Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Parallel Books of Nephi

Andrew Norman shared with me a very interesting observation he made, and he has granted me permission to post his thoughts here on my blog, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so.  

The Parallel Books of Nephi
By Andrew Norman

What's a bifid structure?
In order to understand a bifid structure you have to understand parallelisms in Hebrew.
Hebrew will use two statements in order to convey more meaning or a different meaning than what each statement alone would mean.
Consider the following:
Mosiah 3:25-26
therefore they have drunk damnation to their own souls. 
Therefore, they have drunk out of the cup of the wrath of God
Some Hebrew prophets would take this even further by writing their book and then halfway though writing a second half that mirrors ideas and concepts in the first half.
Consider the Book of Ezekiel
Chapters 1-23
The Vengeance of the Lord against his People 
The name of Ezekiel 1:3 
His commission 3:25-27 
Devine glory forsakes the temple 8-11
Chapters 24-48
The vindication of the Lord through his People 
The name of Ezekiel 24:24 
His commission 33:1-9 
Release from Dumbness 
Divine glory returns to sanctify the land 43:1-5
(RK Harrison Introduction to the Old Testament 848-49)
Here is an example of why Nephi would use this style of writing. Compare 1 Nephi 21 with 2 Nephi 30.
In 1 Nephi 21, Nephi is quoting Isaiah who uses powerful imagery of people imprisoned in the dark and then being liberated. By writing a parallel chapter in 2 Nephi 30, he's able to build off Isaiah's imagery when describing the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and it's helping the Gentiles and House of Israel being restored.
A final note before getting started is that Nephi does a great job using mile markers of two verses that use almost identical words or themes to help you keep pace between the two books.
Below is the pairing of theme in First Nephi (1N) coupled with the matching theme in Second Nephi (2N).
In some cases I use the notation with verses using a .5 e.g. 1N1:19.5 which is used to indicate that it's in the second half of the verse.
Nephi's Bifid Structure:
1N1:1 Nephi highly favored of the Lord, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God
2N1:1 Rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.

1N1:6-18 Lehi’s Vision and Destruction of Jerusalem
2N1:4 Lehi’s Vision of destruction of Jerusalem

1N1:19 Testified of Wickedness and Abominations (repent)
2N1:13-32 Tells sons to Repent

1N1:19.5 Expounded of the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.
2N2 Explanation of the need for Christ

1N2:1 Lehi commanded to depart
2N3 Joseph taken to Egypt and blessed by Lord

1N2:16, Nephi Prays and heart softened
2N12:12 Lehi spoken according to the feelings of his heart and spirit of the Lord

1N2:18.5-20 Brothers anger Nephi, Prays and is given blessings of the lord
2N4:13-35 Brother angry at Nephi, psalm of Nephi

1N2:21-24 Brothers will be cut off for not keeping commandments
2N5:6 Nephites leave and take all religious artifacts

1N3 Goes to get Brass Plates & Sword of Laban
2N5:10, 14 Teaches from Law of Moses from Brass plates and makes Swords from Sword of Laban
1N6 Describes whats on his plates
2N5:30 Makes new plates

1N7:13-15 Jerusalem will be destroyed and why
2N6:1-15 Jacob tells of Jewish history and Babylonian exile.

1N7:16-18 Nephi bound and released
2N6:16 Lawful Captive delivered

1N8 Lehi’s dream
2N7:10-11 Walk in darkness (because of pride)
2N8 Isaiah talking about leaving sins behind and turning to God and being clothed in glory and enthroned

1N9:3 Small plates for the ministering unto the people
2N9:1 Jacobs speech to the Nephites

1N10:3 Jews taken captive and brought back
4 Jesus
7-10 John the Baptist and Baptism
11 Resurrection and purpose of Gentiles (12 Olive Tree Branches)
13 scattering
14 Gathering of Israel/ Grafting
2N9:2 Jews restored
5 Jesus
23 Baptism
10:3 Crucifixion
8 Gentiles gathered and counted with House of Israel

1N10:17 Nephi desires to see
11:2 Nephi Sees

I went in depth on comparing 1N11 with 2N12 because the number of parallels was so striking.
1N 11
  • (a) 1n11:1 High Mountain
  • (b)Tree of Life (Asherah found in Ephriamite temples) is love of Christ (could imply an equivalence of the temple with the love of Christ)
  • (c) 24 People worship of Christ
  • (d) 25 Iron Rod
  • (e) 26 Condescension of God
  • 27 Bapt by John
  • (f) 28 Ministers to people
  • (g) and I beheld that they cast him out from among them.
  • Twelve Followers
  • Angels administering to men
  • (h) People afflicted with Devils and disease being healed by Christ
  • 32: Christ judged by man
  • 33 Crucified (could this be because you sacrifice humans to idols?)
  • 34: Fight against the apostles
  • (i) 35: Large and Spacious building Wisdom
  • (i) 36:  And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
2N 12
  • 2N12:2 (a)High Mountain
  • (b)Lord’s House
  • (c) 3:And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…
  • (d) and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law
Law = Scriptures
  • (e) and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem

John 1:1 … and the word was God (The implication here is that the scriptures from Zion/America and that Christ is from Jerusalem
  • (f) 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people and [Swords to plowshares or peace]
  •  (g) 5 O house of Jacob, come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord; yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways
  • (h) 6:Turning to false gods
  • 7-8:Idolitry
  • (i) 9-22 Vanity-Humbling by Lord
1N12:2 Wars and slaughter
2N3&4 War torn and remnants left behind

1N12:3 Numerous Cities
2N15:8 Wo to join house to house (huge cities)

1N12:5 Destruction of the land
2N5 Destruction of Vineyard but vs 24 and 25 mention destruction of the people
1N12:10 The twelve are cleansed through Christ and sent out
2N16 Isaiah ritually cleansed and sent out

1N12:11-12 The four generations after Christ and then destructions
2N7 Ahaz is told his kingdom would be safe but destruction would come (see vv 18-25) which was four kings from sign of the virgin birth

1N12:19 Nephites destroyed by not relying on Lord
2N18 Rely on the Lord to be safe. Ephraim wiped out.

1N13 Start of the Gentiles Kingdoms and church
2N9:11-12 Lord raises up Syria and Philistines ready to devour Israel

1N13 Gentiles to new world, scatter the Lamanites
2N10 Assyrian Conquests

1N13:12-36 Gentiles Humble Themselves, Mercy to Gentiles, BoM with Bible
2N11 Sprig of Jesse, peace, Righteous Ruler

1N13:33-37, Zion Blessed
2N12 Song of the return to Zion

1N14:3 Pit filled with those that dug it
2N14:15 Lucifer put in the pit

1N14:1-2 Gentiles numbered with House of Israel, blessed in promised land forever, no more to be confounded
2N13:3 Sanctified and Mighty called out before destruction of Babylon.

1N14:16 Wars and Rumors of Wars
2N14:29 More war with Palestine

1N15:2 Brothers can’t understand Lehi’s revelations
2N25:1 Nephi’s people can’t understand Isaiah

1N15:12 Lehi compared Israel to Olive tree by Spirt of the Lord
2N25:11 Nephi: And now I speak because of the Spirit which is in me

1N15:12 House of Israel Restored by Gentiles, Wicked rejected (VV 7 olive tree branch)
2N25:12 And notwithstanding they have been carried away they shall return again, and possess the land of Jerusalem; wherefore, they shall be restored again to the land of their inheritance.

1N15:13 Lehites dwindle in unbelief
2N25:12.5 Reject Christ because of hard hearts

1N15:13.5 -20 Lehites receive gospel from Gentiles and Jews restored
2N25: 17 And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.
& 2N25: 18 Wherefore, he shall bring forth his words unto them, which words shall judge them at the last day, for they shall be given them for the purpose of convincing them of the true Messiah
Note: I cant find parallels in the text in order that allows the following two examples in 1Nephi so I paired them with what I could find that seemed logical and was before the mention of Moses and the serpents since that was a direct mile marker for me:
1N16 Travel through wilderness and call to build boat
2N25:9 God warns before destruction

1N17:23-40 Recalls Gods power with Exodus
2N25:10-19 Exiled, Christ, Scatter Restored

1N17:41 Moses and Serpents
2N25:20 Moses and Serpents

1N17: 45 Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder
2N25: 28 And now behold, my people, ye are a stiffnecked people; wherefore, I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand. And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.

1N17:  55 And now, they said: We know of a surety that the Lord is with thee, for we know that it is the power of the Lord that has shaken us. And they fell down before me, and were about to worship me, but I would not suffer them…
2N25:29.5 wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.

1N17:55.5 and honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee.
2N25: 30 And, inasmuch as it shall be expedient, ye must keep the performances and ordinances of God until the law shall be fulfilled which was given unto Moses.

1N17:42 And they did harden their hearts from time to time, and they did revile against Moses, and also against God; nevertheless, ye know that they were led forth by his matchless power into the land of promise.
1N25:24-26 Moses points us to Christ who gives us a remission of our sins.

1N18:11 Nephi Bound
2N26:10 Destruction of Nephites by brothers

1N18:16 Nephi prays and is released
2N26:15 Prayers of the faithful are heard

1N18:23-1N:19 Land in promised land and makes plates
2N26:16,17 Restauration to Lamanites, Sealed book

1N19 Nephi commanded to build a book and put more important doctrine in it
2N27 Coming forth of the Book of Mormon and sealed portion

1N20 Apostasy
2N28 Conditions of churches in apostasy

1N21 Light to gentiles and House of Israel
2N30 Gentiles converted and counted with House of Israel

1N22:2 Manifest by Spirit
2N31 How to get Holy Ghost

1N22:29 for I durst not speak further
2N32:7 the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance

1N22:30-31 I would that ye should consider that the things which have been written upon the plates of brass are true; and they testify that a man must be obedient to the commandments of God.
2N33:11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Don't Be Overwhelmed By "Big List" Arguments

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things."
2 Nephi 2:11

"Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he 
was enticed by the one or the other."
2 Nephi 2:16

     So, we find ourselves on a spinning rock, racing through space around a giant, exploding ball of gas. And we try to figure out the meaning of it all. We debate, we philosophize, we observe, we hypothesize.

     Some of us believe that being on earth is part of a plan. We believe the earth was prepared for us to live on, and that we chose to come here. We believe that we came here to have experiences, some of which would be difficult, and also to make choices... some of which would likewise be difficult. And we believe that in order to truly make choices for ourselves, and to have an opportunity to choose the right, we need to be enticed to do things which are wrong and which we would not otherwise do.

     Fortunately, God entices us to have faith, hope, and charity. The opposition however entices us to doubt, to fear, and to look at other people as either objects to be used or as creatures of no importance, instead of looking at others with charity. 

     Sometimes opposition comes in the form of appetites. Sometimes it comes in the form of pride. Sometimes it comes in the form of intellectual puzzlement. 

     All of this opposition is to be expected. As a matter of doctrine. 

     Unfortunately, some people fall into the trap of feeling overwhelmed in the face of large aggregate opposition. And, once overwhelmed, people can lose sight of the divine concepts of faith, hope and charity. For instance, the fact that there is so much suffering in the world might cause some people to struggle with hope (see this post on the problem of evil). Or, the prevalence of loose moral standards in the world can cause confusion about how God wants us to view each other. 

     Of particular interest to this post however is the fact that the large aggregate number of "big list" concerns, or lengthy compiled lists of concerns regarding Church leaders and doctrines, can seem overwhelming, even when each individual concern has plausible answers which fit within a consistent paradigm. 

     The fallacy which makes such big lists seem overwhelming comes in not recognizing that the gospel requires opposition, and therefore the sheer number of arguments which critics have come up with neither proves nor disproves anything. 

     Here the critic may cry foul, claiming that I am dismissing the strength of the individual arguments on their lists. But clearly I am not doing that. Each argument should be taken on it's own merits, and their arguments usually do involve some inductive evidence, which they are welcome to try to connect to build a case, but their interpretation of that evidence usually relies on assumptions which are deductive in nature. In other words, the inductive evidence they present does not clearly point where they want it, so they typically make deductive assumptions. Keep in mind that the plausible answers put forth by apologists need not be proven in order to effectively counter critical deductive arguments (see the Apologetic Proof Paradox). 

     The fallacy typically manifests when a critic realizes a given argument on a big list is not as strong as they had thought, and then resorts to pointing out how big the aggregation of all critical arguments against the Church is, trying to use the number of arguments as a reason for invoking Occam's Razor, while supposing that if the Church were true then it wouldn't be possible for so many critical arguments to exist. Again, the fallacy is in not realizing that the existence of such opposition is expected and even required in the very gospel paradigm which they suppose the existence of the aggregation disproves.

     What this means is that God intentionally allowed history to unfold in such a way that enough uncertainty and confusion would exist to allow the adversary to formulate a wide variety of clever arguments against the Church. Were it not so, where would the opposition be? 

     The doctrine of opposition in all things is not an ad-hoc formulation or in any way spurious. It is integral to the plan of salvation and runs throughout all of scripture, from Lehi's dream to Joseph Smith in the Liberty Jail; from Adam exiting the Garden of Eden, to Pharisees contending with Jesus himself, and ultimately Christ's very atonement, crucifixion and overcoming of all things. 

     Pointing to the amount of opposition does not constitute a viable argument. Yet critics resort to this quite often. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Abraham, Human Sacrifice, and Conspiracy

Human Sacrifice: What Did Abraham Say?

Some controversy has surrounded Abraham's claim about human sacrifice. Critics point out that most scholarship indicates human sacrifice was not known in Egypt during Abraham's lifetime.

But let's look a little more closely at what Abraham said about human sacrifice.
Now, at this time it was the custom of the priest of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to offer up upon the altar which was built in the land of Chaldea, for the offering unto these strange gods, men, women, and children. 
Abraham 1:8
At first, it might look like Abraham is calling human sacrifice a widespread practice throughout Egypt. But that's not what he said. Let's consider a couple questions.

First, is Abraham talking about the office of "priest of Pharaoh," and thus referring to a line of different people who have occupied that position, or is Abraham instead referring to a specific individual person who was "the priest of Pharaoh?"  I would argue that Abraham is referring to a specific individual - the individual whose death is accounted for in verse 20. And since that priest was dead by the time Abraham wrote this in his memoir, Abraham does not tell us that it "is" the custom of the priest of Pharaoh, but instead tells us that it "was" the custom of the priest of Pharaoh. Abraham is speaking of human sacrifice in past-tense, implying it is no longer an issue.

If it was still an issue at the time of his writing, we would expect Abraham to introduce human sacrifice by saying, "Now, it is the custom..." instead of "Now, at this time it was the custom..."

Second, why does Abraham refer to it as a custom "of" instead of "for" the priest? If human sacrifice was a custom of Egypt, and the priest was merely performing his duties, we should expect Abraham to say it was a custom "for" the priest of Pharaoh, not "of" the priest of Pharaoh. But Abraham specifically tells us it was the custom of the priest, i.e. the priest's own personal custom or modus operandi. For instance, we would say it is customary that the President of the United States lives in the White House. But whose custom is it? It is a custom "of" the United States, and a custom "for" the President to do. But if a particular President has something they do which is not otherwise customary, we would call it a custom of their own. For instance, Ronald Reagan liked to give jars of jellybeans to visitors, so we could say "it was the custom of the President to give out jellybeans," but that does not imply that other Presidents gave out jellybeans.  

Now, it's true that in verse 11 Abraham says that the priest performed human sacrifices "after the manner of the Egyptians." However, this seems to be a reference to the ritualistic details involved, and not a reference to the fact that humans were the ones being sacrificed. Most likely, this means the priest performed the human sacrifices in a manner ceremonially similar to Egyptian animal sacrifice.

A Conspiracy Theory: Searching For Onitah
22 And it came to pass that they did have their signs, yea, their secret signs, and their secret words; and this that they might distinguish a brother who had entered into the covenant, that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant. 
 23 And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God. 
 24 And whosoever of those who belonged to their band should reveal unto the world of their wickedness and their abominations, should be tried, not according to the laws of their country, but according to the laws of their wickedness, which had been given by Gadianton and Kishkumen. 
Helaman 6:22-24
From what Abraham has told us, this priest of Pharaoh was a particularly bad person. What more do we know about him? There's a good chance that the title "priest of Pharaoh" refers to the position of vizier. The vizier basically ran the government. He could command forces and he could travel far and wide.

And, of course, Abraham tells us the priest of Pharaoh was also the priest of Elkenah. And in verse 7 it appears that it was in his capacity as priest of Elkenah that he was sought after to take away Abraham's life. But if we are talking about the vizier, then it's difficult to see how he could have any additional functioning positions in the government, since they would all be irrelevant in comparison with his vizier position.

And this is where the conspiracy theory comes in. What if the priest of Elkenah was part of a secret combination? What if the name "Elkenah" is one of the secret words, as described in Helaman 6:22? What if Abraham was tried, "not according to the laws of their country, but according to the laws of their wickedness," as described in Helaman 6:24?

Let's hold that thought.

Who was Onitah? He is described in verse 11 as "one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham." Yet, despite him being a royal figure, his daughters were killed by the priest of Pharaoh. Or, perhaps they were killed precisely because Onitah was a royal figure, which made them a threat.

If Abraham is telling us that Onitah was a previous Pharaoh, we can conceivably find him by his name. He was contemporary with Abraham, which places him at about 2000 B.C. As we look through the list of Pharaohs, we see throne names like "Sehetepibre," "Kheperkare," "Sankhtawyef," etc. None of those names really resemble "Onitah." But one name on the list is harder to rule out, and that is Nebta (a short form of Neb-tawy-re, also knows as Mentuhotep IV). Nebtawy means "Lord of the two lands," and is a title which can be applied to all of the Pharaohs, however Mentuhotep IV used it not merely as a title but as his actual name. In fact, as a Pharaoh he had five names, and he used "Nebtawy" for three of his five names! And, interestingly, the fourth name, "Netjeru nebu," is also harder to rule out, which gives pause when one considers how easily the other Pharaohs can be ruled out.

If we drop the O in Onitah for the sake of comparison, we get Nitah vs. Nebta (or Nitah vs. Netje, if we use the Golden Horus name), which is actually pretty close, although not a guaranteed match. However, we have some leeway, considering how much is still not known about the pronunciation of Middle Egyptian language and how much is not known about the methods Joseph Smith and his scribes employed when rendering a word into English as "Onitah." We can't rule out Joseph Smith dropping the b arbitrarily, or the existence of unwritten vowels and other unknown sounds inherent in the Egyptian name (which might not be an exact match for the "O" sound, but O might have been a decent rendering of the sound in English).

Nebtawy-re (Mentuhotep IV) reigned from 1998-1991 B.C., which is the right timeframe.

Nebtawy-re (Mentuhotep IV) is thought to have died childless, which is consistent with Onitah's daughters being killed by the priest of Pharaoh.

Nebtawy-re (Mentuhotep IV) is assumed by some Egyptologists to have been killed and deposed by his vizier, Amenemhat.

This vizier, Amenemhat, was not of royal lineage, even though he obtained the throne. If he is the same vizier whom Abraham referred to as the priest of Pharaoh, it makes sense that Abraham continued referring to him only in his role as vizier ("priest of Pharaoh") instead of as Pharaoh, since as Abraham explains, in verse 20, "Pharaoh signifies king by royal blood," and Amenemhat had no royal blood. Notice Abraham does not say there was mourning on the part of Pharaoh, the king, but only in the “court” of Pharaoh. This reference to those of the court, without mentioning the king specifically, is consistent with the idea that the king himself, Amenemhat I, was the one killed. Abraham goes on to state that while "this king of Egypt" was descended from Ham, he was in the same category as "all the Egyptians" and of Canaanite blood (verses 21-22), as opposed to Abraham's description of Onitah being "one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham."

Nebtawy-re (Mentuhotep IV) has never been found, neither his mummy nor burial place, which is consistent with him being killed and deposed.

Nebtawy-re (Mentuhotep IV) was not memorialized and was not included on the official king lists in Abydos, which is also consistent with him being killed and deposed.

Amenemhat was also killed, unexpectedly, which is consistent with Abraham 1:20 ("and smote the priest that he died").

Amenemhat moved the capital of Egypt far to the north, where he sought to restore the "old ways" of Egypt, and to link himself to the early rulers.