the woman who had an issue of blood, mentioned by the Evangelists, and who obtained deliverance from her affliction by our Savior, was a native of this place, and that her house is shown in the city, and the wonderful monuments of our Savior's benefit to her are still remaining. At the gates of her house, on an elevated stone, stands a brazen image of a woman on her bended knee, with her hands stretched out before her, like one entreating. Opposite to this there is another image of a man erect, of the same materials, decently clad in a mantle, and stretching out his hand to the woman. Before her feet, and on the same pedestal, there is a certain strange plant growing, which, rising as high as the hem of the brazen garment, is a kind of antidote to all kinds of diseases. This figure, they say, is a statue of Jesus Christ, and it has remained even until our times, so that we ourselves saw it whilst tarrying in that city."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stripes and Rods

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods..
2 Corinthians 11:24-25a

Paul's extensive description of all he suffered for the Gospel's sake is sobering. Here is a bit more information regarding just two of the things he endured. One was a Jewish method of punishment and the other was a specialty of the Romans.

"To explain this singular custom of inflicting "forty stripes save one" a few words from Moses may be quoted. "And it shall be, if the wicked man (brought to the judges for trial) be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed; lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother shall seem vile unto thee" (Deut. 25:2,3). On this subject, as on most others, the Jews refined, and affected great concern. And lest they should accidently inflict more than forty stripes, they resolved to stop short at thirty-nine. And to insure exactitude both ways they invented a scourge of thirteen thongs, and with this instrument the culprit was struck three times. By this ingenious method the law's demands were met, and the prisoner was secured against excessive punishment. This fully explains the nature and details of Paul's punishment.

Beating with rods
was a Roman punishment, inflicted by the civil authorities. It was usually executed by the lictors, who were in constant attendance on the principal magistrates, going before them as they went. The insignia of their office, as well as the dignity of the magistrate on whom they attended, consisted of a number of elm rods, bound with a thong into a bundle, which they carried on their shoulder. An axe was bound up in the bundle, and its head jutted forth from it. Within the city of Rome , however, the axe was omitted, out of respect to the Roman people. The bundle, in fact, comprised the apparatus of the lictor as executioner of the magistrates' sentence. The thong served him to bind the criminal, with the rods he inflicted beatings, and (in capital punishment cases) with the axe he beheaded."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Not Just Literal Mountains

Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ... ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
Matthew 21:21

" Removing mountains" was among the Jews a common hyperbole for the conquest of stupendous difficulties. A great teacher was called by the Rabbis goker hartm, or uprooter of mountains.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Four Levels of Interpretation part 4

To see how this works, we can take these 4 levels and apply them to a single scriptural idea.

The 4 Levels Applied to John 10:11, 14

"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine."

Plain ­ P'shat

Reading at this level we can learn another one of the Savior's titles.
We learn that one of the job descriptions of a good shepherd was a willingness to give his life for his sheep.
We can see that he has a close relationship with his flock.
We note that the title "good shepherd" appears three times and the word "sheep" appears twice. (word emphasis)

Story ­ Drash

At this level we can extract and expound principles. We can read about other shepherds in scripture and compare them to Christ's example. We can study the lives of Moses, David, and Ammon, and use their actions to illustrate how different virtues can be incorporated into our lives.

Hint ­ Remez

Remez is the level that is a foreshadowing of Christ's redemptive sacrifice. Here we can frequently make many profound "ah-hah!" connections.

Anciently, shepherds fought to defend their flocks from predators. Nephi, speaking of the great blessing of the atonement and what our awful fate would have been without the protection of our Good Shepherd, Christ, said:

"O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit." (2 Nephi 9:10)

Lastly, we have the

Hidden ­ Sod level.

As a reminder, at this level, knowledge is received by personal revelation as a result of covenant faithfulness, diligent study, yearning prayer, and strict obedience.
There must be reciprocal trust and confidence that knowledge will be held sacred. Quoting Bruce R. McConkie: "The Lord does not talk to blabbermouths."

Using word-links, we can discover a possible sod level in this verse. Listen:

"I know my sheep, and am known of mine."

These words are echoed in a verse found in the Doctrine and Covenants.

"They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known..." (D&C 76:94)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Four Levels of Interpretation part 3

The Book of Mormon also records an experience where another group of people received the Spirit of prophecy.

"...When king Benjamin had...spoken to his people, he...desired to know...if they believed the words which he had spoken....And with one voice they said: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken...; and...we know of their...truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord...And we,...through...the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient [which it wasn't], we could prophesy of all things." (Mosiah 5:1-3)

Each person in this audience shared a common prophetic view. They, of course, were not in competition with King Benjamin, but because of their faithful commitment and belief in Christ, they had access to the same information their prophet-king.

"Mystery" is the word used in the New Testament to describe the sod level.

LDS Bible Dictionary
Mystery. Denotes in the N.T. a spiritual truth that was once hidden but now is revealed, and that, without special revelation, would have remained unknown.

The teachings of the temple fall under this category. The Lord reserves unto Himself the prerogative and privilege of teaching these truths to His children. He alone knows the hearts of those who seek Him, and comprehends how to instruct them without any possible misunderstanding at their level of preparedness. Only He can teach sacred truths and tailor them to each individuals learning style, background, experiences, and unique capacities.

When the Savior was on earth teaching his disciples, he would explain the hidden depths of his teachings. However, they were not given permission to divulge these insights to others or to set themselves up for a light to get the praise of men.

"And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand." (Luke 8:10)

Nephi also obtained this level of understanding.

"I, Nephi,...having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God..." (1 Nephi 1:1)

Who has access to this information? Alma says:

"...It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him." (Alma 12:9)

Alma diligently inquired to know concerning a mystery and recorded his answer which still blesses us today.

"...Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know--that is concerning the resurrection." (Alma 40:3)


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Four Levels of Interpretation part 2

C. Messianic Hint ­ Remez

This is the level we would define as types and shadows. Word pictures in the scriptures fall in this category.

"Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, ...and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him." (2 Nephi 11:4)

Prophetic Pointing

"...we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him..." (Jacob 4:5)

"...every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice..." (Alma 34:14)

Heavenly Father even demonstrated this physically.

"..One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" (Joseph Smith History 1:17)

The fourth level is

D. Hidden ­ Sod ("Secret" in the O.T.) [the 'o' is a long 'o' sound]

"Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret (sod) unto his servants the prophets." (Amos 3:7)

The Old Testament definition of "prophet" is different than the definition we use in the church today when we formally sustain the President, his counselors, and the Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators.

In the book of Numbers, chapter 11, we read that 70 men were called to assist Moses. These men met at the Tabernacle and there the Spirit of the Lord descended upon them and they were given the ability to prophesy.

Eldad and Medad were two other men who remained in the camp and were not in the group Moses had assembled. Yet the Spirit of the Lord also rested upon them and they began likewise to prophesy to the people in the camp.

Being protective regarding the honor of Moses and his group of 70 men, a young man came to Joshua complaining about them; and so Joshua asked Moses to forbid them to prophesy. Moses' response is a classic:

"...would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29)

The term Moses uses for prophet is "navi" and it meant any person who was close to God and who would be able to discern how the Lord felt about any given situation. This person, whether male or female, would manifest insight, dedication, holiness, and commitment. And what exactly is this spirit associated with prophetic ability? Revelation 19 tells us:

"...for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev. 19:10)


Monday, July 6, 2009

Four Levels of Interpretation part 1

The Jews teach that there are four basic levels of scriptural interpretation. They are:

A. Plain ­ P'shat
B. Story ­ Drash
C. Messianic Hint ­ Remez
D. Hidden ­ Sod

When we realize, for example, that each of the four Gospels was written using one of these different perspectives, it helps us to better understand why and how the author of each Gospel chose to emphasize particular aspects of Christ's mission.

A. Plain ­ P'shat
This reading gives the most obvious sense of the text, including chronology and setting, and is the first factual introduction.

When reading the story of Noah's ark at this level, we would learn facts like how many people were on the ark, their names, that the ark was made of gopher wood, and that Noah's first action upon leaving the ark was to build an altar and offer sacrifices.

It is important at this level to notice sequence. When we read scriptures that list several qualities, we can observe that the qualities often form a pattern of progression leading to ever higher levels of knowledge or purity.

(Beatitudes ­ Matthew 5-7
"Establish a house..." ­ D&C 88:119)

B. Story ­ Drash

Using this focus, we seek to draw life lessons from verses. Homiletics is the term for this kind of application.

Homiletics ­ "... for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning." (1 Nephi 19:23)

"...and thus we see..."­ mentioned at least 26 times


President Eric Shumway spoke at a BYU Devotional in March of 2002. In his talk, Pres. Shumway shares the scriptural account of raising Lazarus from the dead. After recounting the events leading up to the point when Lazarus came forth from the grave, Pres. Shumway remarked,

"Christ was commanding the people to free Lazarus, to remove the graveclothes and unbind the wrappings from around his eyes, mouth, hands, and feet-the wrappings of the grave. For he lived again! Think of the joy! But can we imagine also the hesitancy of some to reach out and remove the graveclothes? No doubt some shrank away completely.

For me the Lazarus story provides one of the most powerful metaphors of the Atonement of Christ for all humankind. We are all like Lazarus, beloved of the Lord, but wrapped about in the graveclothes of this world


Friday, July 3, 2009

Agree With Thine Adversary

Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Matthew 5: 25

In the east, judges were not stationed in every town or city. If someone had a legal matter that had to go before a judge, they usually had to travel a distance. Once the date for court had been set, the two opposing parties, their lawyers, and the witnesses would all start on the journey together. While they were 'in the way', they would be able to discuss the case, and come to realize that going to court would only be wasteful to both parties. A compromise could then be reached, and then only the lawyers would have to continue the journey, so they could inform the judge the case was settled 'out of court'. Going to court was usually considered to be a shameful thing, which is why most cases were settled 'in the way'. It also explains why there was not much work for judges.

The George M. Lamsa translation of the ancient Peshitta text for this verse in Matthew is easier to understand:

Matthew 5: 25 -- Try to get reconciled with your accuser promptly, while you are going on the road with him; for your accuser might surrender you to the judge, and the judge would commit you to the jailer, and you would be cast into prison.

Jesus was saying to avoid going before the judge if at all possible. God's Word addresses this subject clearly and concisely in the book of Romans.

Romans 12: 18 -- If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Jesus was advocating a win-win situation instead of win-lose.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Knowledge That Matters

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. John 5:29-40

I don't know who authored the following quote, but I think it is a helpful insight.

"John 5:39 can be be read as Christ’s rebuke of the "Jews": "You search the Scriptures, because you THINK you will find eternal life there. But you refuse to see that those same Scriptures testify of me! And you do not come to me, that you might truly have life."

It is never enough to be knowledgeable in the Scriptures in just a theoretical sense. The study of God's Word must lead us to embrace Christ, with our whole heart and mind. Knowledge by itself is sterile. But intimate, personal experience of Christ brings about deep and lasting changes in our lives, and leads on to the eternal life that may be possessed only through him."