Is Christ in the Old Testament?

What if the answer is no? What if the authors who produced the OT have no concept of the Christ that we know? What if the supposed “prophesies” of Christ in the OT are creative interpretations by early followers of Christ to make the book appear to confirm the details of his life (and the details of life massaged to parallel passages in the OT). This happens to be the assumption of most biblical scholars today. Does such a view produce particular problems for LDS readers of the Bible?

With respect to the New Testament and early Christian literature which reads the Old Testament as if it spoke about Jesus, such a view may be explained by reference to a particular interpretative tradition with hermeneutical rules that allow for such a reading. In no way do I suggest that such a reading is not legitimate. Indeed, I think that one can read Christ into the Old Testament, so long as one is aware of and explicit about such a reading. That is, one can identify Christ with antecedent characters, motifs, and episodes to explain the significance of Christ to ancient (and contemporary) audiences.

Can the Book of Mormon belong to a similar interpretive tradition? That is, can one identify the Book of Mormon prophets with a tradition of reading the Hebrew prophets messianically? Is it possible that they too saw themes of a suffering messiah in Isa 53 as early Christians did, albeit entirely independently? Might they too have expected a new David to come from Jerusalem (er, the land around Jerusalem)? The reasons that scholars deny that Christ as we know him was known to the ancient Israelite prophets is because such notions of future-telling not only lack credibility but also the details of the text don’t support such a messianic tradition until much later in Jewish history, and even then the known messianic traditions don’t match up with the new tradition centered around Jesus of Nazareth.

The Book of Mormon, however, is quite different. It insists on a robust messianic tradition with a greater degree of specificity concerning the prediction of future events. The Book of Mormon (along with the PoGP) thus contribute to what Melodie Moench-Charles once called, the “Christianization” of the Old Testament. It fills this interpretative gap of the missing Christ from the OT by unmistakably insisting on a pre-Christian reading of the OT with specifically Christian themes and a degree of prophetic future-telling simply missing from the OT.

For some, such a Christocentric Israelite tradition forms the single greatest anachronism of the Book of Mormon. For others, it provides the missing link between ancient Israelite religion and early Christianity. Either position acknowledges a lack of awareness of Christ as we know him by the authors of the OT. The missing Christ from the OT is conceded all around.

The problem of the missing Christ from the OT thus presents either a challenge or an opportunity for believers in the Book of Mormon. However, it produces a problem (or an opportunity) with respect to the OT as well. As soon as one denies the historical (as opposed to hermeneutic) Christocentrism of the text, its relevance is called into question. While the Book of Mormon presents a clearly Christocentric Israelite religion, thus locating a pre-Christian precedent for Christianity, the OT offers a tradition which either did not present Christ at all, thus needing to be read into the text by later interpreters, or even a tradition of interpreting the earlier texts in light of Christ.

If the authority of the OT is rooted in the fact that it is used by a later interpretive tradition of NT writers to understand Christ, the Book of Mormon highlights the missing Christ from the OT and creates a problem for its authority by suggesting that it could have and should have either spoken of Christ directly or produced an autogenic interpretive tradition about Christ in advance of Christ’s advent. We are put in a position of having to confront the radical difference of the OT from the NT and BoM with respect to a knowledge of Christ in a way that those who accept the NT alone need not confront.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.com Nitsav

    I don’t have a fully fleshed-out position on this, but I lean strongly towards the idea that the BoM peoples had Messianic knowledge that was not commonly had among the Israelites or the OT. I don’t think the BoM position is the result of a shared hermeneutical inheritance.

  • Jettboy

    The Book of Mormon prophets state unequivocally that their knowledge of Christ comes through angelic revelations beyond Old Testament Scriptures. It is true that they state Christ is in the Old Testament Scriptures they have, but not as clearly as if an angel visited. The Book of Mormon prophets often use New Testament type text proofing to argue their Christian messages to those who don’t believe. This is mixed with testimonies of personal revelations.

  • ricke

    I know that you do not care for Margaret Barker’s work, but she introduces another possibility: the OT as we have it today was not the same as the pre-exilic scriptures had by Lehi and others. This early/original version of the OT was preserved in traditions that were believed by many of the people that eventually became Christians, and this accounts for their ready conversion.

  • http://apps.sapiencekb.com/Blog/ Confutus

    For one, we are not required to accept the opinion of scholars who do not believe in prophecy or revelation, or necessarily even God, but treat the OT as strictly and solely a product of human origin like any other ancient document. There many be some useful insight to be gained from this view from a technical scholarly point of view, but there is also a danger that if we accept their conclusions without question, we also accept assumptions which are contrary to our faith, and thus create contradictions for ourselves.

    For another, Nephi describes what we have as the OT containing “not so many” prophecies as were written on the Brass Plates, but also prophesies that many plain and simple teachings, and many covenants of the Lord, would have been deleted from the records which have come to us, probably from both Testaments.

    This can be partly confirmed from what we know now. There are named sources in the OT and letters from Paul and the apostles which we no longer have. Many records that the Jews of Palestine had were destroyed along with the temple in AD 70.

    Nephi also indicates that at least the leaders of the Jews had rejected the plain, simple truths, and were looking beyond the mark, so difficult things were given to them. The hiding of Old Testament prophecies of Christ in symbology and metaphor, much as Christ’s teachings were hidden in parable, would be entirely consistent with this observation. Nephi, as well as the early New Testament Christians, may have had keys to interpretation that we do not.

    We know that Christ quoted extensively from and alluded to the OT that we do have. We cannot tell what else he may have been quoting from or alluding to that we do not have.

    The Book of Mormon tells us specifically that the material missing from our current collection has caused the Gentiles (for at least fifteen centuries) to stumble about in blindness and confusion. Laymen, priests, and scholars are all afflicted. It will not do for us to rely too heavily on their work and thus blind ourselves as well.

  • http://juvenileinstructor.org Ben

    Well put, TT.

    I think I would side somewhat close to what Nitsav points out in #1, especially since Jacob required knowledge from an angel in 2 Nephi 10 in order to get clearer information concerning Christ.

    These are definitely interesting, and important, questions.

  • http://abev.wordpress.com john f.

    TT, the problem you mention in your last paragraph is interesting to think about but I don’t think it’s all that much of a problem, really. Mormons have believed all along that plain and precious parts are missing from the Bible. Most Mormons would probably add clear references to the Messiah/Christ to that list and point exactly where you’ve gone with this post, to the Book of Mormon, to show that OT-era Israelite prophets had this understanding and that those whose writings or prophecies were preserved in the Book of Mormon retained this clarity of purpose whereas that has been somewhat obscured in the OT texts.

    But that problem aside (if it is actually a problem), I like this post because it also implicitly highlights a couple of positive aspects of this Mormon position for our emphasis on Christ:

    1. the Restored Gospel that is the basis of Mormonism puts Christ back into the Old Testament far more explicitly than anywhere else in creedal Christianity. Whereas creedal Christianity relies on the type of hermeneutics you pointed out in the main post to find Christ in the Old Testament, the OT-era writers of the Book of Mormon speak of Christ directly. Consequently, for Mormons, Isaiah (for example) more directly speaks of Christ, or is more readily interpreted as speaking of Christ, than perhaps for creedal Christian readers.

    2. By having Christ-centered OT prophets as a feature rather than a bug, the understanding that Mormons have of biblical scriptures is also enhanced by creating a more direct link between the New Testament writings and the Old. The Twelve Apostles step into the long line of Hebrew prophets, becoming a continuation of a prophetic tradition; the parallels between the life and mission of Christ and the precursors or types that were given in the Old Testament become more specific and literal and not pretextual or anachronistically contrived. Ironically, based on this, Mormons thus can be seen to “believe the Bible” even more than creedal Christians.

  • Ray

    For what it’s worth, I know a couple of Jewish converts who complain that we’re putting things in the Old
    Testament that were never there and in the process ignoring the very Jewishness of the OT.

  • http://rameumptom.weebly.com Rameumptom

    The BoM tells us of Old Testament period prophets who did prophecy Messianically (Zenos, Zenock, et al). It teaches that many plain and precious things were lost from the ancient writings, because the Jews kept “looking beyond the mark” at mysteries, rather than seeing the signs of the Messiah.

    Given that such claims were made by Nephi and Jacob, early on in the BoM, it suggests that changes were being made to scripture at least in Jeremiah’s time, if not earlier. Jeremiah also mentions that the King and priests were tampering with scripture.

    Why do we not find Zenos and Zenock in our Bible, when they were in the Brass Plates anciently? Laban’s plates were important enough for the elders of Jerusalem to review frequently (what’s so strange about taking the plates to the elders in the middle of the night, if it is done frequently?).

    Either some prophets were missed on accident, or they were missed on purpose.

  • http://www.timesandseasons.org Kaimi

    If it helps any, we Mormons are happily continuing the tradition, and cherry picking OT verses to show things that aren’t really there. (See, e.g., Obadiah talking about temple work.)

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    As I understand your suggestion, TT, it is not merely that LDS sometimes eisegete, but that JS and the BofM made up wholesale the notion that Isaiah prophesied of Christ’s life in any so that, e.g., viewing Isaiah 53 as a messianic prophecy is merely reading into Israelite records that knew nothing at all of Christ (or Jesus I suppose) is just dead wrong. I’d have a hard time reconciling that with Jesus’s own views, the views of any writer of of the NT or the BofM or the D&C for that matter. It seems to me that such a statement does present particular difficulties for all Christians — such a view, if true, would falsify the entire hermeneutic of the tradition.

    As you well know I take the view that the BofM is expanded and actualized in terms of later knowledge — but there is still something in the text that genuinely justifies the expansion as an expression of what is expanded. I’ve suggested, e.g., that the use of Isaiah 53 in Mosiah 14 placed in Abinadi’s mouth a prophecy that ill-fits the use of that scripture because it makes chapter divisions in the wrong places and seems to have much to advanced theology of Christ. It turns out the DSS makes the same inexplicable chapter division at the same verse (cutting the poem by 1/3) of Isaiah 53 (go figure) and it turns out Abinadi’s interpretation is not really high Christology or a usual or Christianized interpretation of Isaiah 53 at all. (It focuses on who his progeny are rather than a more Christian interpretation of Christ’s suffering). Perhaps I was wrong in this instance. However, if Christ is simply absent from the OT even as a shadow of prophecy as you suggest (or at least ask us to consider), then it seems to me that the tradition of interpretation essential to Christianity in general is just falsified.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Thanks all for the engagement on this issue. I see a few different options being laid out.

    1. The OT prophets did not know Christ as we know him, yet the BOM prophets were an exception to this general rule.

    2. The OT prophets did know Christ, but later redactors removed all of the references.

    3. Some ancient prophets from OT times knew of Christ (though not the ones that are preserved), but these prophets are now lost to us.

    These three options seek to explain the phenomenon that I describe in the OP, but none of them quite deal with the problem that I see such a position creating. All of these admit that Christ is either not know to or excised from texts that we take to be authoritative. On what basis should we consider the OT authoritative if it represents a tradition so foreign from what we consider to be our own? While this is a theological problem, I think that there is also a historical/factual problem that must be faced with such views.

    First, as I have mentioned before, the problem with a Barker-type solution is that it presumes that the evidence that comes from later centuries must be rooted in traditions from earlier centuries. That is, rather than looking for reasons why 1st and 2nd c. BCE texts begin to think messianically given the contemporary scene, Barker assumes that such traditions must be native to an earlier version of Israelite religion. Such a view not only faces obvious methodological challenges for its historiographical approach, but in fact produces the theological problem that I note above.

    Second, we can test the thesis that pre-exilic teachers thought about Christ with a degree of specificity that we would recognize (i.e., something close to the specificity that the BoM gives) against the texts that we do have, both caononical and non-canonical. Unfortunately, such a thesis does not hold up, and the view that these specific texts were altered to obscure messages about Christ (while an old anti-Jewish polemic dating to the mid-second century Christian apologists) is also not credible. That is not to say that these texts were completely stable, but the evidence actually points to Christian interpolating these texts rather than the other way around. This sort of conspiracy theory understanding of ancient Judaism that we often adopt I think suffers from serious problems (and we need to acknowledge that it is rooted in a rhetoric of anti-Judaism).

    A few others issues that I’d like to address:

    1. Do Mormons have a more robust notion of Christ in the OT than other Christians? Well, not necessarily. For instance, we generally do not have a concept of allegorical interpretation that resembles that done in late-antiqiuty and the middle ages. Compared to that interpretive tradition, we acknolwedge Christ in the OT significantly less than so-called “creedal Christians.” Further, I am not personally aware of a single instance of LDS reading of OT texts that reads them in a more “Christian” manner than any other Christian, except of course, the PoGP which doesn’t quite count as a “reading” of OT scripture.

    2. Confutus: “There are named sources in the OT and letters from Paul and the apostles which we no longer have.” Like what?

    3. Does “plain and simple” really mean messianic prophesies? I think that this claim needs to be demonstrated both from the BoM text as well as some historical evidence. Should we take Nephi’s polemic at face value, as an “accurate” description of his father’s contemporaries?

    4. Blake, I tend to think that your original suggestion about Isa 53 is probably right. Though I’d like to ask what your source is for the reading of Isa 53 in the DSS (I assume that it is Israel Knoll, who I just don’t think is credible for his claims of there being a “suffering messiah” in the DSS since it requires a number of “creative” filling in of the missing elements of the texts he is using to make such a claim). Even if it is correct, a 2nd c. BCE text doesn’t prove that 8th c. Isaiah knew Christ.
    Further, given the relatively late rise of using Isa 53 to speak of Christ (the earliest unambiguous reference is 1 Peter 2:21-25, dating from the early second century CE), I think that we need to admit that early Christians are looking to the text to interpret and understand Christ, rather than that Isaiah is speaking about Christ. The claim that Jesus interpreted Isaiah this way is just not true.
    Finally, I am not claiming that JS and the BoM “made up wholesale” anything, only that it presents a problem that we need to discuss.

  • http://themormonworker.wordpress.com J. Madson

    I often have wondered whether the translation in the BoM of words like Christ and Jesus have more to do with Joseph Smith’s translation and possible expansion than what the original text contained.

    I also think the Road to Emmaus has a valuable lesson in that it suggests that while the OT may have contained prophecies, teachings, etc about Christ that they were not terribly plain. It seems Jesus had to reveal and explain that meaning to even his disciples. NT Wright does a good job, in my view, of showing how Jesus was radically reinterpreting the Israelite narrative of his day and redefining what was meant when God spoke of covenants, kingdom, etc. I think it can be shown that a significant part of what Jesus ministry dealt with was the very definition of God. In the respect Jesus defined God.

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    TT: I have looked at a photo of the orginal Isaiah scroll that BYU had in connection with DSS project. It shows the chapter division very clearly beginning with our present Isaiah 53. I was surprised. I agree that what a second century BC writer did with the text is not indicative of what Isaiah (or in this case probably 2nd Isaiah) thought or wrote, but it demonstrates conclusively that the argument that no Jew familiar with the language would divide the text like that is false. (I know that Isaiah wasn’t Jewish).

    I think there is another alternative — the Pauline interpretation. Christ is in fact present in the OT but only for those who have eyes to see by either direct revelation or being aware of the actual living Christ and his mission — seeing with 20/20 hindsight as it were. I believe that Christ used Isaiah 53 as that such an interpretation was the dominant Christian usage of that passage based on his own self-understanding (which we get admittedly only through the writings of later interpreters who didn’t know Jesus personally during his mortal ministry).

  • Manuel

    No Christ in the Old Testament, yet those early Christians succeeded in creating one of the greatest religious empires: Christianity. I believe that most definitely, they made an effort to see Christ reflected in the ancient scriptures thus contributing to our current messianic view of the Old Testament.

    On the other side of the world, a supposedly robust Christian tradition and an understanding of the Messiah that dates of Old Testament times found in the Book of Mormon, with the ministry of Christ Himself inclusive and the establishment of a similar religious hierarchy and yet not a speckle of Christianity can be traced in AD pre-Columbian America. (Before someone jumps at me with the usual; yeah I have read the legend of Quetzalcoatl and have heard several Mormon efforts, including John Taylor’s, to conflate this God with Jesus Christ; nevertheless, the legend of Quetzalcoatl lacks any messianic message, the central aspect of Jesus Christ)

    I think the problem that TT presents is very legitimate. I often find myself very disconnected from the Old Testament, not because of its lack of a Messianic message, but because the God of the Old Testament is so different from the God of Christianity. Not only do I believe Christians made efforts to find Christ reflected in the Old Testament, but I believe a lot of the Old Testament is also comprised of Jews narrating their history in a way that they can justify their acts according to their deity, thus they also “create their own God.” Or in other words, they make an effort to understand their place in history by finding their own notion of deity in the events surrounding their journey and narrate their history with this very purpose in mind. Therefore, I question the authoritative nature of the Old Testament many times as I try to live my own religion.

    I personally read the Book of Mormon in a much different light than most Mormons do, and I will only say that for me, the Book of Mormon does not represent an authoritative challenge to the Old Testament in the sense that the Old Testament should somehow reflect the Christology of the Book of Mormon, but I admit that is a problem that must be discussed among the people who share the common belief of the Book of Mormon.

    That said, I believe the Book of Mormon can indeed belong to a similar interpretive tradition as the early Christians.

  • Jeff Day

    I’m glad to see these difficulties beings acknowledged.

  • http://www.zelophehadsdaughters.com Kiskilili

    Fun questions!

    Personally I suspect that for Mormons the authority of the Old Testament derives not particularly from Christocentric readings but rather from readings that in various ways support the Church’s claims to legitimacy. This doesn’t exactly solve the problem you point to but perhaps provides a different window onto it by broadening the scope of the Old Testament’s relevance to Mormonism.

    Early Christians read the Old Testament christologically as part of their project of constructing their complicated self-understanding vis-à-vis Jews, the other community laying claim to the text. In contrast, Mormonism developed in a largely Christian environment in which the belief in Jesus as Messiah was fairly well established. I would argue that the primary group vis-à-vis whom Mormons are working out their own complicated self-understanding through peculiar readings of this shared text is other Christians, and that this informs Mormon readings of the OT (and the NT, for that matter).

    As I see it the Church is invested not just in reading the Old Testament to demonstrate that Jesus is God’s child (a doctrine taken for granted by the Christian Other) but at least as invested in reading the Old Testament to demonstrate that the Church is God’s brainchild, as it were. One could argue that in the same way early Christianity struck a Goldilox-type balance in absorbing enough but not too much from Judaism, taking their texts but finding new meaning in them, perhaps Mormons are attempting to strike a similar balance in absorbing enough but not too much from Christianity, and I think that relationship is being worked out specifically in the way the Bible as a whole is being read. On the one hand, finding Christ in the Old Testament perhaps serves to establish the Church’s Christian roots. What remains to be demonstrated for Mormons is that the Church is the “messianic” establishment, the ultimate institution authorized by God and brought forth at the endtime to bring about salvation to the world. (Examples include things like finding the Book of Mormon in Ezekiel 37 or the Salt Lake Temple in Isaiah 2.)

    In addition, since Joseph Smith fused Old and New Testaments in unique ways, especially in that he drew specifically on the Old Testament for practices and not just to find messianic prophecy or typology–practices such as temple building, using a Urim and Thummim, holding “solemn assemblies,” polygamy, etc.–aspects of Mormon ecclesiology to this day (such as the Seventy or the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods–the latter of course picked up also by the author of Hebrews) are grounded in particular readings of Old Testament, which in turn plays into the impulse to invoke the OT in establishing claims to authority and legitimacy over against others who read the text.

  • http://www.deoppressoliber.wordpress.com Steve

    One fatal problem in much of what has been written in the post and comments is that Jesus Christ himself is the interpretative key to understanding the OT. Jesus’ works and teaching were legitimized or founded upon the OT. It is more of an issue of typology than simply a reading back into the OT. The OT looked forward to a coming Messiah, the Son of man, The Prophet, the Suffering servant. These types were fulfilled in Jesus: his life, works and teaching. They all find fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
    The problem with conceptions of a knowledge of Jesus before his coming as represented in the NT (statements appearantly made by the BoM) is that they undermine the coherency of the OT and NT. Both testaments find their center in Jesus of Nazareth. Is it not curious that Jesus never quotes from any of the Mormon documents but does quote from the OT?

  • http://apps.sapiencekb.com/Blog/ Confutus

    Duane Christensen, in the October 1998 Biblical Review. lists 23 books that are mentioned in the Bible. Some of these may be references to the same book, and some of them may be references to books that are in the Bible, but there is little question that some are no longer extant.

    There is also with little question a letter from Paul to the Corinthians (preceding 1 and 2 Corinthians in our NT), and an epistle to the Laodiceans, which are mentioned that we do not have.

  • CJ Douglass

    Is it not curious that Jesus never quotes from any of the Mormon documents but does quote from the OT?

    Steve – Why would Jesus quote from scripture the Jews had never laid eyes on?

  • jupiterschild

    I don’t think Blake is right about seeing a clear chapter division in the DSS (1QIsaa) at 52:15. There does appear to be a line break between (the currently numbered) 52:15 and 53:1, but this type of break is not the most significant type of break in this scroll. There is a much larger line break between 52:12 and 52:13, right at the place where most modern commentators would see the “real” chapter division to be. In addition, in 1QIsa a, the so-called “Great Isaiah Scroll”, there is an added clause at the end of v. 12 (=”He is called the God of all the earth.”) In my opinion this heightens the finality of v. 12 vis a vis 13. Any case, it seems unlikely that what Blake is pointing to is a chapter division, but is rather a marker of a literary shift, much the way we use paragraphs.

    Further, If you move down ten or so lines from the spot Blake points to, there is a much greater space between our 53:8 and 9. That is, not only is there a line break at the end of 8, but 9 is indented (it looks like the beginning of a new paragraph according to modern typesetting convention). Still further, if you move to the previous column, you find a line break similar in size to that between 52:15 and 53:1 at the juncture between 52:6 and 52:7. And (non-chapter division examples) could be multiplied (see also 51:16-17).

    What does this mean? I’m not sure, but it at least means we can’t call all line breaks chapter divisions. It most likely means that a qumran scribe saw some sort of literary division between 52:15 and 53:1, but the fact that it is not the largest graphic division possible also suggests that it’s wrong to call this a chapter boundary.

    I think that the reason for the current situation is that the modern chapter divisions use similar (literary) criteria for the break as the Qumran scribes. The person responsible for the division adopted by the KJV (erroneously?) saw a stronger break between 52:15-53:1 than did his Qumran counterpart, who in my opinion saw a larger break between 52:12-13.

    As for the larger problem, I don’t think these divisions say much about the Book of Mormon’s authenticity or proper use of Isaiah. I suppose it could indicate something in the context of other uses of Isaiah (such as in 2 Nephi 12-24, which also is a strange excerpt), but it is far from clear. While it is true that this servant song (52:13-53:12) is the most frequently quoted OT passage in the NT, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the NT or even Qumran represents “the” “true” division. It is one reading of the text. Neither does it mean that JS simply relied ignorantly on the KJV divisions in his translation.

  • http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com TT

    Thanks all for the excelllent comments.

    J. Madsen, I like you suggestion for the significance of the Emmaus story.

    Blake, I agree that Paul provides a model for how to interpret the OT through the lens of Christ.

    Manuel, I think that you raise an important point about the perceived difference between the God of the OT and the God of the NT. I am not sure that I agree with such a division, but it is one that many readers feel. Maybe someday I will post on it!

    Kiskillili,
    I totally agree that the authority of the OT for LDS does not rest exclusively on a Christological presence in the OT. In fact, I am of the opinion that a text is authoritative as long as one says that it is. I love your suggestion about the central place of the church in LDS readings of the OT.

    Steve,
    I am not sure that I agree with your first paragraph, or understant your second, but I appreciate your point.

    Confutus,
    Yes, we know that there are “books” and “letters” mentioned in the Bible, but this is not the same as have “scriptures.” Your original claim was that “There are named sources in the OT and letters from Paul and the apostles which we no longer have. Many records that the Jews of Palestine had were destroyed along with the temple in AD 70.” While we might admit that there were many books from antiquity that we no longer possess, but your claims that Paul and the apostles had authoritative texts is not supported by the NT.

    jupiterschild,
    Thanks for the excellent analysis!

  • http://blakeostler.com Blake

    Jupiter’s child: You’re probably right that “chapter division” isn’t quite what she scribe of 1QIsaa had in mind — I’m not even sure that they had a notion of chapters like we do. However, there is a subject-matter break as you acknowledge. It may have felt natural to Abinadi to break the chapter here when speaking of the God himself who would come in flesh — stark notion that! My point was simply to acknowledge that I could be wrong in arguing that the chapter break in Mosiah 15 beginning with Isaiah 53:1 as the starting point isn’t a foolproof sign of either expansion or anachronism (tho the fact that it is the KJV translation that is used must surely be as at least a sign of using that later source as at least a part of the text being considered).

  • Roger

    As Blake mentions earlier, Isaiah 53 may be authored by Deutero-Isaiah. How would we explain Abinadi’s access to this material, given that Deutero-Isaiah is thought to have written near the end of the Babylonian exile? Do we reject the Deutero-Isaiah explanation, or do we place the authorship in the pre exilic period? Or something else?

  • jupiterschild

    Blake, right, and I see now that I should have made it more explicit that in the end I agreed with your overall point.

    Roger, you are right, this is one of the central issues in the use of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. I don’t think it’s likely that Deutero-Isaiah was authored in the pre-exilic period. (It is interesting to note, however, that Trito Isaiah is never quoted in the Book of Mormon. What that means is another story, as is whether there is in fact a trito-Isaiah). I don’t think the exilic or post-exilic origin of II-Isaiah need be terribly vexing, however. I think of it probably like Blake, that we should think of the quotations of II-Isa like JS’s anachronisms in the Book of Abraham: the translation is not academic, literal, but is something else. Same probably goes for the use of Paul in the Book of Mormon.

  • Roger

    Jupiterschild,
    Thanks for that answer. It’s more satisfying than outright rejection of the Deutero-Isaiah hypothesis.

  • Kade

    TT, sorry for being so late to the comments. If you get a moment maybe you could respond to my reactions. First, it seems to me that not only is the BOM messianic tradition more robust and specific, but quite different than that of the NT tradition as the messianic expectation and realization of the BOM seems to me all along to align more closely with a “clouds of glory” messiah than a suffering servant personified in Jesus of Nazareth.
    Second, while there is messianic expectation in the BOM, I think that it might be possible to reject the historical christocentrism of the BOM and it still be relevant. I guess where I’m coming from is that lately as I have been reading the BOM, I have attributed the few prophecies on the small plates to expansions of JS and the prophecies on the large plates to early American Christian reworking/interpretation or expansion. While I don’t necessarily see a “Jesuscentric” system of worship, I still am fascinated by a text which demonstrates a people with a messianic expectation and their devotion to their God (though I don’t know if 6th century BCE is too early for that).
    In short, I suppose that to me christocentrism of the BOM isn’t necessarily there either, if we allow for layers. The value to me of the OT and the BOM is ours/early Christian/latter-day translator interpretation, and I hope to take the road to Emmaus often.


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