Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Creation-Covenant Connection

In Temple Theology, Margaret Barker discusses a linguistic connection between "creation" and "covenant" with significant implications on our understanding of the purpose of the temple:

The word 'bara' (divine creation) is similar is sound and form to the word for covenant, 'berith,' and the Hebrew dictionary suggests that the root meaning of 'covenant' is 'to bind.' This similarity of the creative activity leads me to suspect that is the key to the older creation story, that the words had been related. Creating in the holy of holies was a process of binding into bonds, engraving limits and definitions, and then using them to order the visible creation.

In other words, the purposes of creation are interconnected with the everlasting covenant between God and fallen man through Jesus Christ the Mediator.

This connection between "creation" and "covenant" is as old as a thing can be, having been established before the foundation of the world.  Making this connection helps shed light on many passages in the scriptures.  Consider these words from Paul:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1, NIV)
Another interesting aspect of the creation-covenant connection is that when we sin, we upset the balance of creation and defy the very purpose of that creation.

The purpose of the creation was to separate fallen man from God while at the same time instruct him in the ways of God to allow him to progress back to the presence of the Father through the atoning sacrifice of the Son. This knowledge is gained through the everlasting covenant and allows man to transcend the material world and regain the divine presence.

Meanwhile, Satan and the fallen angels offer a counterfeit covenant in an effort to deceive man into choosing the way of death by fixating on the material world.

This is the essence of the concept of "the two ways."

Lehi teaches this doctrine plainly to his son Jacob:

14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God. (2 Nephi 2)


Consider the words of the Christ to the survivors of the great destruction of the Nephite civilization just before His coming:

2 Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen! (3 Nephi 9)


This is followed by a list of cities which were destroyed (the opposite of creation) for the following reasons:

  • Moronihah: "to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them."
  • Gilgal/Onihah/Mocum/Jerusalem: "to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them."
  • Gadiandi/Gadiomnah/Jacob/Gimgimno: "to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up any more unto me against them."
  • Jacobugath: "because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; ... to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them."
  • Laman/Josh/Gad/Kishkumen: "because of their wickedness in casting out the prophets, and stoning those whom I did send to declare unto them concerning their wickedness and their abominations. ... that their wickedness and abominations might be hid from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints whom I sent among them might not cry unto me from the ground against them."

This is followed by another summary:
12 And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and their abominations.
A few details jump out at me:

1) Note the very obvious connection between the words of Christ in 3 Nephi 9:2 at the time of great darkness after the destruction: "for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people;" and Moses 7:26 "And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced."  Satan and his angels brought about the darkness by means of the veil/chain.  In other words, their efforts to deceive men into fixating on the material world brought about the destruction of the land as well as the destruction of their souls.

2) The wicked Nephites had rejected the everlasting covenant in favor of secret combinations and had killed the prophets/saints.  The blood of those prophets and saints came up unto the Lord "from the ground."  There is a poetic cycle here (rejecting the divine messengers and sending them to the ground causes the ground itself to come up against you), not to mention this is yet another example of the temple-related symbol of "dust/ground/earth."

3) There are many more examples of this "creation-covenant" theme fitting right into the Book of Mormon, which makes sense if the Nephite tradition arose from the High Priestly temple tradition of the first temple period.

Mormon's references to Alma 5

Alma 6 is a short transitional chapter between sermons in Alma 5 and 7, where Mormon moves from quoting Alma's words on the plates of Ne...