Deuteronomy 32:8-9 – Many Implications for LDS Religion

Today I took a few moments to read in one of my favorite books, The Apostolic Fathers (2nd ed., translated by J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, ed. and rev. by M.W. Holmes, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), a compilation of some of the earliest Christian writings after the New Testament. And while exploring, I found an interesting version of Deuteronomy 32:8 that I wish to discuss.

By the way, I love reading the early Christian writings in The Apostolic Fathers because it reminds me of the reality of the Restoration. So much of the theology in there sounds more like something from an LDS General Conference sermon than the theology of our modern critics who claim to represent “historic Christianity.” (For abundant details, see Barry Bickmore’s Early Christianity and Mormonism site.)

Many early Christian writings are available on the Early Church Fathers Site at Wheaton College. One can view individual books there or download files with extensive portions of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF), edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson in a 10-volume set (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885-1896). I especially recommend downloading Volumes 1 and 2, where one can read writings from the early fathers of the Church. For study of the Apostolic Fathers in particular, I just found an interesting inline resource: the Apostolic Fathers Lookup Tool described at Ricoblog. This allows you to enter references to passages of the Apostolic Fathers and see an English translation and the Greek at the same time.

So let’s take a look at the passage that caught my eye today, First Clement 29:2. The version of the text given by the online tool is slightly different than what I have in print, which follows:

For thus it is written: “When the Most High divided the nations, when He dispersed the sons of Adam, he fixed the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the Lord’s portion, and Israel his inherited allotment.”

What caught my eye is the phrase “according to the number of the angels of God.” (You can also read First Clement at the Catholic site, I understand “angels of God” to be one of two common translations for this part of Deut. 32:8 in the Septuagint, which is often rendered as “sons of God.”

I’m comfortable with either “sons of God” or “angels of God” – after all, we understand angels to be human souls, sons of God also, sent to earth to minister for God from time to time. But what makes Deut. 32:8-9 so interesting and controversial is the apparent editing that was done in the Hebrew (Masoretic) text that was used as the basis for the King James Version and most modern translations of the Old Testament. Most LDS people reading the King James version of Deuteronomy would never guess how intriguing this passage is. Here is the KJV:

8 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

9 For the LORD’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

Apparently, this passage originally referred not to “the children of Israel,” but to “the sons of God,” and in so doing, may have been a reference to the ancient Israelite concept of a council of the gods where Jehovah (Yahweh) was the chief among the sons of God, subordinate to the God of gods, El (as in Elohim). You can see the phrase “sons of God” in an English translation of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomion) from the Septuagint at the CCAT site of the University of Pennsylvania, among other places.

Michael Griffith’s article, “Is the Bible Inerrant and Complete?” includes a section on this controversial passage of scripture (see the link for detailed references):

We have considered some of the many cases where the New Testament authors find it necessary to follow the LXX over the Hebrew Old Testament. Says Richard F. Smith, “at times the LXX is cited [in the New Testament] in support of Christian doctrines precisely because the Hebrew text does not support the doctrines in question” (in Brown, Fitzmyer, and Murphy 2:511).

Further proof that variant readings affect important passages comes from Deuteronomy 32:8-9. In the Masoretic Text (MT), as it is translated in the KJV, the passage reads as follows:

When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD’s [Yahweh’s] portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

However, it has long been known from the Septuagint, and more recently from the Dead Sea Scrolls, that the phrase “according to the number of the children of Israel” used to read “according to the number of the sons of God.” In the RSV, which takes into account the confirming evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the passage reads like this:

When the Most High [El Elyon] gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of men, he fixed the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. For the LORD’s [Yahweh’s] portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.

The significance of this variation is that in ancient times the term “sons of God” frequently referred to members of a divine assembly of gods. The ancient Hebrews believed in a divine council of deities headed by the supreme father-god El (also called Elohim or El Elyon), and they often referred to the members of this council as “the sons of God.” There is considerable disagreement among scholars over the council’s composition, but there is no serious question that a belief in a divine assembly of heavenly deities was an important doctrine in ancient Hebrew theology (Eissfeldt; Mullen; Hayman; Morgenstern; Hanson 39; Clifford; Ackerman; Ackroyd; Seaich 1983:9-23).

By changing “the sons of God” to “the children of Israel,” someone was deliberately trying to eliminate the reference to the divine council.

The LXX and Dead Sea Scroll versions of Deuteronomy 32:8-9 portray Yahweh as separate from El and as a member of the divine assembly subordinate to Him. As Niels Lemche says, “the Greek version apparently ranges Yahweh among the sons of the Most High, that is, treats him as a member of the pantheon of gods who are SUBORDINATE to the supreme God, El Elyon” (226, emphasis added). According to Harvard University’s Paul Hanson,

This verse no doubt preserves early Israel’s view of her place within the family of nations. The high god “Elyon” originally apportioned the nations to the members of the divine assembly. . . . Israel was allotted to Yahweh (39)

As the RSV puts it, Israel was Yahweh’s “allotted inheritance,” given (or “allotted”) to Him by His Father, El.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint prove that in the original Hebrew of Deuteronomy 32:8-9, Yahweh was portrayed as a member of the divine council under El. Therefore, those who subsequently tampered with the Hebrew text were probably Yahweh-only editors who wanted to erase the original distinction between El and Yahweh and to depict Yahweh as the one and only God.

Similar information is provided in a brief summary of The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and Ugaritic Texts by Mark Smith.

Martin S. Tanner’s book review, “Book of Mormon Christology” (FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1995, pp. 6-37) includes a discussion of the implications of Deut. 32:8,9 on the relationship between Christ and the Father, and the linkage between Christ and Jehovah, showing further support for LDS themes:

In an apparent attempt to show that the Latter-day Saint idea of Jesus as Jehovah is inconsistent with the Old and New Testaments, [Melodie Moench] Charles [author of Book of Mormon Christology] claims:

There is no evidence in the Old or New Testament that this doctrine was taught anciently. The use of the divine names Jehovah and Elohim in the Old Testament never supports the twentieth-century Mormon doctrine that Elohim is the father of Jehovah, that Jehovah, not Elohim, is the God of the Old Testament, or that Jehovah is Jesus Christ. . . . [T]he divine names Elohim and Jehovah are both used unambiguously to refer to the same divine being, the one god of the Old Testament. (p. 109)

Where does Charles come up with this? Recognized experts on the Old Testament take a contrary position. For example, Professor Mark Smith of Yale University states, “The original god of Israel was El. . . . El was the original chief god of the group named Israel. . . . Similarly, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 casts Yahweh in the role of one of the sons of El.” [Mark S. Smith, The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990), 7, emphasis added.] Margaret Barker, of Oakbrook School in England, and member of the Society for Old Testament Study, explains:

Yahweh was one of the Sons of El Elyon, God Most High. In other words, he [Jesus] was described as a heavenly being. Thus the annunciation narrative has the term “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32) and the demoniac recognized his exorcist as “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7). Jesus is not called son of Yahweh nor the son of the Lord, but he is called Lord. We also know that whoever wrote the New Testament translated the name Yahweh by Kyrios, Lord. (See, for example, the quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love Yahweh your God . . .” which is rendered in Luke 10:27 “You shall love the Lord [Kyrios] your God.”) This suggests that the Gospel writers, in using the terms “Lord” and “Son of God Most High,” saw Jesus as [divine] and gave him their version of the sacred name Yahweh. [Barker, The Great Angel, 4-5]

Barker goes on to say that the identification of Jesus as Yahweh happened “in the very earliest period; it was in fact, what the Christians were proclaiming when they said that Jesus was Lord. Jesus was Yahweh, the second God . . . . [T]he first Christians recognized that Jesus was Yahweh, not that he was in some way equivalent but not identical.” [Ibid., 221, emphasis in original.]

So the original form of Deut. 32:8-9, with its teachings about sons/angels of God apparently in a premortal state, provides support for LDS themes such as the relationship of God and Christ as separate Beings, the title of Jehovah that was often given to Christ before His mortal birth, the concept of there being a council of gods, the fact that we are sons and daughters of God with divine potential, the premortal existence, and, of course, the reality of human editorial changes to the scriptures. Quite a lot from a tiny verse or two. What a shame it was edited away in the Masoretic text!

Other resources: the Hebrew (Masoretic) text of Deut. 32 from the Blue Letter Bible.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

32 thoughts on “Deuteronomy 32:8-9 – Many Implications for LDS Religion

  1. Cool post. I like to find proofs of the premortal existence/council of the gods etc. in the old testament. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Doesn’t Acts 2:36 say that God has made this Jesus .. both Jehovah (Kyrios) and Messiah. I don’t have or read a Greek version, but I have heard this is the case.

  3. KJV Bible — Acts 2:36 reads:
    Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

  4. My fav part of the Bible is where Noah has to round up all the animals and put them on the ark. Do you think that the flood was really all over the world? Or just there in that area?

  5. What gets me is that most real Bible scholars know these things, that there are several versions of source texts for both the Old and New Testaments, and that they agree in most part, but there are both some subtle and some major differences.

    Yet the most vociferous anti-LDS antagonists insist on pristine inerrancy in the Bible, specifically the King James Version.

    I suggest people get a few different translations of the Bible, in addition to the KJV, such as the American Standard Version (ASV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), New International Version (NIV). Also noteworthy is the New Living Translation (NLT) which comes from the same people who gave us the Living Bible. But, whereas the Living Bible was a loose paraphrase, the New Living Translation is more of a strict translation, and not a paraphrase.

    More importantly, I suggest reading the “Note from the translators” in all the above. Check them out at your local library if you don’t want to buy them. All the translators admit that there were inaccuracies and errors in previous translations and that their current translation is not perfect. It’s a real eye opener for those who think there can be a pristine, unerring and perfect translation of the Bible.

    As further evidence that human translation is not perfect, I point you to the “revised” or “new” editions of the above, these are REAL translations, and I’m not making this up. See the American Bible Society and the International Bible Society web sites to look these up:

    New King James Version, NKJV.
    New American Standard Bible, NASB.
    New Revised Standard Version, NRSV.
    Amplified Bible, AMP.
    English Standard Version, ESV.
    Contemporary English Version, CEV.
    New Jerusalem Bible (update of the 30 year old Jerusalem Bible.)
    Good News Translation, GNT (update of the Good News Bible).
    Todays New International Version, TNIV.
    New International Readers Version, NIrV.

    When I come across a passage in the KJV that I can’t understand, I’ll often look it up in the NIV, RSV, or Jerusalem Bible.

    If I had to pick just one other translation to use in conjunction with our standard KJV, I would pick the New International Version, NIV.

  6. Anon at 8:29 am:

    My crazy pet theory: (next time I get a cat or dog, I’m going to name it “Theory”, and the next one “Peeve”.)

    Maybe God restored to life all the plants and animals that died in the flood that couldn’t fit on the ark. Or maybe he miraculously preserved a few of every species that didn’t make it into the ark.

    That would be in line with God’s principle of “Do everything you can, and God makes up the rest.” Noah might have saved every animal that he was aware of and had access to, but then God some how saved, or restored to life, the rest.

    If God can raise Lazarus from the dead, he can raise a penguin from the dead.

    Another possibility is that when Noah wrote that the whole earth was flooded, maybe it was only from his perspective, and God didn’t fully inform him of what was going on outside of his view.

    That’s another principle that God appears to work by, most often giving someone only enough information for their immediate concern.

    One of my questions is: “How did Moses know all those things that happened in Genesis before he was born?” Did he write Genesis from pure revelation, or did he summarize records that were handed down from the patriarchs. He could have received records that were kept by the descendants of Jacob in Egypt. He may also have received records from his father-in-law, Jethro, who apparently had the priesthood through another line outside of Abraham, but still linking him to Melchizedek.

    So many questions. We just don’t know. But it’s fun to think about what is possible based on the scant information we do have.

    John 21:25 talks about all the things that Jesus did that were not written, but if they were, the earth wouldn’t have room for all the books that would be written. That is probably prophetic hyperbole or exaggeration. If John can be excused in his exaggeration about “the [whole]* world” maybe Noah was using a little prophetic exaggeration or hyperbole too.

    *The KJV leaves out “whole”, but the NIV includes the word “whole.”

  7. *The KJV leaves out “whole”, but the NIV includes the word “whole.”

    In my (limited) understanding of NT Greek, I have found that the NIV is actually a much closer translation of the original than the KJV. I did a year of seminary (was training to be an Army Chaplain) and had the NT in Greek and that was my experience.

    Also found the fact that the KJV translators made up the word ‘Baptize’ from the Greek ‘baptizo’ rather than translating it as “immerse.” This was because King James had not been baptized by immersion. Interesting.

  8. A P.S. to my post of 9:12am.

    Pointing out the preface or “Notes from the tranlsators” for all the many translations and “updates” of the English language Bibles (plural) is a proper rejoinder for all those who point the finger at the LDS church for having made corrections or changes to the Book of Mormon.

    “How can you make ‘corrections’ to what is supposedly the ‘Word of God’?” they declare.

    You could point to all the English translations and politely say “You did too.”

    The first English translation of the Bible following the King James Version was the “English Revised Version” commissioned by the Church of England in 1870 and first published in 1881; the American Standard Version, its variant embodying the preferences of American scholars associated in the work, was published in 1901. [See preface to the Revised Standard Version, published by Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-528814-9.]

    What is the bottom line?

    All this gives credence to the prophetic implication of the 8th Article of Faith, dictated by Joseph Smith in a letter in 1842: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; …”

    28 years later, the Church of England, along with Bible scholars on both sides of the Atlantic, then confirmed by both word and deed that the Bible had not been translated entirely correctly.

  9. Personally I agree with Indy’s second theory: The Flood was a local event that, to Noah’s eyes, only appeared to be global because it went to his horizon.

    There are just too many logical and scientific problems with a traditional reading of the Flood. See Duane Jeffery’s article in the October 2004 Sunstone, “Noah’s Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions.”

    As far as Bible translations go, I really like the New English Translation, partly for the clarity of the translation, but mainly for the copious footnotes.

  10. Nice post Jeff. In re-reading the Book of Mormon lately, I noticed that the quotations from Zenos and Zenock both include identifications of the Messiah as the son. The edits to Deut. 32:8-9 provide evidence that such texts would not be approved in certain circles. I also like the language in the words of the angel to Nephi, in which he is told he is blessed because he believes in the son of the Most High, that is the son of El Elyon.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  11. I apologize for making an earlier post strictly focused on the topic at hand, such as the usage of Kyrios in the New Testament, which was referred to in the Margaret Barker quote.

  12. Well I just have a comment or maybe just a different view of the matter. In the times of early Israel most nations had there own god or gods. And they also believed in sons of god. El was just one of the gods that was worshipped by various nations. But they all eventually adopted their own ideas and religious concepts. And it appears that Abraham was one of the first to teach about the god EL. Then when Moses arises he teaches of the god Yahoweh.(Jehovah) And so the Israelites adopted Yahoweh as their national god but under the original god El. If you look at the history of those nations around ancient Israel they also believed in El but called him different names at times. But they also had their other national gods just as the Israelites had theirs. So Israel stating that the god El assigned Yahoweh to be their god is not so amazing as it was the same thing that most nations did in personalizing their gods etc.
    And lastly if god did divide the nations and assign various sons of god to them with Israel recieving Yahoweh(Jesus) what happened to other sons that god assigned to the other nations. The reason that the original text of the bible appears to be edited is that they wanted to obscure the fact that Israel had changed gods and that there were other gods.

  13. “KJV Bible — Acts 2:36 reads:
    Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

    This would again imply that Jehovah/Messiah/Christ is indeed subordinate to the Most High.

  14. “This would again imply that Jehovah/Messiah/Christ is indeed subordinate to the Most High.”

    I was hoping someone could comment on how well that holds up in the Greek, and in usage throughout the New Testament.

    “Then when Moses arises he teaches of the god Yahoweh.(Jehovah)”

    Maybe EL was edited out of Moses’s words as well.

  15. The book of Mormon states that the flood reached at least to this continent stating that “waters receeded from the land.” Besides, it had to be a universal flood in order to baptize the earth properly. You know, you can’t even let one hair be unsubmerged.

  16. Interesting — not scripture is complete, you can look at all the gaps in the bible and surely see that there is much missing. The same could be said for the book of mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants — or even the PGP.
    I’m not saying just throw the whole thing away, but to look at the many sitituations where God only gives us part of the record or what we currently need.
    A good example of this is in the book of mormon where Moroni thinks hes done with the book. Than goes on to ad either mormon and moroni.
    In the doctrine and covenants there are many sections that have so many things missing not as far as revelation or doctrine but historical facts to bette glue things together — so you look at church history and journals. Which ad to the whole picture but only give you limited vision as to whats going on through the writings of those enteries in the journals. But thank god for those journals.

    I’d love to have a journal from Jesus Christ that is 1200 pages long, I’m more than sure that it would ad some vary needed light to the new testament and maybe even some of the old testament, too.

    The same could be said for any prophet if they had an accurate journal, when we get the writing of Enoch form Adam and others that will fill in some of the pieces, the same can be said for the book of mormon’s sealed part, Also the writings of John that we do not have. Let us not forget the writings of the 10 tribes and others we yet do not know about.

    Is it any wonder in the future we will need a palm pilot or some thing like it to see all the records that were supposed to be kept and are not currently with us!!!

    Roger L. Martin

  17. I made a cool chart of the ages, birth years, and death years of the patriarchs from Adam to Shem/Ham/Japheth. (I don’t know if this will line up right. Comments won’t use fixed width fonts, so I used dashes.) But you can use it to see who was alive in who’s life time, and problem knew each other. Let me know if you catch any errors.


    * (when translated)
    + (approx age at flood)

    Lamech died before his father, Methuselah.

    Adam and Seth didn’t have a chance to know Noah (in mortality at least) having died before he was born.

    But everyone after them (except Enoch) had a chance to know Noah. Only Methuselah and Lamech knew Shem/Ham/Japheth.

    Enoch’s son and grandson, Methuselah and Lamech, were born before Enoch was translated, but were not translated with him, and remained in mortal flesh to have children.

    Adam and Seth died before Enoch was translated. And the other patriarchs born before Enoch, from Enos to Jared, though alive at the time of translation, were not translated with Enoch, because they are noted to have died _after_ Enoch was translated.

    Enoch knew everybody going back to Adam, but was translated 4 years before Noah was born. However, given that the ages were rounded off, or more likely truncated off to the year, an allowance for the rounding/truncating factor would allow the possibility that Enoch could have seen and blessed the young Noah.

    In fact, everyone down to and including Noah’s father, Lamech, was alive during Adam’s lifetime, and must have known each other. Lamech would have been 54 when Adam died, and was probably at Adam’s farewell speech at Adam-Ondi-Aman.

    And they all probably knew what was going to happen with Lamech’s son, Noah, that his family would be the sole survivors of the flood.

    Noah was the first patriarch not to have seen Adam in the flesh.

    Interesting how this line of patriarchs all died off before the flood, with Methuselah dieing the year of the flood.

    Also of note is how long Noah waited to have children. There could have been at least four more generations from him before the flood. Maybe that was to spare him the agony of leaving any progeny behind, and to allow enough time for the previous patriarchs to die naturally.

    Looked at this way, it was an interesting community.

  18. This shows that JD idea of the Council God is not Biblic. I also find it hard to understand how the LDS Church can us large portions of the Bible yet say that large portions if the Bible are an uncorrect translation. I hope you will read this and will be willing to contact me. I am not into Mormon Bashing I just have a different view

    Joseph Smith claimed that God Himself taught him that there is a plurality of Gods. He then states, “I will show you from the Hebrew Bible that I am correct, and the first word shows a plurality of Gods.”
    In his attempt to show that the first word of the Bible, be-ray-sheet, indicates that there is a plurality of gods Smith actually proves the fallaciousness of his doctrine. To begin with, Smith’s transliteration of the Hebrew words of Genesis 1:1 betrays a flagrant lack of knowledge of the sound values of certain consonants and vowels (e.g., berosheit for be-ray-sheet, aushamayeen [alternately aashamayeen] for ha-sha-ma-yeem, vehau for ve-ayt, and auraits for ha’aretz).
    On the basis of Smith’s own interpretation of the first verse of Genesis, one must reject his claim to divinely given knowledge of the plurality of gods doctrine or that this doctrine can be proved by reference to this verse. In his analysis of the first word of Genesis, be-ray-sheet, which Smith transliterates as berosheit, he reveals his lack of knowledge of the Hebrew language. He says that “When the inspired man wrote it, he did not put the Baith there. An old Jew, without any authority, added the word. He thought it too bad to begin to talk about the head! It read first, ‘The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods.'” How convenient to arbitrarily dismiss that which would interfere with ones explanation by ascribing it to an unidentified “old Jew.”
    Throughout the centuries the Jewish people have transmitted the sacred text of the Torah with extreme care, so that not one letter should be changed, added, or deleted. When then could an unauthorized “old Jew” have made this change without causing protest over a spurious addition? Incidentally, the supposedly added “word” is not a word at all, but the single letter bet, which when prefixed to a word becomes the inseparable preposition “in.” Furthermore, if the affixing of this inseparable preposition is to be attributed to “an old Jew” why is Smith quoted in the History of the Church (see above) as saying of Genesis 1:1 that “It read first ‘In the beginning. . . .'” We must, therefore, conclude that Smith could not decide if “the inspired man” or “an old Jew” placed the prefix letter bet at the beginning of Genesis.
    What is Smith’s source for this improbable tale about “an old Jew”? Why should this so-called “old Jew” even be concerned “about the head” being mentioned when in fact rosh, which is the Hebrew word for “head,” is not the proper pronunciation for the second syllable of the first word of Genesis? The second syllable should not be -rosh nor even -raysh, but simply -ray. There is no double shin in be-ray-sheet. The shin is the opening consonant of the last syllable -sheet. Smith calls the last syllable, which he transliterates as -sheit, a “grammatical termination.” However, no such “grammatical termination” exists in Hebrew. Properly, one can say that this word ends in the feminine singular construct ending -eet. If the text of Genesis 1:1 is rendered literally, the translation is: “In the beginning of God’s creating the heaven and the earth.” This translation is necessary because ray-sheet never means “the beginning” but rather “the beginning of” (cf. Genesis 10:10, Deuteronomy 18:4, Jeremiah 26:1). If the text were to be rendered: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” it would be necessary to write ba-ree-shonah, “at first,” rather than be-ray-sheet, which form occurs only in Scripture in the construct state.
    Joseph Smith’s teaching that “Eloheim is from Eloi, God, in the singular number” further illustrates his unfamiliarity with the Hebrew language. The singular form of the noun “God” is ‘Eloha, not Eloi, which is not even a Hebrew word; ‘Eloi as used in Mark 15:34 means “my God” and may be a variant of the Aramaic ‘Elohi. Joseph Smith’s claim that the word ‘Elohim in Genesis 1:1, having a plural ending indicates that there are many gods is completely without merit. A careful investigation of the actual use of this word in the Scriptures will unequivocally show that ‘Elohim, while plural in form, is singular in concept. In biblical Hebrew, many singular abstractions are expressed in the plural form, for example, rachamim, “compassion” (Genesis 43:14, Deuteronomy 13:18); zequnim, “old age” (Genesis 21:2; 37:3, 44:20); n’urim, “youth” (Isaiah 54:6, Psalms 127:4). It is interesting to note that no less a Mormon authority than James E. Talmage, in his own writings, contradicted Smith’s rendering of the word ‘Elohim. “In form the word is a Hebrew plural noun; but it connotes the plurality of excellence or intensity, rather than distinctively of number. It is expressive of supreme or absolute exaltation and power. Elohim, as understood and used in the restored Church or Jesus Christ, is the name-title of God the Eternal Father. . . .”4
    This understanding of the word is quite different from that of Smith’s who, in his ignorance of the Hebrew language, rendered ‘Elohim, in Genesis 1:1, as a plural. Scripture teaches us that ‘Elohim, which is the plural of majesty, is used not only in reference to God, but also for angels (divine beings) and human authorities of high stature in society. This can be clearly seen, for example, from the following usage. Manoach, the father of Samson (Judges 13:22), after seeing “an angel of the Lord,” said: “We shall surely die for we have seen ‘elohim.” Concerning human authority, we read in Exodus 22:8: “Both parties shall come before the ‘elohim [“judges”], and whom the ‘elohim [“judges”] shall condemn, he shall pay double to his neighbor.” It is, therefore, ludicrous to infer from ‘elohim, in the first verse of Genesis, the existence of a plurality of gods. Where is the plurality of persons when a single angel, referred to as ‘elohim, visited Manoach? How can the Mormon Church explain the words of the woman to Saul when, upon seeing Samuel, she explained: “I see ‘elohim coming out of the earth” (1 Samuel 28:13)? Although ‘elohim is followed by the verb in the plural, it refers to only a single individual as is clearly seen from verse 14: “And he said to her: ‘What is his appearance?’ And she said: ‘An old man is coming up; and he is wrapped in a robe.'” Thus, even with a plural verb this noun may still refer to a single individual.
    In Genesis 1:1 the verb bara, “he created,” in the singular, preceding ‘Elohim, contradicts positing a plurality of gods. That the singular form ‘Eloha and the plural form ‘Elohim are identical, when referring to the God of Israel , can be seen from their interchangeable use in Isaiah. In Isaiah 44:6 we read: “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last, and besides Me there is no God [‘Elohim].” This is followed in verse 8 by: “Is there a God [‘Eloha] beside Me?” If the truth of the doctrine of a plurality of gods depends in any measure on the plurality in form of the noun ‘Elohim, the use of ‘Eloha, the singular of the noun, within the same context, most decidedly disproves it. The underlying reason for the grammatically plural form ‘Elohim is to indicate the all-inclusiveness of God’s authority as possessing every conceivable attribute of power.
    The use of the plural for such a purpose is not limited merely to ‘Elohim, but also applies to other words of profound significance. For instance, Isaiah 19:4 uses ‘adonim (“lords”) instead of ‘adon (“lord”): “Into the hand of a cruel lord” (literally “lords,” even though referring to one person), and Exodus 21:29: “Its owner [literally, be’alav, “its owners”] also shall be put to death.” ‘Elohim means “gods” only when the Scriptures apply this plural word to the pagan deities. The pagan Philistines applied the title ‘elohim to their god Dagon (Judges 16:23-24, 1 Samuel 5:7). The Moabites, likewise, used the word ‘elohim to describe their god Chemosh (Judges 11:24). That the plural form of ‘Elohim does not at all imply a plurality of gods is a fact attested to by the ancient Greek version of the Scriptures, the Septuagint, which renders ‘Elohim with the singular title ho Theos (“the God”).
    The Book of Mormon gives evidence that Joseph Smith apparently learned about the functioning of the masculine plural ending -im, which he renders as -heim, some time after his alleged translation of that book. Hebrew masculine plurals generally end in -im. To add an -s to such words when introducing them into English is incorrect. For example, the Hebrew noun keruvim may be written in English as cherubim or even cherubs, but never cherubims. The noun cherubim is already in the plural form (cherub in the singular). To add an -s to it would be similar to the adding of an -s to the word children. The noun cherubim appears three times in modem editions of the Book of Mormon (Alma 12:21, 42:2-3), and is used correctly. However, in the first edition of the Book of Mormon the word appeared in all three places as cherubims, with the -s improperly added.5 Two of the changes were made prior to the 1888 edition, however, Alma 12:21 of the 1888 edition still retained the word cherubims and was apparently changed at some later date. Similarly, the plural of seraph is seraphim. Seraphim appears twice in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 16:2, 6). While it is used correctly in modern editions, in the first edition it appears improperly as seraphims.6 The 1877 edition of the Book of Mormon reads, at 2 Nephi 16:2, 6, the same as the 1830 edition, therefore, the changes must have been made at a later date. The appearance of these two erroneous plural forms in the first edition of the Book of Mormon should come as no great surprise.
    Smith, as we have seen above, had little, if any, knowledge of Hebrew language and grammar. In writing the Book of Mormon, assuming he is the author, Smith relied heavily on the King James Version of the Bible, where these two nouns are erroneously rendered as cherubims (for example, Genesis 3:24) and seraphims (for example, Isaiah 6:2). All said, Smith shows himself to have been a fraud who misled his followers with fanciful renderings of Scripture.

  19. Kyle forgot to tell us that his lengthy exposition on Joseph Smith and Genesis 1 that gives his different point of view is not actually his point of view at all, but has been directly lifted from someone else. The actual source is, where we see that Gerald Sigal is the author of the essay that Kyle regurgitates without accreditation.

    I encourage all of you to respect the work of others and when citing or quoting it, give proper credit and give a link or reference.

    Yes, we can argue about Genesis 1. And if one can criticize his ignorance of Hebrew when he discussed Genesis 1, we must agree that he was absolutely ignorant of Hebrew when translating the Book of Mormon. This makes the abundant presence of Hebraisms in that text all the more difficult to explain away.

  20. I would like to post a reply to kyle’s comments/quotation above.

    (In Kyle’s defense, it did seem like he only offered a comment, and then pasted an article. I don’t think he meant to make it seem as though he wrote the article itself. )

    First, does anyone know what he means by “JD idea of the Council God”? Is “JD” supposed to stand for Journal of Discourses? Does “idea of the Council God” mean idea of the Council of the Gods? Is he trying to imply that the idea of the Council of the Gods comes from the Journal of Discourses? Kyle, if you read this, please feel free to clarify.

    Second, Kyle says “I also find it hard to understand how the LDS Church can us large portions of the Bible yet say that large portions if the Bible are an uncorrect translation.” If I understand correctly, the LDS church does not claim that large portions of the Bible are an uncorrect translation. It claims that some things (not most) are translated incorrectly, which, depending on version of the Bible, and which Bible scholar you talk to, just about everyone claims the same thing. I believe there is even a revelation given to Joseph Smith in which Smith claims God told him that even the apocrypha was translated mostly correctly, though it contained many interpolations by man. I also think that on several occasions Smith expressed the belief that the Bible was translated mostly correctly. It is my understanding, that the claim is not that large portions of the Bible are an incorrect translation, but that some things have been put in that were not originally there, and that some things were changed here and there, and some things were left out here and there, but it is still mostly correct.

    Thirdly, I question why Kyle would ask to be contacted, if he wasn’t into bashing. He states he just has a different view, but is that not what he expresses by posting the text following his remark? Besides that, the text he posts following his remark seem to be a bit negative in nature, “bashing” Joseph Smith and referring to him as a fraud, and as being deceitful. This text is also misleading in it’s nature, presenting half-truths to support its own point, which I will give an example of shortly.
    If Kyle is willing to post text of such a nature, it would seem to me that he wants to argue his point further, possibly with more defamatory material, which is what I would refer to as ‘bashing.’

    No offense, Kyle, that is just the way it seems to me. Please correct me if i am wrong (which, incidentally, Smith also said during his sermon being discussed here).

    As for the text itself, the example I give of it’s use of half truths is thus:

    It seems to me that the text is trying to say that what Joseph is expressing as far as his translation of Genesis 1:1 IS the revelation he claims that God taught him that there is a plurality of Gods. It says, “On the basis of Smith’s own interpretation of the first verse of Genesis, one must reject his claim to divinely given knowledge of the plurality of gods doctrine.” Why? He is not claiming his transliteration is the revelation. In fact, the source of this (a sermon given by Joseph Smith at a meeting in the Grove, east of the Temple, June 16, 1844) shows that he was in fact speaking about the plurality of Gods in relation to new testament writings, specifically of Paul. In there he says he has it from God, that Paul was not referring to heathen gods when he spoke of Lords many and Gods many. Then he follows to state that he will show from the Hebrew Bible that he is correct, which is where discussion goes into the rendering of Gen. 1:1. He also states in there that he is going off his own learning, he also jestingly refers to himself as an unlearned boy.

    It also seems that the text is implying reference to this verse is the only support Joseph Smith gives relating to this doctrine. Smith had taught on this subject many times, giving various supports. At this time in his life, though, I believe he had been studying Hebrew to try to get a better understanding of things.He was simply explaining things as he saw it, according to what he was learning. Perhaps he learned wrong then, perhaps there is further truth in what he is saying, but he wasn’t claiming this part of his explanation as revelation from God.

    The text further goes on to bash Smith on pluralization of things in the Bible, with the usage of ‘im’ and all about how several times in the Bible actual plural words are representing singular things, how “Elohim” is used to describe things other than God, etc. Then it goes back and criticizes Smith for pluralizing cherubim or seraphim with an ‘s’ in the English translation. This seems like a double standard to me, mentioning this right after saying how the authors of the Old Testament could use plural forms of a word to represent singular things. Or that the translators could translate plural words as singular, and still be correct, but if Smith translates a plural Hebrew word according to his knowledge of English of the time, then he must be a fraud. Doesn’t make much sense. The text itself says that the same translators who translated those plural Hebrew words in the singular also added the ‘s’ to the end of cherubim and seraphim in the KJV. To me it makes sense, that in the language of the day being used for scripture (the KJV being the most popular at that time) the same language would be used in the translation. Also, if I am correct, the English language at the time often double pluralized words to make sure the plural meaning came across, when a word’s plural form did not end in ‘s.’ (i.e. ‘sheeps’ vs ‘sheep’ or ‘peoples’ vs ‘people’)

    To me it seems strange to base the entirety of one’s argument against Smith based on less than a paragraph and a half of text taken from an oration given over 150 years ago, which I believe was not even written down by Smith himself, when Smith was trying to assert his own learning of Hebrew. Whoopdy-doo, he might have made a mistake. I believe a lot people would understand Joseph Smith better if they didn’t believe that he was supposed to be perfect, or that he thought himself perfect, because he didn’t, and he wasn’t.

    It is best summed up for me in this verse from the Book of Ether

    chapter 12:
    25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
    26 And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;

    from Mormon, chapter 8:
    16 And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God.
    17 And if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.
    18 And he that saith: Show unto me, or ye shall be smitten—let him beware lest he commandeth that which is forbidden of the Lord.

  21. As to the flood, you should read Nibley’s numerous references to Hamlet’s Mill – especially his reference to it in the second edition of Abraham in Egypt – in the many articles and books he wrote over the years. Hamlet’s Mill provides an interesting interpretation/translation of this event…

  22. If “El” refers to the “Father”, or “Most High” god, then when He changed the name of Jacob to Isra-El, did He not change his name to “people of the Most High god”?

  23. I was just reading your many exchanges and I will admit that I am not knowledgable about these kinds of these, though I find them very interesting.

    This much I will offer into this seemingly fruitless attempt to out-wit others… I know Joseph Smith was a prohet by something far more convincing than any academic work, that is the penetrating witness of the Holy Ghost.

    I testify to this, and to all of you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

  24. Perfection of Scripture

    The Most High God has never revealed scripture in the English language.

    The Septuagint is a translation from Hebrew to Greek performed by “The Seventy” under authority of King Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt (285-247 BC) from scrolls obtained from the high priest Eleazar.

    The Masoretic text was not compiled until about 90 AD with the express purpose of diminishing apparent fulfillment of prophecy by Jesus of Nazareth.

    The New Testament exists exclusively in Greek [origin].

    Therefore, if it is not Greek, it MAY be in error. However, Septuagint and Greek New Testament are inerrant.

  25. jeff, great site and all the things you post. kind of a personal question, but are you related to the lindsay’s in manti utah? i only ask because i had a comp on my mission from manti whose last name was lindsay and he had an uncle from wisconsin who we went out to breakfast with.

  26. I searched for Job and did not get a hit, so I figured that I would add one of my favorites to this topic: Job 1:6-7, 2:1-2 GEN

    “Now on a day when the children of God came and ftoode before the Lord, Satan came alfo among them. Then the Lord fayde unto Satan, Whence commeft thou? And Satan anfwered the Lord, faying, From compafsing the earth to and fro, and from walking in it.”

    There is a footnote for children where the translators/commentators of my 1599 Geneva Bible admitted that it meant “the Fonnes of God”.

    Since this is another scripture that tradition states was written by Moses, it fits right along with Deut. 32:8-9.

    Maybe I’m just ignorant, but first off, it seems to me that this is a council. In the TEV, it sounds like it was a scheduled meeting (maybe something like PEC:). Perhaps we should ask the Sons of Horus if they were present, and if they were wearing their masks or not:).

    To me, this also seems like another fine example of the distinction between Elohim and Yahweh as the Sons of God did not come to present themselves before “God” or before “Him”, etc.

  27. The NIV Bible edits away the Masoretic text but the NAB Bible does not. Elohim and Jehovah are not two separate Gods like Mormonism teaches, Jesus taught there is "one God" (Mark 12:29,32). God and Christ are distinct persons but they are not separate Gods, the apostle Paul taught "to us there is but one God, the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ" (1Cor.8:4-6).

    Deuteronomy 32:8-9 does not portray Yahweh as separate God from El and as a member of the divine assembly. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 reveals Jehovah (LORD) is our God and our father, he made us and established us, Jehovah (LORD) is the most High. Jehovah is our "God" (Exod 6:2-7). Jehovah is God Almighty, the LORD our God (Exod 6:2-6). Psalm 110 reveals the "LORD (the Father) said unto my Lord (the Son), Sit thou at my right hand." The Son of God is at the right hand of God the Father exalted (Acts 2:33).

    Jesus is "I AM", the Son of God and God himself (John 8:58; John 1:1,14; 1Tim 3:16). Jesus was the "Son of the most high God" (Mark 5:7). Jesus, the Word, created all things, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible (Col 1:3-17; Psalm 33:6,9). Jehovah (the LORD) created all angels in heaven with a command (Psalm 148:1,5; Nehemiah 9:6). Angels are created spirits (Heb 1:7). Angels like Satan are called sons of God because they are created by God (Job 2:1; Psalm 148:1,5). Jesus is the first-begotten of the Father, not as having been created but as coming forth (Prov 8:25). Heavenly spirits who are members of God's council can be referred to as sons of God (Psalm 89:6,8) or gods (Psalm 82:1).

  28. One school of thought has an interesting take on the "sons of God" concept. The following corroboration was made in my Oxford Annotated Bible:

    Deut. 32: 8 – "The sons of God, the divine beings who belong to the heavenly court (see Gen. 1:26). To these heavenly beings the Lord delegated authority to govern other nations, but he chose Israel for himself." (there is no mention that the heavenly beings were gods, save Psalms 82. Psalms 89:5-7 is another reference to this "Near East conception" that the world is ruled by a council of gods, and shows Elohim as the most High.)

    Gen. 1:26 – The plural us, our probably refers to the divine beings who compose God's heavenly court.

    These passages are mentioned as reference:
    1 Kings 22:19 and Job 1:6.

    Take a look at the most interesting development in these passages: Satan.
    As noted by the commentary in this bible on 1 Kings 22:19-23,

    "The lying spirit, here still under the control of the Lord, later developed into the figure of Satan (Zech. 3:1, Job chs. 1-2)."

    Satan was among the sons of God, as seen in Job 1:6. Also, in Zechariah 3:1, he is still not the incarnation of evil, but a "functionary of the heavenly court who accuses man of doing wrong."

    Finally, in 1 Chronicles 21:1, Satan is the devil we know of today. The commentary annotates:

    Satan replaces "the anger of the Lord" of 2 Sam. 24:1. During the more than 500 years since the writing of the earlier account, a considerable theological change had taken place. In the thinking of biblical men, God came to be considered as only doing good; and the figure of Satan (the word means "adversary") was developed to account for evil and misfortune (compare Rev. 12:9).

    On the side, it's interesting to note how the Satan in 1 Kings 22:21-23, Job 1:6, and Zechariah 3:1 compare to the LDS pre-mortal view of Satan, who was cast out of heaven before life existed on Earth.

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