Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Scriptural repetition -- Book of Mormon examples 2

This topic was introduced in this post and is largely based on a paper I read. It made think about posts we have already written that fit into this framework and other examples of "types of repetition and shadows of history" in the Book of Mormon. I presented several examples here, but I want to add some more in this post.

King Benjamin and King Mosiah

In my previous post I discussed another pair kings who happened to be father and son. The Book of Mormon also establishes parallels between two righteous Nephite kings, Benjamin and Mosiah-II by using repetition. Consider these two passages

13 Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—

14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day. (King Benjamin in Mosiah 2)

13 Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.

14 And even I myself have labored with all the power and faculties which I have possessed, to teach you the commandments of God, and to establish peace throughout the land, that there should be no wars nor contentions, no stealing, nor plundering, nor murdering, nor any manner of iniquity (Mosiah in Mosiah 29)

Notice that Mosiah 29:13 references Benjamin before the description of Mosiah starts paraphrasing the description of his father in Mosiah 2. Notice also the reverse order. In addition to the reversal of the color coded parts, murdering, plundering and stealing in King Benjamin's case becomes stealing, plundering and murdering in King Mosiah's case. The Hebrew scribal tradition of both repetition and poetry shines through. 

These verses describe the epitome of a good king. So what is the purpose of this parallel? Is it just teaching us that if you are a king, you should be a good one? That would not apply to many of us. Is it enough just to show that "what happens to the happens to the son" as the old rabbinic saying goes, at least in this case? Just like the example of the two Lamanite kings in my last post where Ammon was tied into it and there was an underlying lesson, I think we can tie this to Nephi and obtain a deeper lesson.

Mosiah 29 is part of a longer discourse where Mosiah advises against continued monarchy. Simply because history has shown that kings like Benjamin and Mosiah are the exception rather than the rule. When Mosiah ended monarchy, it was the end of a 500 year old Nephite line of kings. This line started with Nephi

17 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands.

18 And it came to pass that they would that I should be their king. But I, Nephi, was desirous that they should have no king; nevertheless, I did for them according to that which was in my power. (2 Nephi 5)

Nephi was a reluctant monarch. He desired that his people should have no king but he was their leader and the people regarded him as king (see also Jacob 1:9-11). Nephi taught his people to labor with their hands while he did that which was in his power. I think that might be the lesson to be learned from this repetitive element that fits into a larger discussion about monarchy as a form of government and its effect on society. The point is: Kings and subjects alike, or any leader and the people they are responsible for, should all labor and take responsibility. We should avoid being a people who "labor exceedingly to support iniquity" (Mosiah 11:6) because of a lazy king like King Noah or, on the other hand, leaving all responsibility to the king to provide for us.  

Spacious buildings

Speaking of King Noah, there is another example of scriptural repetition involving two kings. This example follows a similar pattern as the example above and the one with two Lamanite kings in the previous post. In all cases, there is scriptural repetition in the description of two kings, but also reference to a third element that contextualizes the descriptions beyond the basic "what happens to the father, happens to the son" idea. I actually wrote a post about this a while back, but it is worth repeating and expanding in the context of scriptural repetition.

Consider the parallels between Mosiah 11 and Ether 10.

Mosiah 11

For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness.

And he laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed, a fifth part of their gold and of their silver, and a fifth part of their ziff, and of their copper, and of their brass and their iron; and a fifth part of their fatlings; and also a fifth part of all their grain.

And all this did he take to support himself, and his wives and his concubines; and also his priests, and their wives and their concubines; thus he had changed the affairs of the kingdom…

Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity

And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper;

And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things.


Ether 10

And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings.

And he did erect him an exceedingly beautiful throne; and he did build many prisons, and whoso would not be subject unto taxes he did cast into prison; and whoso was not able to pay taxes he did cast into prison; and he did cause that they should labor continually for their support; and whoso refused to labor he did cause to be put to death.

Wherefore he did obtain all his fine work, yea, even his fine gold he did cause to be refined in prison; and all manner of fine workmanship he did cause to be wrought in prison. And it came to pass that he did afflict the people with his whoredoms and abominations.

And when he had reigned for the space of forty and two years the people did rise up in rebellion against him; and there began to be war again in the land, insomuch that Riplakish was killed, and his descendants were driven out of the land.


It is not hard to imagine Moroni abridging the Jaredite record and highlighting the information about the wicked king, Riplakish, that mirrors what he has read about King Noah in the record abridged by his father. It is also not hard to imagine wicked kings in general falling into the same patterns of sin, thereby repeating history. 

As pointed out in a previous post, "spacious building" is a term from Lehi and Nephi's visions and only found in these two descriptions of wicked kings outside of that. This link to Lehi's dream and Nephi's subsequent vision is another interesting way to frame this recurring narrative of a wicked king. The spacious building is "the world and the wisdom thereof", "the pride of the world" and "vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men". When a wicked king erects spacious buildings, this might metaphorically say something about them and the potential effects on their people.

I will not go into details now, but Nephi's vision of the spacious building evolves into the great and abominable church. There are many textual elements linking the two. Nephi sees that gold, silver and precious things and harlots are the desires of this abominable church. The link places two wicked kings in a bigger picture of wicked behavior and influence leading to covenant breaking, perverting the right ways of the Lord and taking away plain and precious gospel truths.

Monday, June 28, 2021

'New life' as an early Christian/temple theme (and major mantic symbol), part 3

My previous two posts (here and here) lay the foundation that 'new life' is an ancient doctrine re-taught by Christ and early Christians rather than invented by them at that time. Joseph Smith learned this through revelation. 'New life' doctrine is taught numerous times in the Book of Mormon.  We also find it in the Book of Moses, where Adam is taught the purpose of the Gospel:

59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory; (Moses 6)

This is supported by archaeological discoveries which came later. I'll outline a few ancient examples below.

The Damascus Document

This is a Jewish text discovered relatively intact in 1897 and then found in fragments among the dead sea scrolls in the 1940s.  This text is from the pre-Christian era and includes language that sounds surprisingly Christian, including talk of eternal life through God making atonement and "hidden things" revealed in connection to the covenant (also insinuating that all Israel had gone astray, perhaps by suppressing this teaching).  For example:

But with them that held fast to the commandments of God, who were left among them, God confirmed His covenant with Israel for ever, revealing unto them the hidden things in which all Israel erred: His holy Sabbaths and His glorious festivals, the testimony of His righteousness and the ways of His truth and the desires of His will which a man shall do and live by them. He opened before them and they digged a well of many waters, and he that despises them shall not live. But they wallowed in the transgression of man and in the ways of the unclean woman. And they said that it belongs to us. But God in the abundance of His wonder made atonement for their sins and forgave their transgression. And He built them a sure house in Israel, the like of which never arose beforetime and hitherto. They who hold fast to Him are for the life of eternity, and all glory of man is for them; as God confirmed it to them through Ezekiel, the prophet, saying: "The priests and the Levites and the sons of Zadok that kept the charge of His sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from them they shall bring near unto me fat and blood." (Damascus Document ch. 5, source here)

Notice the mention of the "sure house in Israel" connecting the concept of the Atonement for sin and eternal life.  This is a clear reference to the temple, where those sin offerings were to be made according to the law of Moses to point the mind forward to Christ. For me, this is clear evidence that branches of Jews maintained the original understanding of their religion and looked forward to Christ who would come and make atonement for sin, leading them to eternal life. 

Qumran Hymns

These hymns come from the same Jewish sect living in exile from Jerusalem in the centuries leading up to the time of Christ. Margaret Barker quotes the hymn known as QHXVIII: "Thou hast taught them thy marvelous mysteries ... that he may stand before thee with the everlasting host ... to be renewed with all the living and to rejoice together with them that know."  Multiple hymns "tell of someone raised to the everlasting height to be part of the congregation of the sons of heaven." (The Great High Priest, p. 26-27)


History is written by the winners.  This applies to doctrine as well.  It is important when we look at truth claims of the restoration to be wary of assuming the mainstream view of a doctrine is the correct or original version of that doctrine.  In light of the general human trend to drift from mantic to sophic, and in light of the evidence that indicates the original Israelite religion knew of the importance of the Messiah, we should be cautious in how we approach the topic.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Scriptural repetition -- Book of Mormon examples 1

I introduced this topic in my previous post, citing heavily from a paper by Alan Goff. It has made me think of other previous posts on this blog giving examples of such "types of repetition and shadows of history" in the Book of Mormon that perhaps have not been framed in this context. Consider for instance:

  • The first and second Moses. People as types is common in the Old Testament and ancient Hebrew tradition. It is clear to me that the Book of Mormon authors follow that same tradition. Here is another example.
  • Think about the times when the tree of life from the Garden of Eden shows up again in visions and teachings. There are several blog posts discussing this topic
  • Many allusions to the creation account are made in the Book of Mormon. See here, here, here and here. In many cases, "creator of heaven and earth" or similar phrase is used. This is a good example of metalepsis that I introduced in the previous post. By quoting a key phrase you invoke the entire previous story or concept. 
  • Another good example of metalepsis are the references to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, invoked by "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" and "keep my commandments and ye shall prosper in the land", respectively.
  • Lord Wilmore has identified several theological patterns, like the office of the ministry of angels, crying out for mercy and finding it through Jesus Christ and sermons with specific, repeated and consistent doctrinal teachings (that he has labeled "the sermon").
  • The Book of Ether is a miniature Book of Mormon within the Book of Mormon: The rise and fall of a nation in the promised land. Moroni compiles the story on the Jaredite plates, including their fall, which undoubtedly reminds him of the fall he has just witnessed among his own people. This post also points out the common roots in Babel/Babylon and this post shows how both journeys are related to the number 8 symbolism.
  • The exodus out of Egypt and to the promised land is a type and shadow of the latter-day gathering of Israel, our modern day exodus out of sin and into Zion. See this post. Isaiah also plays a lot on that imagery.

And so we could go on. But in addition to what has been written already, I can think of several other examples. Here are a couple and I will also save some for the next post:

Alma and Samuel

Alma's first attempt to preach the gospel in Ammonihah results in him being cast out. We read about it in Alma 8. He is about to give up and move on, but an angel stops him and asks him to go back. Alma is obedient, finds another entrance to the city, meets Amulek, and the rest is history as we say. Had this not happened, we would not have the subsequent chapters in the Book of Mormon.

This story is echoed 75 years later. Samuel the Lamanite attempts to preach the gospel in Zarahemla but is cast out. (Cast out becomes a major theme in both of these two stories). "He was about to return to his own land" (Helaman 13:2) but the voice of the Lord told him to go back to Zarahemla. He was obedient and creative finding his way into the city climbing the city wall. Had this not happened we would not have the subsequent chapters in the Book of Mormon. 

In both stories, the people are wicked and God needs to give them a warning. The warning is an echo of many Old Testament prophets: "Repent or be destroyed". The people don't (except a few that are cast out) and the cities are both destroyed some time later (see Alma 16 and 3 Nephi 8).

Was Joseph Smith running out of ideas here, just drawing on a previous narrative? So the critics would probably claim but the argument is too shallow in my opinion. The differences between the stories display more originality than the similarities display lack thereof. I will try to explain: The similarities are found in the main outline of the stories. The differences are found in the sermons. If we compare Alma and Amulek's sermons in Alma 11-13 with Samuel's sermon in Helaman 13-15, they are very different. Of course, they talk about Christ's atonement, repentance and the plan of salvation, as one would expect from any Christian sermon, but the approaches and detailed contents are very different. After an explanation of the Nephite monetary system in Alma 11, Alma goes back to the Garden of Eden to lay the groundwork for an explanation of the ministry of angels, including the ancient High Priestly role and the Hebrew concept of rest in Alma 12-13. Samuel prophesies of the signs of Christ's birth and death in Helaman 14 and addresses the Nephite/Lamanite tension in Helaman 15. 

Reading only the sermon part of these two stories, one would not see any parallels whatsoever. And that is my point: The sermons with all their detailed prophecies and expansions of doctrine make up the vast majority of these chapters. In other words, Joseph could easily have left out the story of being cast out and returning in at least one of the accounts to avoid displaying his lack of creativity without losing much of the text. For me, this points to an ancient text written by people who had a worldview similar to Israelites of old, where God's ways are "one eternal round" and history repeats itself, in different times and circumstances.

One might object to this notion by arguing that these were actual events regardless of the worldview of the authors. Obviously, I believe there was a real Alma and a real Samuel, who were both cast out and asked to return to warn the people. This fact is independent of the worldview of the people who wrote down the stories. So I view this as confirmation that God in fact does deal with his children in certain ways following distinct patterns. But I do believe that the authors recognized that and that their worldview influenced how they recorded it. They were eager to identify and point the reader to these patterns because they witnessed of God's hand.

The dramatic conversion of Lamanite kings

I have not thought much about it before, but anybody who reads Book of Mormon will notice that King Lamoni and his father both faint as part of a rather dramatic conversion to the Lord. This is a very specific example of the old rabbinic saying, "what happens to the father, happens to the son". But in this story, the order is reversed. It happens to the son first and then the father. I don't know if there is any significance in that, but it marks some sort of shift/reversal with the Lamanites embracing the gospel.

The repetitive element is clear. A Nephite missionary stands in front of a king, who is ready and willing to listen and even says he is going to believe whatever they tell him. 
And the king answered him, and said: Yea, I will believe all thy words. (King Lamoni to Ammon in Alma 18:23)
And if now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe. (King Lamoni's father to Ammon's brother in Alma 22:7)

After they have been taught the gospel, the cried unto the Lord in mighty prayer and fall to the ground as if they are dead. Again, the circumstances are different, what happens next is different, but this particular pattern is repeated in both events, for son and father.

What are we to make of it? I am not exactly sure but later in Alma, Mormon inserts a comment after Ammon has had a similar experience.

16 And it came to pass that as Ammon was going forth into the land, that he and his brethren met Alma, over in the place of which has been spoken; and behold, this was a joyful meeting.
17 Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth.
18 Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness. (Alma 27)

This passage contains two examples of internally consistent references. "The place of which has been spoke" in verse 16 refers back to Alma 17:1. Alma 17-27 consist of a long flashback and now we are back at the starting point. "Fell again to the earth" in verse 17 is also a very subtle example of internal consistency. There is no other mention of Ammon falling to earth in Alma 27. We need to go all the way back to Alma 19 when he taught King Lamoni.

Now Ammon seeing the Spirit of the Lord poured out according to his prayers upon the Lamanites, his brethren, who had been the cause of so much mourning among the Nephites, or among all the people of God because of their iniquities and their traditions, he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God for what he had done for his brethren; and he was also overpowered with joy; and thus they all three had sunk to the earth. (Alma 19:14)

This reference ties Ammon's second falling to the earth to his first in the king's palace so that Mormon links his comment also to the conversion of the Lamanite kings. But as Ammon fell to the earth, both the first and the second time, he was a faithful missionary with much gospel knowledge unlike the Lamanite kings who had barely heard about God. But they all experienced this same joy. Perhaps the lesson is that no matter our circumstances and knowledge of the gospel, whether we are recent converts or lifelong members, we must be "truly penitent and humble seeker[s] of happiness". 

I will leave this post with these two new examples and give some more in the next post.

'New life' as an early Christian/temple theme (and major mantic symbol), part 2

This is a continuation of my last post. In part 1, we looked at the ancient story of Cain and Abel and how the same lessons were taught by Jesus. To someone unfamiliar with the ancient symbols found in the Cain and Abel story, it might seem that Jesus was teaching radical new doctrine, when in actuality He was restoring the original understanding of the doctrines of the Israelite religion, which had been suppressed centuries earlier. Hundreds of years before Christ, Jacob preserved a wonderful summary of the original religion in Jacob 4:4-10. He wasn't the only one -- we'll get to some additional examples in the next few posts.

Grasping this idea can unfold new layers of meaning in very familiar verses, as we have already seen with Matthew.

As this concept clicked in my head, I understood the words of Paul on faith in a new light. Here is what Paul said about Abel as he spoke about what it means to have faith (I've included the KJV first followed by the same verses from the Expanded Bible, which offers some helpful notes and alternate translations):

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. (Hebrews 11, KJV)

3 It is by faith we understand that the ·whole world [universe; cosmos; ages] was made by God’s ·command [word; Gen. 1] so what we see was ·made by something that cannot be seen [L not made from/by visible things].

4 It was by faith that Abel offered God a ·better [more acceptable] sacrifice than Cain [Gen. 4:4–8]. God ·said he was pleased with [commended him for; bore testimony to] the gifts Abel offered and ·called Abel [commended him as; testified that he was] a ·good [righteous] man because of his faith. Abel died, but through his faith he is still speaking [12:24]. (Hebrews 11, Expanded Bible)

Faith led to Abel's more acceptable offering to God, an animal sacrifice in the manner taught to Adam by the angel (see Moses 5:5). Obedience to that ordinance (and an understanding of the doctrine of Christ underpinning that ordinance) allowed Abel to find life eternal (though he died, "through his faith he is still speaking"). From this we learn that true faith (as it was initially taught by angels) is centered on a belief that God is the Creator, that He knows best, and that we must constantly strive to hearken to His voice.

In the following chapter, Paul makes another reference to Abel's offering in direct comparison to Christ. All of this is given in the context of a description of God's church that is loaded with temple/covenant imagery:

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12, NRSV)

What happens to our faith when we begin to view the temple the place where we come to exercise our faith in God, the place where we can "come to Mount Zion ... and to innumerable angels in festal gathering"? What is being celebrated? That we have found new life in Christ, the "mediator of a new covenant" through His blood which was shed for us.

Faith begins with hope in a better world and that hope leads us to a new life in Christ. Everything we do as we follow Him is best thought of as a celebration of what He did for all mankind. To reiterate Jacob's words from the last post, "... we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us." (Jacob 4:4)

How can we know if these are new ideas or ancient ones?

The Book of Mormon provides a key to answering this question, but as I mentioned above, it is not the only place where these ancient understandings were recorded. Margaret Barker (a Methodist scholar of the Bible) has spent her life uncovering the most ancient understanding of Israelite temple worship and symbols.  She is an excellent resource on this topic. In the next post, I'll review some of the sources she cites to demonstrate that the concept of "new life" is an ancient doctrine of the first Israelite temple, not an early Christian invention.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Scriptural repetition -- An introduction

In this paper, Alan Goff makes a good case for intentional repetition in ancient Hebrew scripture (including the Book of Mormon whose writers have Hebrew heritage). The modern notion among historicist biblical scholars is that many repetitive elements in the Old Testament are clumsy, narrative failures and often evidence of various origins and textual development over time. However, recent pushback against these ideas, including Goff's article, present ancient writers who used repetition deliberately as a literary style, not a defect. The article starts out by giving many examples

Hagar is twice expelled from Abraham’s household (Genesis 16:4–14; 21:9–19), thrice a patriarch endangers his wife in a foreign country by passing her off as his sister (Genesis 12:10–19; 20:1–16; 26:6–11), and multiple times a patriarch or prophet travels to a foreign country to meet a nubile girl at a well to secure a wife (Genesis 24:10–60; 29:1–16; Exodus 2:15–21). Pharaoh slaughters the infants as does Herod the Great (Exodus 1:15– 22; Matthew 2:16–18), and a prophetic figure — whether Moses or Jesus [Page 264]— miraculously provides food in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4–16; Matthew 15:32–38). I could cite many more examples of repeated biblical stories: conflicts as the younger brother supersedes the older (Joseph and his brothers, Genesis 37, 42–45; Esau and Jacob, Genesis 27; Laman and Lemuel against Nephi, 1 Nephi 3:28–31 and elsewhere), threats against out- of-towners appealing for hospitality (Genesis 19; Judges 19); twice Nephites send their attractive young women out to charm marauding Lamanites so the vulnerable group isn’t killed (Mosiah 19:12–15; Mosiah 23:33–34). Such doublets, as they are frequently called, are fundamental to the working of Hebraic narrative: two creation stories, two instances of animals boarding the ark (seven of each kind once and two of each animal the second time), two narratives of water provided in the wilderness during the exodus. To the modern mind these examples are historical problems in the text — duplications, narrative inconsistencies, failures, plagiarisms; biblical critics have in the past few decades rehabilitated these recurrences, noting their sophistication, revealing modern incapacities in scorning them. Sternberg notes of biblical repetitions that “the dismissal of its redundancies in terms of ‘noise’ is the reader’s last resort rather than first resort” and more likely the result of readerly failure than writerly shortcoming.

These ancient writers held a worldview where time ran in cycles and God's dealings with his children followed established recurring patternsThe ancient rabbis highlighted the repeating elements in biblical narrative, noting that “what happens to the fathers, happens to the sons.”

This worldview is clearly held by Nephi

...as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19)

Therefore, we should not be surprised to find recurring events and patterns in the Book of Mormon just as we see in the Old Testament. This is something we have touched upon on this blog before, without necessarily fitting it into the framework that this paper provides. I want to highlight some of the recurring patterns or repetition previously discussed as well as demonstrate some new examples of this. The paper I linked to is quite long, so I will just highlight some of the important paragraphs here for convenience. The paper quotes Robert Alter saying

There are many kinds of ambiguity and contradiction, and abundant varieties of repetition, that are entirely purposeful and that are essential features of the distinctive vehicle of literary experience.

Goff himself notes

The biblical composers and editors used duplicate narrative devices to shape their narratives and provide meaning. Those approaches were built into the text from the beginnings and became a dominant feature of the collection of documents that became the Bible. The textual history is firmly marked by the feature.

He also argues that "to call repetitions “merely” metaphorical is to misunderstand both scripture and metaphor" and goes on to explain the concept of metaphors or types in scripture.

Old Testament priests “who serve unto the example [upodeigmati] and shadow [skia] of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern [typon] shewed to thee in the mount.” The Latin figura is the word most commonly used to translate the Greek typos. The secondary pattern matches the original. For the believer in the scripture and its ontology “a scriptural figure, in Christian theology, is not a literary metaphor that brings to the intellect some deeper meaning when attached to another image. A figure is a form that God actually makes historical experience fit, like some providential mold.” This scriptural view of time and history should never be condescended to by the modern reader who sees time in a fundamentally different, linear way. The type establishes a model that later events are going to repeat, which gives us recurrence in time and history; the analogous relationship may or may not be perceived by the reader of any given epoch, but the pattern is nevertheless manifest in the divine creative act. The modern reader needs to grasp and concede the sophistication of this view even if modern temporal notions obstruct adhering to it... Modern condescension toward ancient worldviews is too often framed after only a cursory (if that) examination of antiquity. If that modern condescension of the Bible’s textual assumptions slips over to the Book of Mormon, one can hardly be surprised if either book is read in a superficial way.

He also explains the concept of metalepsis

a mere reference to another text that reverberates with much stronger connection to the earlier text’s context by referring to only one small part but obliquely invoking the entire previous story...just by using a key word or citing a phrase, the later writer can evoke the larger context and storyline of the earlier text.

Learning about this, many Book of Mormon examples of metalepsis immediately comes to mind. This can come in many forms

The analogous element can be embedded in plot, character, word sound, word meaning, or theme. The repetitive component just needs to remind the reader of the earlier type.

There are many examples given in the paper. In addition to the ones given in the opening quote, the paper brings up several other examples that are discussed at various length.

Jonah and Exodus

In Jonah 4:2 we read
for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and mercifulslow to anger, and of great kindness

This is likely an allusion to Exodus 34:6-7

And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and graciouslongsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin

This is more obvious in the original Hebrew where e.g. "slow to anger" in Jonah and "longsuffering" in Exodus are the same word. This example is part of a discussion in the paper about the nature of relationships between two texts. In general, it is much easier to show that a relationship exists than to prove which one came first, especially in the Old Testament when sometimes little is known about original authorship. But some cases are easier than others. This example has all the specificity on the side of Exodus being the predecessor text. According to Goff

By citing just one detail from God’s previous mercy, grace, and longsuffering in the foundational event of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and receipt of the law of Moses, the Jonah passage evokes God’s previous works of salvation for Israel, extending mercy for thousands and forgiving Israel’s sins. God granted Israel mercy, grace, and longsuffering by sending Moses down the mountain with the tablets of the law after 40 days to find the children of Israel engaging in idolatry at the base of the mountain. The irony is that God is willing to extend the same mercy, grace, and longsuffering to the people of Nineveh that Jonah wants reserved only for Israel with the Israelite ancestors knowingly idolatrous while the Ninevites don’t know their moral right hands from their left (Jonah 4:11). The reader needs to know the larger story of granting the law of Moses to see what the book of Jonah is doing in the allusion, whereas one doesn’t have to know the book of Jonah to get the message from Exodus 34.

Alma's and Lehi's visions

In Alma 36:22, Alma sees a vision very similar to Lehi's vision. He explicitly refers to it and the verse contains a verbatim quote of 1 Nephi 1:8. Goff uses this example to challenge Brent Metcalfe's assertion that Joseph Smith is the author of the Book of Mormon and that the order of composition (Mosiah-Moroni -> 1 Nephi-WoM) points to the "real" author. This Alma-Lehi example is but one example to challenge that idea. It establishes the original and the reference even more clearly than the previous Jonah-Exodus example. Alma refers to Lehi by name, Lehi never mentions Alma. If Lehi's writings came first, Joseph Smith was not the author (unless you can make a good case for Joseph Smith hiding a manuscript in his hat and secretly reading from it, which you can't).

Helaman 6

There are some verses in these chapters that exemplify metaleptic allusion to evoke the larger context and storyline of earlier texts. 

25 Now behold, it is these secret oaths and covenants which Alma commanded his son should not go forth unto the world, lest they should be a means of bringing down the people unto destruction.

26 Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit

27 Yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known unto the world. And he did plot with Cain and his followers from that time forth.

28 And also it is that same being who put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven. And it was that same being who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell.

Helaman 6:25 refers to Alma 37 which in turn refers to Jaredite secret oaths in the Book of Ether. Verses 26-27 refer to Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel in the early chapters of Genesis and verse 28 refers to the Tower of Babel and the Jaredite exodus. It is clear from all these examples that they refer to past events. Again, this challenges the idea that Joseph Smith is the author because at this point in the dictation, the Book of Ether did not yet exist. Turning the logical order around and considering Ether a reference to an original text in Helaman 6 is like saying that the Garden of Eden story in Genesis is referring to Helaman.

Isaiah 40:3-4

This is a well-known verse
The voice of him that crieth in the wildernessPrepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain

Goff uses this example to demonstrate that "the very notion of repetitions runs against the historicist assertion that a text means only what the original author intended. Repetitions by nature imply the existence of multiple meanings and symphonic reverberations within a single text, even when read in different historical contexts.

The historical setting for Isaiah 40 is clearly the preparation for a latter-day gathering of Israel. In 1 Nephi 10:3, Lehi talks about this context without referring to Isaiah 40 or its language. But only a few verses later, he ties this into a message about the coming of the Messiah and uses the Isaiah language.

even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews — even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world … And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord — Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing (1 Nephi 10:5,7-8)

We see something similar done in Matthew 3:3. In fact, many New Testament quotations of the Old Testament represent what modern historicist bible scholars would consider misinterpretations. But Nephi goes out of his way to recommend Isaiah more generally (2 Nephi 25:1-6). In Alma we see further examples of this passage applied differently. This language is used both in an uplifting message to the righteous people in Gideon in Alma 7 and the wicked people in Ammonihah in Alma 9.

But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. (Alma 7:9)

Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been—if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil. (Alma 9:28) 

A conclusive note

There are even more examples brought up and discussed in Goff's paper but I will let this suffice for now. I want to spend future posts on identifying other examples from the Book of Mormon. There are plenty of them. Before going into that, I will share some general thoughts. 

One observation is the uniqueness of this scriptural feature. Perhaps others would disagree, but when reading novels or other literature, you would normally encounter events along a timeline without much repetition. Initial events establishing a blueprint for later events to follow is just not something we expect to find in literature other than the scriptures. 

Another point I would make relates to the good old debate about Book of Mormon origin. When we see similar patterns and literary devices in the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon, I see that as yet another affirmation that the authors held similar worldviews and followed similar scribal traditions. If Joseph Smith authored the Book of Mormon as some people claim, similar patterns in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon require entirely different explanations. I don't want to be accused of creating a straw-man argument, so I concede that the most likely explanations by critics would be that Joseph Smith simply mimicked features of the Bible that he was familiar with. Still, I think that identifying and mimicking ancient literary styles is a lot to expect from a young farmhand.

When viewed as intentional characteristics of the word of God, scriptural repetitions become gateways to additional learning and insight. In his book "Beholding the tree of life", Bradley J. Kramer suggests that we have something to learn from the rabbis who arguably spend more time with their text than the average Latter-Day Saint Book of Mormon reader. They pay particular attention when there is repetition and seeming redundancies. They believe that the learning lies in the differences between similar texts as well as in the similarities between different texts. That is, repetitions are rarely verbatim and if they are, the contexts are not identical. Once the allusion has been established, the learning points lies in the differences between the reference and the referred text.

I will spend the next posts presenting further examples from the Book of Mormon.

ANNOUNCEMENT - new hosting service for BookofMormonNotes.com

We're excited to announce that this blog has a new home at WordPress.  Use  this link  to get there.  New projects, content, and feature...