Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ezekiel's Sticks were really Books

In a continuing effort to refute the qualitatively deficient and self-serving work about LDS doctrinal issues at http://www.mormoninfo.org/index.php?id=6, the website I affectionately call Morg, I will address what is one of their truly biased and intellectually bankrupt points: Attacking the LDS interpretation of Ezekiel 37.

Don't get me wrong. People can disagree about the meaning of the symbols used in Ezekiel 37. Indeed, virtually all scholars do. But to say that the LDS position is not likely simply because it might support the LDS position is just circular reasoning.

The work by Keith Meservy attacked by Morg was in fact excellent. It was excellent because it does not rely on an anachronistic interpretation of scripture to be supported by the passage. Read it for yourself at LDS.org under Church Publications, HTML text, the Ensign, Feb 1987, page 4. Instead it brought to light the work of non-LDS scholars on significant archaeological work directly bearing on the passages in question. Indeed, Morg conveniently fails to address the fact that the Revised English Bible, an ecumenical translation work by Protestants and Catholics from the United Kingdom, completed in 1989, incorporated a reading so close to the traditional LDS interpretation, if you did not know it was a non-Mormon's writing, you may think FARMS completed the work themselves.

First, Morg is just ignorant of traditional Jewish/Hebrew usage of sticks. Anyone who has ever attended service at a synagogue knows even today Jews symbolically keep their scriptural scrolls wrapped around a stick. This has its origin in the historical fact that records were kept on sticks, and quickly ran out of space.

This tradition exerted powerful linguistic influence. Granted Morg has shown no propensity to study anything linguistic, so it is probably asking too much of these self-appointed anti-Mormon crusaders to be willing to put down their signs and open a book. Especially a factual book written by real PhD types, not purchased from mail order schools like so many of the "scholars" among the anti-Mormon crowd.

So Meservey correctly cites historical sources showing the Hebrew word etz had a common meaning of writing tablet. That meaning has been largely lost over time, but fortunately was saved from eternal historic banishment by a miraculous archaeological find in Iraq in 1953. Morg's response: silence. Typical Morg sophistry. Don't deal with issues, just explain why your theology must be correct, regardless of historicity. Moses' rod was considered the Word of God, and was also considered a book. Ezekiel specifically describes an etz, which is both a writing tablet and a symbol of the reuniting of Israel and Judah. Both Jerome and Eusebius say it was a book. Not exactly well known LDS scholars.

So here is the translation from the REB:

This word of the LORD came to me 16.’O man, take one leaf of a wooden tablet and write on it, “
Judah and the Israelites associated with him”. Then take another leaf and write on it, “Joseph, the leaf of Ephraim and all the Israelite tribes”. 17 Now bring the two together to form one tablet; then they will be a folding tablet in your hand.

OK, we disagree on what is the correct meaning of the passage. The LDS point of view, that these books are the Bible and the Book of Mormon brought together with the gathering of Israel and Judah is a viable, defensible position with at least some ancient support. Look here for a good, fact pact LDS discussion of this: http://www2.ida.net/graphics/shirtail/ezekiel.htm . Certainly there is no certainty for the Morg position. But philosophically that is what Morg is really all about.

Morg does not know and cannot say what is the correct, absolute and unerring meaning of this passage. They just are sure the Mormons are wrong. Frankly, that is a pathetic and empty excuse for faith. If this sounds like a pretty harsh assessment, it is not. It is just the truth. This is why Morg will not engage people who actually are familiar with LDS beliefs or have any depth of scholarship. They prey on the spiritually immature. They attack the sincere LDS who may make a scholarship error, yet have a sincere faith, just as they do in this particular FAQ. They do not present the true story of the LDS faith. Bringing me back to my old saw: If the truth of the LDS Church is so bad, why present slanted falsehoods about it?


Lord Zilch said...

i am also persecuted for my religious views. But untested faith is meaningless. Poorartcipher.blogspot.com

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Good point. I agree. If I sound too much like a whiner, I apologize. What I am trying to do is show the plausibility of the LDS position, and the hypocrisy of those who claim to be telling the "truth" about the Mormons. Then faith kicks in. Jews feel Christians horribly misinterpret the Old Testament, and have some good arguments to maintain their position. But it boils down to faith and responding to the Spirit. Good luck with that whole taking over the world, secret society thing. We can always use a good hive. I found your recommendations interesting. Peace.