An example of Joseph Smith ability as a translator:

    Thursday, June 14, 2012, 11:38 AM [General]

    Joesph Smith worked on an Egyptian papyrus that he had purchased in the 1830's. Part of that translation is referred to on the official LDS (Mormon) website.

    See here for facsimile 1

    Joesph Smith had siad that he previously translated the Book of Mormon from the "reformed" Egyptian language, though to this day no one knows what that is. Nor do we had a copy of it to verify Smith's translation. 

    But we do have a copy of the papyrus that Smith used for this partiular translation so let's now test Joseph Smith:

    Figure 1 Joseph Smith says it’s the Angel of the Lord.

    Actually it is the "ba" of the deceased. The ba is basically a person's personality — all of his/her non-physical attributes.

    Figure 2 Joseph Smith says its Abraham fastened upon an alter

    Actually it is the deceased with whom this papyrus was found. His name is Hôr.

    Figure 3 Joseph Smith says it’s the idolatrous priest of Elkenah

    Actually it is figure would have a jackal's head and would have represented the god of embalming, Anubis

    Figure 4 Joseph Smith says it’s the altar for sacrifice

    Actually it is a "lion couch" — simply a funeral bier. You can see this in many funeral scenes in ancient Egyptian art, it is very common. By the way, human sacrifice was never practiced in Egypt (except possibly very early in Egyptian history (1st Dynasty) and possibly in Egyptian pre-history, all of which would have pre-dated Abraham by a very long time).

    Figure 5 - 8 Joseph Smith says it’s the idolatrous god[s] of Elkenah... Libnah... Mahmackrah... Korash...

    Actually it is extremely well-known in ancient Egyptian funeral scenes. They are canopic jars containing the deceased's internal organs that were always removed during the embalming process - there are no gods called "Elkenah," "Libnah," "Mahmackrah," or "Korash" in the 5000+ years of Egypt's recorded history

    Figure 9 Joseph Smith says it’s the idolatrous god of Pharaoh

    Here’s the one you think Joseph Smith got right. Stephen E. Thompson, professor of Egyptology at Brown University and member of the LDS Church, identifies this crocodile as representing the god Horus. While Sobek is often portrayed in the form of a crocodile, in the case of this re-enactment of the Osiris-myth, it would be more appropriate to identify this figure as Horus. JS calls it a “god”, which isn’t very specific. Had he called it “Horus” or even “Sobek” that would have been impressive. But since it was well known that the Egyptians had multiple gods calling a figure in a facsimile a “god” has a chance of being correct.

    Figure 10 Joseph Smith says it’s Abraham in Egypt

    Actually it is a libation platform bearing wines, oils and a stylized papyrus plant. In Egyptian art, it is found in almost all drawings of major god figures,

    Figure 11 Joseph Smith says it’s designed to represent the pillars of heaven, as understood by the Egyptians

    Actually it is as a palace facade, called a "serekh" which, according to Egyptologist Stephen E. Thompson, was a frequent decoration on funerary objects.

    Figure 12 Joseph Smith says it’s Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament over our heads; but in this case, in relation to this subject, the Egyptians meant it to signify Shaumau, to be high, or the heavens, answering to the Hebrew word, Shaumahyeem

    Actually it is these strokes represent water in which the crocodile swims — which makes sense in this context. If figure #11 is a palace fortification, then these crocodile-infested waters would be a second line of defense against intrusion, keeping the deceased doubly-safe – Additionally none of the words JS uses are Egyptian.

    Out of the 12 figures in this Joseph Smith got zero correct. He does call one figure a “god” but does not give a name. Even if we are generous and give Joseph 1/2 a point for calling a figure “a god” that still leaves Joseph Smith with a 96% error rate

    Is this is the result that one should expect from a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator? Or the result of someone who had no idea of what he was doing?

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    Joseph smith and the Book of Abraham

    Monday, May 14, 2012, 1:10 AM [General]

    The Book of Abraham is a 1835 work [canonized in 1880 ] produced by Joseph Smith that he said was based on Egyptian papyri purchased from a traveling mummy exhibition a few years prior.

    Joseph Smith recorded in his diary that he had been endowed with the knowledge of hidden languages and was translating these Egyptian papyrus along with arranging an Egyptian grammar and alphabet.

     

    The Book of Abraham papyri [aka the "Joseph Smith Papyri"] were thought lost in the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. However, in 1966 several fragments of the papyri were found in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and in the LDS Church archives

     

    Upon examination by professional Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists, the papyri were found to bear no resemblance to Joseph Smith's interpretation, and were common Egyptian funerary texts, dating to about the first century BC. The text deals with the resurrection of an Egyptian priest but the LDS want us to believe that somehow this out of context story of Abraham was inserted. One Egyptologist is quoted as saying that the Abraham story “couldn’t possibly be more out of place

     

    And that “There is simply no justification for this kind of interpretation that appear for the facsimiles. They are wrong in regards to the hieroglyphs. They are wrong in regards to the gender. They are wrong in regards to what the scene represents….There is no historical validity for the Joseph Smith interpretation. None whatsoever.

    Watch the video for a great intro on the subject.

     

    Why do the Mormons believe that Joseph Smith translated these correctly when current scholarship says he did not?

    How can one trust in Joseph Smith as a prophet of God if he failed in this translation?

    A Complete translation of the Joseph Smith Papyri was published earlier this year by Robert K. Ritner who is currently Professor of Egyptology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and is considered one of the country's foremost Egyptian scholars. A link to the book, it is a bit pricey - $80.00

    There are introductory essays by noted scholars Christopher Woods, Associate Professor of Sumerology, University of Chicago , Marc Coenen, Egyptian Studies Ph. D., University of Leuven, Belgium, and H. Michael Marquardt, author of The Revelations of Joseph Smith: Text and Commentary.

    Intro articles available online here

    A few excerpts from the Mormon Chronicles article:

     

    Q: What parallels are there between the Book of Abraham and the papyri?

    (Ritner) The only parallels between the Book of Abraham and the papyri are found in the Facsimiles (Ptolemaic in date [352-30 BCE.]) that are specifically described and referenced within the text of the [Book of Abraham (BoA hereafter)] itself. There is thus no possibility that the scenes, reworked from the papyri for the BoA, can be considered separate from the source of the BoA itself. Obviously, the papyrus containing the scenes is equally linked. The BoA just as clearly misunderstands these Facsimiles/Vignettes, with multiple confusions of standard imagery (for example: male vs. female vs. animal, specific deity images) and distorted interpretations of easily legible Egyptian text.

     

    Q: Some LDS scholars have suggested the source for the Book of Abraham may be on papyri that was lost or destroyed. How plausible is this proposal?

    (Ritner) For the reasons given above, this idea is not possible. The various alternative theories for a "missing BoA text" are discussed in detail in my book, and all are shown to be false. Parallel texts, standard papyrus document size (not whole rolls manufactured for commerce), measurements of rolling, a supposed (but false) reference to a lost text by the early scholar Seyffarth, and internal BoA remarks on the Facsimiles all indicate that the "Breathing Permit of Hor" (P JS I) is the source of the fictional account of Abraham. The fictional nature of the tale is blatant not only from the Egyptian evidence, but also from Mesopotamian evidence, incorporated within this study for the first time.

     

    Q: How would you assess the work done on the Joseph Smith papyri by LDS scholars?

    (Ritner) My parallel presentations [I.E. translations by other scholars for comparison] and copious notes indicate the range of problems with the LDS apologetic translations, but I would distinguish the contributions of apologists from those of other LDS scholars, such as Stephen E. Thompson or Edward H. Ashment, who have made very valuable and accurate studies of the Facsimiles. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the apologetic writings is the degree to which those translations support and often parallel Egyptological ones, demonstrating that the Joseph Smith interpretations are indefensible. Apologists can argue that the source text of BoA is lost, but they cannot deny the "translations" and "explanations" offered by Smith on the Facsimiles. Instead, they ignore them while translating the hieroglyphs as properly as possible, acknowledging Smith's published translations to be wrong. Michael D. Rhodes' treatment of the P. JS I Facsimiles [Facsimiles 1-3] is a classic example of this.

     

    Is this the work of someone who knew what he was doing or the work someone who was just making things up as he went along and didn't think anyone would ever decipher the Egyptian language?

     

    The fact is Egyptologists (even LDS Egyptologists - see below) have looked at, examined, and translated the Joseph Smith papyri and have never come up with anything like he did in the BoA. That is quite clear in the video and the book cited above. One can also read By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus by Charles Larson.

     

    One could also read this article by Dr. Stephen E. Thompson Ph.D. in Egyptology and LDS scholar. It is an enlightening read. Here is his conclusion:

     

    Joseph Smith's interpretations of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham are not in agreement with the meanings which these figures had in their original, funerary, context; (2) anachronisms in the text of the book make it impossible that it was translated from a text written by Abraham himself; and (3) what we know about the relationship between Egypt and Asia renders the account of the attempted sacrifice of Abraham extremely implausible. If one accepts that Joseph Smith was using the facsimiles in a fashion which was not consonant with their original purpose, it does not make sense to then insist that "the Prophet's explanations of each of the facsimiles accord with present understanding of Egyptian religious practices." I see no evidence that Joseph Smith had a correct conception of "Egyptian religious practices" or that a knowledge of such was essential to the production of the Book of Abraham.

     

    Dr. Stephen Thompson (Ph.D. in Egyptology and LDS scholar) view of the LDS book "Encyclopedia of Mormonism" entry concerning the Book of Abraham. "In the entry on the facsimiles from the Book of Abraham in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, we are told that the prophet's explanations of each of the facsimiles accord with present understanding of Egyptian religious practice. This is truly remarkable statement in view of the fact that those Egyptologists who have commented on Joseph's interpretations of the facsimiles have stated emphatically that his interpretations are not correct from the perspective of the Egyptologist who attempts to interpret Egyptian religious literature and iconography as he or she believes the ancient Egyptians themselves would have.... In my opinion, none of these figures can be made to fit what Smith believed them to be... their interpretation is limited to funerary purposes." Summary: They, the papyri, have nothing to do with Abraham and were written 1500 years after Abraham.

     

    Dr. Stephen Thompson (Ph.D. in Egyptology and LDS scholar) opinion of the book "By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus (cited above). "In my opinion, it's the best source to go to if you want to know what's been going on with the Book of Abraham in the church. I mean, he (Larson) has a pretty good summary of all the types of approaches that have been made. He does a pretty good job of explaining what they are, what the papyri are... And people worry about the accuracy, is this book accurate or not. Well I'll tell you, he's far more accurate than anything Hugh Nibley ever wrote on the subject, okay... Nothing that's been written from an apologetic (LDS) point of view comes close to it in accuracy. Because frankly, in my opinion, when you start doing apologetics you've got to twist the evidence. That what we (LDS) have just doesn't support us. You've got to do something to it. You've got to manipulate it, you've got to move it...and stuff like that. So, that's my feeling on the book"


     

    As I said before the evidence against the Book of Abraham being a valid interpretation of Egyptian is overwhelming. We await anyone who can present a cogent, logical, and reasonable defense as to why anyone should accept Joseph Smith's interpretation as accurate.

    Discuss it here

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    How do we know that the Gospel writers got it right?

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 12:14 PM [General]

     If the date for Christ’s crucifixion is around 30AD

    And

    MT was written in the late 50’s to early 60’s;
    MK was written in the mid to late 60’s;
    LK was written in the early 60’s
    JN was written in the 70’s to the turn of the century.

    Then it is correct to say that there was a delay in writing the Gospels; at least 25 years for MT, 30 years for MK and LK, and 35+ years for JN.

    *all dates are estimates or approximations*

    There are, however, some valid reasons for not providing a written Gospel early on:

    The general population was not literate. There was not much, if anything, in their lifestyles that would demand them to be so. Also there were no printing presses so the dissemination of reading materials was very time consuming and very expensive. Which made reading and writing only something the elite would have access to, for the most part.

    So if it was the goal of the disciples in the first century was to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel, it would have been counterproductive to write it down. Thus it was the speaking of the Gospel, or the oral proclamation of the Gospel that was most effective.

    In Acts one can see that the church is quickly growing and spreading. There is no way to conceive this as happening if they had to wait to write and distribute scrolls or codices . And then, I suppose, teach everyone to read.

    In any case, the time between Jesus’ crucifixion and the writing of the Gospels was not a static period. The Gospel was preached, disciples were made, and that happened over and over again. Thousands of times. The disciples, not just the 12, but all of Christ’s disciples would have heard the stories of Christ’s words and deeds many, many times. This is a very important point to remember.

    Only when the Apostles were starting to die off – and it seemed likely that Christ was not coming back any time soon – did there seem to be any motivation to write the Gospels.

    Now lets take a look at my question:

    After Matthew wrote his Gospel, let’s suppose that it is read in a public meeting. What would have happened if Matthew had decided to change a few things here and there?

    The people would have known if there were anything nefarious going on. Why? Because they already knew the Gospel story in side and out; they’ve heard it – as I said many, many times before – and Matthew’s Gospel would NOT have been accepted.

    As I understand it one of the hallmarks of whether a book made it into the canon the fact that it was accepted by the church – i.e. the people. This is one thing I could point to as showing that the Gospel writers got it right; their writings were in harmony with what was already known. Also it is most probable that there were many eyewitnesses to the events and words of Christ who were still alive. The Apostles were not writing new stuff, so it could be checked.

    Now if the Gospel writers had a penchant for changing anything one would have been the disciples being rebuked by Jesus or their “dullness” in understanding Jesus, or their attempting to position themselves for leadership. But all that “embarrassing” stuff in still there. This is an indicator that they were telling a true story.

    Also all four gospels say that a woman discovered the empty tomb and were the first to learn that Jesus was alive. The significance of that? In those days, in that society, women were considered poor witnesses due to their “vanity and rashness”. They were so undependable that a testimony from one man equaled that of 100 women. Why would they leave that in if they were trying to make the story more believable? They obviously were more concerned with telling it like it happened.

    Now I already accept the fact the early widespread distribution of NT books after they were written was a sort of control – i.e. any changes would have been noticed. Well that is exactly what the widespread distribution of the “oral proclamation” of the Gospel was – a control so any changes would have been noticed.

    So the answer my question: “How do we know that the NT writers got it right before they sat down to write”, would be that the written Gospels were NOT the first time that story was told. The collective memory of the Christian community, who were very familiar with the Gospel by its constant retelling throughout the years and its confirmation by eyewitnesses who were still alive, served as the control for the Apostles accuracy.

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    Mormons, Margret Barker, Elohim, and Jehovah

    Monday, February 6, 2012, 12:33 AM [General]

    Some LDS like to quote Margret Barker as a source for their plausibility of their view of multiple gods. This was my response to one such LDS.

    While Margaret Barker does have an intense interest in the OT she does not have an earned degree. That does not in and of itself disqualify her or her views. But it does mean that she may not have the depth of knowledge that others have who have earned degrees in this field of study.

    Some, including scholars, have noted difficulties in Barker's work as:

    "Barker writes in an apodictic manner, eschewing footnotes, and seldom, if ever, attempts to demonstrate the plausibility or sometimes even the exact meaning of her contentions. . . . There are no surprises here, then, for those already familiar with the work of this imaginative and idiosyncratic scholar. Others must be prepared for some startling obiter dicta. 'The ancient (Israelite) belief in God Most High and the second God with male and female aspects became the Christian Trinity' (p. 40). 'Those who wore the Name [of God on their headdress as priests] became the LORD' (p. 36). 'Wherever a Strong/Mighty Angel is mentioned in the Book of Revelation, it is the LORD' (p. 144)" (C. J. A. Hickling, review of Margaret Barker, The Revelation of Jesus Christ Which God Gave to Him to Show to his Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation 1.1), Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 94 [2001]: 143).

    "The main drawback of Barker's exposition of Revelation is the lack of grounding of her fundamental position in direct evidence. Although Barker draws numerous conclusions based on parallels some unclear or tenuous between various ancient texts and Revelation, she herself admits that there is insufficient evidence for her assertions" (Susan F. Mathews, review of Margaret Barker, The Revelation of Jesus Christ Which God Gave to Him to Show to his Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation 1.1), Catholic Biblical Quarterly 64 [2002]: 368).

    "Barker explores the idea of human beings in this case the Jewish priests as angels, and makes some bold claims. First, based almost solely on evidence from the book of Revelation, she states, 'we must conclude that from the first generation, bishops were regarded as angels' (p. 105), but she offers little other support for such a claim. Second, regarding evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, she asserts, 'the Qumran texts confirm beyond any reasonable doubt that priests were regarded as angels' (p. 144). In dealing with material from Qumran, however, one cannot synthesize all the material to make a case for what the Qumran group believed without first making a case for why we should assume that all these texts are from the same community at the same point in their history; and that case is not made here. I find Barker's claims about the angelic nature of the priesthood unconvincing. The work of scholars such as C. A. Rowland, J. E. Fossum, L. Hurtado, and especially C. A. Gieschen, who have done important research in this area of study, is not mentioned" (Kevin P. Sullivan, review of Margaret Barker, The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 66 [2004]: 314).

    "In a more recent essay, Barker proposes that the worship of Jesus is to be explained by alleged traditions of the real apotheosis of divine kings and priests in ancient Israel, who were worshiped by Israelites as human embodiments of the God of Israel. It is not entirely clear how her various explanations fit together. . . . Moreover, examination of the evidence she proffers often makes it difficult to accept her claims. One example: Barker cites one line from Somn. 2.189 as showing that Philo knew and accepted the divinity of the high priest, whereas the context makes it clear that Philo specifically demurs from any such idea ('Is he then a god? I will not say so...')" (Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003]: 33n16).

    So as I said before the fact that Barker lacks scholarly credentials does not in and of itself invalidate her claims, however it should be a major concern that she seldom backs up her assertions and that few if any scholars validate her view.

    As for the Elohim- Jehovah issue it is best to remember that in the Bible there are three primary names for God - Elohim, Jehovah (Yahweh), and Adonai which everyone should have some understanding of to make their study of the Bible more meaningful. The translators of the King James Version employed a sort of code system which designates which divine name is used in a given passage.

    If you look at the KJV text carefully, you will notice that Deity is variously referred to as "God", "GOD", "Lord", "LORD," or some combination of these terms. These different English words and spelling variations were used by the King James translators to designate the various Hebrew words and names for God in the Old Testament.

    Simply put:

    When one reads the OT and sees the word “God” Elohim was the word being translated.

    When one reads the OT and sees the word “LORD" or "GOD” Jehovah (or Yahweh) was the word being translated.

    When one reads the OT and sees the word “Lord” Adonai was the word being translated. (since you did not use this term in your post I see no reason to get into its usage)

    How these names of God are used in the Old Testament poses huge problems for the Mormon Church's doctrine of God. One Mormon who was aware of the problem is Boyd Kirkland. He has written: "While Elohim and Jehovah appear very frequently in the Old Testament, these divine names do not designate two different gods with a Father-Son relationship as they do in Mormonism." See, "Elohim and Jehovah in Mormonism and the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 19:1 (Spring 1986), p. 79. Kirkland was not a scholar but neither is Barker. I cite Kirkland to show that it is not just non-mormons who think that the LDS view of god(s) in the Bible is problematic.

    So how are these Elohim and Jehovah used?

    Elohim is a general Hebrew term for Deity that designates God as our Creator and the object of all true worship. While Elohim is plural in form, when it refers to the true God, it designates only one Divine Being. We know this because it is consistently used with singular verbs, and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular, so that by the rules of Hebrew grammar it must be understood and translated as singular. (See Jack B. Scott, "elohim," in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 1:44)

    Only if one has a superficial understanding of Hebrew would one argue that Elohim must be translated "Gods" on the basis of its plural form. Missing the elementary fact that elohom is consistently used with singular verbs, adjectives and pronouns when referring to the true God means that one has seriously misunderstood the implications of its usage.

    Because Elohim is a general term for God, it is also used when describing false gods. For instance, Exodus 20:2-3 declares: "I am the LORD thy God [Elohim] which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt ... Thou shalt have no other gods [elohim] before me." Since the same word is used for the one true God and for false gods, the KJV translators simply used a capital "G" and made it singular when the context is speaking of the one true God, to prevent confusion. However, it is important to understand that they followed the rules of Hebrew grammar in rendering Elohim singular when it refers to the true God; thus, in the verse above, the pronoun used with God is singular ("I") and the verb form of the Hebrew word translated as "brought" is also singular. These grammatical cues require the word Elohim to be translated as singular in this and similar instances.

    In a handful of its 2,570 occurrences Elohim is used with plural pronouns. For instance, we read in Genesis 1:26: "And God [Elohim] said, Let us make man in our image (see also Genesis 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8). Thus, Elohim conveys both the unity of the one God, and yet allows for the plurality of Divine Persons as expressed in the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The term Elohim is unique to monotheistic Israel and is not found in any of the closely related languages of any of her polytheistic Semitic neighbors. (Ibid, Scott 1:44)

    Elohim is grammatically plural, but does not indicate a numerical plural (i.e., “gods”). Hebrew uses the plural form to indicate honor or intensity, sometimes called the “plural of majesty.” The consistent appearance of a singular adjective or verb used with Elohim shows that the one God is intended. Where the plural adjective or verb occurs, the context determines whether Elohim means the “gods” of the nations or whether the plural agreement is simply due to scribes being more grammatically precise (Gen 19:13; cp. 1:26–27). From the Israelite standpoint the oneness of the true Deity is never in question. In Dt 6:4“The Lord,” that is, Yahweh the God of Israel, is called “our Elohim,” and declared to be “One.

    The interpretation of ‘elohim as a plural of majesty is by no means unanimously held by recent Old Testament scholarship, however. In 1953 G. A. F. Knight argued against it in a monograph entitled A Biblical Approach to the Doctrine of the Trinity. He maintained that to make ‘elohim a plural of majesty is to read into ancient Hebrew a modern way of thinking, since the kings of Israel and Judah are all addressed in the singular in our biblical records. (p. 20) While rejecting the plural of majesty, Knight pointed out that there is, nonetheless, a peculiarity in Hebrew that will help us understand the term in question. The words for water and heaven (among others) are both plural. Grammarians have termed this phenomenon the quantitative plural.

    Water may be thought of in terms of individual raindrops or of a mass of water such as is found in the ocean. Knight asserted that this quantitative diversity in unity is a fitting way of understanding the plural ‘elohim. He also believed that this explains why the singular noun (‘adonai) is written as a plural.

    Jehovah/Yahweh. When the name Jehovah (or Yahweh, as modern scholars believe it should be written) is used in the Hebrew text, it is written as "LORD" in our English Bibles. Jehovah is the personal name of God, and speaks of Him as the holy, self-existent God who hates sin but provides redemption. According to the standard Hebrew- English lexicon of the Old Testament, this name for God is used c. 6,823 times in the Old Testament. (see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1907, with corrections 1972), 217b; J. Barton Payne, gives the number 5,321, cf. "Yahweh," in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 1:210.

    As I understand it The Mormon Church teaches that Elohim is a distinct and separate God from His literal Son, Jehovah. There was a time when Elohim the Father was not God. Elohim is also our literal Father in the pre-existent spirit world and, consistent with this, it can even be said that Man and God are of the same race, and that a man can become a god like his Father. Jehovah is our literal older brother, and we were all born to Father Elohim and a Mother God. There is also a third and separate God, the Holy Ghost. He is supposed to possess a body of spirit “matter” in the form of a man.

    However, the Bible uses the names Elohim, Jehovah, (and Adonai) interchangeably for the one true God, along with a number of other less frequently occurring names. A good example of this interchangeable use is found in Psalm 136:1-3,26:

    O give thanks unto the LORD [Jehovah]; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. O give thanks unto the God [Elohim] of gods [elohim]; for his mercy endureth forever. O give thanks unto the Lord [Adonai/construct plural] of Lords [adonai]: for his mercy endureth forever .... O give thanks unto the God [El] of heaven: for his mercy endureth forever.

    One of the names of God in the Old Testament is Jehovah-Elohim. It is translated in the King James Bible as "The LORD God" and literally means "Jehovah is Elohim," or "The LORD is God." (Jehovah-Elohim is rendered "LORD God" 20 times in Genesis 2-3, and there are scores of other examples in the Old Testament). Since the Hebrew Elohim is both a name-title for the one true God that could also be used to designate the false gods of heathen idol worshipers, we have the proclamation in the biblical Scriptures that Jehovah is our Elohim. It is a proclamation that Jehovah is the true God.

    There are over 700 verses in the Old Testament that show Jehovah [LORD] and Elohim [God] are the same God. Many of these verses also state that Jehovah is the only Elohim. Following are a few examples.

    Isaiah 43:10,11. Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD [Jehovah] and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God [Elohim] formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD [Jehovah]; and beside me there is no savior.

    Note from these verses that there are several things which God wants us to know, believe, and understand:

    1) There is only one true God (Elohim) and Jehovah is that one true God.

    2) There were no Elohims formed before Jehovah. This means that Jehovah does not have a Father. That is, no God [Elohim] preceded him, by whom He was procreated. This refutes the teaching of Joseph Smith and the LDS Church that Jehovah is the spirit son of Elohim, our Heavenly Father, and that our Heavenly Father is an exalted man who progressed to become a God, and who himself has a Father, as Joseph Smith taught in his well-known King Follet Discourse.

    3) There will be no Elohims formed after Jehovah. Some say that Isaiah 43:10,11 is talking about idols. But that cannot be true for there certainly have been idols and false gods made and worshiped since this passage was written. Therefore, when God said no Gods would be formed after him, it must refer to real, true Gods. Again, this refutes the teaching of the LDS Church that human beings can become Gods.

    Isaiah 44:6,8. Thus saith the LORD [Jehovah] the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God [Elohim] ... Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God [Elohim] beside me? yea, there is no God [Elohim] I know not any.

    The compound name "LORD of hosts" (Jehovah-Sabaoth) is yet another name for God and means, Lord over all the hosts of heaven and earth. The emphatic "Thus saith Jehovah" in the above verse commands our attention, so we would do well to listen. The following points are made under authoritative declaration:

    (1) Jehovah is the first Elohim and the last Elohim. There can be only one first and only one last. This again rules out the possibility of any other Gods existing throughout all of eternity past and throughout all of eternity future. It also again shows that Jehovah and Elohim are not different Gods.

    2) Jehovah is the only God [Elohim] that exists. This again rules out the possibility of other sovereigns existing.

    3) No reasonable person would challenge the intellect of God. When He says that He does not know of something, this certainly does not imply some limitation in the scope or capacity of His knowledge. On the contrary, when He says He does not know of something, we may be assured this means that thing does not exist. Therefore, it is plain that when God says He does not know of any other Gods it is because they do not exist. Thus, these verses affirm unequivocally that no other Gods exist, nor will exist, throughout all of time and space.

    Deuteronomy 6:4. Hear, O Israel: the LORD [Jehovah] our God [Elohim] is one LORD [Jehovah].

    This is known as the "Shema" (from the first word in the Hebrew text, shema, meaning, "hear," or "observe"). This proclamation that there is only one God is the foundation stone of Judaism. Following the interpretive principle of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, we would do well to take note of how Jesus and the Jews of his day understood this passage, as revealed in Mark 12:28-34. There Jesus is asked by a scribe, "Which is the first commandment of all?" (by which we may understand, first in order of importance). Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4.

    The scribe in turn gives his understanding of this Scriptural passage: "Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he."

    Jesus clearly accepted this as a correct interpretation, for verse 34 records: "And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou are not far from the kingdom of God."

    We may thus conclude that Deuteronomy 6:4 teaches that "there is one God, and there is none other than He," and that Jehovah is the personal name of the one and only Elohim. Other biblical passages that teach there is only one true God include, 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6,8; John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19

    As we have seen from the Old Testament Scriptures examined in this paper, the teaching of the Mormon Church that Elohim and Jehovah are separate Gods is surely wrong and has no basis in the Bible.

    The Bible states emphatically and repeatedly that there is only one God (see Deut. 4:35,39; 32:39; 2 Sam. 7:22; 1 Kings 8:60; 2 Kings 5:15; 19:15; Neh.9:6; Psalms 18:31; 86:10; Isaiah 37:16,20; 43:10,11; 44:6,8; 45:21; Hosea 13:4; Joel 2:27; Zech.14:9; Mark 12:29-34; John 5:44; 17:3; Rom. 3:30; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Gal. 3:20; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim.1:17; 2:5; Jas. 2:19), and the words Elohim and Jehovah are used interchangeably in the Scriptures. I think this is the key misunderstanding in the LDS view.

    The New Testament continues to teach that there is only one God (Mark 12:28-34; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; James 2:19), but it also presents that Father as God, the Son as God and the Holy Ghost as God.

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    Luther's Gospel of Straw

    Monday, January 30, 2012, 7:41 PM [General]

     

    A little background on Luther’s Gospel of Straw – Whenever somebody mentions Luther’s “gospel of straw” quote they fail to acknowledge that this quote only appears in Luther's original 1522 Preface to the New Testament. After 1522, all the editions of Luther's Bible dropped the "epistle of straw" comment, along with the entire paragraph that placed value judgments on particular biblical books. It was Luther himself who edited these comments out. For anyone to continue to cite Luther's "epistle of straw" comment against him is to do him and truth an injustice.

    Furthermore most are keen on selectively quoting Luther's preface to James. If one takes the time to actually read Luther's comments about James, he praises it and considers it a "good book" "because it sets up no doctrine of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God." Rarely have I seen one who uses the gospel of straw” quote also acknowledge the fact that Luther praises James, or respects God's law.

    Luther does appear to have held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James, but it wasn't because he did not like their content. Like the EFC or the Reformers he did not whimsically dismiss Biblical books. Luther was aware of the disputed authenticity of the book. Eusebius and Jerome both recorded doubts to the apostolicity and canonicity of James. Luther did not consider James to be James the Apostle. He wasn't alone in this. The great humanist Scholar Erasmus likewise questioned the authenticity of James. It wasn’t the content of James that they wrestled over but authorship. 

    While it is true Luther saw a contradiction between Paul and James on faith and works. But he also saw the harmonization between these two Biblical writers. 'Faith,' he wrote, 'is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith' " [Here I Stand, 259]. In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Luther answered this spurious proposition: Faith without works justifies, Faith without works is dead [Jas. 2:17, 26]. Therefore, dead faith justifies. Luther responded:

    We say that justification is effective without works, not that faith is without works. For that faith which lacks fruit is not an efficacious but a feigned faith. 'Without works' is ambiguous, then... It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works. [LW 34: 175-176]. 

    Erasmus, Cajetan, and Luther had every right within the Catholic system to engage in Biblical criticism and debate over the extent of the Canon. All expressed some doubt. Theirs was not a radical higher criticism. The books they questioned were books that had been questioned by previous generations. None were so extreme as to engage in Marcion-like canon-destruction. Both Erasmus and Luther translated the entirety of Bible, and published it. After examination they concluded they had the right books in the Bible.

     Finally, Luther says he cannot include James among his chief books "though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in [James]."

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    Responding to an evangelical believer

    Monday, January 30, 2012, 7:37 PM [General]

    Dr. D. Kelly Ogden is a professor in the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. He wrote this article

    This is my response

    I don’t think there are many, if any, Christians who believe that “the heavens are closed and God has no need to communicate any further with His children”.

    God still does speak to us today through His word and via the Holy Spirit. Once we belong to God, the Spirit takes up residence in our hearts forever, sealing us with the confirming, certifying, and assuring pledge of our eternal state as His children. Jesus said He would send the Spirit to us to be our Helper, Comforter, and Guide.

    As for the canon, I am open to it being open, but it would have to meet the same criteria for the other 27 NT books.

    As for Priesthood, the Bible never links priesthood with power in any way. Priests were invested with authority, to perform their assigned religious duties. In the case of the high priest, enter into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement). But priests had no special power that other people lacked, let alone the same power by which God created and sustains the world!

    In fact, none of the apostles ever lays claim to be a priest.

    The New Testament never mentions any Christian being ordained as a priest.

    No New Testament text ever says or suggests that a man must hold a priesthood office in order to be authorized to baptize someone else.

    Priests are conspicuously absent from Paul’s lists of offices or ministry functions in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11).

    Paul never uses the terms priest, high priest, or priesthood in any of the thirteen epistles that bear his name.

    The only earthly priestly order that the New Testament ever acknowledges existing in the first century is the Aaronic or Levitical order that administered the sacrificial system in the Jerusalem temple. All references to priests in the four Gospels and Acts (over 120 such references) pertain to those Levitical priests.

    The New Testament actually makes it clear that priesthood, in its literal sense of an earthly order of individuals authorized to perform special religious duties, has become obsolete. It is obsolete because of our new High priest, Jesus Christ. This is a major theme in the Book of Hebrews

    Does this mean that Christians lack “priesthood”—that they are missing something valuable, or that they have lost something? No, Christians have gained something that Old Testament believers lacked. Under the Mosaic covenant, rank and file believers needed a priest to offer sacrifices on their behalf.

    Priests functioned as intermediaries But now that our only “priest” mediating between us and God is the divine Son of God himself, we have a kind of immediate spiritual access to God’s presence and mercy that the Israelite high priest symbolized. Hebrews expresses this very idea: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16KJV).

    And I think Dr. Ogden missed the import of this original question, "how is the Mormon Church able to get Jesus’ unique non-transferable priesthood?” - If it is non-transferable then the LDS nor anyone else can obtain it.

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    Re: Elohim

    Monday, January 30, 2012, 7:29 PM [General]

     This is in response to someone who believes that the ancient iosraelite were polytheists based upon the Hebrew word "El" or Elohim"

    This is from Dr. Richard Hess, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages. He has done postdoctoral research at universities in in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East. He is a member of the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version. He serves as Old Testament and archaeology editor for the forthcoming NIV Study Bible. Dr. Hess has also worked for the New International Version, the New American Bible, the Holman Standard Christian Bible, the English Standard Version, and The Common English Bible translations of the Old Testament. The man knows the Hebrew language.

    "El” appears as a title in the Bible. Like the much more frequent “Elohim,” it derives from ancient Semitic words for “god/God.” It is true that “El” appears as the name of the chief god in the myths of Ugarit, a West Semitic (Hebrew is also a West Semitic language) city from the 13th century B.C. However, the word also appears there to refer to any deity or even a spirit. Therefore, “El” need not refer to the God of Israel.

    It is possible that Psalm 82 refers to the allotment of responsibilities for the management of different nations of the earth to members of the heavenly council, whom we would call angels. As a result of their failing to act with justice, God terminates their rule. Nevertheless, Yahweh is frequently identified with El (Numbers 23:22-23; 2 Samuel 23:5; Psalm 118:27; Isaiah 40:18; 43:12; 45:22; etc.). However, the Bible also recognizes El as a separate god in texts such as Ezekiel 28:2 where the leader of Tyre claims that he is El (but this is probably also another use of “El” as a title, “god”). Note that the term “sons of El” need not refer to physical sons of a god. It may refer merely to those who share the characteristics of the divine (in terms of authority and rule, for example). Compare the “sons of Belial,” in Deuteronomy 13:14; Judges 19:22; 20:13; 1 Samuel 2:12; 10;27; 25:17; 1 Kings 21:10, 13; etc. This expression does not mean that all these people had the same physical parent by the name of Belial. No, it refers to a common characteristic of all these people. There are other such examples, both within the Bible and in contemporary extra-biblical literature.

    By the way, the connection of Jacob with El is sometimes asserted on the basis of Jacob’s other name, “Israel,” where “El” is the last part of the name. Again, “El” is a title for god that is often used in other personal names in Israel (such as “Samuel”) and in neighboring nations. So in the Ammonite collection of personal names more than 150 contain the name “El”, but most would affirm that the chief god of Ammon was Milkom, and that “El” was a title of Milkom. One must be very careful about drawing lots of conclusions from a word that can be a title for any god in the West Semitic world.

    As for the statement that the God of the Hebrews had many names, one needs to distinguish between the personal name “Yahweh,” various titles of “god” such as “Elohim” and “El,” and epithets such as “Shaddai” (perhaps related to the divine council or hosts of heaven). “Elohim” does, indeed, appear by itself to be a plural form (with the -im ending). However, whenever it refers to the God of Israel, it always takes singular verbs and so is treated as a singular noun.

    I conclude with the observation that ancient Israelappropriated the Hebrew language and many other cultural features, often transforming them in the Bible so as to conform to its distinctive theology. The same is true of various religious practices. So the name “El” may refer to the chief god in Ugarit of the 13th century B.C. However, this does not mean it must be the name of a god separate from Yahweh in the Bible. As a title for various gods inside and outside the Bible, it can be applied to Yahweh without proving anything about early Israelite beliefs.

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    The Judge Neely bill from the 1826 Joseph Smith trial

    Monday, January 30, 2012, 5:02 PM [General]

    It was issued by Judge Neely to the State of NY as a bill to them for the services he rendered. On that document, which you admit has “reliably surfaced”; it lists the case of "Joseph Smith The Glass looker”, which fits very well with the published version of the legal proceedings

    Justice Zechariah Tarble's bill for 1826 has also been discovered. This bill provides some important historical evidence concerning Justice Neely's bill because Tarble mentioned that he served with Justice Neely and Justice Humphrey in a Court of Special Sessions to try three other men who are named in the Neely bill. Justice Humphery’s bill for 1826 has also been found and confirms this Court of Special Sessions for those tree men. The Smith trial was separate.

    Justice Zechariah Tarble's Docket Book for civil cases from June 17, 1822 to March 7, 1826 has two lines and a signature by Albert Neely that can be compared with the handwriting in the 1826 bill which mentions Joseph Smith's case. (Zechariah Tarble was the Justice of the Peace who married Joseph Smith - see History of the Church, vol. 1, page 17).

    The court costs listed by Neely at the end of the printed transcript agree very well with costs found on other bills submitted by justices during that time period. One can compare the costs found in Neely's docket book with The Justice's Manual; or, a Summary of the Powers and Duties of Justices of the Peace in the State of New-York, by Thomas G. Waterman, 1825, page 199. Mr. Waterman wrote: "The fees of a Justice for his services in apprehending, binding, committing, &c. for crimes and misdemeanors, are — for every oath, 12 1-2 cents; warrant, 19; recognizance, 25; mittimus, 19; which are audited and allowed by the board of supervisors as county charges."

    These charges are in complete agreement with the items found in the pages from Neely's docket book

    In transcript from Fraser's Magazine, we read that "Seven witnesses" were sworn for a total of "87 1/2c." If 87 1/2c is divided by 7, we get exactly 12 1/2¢. This, of course, agrees with the statement in the Justice's Manual that the Justice is to receive "for every oath, 12 1/2 cents." The same manual gives the amount for a warrant as "19[¢]." The Neely document agrees: "Warrant, 19¢." The recognizance is listed in the manual at "25[¢]," and the transcript agrees that Recognisances are billed at "25c." The justices are instructed to charge "19[¢]" for a mittimus, and Fraser's Magazine likewise lists: "Mittimus, 19c."

    From this it is very clear that the published transcript has a lot of minute details exactly correct. For example the itemized charges are correct down to the half cent. As well as the correct spelling and usage for Recognisances and Mittimus.  This does not appear to be something that can be easily dismissed.

    Anyone who wrote this transcript either had to have the original document or be intimately aware of minute details of NY court proceedings and costs of 1826.  The LDS were out of NY and were HQ'ed in Kirkland Oh by 1831 and HQ'd in Nauvoo IL in '39. The majority of the LDS go to Utah in '47. The earliest transcript is from 1873. Mormon violence didn't start until the early 1830's in Missouri.

    Why would someone fake a document about the LDS in NY state circa 1873 - almost 50 years after they left? They might have knowledge of the court proceedings and costs from almost 50 years before but that is not a given- it would have to be proved. But what is their motovation when there is no history of so called "anti-mormonism" there before that time?

    How could someone fake a document about the LDS in Utah circa 1873? The likelihood of them having knowledge of the court proceedings and costs from almost 50 years prior and something like 2,000 miles away is almost nil

    So is the Fraser magazine transcript some “anti-mormon” fabrication? Well it is upon those making the accusations to put forth the evidence that would support such a claim

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    HBD on the Trinity

    Saturday, January 21, 2012, 2:54 AM [General]

    Trinity, the, a term denoting the specifically Christian doctrine that God is a unity of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The word itself does not occur in the Bible. It is generally acknowledged that the church father Tertullian (ca. a.d. 145-220) either coined the term or was the first to use it with reference to God. The explicit doctrine was thus formulated in the postbiblical period, although the early stages of its development can be seen in the nt. Attempts to trace the origins still earlier (to the ot literature) cannot be supported by historical-critical scholarship, and these attempts must be understood as retrospective interpretations of this earlier corpus of Scripture in the light of later theological developments.

    For the purpose of analysis, three relevant categories of nt texts may be distinguished (although such sharp lines of demarcation should not be attributed to first-century Christianity): first are references to the incarnation, describing a particularly close relationship between Jesus and God. Although a number of passages make clear distinctions between God and Christ and therefore suggest the subordination of the Son to the Father (e.g., Rom. 8:31-34; 1 Cor. 11:3; 15:20-28; 2 Cor. 4:4-6), there are other texts in which the unity of the Father and the Son is stressed (e.g., Matt. 11:27; John 10:30; 14:9-11; 20:28; Col. 2:9; 1 John 5:20). This emphasis on the unity of the Father and the Son may be understood as a first step in the development of trinitarian thought.

    Second are passages in which a similarly close relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit is depicted. In the ot, the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Spirit of God) is understood to be the agency of God’s power and presence with individuals and communities. In the nt, Jesus is understood to be the recipient of this Spirit in a unique manner (see esp. Luke 3:22, where the Holy Spirit descends in bodily form upon Jesus after his baptism), to be a mediator of the activity of the Spirit (Acts 2:33 and elsewhere), and even to be identified with the Spirit (Rom. 8:26-27, 34; John 14; cf. expressions such as ‘the Spirit of Christ,’ ‘the Spirit of the Lord,’ ‘the Spirit of Jesus,’ and Gal. 4:6, where God sends ‘the Spirit of his Son’). While one cannot use the creedal formulation that the Holy Spirit ‘proceeds from the Father and the Son’ in its later dogmatic sense, in the nt the Holy Spirit comes to represent both the presence and activity of God and the continuing presence of Jesus Christ in the church.

    Finally there are passages in which all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned in the same context. The most important of these are the ‘Apostolic Benediction’ of 2 Cor. 13:14 (the earliest trinitarian formula known) and the baptismal formula of Matt. 28:19 (perhaps a development from the simpler formula reflected in Acts 2:38; 8:16; and elsewhere; see also 1 Cor. 12:4-6; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2; Jude 20-21).

    The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the nt. Nevertheless, the discussion above and especially the presence of trinitarian formulas in 2 Cor. 13:14 (which is strikingly early) and Matt. 28:19 indicate that the origin of this mode of thought may be found very early in Christian history. See also Baptism; Father; God; Holy Spirit, The; Incarnation; Jesus Christ; Monotheism; Son of God; Worship.

     

    Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper's Bible dictionary (1st ed.) (1098–1099). San Francisco: Harper & Row.



     

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