Science and the Creation of Man

Book of Moses Essay #51

Moses 2:26-27

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

The beautiful copper engraving above by Noël Pisano was made from meticulous observation of one of the many prehistoric paintings in the caves of Pech-Merle, in the heart of the massif central of southern France.1  Although the cave walls and ceilings contain many images of greater sophistication, this simple tracing of a single hand is singularly arresting. Its original is solidly dated to 25,000 years ago, yet in standing to examine it in close quarters, the gap of time between oneself and the skilled artist is suddenly erased, and we are brought to admire the beauty and subtlety of his technique. To create this work, the artist had to crawl into the cavern by candlelight. After contemplating his design and choosing the ideal place for its execution, he placed his hand on the wall to serve as a stencil. To create the colored outline, he projected pigment onto the rock by blowing, perhaps with the help of a sprayer held tight in his lips.2  This well-honed technique allowed a negative of the hand, surrounded by symbols whose meaning is now is lost to us, to be preserved tens of thousands of years later as an ancient snapshot, the sole remaining memory of the life of this individual.

In another chamber, we find what is undoubtedly a family portrait. Fourteen hands of adults and children are found together here, in a deep, submerged section of the cavern now accessible only during periods of drought. The creators of such relics “almost certainly intended them to last for generations.”3  Elsewhere in the cave, visitors are moved to discover a dozen footprints of an adolescent boy drawn into this place by unknown rites, hostile forces of nature, or the mere boldness of curiosity — and preserved intact for twelve thousand years in the clay of the cavern floor.4a>

As a witness of the great effort and care sometimes made to honor the dead in this era, Hariri notes the 1955 discovery in Sungir, Russia of:5

a 30,000 year-old burial site belonging to a mammoth-hunting culture … [Among other things, i]t contained two skeletons, buried head to head. One belonged to a boy aged about twelve or thirteen, and the other to a girl of about nine or ten. The boy was covered with 5,000 ivory beads. He wore a fox-tooth hat and a belt with 250 fox teeth (at least sixty foxes had to have their teeth pulled to get that many). The girl was adorned with 5,250 ivory beads. Both children were surrounded by statuettes and various ivory objects. A skilled craftsman (or craftswoman) probably needed about forty-five minutes to prepare a single ivory bead. In other words, fashioning the 10,000 ivory beads that covered the two children, not to mention the other objects, required some 7,500 hours of delicate work, well over three years of labor by an experienced artisan!

Hugh Nibley, with his deep love of God’s creatures,6  had great sympathy for these ancient individuals and pondered long and hard about how their stories fit in with those of Adam and Eve. For a thoughtful perspective on this issue, we can do no better than to cite him directly:7

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, in his Essay on the Christian System, said that the two fatal flaws of Christianity were (1) denying spirit and mind to any other creatures but ourselves and (2) allowing life on no other world but our own. …

This … should be no concern [for us]. …

Do not begrudge existence to creatures that looked like men long, long ago, nor deny them a place in God’s affection or even a right to exaltation — for our scriptures allow them such. Nor am I overly concerned as to just when they might have lived, for their world is not our world. They have all gone away long before our people ever appeared. God assigned them their proper times and functions, as He has given me mine — a full-time job that admonishes me to remember His words to the overly eager Moses: “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.”8

It is Adam as my own parent who concerns me. When he walks onto the stage, then and only then the play begins. He opens a book and starts calling out names. They are the sons of Adam, who also qualify as the sons of God, Adam himself being a son of God. This is the book of remembrance from which many have been blotted out.

From a similar perspective, it is significant that the Book of Mormon, as a history of those who were Nephites by lineage or “adoption,” records only incidentally the story of the Lamanites and their associates.9  So also the Book of Moses tells us very little about the history of the Cainites or of the children of Adam that were born before Cain and Abel10  who “followed Satan by choice and were disqualified as sons of God.”11  The account instead focuses on the inauguration of temple ordinances among the righteous, which began, as Nibley indicates, “when God set them apart, gave them a blessing, gave them a new name, [and] registered them in the new Book of the Generations of Adam.”12

In light of what scripture tells us, how do we account for the results of genetic studies indicating that every person who has ever lived on earth is descended from a common population of, perhaps, 10,000 founders who lived 100,000 to 150,000 years ago — long before Adam and Eve entered mortality?13  Drawing on the richer sources of scripture produced through modern revelation, Nibley raises a series of questions with an eye to finding scriptural support for surviving non-Adamic and non-Noachian lineages that might help explain such findings:

What about those people who lived before Cain and Abel?14  What about those who disappeared from sight?15  What about those who were not even warned of the Flood?16  … What about the comings and goings of Enoch’s day between the worlds?17  Who were his people … ?18  … What about the creatures we do not see around us?19  Speaking of Noah, … “the Lord said: Blessed is he through whose seed Messiah shall come.”20  Methuselah boasted about his line as something special.21  Why special if it included the whole human race? These blessings have no meaning if all the people of the earth and all the nations are the seed of Noah and Enoch. What other line could the Messiah come through? Well, there were humans who were not invited by Enoch’s preaching.22

Nibley no doubt was wondering whether some of these shadowy peoples described in scripture might be neither descendants of Noah nor of Adam but rather distantly related contemporaries whose descendants may have mixed at various times with the Adamic lineage.23  Of relevance is the reminder by Ryan Parr that blessings promised through of descendance from patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are to be ultimately confirmed through the making and keeping of sealing ordinances and associated covenants, not by genetics, since specific “nuclear DNA finding its way from any one of these progenitors to any descendant of today is extremely unlikely from a biological perspective.”24  Happily, the promises made to the faithful posterity of the patriarchs are not about inheriting fragments of Abrahamic DNA but rather about receiving a fulness of Abrahamic blessings, assured in the end through the keeping of covenants.25  Otherwise, the doctrines that describe the possibility of adoption into the Abrahamic lineage would be meaningless.26

 

This article is adapted from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. “Science and Genesis: A personal view.” In Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, and Man, edited by David H. Bailey, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, John H. Lewis, Gregory L. Smith and Michael L. Stark. Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposia 1, 135-92. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016. www.templethemes.net, pp. 140–143. https://archive.org/details/CosmosEarthAndManscienceAndMormonism1.

Further Reading

Bailey, David H., Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, John H. Lewis, Gregory L. Smith, and Michael L. Stark, eds. Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, and Man. Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposia 1. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016, pp. 140–143, 446–484. https://archive.org/details/CosmosEarthAndManscienceAndMormonism1.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 139–143, 526–530.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, p. 188.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1980. “Before Adam.” In Old Testament and Related Studies, edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum and Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 1, 49-85. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1986.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004, pp. 224–230.

References

500,000-Year-Old Neanderthal Viruses Found in Modern Human DNA — (Did We Interbreed?) (November 19, 2013). In The Daily Galaxy. http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2013/11/-500000-year-old-neanderthal-viruses-found-in-modern-human-dna-did-we-interbreed-share-a-language-ge.html. (accessed November 20, 2013).

Cahn, Isabelle, and Olivier Morel. L’art des cavernes. Toutes mes histoires de l’art. Paris, France: Éditions Courtes et Longues, 2006.

Callaway, Ewen. 2013. Ancient Humans had sex with mystery species, new DNA study shows (November 19, 2013). In Huffington Post (Science). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/19/ancient-humans-sex-mystery-species-dna_n_4302031.html. (accessed November 20, 2013).

Clottes, Jean. L’Art des Cavernes. Paris, France: Phaidon, 2008.

Collins, Francis S. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. New York City, NY: Free Press, 2006.

Félix, Thierry, and Jean-Luc Aubarbier. Préhistoire en Périgord, Quercy, Charentes et Poitou. Itinéraires et découvertes. Rennes, France: Éditions Ouest-France, 2011.

Funderburg, Lise. “The changing face of America.” National Geographic, October 2013, 80-91.

Hariri, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. New York City, NY: HarperCollins, 2015.

Interbreeding?: The relationship between modern humans and Neanderthals. In Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/genetics/ancient-dna-and-neanderthals/interbreeding. (accessed November 20, 2013).

Nibley, Hugh W. 1972. “Man’s dominion or subduing the earth.” In Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, edited by Don E. Norton and Shirley S. Ricks. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 13, 3-22. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994.

———. 1980. “Before Adam.” In Old Testament and Related Studies, edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum and Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 1, 49-85. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1986.

———. 1986. “Return to the temple.” In Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, edited by Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 12, 42-90. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992. https://mi.byu.edu/book/temple-and-cosmos/. (accessed August 21, 2020).

Parr, Ryan. “Missing the boat to ancient America… just plain missing the boat.” The FARMS Review 17, no. 1 (2005): 83-106.

Sorenson, John L. An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1985.

Teyssedou, René, Jean-Claude Fauri, and André Urien. Guide de Visite de la Grotte du Pech-Merle, Cabarets – Lot. Menton, France: Éditions du Castelet, 2009.

Walton, John H. The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. a. Pisano, Noël. “Prehistoric Engravings (Unpublished broadside).” Siorac en Périgord, France, n.d. Copy in the possession of Jeffrey M. Bradshaw; b. J. Clottes,, L’Art, p. 103.

Footnotes

 

1 For a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated survey of European paleolithic art, see J. Clottes, L’Art.

2 The description of how the image was created is drawn from I. Cahn et al., L’Art, p. 16.

3 Y. N. Hariri, Sapiens, p. 100.

4 Free translation of T. Félix et al., Préhistoire, pp. 106-107, with additional details provided by R. Teyssedou et al., Guide de Visite.

5 Y. N. Hariri, Sapiens, pp. 57-58.

6 See, e.g., H. W. Nibley, Dominion.

7 H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, pp. 50, 51, 82-83.

8 Moses 1:31.

9 J. L. Sorenson, Ancient, pp. 50-56.

10 Moses 5:12, 16.

11 H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, p. 78 and Moses 7:33, 37.

12 H. W. Nibley, Return, pp. 62-63 and Moses 5:5-9. Cf. Revelation 20:12.

13 For example, F. S. Collins, Language, p. 126 writes:

Population geneticists, whose discipline involves the use of mathematical tools to reconstruct the history of populations for animals, plants, or bacteria, look at … facts about the human genome and conclude that they point to all members of our species having descended from a common set of founders, approximately 10,000 in number, who lived about 100,000 to 150,000 years ago. This information fits well with the fossil record, which in turn places the location of those founding ancestors most likely in East Africa.

Collins (ibid., pp. 125-126) draws out an implication of this finding:

At the DNA level, we are all 99.9 percent identical. That similarity applies regardless of which two individuals from around the world you choose to compare. Thus, by DNA analysis, we humans are truly part of one family. This remarkably low genetic diversity distinguishes us from most other species on the planet, where the DNA diversity is ten or sometimes even fifty times greater than our own. An alien visitor sent here to examine life forms on earth might have many interesting things to say about humankind, but most certainly he would comment on the suprisingly low level of genetic diversity within our species.

Collins is noted for his leadership of the Human Genome Project. Currently, he is director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A critic of both Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design, he is a proponent of theistic evolution or evolutionary creation, and describes himself as a “serious Christian.” The well-known atheist “Christopher Hitchens referred to Francis Collins as a ‘Great American’ and stated that Collins was one of the most devout believers he had ever met … [Hitchens said] that their friendship despite their differing opinion on religion was an example of the greatest armed truce in modern times” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Collins#Christianity [accessed January 18, 2016])

14 Moses 5:12.

15 Moses 7:21.

16 Moses 7:12, 22.

17 Moses 7:27.

18 Moses 6:41.

19 It is unclear who Nibley is referring to, unless he is talking about lines of hominids who have become extinct.

20 Moses 7:51-53.

21 Moses 8:2-3.

22 Moses 7:22.

23 J. H. Walton, Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 185 describes such a scenario:

In some models Adam and Eve are thought of as two of the members of a small population of humans and that through the course of time as generation followed generation, their descendants spread through the population and other lines died out such that today everyone has genetic material from these two. This view attempts to place Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 among an en masse creation of humans and still retain the idea that Adam and Eve are the parents of us all. It affirms that Adam and Eve were (among) the first humans and that (through a complex process) we are all descended from Adam and Eve. Though it looks nothing like the traditional biblical interpretation, it makes similar affirmations while at the same time accommodating common descent and affirming that the history evident in the genome actually took place.

With reference to a much earlier time than the era of Adam and Eve (no later than approximately 30,000 BCE), there is a growing consensus among researchers that there was a limited amount of interbreeding between the ancestors of today’s humans and Neanderthals that led to modern humans carrying 1-4% of Neanderthal genes (Interbreeding?, Interbreeding?). The authors of one study believe they have “pinpointed the skeletal remains of the first known human- Neanderthal hybrid. … The finding came from northern Italy, where some 40,000 years ago scientists believe Neanderthals and humans lived near each other, but developed separate and distinctly different cultures” (500,000-Year-Old Neanderthal, 500,000-Year-Old Neanderthal). Other researchers “suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet unknown human ancestor from Asia” (E. Callaway, Ancient Humans).

24 R. Parr, Missing, pp. 94-97.

25 See, e.g., 4 Nephi 1:35–38.

26 Of course, the chances that someone on earth today is not already a descendant of Abraham are vanishingly slim. See L. Funderburg, Changing Face for a vivid photo essay illustrating the rapid growth of multiracial self-identification in America since it was first included in the US Census in 2000.

“Male and Female Created I Them”

Book of Moses Essay #50

Moses 2:27

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

“And I, the Lord God, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam. … And the rib which I, the Lord God, had taken from man, made I a woman.”1  Giorgio Vasari describes the scene above by contrasting the poses of Adam and Eve: “One [is] almost dead from being imprisoned by sleep, while the other comes alive completely reawakened by the benediction of God. The brush of this most ingenious artisan reveals the true difference between sleep and awakening, as well as how stable and firm His Divine Majesty may appear when speaking in human terms.”2

Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that the symbolism of the painting extends beyond the Creation and looks forward to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the birth of the Church that would carry out the divine commission to carry the Gospel to the world. In his analysis of the painting, Gary A. Anderson notes some details that are “highly unusual”:

Adam lies slumped around a dead tree, an odd sight for a luxuriant garden where death was, as of yet, unknown. The only way to understand this tired figure is to see him as a prefigurement of Christ, the “second Adam,” who was destined to hang on a barren piece of wood. “The sleep of [Adam],” the fourth-century theologian St. Augustine observed, “clearly stood for the death of Christ.”3  … If this is how we are to read this image of Adam, perhaps a similar interpretation holds for Eve.

To get our bearings on this we must bear in mind two facts. First, Mary as the “second Eve” is she who gives birth to Christ. Second, Mary as the “symbol of the church” is she who emerges from the rib of Christ on the Cross[, symbolized by the blood and water that issued from His side]. In this central panel of the Sistine ceiling, we see both the first and second Eve emerging from the ribs of Adam. …

Further support for this comes from the history of the chapel itself. It was built on the model of Solomon’s Temple and was dedicated on August 15, 1483, the feast day of the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin Mary in Heaven. A favored image of Mary in Christian devotional practice was Mary as the ark or tabernacle of God. Like the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament, the throne upon which God almighty took his seat, Mary was the seat in which God took human form. Like the Temple itself, she housed the verum corpus or the “true body” of God.”4  Significantly, this image is the center point of the entire chapel ceiling.

Having touched on the beautiful symbology that illustrates the central roles of Eve and Mary in the plan of salvation, this Essay will now explore the crucial interrelationships of men and women — and, in turn, their relationship to the rest of Creation— through the lens of the Restored Gospel.

The Intended “Oneness” of Man and Woman in Time and Eternity

Up to the point where Adam is formed, the order of Creation is decidedly hierarchic. However, the final creative act, where a rib is separated out from the man to make the woman,5  is portrayed in a fashion that demonstrates the relationship of Adam and Eve as “equal partners.”6  President Spencer W. Kimball taught that: “The story of the rib, of course, is figurative.”7  Nahum Sarna elaborates: “The mystery of the intimacy between husband and wife and the indispensable role that the woman ideally plays in the life of man are symbolically described in terms of her creation out of his body. The rib taken from man’s side thus connotes physical union and signifies that she is his companion and partner, ever at his side.”8

Other textual clues also set this creative act apart from all the rest. For one thing, we know that the man and the woman are created in the image of God—in other words, that they are both “after his kind.”9  And, just as important, we learn that since the man and the woman are not only of the same kind, but also bone of the same bone and flesh of the same flesh, they are not to separate from one other, but are to become “one” in a perfect unity that approaches identity.10  With the creation of Adam and Eve completed, God can declare His work as being not merely “good” (as He had done on previous days of Creation11 ), but rather as “very good.”12

In verse 27, we encounter two phrases that successively juxtapose the oneness and plurality of man and woman: “created I him” and “created I them.” In light of the interplay between “him” and “them” in this verse, one strand of rabbinic tradition proposes that “man was originally created male and female in one.” Thus, in the creation of woman, this tradition suggests that “God… separated the one (female) side,”13  a view that resembles Greek traditions that tell of originally androgynous humans who were split because of their rebellion, older Egyptian texts where the male earth god (Geb) and the female heaven (Nut) were separated in the beginning of Creation,14  and Zoroastrian texts that describe the couple as having been at first “connected together and both alike.”15  However, we think it more straightforward to conclude that the three lines of this stately poetic diction in the Book of Moses are structured as they are in order to successively draw our attention to three things:

1.       to the creation of man in the Divine (“in our image, after our likeness”);

2.       to the fact that this resemblance exactly parallels the one that exists between the Father and the Son (“in mine own image,” in the image of mine Only Begotten”); and

3.       to the essential distinction of gender (“male and female”).16

With specific respect to the oneness of man and woman in Latter-day Saint teachings, Elder Erastus Snow expressed that “there can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way. There never was a God, and there never will be in all eternities, except they are made of these two component parts: a man and a woman, the male and the female.”17  This statement parallels a statement in the Jewish Talmud commenting that “a man without a wife is not a man, for it is said, ‘male and female He created them … and called their name Man’18  [i.e., only together, as man and wife, is he called ‘Man’].”19

“Male and Female”: The Eternal Nature of Gender

Both men and women are created in the divine image and likeness, which for even some non-Latter-day Saint scholars has implications not only for human nature but also for the character of God.20  The 1909 and 1925 First Presidency statements commenting on the origin of man both include the assertion that: “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.”21

Though masculine verbs and adjectives are used with God’s name (also masculine), evidence exists that the Ugaritic goddess Asherah was sometimes worshipped as a female consort to Jehovah in preexilic times.22  Allusions to a female deity are also seen by some in biblical references to Wisdom23  and in the texts of mystic Judaism referring to the Shekhinah.24 Although Jeremiah spoke out against the worship of the “queen of heaven,”25  Daniel Peterson points out that prophetic opposition to the idea does not seem to appear before the eighth century BCE.26  From his study of this verse, the eminent biblical scholar David Noel Freedman concludes: “Just as the male God is the model and image for the first man, so some divine or heavenly female figure serves as the model and likeness for the human female, the first woman.”27

Is gender an essential, primordial attribute of every human being? The First Presidency’s proclamation on the family clearly affirms that gender is an eternal aspect of the spiritual identity of each individual.28  This is consistent with Elder James E. Talmage’s 1914 statement: “Children of God have comprised male and female from the beginning. Man is man and woman is woman, fundamentally, unchangeably, eternally.”29

Bill T. Arnold further observes that the terms “male and female” used for Adam and Eve “emphasize their sexuality in a way ‘man and woman’ would not.”30  Sarna further notes:31

No … sexual differentiation is noted in regard to animals. … The next verse shows [human sexuality] to be a blessed gift of God woven into the fabric of life. As such, it cannot of itself be other than wholesome. By the same token, its abuse is treated in the Bible with particular severity. Its proper regulation is subsumed under the category of the holy, whereas sexual perversion is viewed with abhorrence as an affront to human dignity and as a desecration of the divine image of man.

“Be Fruitful, and Multiply, and Replenish the Earth”

The Hebrew phrase for “be fruitful and multiply” (peru urebu) may be a deliberate play on the “without form and void” (tohu vabohu) of v. 2: “In this case, the living creatures of God’s Creation are hereby empowered to perpetuate God’s life-giving creativity by bringing still more life into the world, by filling up and inhabiting that which was previously empty and uninhabitable.”32  “The difference between the formulation here and God’s blessing to the fish and fowl in verse 22 is subtle and meaningful. Here God directly addresses man and woman.”33

The word “replenish” can be misleading to modern English speakers. While it is often used today to mean “refill,” the Hebrew term male means simply to “fill” or “make full.” Thus, Sarna renders the command in this verse as “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth.”34  Laurence Turner observes that although keeping this commandment will not be easy in light of the pain of childbirth,35  the murderous dispositions of some men,36  the threat of famine and floods,37  and the failure of mankind to disperse and “fill the earth” as they were commanded to do,38  the book of Genesis demonstrates that “God intervenes to make sure it is obeyed, willingly or not.”39

Importantly, Roger R. Keller notes that the commandment anticipates the departure of Adam and Eve from Eden, since they “were commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, not the Garden.”40

“Subdue [the Earth], and Have Dominion … Over Every Living Thing”

The commandment to “subdue” the earth conveys the idea of settlement and agriculture, as described in Moses 3:5, 15.41  In light of subsequent events in Genesis, Turner concludes:42

Although humans increasingly dominate the animal creation and eventually rule despotically (an intensification of the original command), there is an ironic sense in which animals, through the serpent, exercise an ongoing dominion over the humans (a reversal of the original command). … Also, the earth becomes increasingly difficult to dominate. It overwhelms most of humanity in the Flood, and all of humanity in death.

Elaborating on the traditional description of humankind’s “dominion,” the pseudepigraphal Cave of Treasures has God speaking the following words to Adam: “Adam, behold; I have made thee king, and priest, and prophet, and lord, and head, and governor of everything which hath been made and created; and they shall be in subjection unto thee, and they shall be thine, and I have given unto thee power over everything which I have created.”43

However, challenging common misunderstandings of what this concept means in practice, Hugh W. Nibley comments: “A favorite theme of Brigham Young was that the dominion God gives man is designed to test him, to enable him to show to himself, his fellows, and all the heavens just how he would act if entrusted with God’s own power; if he does not act in a godlike manner, he will never be entrusted with a Creation of his own, worlds without end.”44  Similarly, James E. Faulconer observes that “in ruling over the world, humans are its gods, those through whom Creation is either condemned or destroyed. In this, humans are like God: we and the world are judged through our dominion; God and the world are justified by His.”45

Nibley further observes that the word “dominion” comes from the Latin dominus (“lord”), “specifically ‘the lord of the household,’ in his capacity of generous host … [responsible as] master for the comfort and well-being of his dependents and guests.”46  According to Sarna, the word expresses:

the coercive power of the monarch, consonant with the explanation just given for “the image of God.” This power, however, cannot include the license to exploit nature banefully, for the following reasons: the human race is not inherently sovereign, but enjoys its dominion solely by the grace of God. Furthermore, the model of kingship here presupposed is Israelite, according to which … the limits of [the rule of the monarch] are carefully defined and circumscribed by divine law, so that kingship is to be exercised with responsibility and is subject to accountability. Moreover, man, the sovereign of nature, is conceived at this stage to be functioning within the context of a “very good” world in which the interrelationships of organisms with their environment and with each other are entirely harmonious and mutually beneficial, an idyllic situation that is clearly illustrated in Isaiah’s vision of the ideal future king.47  Thus, despite the power given him, man still requires special divine sanction to partake of the earth’s vegetation, and although he “rules” the animal world, he is not here permitted to eat flesh.48

To have “dominion” in the priesthood sense means to have responsibility,49  specifically as God’s representative on earth.50  As Nibley succinctly puts it: “Man’s dominion is a call to service, not a license to exterminate.”51

Conclusion

The effects of the inception of light and its division from darkness “in the beginning” cascade through the remaining days of Creation as each episode recounts the successive generation of new and finer-grained distinctions that define created elements through the principle of separation.52  Indeed, the process of division and separation began even before the Creation, when those who kept their first estate were separated from those who did not.53  Moreover, the theme continues after the ending of the Creation account, as the focus of the narrative moves from the actions of God to those of Adam and Eve. Exercising the agency that has been granted them, they partake of the forbidden fruit, and are cast out of the Garden, experiencing an immediate separation from the presence of God and, eventually, a separation of body and spirit at death.

Explaining that the principles of division and separation that drive the dynamics of Creation are not meant to govern the relationship of husband and wife, God declared “that it was not good that man should be alone.”54  Indeed, as Catherine Thomas observes, a primary objective of mortality seems to have been precisely “to foster the conditions in which the man and the woman may achieve interdependence,” thus affording each individual an opportunity to rise to “the challenge of not only perfecting ourselves individually but also perfecting ourselves in relationships. .… Relationships were given to us to develop us in love.”55

That the opportunity to perfect ourselves in relationships necessarily extends beyond our family circle is witnessed by this statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith:56

Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing of his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.

And, going further, should not our love of all God’s children be further enlarged to encompass “all creatures of our God and King.”?57

 

This article is adapted and updated from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net, pp. 87, 89, 114–117, 127, 180–182.

Further Reading

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 87, 89, 114–117, 127, 180–182.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 211–217.

Hafen, Bruce C., and Marie K. Hafen. “Crossing thresholds and becoming equal partners.” Ensign 37, August 2007, 24-29.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1972. “Man’s dominion or subduing the earth.” In Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, edited by Don E. Norton and Shirley S. Ricks. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 13, 3-22. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1980. “Patriarchy and matriarchy.” In Old Testament and Related Studies, edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum and Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 1, 87-113. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1986.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004, pp. 224–230.

References

Anderson, Gary A. The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

Arnold, Bill T. Encountering the Book of Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.

———. Genesis. New Cambridge Bible Commentary, ed. Ben Witherington, III. New York City, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Augustine. ca. 410. “The City of God.” In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, edited by Philip Schaff. 14 vols. Vol. 2, 1-511. New York City, NY: The Christian Literature Company, 1887. Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994.

Barker, Margaret. Where shall wisdom be found? In Russian Orthodox Church: Representation to the European Institutions. http://orthodoxeurope.org/page/11/1/7.aspx. (accessed December 24, 2007).

———. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Which God Gave to Him to Show to His Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation 1.1). Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 2000.

———. “Wisdom, the Queen of Heaven.” In The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, edited by Margaret Barker, 229-61. London, England: T & T Clark, 2003.

———. Temple Theology. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 2004.

———. Christmas: The Original Story. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2008.

Barney, Kevin L. Do we have a Mother in Heaven? In Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR). http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/MotherInHeaven.pdf. (accessed December 24, 2007).

Blech, Benjamin, and Roy Doliner. The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican. New York City, NY: HarperOne, 2008.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net.

Budge, E. A. Wallis, ed. The Book of the Cave of Treasures. London, England: The Religious Tract Society, 1927. Reprint, New York City, NY: Cosimo Classics, 2005.

Cannon, Elaine Anderson. “Mother in Heaven.” In Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow. 4 vols. Vol. 2, 961. New York City, NY: Macmillan, 1992.

Cassuto, Umberto. 1944. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Vol. 1: From Adam to Noah. Translated by Israel Abrahams. 1st English ed. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1998.

Christensen, Kevin, and Shauna Christensen. “Nephite Feminism Revisited: Thoughts on Carol Lynn Pearson’s View of Women in the Book of Mormon.” FARMS Review of Books 10, no. 1 (1998): 9-61. http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/pdf.php?filename=MjQ3Njk2NDg3LTEwLTIucGRm&type=cmV2aWV3. (accessed December 24).

Cohen, Abraham, ed. The Soncino Chumash: The Five Books of Moses with Haphtaroth. London: The Soncino Press, 1983.

De Vecchi, Pierluigi, and Gianluigi Colalucci. Michelangelo: The Vatican Frescoes. Translated by David Stanton and Andrew Ellis. New York City, NY: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1996.

Derr, Jill Mulvay, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher. Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992.

Faulconer, James E. “Adam and Eve—Community: Reading Genesis 2-3.” Journal of Philosophy and Scripture 1, no. 1 (Fall 2003). http://www.philosophyandscripture.org/Issue1-1/James_Faulconer/james_faulconer.html. (accessed August 10).

Freedman, David Noel. “The status and role of humanity in the cosmos according to the Hebrew Bible.” In On Human Nature: The Jerusalem Center Symposium, edited by Truman G. Madsen, David Noel Freedman and Pam Fox Kuhlken, 9-25. Ann Arbor, MI: Pryor Pettengill Publishers, 2004.

Friedman, Richard Elliott, ed. Commentary on the Torah. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001.

Grant, Heber J., Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley. 1925. “”Mormon” view of evolution.” In Messages of the First Presidency, edited by James R. Clark. 6 vols. Vol. 5, 243-44. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1971.

Hafen, Bruce C. Covenant Hearts: Marriage and the Joy of Human Love. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

Hafen, Bruce C., and Marie K. Hafen. “Crossing thresholds and becoming equal partners.” Ensign 37, August 2007, 24-29.

Hamblin, William J., and David Rolph Seely. Solomon’s Temple: Myth and History. London, England: Thames & Hudson, 2007.

Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1990.

Hinckley, Gordon B. “Daughters of God.” Ensign 21, November 1991, 97-100.

Hinckley, Gordon B., Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust. “The family: A proclamation to the world. Proclamation of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve presented at the General Relief Society Meeting, September 23, 1995.” Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1995. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/the-family-a-proclamation-to-the-world/the-family-a-proclamation-to-the-world?lang=eng. (accessed August 16, 2020).

Holland, Jeffrey R. 1988. Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2001.

Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985.

Jones, Gerald E. Animals and the Church. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2003.

Keller, Roger R. “Teaching the Fall and the Atonement: A comparative method.” The Religious Educator: Perspectives on the Restored Gospel 5, no. 2 (2004): 101-18. http://rsc.byu.edu/TRE/TRE5_2.pdf. (accessed September 1).

Kimball, Spencer W. “The blessings and responsibilities of womanhood.” Ensign 6, March 1976, 70-73. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1976/03/the-blessings-and-responsibilities-of-womanhood?lang=eng. (accessed September 7, 2020).

———. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1982.

Kugel, James L. “Some instances of biblical interpretation in the hymns and wisdom writings of Qumran.” In Studies in Ancient Midrash, edited by James L. Kugel, 155-69. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Meeks, Wayne A. “The image of the androgyne: Some uses of a symbol in earliest Christianity.” History of Religions 13, no. 3 (February 1974): 165-208.

Müller, F. Max. “Bundahis.” In Pahlavi Texts: The Bundahis, Bahman Yast, and Shayast La-Shayast (including Selections of Zad-sparam), edited by F. Max Müller. 5 vols. Vol. 1. Translated by E. W. West. The Sacred Books of the East 5, ed. F. Max Müller, 1-151. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1880. Reprint, Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.

Neusner, Jacob, ed. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis, A New American Translation. 3 vols. Vol. 1: Parashiyyot One through Thirty-Three on Genesis 1:1 to 8:14. Brown Judaic Studies 104, ed. Jacob Neusner. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1972. “Man’s dominion or subduing the earth.” In Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, edited by Don E. Norton and Shirley S. Ricks. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 13, 3-22. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994.

———. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004.

———. 1988. “The meaning of the atonement.” In Approaching Zion, edited by Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 9, 554-614. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1989.

Oaks, Dallin H. “The great plan of happiness.” Ensign 23, November 1993, 72-75.

Paulsen, David L. “Are Christians Mormon? Reassessing Joseph Smith’s theology in his bicentennial.” BYU Studies 45, no. 1 (2006): 35-128.

Peterson, Daniel C. “Nephi and his Asherah: A note on 1 Nephi 11:8-23.” In Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, edited by Davis Bitton, 191-243. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998.

Plato. after 385 BCE. “Symposium (The Banquet).” In Great Dialogues of Plato, edited by Eric H. Warmington and Philip G. Rouse. Translated by W. H. D. Rouse, 69-117. New York City, NY: New American Library, 1956.

Sarna, Nahum M., ed. Genesis. The JPS Torah Commentary, ed. Nahum M. Sarna. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Schwartz, Howard. Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Seaich, John Eugene. Ancient Texts and Mormonism: Discovering the Roots of the Eternal Gospel in Ancient Israel and the Primitive Church. 2nd Revised and Enlarged ed. Salt Lake City, UT: n. p., 1995.

Smith, Joseph F., J. R. Winder, and A. H. Lund. 1909. “The origin of man.” In Messages of the First Presidency, edited by James R. Clark. 6 vols. Vol. 4, 199-206. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1970.

Smith, Joseph Fielding, Jr. 1931. The Way to Perfection: Short Discourses on Gospel Themes Dedicated to All Who Are Interested in the Redemption of the Living and the Dead. 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1935.

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1840. Letter, Hancock County, Illinois, to the Quorum of the Twelve, England, 15 December 1840. In The Joseph Smith Papers. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/letter-to-quorum-of-the-twelve-15-december-1840/. (accessed September 28, 2020).

———. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Snow, Erastus. 1878. “There is a God; communion with Him an inherent craving of the human heart; man in his image; male and female created he them; spirit and flesh; mortal and immortal (Discourse delivered in the meetinghouse, Beaver City, Beaver county, Utah, on Sunday Morning, 3 March 1878).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 19, 266-79. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.

Stratton, Richard D., ed. Kindness to Animals and Caring for the Earth. Portland, OR: Inkwater Press, 2004.

Talmage, James E. “The eternity of sex.” Young Woman’s Journal 25, October 1914, 600-04. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/YWJ/id/17248/rec/25. (accessed 27 September 2020).

Thomas, M. Catherine. “Women, priesthood, and the at-one-ment.” In Spiritual Lightening: How the Power of the Gospel Can Enlighten Minds and Lighten Burdens, edited by M. Catherine Thomas, 47-58. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1996.

Turner, Laurence. Announcements of Plot in Genesis. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 96, ed. David J. A. Clines and Philip R. Davies. Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1990. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/14343346.pdf. (accessed July 28, 2017).

Wenham, Gordon J., ed. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary 1: Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1987.

Zlotowitz, Meir, and Nosson Scherman, eds. 1977. Bereishis/Genesis: A New Translation with a Commentary Anthologized from Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic Sources 2nd ed. Two vols. ArtScroll Tanach Series, ed. Rabbi Nosson Scherman and Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1986.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo,_Creation_of_Eve_00.jpg (accessed September 7, 2020).

Footnotes

 

1 Moses 3:21-22.

2 P. De Vecchi et al., Michelangelo, p. 151.

3 See Augustine, City, 22:17, p. 496.

4 G. A. Anderson, Perfection, pp. 5–8.

5 Moses 3:21-22.

6 G. B. Hinckley et al., The family: A proclamation to the world. Proclamation of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve presented at the General Relief Society Meeting, September 23, 1995. Cf. S. W. Kimball, Teachings (1982), 26 February 1977, p. 315. Compare B. Blech et al., Secrets, p. 202.

7 S. W. Kimball, Blessings, p. 71.

8 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 22.

9 Moses 2:26-27.

10 Moses 3:23-24. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 2:27-a, p. 115; J. R. Holland, Souls, pp. 17-18. Compare H. W. Nibley, Atonement, p. 568; M. Zlotowitz et al., Bereishis, p. 111.

11 Moses 2:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25.

12 Moses 2:31.

13 A. Cohen, Chumash, Genesis 2:21, p. 11. See J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 8:1, p. 73. See W. A. Meeks, Androgyne, p. 185 for relevant discussion, including evidence that rabbis had access to a version of the Septuagint with the reading: “male and female created I him.”

14 Plato, Symposium, 189d-190a, pp. 85-87; H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, 7, pp. 88-89.

15 F. M. Müller, Bundahis, 15:2, p. 53. See references to related concepts in additional cultures in J. E. Seaich, Ancient Texts 1995, pp. 916-918.

16 Cf. U. Cassuto, Adam to Noah, pp. 57-58. See D. N. Freedman, Humanity, p. 23; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 2:27-b, p. 115.

17 E. Snow, ES 3 March 1878, p. 270.

18 See Moses 6:10.

19 Yevamos 63a, cited in M. Zlotowitz et al., Bereishis, p. 167; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:11. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Endnote 2-19, p. 128.

20 See, e.g., R. E. Friedman, Commentary, pp. 16-17.

21 H. J. Grant et al., Evolution, p. 244; J. F. Smith et al., Origin, p. 203. Additional information relating to the Latter-day Saint concept of a “Mother in Heaven” can be found in K. L. Barney, Mother in Heaven; E. A. Cannon, Mother in Heaven; J. M. Derr et al., Relief Society, pp. 57-58, 449 nn. 129, 131; G. B. Hinckley, Daughters; D. L. Paulsen, Are Christians Mormon, pp. 96-107. Compare M. Barker, Christmas, pp. 39-44.

22 D. C. Peterson, Asherah 1998, pp. 202-209. See also e.g., Deuteronomy 16:21; 1 Kings 14:15, 23; 2 Kings 17:15-16.

23 Ḥokhmah in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek—see, e.g., Proverbs 8:1-31.

24 See, e.g., H. Schwartz, Tree, pp. 45-59.

25 Jeremiah 44:17ff.

26 D. C. Peterson, Asherah 1998, p. 201. See also M. Barker, Wisdom; M. Barker, Revelation, pp. 204-206; M. Barker, Queen; M. Barker, Temple Theology, pp. 75-93; D. N. Freedman, Humanity, pp. 22-25 (cited in J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Moses 2 Gleanings, pp. 122-123). For a discussion of related themes in the Book of Mormon, see K. Christensen et al., Nephite Feminism. For a brief summary of the role of female deities in Israelite worship, see, e.g., W. J. Hamblin et al., Solomon’s Temple, pp. 60-63.

27 D. N. Freedman, Humanity, p. 24. Some rabbinical sources see the female figure of Wisdom as assisting God in Creation, while others argue vehemently that God had no help of any kind (J. L. Kugel, Instances, pp. 160-162).

28 G. B. Hinckley et al., The family: A proclamation to the world. Proclamation of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve presented at the General Relief Society Meeting, September 23, 1995.

29 J. E. Talmage, Eternity of Sex, p. 602.

30 B. T. Arnold, Genesis, p. 35.

31 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 13. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 2:26-b, p. 112, 3:23-c, p. 183.

32 B. T. Arnold, Genesis 2009, p. 42.

33 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 13.

34 Ibid., p. 13.

35 See Moses 4:22.

36 See Moses 5:31-32, 47; 6:15; 8:18.

37 See Moses 8:4, 30.

38 See Genesis 11:1-9.

39 L. Turner, Announcements, p. 49.

40 R. R. Keller, Teaching, p. 103. Cf. D. H. Oaks, Plan, p. 73; 2 Nephi 2:23.

41 V. P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, p. 140. Cf. Doctrine and Covenants 26:1. On dominion, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 2:26-d, p. 114.

42 L. Turner, Announcements, pp. 48-49.

43 E. A. W. Budge, Cave, p. 53.

44 H. W. Nibley, Dominion, p. 10.

45 J. E. Faulconer, Adam and Eve, 7. For collections of statements from secular and religious sources on man’s stewardship for animals and for the earth, see G. E. Jones, Animals; R. D. Stratton, Kindness.

46 H. W. Nibley, Dominion, p. 7.

47 Isaiah 11:1-9.

48 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, pp. 12-13. See Moses 2:29-30; cf. Genesis 9:3-4.

49 J. F. Smith, Jr., Way 1935, p. 221.

50 G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, pp. 30-31; Hirsch, cited in M. Zlotowitz et al., Bereishis, p. 70.

51 H. W. Nibley, Dominion, p. 18; cf. T. L. Brodie, Dialogue, p. 136.

52 See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 85-87, 127 n. 2-15.

53 Abraham 3:26-28.

54 Moses 3:18.

55 M. C. Thomas, Women, pp. 54, 55, 56. Elder Bruce C. Hafen also discusses the importance of husbands and wives becoming interdependent, equal partners in marriage, as contrasted with the ideas of independence or dependence. See B. C. Hafen, Covenant, p. 174; B. C. Hafen et al., Crossing, p. 26.

56 J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 15 December 1840, p. 174. Cf. J. Smith, Jr., Letter to the Twelve, 15 December 1840, p. [2].

57 Hymns (1985), Hymns (1985), #62.

“Let Us Make Man in Our Image, After Our Likeness”

Book of Moses #49

Moses 2:26

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In this Essay, we will discuss the Moses 2 account of the creation of Adam and Eve. We will focus on the interpretation of two difficult phrases in verse 26: “let us make man” and “in our image, after our likeness.” We will show how the Book of Moses and the teachings of the Restored Church of Jesus Christ shed light on the longstanding scholarly controversies about these verses. First, a digression on the most famous painting of the creation of Adam.

Of Michelangelo’s immortal depiction, De Vecchi eloquently writes:1

Perhaps the best-known of the scenes in the Sistine Chapel, The Creation of Adam must also have aroused particular admiration among the artist’s contemporaries, who discerned in it the materialization of one of the highest ideals of Renaissance culture: the ‘dignity’ of man, created by God ‘in his own image.’ … [The] exaltation of the spiritual faculties of man was never separated from that of the beauty of the human body, ‘the mirror of God’ and the culmination of the Creation. …

Vasari describes Adam as ‘a figure whose beauty, pose, and contours are of such a quality that he seems newly created by his Supreme and First Creator rather [than] by the brush and design of a mere mortal.’ Seen against an indistinct natural background that is only just hinted at, as if it were the dawn of the world, the youthful, athletic figure reclining on a grassy slope, almost on the edge of an abyss, seems as if he is about to rise from the ground. He holds out his arm toward that of the Lord, who, borne aloft amidst a flight of angels [or the premortal spirits of humanity2 ], stands out brightly against the shell of shadow of his huge purple mantle. The remarkable invention of the outstretched arm and the forefingers about to meet becomes a metaphor for the vital energy that passes from the Creator to the creature fashioned in his image, awakening his heroic vigor. … [Adam’s] adolescent face, seen in profile, still lacking a definite expression, contrasts with the mature, intensely energetic one of the Lord, with his gray hair and long beard streaming in the air.”

Although Adam and the Father are the central figures of this panel, much attention has been given to the beautiful and enigmatic female figure who is intently regarding the creation of the first man while wrapped in the loving embrace of God’s left arm. Her identity has variously been given as the immortal Sophia (Wisdom),3  or as the premortal Eve. Relying on the analysis of the structure of the three Sistine Chapel Adam and Eve panels by art historian Leo Steinberg,4  Gary A. Anderson observes:5

Just to the right of Eve sits an infant who is also held by God the Father, though this time with just the thumb and index finger. The extension of his fingers corresponds exactly to the way a priest would grasp the Eucharistic wafer. In other words, this child is Mary’s boy, the Christ child. Strikingly, he is the only figure on the entire ceiling who looks directly down into the gaze of the viewer. And so our question as we ponder the women in these three panels: Are they Eve, the first woman and spouse of Adam, or Mary, the Mother of Jesus and symbol of the Church? Or perhaps more accurately, are these women in truth both Eve and Mary?

Anderson concludes that just as Christ is portrayed in scripture as the second Adam,6  Mary is being depicted here as the second Eve.

A final note about the fresco from the historian of sacred art, Marko Ivan Rupnik:7

When, in 1512, Michelangelo finally completed the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, one of the best known paintings of all time, the cardinals supervising the work admired the magnificent fresco for several hours. Afterward, they wanted to meet the master, Michelangelo. They reproached him, saying: Do it over again!

Their dissatisfaction, of course, was not for the work as a whole, but for a seemingly unimportant detail. Michelangelo had drawn the panel of the creation of man with the fingers of God and Adam touching each other. The cardinals said that the fingers should not touch. Indeed, they required not only that the fingers be separated, but also that the finger of God would be fully extended, while the last joint of the finger of Adam would bend back.

A simple detail but with a surprising meaning: God is always there, but it is man who must decide to search for him. If he so desire, he can reach out and touch the finger of God, but otherwise he can spend his whole life without searching. Thus, the last joint of Adam’s contracted finger represents free will.

Figure 2. The Fingers of God and Adam

“Let Us Make Man”

Readers may wonder whether the reference is only to Adam or to both Adam and Eve. The term, “man” (Hebrew ‘adam), as it is used in this context, is meant to encompass both man and woman, as shown in verses 27–28 and Moses 6:9, “where it is construed with plural verbs and terminations.”8  By way of contrast, the use of the Hebrew term ‘ish to mean “man” in the everyday sense is eventually introduced only after the woman (‘ishah) is created. President Spencer W. Kimball further explained that man, as used here, was not meant to describe “a separate man, but a complete man, which is husband and wife.”9

With respect to the “us” in the phrase, the Book of Moses, unlike Genesis, explicitly identifies the other participant in the discussion as God’s “Only Begotten.”10

Notably, both other instances of the use of this plural formula in Genesis involve important decisions about the fate of humanity: the expulsion from Eden11  and the dispersal after the destruction of Babel.12  Despite the fact that Joshua Seixas’ Hebrew Grammar, which Joseph Smith studied in Kirtland, describes the Hebrew equivalent of the English “Elohim” as a singular noun with a plural form,13  the Prophet came to interpret the term as a plural.14

The plural form of this expression has long been an interpretive problem for commentators that look at the Old Testament through the lens of strict monotheism. The phrase is often explained by way of analogy to “the royal we” used by a king or queen in self-reference, however this does not explain why it occurs only in the early chapters of Genesis and nowhere else.15  Moreover, the point of the verse at hand is to show “the unique correspondence between God and man, not the majesty of God.”16

A view consistent with Latter-day Saint scripture17  is to imagine the setting for the verse as God addressing not only the premortal Jesus Christ but, in addition, a heavenly council.18  It is significant, observes Faulconer, that: “Human creation is not a simple act of God’s fiat; rather, creation is a subject of consideration and discussion. … God creates humanity in response to others, rather than as a mere act of self-will. Even in the beginning there is already relation: there is no absolute beginning, not even in the beginning.”19

Describing this scene, the Prophet stated: “The head God called together the Gods and sat in grand council to bring forth the world.”20  Friedman likewise writes: “In pagan myth, the chief god, when formally speaking for the council of the gods, speaks in the plural.”21  Since, for most Christian and Jewish commentators, the idea of a plurality of gods is unacceptable, a court of angels is often imagined in place of a polytheistic council — though one is forced to admit that the concept of many gods is hinted at elsewhere in the Old Testament.22  Further describing the composition of a council of gods, Margaret Barker argues that the ancient religion of Israel, prior to alterations by reforming Deuteronomists, clearly distinguished between the “Most High God” and several Sons of God, the chief of which was Yahweh (Jehovah).23  She marshals evidence to show that the early Jewish converts to Christianity who retained shreds of the ancient belief naturally saw Jesus Christ as the bodily manifestation of Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel.24

The abrupt change of style between the description of the creation of animals (“Let the earth bring forth …”) and that of man (“Let us make …”) signals the unique status of the man and the woman, created in God’s image and likeness as the pinnacle of the “manifestly ascending gradational order” of Creation.25  Moreover, the phrasing of Abraham’s account (“Let us go down and form man. … So the Gods went down to organize man”26 ), together with the additional detail about the creation of Adam and Eve provided in Moses 3, make strikingly clear the increased personal and direct involvement of God in the creation of man. The idea in and of itself does not necessarily conflict with scientific evidence that seems to rule out the concept of a “special creation” for the human body, however, as Kent Jackson comments:27

Whatever the process for creating humans may have been, the scriptures are clear in differentiating between that process and the process by which other life was made.

“In Our Image, After Our Likeness”

Unlike the earlier creatures who were each made “after [their] kind,”28  man and woman were made in God’s image and likeness.29  The Prophet Joseph Smith made it clear that this phrase applied not only to the physical appearance of Adam and Eve, but also to their spiritual nature which was, in the beginning:30

innocent, harmless, and spotless, bearing the same image as the God’s. And when man fell he did not lose His image, but [only] His character, still retaining the image of his Maker … And through the atonement of Christ, and the resurrection and obedience in the Gospel, we shall again be conformed to the [full] image of … Jesus Christ, then we shall have attained to the [full] image, glory, and character of God.

About this “double movement” of image and likeness, Faulconer observes: “humans begin like God and, at the same time, they come to be like him.”31  Notice that these phrases are reversed when the birth of Seth is described: “in his [Adam’s] own likeness, after his own image.”32

Moses 6:9 is more specific than 2:26 in saying that man was created “in the image of his [God’s] own body.”33  Joseph Smith spoke very plainly about the meaning of these words:34

God Himself who sits enthroned in yonder heavens is a Man like unto one of yourselves— that is the great secret! If the veil were rent today and … you would see Him in all the person, image, fashion, and very form of a man, like yourselves. For Adam was a man formed in his likeness and created in the very fashion and image of God.

Non-Latter-day Saint scholar Philip Munoa concurs, citing Levison who concluded that “The image itself consists of physical similarity to God.”35  He recalls the tradition in Genesis Rabbah 8:10 that:36

Adam’s likeness to God is so exact that Adam must be put to sleep so that the angels might worship the right person. … In [Yalqut Shim’oni] 1:20 on Genesis 2:9 the angels exclaim, when they notice Adam’s resemblance to God, ‘Are there two powers in heaven?’”

Jacob Neusner finds it “stunning” that the rabbinical commentators took this idea so literally, affirming that even “the angels did not know man from God,” stating, “I cannot imagine a more daring affirmation of humanity.”37

Moses 2:27 equates the image of God to the image of the Only Begotten: “in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten.”38  This recalls similar teachings in Philo and the Gnostics that “the Logos is the Shadow/Image of God,39  [while] the man of [Moses 2:26-7] is the shadow/image of the Logos, a shadow of a shadow, as it were.”40

Conclusion

We close with a statement from the great Hebrew Bible scholar, Nahum Sarna, who described the import of the Genesis description of man’s creation in the image and likeness of God in terms that will ring true to Latter-day Saints. He comments:41

The words used … to convey these ideas can be better understood in the light of a phenomenon registered in both Mesopotamia and Egypt where the ruling monarch is described as “the image” or “the likeness” of a god. … Without doubt, the terminology employed in Genesis 1:26 is derived from regal vocabulary, which serves to elevate the king above the ordinary run of men. In the Bible this idea has become democratized. All human beings are created “in the image of God”; each person bears the stamp of royalty.

 

This article is adapted and updated from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net, pp. 88, 111–114.

Further Reading

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 88, 111–114.

Brown, S. Kent, and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. “Man and Son of Man: Probing Theology and Christology in the Book of Moses and in Jewish and Christian Tradition.” In Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David Rolph Seely, John W. Welch and Scott Gordon, in preparation. Orem, UT; Springville, UT; Redding, CA; Toole, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, Book of Mormon Central, FAIR, and Eborn Books, 2021.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 211–217.

References

Anderson, Gary A. The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

Barker, Margaret. The Older Testament: The Survival of Themes from the Ancient Royal Cult in Sectarian Judaism and Early Christianity. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 1987.

———. The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God. Louisville, KY: Westminster / John Knox Press, 1992.

Blech, Benjamin, and Roy Doliner. The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican. New York City, NY: HarperOne, 2008.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net.

De Vecchi, Pierluigi, and Gianluigi Colalucci. Michelangelo: The Vatican Frescoes. Translated by David Stanton and Andrew Ellis. New York City, NY: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1996.

Etheridge, J. W., ed. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch, with the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum from the Chaldee. 2 vols. London, England: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862, 1865. Reprint, Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2005. http://www.targum.info/pj/psjon.htm. (accessed August 10, 2007).

Faulconer, James E. “Adam and Eve—Community: Reading Genesis 2-3.” Journal of Philosophy and Scripture 1, no. 1 (Fall 2003). http://www.philosophyandscripture.org/Issue1-1/James_Faulconer/james_faulconer.html. (accessed August 10).

Freedman, David Noel. “The status and role of humanity in the cosmos according to the Hebrew Bible.” In On Human Nature: The Jerusalem Center Symposium, edited by Truman G. Madsen, David Noel Freedman and Pam Fox Kuhlken, 9-25. Ann Arbor, MI: Pryor Pettengill Publishers, 2004.

Friedman, Richard Elliott, ed. Commentary on the Torah. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001.

Gross, Jules. 1938. The Divinization of the Christian According to the Greek Fathers. Translated by Paul A. Onica. Anaheim, CA: A & C Press, 2002.

Hamori, Esther J. “When Gods Were Men”: The Embodied God in Biblical and Near Eastern Literature. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 384, ed. John Barton, Reinhard G. Kratz, Choon-Leong Sow and Markus Witte. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 2008.

Heiser, Michael S., and David E. Bokovoy. “Scholarly Exchange.” FARMS Review 19, no. 1 (2007): 221-323.

Irenaeus. ca. 150-200. “Against Heresies.” In The Ante-Nicene Fathers (The Writings of the Fathers Down to AD 325), edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. 10 vols. Vol. 1, 315-567. Buffalo, NY: The Christian Literature Company, 1885. Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.

Jackson, Kent P. The Restored Gospel and the Book of Genesis. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2001.

Kimball, Spencer W. “The blessings and responsibilities of womanhood.” Ensign 6, March 1976, 70-73. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1976/03/the-blessings-and-responsibilities-of-womanhood?lang=eng. (accessed September 7, 2020).

Larson, Stan. “The King Follett Discourse: A newly amalgamated text.” BYU Studies 18, no. 2 (Winter 1978): 193-208.

Louth, Andrew, and Marco Conti, eds. Genesis 1-11. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament 1, ed. Thomas C. Oden. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

Madsen, Truman G. “The Latter-day Saint view of human nature.” In On Human Nature: The Jerusalem Center Symposium, edited by Truman G. Madsen, David Noel Freedman and Pam Fox Kuhlken, 95-107. Ann Arbor, MI: Pryor Pettengill Publishers, 2004.

Mathews, Kenneth A., ed. The New American Commentary: Genesis 1-11:26. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1996.

Munoa, Philip B. Four Powers in Heaven: The Interpretation of Daniel 7 in the Testament of Abraham. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement Series 28, ed. Lester L. Grabbe and James H. Charlesworth. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

Neusner, Jacob. 1991. Confronting Creation: How Judaism Reads Genesis. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004.

Paulsen, David L. “Divine embodiment: The earliest Christian understanding of God.” In Early Christians in Disarray, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, 239-93. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2005.

Philo. b. 20 BCE. “Allegorical Interpretation of Genesis (Legum Allegoriae).” In Philo, edited by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker. 12 vols. Vol. 1. Translated by F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker. The Loeb Classical Library 226, ed. Jeffrey Henderson, 140-478. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929.

Rupnik, Marko Ivan. A Arte Como Expressão da Vida Litúrgica. Brasilia, Brasil: Edições Cnbb, 2019.

Sailhamer, John H. “Genesis.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 1-284. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990.

Sarna, Nahum M., ed. Genesis. The JPS Torah Commentary, ed. Nahum M. Sarna. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

———. “The mists of time.” In Genesis: World of Myths and Patriarchs, edited by Ada Feyerick, 49-82. New York City, NY: New York University Press, 1996.

Seixas, Joshua. A Manual of Hebrew Grammar for the Use of Beginners. Second enlarged and improved ed. Andover, MA: Gould and Newman, 1834. Reprint, Facsimile Edition. Salt Lake City, UT: Sunstone Foundation, 1981. https://books.google.com/books/about/A_manual_Hebrew_grammar_for_the_use_of_b.html?id=fN1GAAAAMAAJ. (accessed August 31, 2020).

Smith, Joseph, Jr., Andrew F. Ehat, and Lyndon W. Cook. The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, 1980. https://rsc.byu.edu/book/words-joseph-smith. (accessed August 21, 2020).

Smith, Joseph, Jr. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007.

———. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Smith, Mark S. The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Steinberg, Leo. “Who’s who in Michelangelo’s creation of Adam: A chronology of the picture’s reluctant self-revelation.” Art Bulletin 74, no. 4 (December 1992): 552-66.

Williams, Wesley. 2005. The Shadow of God: Speculations on the Body Divine in Jewish Esoteric Tradition.  In The Black God. http://www.theblackgod.com/Shadow%20of%20God%20Short%5B1%5D.pdf. (accessed December 21, 2007).

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_-_Creation_of_Adam_(cropped).jpg (accessed September 7, 2020).

Figure 2. No known restrictions. https://www.tucucu.com/en/2020/06/27/the-mystery-in-the-sistine-chapel-is-behind-the-finger-of-god/

Footnotes

 

1 P. De Vecchi et al., Michelangelo, p. 163.

2 See B. Blech et al., Secrets, p. 200. On the seeming “brainlike” shape of God’s mantle that encloses the divine personages and its possible symbolism relating to the origins of the future descendants of Adam and Eve, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Endnote 2-21, pp. 128-129.

3 See B. Blech et al., Secrets, pp. 197, 199.

4 L. Steinberg, Who’s Who.

5 G. A. Anderson, Perfection, p. 4.

6 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45-47.

7 M. I. Rupnik, A Arte Como Expressão da Vida Litúrgica, p. 145. Original text is in Portuguese. Translated freely from an Italian version of the text, with thanks to Solange Bambina Poulaert and Chris Miasnik.

8 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 12.

9 S. W. Kimball, Blessings, p. 71.

10 Moses 2:26.

11 Moses 4:28. Cf. Genesis 3:22.

12 Genesis 11:7. See N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 12.

13 J. Seixas, Manual, Genesis 1:1, p. 85.

14 E.g., J. Smith, Jr. et al., Words, Thomas Bullock Report, 16 June 1844, pp. 378-379. Cf. J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 16 June 1844, pp. 371-372.

15 R. E. Friedman, Commentary, p. 12.

16 K. A. Mathews, New American, p. 161.

17 E.g., Doctrine and Covenants 121:32; Abraham 4:26.

18 D. N. Freedman, Humanity, pp. 18-21. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 2:27-b, p. 115.

19 J. E. Faulconer, Adam and Eve, 5. Cf. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Origin of Man and Chrysostom, Sermons on Genesis 2:1, cited in A. Louth et al., Genesis 1-11, p. 28.

20 J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 7 April 1844, p. 348. Cf. J. Smith, Jr. et al., Words, Thomas Bullock Report, 16 June 1844, p, 379.

21 R. E. Friedman, Commentary, p. 12.

22 See M. S. Heiser et al., Exchange; M. S. Smith, Monotheism; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 1:6-f, p. 48; 4:11-b, p. 253; 4:28-a, p. 276.

23 E.g., M. Barker, Older, pp. 174-176.

24 E.g., M. Barker, Angel, pp. 190-212.

25 Sarna, 1989 #296}, p. 11.

26 Abraham 4:26-27.

27 K. P. Jackson, Genesis, p. 82. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 3:7-a, p. 157.

28 See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 2:11-c, p. 107.

29 J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 37.

30 J. Smith, Jr. et al., Words, 9 July 1843, p. 231, punctuation modernized, bracketed words added for clarification. J. Smith, Jr., Teachings 2007, p. 52 interprets and punctuates the citation differently, and changes “retaining” to “retained” (cf. T. G. Madsen, LDS View, p. 105).

31 J. E. Faulconer, Adam and Eve, 10. Cf. Irenaeus, Heresies, 5:6:1, pp. 531-532; Moses 4:28. See also Origen, On first principles 3:6:1, Diadochus of Photice, On spiritual perfection 4, Gregory of Nyssa, On the Origin of Man—all three cited in A. Louth et al., Genesis 1-11, pp. 29-30, 33.

32 Moses 6:10.

33 Cf. Targum Yerushalmi: “in the likeness of the presence of the Lord” (J. W. Etheridge, Onkelos).

34 J. Smith, Jr., 7 April 1844, as amalgamated in S. Larson, King Follett, p. 200.

35 See also D. N. Freedman, Humanity, pp. 16-17, cited in J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Moses 2 Gleanings, pp. 123-124.

36 P. B. Munoa, Four Powers, p. 101.

37 J. Neusner, Confronting, p. 63. See E. J. Hamori, Embodied God and D. L. Paulsen, Embodiment for historical overviews of the doctrine of divine embodiment. See also D. N. Freedman, Humanity, pp. 16-17; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Introduction, p. 10; Commentary 1:6-g, p. 48; 1:12-c, p. 53; Excursus 7: Time and Eternity, p. 537; Excursus 30: Adam-God Theory and the Heavenly and Earthly Adam, p. 603.

38 Cf. John 14:7-10.

39 E.g., Philo, Interpretation, 3, 96, p. 61.

40 W. Williams, Shadow, citing Philo, De opificio mundi 25 (1:6). Philo, however, did not have resemblance (see J. Gross, Divinization, p. 76, citing De opificio mundi 69 [1:18]). See also Ether 3:15-16.

41 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 12. See also N. M. Sarna, Mists, p. 51; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 6:10-a, p. 482.

“This I Did by the Word of My Power”

Book of Moses Essay #48

Moses 2:5

With contribution by Matthew L. Bowen and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Distinction and separation are the central themes of the creation account:1  “And I, God, said: Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night” (Moses 2:14). In Michelangelo’s masterful depiction, God dramatically extends his arms in opposite directions, majestically assigning the golden ball of the sun to rule the day, and the gray moon to rule the night. To achieve a “special otherworldly effect,” the moon was “painted without paint”—in other words, it is the actual color of the bare plaster surface beneath the fresco itself.2

Although, from a Latter-day Saint perspective, it is hard to imagine a more “traditional” depiction of creation, Michelangelo’s portrait is thoroughly unacceptable to rabbinic Judaism. For one thing, Ellis observes, the anthropomorphic portrayal violates both the second commandment and also the idea that God is “unknowable, unimaginable” and “visually unportrayable.” Additionally, God is shown as effecting creation through action rather than by the sole means of “potent speech-acts that enact the creative power of language.” Thus, he explains, Michelangelo’s God is both inexplicably busy and “un-Jewishly mute.”3  “For the Jew,” writes Susan Handelman, “God’s presence is inscribed or traced within a text, not a body. Divinity is located in language, not person.”4

Tempering this distinction between Latter-day Saint and Jewish thought, however, is the theme of God’s “word,” a thread that runs through every chapter in the Book of Moses. Continuing the discussion of the topic from a previous article,5  this Essay will explore the role of the divine word in Creation.

“There Are Many Worlds That Have Passed Away By the Word of My Power” (Moses 1:35)

The Lord’s description of the cosmic scale and endless continuum on which creation by the divine word transpires constitutes one of the most stunning aspects of the Visions of Moses. As noted previously, Hebrews 1:2 and 11:3 mention “worlds” in plural, but the phrases “worlds without number,”6  “many worlds,”7  and later “millions of earths like this”8  belong to the Book of Moses. This concept, as Draper, Brown, and Rhodes note, “was not a part of traditional Christian teaching”9  and a “doctrine unknown in the days of Joseph Smith.”10  These expressions and the statements in which they occur correspond to the chronological infinitude expressed by Isaiah as ʿad-ʿôlmê ʿad11 —sometimes translated “world without end” (KJV), “worlds without end,”12  or “to all eternity” (NRSV).

This imagery resonates with the cosmic picture being given us by contemporary astronomy and the deep-space telescopes more than anything else that we find in ancient scripture.13  The Lord mentions “many worlds” that are “innumerable … unto man” but “numbered unto me”—worlds cycling through a course of creation and uncreation:14

But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them. … The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

This language also resonates with Jesus’ words to his disciples as recorded in Matthew 24: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away,”15  or as clarified in the Joseph Smith Translation (JST): “Although, the days will come, that heaven and earth shall pass away; yet my words shall not pass away, but all shall be fulfilled.”16  That last phrase, “but all shall be fulfilled,” added to the JST Matthew text represents one of the most important thematic aspects of the divine “word” in the Book of Moses. A revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith “beginning September 26, 1830,”17  quotes or paraphrases the text of Moses 1 revealed just months earlier: “But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit.”18  Jesus’s endless “words” in premortality, mortality, and postmortality are the ongoing creative process in the cosmos. He is the creative force.

Thus, the revelation to Moses of an endless procession of “earth[s] … and the heavens thereof” forestalls the notion that the “heavens and the earth [being] finished” in the forthcoming creation account somehow amounts to an end to divine creative activity, as Genesis 3:1 and the notion of “Sabbath”—from the Hebrew verb šābat, “cease,” “come to the end of an activity”—might seem to imply.19  As Jesus said to the Jerusalem religious elite who challenged his Sabbath day activities, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”20  The Book of Moses’ view of the creative “Word” parallels its view of the written “words” of God with its implicit notion of “canon”: “there is no end to my works, neither to my words.” There is no end to creation. There is no end to scripture or revelation—the revealed word.21  The universe is an open canon.

“This I Did By the Word of My Power, and It Was Done as I Spake” (Moses 2:5)

The Book of Moses transitions from the initial “Visions of Moses” to Joseph Smith’s inspired revision of the Genesis 1 creation account—which constitutes a continuation of the preceding vision—with the Lord commanding Moses to write his “words” and reemphasizing the executive role of the Only Begotten in in a never-ending creation process: “And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth; write the words [things] which I speak. I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest.”22  The Lord’s ongoing words to Moses represent a continuation of his endless “words” and a never-ending creation—his “works.” This establishes the framework for the creation account in which the spoken word and the creative process remain eminently intertwined.

Kathleen Flake has observed that “like the Book of Mormon’s Israelite exodus to America, the JST’s creation narrative has always informed the Latter-day Saint ethos.”23  The Lord’s words in Moses 2:1 breathe new life into the abstract opening statement of the Hebrew Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The Lord himself appropriates “the beginning”—Hebrew rēʾšît—as a name-title for himself. Here too he is the subject of the verb “create”—Hebrew bārāʾ, the verb of which God is always the subject or implied agent in the Bible24 —but he takes personal ownership of his creative acts through the 1st person verb form. This invites comparison to the creation scenes in Isaiah 40-66,25  and the use of the first person in Isaiah 43:7, 45:8, 12; 54:16 (compare especially Isaiah 45:8, 12). Joseph Smith’s Genesis revision restores a backdrop that accommodates other creation texts in the Hebrew Bible like Psalms 148:5, 8: “for he commanded [ṣiwwâ], and they were created [wĕnibrāʾû] … Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word [ʿōśâ dĕbārô].”

The closely correlated “works” and “words” of Moses 1:4-5, 48—“works” and “words” brought to pass through the “Word of my power”26  (Moses 1:32, 35; 2:5)—supplies additional revelatory context for the creation by the divinely spoken yĕhî, “Let there be” (Moses 2:3, 6, 9, 14), widely familiar from the Genesis account (Genesis 1:3, 6, 14). The tight pairing of the jussive yĕhî, “Let there be…” and wayhî “and there was” paints a dramatic verbal picture of the genetic relationship between “words” and “work.”27

The Septuagint (LXX) version of the Bible rendered Hebrew yĕhî with the verb genēthētō (hence the name of the book “Genesis”). The Vulgate translation rendered Greek genēthētō with the 3rd person “fiat,” whence the theological notion expressed as “creation by fiat.” Recognition of this verb form helps us to appreciate nature the Lord’s Prayer as a kind of “creation” text: “Thy will be done [Genēthētō to thelēma sou ]28 in earth, as it is in heaven.”  Moreover, such recognition reframes Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane as a “creation”-type text: “thy will be done [genēthētō to thelēma sou].”29  Matthew certainly intended his audience to see the Lord’s prayer and Jesus’ prayer to the Father in Gethsemane as inextricably linked by the shared phrase genēthētō to thelēma sou. In submitting his will completely to the Father, Jesus effected and completed the atoning30  of the physical and spiritual creation, without which neither could “answer the end”31  or “fill the measure of [their] creation.”32

Notably, two JST passages further help us envisage the Lord’s prayer and Jesus’ prayer(s) in Gethsemane as “creation”-type texts. First, from the cross JST Matthew 27:54 records “… a loud voice, saying, Father, it is finished [tetelestai, John 19:3033 ], thy will is done, yielded up the ghost.” John 19:30 employs the same verbal root –teleō as the LXX creation account (“And the heavens and the earth and all their order [kosmos] were finished [synetelesthēsan] … And God finished [synetelesen] on the seventh day”). Jesus reports to the Father as he “finishes” a new creation before entering into “rest” on the Sabbath.34  The second passage returns the creation language of Jesus’ prayers to the premortal existence and the council in heaven (“in the beginning”) where Jesus, the Father’s “my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning,” humbled himself before the Father: “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”35  The close relationship between Jesus Christ’s roles as Creator and Redeemer, between creation and redemption, suddenly comes into stark focus.

The thematic use of the creation-by-word verb yĕhî in Genesis 1 inevitably ties the creative process to the divine name or Tetragrammaton, Yhwh (often rendered Jehovah or more recently Yahweh) and its meaning. Frank Moore Cross explains the form of the name Yhwh as “a causative imperfect of the Canaanite-Proto-Hebrew verb hwh/hwy ‘to be’”36  with the basic meaning “He creates” or “he who causes to happen.”37  David Noel Freedman and Michael P. O’Connor insist that “In Hebrew … yahweh must be a causative, since the dissimilation of yaqṭal to yiqṭal did not apply in Amorite [i.e., West Semitic], while it was obligatory in Hebrew. The name yahweh must therefore be in the Hebrew hiphil form. Although the causative of hwy is otherwise unknown in Northwest Semitic (with the exception of Syriac, which is of little relevance here), it seems to be attested in the name of the God of Israel.”38  Nevertheless, the precise origin of the name yhwh and its possible relationship to the Mesopotamian deity Ea (Enki) remains a matter of discussion and exploration.39

Whatever the case, the onomastic wordplay on Yhwh in terms of the verb form ʾehyeh (“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM [ʾehyeh ʾăšer ʾehyeh]: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM [ʾehyeh] hath sent me unto you”) confirms that ancient Israelites thought of the name Yhwh in terms of the verb hwy/hyy, whatever the origin of the name Yhwh (or Yah). This constitutes the conceptual backdrop against which the foregoing jussive creation fiats (“let there be…”) should be understood: a name expressing the idea of creating or bringing to pass through the speaking of the very word of which the name itself is a manifestation.

In this vein, the text of Moses 2 reiterates the executive role of the Son in his accomplishing the divine will by means of the phrase “this I did by the word of my power”: “And I, God, called the light Day; and the darkness, I called Night; and this I did by the Word of my power, and it was done as I spake; and the evening and the morning were the first day.”40  The phrase “and it was done as I spake” here preserves and replicates the tight cause-effect relationship between word and work evident is the tight pairing of “I, God, said let there be … and there was”). Jeffrey M. Bradshaw suggests that the added phrase “this I did by the Word of my power” functions “as a more or less synonymous parallel to the expression that ‘it was done as I spake.”41  The reiterated variants of the stereotyped Genesis 1 phrase “and it was so [wayhî kēn]” in Moses 2—“and it was done” (v. 6); “and it was so even as I spake” (vv. 7, 11, 31); “and it was so” (vv. 9, 15, 24)—further emphasize the power of the divine “word” to bring to pass each divine “work.”

“And the Stars Also Were Made Even According to My Word” (Moses 2:16)

In addition to the “worlds without number” or “many worlds” which the Lord claims as his creations in Moses 1:33, 35, he avers his creation of the great luminaries in the heavens upon which those worlds necessarily depend. He accordingly makes the following geocentric statement regarding the creation of the luminaries: “And I, God, made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night, and the greater light was the sun, and the lesser light was the moon; and the stars also were made even according to my word.”42

Unlike the Genesis account, where the names of the great lights have been suppressed, possibly due to the connection of šemeš (“sun”; Ugaritic špš) and yārēaḥ (“moon”) with the divinized Sun (Shammash) and the divinized Moon (cf. Akkadian, Sîn), which were widely worshipped. Suppression of the names “sun” and “moon” in the biblical text is rendered superfluous in Book of Moses text with the declaration that the sun, moon, and stars all came into being “even according to my word.” God and his divine Word are the only deities that the text has in view. The divine passive, “were made according to my word” further allows for a very lengthy creative process. We see something similar in the Lord’s subsequent description of spiritual creation (cf. Moses 3:7).

Conclusion

Even some of the most doubting of scientists have stated their willingness to keep their mind open to the possibility of a God — so long as it is a God “worthy of [the] grandeur”43  of the Universe. For example, the well-known skeptic Richard Dawkins stated: “If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.”44  Similarly, Elder Neal A. Maxwell approvingly quoted the unbelieving scientist Carl Sagan, noting that he:45

perceptively observed that “in some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said — grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed’? Instead, they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’”

Joseph Smith’s God was not a little god. His God was a God who required our minds to “stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity”46  — that is more of a stretch than the best of us now can even imagine.

This article is adapted from Bowen, Matthew L. “‘By the word of my power’: The many functions of the divine word in the Book of Moses.” Presented at the conference entitled “Tracing Ancient Threads of the Book of Moses’ (September 18-19, 2020), Provo, UT: Brigham Young University 2020.

Further Reading

Bailey, David H., Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, John H. Lewis, Gregory L. Smith, and Michael L. Stark, eds. Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, and Man. Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposia 1. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016, pp. 259-351. https://archive.org/details/CosmosEarthAndManscienceAndMormonism1.

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘Creator of the first day’: The glossing of Lord of Sabaoth in Doctrine and Covenants 95:7.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 22 (2016): 51-77. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/creator-of-the-first-day-the-glossing-of-lord-of-sabaoth-in-dc-957/.

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘By the word of my power’: The divine word in the Book of Moses.” Presented at the conference entitled “Tracing Ancient Threads of the Book of Moses’ (September 18-19, 2020), Provo, UT: Brigham Young University 2020.

Holland, Jeffrey R. “‘My words… never cease’.” Ensign 28, May 2008, 91-94. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2008/05/my-words-never-cease?lang=eng.

Maxwell, Neal A. “Our Creator’s Cosmos (Twenty-Sixth Annual Church Educational System Conference, Brigham Young University, 13 August 2002).” Religious Educator 3, no. 2 (August 13, 2002 2002): 1-17. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/re/vol3/iss2/3/.

References

Bailey, David H., Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, John H. Lewis, Gregory L. Smith, and Michael L. Stark, eds. Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, and Man. Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposia 1. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016. https://archive.org/details/CosmosEarthAndManscienceAndMormonism1. (accessed September 6, 2020).

Barker, Margaret. The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God. Louisville, KY: Westminster / John Knox Press, 1992.

Blech, Benjamin, and Roy Doliner. The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican. New York City, NY: HarperOne, 2008.

Botterweck, G. Johannes, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. 11 vols. to date vols. Translated by John T. Willis and et_al., 1974-2001.

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘Creator of the first day’: The glossing of Lord of Sabaoth in Doctrine and Covenants 95:7.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 22 (2016): 51-77. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/creator-of-the-first-day-the-glossing-of-lord-of-sabaoth-in-dc-957/. (accessed September 6, 2020).

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net.

Chadwick, Jeffrey R. “Dating the death of Jesus Christ.” BYU Studies Quarterly 54, no. 4 (2015): 135-91. https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/dating-death-jesus-christ. (accessed September 5, 2020).

Cross, Frank Moore. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6e92/855210ba9dd75f919dbc166ab37da472cea9.pdf. (accessed September 6, 2020).

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

Ellis, Richard S. “Images at work versus words at play: Michelangelo’s art and the artistry of the Hebrew Bible.” Judaism 51, no. 2 (2002): 162-74. http://www.math.umass.edu/~rsellis/images-vs-words-long.html. (accessed August 9).

Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

Flake, Kathleen. “Translating time: The nature and function of Joseph Smith’s narrative canon.” Journal of Religion 87, no. 4 (October 2007): 497-527. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/divinity/facultynews/Flake%20Translating%20Time.pdf. (accessed February 22, 2009).

Gee, John. “The geography of Aramaean and Luwian Gods.” Presented at the Aramaean Borders Defining Aramaean Territories in the 10th – 8th Centuries BCE Conference Organized as Part of the Research Project GA ČR P401/12/G168 ‘History and Interpretation of the Bible,’ 22-23 April 2016, Prague, Czech Republic 2016. http://cbs.etf.cuni.cz/assets/files/Program%20Aramaean%20Borders.pdf. (accessed September 6, 2020).

Holland, Jeffrey R. “‘My words… never cease’.” Ensign 28, May 2008, 91-94. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2008/05/my-words-never-cease?lang=eng. (accessed July 9, 2020).

———. “‘My words… never cease’.” In Broken Things to Mend, edited by Jeffrey R. Holland, 184-90. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2008.

Isaacson, Walter. Einstein: His Life and Universe. New York City, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Krauss, Lawrence M., and Richaard Dawkins. 2007. Should Science Speak to Faith? (Extended version).  In Scientific American Online. http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanId=sa013&articleID=44A95E1D-E7F2-99DF-3E79D5E2E6DE809C&modsrc=most_popular. (accessed July 27, 2007).

Maxwell, Neal A. “Our Creator’s Cosmos (Twenty-Sixth Annual Church Educational System Conference, Brigham Young University, 13 August 2002).” Religious Educator 3, no. 2 (August 13, 2002 2002): 1-17. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/re/vol3/iss2/3/. (accessed September 6, 2020).

Nugent, Tony Ormond. Star-god: Enki/Ea and the Biblical God as Expressions of a Common Ancient Near Eastern Astral-theological Symbol System (Ph.D. Dissertation). Syracuse, NY: Seracuse University, 1993. https://surface.syr.edu/rel_etd/52/. (accessed September 6, 2020).

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Townes, Charles H. “The convergence of science and religion.” Improvement Era 71, February 1968, 62-69.

Van Biema, David. “God vs. Science (Debate between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins).” Time, November 13 2006, 49-55.

Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009.

Welch, John W. “”Thy mind, o man, must stretch”.” BYU Studies 50, no. 3 (2011): 63-81. https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/thy-mind-o-man-must-stretch. (accessed September 6, 2020).

Wilson, Daniel J. “Wayhî and theticity in biblical Hebrew.” Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 45, no. 1 (2019): 89-118. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334441983_Wayhi_and_Theticity_in_Biblical_Hebrew. (accessed September 5, 2020).

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Public domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo,_Creation_of_the_Sun,_Moon,_and_Plants_01.jpg.

Footnotes

 

1 J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 85-87.

2 B. Blech et al., Secrets, p. 195.

3 R. S. Ellis, Images.

4 Ibid.

5 Essay #42.

6 Moses 1:33.

7 Moses 1:35.

8 Moses 7:30.

9 R. D. Draper et al., Commentary, p. 33.

10 Ibid., p. 33.

11 Isaiah 45:17: “But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end [ʿad-ʿôlmê ʿad].” Cf. Ephesians 3:21: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end [tou aiōnos ton aiōnōn]. Amen.”

12 D&C 76:112 pluralizes KJV “world without end” as “worlds without end.”

13 D. H. Bailey et al., Science and Mormonism 1, pp. 259-351.

14 Moses 1:35, 37-38.

15 Matthew 24:35.

16 Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:35.

17 From the heading to Doctrine and Covenants 29 (2013 edition).

18 Doctrine and Covenants 29:30.

19 J. H. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, pp. 73-74. See also M. L. Bowen, Creator of the First Day. Walton writes:

The Hebrew verb šābat (Genesis 2:2) from which our term “sabbath” is derived has the basic meaning of ‘ceasing’ (Joshua 5:12; Job 32:1). Semantically it refers to the completion of certain activity with which one had been occupied. This cessation leads into a new state which is described by another set of words, the verb nûḥa and its associated noun mĕnûḥâ. The verb involves entering a position of safety, security, or stability, and the noun refers to the place where that is found. The verb šābat describes a transition into the activity or inactivity of nûḥa. We know that when God rests (ceases, šābat) on the seventh day in Genesis 2, he also transitions into the condition of stability (nûḥa) because that is the terminology used in Exodus 20:11. The only other occurrence of the verb šābat with God as the subject is in Exodus 31:17. The most important verses to draw all of this information together are found in Psalm 132:7-8, 13-14:

Let us go to his dwelling place
Let us worship at his footstool—
‘Arise, O Lord, and come to your resting place,
you, and the ark of your might.’
For the Lord has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling:
‘This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned for I have desired it.’

Here the ‘dwelling place’ of God translates a term that describes the tabernacle and temple, and it is where his footstool (the ark) is located. … Thus, this Psalm pulls together the ideas of divine rest, temple, and enthronement. God’s ‘ceasing’ (šābat) on the seventh day in Genesis 2:2 leads to his “rest” (nûḥa), associated with the seventh day in Exodus 2:11. His ‘rest’ is located in his ‘resting place’ (mĕnûḥâ) in Psalm 132. After creation, God takes up his rest and rules from his residence. This is not new theology for the ancient world—it is what all people understood about their gods and their temples.

20 John 5:17.

21 See, e.g., J. R. Holland, Words; J. R. Holland, Words (Broken).

22 Moses 2:1.

23 K. Flake, Translating Time, p. 503.

24 Genesis 1:5, 21, 27; 2:3-4; 5:1-2; 6:7; Exodus 34:10 (God implied subject of passive verb forms); Numbers 16:30; Deuteronomy 4:32; Psalm 51:10; 89:12, 47; 102:18; 104:30; 148:5; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 4:5; 40:26, 28; 41:20; 42:5; 43:1, 7, 15; 45:7-8, 12, 18; 48:7; 54:16; 57:19; 65:17-18; Jeremiah 31:22; Ezekiel 21:19, 30; 28:13, 15; Amos 4:13; Malachi 2:10.

25 See, e.g., Isaiah 40:6, 8; 41:20; 42:5; 43:1, 7, 15; 45:7-8, 12, 18; 48:7; 54:16; 57:19; 65:17-18.

26 “Word” in “Word of my power” is capitalized in OT1 at Moses 2:5 (S. H. Faulring et al., Original Manuscripts, OT1 Page 3 (Moses 1:37-2:12), p. 86).

27 Cf. D. J. Wilson, Wayhî and Theticity.

28 Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2.

29 Matthew 26:42.

30 Cf. Deuteronomy 32:43: “[The Lord] will be merciful unto [wĕkipper, literally, atone] his land, and … his people. M. Barker (The Great High Priest, p. 31-32) writes: “The principle of temple practice, ‘on earth as it is in heaven,’ meant that the act of atonement, in reality the work of the Lord (Deut. 32:43), was enacted on earth by the high priest. This was the suffering and death that was necessary for the Messiah.”

31 D&C 49:16.

32 D&C 88:19, 25.

33 John 19:28-30: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”

34 This observation holds whether Jesus died on Friday (traditional) or on Thursday as argued recently in J. R. Chadwick, Dating the Death. See also Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54-56; John 19:31.

35 Moses 4:2.

36 F. M. Cross, Canaanite Myth, p. 65.

37 M. Barker, Angel, p. 104.

38 David Noel Freedman and Michael P. O’Connor, “YHWH” in G. J. Botterweck et al., TDOT, 5:513.

39 T. O. Nugent, Star-god; J. Gee, Geography of Aramaean and Luwian Gods

40 Moses 2:5.

41 J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 102. Bradshaw writes, “Two interpretations are possible. On the one hand, this phrase, added in the book of Moses, can be seen as a more or less synonymous parallel to the expression that ‘it was done as I spake.’ On the other hand, it could be taken to indicate that the light and darkness were ‘made’ in a different fashion than the entities created on subsequent days.”

42 Moses 2:14.

43 R. Dawkins in D. Van Biema, God vs. Science, p. 55. As a matter of scientific principle, Dawkins has classed himself as a TAP (Temporary Agnostic in Practice), though he thinks the probability of a God is very small, and certainly in no sense would want to be “misunderstood as endorsing faith” (L. M. Krauss et al., Science (online)).

44 L. M. Krauss et al., Science (online). Though personally rejecting the notion of a personal God, Albert Einstein is an example of one whose deeply-held “vision of unity and order” (C. H. Townes, Convergence, p. 66) — which throughout his life played an important role in shaping his scientific intuitions (see, e.g., W. Isaacson, Einstein, p. 335) — was chiefly motivated by his profound sense of awe and humility in the face of the lawful and “marvelously arranged” universe (ibid., p. 388):

Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.

Often more critical of the debunkers of religion than of naïve believers in God, he explained: “The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’ — cannot hear the music of the spheres” (ibid., p. 390).

45 N. A. Maxwell, Cosmos, p. 1.

46 See J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 25 March 1839, p. 137. For an insightful discussion of this imperative, see J. W. Welch, Thy Mind.

The Creation of Light and the Heavenly Host

Book of Moses Essay #47

Moses 2:3-5

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In this Essay we will explore the creation of light on Day One.

The Nature of the Primordial Light

In Moses 2: we read:1

In the beginning I created the heaven and the earth.… And I, God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And I, God, saw the light; and that light was good.

The nature of the light referred to in this verse is not explained. Several possibilities have been suggested. Some interpreters see this event as consonant with the prevailing scientific view that describes the birth of our universe as a sudden burst of light and energy of unimaginable scale. Others see this phrase as referring to a “local” event whereby the natural light of the sun was created.2  It is, of course, a given that the sun was created prior to the fourth day, though from the vantage point of earth no light will “appear in the firmament” until that later time.3

By way of contrast to such naturalistic readings, Hugh Nibley’s interpretation seems more consistent with related scriptural passages—namely, that the light referred to was the result of God’s presence: “All this time the Gods had been dwelling in light and glory, but the earth was dark… This was not the first creation of light. Wherever light comes into darkness, ‘there is light.’”4  Consistent with this view, President John Taylor wrote that God:

caused light to shine upon [the earth] before the sun appeared in the firmament; for God is light, and in him there is no darkness.5  He is the light of the sun and the power thereof by which it was made; he is also the light of the moon and the power by which it was made; he is the light of the stars and the power by which they are made.6

Doctrine and Covenants 88:12-13 continues its description to make it clear that this light is something over and above mere physical light as generally conceived, since it not only “enlighteneth your eyes” but also “quickeneth your understandings,” governs and “giveth life to all things,” and “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.”7  As Isaac Watts so expressed it: “In vain the bright, the burning sun / Scatters his feeble light; / ’Tis Thy sweet beams create my noon; / If Thou withdraw, ’tis night.”8

The idea of God Himself as the source of this special light is consistent with many ancient sources.9  For example, rabbinical commentators saw the light at the beginning of Creation as the splendor of God Himself, who “cloaked himself in it as a cloak” and it “shone forth from one end of the world to the other.”10  Rabbinic tradition further explained that the wicked are not worthy to enjoy this light of God’s presence, therefore it was stored away after the seventh day of Creation to be enjoyed later by the righteous in the Messianic Age.11  A corresponding light was said to fill the place of God’s presence in the temple. As Margaret Barker described it:12

The brightness of the Holy of Holies was the light of Day One, before the visible world had been created… Those who entered the Holy of Holies entered this place of light, beyond time and matter, which was the presence of “the King of kings and Lord of lords who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light.”13  This was the place of glory to which Jesus knew he would return after the crucifixion, “the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.”14  In the Gospel of Thomas, Christians are described as the new high priesthood who enter the light, and Jesus instructed his disciples to say to the guardians (the cherub guardians of Eden?) “We came from the light, the place where the light came into being on its own accord and established [itself].”

Figure 2. Gaetano Previati, 1852-1920: The Creation of Light, 1913

Light and the Premortal Heavenly Host

Some ancient sources assert that the heavenly hosts15 —variously described in ancient sources as including the angels, the sons of God, and/or the souls of humanity—were part of the light described in connection with Day One of Creation.16  Though the idea is not widely known or appreciated today, the visual depiction of this event has a venerable history, stretching from medieval times to our own, as seen in this magnificent painting by Previati.

Although a more limited version of this idea is often associated with the fathers of the early Christian church, its origin actually goes back centuries earlier to strands of Jewish tradition. For example, the book of Jubilees reports that on the first day God created various ranks of angels along with “all of the spirits of his creatures which are in heaven and on earth.”17  Zoroastrian texts also speak of a spiritual creation of all mankind (and also of the spirits who chose to follow the evil Angra Mainyu) prior to the physical creation.18  In contrast to later Christian thought that characterized the angels as a different race of beings than man, Joseph Smith taught that “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it”—i.e., as human mortals.19  Note that in Hebrew, the same word (malak) is used for both “angel” and (human) “messenger.”20

Figure 3. Michelangelo Buonarotti, 1475-1564: Separation of Light from Darkness, 1511

In Moses 2:4 we read: “And I, God, divided the light from the darkness.” In Michelangelo’s sublime depiction of the first act of Creation, “the Almighty is twisted around in serpentine manner, much like the contorted position the artist himself was assuming to create the fresco.”21  God runs his fingers through indistinct chaos, separating the brownish obscurity of darkness from the white cloudlike billows of light. While Michelangelo linked the scene typologically to the Last Judgment,22  this masterful imagery is an even more fitting portrayal of the symbolism of the “First Judgment,” effected at the moment when Satan’s rebellious hosts were cast out of heaven.23

From this perspective, the division of the light from the darkness might be seen as an allusion to premortal separation of the spirits who rebelled (“the darkness”) and were cast out of the presence of God (“the light”).24  The tenor aria of the archangel Uriel from Haydn’s 1798 Die Schopfung (“The Creation”) beautifully expresses the idea: “Now vanish before the holy beams / The gloomy shades of ancient night; / The first day appears. / Now chaos ends, and order fair prevails. / Affrighted fly hell’s spirits black in throngs: / Down they sink in the deep abyss / To endless night.”25  A parallel to this event can be seen in the book of Enoch where rebel angels (in this case, the Watchers,26  rather than the premortal hosts of Satan) are sent to dwell forever in the abyss.27

Conclusion

During a short stint as an unmatriculated graduate student at BYU in 1980-81, I served as a research assistant for the prominent clinical psychologist Allen Bergin. Among other assignments, I was designated as a scribe for a short-lived series of meetings of what was called “The Light Group”—a small multi-disciplinary group of faculty made up mostly of scientists and philosophers who were interested in the scientific and spiritual aspects of light. It was a far-fetched idea to think that such a group could come to understand the ultimate scriptural sense of light and no headway was really made. However, it was inspiring to see firsthand a group like this focused on something so far beyond the mundane. “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”28

 

This article is adapted and updated from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net, pp. 86, 99-100.

Further Reading

Bailey, David H., Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, John H. Lewis, Gregory L. Smith, and Michael L. Stark, eds. Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, and Man. Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposia 1. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 86, 99-100.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2014, pp. 51-53.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 193-195.

References

Alter, Robert, ed. The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary. New York City, NY: W. W. Norton, 2019.

Anderson, Gary A. The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

Barker, Margaret. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Which God Gave to Him to Show to His Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation 1.1). Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 2000.

———. “The angel priesthood.” In The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, edited by Margaret Barker, 103-45. London, England: T & T Clark, 2003.

———. The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 2007.

Blech, Benjamin, and Roy Doliner. The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican. New York City, NY: HarperOne, 2008.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net.

Browning, Robert. 1855. “Andrea del Sarto (Called the ‘Faultless Painter’).” In Men and Women, edited by Robert Browning. Reprint of First ed. The Temple Classics, ed. Israel Gollancz, 146-54. Aldine House, London, England: J. M. Dent, 1899. https://archive.org/details/menandwomen03browgoog/. (accessed September 1, 2020).

De Vecchi, Pierluigi, and Gianluigi Colalucci. Michelangelo: The Vatican Frescoes. Translated by David Stanton and Andrew Ellis. New York City, NY: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1996.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

Jerahmeel ben Solomon. ca. 1100-1200. The Chronicles of Jerahmeel or, The Hebrew Bible Historiale. Translated by Moses Gaster. Oriental Translation Fund New Series 4. London, England: Royal Asiatic Society, 1899. Reprint, Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2007.

Koester, Helmut, and Thomas O. Lambdin. “The Gospel of Thomas (II, 2).” In The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by James M. Robinson. 3rd, Completely Revised ed, 124-38. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990.

Kugel, James L. “Some instances of biblical interpretation in the hymns and wisdom writings of Qumran.” In Studies in Ancient Midrash, edited by James L. Kugel, 155-69. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Matt, Daniel C., ed. The Zohar, Pritzker Edition. Vol. 1. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.

Müller, F. Max. “Bundahis.” In Pahlavi Texts: The Bundahis, Bahman Yast, and Shayast La-Shayast (including Selections of Zad-sparam), edited by F. Max Müller. 5 vols. Vol. 1. Translated by E. W. West. The Sacred Books of the East 5, ed. F. Max Müller, 1-151. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1880. Reprint, Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.

Neusner, Jacob, ed. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis, A New American Translation. 3 vols. Vol. 1: Parashiyyot One through Thirty-Three on Genesis 1:1 to 8:14. Brown Judaic Studies 104, ed. Jacob Neusner. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1975. The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment. 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

———. 1980. “Before Adam.” In Old Testament and Related Studies, edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum and Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 1, 49-85. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1986.

Nickelsburg, George W. E., ed. 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 1-36; 81-108. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001.

Rashi. c. 1105. The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Vol. 1: Beresheis/Genesis. Translated by Rabbi Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg. ArtScroll Series, Sapirstein Edition. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1995.

Smith, Mark S. The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.

Taylor, John. 1876. “Burial services, an ancient practice; God, the God of the living; keys committed to Joseph Smith; the last dispensation; Jesus the great Redeemer; an everlasting priesthood; the powers of the resurrection; scriptural, philosophical, and certain; sealing powers eternal (Funeral sermon preached at the 7th Ward Meetinghouse, Salt Lake City, on Sunday Afternoon, 31 December 1876, over the remains of Ann Tenora, the wife of Isaac Waddell; and also over the remains of George W., son of Edward Callister).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 18, 324-35. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.

Watts, Isaac. Hymns, and Spiritual Songs in Three Books with an Essay Towards the Improvement of Christian Psalmody, by the Use of Evangelical Hymns in Worship, As Well As the Psalms of David. London, England: John Lawrence, 1707-1709. Reprint, Watts, Isaac, and Samuel Worcester. Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs of the Rev. Isaac Watts, D. D. To Which Are Added Select Hymns from Other Authors, and Directions for Musical Expression by Samuel Worcester, D. D. Boston, MA: Crocker & Brewster, 1856. http://books.google.com/books?id=zSZs5jCXgHoC. (accessed April 13).

Wintermute, O. S. “Jubilees.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. Vol. 2, 35-142. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. No known restrictions. https://creation.com/creation-magazine-articles?year=2011&page=1 (accessed September 1, 2020).

Figure 2. Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna e contemporanea, Rome, Italy. Public domain, https://www.europeana.eu/en/item/2026104/Partage_Plus_ProvidedCHO_Soprintendenza_alla_Galleria_nazionale_d_arte_moderna_e_contemporanea_3977 (accessed September 1, 2020).

Figure 3. Detail from Sistine Chapel fresco. Public domain, https://www.olmcsandiego.org/faith-formation-blog/let-there-be-light (accessed September 1, 2020). Though depicting the very beginnings of Creation, the panel was painted, ironically, “near the end of Buonarotti’s sufferings up on the ceiling. He was in a desperate rush to finish, both for his personal health and because there was concern that the pope, who had been very ill, might not live to see the project completed. If Julius had died before it was done, the next pontiff might have cancelled the artist’s contract, and perhaps have changed or abandoned the work as well. In creating this panel, Michelangelo worked without … his assistants who would prepare the full-size cartoons to transfer the outlines of the figures to be painted into the wet plaster intonaco [i.e., the thin layer of plaster on which the fresco was painted]. In fact, this sculptor who had said of himself ‘I am no painter’ painted this entire panel in one day—totally freehand, something few highly experienced fresco artists would ever dare attempt” (B. Blech, et al., Secrets, pp. 194-195).

Footnotes

 

1 Moses 2:1, 3.

2 R. D. Draper et al., Commentary, p. 193.

3 Moses 2:14-19.

4 H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, p. 69.

5 See 1 John 1:5; cf. Psalm 104:2.

6 J. Taylor, JT 31 December 1876, p. 327. See Doctrine and Covenants 88:7-9.

7 Cf. Psalm 36:9. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 2:1-e, p. 94 and Excursus 7: Time and Eternity, p. 537.

8 I. Watts, Hymns, God, my only Happiness (Psalm 73:25), 2:94, p. 432.

9 See, e.g., J. L. Kugel, Instances, pp. 157-160.

10 J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 3:4, p. 29; cf. Psalm 104:2, Jerahmeel ben Solomon, Chronicles, 1:4-5, p. 6.

11 D. C. Matt, Zohar 1, Be-Reshit 1:31b, p. 192; J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 3:6, p. 30; Rashi, Genesis Commentary, 1:4, pp. 5-6. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Excursus 14: The Garden of Eden as a Prototype for the Temple, p. 555.

12 M. Barker, Revelation, p. 22. Cf. H. W. Nibley, Message (2005), pp. 440-441. See H. Koester et al., Thomas, 50, p. 132.

13 1 Timothy 6:16.

14 John 17:5.

15 See Moses 3:1 and J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 136, 149, 151.

16 See ibid., pp. 100-101, 136, 542. Of course, it is possible that this “light” was uncreated.

17 O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 2:2, p. 55.

18 See, e.g., F. M. Müller, Bundahis, 1:1-14, pp. 3-6.

19 Doctrine and Covenants 130:5.

20 See discussion in M. Barker, Hidden, pp. 61-62; M. Barker, Angel Priesthood, pp. 124-126.

21 B. Blech et al., Secrets, p. 193. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 126 n. 2-13.

22 P. De Vecchi et al., Michelangelo, pp. 171, 205. In support of arguments for a typological interpretation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Gary A. Anderson writes (G. A. Anderson, Perfection, p. 111. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 127 n. 2-14):

Michelangelo, unlike many of his contemporaries, was not a simple, uneducated artisan. Rather, he was a deeply religious man who frequently attended Mass, pored over scriptural texts and commentaries, and, in his early years, was deeply moved by the infamous religious reformer in Florence, Savonarola. Like many in pre-Reformation Rome, Michelangelo was also deeply impressed with how the beginnings of Creation were not only a witness to the glory of the Creator but also pointed, however mysteriously, to our end or telos within the cosmos.

23 See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 2:4-c, p. 101 and Moses 4:3-4.

24 See ibid., pp. 86, 101-102. The divine light referred to here may actually be itself uncreated (M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision, pp. 72-79), just as the spirits of all God’s children are eternal in some basis sense (J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 540-543).

25 1:2 — Nun schwanden vor dem heiligen Strahle.

26 J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 585-590.

27 G. W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 21:7-10, p. 297; cf. D&C 29:38.

28 R. Browning, Andrea del Sarto, p. 149, lines 97-98. Cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11: “Eternity … [God] has put in their heart, without man’s grasping at all what it is God has done from beginning to end” (R. Alter, Hebrew Bible, 3:686).

The Days of Creation and Temple Architecture

Book of Moses Essay #46

Moses 2:1-27

With contribution by Jeffrey M Bradshaw

The illustration above from M. C. Escher depicts the first day of Creation, when “the earth was without form and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God.”1  The Hebrew term here translated “moved” is used in Deuteronomy 32:11 to describe an eagle hovering attentively over its young.2  In addition, one cannot help but recall the imagery of Jesus’ mourning for Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”3

Consistent with such a picture, the Book of Abraham employs the term “brooding,”4  the patient action of a mother bird by which eggs are incubated before they hatch. The imagery of “brooding” highlights not only the loving care of the Creator for His Creation, but may also allude to atonement symbolism. For example, Margaret Barker admits the possibility of a subtle wordplay in examining the reversal of consonantal sounds between “brood/hover” and “atone.”5  Atonement is arguably the central symbolism of Israelite temples, and may be reflected not only in the symbolism of Day One of Creation but also in the overall schema for the unfolding of the universe, as we outline in more detail below.

While it is true that some significant details were added to Genesis in the translation of Moses 2, it is perhaps more noteworthy that the effort resulted in no major reshaping of the creation story itself.6  As to the significant details, a brief prologue affirming that the account derives from the words of the Lord directly to Moses is added in verse 1. The repetition of the phrase “I, God” throughout the chapter also emphasizes its firsthand nature. Importantly, the fact that all things were created “by mine Only Begotten”7  is made clear, as is the Son’s identity as the co-creator at the time when God said “Let us make man.”8  Consistent with the words of Christ to the Brother of Jared,9  we learn that man was created in the image of the Only Begotten, which is equated to being created in God’s own image.10  Apart from these important points, the structure and basic premises of the Genesis account of the Creation were left intact.

That said, in reading the description of the seven days of Creation and the layout of the Garden of Eden, there seems to be more than meets the eye—including hints of temple themes. Can some of the enigmas of the Creation accounts be resolved through an understanding of the architecture of the Israelite temples? I believe so.

Differences Among the Four Basic Creation Stories

The Latter-day Saints have four basic Creation stories — found in Genesis, the Book of Moses, the Book of Abraham, and the temple. In contrast to latter two accounts that emphasize the planning of the heavenly council and the work involved in setting the cosmological, geological, and biological processes in motion, the companion accounts of Genesis and the Book of Moses seem deliberately designed to relate the heavenly creation of the universe to the layout of the physical temple on earth. In addition, as we will see in a later essay,11  careful study of the first chapters of Genesis and the Book of Moses also reveals that not only the Creation, but also the Garden of Eden provided a model for the architecture of the temple.

The day-by-day description found in Genesis and the Book of Moses seem to have been deliberately shaped to highlight a step-by-step correspondence between the creation of each element of the universe and the architecture and furnishings of the Tabernacle and later Israelite temples. Understanding these parallels helps explain why, for example, in seeming contradiction to scientific understanding,12  the description of the creation of the sun and moon appears after, rather than before, the creation of light and of the earth. In Genesis and the Book of Moses, conveying the spiritual truths of how heavenly realities are symbolically reflected in earthly temples takes precedence over the scientific truths of how the Creation unfolded in physical processes over long time periods.

With this in mind, it becomes clear that the Genesis and Book of Moses creation accounts should not be quickly dismissed as naïve and outdated pre-scientific cosmology. Rather, they should be read as sophisticated reflections of temple theology. While relevant to ancient Israelite tradition, they are also of special interest to Latter-day Saint temple goers.

The Days of Creation and Temple Architecture

Building on threads in Jewish tradition, Old Testament scholar Margaret Barker suggests that the architecture of the tabernacle and ancient Israelite temples is modeled on Moses’ vision of the creation.13  In this view, the results of each day of Creation are symbolically reflected in temple furnishings. For example, the light of day one of Creation might be understood as the glory of God and those who dwelled with Him in the celestial world prior to their mortal birth. According to this logic, the temple veil that divided the temple Holy of Holies from the Holy Place would symbolize the “firmament” that was created to separate the heavens from the earth in its original, terrestrial state.14

A closer look at the word “firmament” in Hebrew confirms this interpretation as plausible. Joseph Smith translated Abraham 4:6 as “expanse” instead of “firmament.” The Prophet’s choice of the word “expanse” seems to have been based on the Hebrew grammar book that he used during his study of Hebrew in Kirtland.15  According to biblical scholar Nahum Sarna: “The verbal form [of the Hebrew term] is often used for hammering out metal or flattening out earth, which suggests a basic meaning of ‘extending.’”16  This could well apply to the idea of the spreading out of a curtain or veil. In light of correspondences between the story of Creation in Genesis and the making of the Tabernacle in Exodus, the concept of the firmament as a veil merits further study as a contrasting alternative to other biblical descriptions where it is clearly understood (misunderstood?) as a solid dome.17

Figure 2. Michael P. Lyon, 1952-: The Days of Creation and the Temple, 1994

Louis Ginzberg’s reconstruction of ancient Jewish sources is consistent with this overall idea,18  as well as with the suggestion of several scholars that a narrative of the Creation story something like Genesis 1 may have been used within temple ceremonies in ancient Israel:19

[1] God told the angels: On the first day of creation, I shall make the heavens and stretch them out; so will Israel raise up the tabernacle as the dwelling place of my Glory.20

[2] On the second day I shall put a division between the terrestrial waters21  and the heavenly waters, so will [my servant Moses] hang up a veil in the tabernacle to divide the Holy Place and the Most Holy.22

[3] On the third day I shall make the earth to put forth grass and herbs; so will he, in obedience to my commands, … prepare shewbread before me.23

[4] On the fourth day I shall make the luminaries;24  so he will stretch out a golden candlestick [menorah] before me.25

[5] On the fifth day I shall create the birds; so he will fashion the cherubim with outstretched wings.26

[6] On the sixth day I shall create man; so will Israel set aside a man from the sons of Aaron as high priest for my service.27

Carrying this idea forward to a later time, Exodus 40:33 describes how Moses completed the Tabernacle. The Hebrew text exactly parallels the account of how God finished creation.28  Genesis Rabbah comments on the significance of this parallel: “It is as if, on that day [i.e., the day the Tabernacle was raised in the wilderness], I actually created the world.” 29 With this idea in mind, Hugh Nibley famously called the temple “a scale-model of the universe.”30

The idea that the process of creation provides a model for subsequent temple building and ritual31  is found elsewhere in the ancient Near East. For example, this is made explicit in Hugh Nibley’s reading of the first, second, and sixth lines of the Babylonian creation story, Enuma Elish: “At once above when the heavens had not yet received their name and the earth below was not yet named … the most inner sanctuary of the temple … had not yet been built.”32  Consistent with this reading, the account goes on to tell how the god Ea founded his sanctuary (1:77),33  after having “established his dwelling” (1:71), “vanquished and trodden down his foes” (1:73), and “rested” in his “sacred chamber” (1:75).

Conclusion

Understanding the similitude that the account of Moses makes between the days of Creation and the temple explains its divergences from strictly scientific accounts. This temple symbolism in Creation will also be essential in understanding the layout of the Garden of Eden and the events of the Fall. Temple-going Latter-day Saints are in the best position of any living group to interpret these stories in their original context.

 

This article is adapted and updated from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. “The LDS book of Enoch as the culminating story of a temple text.” BYU Studies 53, no. 1 (2014): 39–73. http://www.templethemes.net/publications/140224-a-Bradshaw.pdf, pp. 47-50. (accessed September 19, 2017).

Further Reading

Bailey, David H., Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, John H. Lewis, Gregory L. Smith, and Michael L. Stark, eds. Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, and Man. Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposia 1. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016. www.templethemes.net.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. www.templethemes.net, pp. 83-84, 97-98, 104.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Temple Themes in the Book of Moses. 2014 update ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2014. www.tempelethemes.net, pp. 54-55.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. “The LDS book of Enoch as the culminating story of a temple text.” BYU Studies 53, no. 1 (2014): 39–73. http://www.templethemes.net/publications/140224-a-Bradshaw.pdf, pp. 47-50. (accessed September 19, 2017).

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 177-236.

References

Alexander, T. Desmond. From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2008.

Augustine. d. 430. St. Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis. New ed. Ancient Christian Writers 41 and 42. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1982.

Bailey, David H., Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, John H. Lewis, Gregory L. Smith, and Michael L. Stark, eds. Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, and Man. Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposia 1. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016.

Barker, Margaret. “Atonement: The rite of healing.” Scottish Journal of Theology 49, no. 1 (1996): 1-20. http://www.abdn.ac.uk/~div054/sjt. (accessed August 3).

———. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Which God Gave to Him to Show to His Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation 1.1). Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 2000.

———. “The veil as the boundary.” In The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, edited by Margaret Barker, 202-28. London, England: T & T Clark, 2003.

———. E-mail message to Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, June 11, 2007.

———. The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 2007.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/download/140123IGIL12014ReadingS.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and David J. Larsen. Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel. In God’s Image and Likeness 2. Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014. hhttps://archive.org/download/131203ImageAndLikeness2ReadingS.

Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs. 1906. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.

Brown, William P. The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Cassuto, Umberto. 1944. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Vol. 1: From Adam to Noah. Translated by Israel Abrahams. 1st English ed. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1998.

Driver, Samuel Rolles. The Book of Exodus. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, ed. A. F. Kirkpatrick. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1911. https://archive.org/details/bookofexodusinre00driv/. (accessed August 31, 2020).

Flake, Kathleen. “Translating time: The nature and function of Joseph Smith’s narrative canon.” Journal of Religion 87, no. 4 (October 2007): 497-527. http://www.vanderbilt.edu/divinity/facultynews/Flake%20Translating%20Time.pdf. (accessed February 22, 2009).

Fletcher-Louis, Crispin H. T. All the Glory of Adam: Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

———. 2002. The Cosmology of P and Theological Anthropology in the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira. In Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism, eds. Alexander Golitzin and Andrei A. Orlov. http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/Sirach1.pdf , http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/Sirach2.pdf. (accessed July 2, 2010).

Ginzberg, Louis, ed. The Legends of the Jews. 7 vols. Translated by Henrietta Szold and Paul Radin. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909-1938. Reprint, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Grey, Matthew J. “Approaching Egyptian papyri through biblical language.” In Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, edited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, Michael Hubbard MacKay and Brian M. Hauglid, 390-451. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press, 2020.

Hahn, Scott W. “Christ, Kingdom, and Creation: Davidic Christology and Ecclesiology in Luke-Acts.” Letter and Spirit 3 (2007): 167-90. http://www.scotthahn.com/download/attachment/1931. (accessed July 2).

Hodges, Horace Jeffery. “Milton’s muse as brooding dove: Unstable image on a chaos of sources.” Milton Studies of Korea 12, no. 2 (2002): 365-92. http://memes.or.kr/sources/%C7%D0%C8%B8%C1%F6/%B9%D0%C5%CF%BF%AC%B1%B8/12-2/11.Hodges.pdf. (accessed August 25, 2007).

Josephus, Flavius. 37-ca. 97. “The Antiquities of the Jews.” In The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish Historian. Translated from the Original Greek, according to Havercamp’s Accurate Edition. Translated by William Whiston, 23-426. London, England: W. Bowyer, 1737. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1980.

Kearney, Peter J. “Creation and liturgy: The P redaction of Exodus 25-40.” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 89, no. 3 (1977): 375-87.

Leder, Arie C. “The coherenece of Exodus: Narrative unity and meaning.” Calvin Theologcal Journal 36 (2001): 251-69. http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/02-exodus/Text/Articles/Leder-ExodusCoherence-CTJ.pdf. (accessed July 2).

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Milton, John. 1667. “Paradise Lost.” In Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, edited by Harold Bloom, 15-257. London, England: Collier, 1962.

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Nibley, Hugh W. “Meanings and functions of temples.” In Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow. 4 vols. Vol. 4, 1458-63. New York City, NY: Macmillan, 1992. http://www.lib.byu.edu/Macmillan/. (accessed November 26).

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———. 1980. “Before Adam.” In Old Testament and Related Studies, edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum and Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 1, 49-85. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1986.

———. 1986. “Return to the temple.” In Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, edited by Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 12, 42-90. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992. https://mi.byu.edu/book/temple-and-cosmos/. (accessed August 21, 2020).

———. 1986. Teachings of the Pearl of Great Price. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), Brigham Young University, 2004.

———. 1986. “The greatness of Egypt.” In Eloquent Witness: Nibley on Himself, Others, and the Temple, edited by Stephen D. Ricks. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 17, 271-311. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2008.

Parry, Donald W. “Garden of Eden: Prototype sanctuary.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry, 126-51. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?filename=8&article=1075&context=mi&type=additional. (accessed August 25, 2020).

Polen, Nehemia. “Leviticus and Hebrews… and Leviticus.” In The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, edited by Richard Bauckham, Daniel R. Driver, Trevor A. Hart and Nathan MacDonald, 213-25. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009. http://books.google.com/books?id=N_jDnh8qMFMC. (accessed July 2).

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Ri, Andreas Su-Min. Commentaire de la Caverne des Trésors: Étude sur l’Histoire du Texte et de ses Sources. Vol. Supplementary Volume 103. Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 581. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2000.

Ricks, Stephen D. “Liturgy and cosmogony: The ritual use of creation accounts in the ancient Near East.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry, 118-25. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994.

Sarna, Nahum M., ed. Genesis. The JPS Torah Commentary, ed. Nahum M. Sarna. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Seixas, Joshua. A Manual of Hebrew Grammar for the Use of Beginners. Second enlarged and improved ed. Andover, MA: Gould and Newman, 1834. Reprint, Facsimile Edition. Salt Lake City, UT: Sunstone Foundation, 1981. https://books.google.com/books/about/A_manual_Hebrew_grammar_for_the_use_of_b.html?id=fN1GAAAAMAAJ. (accessed August 31, 2020).

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Smith, Mark S. The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.

Speiser, Ephraim A. “The Creation Epic (Enuma Elish).” In Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B. Pritchard. 3rd with Supplement ed, 60-72, 501-03. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Tullidge, Edward W. 1877. The Women of Mormondom. New York City, NY: n.p., 1997.

Walton, John H. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.

———. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009.

———. Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011.

Weinfeld, Moshe. “Sabbath, temple and the enthronement of the Lord: The problem of Sitz im Leben of Genesis 1:1-2:3.” In Mélanges bibliques et orientaux en l’honneur de M. Henri Cazelles, edited by André Caquot and Mathias Delcor. Alter Orient und Altes Testament 212, 502-12. Kevelaer: Butzon and Bercker, 1981.

Young, Brigham. 1876. “Personal revelation the basis of personal knowledge; philosophic view of Creation; apostasy involves disorganization and returns to primitive element; one man power (Discourse by Brigham Young, delivered in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Sunday Afternoon, September 17, 1876).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 18, 230-35. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. https://www.wikiart.org/en/m-c-escher/the-1st-day-of-the-creation (accessed August 31, 2020).

Figure 2. Adapted from a drawing published in D. W. Parry, Garden, pp. 134–135. With permission of the illustrator.

Footnotes

 

1 Moses 2:2.

2 See U. Cassuto, Adam to Noah, p. 25. Genesis Rabbah captures the spirit of this interpretation: “The spirit of God hovered like a bird which is flying about and flapping its wings, and the wings barely touch [the nest]” (J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 2:4, p. 25).

“The basic idea of the [verb] stem is vibration, movement (see its use in, e.g., Jeremiah 23:9). Hitherto all is static, lifeless, immobile. Motion, which is the essential element in change, originates with God’s dynamic presence” (N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p 7).

3 Matthew 23:37. Cf. Luke 13:343 Nephi 10:5–6; Doctrine and Covenants 10:65; 29:2; 43:24.

4 Abraham 4:2. The change to “brooding” consistent with Joshua Seixas’ Hebrew grammar book studied by Joseph Smith in Kirtland (J. Seixas, Manual, p. 31-18). Milton interpreted the passage similarly in Paradise Lost, drawing from images such as the dove sent out by Noah (Genesis 8:6-12), the dove at Jesus’ baptism (John 1:32) and a hen protectively covering her young with her wing (Luke 13:34): “[T]hou from the first Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread Dovelike satst brooding on the vast abyss And mad’st it pregnant” (J. Milton, Paradise Lost, 1:19-22, p. 16. Cf. Augustine, Literal, 18:36; A. S.-M. Ri, Commentaire de la Caverne, pp. 113-115). “Brooding” enjoys rich connotations, including, as Nibley observes, not only “to sit or incubate [eggs] for the purpose of hatching” but also “‘to dwell continuously on a subject.’ Brooding is just the right word—a quite long quiet period of preparation in which apparently nothing was happening. Something was to come out of the water, incubating, waiting—a long, long time” (H. W. Nibley, Before Adam, p. 69).

5 Some commentators emphatically deny any connection of the Hebrew term with the concept of “brooding” (U. Cassuto, Adam to Noah, pp. 24-25). However, the “brooding” interpretation is not only attested by a Syriac cognate (F. Brown et al., Lexicon, 7363, p. 934b), but also has a venerable history, going back at least to Rashi who spoke specifically of the relationship between the dove and its nest. In doing so, he referred to the Old French term acoveter, related both to the modern French couver (from Latin cubare—to brood and protect) and couvrir (from Latin cooperire—to cover completely). Intriguingly, this latter sense is related to the Hebrew term for the atonement, kippur (M. Barker, Atonement; A. Rey, Dictionnaire, 1:555).

Margaret Barker admits the possibility of a subtle wordplay in examining the reversal of consonantal sounds between “brood/hover” and “atone”: “The verb for ‘hover’ is rchp, the middle letter is cheth, and the verb for ‘atone’ is kpr, the initial letter being a kaph, which had a similar sound. The same three consonantal sounds could have been word play, rchp/kpr. Such things did happen” (M. Barker, June 11 2007) “There is sound play like this in the temple style (see M. Barker, Hidden, pp. 15-17). The best known example is Isaiah 5:7, where justice and righteousness sound like bloodshed and cry” (M. Barker, June 11 2007). In this admittedly speculative interpretation, one might see an image of God figuratively “hovering/ atoning” over the singularity of the inchoate universe, prior to the dividing and separating process that was initiated by the first acts of Creation. See H. J. Hodges, Dovefor a cogent analysis of Milton’s sources and of general Hebrew-to-English translation issues. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Commentary 1:1-b, p. 42 and 4:5-b, p. 246.

6 With respect to “certain generalizations shared by Roman, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians,” Kathleen Flake notes two major differences with Latter-day Saint doctrine: “(1) the world was created from nothing and constituted an expression of God’s absolute goodness; hence, (2) humans, as created beings, are ontologically unrelated to God and brought evil into being by their action.… In [Joseph] Smith’s redaction of Genesis, people—as uncreated children of God—come first, and the world later” (K. Flake, Translating Time, pp. 510, 511-512). Flake observes that in LDS thought “God’s goodness and sovereignty is measured by the power to redeem human agents in extremis, not the power to create them ex nihilo” (ibid., p. 514).

7 Moses 2:1.

8 Moses 2:26

9 Ether 3:15

10 Moses 2:27.

11 See Essay #55

12 With respect to the creation accounts in scripture, the Latter-day Saints have avoided some of the serious clashes with science that have troubled other religious traditions. For example, we have no serious quarrel with the concept of a very old earth whose “days” of creation seem to have been of very long, overlapping, and varying duration (Alma 40:8; B. R. McConkie, Christ and the Creation, p. 11; B. Young, 17 September 1876, p. 23). Joseph Smith is remembered as having taught that the heavenly bodies were created prior to the earth, asserting that “… the starry hosts were worlds and suns and universes, some of which had being millions of ages before the earth had physical form” (E. W. Tullidge, Women, p. 178). For detailed discussions of the Book of Moses creation account, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 82-131. For additional discussion of science and Mormonism, see D. H. Bailey et al., Science and Mormonism 1.

13 M. Barker, Revelation, pp. 24-25; M. Barker, Hidden, p. 18. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 146-149. Of course, the temple-centric view of the Pentateuch is not the exclusive model of Creation presented in the Bible, as scholars such as Brown and Smith explain (W. P. Brown, Seven Pillars; M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision).

14 See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 104.

15 J. Seixas, Manual, p. 21:10. See the discussion in M. J. Grey, Approaching Egyptian Papyri, pp. 420-424.

16 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 8.

17 From this perspective, Enoch’s description in Moses 7:30 is particularly intriguing: “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there” (emphasis added).

Note that the Israelite temple veil was replete with cosmic and creation symbols (M. Barker, Boundary). Materially, the temple veil was a “curtain” like the other curtains used for the Tabernacle, consistent with the NET Bible translation of “veil” as “special curtain” in Exodus 26:31. The translators note that the difference between the veil and other curtains is primarily functional: “The word פָרֹכֶת (pārōkhet) seems to be connected with a verb that means ‘to shut off’ and was used with a shrine. This curtain would form a barrier in the approach to God (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 26:31, p. 289)” (NET Bible, NET Bible, Exodus 26:31, n. 38).

References in Exodus 24:10, Job 6:13; 37:18, and Ezekiel 1:22, 25, 26 describe the “firmament” as a polished dome, somewhat like smoothly hammered metal (Jeremiah 10:9) or sapphire. The concept of the firmament as a solid dome is also supported by references that describe heavenly “waters” literally as “water,” thus the need to fit the sky with “windows” that could open and close as needed for rainfall (e.g., Genesis 7:11, 8:2; Malachi 3:10). However, some late Jewish traditions put forth the idea that in some Creation contexts it may have referred to what Latter-day Saints would call “unorganized matter” (see e.g., J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 98).

18 L. Ginzberg, Legends, 1:51. See also W. P. Brown, Seven Pillars, pp. 40-41; P. J. Kearney, Creation; C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Cosmology of P, pp. 10-11. According to Walton, “the courtyard represented the cosmic spheres outside of the organized cosmos (sea and pillars). The antechamber held the representations of lights and food. The veil separated the heavens and earth — the place of God’s presence from the place of human habitation” (J. H. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, p. 82).

Note that in this conception of creation the focus is not on the origins of the raw materials used to make the universe, but rather their fashioning into a structure providing a useful purpose. The key insight, according to Walton, is that: “people in the ancient world believed that something existed not by virtue of its material proportion, but by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system… Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not ‘exist’ if it has not become functional. … The ancient world viewed the cosmos more like a company or kingdom” that comes into existence at the moment it is organized, not when the people who participate it were created materially (ibid., pp. 26, 35; cf. J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 5 January 1841, p. 181, Abraham 4:1).

Walton continues:

It has long been observed that in the contexts of bara’ [the Hebrew term translated “create”] no materials for the creative act are ever mentioned, and an investigation of all the passages mentioned above substantiate that claim. How interesting it is that these scholars then draw the conclusion that bara’ implies creation out of nothing (ex nihilo). One can see with a moment of thought that such a conclusion assumes that “create” is a material activity. To expand their reasoning for clarity’s sake here: Since “create” is a material activity (assumed on their part), and since the contexts never mention the materials used (as demonstrated by the evidence), then the material object must have been brought into existence without using other materials (i.e., out of nothing). But one can see that the whole line of reasoning only works if one can assume that bara’ is a material activity. In contrast, if, as the analysis of objects presented above suggests, bara’ is a functional activity, it would be ludicrious to expect that materials are being used in the activity. In other words, the absence of reference to materials, rather than suggesting material creation out of nothing, is better explained as indication that bara’ is not a material activity but a functional one (J. H. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, pp. 43-44).

In summary, the evidence … from the Old Testament as well as from the ancient Near East suggests that both defined the pre-creation state in similar terms and as featuring an absence of functions rather than an absence of material. Such information supports the idea that their concept of existence was linked to functionality and that creation was an activity of bringing functionality to a nonfunctional condition rather than bringing material substance to a situation in which matter was absent. The evidence of matter (the waters of the deep in Genesis 1:2) in the precreation state then supports this view” (ibid., p. 53).

19 E.g., M. Weinfeld, Sabbath, pp. 508-510; S. D. Ricks, Liturgy; P. J. Kearney, Creation; J. Morrow, Creation.

20 Exodus 40:17-19.

21 Jewish commentators have sometimes taken the term “waters” in the creation account to refer generally to the matter out of which all things were created. For a discussion and sources, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 98.

22 Exodus 40:20-21.

23 Exodus 12:8, 25:30.

24 For a discussion how the notion of “priestly time” is reflected in the story of the creation of the luminaries, see M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision, pp. 93-94, 97-98.

25 Exodus 25:31-40, 37:17-24.

26 Exodus 25:18-22, 37:6-9.

27 See Exodus 40:12-15. See also M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision, pp. 98-102. “Through Genesis 1 we come to understand that God has given us a privileged role in the functioning of His cosmic temple. He has tailored the world to our needs, not to His (for He has no needs). It is His place, but it is designed for us and we are in relationship with Him” (J. H. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, p. 149).

28 Moses 3:1. See J. D. Levenson, Temple and World, p. 287; A. C. Leder, Coherence, p. 267; J. Morrow, Creation. Levenson also cites Blenkinsopp’s thesis of a triadic structure in the priestly concept of world history that described the “creation of the world,” the “construction of the sanctuary,” and “the establishment of the sanctuary in the land and the distribution of the land among the tribes” in similar, and sometimes identical language. Thus, as Polen reminds us, “the purpose of the Exodus from Egypt is not so that the Israelites could enter the Promised Land, as many other biblical passages have it. Rather it is theocentric: so that God might abide with Israel. … This limns a narrative arc whose apogee is reached not in the entry into Canaan at the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Joshua, but in the dedication day of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 9-10) when God’s Glory — manifest Presence — makes an eruptive appearance to the people (Leviticus 9:23-24)” (N. Polen, Leviticus, p. 216).

In another correspondence between these events, Mark Smith notes a variation on the first Hebrew word of Genesis (bere’shit) and the description used in Ezekiel 45:18 for the first month of a priestly offering (bari’shon): “‘Thus said the Lord: ‘In the beginning (month) on the first (day) of the month, you shall take a bull of the herd without blemish, and you shall cleanse the sanctuary.’ What makes this verse particularly relevant for our discussion of bere’shit is that ri’shon occurs in close proximity to ’ehad, which contextually designates ‘(day) one’ that is ‘the first day’ of the month. This combination of ‘in the beginning’ (bari’shon) with ‘(day) one’ (yom ’ehad) is reminiscent of ‘in beginning of’ (bere’shit) in Genesis 1:1 and ‘day one’ (yom ’ehad) in Genesis 1:5” (M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision, p. 47).

Hahn notes the same correspondences to the creation of the cosmos in the building of Solomon’s Temple (S. W. Hahn, Christ, Kingdom, pp. 176-177; cf. J. Morrow, Creation; J. D. Levenson, Temple and World, pp. 283-284; C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Glory, pp. 62-65; M. Weinfeld, Sabbath, pp. 506, 508):

As creation takes seven days, the Temple takes seven years to build (1 Kings 6:38). It is dedicated during the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles (1 Kings 8:2), and Solomon’s solemn dedication speech is built on seven petitions (1 Kings 8:31-53). As God capped creation by “resting” on the seventh day, the Temple is built by a “man of rest” (1 Chronicles 22:9) to be a “house of rest” for the Ark, the presence of the Lord (1 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Chronicles 6:41; Psalm 132:8, 13-14; Isaiah 66:1).

When the Temple is consecrated, the furnishings of the older Tabernacle are brought inside it. (R. E. Friedman suggests the entire Tabernacle was brought inside). This represents the fact that all the Tabernacle was, the Temple has become. Just as the construction of the Tabernacle of the Sinai covenant had once recapitulated creation, now the Temple of the Davidic covenant recapitulated the same. The Temple is a microcosm of creation, the creation a macro-temple.

29 J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 3:9, p. 35.

30 H. W. Nibley, Meaning of Temple, pp. 14-15; cf. H. W. Nibley, Greatness, p. 301; T. D. Alexander, From Eden, pp. 37-42. Speaking of the temple and its furnishings, Josephus wrote that each item was “made in way of imitation and representation of the universe” (F. Josephus, Antiquities, 3:7:7, p. 75). Levenson has suggested that the temple in Jerusalem may have been called by the name “Heaven and Earth,” paralleling similar names given to other Near East temples (see J. H. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One, pp. 180-181 n. 12).

31 H. W. Nibley, Return, pp. 71–73. See also J. H. Walton, Ancient, pp. 123–127; H. W. Nibley, Meanings and Functions, pp. 1460–1461; S. D. Ricks, Liturgy. For more on the structure and function of the story of Creation found in Genesis 1 and arguably used in Israelite temple liturgy, see J. H. Walton, Lost World of Genesis One; M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision. W. P. Brown, Seven Pillars provides perspectives on other biblical accounts of creation. See J. H. Walton, Genesis 1, pp. 17–22 for a useful table that highlights similarities and differences among creation accounts in the ancient Near East. Cf. W. P. Brown, Seven Pillars, pp. 21–32.

32 H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, p. 122. The term giparu, rendered by Nibley as “inner sanctuary” (ibid., p. 122; compare E. A. Speiser, Creation Epic, 1:1, 2 6b, pp. 60–61), has been translated variously in this context by others as “bog,” “marsh,” or “reed hut.” The latter term more accurately conveys the idea of an enclosure housing the sanctuary or residence of the en(t)u priest(ess) of the temple. For more about the temple connotation of the Babylonian reed hut and its significance for the story of the flood in the Bible and other ancient flood accounts, see J. M. Bradshaw et al., God’s Image 2, pp. 216-221.

33 See E. A. Speiser, Creation Epic, p. 61 n. 4.

Chiasmus in Moses 1

Book of Moses Essay #45

Moses 1

With contribution of Mark J. Johnson

This Essay examines the ancient literary form of chiasmus within Moses 1. Chiasmus includes “several types of inverted parallelisms, short or long, in which words first appear in one order and then in the opposite order.”1

In contrast to earlier discussions, recent studies of chiasmus have increasingly focused on its purpose and function. Scholars have relied on chiasmus to identify textual boundaries, to account for repetitions within a literary unit, to discover a composition’s main theme and as a marker for textual unity.

Here, we will focus on two of these aspects: First, we will look at chiasmus as a structuring device and second, as an indicator of textual units.

Chiasmus as a Structuring Device

Concentric structuring. Moses 1 can be structured as three scenes arranged in a concentric pattern. Moses’ face-to-face encounters with God provide a frame for the confrontation between Moses and Satan:

A  Moses in the presence of God (1:1-11)

   B  Confrontation between Moses and Satan (1:12-22)

A  Moses in the presence of God (1:23-2:1)

The contest against Satan completes a tripartite structure which is folded between the ascent accounts. Satan’s sudden arrival, temptation of Moses and expulsion is a natural hinge for the following concentric arrangement:

Moses 1:1-2:1

A  The word of God, which he spoke unto Moses upon an exceeding high mountain (1)

  B  Endless is God’s name (3)

    C  God’s work and his glory (4)

      D  The Lord has a work for Moses

        E  Moses is in the similitude of the Only Begotten (6)

          F  Moses beholds the world and the ends thereof (7-8)

            G  The presence of God withdraws from Moses (9)

              H  Man, in his natural strength, is nothing (10)

                I  Moses beheld God with his spiritual eyes (11)

 

                  J  Satan came tempting him (12)

                    K  Moses’ response to Satan (13-15)

                      L  Moses commands Satan to depart (16-18)

                        M  Satan ranted upon the earth (19)

                          N  Moses began to fear

                            O  Moses called upon God

                          N Moses received strength (20)

                        M Satan began to tremble and the earth shook

                      L Moses cast Satan out in the name of the Only Begotten (21)

                    K Satan cried with weeping and wailing

                  JSatan departs from Moses (22)

 

                I Moses lifted up his eyes unto heaven (23-24)

              H Moses is made stronger than many waters

            G Moses beheld Gods glory again (25)

          F Moses is shown the heavens and the earth (27-31)

        ECreation by the Only Begotten (32-33)

  BGods works and words are endless (38)

    CGods work and his glory (39)

      DMoses to write the words of God (40-41)

A The Lord spoke unto Moses concerning the heaven and earth (Moses 2:1)

The author’s use of chiasmus as a structuring device is significant on many levels. Most importantly, it uses the center of the structure to highlight the theme of this chapter. Moses calling upon God and being strengthened by him is the turning point. After that, everything changes. Moses is able to overcome this trial by Satan and then return to the presence of the Lord to speak with him face to face. The instruction and blessings Moses receives at the end of the chapter are greater than what he received at the beginning of the chapter.2

The structure of the chapter dictates that the second half of the chapter is very closely related to the first half. The parallels are striking. The two divine encounters of the author tightly frame this epic battle with Satan at the center of the chiasm and the turning point of the story being Moses calling upon God and being strengthened. Dan Belnap elaborates that, “The differences between the two encounters will reflect the new understandings of the vision Moses gains through his confrontation with the adversary.”3

One of Nils Lund’s laws of chiasmus demonstrates that the center of the chiasm often has a parallel theme in the outer portion of the arrangement as well.4   The center of the arrangement has Moses being strengthened. This theme of strength occurs in verse 10 and later in verse 25. Perhaps the most interesting parallel is the pairing with the oft quoted Moses 1:39, where God’s work and glory is explained, with its counterpart in verse 5. Verse 39, when seen as an expansion of verse 5, gives God’s work and glory a cosmic context that places humankind as a higher priority than all the rest of creation.

It is also important to note that the boundaries of this literary unit go beyond the current chapter limits of our published Book of Moses and stretch into chapter two. The significance of this will be discussed below.

Smaller chiastic structures. Wayne Larsen5  has proposed that the description of God’s “work and glory” in verse 39 forms a chiastic bookend with God’s statement in Moses 1:31-32: “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me. And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.”

Moses 1:31-39

a God’s purpose (verse 31)

            b Worlds without number / worlds pass away (32-34)

                        c Only an account of this earth (35)

                        c’ Moses accepts an account of only this earth (36)

            b’ Heavens cannot be numbered / heavens pass away (37-38)

a’ God’s purpose (39)Small gems like this indicate the careful way in which the English text was crafted.

Bipartite structuring. One of the strange things about the detailed structure of Moses 1 as a whole is a seemingly intrusive verse near the middle of the chapter that commands Moses not to share certain parts of his account with unbelievers. However, once the bipartite structure of the chapter is recognized, the seeming intrusion makes perfect sense.

Moses 1:1-41

A  Moses is caught up to see God (1)

B     God declares himself as the Almighty (3)

C        God is without beginning of days or end of years (3)

D           Moses beholds the world (7)

E              Moses beholds the children of men (8)

F                 Moses sees the face of God (11)

G                   Moses to worship the Only Begotten (17)

H                      Moses bore record of this, but due to wickedness, it shall not be had among the children of men (23)

A’ Moses beholds God’s glory (24-25)

B’    God declares himself the as Almighty (25)

C’       God to be with Moses until the end of his days (26)

D’          Moses beholds the earth (27)

E’             Moses beholds the earth’s inhabitants (28)

F’                Moses sees the face of God (31)

G’                  Creation through the Only Begotten (33)

H’                     Moses to write the words of God, but they shall be taken away (41)

Guiding the reader. The use of chiasmus in Moses 1 also serves as a rhetorical purpose to guide the reader along the journey the narrator has created. This structural form is appropriate for when the flood rises and falls, for times when the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and when things that are lost are to be restored. Or for when a prophet is caught up to God and then returned. The chiastic pattern rhetorically reflects the narrative direction of the unit.

Consider this example from the first ascent in the first verses of Moses 1. Here the author ends the ascent in a mirror image of the way it began:

Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain

   Moses saw God face to face, and he talked with him

      The glory of God was upon Moses

         Moses could endure his presence. (Moses 1:1-2)

         The presence of God withdrew from Moses.

      God’s glory was not upon Moses.

   Moses was left unto himself.

Moses fell unto the earth. (Moses 1:9)

The ending in verse nine mirrors the introduction in verses 1-2. This gives the audience an abrupt ending to the ascent, almost as if the reader tripped and fell down these steps, not unlike Moses falling to the earth. The phrases used by the author in verse nine are abrupt and to the point, hurrying the pace of the narrative.

With such rhetorical effect in the text, it is easy to see that Hugh Nibley has correctly referred to Moses 1 as a “literary tour de force”.6

Chiasmus as a Tool in Text Criticism

Another way that chiasmus can be used is an indicator of textual unity. If a structural device is employed in the text, it can be argued that the author or editor who was responsible for the first part of the text was also responsible for the rest of the structure. If the additions by the JST are found embedded in such structures, it is reasonable to view those as a restoration of a pre-existing text.

Consider this example from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST). In Mark 9:13, Jesus answers a question from Peter, James and John about Elijah (Elias in the KJV). The additions made in the JST continue the response of the Savior with a few additional details. Note that the text added in the JST revision of the verses is italicized.

Mark 9:13 (JST)

But I say unto you
a. that Elias is indeed come
   b. and they have done unto him
        whatsoever they listed
      c as it is written of him
      c’ and he bore record of me
   b’ and they received him not.
a’ Verily, this was Elias.

The fact that this addition to the text makes a complete chiastic unit is evidence that the added material may be a restoration of a once original text. The presence of the chiastic structure fits the observations of Francis I. Anderson who noted, “Some editor has put together scraps of … the same story with scissors and paste, and yet has achieved a result which from the point of view of discourse grammar, looks as if it has been made out of whole cloth.”7  Once the chiastic structure of the verse is recognized, the addition by the Prophet Joseph Smith to the New Testament text appears to read as whole cloth.

This notion of narrative structures in the text as indicators of a prophetic restoration has application to Moses 1. The end of Moses 1 contains an injunction from the Lord to Moses to write his words, which is carried through to Moses 2. Kent Jackson notes that in the transition between chapters, “[the words of Moses 2] do not give the impression of having been written to stand at the head of a new document, but to continue the texts that precede them.”8  This flow of the words invites a look for literary features. Here we find a connecting link between these two separate revelations in the form of a small chiasm.9   The earlier revelation of Moses 1 is presented in regular type while the separate revelation that begins the next chapters (Moses 2) is in italics.

Moses 1:40-2:1

a  …this earth upon which thou standest

     b  write the words which I shall speak. (40)

          c  And in a day when the children of men

               d  shall esteem my words as naught

                    e  and take many of them from the book which thou shall write,

                         f  behold, I will raise up another

                         f like unto thee

                    e and they shall be had again

          c among the children of men

               d as many as shall believe. (41)

     b  …write the words which I speak

aand the earth upon which thou standest. (2:1)

Note that verse 42 has been left out of the arrangement as it is a parenthetical aside from the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith and is not part of the vision itself.10  The presence of chiasmus in these verses link these two revelations together suggesting a deliberate textual unit. The words “earth upon which thou standest” act as an inclusio demarcating the limits of the segment.

The use of chiasmus to demonstrate the fabric of the text and show possible tampering has also been used cautiously by Bart D. Ehrman. He wisely notes: “Such probabilities cannot be overlooked, even if they do not prove decisive in and of themselves.”11

If a narrative structure contains elements from both the JST and the extant biblical text, it strongly suggests a textual unity between the two.12

Conclusion

The study of chiasmus in Moses chapter 1 reveals a carefully constructed literary masterwork.

In addition to testifying to the antiquity of Moses 1, chiasmus serves as an important tool for understanding the textual fabric of the Book of Moses and may indicate passages where the JST additions are carefully woven into the biblical text.

Further Reading

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘And They Shall Be Had Again’: Onomastic Allusions to Joseph in Moses 1:41 in View of the So-called Canon Formula.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 32 (2019): 297-304. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/and-they-shall-be-had-again-onomastic-allusions-to-joseph-in-moses-141-in-view-of-the-so-called-canon-formula/. (accessed July 20, 2020).

Johnson, Mark J. “The lost prologue: Reading Moses Chapter One as an Ancient Text.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 36 (2020): 145-86. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-lost-prologue-reading-moses-chapter-one-as-an-ancient-text/. (accessed June 5, 2020).

Rappleye, Neal. “Chiasmus criteria in review.” BYU Studies Quarterly 59, no. Supplement containing the papers from the Chiasmus Jubilee Conference at BYU, August 15-16, 2017, sponsored by Book of Mormon Central and BYU Studies. John w. Welch and Donald W. Parry, eds. (2020): 289-309. https://www.byustudies.byu.edu/content/chiasmus-criteria-review. (accessed August 17, 2020).

References

Andersen, Francis I. The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew. The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton, 1974.

Belnap, Daniel. “‘Where is thy glory’: Moses 1, the nature of truth, and the plan of salvation.” Religious Educator 10, no. 2 (2009): 163-79. https://rsc.byu.edu/sites/default/files/pub_content/pdf/Where_Is_Thy_Glory_Moses_1_the_Nature_of_Truth_and_the_Plan_of_Salvation.pdf. (accessed August 17, 2020).

Berman, Joshua A. Inconsistency in the Torah: Ancient Literary Convention and the Limits of Source Criticism. New York City, NY: Oxford University Press, 2017. https://www.scribd.com/document/439395392/Joshua-A-Berman-Inconsistency-in-the-Torah-Ancient-Literary-Convention-and-the-Limits-of-Source-Criticism-2017-Oxford-University-Press. (accessed August 8, 2020).

Bowen, Matthew L. “‘And They Shall Be Had Again’: Onomastic Allusions to Joseph in Moses 1:41 in View of the So-called Canon Formula.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 32 (2019): 297-304. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/and-they-shall-be-had-again-onomastic-allusions-to-joseph-in-moses-141-in-view-of-the-so-called-canon-formula/. (accessed July 20, 2020).

Calabro, David. “Joseph Smith and the architecture of Genesis.” In The Temple: Ancient and Restored. Proceedings of the 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Symposium, edited by Stephen D. Ricks and Donald W. Parry. Temple on Mount Zion 3, 165-81. Orem and Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016. https://www.academia.edu/37488023/Joseph_Smith_and_the_Architecture_of_Genesis. (accessed August 25, 2020).

Ehrman, Bart D. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Faulring, Scott H., and Kent P. Jackson, eds. Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible Electronic Library (JSTEL) CD-ROM. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2011.

Jackson, Kent. “The visions of Moses and Joseph Smith’s Bible translation.” In “To Seek the Law of the Lord”: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch, edited by Paul Y. Hoskisson and Daniel C. Peterson, 161-69. Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, 2017. Reprint, Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40(2020), 89–98. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-visions-of-moses-and-joseph-smiths-bible-translation/.

Lund, Nils W. Chiasmus in the New Testament. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1942.

Nibley, Hugh W. “To open the last dispensation: Moses chapter 1.” In Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless: Classic Essays of Hugh W. Nibley, edited by Truman G. Madsen, 1-20. Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978. https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/open-last-dispensation-moses-chapter-1. (accessed August 21, 2020).

Rappleye, Neal. “Chiasmus criteria in review.” BYU Studies Quarterly 59, no. Supplement containing the papers from the Chiasmus Jubilee Conference at BYU, August 15-16, 2017, sponsored by Book of Mormon Central and BYU Studies. John W. Welch and Donald W. Parry, eds. (2020): 289-309. https://www.byustudies.byu.edu/content/chiasmus-criteria-review. (accessed August 17, 2020).

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. S. H. Faulring, et al., JST Electronic Library, OT 1-2 (Moses 1:19b-36), Moses 1:19b-21a.

Footnotes

 

1 N. Rappleye, Chiasmus Criteria in Review, p. 289

2 See Essays #39-41.

3 D. Belnap, “Where Is Thy Glory”, p. 167.

4 N. W. Lund, Chiasmus, p. 42.

5 Personal communication to Jeffrey M. Bradshaw.

6 H. W. Nibley, To Open, p. 6.

7 F. I. Andersen, Sentence, p. 40.

8 K. Jackson, Visions of Moses, pp. 163-164.

9 Note that a similar arrangement has been presented by Matthew Bowen. M. L. Bowen, And They Shall Be Had Again, p. 301.

10 David Calabro has argued otherwise, arguing that verse 42 was also part of the original narrative. While his reasoning has merit, Mark Johnson sees the flow of the text without verse 42 as evidence that these last instructions were an addition for the instruction of the Prophet Joseph. See D. Calabro, Joseph Smith and the Architecture, p. 169.

11 B. D. Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p. 192.

12 For an additional example of the use of chiasmus to indicate textual integrity, see J. A. Berman, Inconsistency in the Torah. On pages 260-262 he discusses the possibility that a chiastic structure for the flood narrative [illustrated on Page 261] indicates that it is from a single source rather than a merger of sources. In his concluding chapter he discusses the value of chiasmus in determining textual integrity (page 276). He cites John W. Welch regarding both the criteria for determining chiasmus and the presence of it in ancient near eastern writing.

Hebrew Literary Features of Moses 1

Book of Moses Essay #44

Moses 1

With contribution by Mark J. Johnson

This Essay continues our look at the literary features of Moses 1. Since Moses 1 leads directly into the narrative flow of JST Genesis, it is natural that it should share stylistic and literary features of the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament). Below, we will highlight three topics: parallelism, Hebraisms, and figures of speech or idioms.

Parallelism

The most important thing to know about Hebrew thought is that it sought beauty and balance in writings by the use of repetition. While Western poetry is largely based on rhyming of sounds, the prose and poetry of the biblical text finds greater value in what one might call the rhyming of ideas. In other words, poetic verse and narrative structure were built on the foundation of repetition. Jack R. Lundbom emphasizes that, “repetition is the single most important feature of ancient Hebrew rhetoric, being used for emphasis, wordplays, expressing the superlative, creating pathos, and structuring both parts and wholes of prophetic discourse. Its importance can hardly be overestimated. Repetitions can be sequential or placed in strategic collocations to provide balance. … [They] can form a tie-in between the beginning and the end.”1

Forms of repetition can be visible from the minute level of strophes and stanzas in poetry, to multiline units such as poems, speeches, and oracles. The principles of repetition are also seen in the structuring of character arcs and even as the backbone of whole books. This type of repetition is frequently called parallelism.

Because of the differing size and scope of repetition as well as their presence in both poetry and prose, scholars have differing opinions about what can be truly classified as parallelism.2  Donald W. Parry’s perspective positions parallelism equally with poetry and prose, noting that “not all parallelistic forms are poetic, for parallelism serves in a variety of rhetorical and literary functions.”2

Synonymous Parallelism

This type of parallelism “sets forth [its] ideas in the first line, then restates, reinforces or reconfigures them in the next line.”4  Note this example from the early chapters of Genesis.

            Adah and Zillah

Hear my voice;

            Ye wives of Lamech

hearken unto my speech. (Genesis 4:23)

“Adah and Zillah” are mirrored in the second line with “Ye wives of Lamech” while Lamech’s declaration is repeated with “Hear my voice” and “Hearken unto my speech.”

The same type of parallelism can be found in Moses 1:

For my works

are without end,

and also my words

for they never cease. (Moses 1:4)

The use of synonymous parallelism shows God equating his works with his words. Both, he says, are endless.

Synthetic Parallelism

Parry notes that this type of parallelism “is composed of two lines, neither of which are synonymous or antithetical. Rather, line one presents a declaration and line two gives something new or instructive to the first line.”5  Examples include Proverbs 1:7 and 2 Nephi 2:25. An oft quoted verse in the Book of Moses is also written in this form:

For behold, this is my work and my glory—
to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)

Inverted Parallelism

Inverted Parallelism, or Chiasmus, is a type of parallelism where the repetition of elements is in an inverted order, rather than sequential. D. Lynn Johnson6  has made note of this arrangement in Moses 1:

A And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking,

Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth,

B yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold,

C discerning it by the Spirit of God.

D And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof,

D’ and there was not a soul which he beheld not;

C’ and he discerned them by the Spirit of God;

B’ and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.

A’ And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof. (Moses 1:27-29)

Hebraisms

A Hebraism is a distinctive element of Hebrew occurring in another language. This includes traces of its unique characteristics which are still apparent even after translation. The presence of Hebraisms in the scriptural text are significant since they are grammatically problematic in the English language but are characteristic of good Hebrew grammar. The presence of Hebraic features would be indicative of Moses 1 being an ancient text.

Relative Clauses

John A. Tvedtnes described the relative clause: “In Hebrew, the word that marked the beginning of the clause (generally translated which or who in English) does not always closely follow the word it refers back to, as it usually does in English.”7  This type of construction is also manifest in the Book of Mormon and in Moses 1:

But ye know that the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea,
who were the armies of Pharaoh. (1 Nephi 17:27)

and by the Son I created them,
which is mine Only Begotten. (Moses 1:33)

Compound Prepositions

Simple prepositions are words such as in, on, under, after, and around, that establish a relationship between a noun and a pronoun. Compound prepositions perform the same function, but with a combination of prepositions which act as a single word. Examples include on top of, in front of, or over against. Parry demonstrates one example from the Old Testament, “The Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel” (Judges 11:23, emphasis added).8  Moses 1:1 contains an example of a compound preposition, where “Moses was caught up into an exceeding high mountain.”

Possessive Pronouns

The English language favors minimal use of possessive pronouns, while “Biblical Hebrew … regularly repeats [these] pronouns” to form them as a type of list.9  Compare this example from the Book of Joshua with Moses 1:

ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters (Joshua 2:13)

and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. For behold, this is my work and my glory (Moses 1:38-39)

Resumptive Repetition

The biblical authors often needed to offer additional explanation as they told their narratives, so they employed a technique that modern scholars have called resumptive repetition.10  The English language would add an aside to its discourse by the use of parenthesis, commas or dashes, and then continue with the original thought. The Bible, on the other hand, returns to its subject by repeating a key phrase from earlier in the narrative.

Here is an example of resumptive repetition in the Old Testament:

And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. (Exodus 14:22-23, 27-29)

And here is a similar example from Moses 1:

And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.
Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.
And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.
And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee. (Moses 1:4-7)

Figures of Speech

Understanding particular figures of speech (or idioms) is an important tool as these features illuminate the meanings of text when a more literal reading would be insufficient.

Antenantiosis

This figure of speech is “the practice of stating a proposition in terms of its opposite.”11  Two negatives are combined in a statement, one of which cancels the other out thereby creating a positive. Compare an example from the Proverbs with a verse from Moses 1:

the wicked shall not be unpunished:
but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered (Proverbs 11:21)

And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof,
and there was not a soul which he beheld not. (Moses 1:28a)

The technique of antenantiosis combines “not a soul” with “beheld not” to emphasize that Moses saw every living soul in his vision.

Litotes

Litotes is a figure of speech where something is dramatically understated in order to enhance or elevate something else. This is starkly apparent in Moses 1:10 where Moses declares that he is nothing in comparison to the glory and power of the Almighty and Endless God. Compare this statement with Abraham’s discussion with the Lord over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:

Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed. (Moses 1:10)

Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?” (Genesis 18:27-28, NIV)

Not unlike Moses, Abraham acknowledges the might of God by comparing himself to dust and ashes.

Polysyndeton

Polysyndenton is a Greek word that translates to mean “many conjunctions” or more commonly “many ands.”12  This rhetorical device enumerates lists of things, but with the purpose of affecting the pace of the narrative. Bullinger notes that this form is designed to catch the attention of the reader and to isolate individual items in the list for singular consideration.13  Consider its use in 1 Samuel and in Moses 1:

And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep,
and there came a lion,
and a bear,
and took a lamb out of the flock:
And I went out after him,
and smote him,
and delivered it out of his mouth:
and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard,
and smote him,
and slew him. (1 Samuel 17:34-35)

And it came to pass that Moses looked,
and beheld the world upon which he was created;
and Moses beheld the world
and the ends thereof,
and all the children of men which are,
and which were created;
of the same he greatly marveled and wondered. (Moses 1:8)

Synecdoche

Where the part of something is used to represent the whole. Moses 1:1 and 1:11 use this figure, where speaking ‘face to face’ represents being in God’s whole presence:

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false. (Psalm 24:4)

And he saw God face to face,
and he talked with him (Moses 1:2)

Conclusion

The importance of understanding these forms and figures of speech is not to just recognize ancient Hebraic literary features in Moses 1, but also to help us read the scriptural texts as their authors intended. Recognizing the forms that ancient authors used to persuade their readers with power brings latter-day readers closer to seeing and hearing as their counterparts did long ago.

In closing, David Noel Freedman elucidates an attitude toward literary form and features that should be remembered by Latter-day Saint students of the scriptures. He speaks specifically of parallelism, but his words can be applied to everything we have discussed in this Essay. He said: “I am confident that the reader will readily agree … that the study of parallelism is, above all else, fun.”14

 

This Essay is adapted and expanded from Johnson, Mark J. “The lost prologue: Reading Moses Chapter One as an Ancient Text.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 36 (2020): 145-86. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-lost-prologue-reading-moses-chapter-one-as-an-ancient-text/. (accessed June 5, 2020).

Further Reading

Berlin, Adele. The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism. Revised and Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2008.

Johnson, Mark J. “The lost prologue: Reading Moses Chapter One as an Ancient Text.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 36 (2020): 145-86. https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-lost-prologue-reading-moses-chapter-one-as-an-ancient-text/. (accessed June 5, 2020).

Parry, Donald W. Preserved in Translation: Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2020.

References

Berlin, Adele. The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism. Revised and Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2008.

Bullinger, E. W. Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Bake Book House, 1968.

Johnson, Mark J. “The lost prologue: Reading Moses Chapter One as an Ancient Text.” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 36 (2020): 145-86.

Lundbom, Jack R. Biblical Rhetoric and Rhetorical Criticism. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015.

Parry, Donald W. “Hebraisms and other ancient pecularities in the Book of Mormon.” In Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson and John W. Welch, 155-189. Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002.

———. Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon. Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2007. https://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/bookchapters/Poetic_Parallelisms_in_the_Book_of_Mormon_The_Complete_Text_/Poetic%20Parallelisms%20in%20the%20Book%20of%20Mormon.pdf. (accessed August 9, 2017).

———. Preserved in Translation: Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2020.

Tvedtnes, John A. “The Hebrew background of the Book of Mormon.” In Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne, 77-91. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1991. http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books?bookid=72&chapid=867. (accessed March 22).

Welch, John W. “Antenantiosis in the Book of Mormon.” In Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch, 96-97. Salt Lake City, UT and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992. https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/node/175. (accessed May 3, 2020).

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Photograph by Mark J. Johnson.

Footnotes

 

1 J. R. Lundbom, Biblical Rhetoric, pp. 167–68.

2 For a useful discussion, see A. Berlin, Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism, pp. 1–7.

3 D. W. Parry, Poetic Parallelisms, p. xi.

4 D. W. Parry, Preserved in Translation, p. 13.

5 D. W. Parry, Poetic Parallelisms, p. xxiv.

6 http://www.ldsgospeldoctrine.net/dlj/TheVisualScriptures-PearlofGreatPrice.pdf.

7 J. A. Tvedtnes, Hebrew Background, p. 87.

8 {Parry, 2002 #6565}, p. 172.

9 D. W. Parry, Preserved in Translation, p. 61.

10 D. W. Parry, Preserved in Translation, p. 57.

11 J. W. Welch, Antenantiosis, p. 96.

12 The use of the technicque of“many ands” as a syntactical technique is explored further in {Johnson, 2020 #6435}.

13 E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, p. 210.

14 David Noel Freedman, Foreword to A. Berlin, Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism, p. xi.