“Old Things Are Done Away, and All Things Have Become New”

Jesus’ First Sermon to the Nephites:  3 Nephi 12:1-18:39

Jesus Teaches the Nephites the Sermon on the Mount:  3 Nephi 12-14:27

To listen to Jared Anderson’s podcast that goes over this lesson and to read his teaching notes, click here.

Note:   I noticed while studying these chapters that the verse numbers in 3 Nephi 12-14 are the same verse numbers in Matthew 5-7.  So I wondered, when were the present-day Book of Mormon chapter and verse numbers first placed into the text, and when were the chapter and verses as they exist today in the King James Bible first used?

It was the 1879 version of the Book of Mormon which was printed by Deseret News and edited by Orson Pratt, that gives us the chapters and verses as the presently exist in the Book of Mormon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Mormon).

“The Dominican friar, Sante Pagnini’s Latin translation (from Hebrew and Greek) of the Bible (published in 1528) transmitted the division of Old Testament chapters into numbered verses from its origins in a Hebrew Bible of 1440 to a long line of English Bibles, beginning with Miles Coverdale’s Bible;  he was also the first to divide the New Testament chapters into verses.  It was the Geneva Bible (the New Testament published in 1557) that  was the first English Bible to adopt both verse and numbers” (Gordon Campbell, Bible:  The Story of the King James Version;  1611-2011, pg.. 15, 26)

One of the difficulties with theses chapters is the fact that so many of the verses in 3 Nephi 12-14 are exactly word-for-word the same as what is found in the King James Version of Matthew 5-7.   What would be the possible reasons?  Perhaps understanding the different views of Biblical inspiration will shed some light on the question:

“Theologians developed a taxonomy of inspiration, which could be verbal, plenary, moral, or dynamic.  Verbal inspiration is the belief that every word was dictated  by god;  plenary inspiration is the idea that the collective meaning of the words is infallibly true;  moral inspiration is the view that the moral and religious teaching of the Bible is true, but that the words are no more than human conveyors of divine truth;  dynamic inspiration is the belief that the human writers were endowed with divine authority but that the words were not dictated mechanically.  The argument was for the most part conducted with reference to the Hebrew and Greek texts, but a small band of enthusiast made claims that anticipated those of the King James Only Movement of the late twentieth century.   With respect to the KJV, some advocates of inspiration argued that each word of the translation contained the word of God, while others argued that each word was the word of God.  The former view implies that each English word contains within it a divine meaning that transcends the limitations of language,  and the latter implies that God had in some sense communicated the English of the KJV to the translators” (Campbell, The Story of the King James Version, pg. 174).

Rembrandt’s The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by an Angel. The angel is whispering into the ear of St. Matthew what should be written.

Saint Matthew and the Angel (1602) by Caravaggio (15711610). Notice the hand of the angel directing the pen of St. Matthew.

If you are interested in reading more about the prevalence of the KJV in the Book of Mormon, click here.

For a comparison view of what we find in 3 Nephi 12-14 and in Matthew 5-7, click here.

Click here if you are interested in John W. Welch’s response to Brent Lee Metcalfe’s and Stan Larson’s critique of of the Matthean text in 3 Nephi.  Welch does not dispute the dependence of 3 Nephi on Matthew, but he downplays the importance of passages where the Book of Mormon adopts King James readings based on mistranslations or problems in the Greek text, and he draws attention to some of the places where 3 Nephi differs from the Authorized Version, such as 3 Nephi 12:22 which, along several early Greek Manuscripts, drops the phrase “without a cause” from Matthew 5:22.

I stole the following from my brother’s (Paul) first post on the human filter through which revelation comes.  Click here if you would like to read Paul’s post:

 

In Jared Anderson’s paper “Expectation and Revelation: Preparing the Way for LDS Biblical Studies,” he states:

“Again, I suggest that God conforms revelation to the recipients expectations, world view, and language, and that this model best explains conflicts between scripture and scholarship. This concept may trouble the handful of us conscious of these difficulties, but from a salvation and communication perspective, it is the most efficient way for God to transmit spiritual truth. We as scholars are concerned with accuracy and historicity defined in a narrow sense, but such is not the case with the majority of God’s audience. When God grants his child a revelation, he is not going to sideswipe them with unexpected historical niceties. A vision recounted by Orson Whitney illustrates my point. This mystical experience is spiritually efficient and emotionally powerful, but sets off a few alarms in the corridor of historical criticism.

“Then came a marvelous manifestation, and admonition from a higher source, one impossible to ignore. It was a dream, or a vision in a dream, as I lay upon my bed in the little town of Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I seemed to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as ever I have seen anyone. Standing behind a tree in the foreground, I beheld Jesus, with Peter, James and John, as they came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, the Son of God passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which all Bible readers are familiar: ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’

“As He prayed the tears streamed down His face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I also wept, out of pure sympathy. My whole heart went out to Him; I loved Him with all my soul, and longed to be with Him as I longed for nothing else…He offered up the same prayer as before; then went back and again found them sleeping. Again He awoke them, readmonished them, and once more returned and prayed. Three times this occurred, until I was perfectly familiar with His appearance– face, form and movements. He was of noble stature and majestic mien– not at all the weak, effeminate being that some painters have portrayed; but the very God that He was and is, as meek and humble as a little child. “All at once the circumstances seemed to change, the scene remaining just the same. Instead of before, it was after the crucifixion, and the Savior, with the three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into Heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at His feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged Him to take me with Him.

“I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped, raised me up, and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real. I felt the very warmth of His body, as He held me in His arms and said in the tenderest tones: “No, my son, these have finished their work; they can go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.” Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into His face– for He was taller than I– I besought Him fervently: “Well, promise me that I may come to you at the last.” Smiling sweetly, He said, “That will depend entirely upon yourself.” I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning.  “…. I saw the moral clearly. I have never thought of being an Apostle, nor of holding any other office in the Church, and it did not occur to me then. Yet I knew that these sleeping Apostles meant me. I was asleep at my post — as any man is who, having been divinely appointed to do one thing, does another.

“But from that hour, all was changed. I never was the same man again. I continued to write, but not to the neglect of the Lord’s work. I held that first and foremost; all else was secondary.”(Orson F. Whitney, “Through Memories Halls”, 1930, p. 82 Quoted in Bryant Hinckley, The Faith of our Pioneer Fathers, 211-213).

No one could deny the spiritual and emotional power of this account. It changed Orson’s life and touches the reader’s emotions. Obviously, this vision fulfilled God’s purposes. And as Orson repeatedly emphasizes, this vision was as real to him as any other experience. But to those of us attuned to such things, the anachronisms are striking—Orson sees not the Gethsemane of Jesus’ time, but a garden like those with which he would be familiar. Instead of hearing Aramaic interpreted through the gift of tongues, Orson heard not only the exact King James rendering of Jesus’ prayer, but specifically the one he knew best—drawn from Matthew 26:39. This sublime experience drives home the point of this paper—God gave Orson exactly the vision that would maximize its spiritual affect; at the same time, the details reflect not historical reality, but the recipient’s expectations.”

Jesus Speaks to the Multitude:  3 Nephi 12:1-2

Krister Stendahl, former dean of the Harvard Divinity School, astutely observed that Jesus at Bountiful is not so much the synoptic “teacher of rightewousness, basing his teaching on the law and the prophets,”  as he is “a Johannine Jesus, the revealed revealer who points to himself and to faith in and obedience to him as the message” (Grant Hardy,  Understanding the Book of Mormon:  A Reader’s Guide, pg. 196)  

Without going through all the differences in the Matthean and 3 Nephi accounts, and at the same time recognizing that  the two sermons are almost identical, Third Nephi has the  distinctive emphasis on coming to Christ and developing faith in him,  highlighting his role as  the focal point of the law, both as the fulfiller of the old and the giver of the new.  Jesus’ invitation to “come unto me” – which does not appear in the Sermon on the Mount – is inserted six times in his discourse at Bountiful (3 Nephi 12:3, 19, 20, 23, 24), and for people who have just been urged to personally inspect the wounds in his hands and feet this is a literal rather than a metaphorical invitation.   Whereas in Matthew Jesus promised that the law will remain in force “till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18), here he unambiguously proclaims that the new age has arrived, that “in me it hath been fulfilled.”  The phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come,” is omitted from the version in Third Nephi, presumably because God’s kingdom has come to the righteous Nephites (3 Nephi 13:10), and Jesus’ injunction not just to follow the example of the Father but “to be perfect even as I…[am] perfect” is a further affirmation of his glorified, postresurrection status”  (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 197).

12:1 In Mormon’s editorial remark he states that the apostles received, “power and authority”.  Yet, in the primary quote from Jesus that Mormon inserts into the story, Jesus says nothing about authority.   Is Mormon reading something into the primary text that isn’t there?

12:2 Is Jesus still speaking to the multitude here, or has he changed audiences (to the twelve)?

More on the distiction that make a difference in how we interpret the familiar biblical phrases:

  • In Third Nephi, Jesus is speaking as God, with maximal authority
  • Unlike Galilee, the people at Bountiful all recognize and embrace Jesus as their Redeemer;  they are awestruck to be with him.  As a result, several of the beatitudes have an immediate rather than eschatological application (compare 3 Nephi 12:8 with Matthew 5:8)
  • To a person, the Nephite audience is righteous and has just experienced (and survived) widespread, catastrophic destruction.  The commands  – and, coming from God himself, they are commandments rather than ethical suggestions (3 Nephi 12:20) – to be generous, to refrain from judging, etc. are all relevant to their current situation.  On the other hand, warnings about false prophets and persecutions seem to belong to an earlier era (or perhaps to centuries in the future);  those at the temple already know firsthand about the broad way “that leadeth to destruction.”
  • They have just been commanded to defer to new leaders and be baptized. (3 Nephi 12:1-2)
  • Because of the prophecies and Jesus’ voice in the darkness, the Nephites at Bountiful know the law of Moses is fulfilled and they are anxious to understand the implications of this.   Jesus’ revisions to the requirements concerning murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retribution, and love (“ye have heard that it hath been said…but I say unto you…”)  are indications that although Christian standards will be, in some ways, even more demanding, core principles remain unchanged.  In addition, the focus on moral behavior is now on Jesus Christ himself, and specific regulations are derived from the continuing revelation of his word (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 194-195).

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12):   3 Nephi 12:3-12

Blessed are the cheese-makers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Witness of Believers (Matthew 5:13-16):   3 Nephi 12:13-16

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

Ye are the salt of the earth – Salt renders food pleasant and palatable, and preserves from putrefaction. So Christians, by their lives and instructions, are to keep the world from entire moral corruption. By bringing down the blessing of God in answer to their prayers, and by their influence and example, they save the world from universal vice and crime.

Salt have lost its savour – That is, if it has become tasteless, or has lost its preserving properties. The salt used in this country is a chemical compound – chloride of sodium – and if the saltness were lost, or it were to lose its savor, there would be nothing remaining. It enters into the very nature of the substance. In eastern countries, however, the salt used was impure, or mingled with vegetable or earthy substances, so that it might lose the whole of its saltness, and a considerable quantity of earthy matter remain. This was good for nothing, except that it was used to place in paths, or walks, as we use gravel. This kind of salt is common still in that country. It is found in the earth in veins or layers, and when exposed to the sun and rain, loses its saltness entirely. Maundrell says, “I broke a piece of it, of which that part that was exposed to the rain, sun, and air, though it had the sparks and particles of salt, yet it had perfectly lost its savor. The inner part, which was connected to the rock, retained its savor, as I found by proof. So Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, vol. ii. pp. 43, 44) says, “I have often seen just such salt, and the identical disposition of it that our Lord has mentioned. A merchant of Sidon having farmed of the government the revenue from the importation of salt, brought over an immense quantity from the marshes of Cyprus – enough, in fact, to supply the whole province for at least 20 years. This he had transferred to the mountains, to cheat the government out of some small percentage. Sixty-five houses in June – Lady Stanhope’s village were rented and filled with salt. These houses have merely earthen floors, and the salt next the ground, in a few years, entirely spoiled. I saw large quantities of it literally thrown into the street, to be trodden underfoot by people and beasts. It was ‘good for nothing.’

“It should be stated in this connection that the salt used in this country is not manufactured by boiling clean salt water, nor quarried from mines, but is obtained from marshes along the seashore, as in Cyprus, or from salt lakes in the interior, which dry up in summer, as the one in the desert north of Palmyra, and the great lake of Jebbul, southeast of Aleppo.

“Maundrell, who visited the lake at Jebbul, tells us that he found salt there which had entirely ‘lost its savor,’ and the same abounds among the debris at Usdum, and in other localities of rocksalt at the south end of the Dead Sea. Indeed, it is a well-known fact that the salt of this country, when in contact with the ground, or exposed to rain and sun, does become insipid and useless. From the manner in which it is gathered, much earth and other impurities are necessarily collected with it. Not a little of it is so impure that it cannot be used at all, and such salt soon effloresces and turns to dust – not to fruitful soil, however. It is not only good for nothing itself, but it actually destroys all fertility wherever it is thrown; and this is the reason why it is cast into the street. There is a sort of verbal verisimilitude in the manner in which our Lord alludes to the act: ‘it is cast out’ and ‘trodden under foot;’ so troublesome is this corrupted salt, that it is carefully swept up, carried forth, and thrown into the street. There is no place about the house, yard, or garden where it can be tolerated. No man will allow it to be thrown on to his field, and the only place for it is the street, and there it is cast to be trodden underfoot of men.”  (http://biblecommenter.com/matthew/5-13.htm)

The Fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17-48):  3 Nephi 12: 17-48

A jot is the name of the least letter of an alphabet or the smallest part of a piece of writing. It is the Anglicized version of the Greek iota – the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet, which corresponds to the Roman ‘i’. This, in turn, was derived from the Hebrew word jod, or yodr, which is the the smallest letter of the square Hebrew alphabet. Apart from its specialist typographical meaning, we still use the word jot more generally to mean ‘a tiny amount’. Hence, when we have a brief note to make, we ‘jot it down’.

 

A tittle, rather appropriately for a word which sounds like a combination of tiny and little, is smaller still. It refers to a small stroke or point in writing or printing. In classical Latin this applied to any accent over a letter, but is now most commonly used as the name for the dot over the letter ‘i’. It is also the name of the dots on dice. In medieval calligraphy the tittle was written as quite large relative to the stem of the ‘i’. Since fixed typeface printing was introduced in the 15th century the tittle has been rendered smaller.

The use of the word ‘dot’ as a small written mark didn’t begin until the 18th century. We may have been told at school to dot our i’s; Chaucer and Shakespeare would have been told to tittle them.

12:22 “Raca”  in Aramaic means, “emptyhead,” or , “numbskull.”  I was wondering if Lehi would have spoken Aramaic and this is what I found:

“From the 7th century BCE, Aramaic became the lingua franca of the Middle East. It became the language of diplomacy and trade, but was not used by the Hebrew populace at this early date. As described in 2 Kings 18:26, Hezekiah, king of Judah, demands to negotiate with Assyrian ambassadors in Aramaic rather than Hebrew so that the common people would not understand” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judeo-Aramaic_language).

I asked Jared Anderson if wikipedia was correct and he replied, “That is pretty much correct.”  He then had the following to add:

“This will be oversimplified, but with imperialism vs. nationalism there is a delay in adopting the international language. So the powers that be spoke Aramaic and the backwater Judaeans still spoke Hebrew. With Alexander the Great Greek became the lingua franca, but backwater Galileans (and many others) spoke Aramaic.”

12:23 vs. Matthew 5:23  “…if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me…”  vs.  “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar…”   This is a very, very interesting editorial change to the Sermon on the Mount.   I think there is some kind of theological significance to the change,  I am just not smart enough to tease it out.    It seems to me that Christ (being the altar) requires us to bring to him a “broken heart and a contrite spirit”.   I think there might be some kind of connection here.  Any ideas?

12:25 “Senine”  see Alma 11:3 of course in the New Testament the monetary amount is a “farthing”.

12:25 vs. Matthew 5:28 “…hath committed adultery already in his heart…”  vs.  “…hath committed adultery with her already in his heart…”   The problem I have with the N.T. version of this teaching is that the women is also (by implication) condemned, while the Book of Mormon leaves her out of the entire mess.

12:30 “…take up your cross…”   Would this have any significance for the people in the Americas?  Jesus never explicitly mentions his crucifixion to them, nor (as far as I know) was crucifixion a form of execution in MesoAmerica.  This portion is not included in the Sermon on the Mount where it would have some significance.   Instead, avoiding being “cast into hell” (in the Sermon on the Mount) is attached to casting off the body part that offends.

12:38 “Resist not evil”   What does this mean?  In the Amplified Version,  New American Standard Version, and the New International Version of the Bible, this verse reads:  “Do not resist an evil man/person.” 

Looking at my Strong’s Concordance, I found the following regarding the words “resist” and “evil”:

Resist:  anthistémi: to set against, i.e. withstand

Original Word: ἀνθίστημι

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: anthistémi

Phonetic Spelling: (anth-is’-tay-mee)

Short Definition: I take a stand against, oppose, resist

Definition: I set against; I withstand, resist, oppose.

Strong Concordance number 436

436 anthístēmi (from 473 /antí, “opposite/against” and 2476 /hístēmi, “to stand”) – properly, take a complete stand against, i.e. a “180 degree, contrary position”; (figuratively) to establish one’s position publicly by conspicuously “holding one’s ground,” i.e. refusing to be moved (“pushed back”).

436 /anthístēmi (“oppose fully”) means to forcefully declare one’s personal conviction (where they unswervingly stand); to keep one’s possession; ardently withstand, without giving up (letting go).

[436 (anthístēmi) was a military term in classical Greek (used by Thucydides, etc.) meaning “to strongly resist an opponent” (“take a firm stand against”).]

Evil:   ponéros: toilsome, bad

Original Word: πονηρός, ά, όν

Part of Speech: Adjective

Transliteration: ponéros

Phonetic Spelling: (pon-ay-ros’)

Short Definition: evil, bad, wicked

Definition: evil, bad, wicked, malicious, slothful.

Strong Concordance number 4190

4190 ponērós (an adjective which is also used substantively, derived from 4192 /pónos, “pain, laborious trouble”) – properly, pain-ridden, emphasizing the inevitable agonies (misery) that always go with evil.

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says the following:

Resist not evil – Or, the evil person. So, I am fully persuaded, τω πονηρω ought to be translated. Our Lord’s meaning is, “Do not repel one outrage by another.” He that does so makes himself precisely what the other is, a wicked person.

12:33 “thou shalt not forswear thyself..”

Found this on the Jewish Encylopedia web-site:

Even in judicial oaths, swearing by the name of Yhwh was abolished altogether during the age of the Geonim (which began in 598 BC).

Deuteronomic injunctions expressly command that oaths be taken in the name of God (and, by implication, not in the name of other gods): “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you” (Deuteronomy 6:13–14; see Deuteronomy 10:20). Indeed, God himself swears by himself or his life (see Genesis 22:16; Exodus 32:13; Numbers 14:21; Jeremiah 22:24; 46:18; Ezekiel 5:11; 14:16, 18, 20; 16:48; 17:19; 18:3; 20:3, 31, 33; 33:11, 27; 34:8; 35:6; Amos 6:8; and Zephaniah 2:9), his great name (see Jeremiah 44:26), or his holiness (see Amos 4:2).

More on ancient oaths:

In addition, oath taking in the name of God to no good intent (Hebrew lassaw, translated “in vain” in the King James Version of the Bible) is expressly forbidden in the third commandment of the Decalogue.  Deceptive swearing is prohibited in the Holiness Code in Leviticus (see Leviticus 19:12).

The most common formula in the witness invocation is “as the Lord liveth,”  which is frequently found with slight modifications, extensions, and variations: “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth” (1 Samuel 20:3; 25:26; 2 Kings 2:2; 4:30), “as surely as you live” (1 Samuel 1:26; 17:55 NIV). (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=21&chapid=103)

12:43 “…though shalt love thy neighbor…love your enemies…”   Paraphrasing Jared Anderon on his Book of Mormon Lesson 36 Podcast he said,  “For the Jews, it was all about being holy and their were different ways to obtain this.  The Pharisees thought one obtained holiness through keeping all of the different permutations of the Law of Moses.  While,the Sadducees thought holiness would be obtained through the rituals of the temple;  they emphasized temple sacrifice, etc.   Jesus, an orthodox Jew, said “NO”  to both.  He said holiness is obtained through loving God and loving your fellow man.”   I shared this in my Sunday School class last Sunday and it went over like a ton of bricks.

12:47 “…old things are done away…”  there is  a connection between this verse and 2 Corinthians 5:17.   When Jesus refers to this saying in his discussion after the Sermon, he quotes the Pauline version: “Marvel not that I said unto you that ‘old things had passed away, and that all things had become new'”  (3 Nephi 15:2,3 ).  Vicotor Paul Furnish has observed  that Paul borrowed this idea from the apocalyptic Judaism (with a precedent in Isaiah 43:18-19), and it refers not just to a transformation in individual believers, but to a “new age which stands over agains this present evil age.”  See his Second Corinthians, Anchor Bible, vol 32A, pbe 315, 332 (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 314).

12:48 compare with Mattthew 5:48 “be ye therefore perfect…”    I think enough ink has been spilled over the differences between these two verses.

Sincere Piety (Matthew 6:1-24):  3 Nephi 13:1-24

13:7 Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says the following:

Use not vain repetitions – The original word here is supposed to be derived from the name of a Greek poet, who made long and weary verses, declaring by many forms and endless repetitions the same sentiment. Hence, it means to repeat a thing often; to say the same thing in different words, or to repeat the same words, as though God did not hear at first. An example of this we have in 1 Kings 18:26; “They called on Baal from morning until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us!”

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible has the following insight to this verse:

Use not vain repetitions – Μη βαττολογησητε,  Suidas explains this word well:

“πολυλογια, much speaking, from one Battus (in Greek mythology, Battus is a shepherd from Pylos. Battus witnessed Hermes, in some cases Mercury, stealing Apollo’s cattle. Though he promised his silence, he told many others. Hermes turned him to stone), who made very prolix hymns, in which the same idea frequently recurred.” “A frequent repetition of awful and striking words may often be the result of earnestness and fervor. See Daniel 9:3-20; but great length of prayer, which will of course involve much sameness and idle repetition, naturally creates fatigue and carelessness in the worshipper, and seems to suppose ignorance or inattention in the Deity; a fault against which our Lord more particularly wishes to secure them.” See Matthew 6:8. This judicious note is from the late Mr. Gilbert Wakefield, who illustrates it with the following quotation from the Heautontimorumenos of Terence:

Ohe! jam decine Deos, uxor, gratulando Obtundere,

Tuam esse inventam gnatam: nisi illos ex Tuo Ingenio judicas,

Ut nil credas Intelligere, nisi idem Dictum Sit Centies

“Pray thee, wife, cease from Stunning the gods with thanksgivings, because thy child is in safety; unless thou judgest of them from thyself, that they cannot Understand a thing, unless they are told of it a Hundred Times.” Heaut. ver. 880.

Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue. The eloquence of prayer consists in the fervency of desire, and the simplicity of faith. The abundance of fine thoughts, studied and vehement motions, and the order and politeness of the expressions, are things which compose a mere human harangue, not an humble and Christian prayer. Our trust and confidence ought to proceed from that which God is able to do in us, and not from that which we can say to him. It is abominable, says the Hedayah, that a person offering up prayers to God, should say, “I beseech thee, by the glory of thy heavens!” or, “by the splendor of thy throne!” for a style of this nature would lead to suspect that the Almighty derived glory from the heavens; whereas the heavens are created, but God with all his attributes is eternal and inimitable. Hedayah, vol. iv. p. 121.

13:8 “…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him.”    This raises two questions for me:

  1. If God knows what we are in need of, then why do we need to ask?   I think that Romans 8:26   possibly provides a partial answer to that.
  2. Why is the fact that our Father in Heaven “knoweth what things [we are] in need of  before [we] ask him,”  a reason to avoid praying like the heathen (using vain repetitions)? 

13:9  My wife recently finished reading Jana Riess’ Flunking Sainthood:  A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor.”   My wife, Cathy, is working on her book review of it and hopefully we’ll have it up on the blog in the next few weeks.   On pages 147-150, Jana Reiss  says the following regarding her saying the Lord’s Prayer:

I’m surprised by how comforting I find its repetition.  I’ve never recited the Lord’s Prayer this often in my life, but far from being empty words, the prayer exerts an unexpected power.  Praying for daily bread every day is quite different from  praying for it almost never (as in my church) or once a week (as in my husband’s).  It communicates trust in God for today.  Just today, we have a blue-light special on manna;  only one per customer, though, so you’ll need to ask again tomorrow if you want more.

There’s also a reassuring cadence in the antiquity of these prayers….We voice what we hope will be true, and we pray that God will save us, delivering us from evil.  The prayer is not hollow, because it has voiced both the agony and the trust of countless generations…It gives me a break from the me-me-me nature of my own spontaneous prayers.  There is a deep rest associated with ancient prayers I didn’t contrive myself.

But it’s even deeper than that, because I am finding to my astonishment that I am most myself when I pray someone else’s words.  Given that my faith tradition, suggests that following someone else’s liturgy can be empty and confining,  I’m surprised to discover that instead it is rich and freeing.  I don’t have to be alone with my subjective experience, my little life.  I am free to rest in the words of those who are often far wiser, and who have walked the path already.” 

Cathy read this part of “Flunking Sainthood”  out-loud to me about a month ago, so we decided to implement the Lord’s Prayer as part of our family prayer at night.   We kneel together, hold hands, and then  one of us (usually either our 6 or 10 year-old daughter) leads the family in the Lord’s Prayer; this is followed by one of us giving a prayer in our own words.   This practice which we now do every night as a family has been quite beautiful.  I agree with Sister Reiss, ” it is rich and freeing.” 

13:24 “Mammon” is Aramaic for “Riches” or “Money”.  Is this anachronistic?

Jesus Instructs the Twelve to Rely upon God for Sustenance (Matthew 6:25-34):  3 Nephi 13:25-34

13:25 “…take no thought for your life…”  Grant Hardy points out the following:  “It is intriguing that in Third Nephi, the seemingly impractical injuction in the Sermon on the Mount to “take no thought for the morrow” was directed specificaly to the disciples rather than to Christians in general.”  (Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide, pg. 314, note 29) 

13:32 compare with Matthew 6:32  I tried to find the reason why the KJV puts part of this verse in parentheses, (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek), but could not find the reason.  The other Bible translations I have do not put this phrase in parentheses.

 Parables of Discipleship (Matthew 7:1-27):  3 Nephi 14:1-27

14:1-5

President  Dieter Uchtdorf said:

“…Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable—when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.

But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt” (The Merciful Shall Obtain Mercy; April 2012 General Conference).

I know from personal experience that when I find myself being very critical of others, it is because I am not happy with who I am and with how I have been acting.  When I take that energy that I have been spending judging others, and turn it towards myself,  I can experience real transformation in my life.    There seems to be tension between the idea of not judging others and yet holding to standards of decency and wanting to associate with others who share similar standards.   I think that tension is necessary.  I think the two extremes are both illegitimate and that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I have a good Catholic friend, with whom I work, who told me the following aphorism that one of his Wheaton College professors passed onto him:  “When trying to decide between mercy and justice and you don’t know which to choose,  always choose mercy.”    Isn’t that just beautiful?

14:6-7  Barnes’ Notes on the Bible has the following insight:

The meaning of this proverb, then, is, do not offer your doctrine to those violent and abusive people who would growl and curse you; nor to those especially debased and profligate who would not perceive its value, would trample it down, and would abuse you. This verse furnishes a beautiful instance of what has been called the “introverted parallelism.” The usual mode of poetry among the Hebrews, and a common mode of expression in proverbs and apothegms, was by the parallelism, where one member of a sentence answered to another, or expressed substantially the same sense with some addition or modification. See the Introduction to the Book of Job. Sometimes this was alternate, and sometimes it was introverted – where the first and fourth lines would correspond, and the second and third. This is the case here. The dogs would tear, and not the swine; the swine would trample the pearls under their feet, and not the dogs. It may be thus expressed:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,

Neither cast ye your pearls before swine,

Lest they (that is, the swine) trample them under their feet,

And turn again (that is, the dogs) and rend you.

14:7 “The invitation in the Sermon at the Temple to “ask, and it shall be given unto you” is reiterated again by Christ in 3 Nephi 27:28.  In short, Jesus wants to engage his people in an ongoing dialogue, and Third Nephi is designed to be, among other things, a conversation starter. (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg 212).

14:12 “…whatesoever ye would that men should do to you….”  The People’s New Testamant says the following:

 A maxim similar to the Golden Rule is found in the teachings of various sages; Socrates among the Greeks ( What stirs you to anger when done to you by bothers, that do not to others ), Buddha and Confucius ( What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others ) among the Orientals, and Hillel ( Do not do to thy neighbor what is hateful to thyself ) among the Jews. But the other teachers do not come up to Christ’s standard. Their maxim is negative and passive. They say: Do not do to others what you would not have done to you. It is a rule of not doing, rather than of doing.

14:12 “…for this is the law and the prophets.”   Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:

This is the law and the prophets – That is, this is the sum or substance of the Old Testament. It is nowhere found in so many words, but if is a summary expression of all that the law required. The sentiment was in use among the Jews. Hillel, an ancient Rabbi, said to a man who wished to become a proselyte, and who asked him to teach him the whole law, “Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to another.” Something of the same sentiment was found among the ancient Greeks and Romans, and is found in the writings of Confucius.

14:18 “…by their fruits ye shall know them.”  OK, I’m going to name drop now.   I had about a 90 minute conversation with Dr. Phillip Barlow two weeks ago.  We started talking about faith and the very, almost black and white view some hold of  what faith is and how one comes to have faith.  We also spoke about epistemology and he said the following (I am paraphrasing here), “There are different ways one can come to having faith and knowing truth.   We have what what Moroni teaches, ‘read, ask, and the answer comes’.   This is probably the prevailing view of most Mormons and it can be problematic;  it is used almost as a divining rod for truth.   Alma 32 presents a much more organic way of talking about faith; it grows, etc.  We also have the idea of ‘by their fruits ye shall know them’.  The idea here can be that you test it out, and if the fruit is good, then it is something in which you can have faith.”  Of course, being the genious he is, Dr. Barlow said it in a much more articulate way and I completly slautered what he actually said.  But, you get the idea and that is, we all can come to have faith and knowledge in different ways.  One of those ways is by seeing the fruits of one’s religious practices.

14:23 “…depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”   This begs the question, why is what they were doing, considered to be an iniquity?  They were casting out devils, prophesying in the Lord’s name, etc.  Doesn’t sound evil to me.

14:24 “…heareth these sayings of mind and doeth them…”   Of what sayings is he speaking?   It seems to me he is speaking of his entire teachings as presented in the Sermon on the Mount.  Or, he could be speaking specifically of  the three prior verses regarding those that do things in His name, but aren’t doing his will.

[End of Jesus Teaches the Nephites the Sermon on the Mount:  2 Nephi 12:1-14:27 ]

More on the fulfillment of the Law:  3 Nephi 15: 1-10

15:1 Grant Hardy notes:

“More specifically, an omniscient Christ could have delivered essentially the same discourse that Matthew would someday compose;  our familiar Sermon on the Mount might have been a reasonable sampling of Jesus’ characteristic Aramaic teachings (in fact, as Jesus concludes he informs the Nephites that “ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my father, ” 3 Nephi 15:1);  the translator could have borrowed heavily from the Authorized Version;  or the entire section might be like the “dramatic reenactments” that sometimes appear in documentary films, that is, staged re-creations for new audiences – in this case modern readers – that stand in for authentic historical events.  Critical scholar Ronald Huggins brought up the first possibility only to dismiss it quickly with the comment that “such an explanation makes a sham of all textual and source-critical studies”;  but we are speaking here of a book that bills itself as delivered by an angel and translated through a seer stone – the ordinary rules may not apply, at least not from a Latter-day Saint perspective”  (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 313, note 25)

15:2 “..some among them who marveled, and wondered what he would concerning the law of Moses…”   Do these people have thick heads or something?  in 3 Nephi 9:17-19 Jesus explicetly says that the law of Moses was fulfilled and they no longer needed to do animal sacrifice.

“…Yet the Mosaic law concerned more than just animal sacrifices;  it was a comprehensive code that had guided the Israelites in matters ranging from prayer, the Sabath, and defilement to circumcision, diet, and clothing, as well as marriage, inheritance, wages, and lending.  The Nephites presumably lived by some sort of adaptation suited to the plants, animals, and social conditions of the New World (the Book of Mormon offers few details), and the announcement of the fulfillment of the law would have left them wondering what would take its place.  It is therefore fitting that Jesus begins his public teachings among the Nephites with a rendition of the Sermon on the Mount, which took as one of its major themes the relationship between the old law and the new”  (Hardy, A Reader’s Guide, pg. 194)

 15:6, 8 “…I do not destroy the prophets…but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me.”

The following migh help:

Books and divisions of the Old Testament

Books of Law (Pentateuch)
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy

Books of History
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
Ester

Books of Poetry
Job
Psalms
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon

Major Prophets
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Ezekiel
Daniel

Minor Prophets
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi

This is a link to a very Christian-fundamentalist view of the Law and the Prophets:  http://www.eaec.org/bibleanswers/old_testament_division.htm

Now the question that must be asked is, “When were these Old Testament divisions first recognized?  Was it before or after 600 AD?”

Jesus Explains John 10:16 to the Twelve:  3 Nephi 15:11

I remember reading John 10:16 and then 3 Nephi 15:11 and using those at proof texts for the historicity of the Book of Mormon.  I would usually throw in Matthew 15:24 too:   “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”   This (of course) would remove any idea that the lost sheep spoken of in John 10:16 were the Gentiles or Samaritans.    Unfortunately these same biblical scriptures were also used to buttress up the idea that those of black-African descent could not hold priesthood.  The argument went something like this:  You see, God sometimes withholds the gospel from certain groups, and similarly,  he has said that we are to withhold the priesthood from blacks of African descent.   Ugh.

Michael is a Guatemalan-American Mormon living in the Northwest with his family. He is one of the proprietors of the Rational Faiths blog.

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