09 January 2017

God will never cease to be God--Alma 42:13b

Let us begin with Isaiah 62:8. ¶ Surely I will no more give thy corn [to be] meat for thine enemies. The Hebrew Masoretic text (𝔐) reads, [־[אֶתֵּן[אִםif give. That is understood as if I give, and here has an elliptical execration or oath associated with it. Most translators instead give the bottom line meaning, such as we have here, I will not give, or rather include the oath in a different form by saying surely I will not give. We shall examine this point below. The LXX (𝔊) reads, “I will no more give thy corn and thy food to thine enemies.” ¶ Alexander, speaking of “the elliptical formula of swearing,” explains: “If I give (i.e. I will not give) thy corn any more as food to thine enemies, and if the sons of the outland shall drink thy new wine which thou hast laboured in (I am not God).” Cowles, similarly, suggests: “The form of this oath is in the peculiar Hebrew idiom, but specially emphatic and solemn. Literally it is not, ‘Surely I will no more give,’ etc., but ‘If [אִם][1] I shall any more give’ etc., then (the implication is) I am no longer God. It will be because I have not power to prevent it. The point of the affirmation is that Zion shall be pillaged and devoured by her enemies no more.” While the idea that God ceases to be God is given as an elliptical one in our Hebrew Bible, in the Book of Mormon the oath is spelled out, but also not completely. The Hebraic expression in the Book of Mormon is: “… if so, God would cease to be God” (Alma 42:13b, also see Alma 42:25; Mormon 9:19—each of these contains either an if so or an if not). May I suggest that the if so in the Book of Mormon is an oath expression, similar to if not, and is not a suggestion that God would ever cease to be God. Something to the effect of, “I give it to you as a solemn oath that before that would ever happen [i.e., the issue associated with the oath, such as the destruction of justice], God would have to cease to be God—the one thing we know above all things could never happen, for God will never cease to be God.” This, then, is another example of a Hebraic expression in the Book of Mormon. The elliptical portion of the expression in the Book of Mormon, that is, what is left out because it is understood, is different than what is left out in the Bible. It is truly fascinating, as the Bible sometimes does fill in what is normally elliptical. ¶ Let us look at some of the comments in Hebrews 3:10 as they related to the oath formula: “So I sware in my wrath, †They shall not enter into my rest.” Where the║reads: “Greek. If they shall enter. See Psalm 95:11 marg.║So Mark 8:12 (Greek).”[2] In Psalm we have: “Unto whom I sware in my wrath, †That they should not enter into my rest (║Heb. If they enter into my rest. Numbers 14:23. So║Psalm 89:35.)”[3] Barnes explains: “So I sware in my wrath] God is often represented in the Scriptures as ‘swearing’—and usually as swearing by himself, or by his own existence. Of course this in figurative, and denotes a strong affirmation, or a settled and determined purpose. An oath with us implies the strongest affirmation, or the expression of the most settled and determined purpose of mind. The meaning here is, that … he solemnly resolved that they should never enter into the land of Canaan. They shall not enter into my rest] Margin║, As in the original, ‘if they shall enter.’ That is, they shall not enter. The word (אם) ‘if’ has this negative meaning in Hebrew, and this meaning is transferred to the Greek word ‘if;’ compare 1 Samuel 3:17; 2 Samuel 3:35; 2 Kings 6:31.” Vincent[4] has: “They shall not enter into my rest (εἰ ἐλεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσιν μου). Lit. if they shall enter, etc. A common Hebraistic formula in oaths. Where God is speaking, as here, the ellipsis is ‘may I not be Jehovah if they shall enter.’ Where man is speaking, ‘so may God punish me if’; or ‘God do so to me and more if.’ Comp. Mark 8:12: LXX (𝔊), Genesis 14:23; Deuteronomy 1:35; 1 Kings 1:51; 2:8. Sometimes the ellipsis is filled out, as 1 Samuel 3:17; 2 Samuel 3:35.” Meyer has, “εἰ εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν μου] not enter, shall they, into my rest. εἰ is an exact imitation of the negative Hebrew particle אִם in formulas of swearing, and is to be explained from an aposiopesis of the latter clause.”[5] Bengel has: “εἰ, if] The Apodosis omits something for the sake of euphemism, which has the force of the oath itself.”[6] Poole has: “They shall not enter into my rest] the punishment is expressed in an expostulatory form, which is vehemently asserting the negative of the question; They shall never enter into my rest. If they enter in, then I am neither true nor God.[7] Cambridge has: “Εἰ ἐλεύσονται, “if they shall enter”; but “They shall not enter” (Hebrews 3:18 μὴ εἰσελεύσεσθαι) is here a correct rendering (AV, RV) of the Hebraism. It is an imitation of the Hebrew אִם, and the apodosis is suppressed (aposiopesis, see Winer, p. 627).”[8] Whedon has: “I sware] Made an affirmation, to be held as sure and firm as the divine existence. So Numbers 14:21, ‘As truly as I live;’ and Numbers 14:28-29, ‘As truly as I live.’”[9] ¶ From all of these citations we conclude that the anantapodoton[10]—when the apodosis (the then in if-then statements, protasis-apodosis) is only implied, or elliptical—is left to the conclusion of the reader. As has been noted above, the apodosis is not always implied, but at times it is given. Such is the case with the Book of Mormon examples above. There, however, an elliptical expression also exists. In this case, that we are dealing with an oath expression, where part of the protasis is given and part is elliptical.[11] In regards to Isaiah 62:8b, the Lord is reassuring the children of Israel that the day would come that they would no longer be receiving the punishment for disobedience mentioned in Rain in Due Season. They would, instead, be able to reap the fruits of their labors because the day would come when the children of Jacob would be faithful and true to the Abrahamic covenant. This comforting assurance continues in the next clause of Isaiah 62:8 (see also Isaiah Testifies of Christ, Isaiah 62).

[1] Besides if, there are other possible translations for אִם, depending on the context. But it is very true that, as Cowles says, oaths are often elliptical in this way. If not [אִם־לֹא], is often translated as surely. Keith also agrees with Cowles construction.
[2] The Cambridge Paragraph Bible: of the Authorized English Version (1873). (Heb 3:11). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[3] The Cambridge Paragraph Bible (Ps 95:11).
[4] Vincent Word Studies. Studylight.
[5] Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (1832). Studylight.
[6] Johann Albrecht Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament (1897). Studylight.
[7] Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible (1685). Studylight.
[8] F.W. Farrar. Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (1896). Studylight.
[9] Whedon, Daniel. Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible (1874-1909). Studylight.
[10] Bullinger, E. W. (1898). Figures of speech used in the Bible. London; New York: Eyre & Spottiswoode; E. & J. B. Young & Co.
[11] “Ellipsis may be found in protases as well as in apodoses” say Joüon, P., & Muraoka, T. (2006) in, A grammar of biblical Hebrew (p. 594). Roma: Pontificio Istituto Biblico.

08 May 2016

Witness the condescension of the Son of Man

In the pseudepigraphical book, The Ascension of Isaiah, we come to understand what is meant by both he hath no form nor comeliness as well as no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2). In the Ascension of Isaiah, the Prophet is guided by an angel successively up to the seventh heaven, with each of the higher heavens being more glorious and full of light than the former one. The majesty, light, and glory of one of the personages Isaiah meets in one of the lower heavens is so overwhelming that Isaiah begins to prostrate himself. His angelic guide, however, restrains the Prophet from making the mistake of adoring a fellow-servant. Isaiah’s own countenance is changed in ever increasing glory as he ascends the heavens one by one. In the process of time, the Prophet arrives in the seventh heaven where he beholds the glory surrounding the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and Isaiah is able to worship God. The main purpose of the trip embarked upon by the Prophet is to witness the condescension of the Son of Man. Isaiah arrives as the Messiah is making final preparations to depart from the presence of the Father, leaving behind “the glory which [He] had with [the Father] before the world was” (John 17:5b). So it is that Isaiah is able to behold the Savior as He leaves the seventh heaven and descends one heaven at a time. An exquisitely painful and humbling panorama is placed before us. As Christ descends further, beginning with the fifth heaven He is not recognized by the people as the Son of Man, for He transforms Himself to match the glory of lowest of those who are present. There is nothing external in Him that sets Him apart. The Savior of mankind is ignored completely and expected to give the required passwords[1] “before the angels who stand as sentinels” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:31) before entering each of the heavens. His beauty and glory and not perceived. “And the angel who conducted me said unto me: ‘Understand, Isaiah, and see how the transformation and descent of the Lord will appear [or, ‘in order that thou mayest see the transformation of the Lord’] . . . And I saw when He descended into the fifth heaven He made Himself like unto the form of the angels there, and they did not praise Him (nor worship Him); for His form was like unto theirs.”[2] The Holy One of Israel continues this process of transformation until Isaiah is permitted to see “a woman of the family of David the prophet, named Mary, a Virgin, and she was espoused to a man named Joseph, a carpenter . . .” (Ascension of Isaiah, 11:2b). There were many things that Isaiah saw in this vision, but none more important than the condescension of Christ. Note how Nephi was likewise privileged to watch the condescension of the Son of Man. The young Book of Mormon prophet was explicitly told that he was there to be a witness of Christ: “and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God” (1 Nephi 11:7. emphasis added, also see 1 Nephi 11:8 ff.). In Isaiah 53:2, Isaiah is making it clear that the Son of Man did not come in His glory and that He could only be seen with the discernment of the Spirit. The purpose of Nephi’s vision, then, was not only to understand the individual elements of his father’s vision, but to be present—again, at the exact moment—when the Son of Man left behind His glory by the side of the Father to come down to earth to die for us that we might turn to Christ and live. John the Baptist bears witness of Him when he says: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b). The Baptist is telling us to open our eyes, to behold, to look upon the Holy One of Israel with the witness of the Holy Spirit and know that He is the Son of God. Recall that after the resurrection the Savior appeared to His disciples on the road to Emmaus: “But their eyes were holden that they should not know him” (Luke 24:16). Although they could not recognize Him with their eyes, there was something that witnessed peace to them: “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:30-32, emphasis added). We can likewise have our eyes opened by hearing the word at General Conference and other Church meetings, and by immersing ourselves in Holy Scripture—and hearkening to the Spirit. Can we also be witnesses and behold His condescension before the children of men?

[1] “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (Journal of Discourses, 2:31).
[2] Charles, R.H. (Editor). Ascension of Isaiah, 10:18, 20. Translated from the Ethiopic Version, which, together with the new Greek fragment, the Latin versions and the Latin translation of the Slavonic, is here published in full. London: Adam and Black, 1900, 72. While we do not consider the Ascension of Isaiah Scripture, Latter-day Saints have multiple reasons to be interested in this manuscript. There are important similarities to the Vision of Joseph F. Smith (see D&C 138), where the great disciples of Christ of ancient days were present, such as Adam and Enoch in the spirit world; as well as to things we learn in sacred places. The Ascension of Isaiah, shows that at least some early Christians believed that God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost were three distinct beings, but one in purpose. It is not known if this book was written by Isaiah, or at a later date. It is suggested that the original book may well have existed before the time of Christ but may have been amended by early Christians. At any rate, what we have has not been preserved in its purity.