Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ZION: Introduction


We begin our study of Zion at the beginning in Genesis. Immediately upon doing so, however, one is confronted with the realization that Genesis in the King James Version (hereafter referred to as "KJV") is silent regarding Zion. All we know about Enoch and his Zion society is found in the content of the Joseph Smith Translation (hereafter referred to as "JST"), commonly known as the "Inspired Version." Joseph himself refers to it by the word "translation" in his history, and frequently refers to it as the "New Translation of the Bible."

The work of "translation" Joseph did on the KJV was given the name "Joseph Smith Translation," or JST, and approved by The Quorum of the Twelve and The First Presidency. The approval was given at a meeting in the temple. The purpose of the meeting was to consider the practical convenience of how to refer to Joseph’s work in the publication of the new LDS editions of the scriptures in recent years. Referring to it in abbreviated form as “IV,” or “NT” would confuse the reader who might think the designations were a reference to the Roman numeral IV, or New Testament.  (Gerald N. Lund and Robert J. Matthews, The Joseph Smith Translation, Monte S. Nyman and Robert L. Millet, editors, [Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1985], 295-6). 

Doctrinal themes in addition to Zion, missing altogether in the KJV, are restored by the text of the JST. The mission of the Savior, Satan's role in the plan of salvation, our pre-mortal existence, the fall of Adam, the covenants of the gospel, and the priesthood are examples of precious doctrines excluded in the text of Genesis in the KJV.

It will be remembered that by the time scholars assembled the manuscripts from which they were working to compile and translate the KJV of the Bible, many errors and omissions had crept into the text. In fact, the earliest Hebrew manuscripts in existence prior to the Dead Sea scroll discoveries of recent vintage date no earlier than about the tenth century A.D. (about the time of William the Conqueror). By the time Joseph Smith arrived on the scene rich historical and scriptural material were gone entirely.

These eventualities are revealed in Nephi's record concerning his vision of futurity:

And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
And this they have done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest -- because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God -- because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.  (1 Nephi 13:24 29).

Much of what had been lost was restored through the prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith. Immediately after the publication of The Book of Mormon and the organization of the Church in 1830, Joseph began his inspired revision of the Bible. We have this insightful statement, which may provide a clue as to how the Prophet was prepared to undertake his Biblical revisions:

After I got through translating The Book of Mormon, I took up the Bible to read with the Urim and Thummim. I read the first chapter of Genesis and I saw the things as they were done. I turned over the next and the next, and the whole passed before me like a grand panorama; and so on chapter after chapter until I read the whole of it. I saw it all!. . . (This was spoken at the house of Benj. Brown, N.Y., 1832, Sidney Rigdon being along.)  (Robert J. Matthews, A Plainer Translation, [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975], 25-26).

While Joseph referred to his work with the Biblical revisions as a "translation," (see Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, 7 vols. [Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, 1972], 1:132, 170, 215, 219, 324, 341, in which the Prophet consistently calls his work with the Bible a translation, also Doctrine and Covenants 37:1; 41:7; 45:60 61; 73:3 4; 76:15 16; 90:13; 93:53; 94:10; 124:89) his methodology differs from his use of the Urim and Thummim and seer stone in The Book of Mormon translation. On October 8, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery purchased a large pulpit style edition of the King James Bible (containing the Old and New Testaments and Apocrypha) from E. B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York, for $3.75. Using the text as his source material, the Prophet dictated the revisions by the power of the Holy Ghost as he read, while the scribe (usually Sidney Rigdon) recorded what he said. Robert J. Matthews gives this explanation:

The process necessarily was slow and perhaps often tiring. There must have been frequent periods of discussion about various passages and ideas, and no doubt progress was more rapid on some occasions than on others. The manuscripts show that there was sometimes editing and revising of the material after it was initially written. Although the actual writing was done by scribes from 1830 to 1833, Joseph Smith personally edited the final drafts and dictated certain revisions which now appear as interlinear notes and variants, some of which are on small pieces of paper pinned to the manuscript. These revisions are mostly, though not exclusively, in the hand of Sidney Rigdon, and some may be in the Prophet's own handwriting. These revisions and notes were written sometime during the years 1833-44.
The translation was not a simple, mechanical recording of divine dictum, but rather a study and thought process accompanied and prompted by revelation from the Lord. That it was a revelatory process is evident from statements by the Prophet and others who were personally acquainted with the work. . . Elder Orson Pratt, who had a close association with Joseph Smith and who was very much interested in the New Translation, said on one occasion while reflecting on his life with the Prophet: "I became intimately acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and continued intimately acquainted with him until the day of his death. I had the great privilege, when I was in from my missions, of boarding the most of the time at his house. . . I saw him translating, by inspiration, the Old and New Testaments, and the inspired book of Abraham from Egyptian papyrus."  (Robert J. Matthews, A Plainer Translation, 39-40).

Robert L. Millet offers this additional insight:

Joseph's mission as translator was not terminated when he had completed The Book of Mormon. In his serious study of the Bible, he sought to harmonize himself with the Spirit of God (and surely with the mind and intentions of the ancient writers) so as to recognize and correct faulty translations, as well as deficient or ambiguous passages of the Bible which had suffered the long and painful process of transmission of texts. In one sense, Joseph Smith was translating the Bible in attempting to interpret it by revelation, to explain it by the use of clearer terms or a different style of language. In another sense, Joseph was translating the Bible inasmuch as he was restoring in the English language ideas and events and sayings which were originally recorded in Hebrew or Greek. The Prophet translated the King James Bible by the same means he translated The Book of Mormon through revelation. His knowledge of Hebrew or Greek or his acquaintance with ancient documents was no more essential in making the JST than a previous knowledge of Reformed Egyptian or an access to more primitive Nephite records was essential to the translation of The Book of Mormon. Not infrequently the Lord chooses and calls the unlearned, the "weak things of the world," to bring about his purposes (see 2 Nephi 27:15 20).  (Robert L. Millet, The Joseph Smith Translation, 26-7).

Beyond these comments, however, it is important to understand that the JST provides information about the early patriarchs, Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Moses and others not in the KJV. In these instances Joseph's work is a fresh revelation, not merely a revision. Joseph received three separate revelations between June 1830, and February 1831, restoring details not available in the KJV. The first revelation, labeled "A Revelation given to Joseph the Revelator June 1830," known as the "Visions of Moses," has been published as Chapter 1 of the book of Moses (The Pearl of Great Price), as Section 22 of The RLDS Doctrine and Covenants, and as a separate entry following the preface in the printed Inspired Version. The KJV has no corresponding material.

The second revelation is labeled on the manuscript of the JST, "A Revelation given to the Elders of the Church of Christ on the First Book of Moses," and is in print as Genesis 1:1-33 of the Inspired Version, and Moses 2:1-4:32. Genesis 1, 2, and 3 is the corresponding material in the KJV.

The third revelation is labeled "Chapter Second A Revelation concerning Adam after he had been driven out of the garden of Eden." It really goes beyond its title, carrying the Biblical story from Adam to Noah with a lengthy section about Enoch and Zion. In the printed Inspired Version it is Genesis 4:1-7:85, and in The Pearl of Great Price it is Moses 5:1-8:12). Corresponding material is Genesis 4 and 5 in the KJV.  (Robert J. Matthews, A Plainer Translation, 62-3).

By way of introduction to our study of Zion in the Old Testament the following information is thought to be of worth. Apart from an overactive curiosity concerning Zion, the author makes no claim of expertise in Hebrew or any other language. While researching the references pertaining to Zion, however, I stumbled into these notes in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (James Strong, Madison, N.J., 1890, 36th printing, 1977). The derivatives of the word "Zion" in Hebrew are loaded with definitions packed with meaning for the Latter day Saints. For the reader's benefit in further research if desired, I have cited the footnote numbers from the above cited concordance in the brackets following each word.

“Zion” is derived from the following Hebrew root words:

1. tsiyah [6723] from the unused root meaning "to parch;" aridity; a desert; barren; drought; dry (land or place); land; solitary place; wilderness.

2. tsiyown [6724] a desert; dry place.

3. tsiyuwn [6725] in the sense of being conspicuous; a monumental or guiding pillar; sign; title; waymark.

a. The primary root for tsiyuwn is natsach [5329] to glitter from afar; to be eminent (as a superintendent, especially in temple service and its music); to be permanent; chief singer or musician; oversee(r); set forward.

b. Another derivative of natsach is netsach [5330 & 5331] to be preferred; a goal, i.e. the bright object at a distance to be traveled towards; splendor; truthfulness; confidence; continually to most distant point of view; always constant; end; perpetual; strength; victory.

4. tsiyown [6726] as a permanent capitol, a mountain of Jerusalem. This root is by far the most frequent usage that occurs in the Bible with reference to Zion. The definition "a mountain of Jerusalem" started me thinking about Mount Moriah, the temple mount in Jerusalem, so I looked up "Moriah" in the concordance.

“Mount Moriah” is derived from these principal Hebrew roots:

1. Yaah [3050] a contraction of the word Yehovah [3068], meaning Jah, the sacred name; Jah, the Lord, most vehement.

2. Yehovah [3068] the self existent or Eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God; Jehovah, the Lord.

3. ra'ah [7200] to see; appear; behold; discern; enjoy; have experience; gaze; look on one another; meet; be near; perceive; present; see; show oneself; sight of others; stare; view; visions.

With little or no effort required to extract a definition, then, these meanings fall out of the Hebrew derivatives of "Zion" and "Mount Moriah:"

ZION - A desert place lying afar off in the distance to be sought for its brilliance, set in a position of prominence for a sign as a permanent overseer, full of light and truth until the final victory is won.

MOUNT MORIAH - To see Jehovah, and to be seen of Jehovah.

Given those very perfunctory, but tremendously insightful definitions, we can better understand the Lord's meaning when he speaks of Zion in the Old Testament. The mission of Zion is simply to direct the work of uniting this world with the unseen world. The altars of the temples where we kneel today to make sacred covenants with God are the bridges between our families in this world and our families in the spirit world that we cannot always see with our natural eye. We go to the temple literally to see Jehovah and Elohim as they reveal themselves to us in the ordinances thereof, and to walk in their presence to be seen of them. It is instructive to remember that the very first building the early saints were commanded to build in this dispensation was a temple, despite their impoverished condition in Kirtland and Nauvoo.

With that introduction we will now examine the scriptural passages relating to our study of Zion. We will take the passages as they appear sequentially beginning with Genesis in the Old Testament, including in our compilation those passages found in the JST but missing in the KJV. Notice that the prophets speak about the four elements of Zion cited in the preface -- the place, the people, the condition, and the time -- in their definitions of the word. One or more of these elements occur in each usage in holy writ.

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