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.

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