Several months ago Mrs Watcher became obsessed with wanting to re-read the Bible from beginning to end. She began meticulously reading Genesis and working her way forward in the massive document. As she reached Exodus and was making comments about things she was noticing for the first time, I found myself getting sucked into the Biblical vortex created by God’s mystical word.
It is easy to go for many years hyper-focusing one’s study on many different scriptural topics in the Book of Mormon and the D&C and to forget about the importance of reviewing the most ancient of all scripture which is the foundation for all other scripture. In my case, I love doing keyword searches and topical studies that take me briefly through a varied menu of snippets in the different standard works, rather than reading chronologically from beginning to end. However, there is wisdom in reading the scriptures chronologically as well.
It is easy to forget that there are countless components previously hidden in the message and narrative in the Bible. It is truly one of God’s greatest miracles. He has had his ancient word amazingly preserved over thousands of years. One of the many things we learn as we compare the JST (Joseph Smith Translation) with the King James Version of the Bible is that very little corruption of the translation actually took place during that period of time.
Although there are some incredible nuggets of truth, regarding history, prophecy and the nature of God, that were taken out of the Bible or mistranslated in later years, and then eventually corrected or reintroduced in the JST, it appears to me as if over 99% of the original Bible content of the 66 books, survived amazingly well up to Joseph Smith’s time.
Even with the corrupted parts of the Bible intact, it cumulatively seems to be exceedingly sufficient for the Lord’s purposes. I am reminded of Dr Ivan Panin, the athiest who converted to Christianity when he discovered the perfect mathematics and the recurring emergence of 7s and patterns of sevens in the numeric equivalents of the hebrew and greek words (gemetria).
Even more of a mind blower is the fact that the mathematics of the Bible remains in tact even in the places where the text is missing or corrupted by translators. It is as if the Mathamatical Bible is typological to fractal clusters that continue to maintain their mathematical integrity even when some parts of the cluster is missing. This reminds me of Christ’s declaration that the scripture can’t be broken: “..the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35)
The creation story was still intact, with very few errors, as evidenced by a secondary account in the Book of Abraham and by the inspired version of Genesis. The history of the patriarchs and prophets is still intact. The dealings between God and his people is still intact. Most importantly, the account of Christ’s ministry and his personal teaching of the gospel along with the testimonies of eye witnesses of his death and resurrection preserved.
The King James Version is Amazingly Accurate
So accurate was the Bible after thousands of years, that when the LDS restoration began in the 1800’s, God pronounced it to be an integral part of “the law“that was given when the saints migrated from New York to the Ohio:
“And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.” (D&C 42:12)
The above commandment from God was not referring to Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible for it did not exist yet. It was referring to the existing King James Version of the Bible that was commonly in use. The Lord had previously made mention of the need for Joseph to make some corrections in the KJV and would, in the future, command Joseph and the church to get the Inspired Version published to the world, but for the mean time, God was commanding the saints to give heed to the principles in the existing Bible despite the relatively few problems associated with it.
While the Mormon Church puts a huge emphasis on the importance of the Book of Mormon, it should be remembered that according to God’s holy word in modern revelation, that the Book of Mormon proves “to the world that the holy scriptures are true”(Section 20)
Imagine that. One would think that the Lord would have stated that the Bible proves that the Book of Mormon is true, but God reverses the emphasis. He wanted to let it be known that the Book of Mormon proves that the Bible is true.
Why is it so important that the Bible be proven true by the Book of Mormon?
Because the Bible is the primary, foundational, canon of scripture upon which our salvation rests.
The Bible provides the first and primary witnesses of Christ. The Book of Mormon is a secondary, ancillary witness of Christ. Those who claim the Bible is not credible and that we can only rely on the Book of Mormon, negate one of the most important purposes of the Book of Mormon.
What Exactly is the True Definition of Scripture?
Interestingly, Christ himself provided a definition of Scripture during his earthly ministry that is much more narrow and singular than the one we usually use. According to him, it does not represent the entire content in the Bible:
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
Jacob 7:11 seems to be saying the same thing with the wording being reversed:
“And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them [the scriptures]; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.”
From that simple admonition, we find that the singular definition of scripture is: anything that testifies of Christ! Hence, the Bible contains scripture, but not all of the content in the Bible can be considered scripture if we take the Saviors words literally. The Bible is full of prophetic declarations, inspired counsel, historical events and genealogies, that, while interesting, entertaining and even sometimes edifying, do not necessarily qualify as “scripture”. Obviously, even much if not all of the associated content in the Bible is revered by the humble followers of Christ since it provides the supporting context for the scripture that is embedded in it. Some students of the bible claim that since all things testify of Christ, in the general sense, that the entire Bible is indeed scripture.
Since the New Testament did not even exist at the time that Christ made that statement, we know that the Old Testament testifies of Christ in numerous ways, both directly and indirectly… probably some ways that we don’t fully comprehend. As the creator of all things in heaven and earth, there are obviously many testimonies of Christ that are quite broad. As the New Testament later emerged as a canon of writings, long after the earthly ministry of Christ, the many witnesses of Christ contained therein also represent “scripture” according to the definition that Christ gave.
The Bible represents the foundational teachings upon which the LDS restoration took place. Without the knowledge provided by the 40 spirit filled authors contained in the sixty-six books in the canon of scripture, nothing else makes very much sense.
The Content in Genesis is a microcosm
of the Content in the entire Bible
According to Chuck Missler, one of my favorite protestant Bible Scholars, “All the major doctrines in the Bible have their roots in the book of Genesis: sovereign election, salvation, justification by faith, the believer’s security, separation, disciplinary chastisement, the Rapture of the Church, divine incarnation, death and resurrection, the priesthoods-both Aaronic priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood- the anti-christ… and many more”
He also opines that virtually all of the major false philosophies are also addressed in Genesis as well.
When Joseph Smith announced that he had translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, he was making a subtle declaration that has been greatly misunderstood. The 1828 definition of the word translation being employed, meant that the word translation, in the context that Joseph was using it, was synonymous with “INTERPRETATION“.
In other words, God was providing an inspired interpretation of the content in the Book of Mormon, in contradistinction to the traditional process of literally converting words or text from one language into another. He was not necessarily always literally converting the exact content of the reformed Egyptian text into English, although much of it may have been.
While that subtle observation may seem trite and obvious to some, it is lost on many of the skeptics and has quite profound implications.
Critics that whine about the usage of french words and exact quotes from the King James Version of Isaiah and other passages from the KJV of the New Testament showing up in the Book of Mormon hundreds of years before the Biblical quotes were uttered in Biblical times, would do well to realize that Joseph Smith never claimed to have done a scholarly, literal translation from an ancient language to English.
Quite the opposite.
Let me be a little repetitive here.
It was God that was doing the translation not Joseph.
God was providing an inspired interpretation of what was in the plates.
God was not always providing a literal transfer of exact meaning from one language to the other, he was matching up the general meaning of the ancient text with the content of the existing translations of the culture and generation he was speaking to!
According to the testimony of those involved in the process, Joseph was looking into a seer stone in a darkened hat and simply reading the text that the Lord was showing him. He was not doing a traditional scholarly translation. He did not know reformed Egyption and thus, was not qualified to do a scholarly translation. He claimed that the power of God had provided an inspired interpretation of the content on the plates. This inspired interpretation, very logically included content from the most widely used version of the Bible of the day. This was obviously done for clarity, and, in my opinion, it was also done to prove that the Bible commonly being used was still a credible document. This is why he even provided passages of the King James Bible that would later be revised by Joseph Smith.
As I have pondered how the Book of Mormon proves the Bible is true, it has occurred to me that, the fact that the Book of Mormon teaches the same gospel and is doctrinally consistent with the Bible, does not necessarily prove that the Bible is the authentic recond that it appears to be. It could still have been forged document, using truth from other sources. For this reason, it becomes obvious to me that the evidence in the Book of Mormon, proving the Bible to be true, that would hold up in a court or law, would be the exact quotes from the KJV of the Bible. As someone who has a witness that the Book of Mormon is true, I find the quotations from the KJV of the Bible embedded in the Book of Mormon to be compelling and profound evidence. I believe these quotes prove the authenticity and veracity of the Bible. The insertions also enable keyword searches which enhance a persons ability to study the various canons of scripture.
I’ve mentioned the significance of the inspired interpretation of the Bible and why I find the exact quotes from the Bible contained in the Book of Mormon to be compelling proof of the Bible, in other posts. In this post, I want to proffer another “proof” that has also been observed by professional and non-professional Mormon scholars in countless essays. It has to do with the amazing use of Chiasms in the all of the canons of scripture.
Chiasmus is a poemic method of writing in a certain pattern. “Chiasm” comes from the Greek letter Chi. It’s a pattern which starts in one direction and then turns around and repeats itself in the opposite direction.
According to LDS scholars Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards, Chiasmus is an inverted-parallel literary form that was employed by ancient Hebrew biblical writers, among others. An instance of this form, called a chiasm, presents two or more literary elements, and then restates them in reverse order.
Wikipedia offers this: In rhetoric, chiasmus (Latin term from Greek χίασμα, “crossing”, from the Greek χιάζω, chiázō, “to shape like the letter Χ”) is the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism.
I also like the description given by protestant Bible scholars that a chiasmus visually looks live a flock of geese, in a “V” shape.
Examples of Chiasms in the Bible
Here is an example of a chiasm from the Book of Genesis taken from an article I found on the Internet:
Genesis 3:5 – 3:22 – That Serpent of Old, called the Devil and Satan.
The Fall of Man (4/8/2008)
a 3:5 You will be like God, knowing good and evil
b 3:7 They made coverings of fig leaves
c 3:8 Wife as yet unnamed
d 3:9 Adam questioned
e 3:12-13a Eve accused and questioned
f 3:13b Serpent accused
f 3:14 Serpent’s curse
e 3:16 Eve’s curse
d 3:17-19 Adam’s curse
c 3:20 Wife is named Eve
b 3:21 The LORD God made them tunics of skin and clothed them.
a 3:22 Man is like one of Us, to know good and evil.
Here is an example from the story of Noah’s ark:
The Flood of Noah
A Noah (6:10a)
B Shem, Ham and Japheth (6:10b)
C Ark to be built (6:14-16)
D Flood announced (6:17)
E Covenant with Noah (6:18-20)
F Food in theArk(6:21)
G Command to enter theArk(7:1-3)
H 7 days waiting for flood (7:4-5)
I 7 days waiting for flood (7:7-10)
J Entry to ark (7:11-15)
K Yahweh shuts Noah in (7:16)
L 40 days flood (7:17a)
M Waters increase (7:17b-18)
N Mountains covered (7:18-20)
O 150 days waters prevail (7:21-24)
P God Remembers Noah (8:1)
O 150 days waters abate (8:3)
N Mountain tops become visible (8:4-5)
M Waters abate (8:6)
L 40 days (end of) (8:6a)
K Noah opens window of ark(8:6b)
J Raven and dove leave ark (8:7-9)
I 7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:10-11)
H 7 days waiting for waters to subside (8:12-13)
G Command to leave the ark (8:15-17)
F Food outside the ark(9:1-4)
E Covenant with all flesh(9:8-10)
D No flood in future(9:11-17)
C Ark (9:18a)
B Shem, Ham, Japheth (9:18b)
A Noah (9:19)
Here is an example of a few Chiasms that people have found in the Book of Acts:
Here is another example from the book of Acts:
A: Speaking foreign language. B: People are astonished.
The Bible is filled with countless Chiasms in both the New Testament and the Old Testament. It is not clear to scholars whether this was an intentional Hebraic, poemic style of writing by inspired men or whether it was an unintentional result of God’s spirit falling upon his servants as they wrote the holy scriptures.
If this repetitive style, with each part placed exactly opposite its counterpart on the other side of the apex was intentional, it certainly would have been time consuming and exhausting for the writer unless it was ingrained through years of practice. Either way, the existence is chiasms appears to me to be the divine blueprint of God upon his inspired communications to his children.
Over the last few decades, as I have read articles about chiasms and studied many of them, I confess that I have been at a loss to understand how the knowledge of their presence can help us to better understand the message being conveyed beyond the actual narrative and obvious advantages of repetition.
Since Mrs Watcher has been obsessed with the Bible, I decided to find an interesting book that would enhance her study. I came across a book called “Bible Matrix” by Michael Bull. It contains several remarkable observations and suppositions regarding the existence of chiasms in the Bible. It is one of the few religious books I have read that has compelled me to read a chapter three times in a row in an attempt to extract the deep concepts being conveyed.
In his book he speaks of the use of patterns, types and chiasms in the Bible and he contends that there are three fundamental seven-step patterns in scripture. The first is the seven day CREATION pattern. The second and most important is the DOMINION pattern. The third is the FESTIVALS pattern given to his people Israel.
The seven feasts of Israel show us that the process of gathering God’s people is written into Creation as the harvest year. Bull contends that understanding the Bible requires biblical theology that is not only literary and historical, but also typological. Christ reveals himself and teaches his people how to think using typology and chiasmus to communicate.
According to Bull, the above pattern is the DNA of the Bible which our entire culture is founded on. Remarkably, the above pattern is found in many if not most of our novels and movies.
“details of these feasts follow on the next two pages” Yes, the next pages are amazing. Sorry, you will have to purchase the book if you are curious. As it is, I may get my hands slapped for showing a few screen shots of his work.
Ok, just one more screen print and then I will be a good little boy and try to avoid copyright infringement.
The following screen print illustrates the complete structure God uses in all His dealings with His Creation. in it, all three patterns correspond with each other
According to Bull, the above illustration depicts the heartbeat of creation and the cycle of the human day and a human life.
Those of you who are aware of my belief that Moses provided an intercessory intervention by means of offering himself as an atonement offering for Israel, which was be typological for Joseph Smith’s calling, can perhaps envision me falling off of my chair when I read the following snippet in Bull’s work:
“We can identify Moses as the Firstfruits offering, the beginning of the first generation harvest [Penticost], and the later generation as the final harvest of olives and grapes in the Promised Land [Booths].” (pg 40)
There is so much more in this book (much of which I haven’t even read yet!) I would love to share but I don’t want to do anything more than whet your appetite and to demonstrate just how seriously Bible scholars take the existence of patterns and Chiasmus in the Bible.
Now then, realizing the huge significance of patterns and chiasic structure in the scriptures as viewed by Bible scholars, it is not surprising that LDS scholars like Jared R. Demke, Blake Ostler, Boyd F. Edwards, Farrell Edwards and numerous others have highlighted and heralded the presence of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon as another proof of it’s divine origin. Chiasms in the Book of Mormon are all over the place. The observation and study of Chiasm in the Bible by Biblical scholars arguably did not even emerge in earnest until after the Book of Mormon was published. Nevertheless, skeptics such as Sandra Tanner and Daniel Vogel opine that Joseph Smith must have noticed the presence of Chiastic style in the Bible and mimicked it when he wrote the Book of Mormon. LOL!
While both of those critics have been known to conger up intelligent responses to the claims of LDS apologists regarding selected topics, the above response is certainly not among them. If one believes the testimony of Emma and others who claimed that Joseph was almost illiterate and could barely write a legible sentence in 1829 when he struggled to read the words God was putting in front of him during the translation (interpretation) process, the thought that Joseph was creating the exhaustive and rather complex narrative in the Book of Mormon in a matter of about three months, while also embedding complex detailed chiasms within it, is laughable. I can just see Joseph sitting at the table and struggling to create some of the incredibly detailed and complex chiastic structures in the Book of Mormon.
Here are a few samples of the remarkable chiasms in the Book of Mormon:
A King Benjamin exhorts his sons (1:1-8) B Mosiah chosen to succeed his father (1:10) C Mosiah receives the records (1:16) D Benjamin's speech and the words of the angel (2:9-5:15 ) E People enter into a covenant (6:1 ) F Priests consecrated (6:13) G Ammon leaves Zarahemla for the land of Lehi-Nephi (7:1-6) H People in bondage, Ammon put in prison (7:15) I The 24 gold plates (8:9) J The record of Zeniff begins as he leaves Zarahemla (9:1) K Defense against the Lamanites (9:14-10:20) L Noah and his priests (11:1-15) M Abinadi persecuted and thrown in prison (11-12) N Abinadi reads the old law and old Messianic prophecies to the priests (13-14) N' Abinadi makes new prophecies about Jesus Christ (15-16) M' Abinadi persecuted and killed (17:5-20) L' Noah and his priests (18:32-20:5) K' Lamanites threaten the people of Limhi (20:6-6-26) J' Record of Zeniff ends as he leaves the land of Lehi-Nephi I' The 24 gold plates (21:27, 22:14) H' People of Alma in bondage (23) G' Alma leaves the land of Lehi-Nephi for Zarahemla (24) F' The Church organized by Alma (25:14-24) E' Unbelievers refuse to enter covenant ( 26: 1-4 ) D' The words of Alma and the words of the angel of the Lord (26-27) C' Alma the Younger receives the records (28:20) B' Judges chosen instead of a king (29:5-32) A' Mosiah exhorts his people (29:5-32) Here is one from Alma 36 (a) My son, give ear to my WORDS (1)
.(b) KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS of God and ye shall PROSPER IN THE LAND (2) (a)
.(c) DO AS I HAVE DONE (2)
.(d) in REMEMBERING THE CAPTIVITY of our fathers (2);
.(e) for they were in BONDAGE (2)
.(f) he surely did DELIVER them (2)
.(g) TRUST in God (3)
.(h) supported in their TRIALS, and TROUBLES, and AFFLICTIONS (3)
.(i) shall be lifted up at the LAST DAY (3)
.(j) I KNOW this not of myself but of GOD (4)
.(k) BORN OF GOD (5)
.(l) I sought to destroy the church of God (6-9)
.(m) MY LIMBS were paralyzed (10)
.(n) Fear of being in the PRESENCE OF GOD (14-15)
.(o) PAINS of a damned soul (16)
.(p) HARROWED UP BY THE MEMORY OF SINS (17)
.(q) I remembered JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD (17)
.(q’) I cried, JESUS, SON OF GOD (18)
.(p’) HARROWED UP BY THE MEMORY OF SINS no more (19)
.(o’) Joy as exceeding as was the PAIN (20)
.(n’) Long to be in the PRESENCE OF GOD (22)
.(m’) My LIMBS received their strength again (23)
.(l’) I labored to bring souls to repentance (24)
.(k’) BORN OF GOD (26)
.(j’) Therefore MY KNOWLEDGE IS OF GOD (26)
.(h’) Supported under TRIALS, TROUBLES, and AFFLICTIONS (27)
.(g’) TRUST in him (27)
.(f’) He will deliver me (27)
.(i’) and RAISE ME UP AT THE LAST DAY (28)
.(e’) As God brought our fathers out of BONDAGE and captivity (28-29)
.(d’) Retain in REMEMBRANCE THEIR CAPTIVITY (28-29)
.(c’) KNOW AS I DO KNOW (30)
.(b’) KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS and ye shall PROSPER IN THE LAND (30)
.(a’) This is according to his WORD (30).
(Sorry, the above chiasm refused to stay in the geese formation! Use your imagination)
It is remarkable to note that chiasms also show up in the Book of Abraham and the Doctrine and Covenants.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable examples of Chiasmus that I have seen is found in section 76, known as “The Vision” in the early days of the church.
The vision contains the amazing revelation received by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon wherein they were shown the fall of Lucifer and the three degrees of glory.
Aside from the first few passages and the last few passages, the entire account of this vision constitutes one chiasm after another and in some cases, has chiasms embedded within chiasms! An incredible article from which I got this information was written by H. Clay Gorton.
Gorton states that:
“The complicated literary format of Section 76 is all the more striking considering the manner in which the revelation was received and recorded.”
At this point, it is worth reviewing Philo Dibble’s account of the vision:
“Joseph would, at intervals, say: “What do I see?” as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at.
Then Sidney replied, “I see the same.” Presently Sidney would say “what do I see?” and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, “I see the same.”
This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.”
Gorton also makes the following point about Sidney Rigdon being the one that penned section 76 while still in the spirit:
“Of major significance is the fact that Joseph Smith apparently did not write Section 76. The commandment was given in verse 28, And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision. Ivan J. Barrett reports in his book entitled Joseph Smith and the Restoration, that Joseph requested Sidney Rigdon to write the vision, and that he stayed up the entire night following the vision to put it in written form.”
I would suggest that Sidney Rigdon was “in the spirit” writing prophetically while writing down the account of what he and Joseph saw in the vision. Sidney was not attempting to embed an ancient Hebrew form of poetic style in the narrative, rather, the chiastic result was indeed the result of revelation from God!
Gorton seems to concur with my belief while pointing out that Joseph’s poem of Section 76 is not chiastic!
“It is interesting to note that in 1843 the Prophet wrote a poetic version of Section 76. This has been examined for chiastic content and has been found to be non-chiastic except for one elementary couplet found in verse 69– “from the least unto the greatest, and greatest to least.”
Such an elementary structure, as an isolated case in a much larger presentation, would be assumed to be accidental. The fact that chiasmus is virtually non-existent in the Prophet’s own rendition of a highly chiastic revelation further supports the contention that Joseph Smith was not aware of the chiastic form.
Furthermore, the magnitude of the chiastic content and the complexity of the chiastic structures in Section 76 and in the Doctrine and Covenants as a whole preclude the possibility that the literary structure could have been contrived and composed by the ingenuity of the Prophet while dictating to a scribe, and in addition provide strong evidence that the contents, structure and wording of the Doctrine and Covenants are of Divine origin.”
I have shared the previous thoughts about the beautiful patterns and chiasmus in modern and ancient scripture not to convince the skeptic of anything, for indeed, only the spirit can convert the unbeliever. I share these things for the benefit of the believer to enhance your study of the scriptures and to rejoice with you in the amazing beauty and brilliance that is found in the inspired utterances of the Lord’s servants. God has condescended and communicated to mortal man in a corrupt language in amazing ways. I long for the day when we will be communicating in the pure Adamic language.
It is my hope that Believers in the Book of Mormon that have lost faith in the significance and credibility of the Bible will regain a witness that it is true.
Happy New Year.
PS the complete article by Gorton can be viewed here.
The chiastic structure of Section 76 does not maintain its visual beauty when copied into this blog so I encourage you to go to his article if you want to see and read it.