Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Book of Mormon Tidbits from Margaret Barker

Margaret Barker, an Old Testament scholar, wrote the following in her paper that she presented at the "Worlds of Joseph Smith" conference at the Library of Congress in 2005.

The tree of life made one happy, according to the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 3:18), but for detailed descriptions of the tree we have to rely on noncanonical texts. Enoch described it as perfumed, with fruit like grapes (1 Enoch 32:5), and a text discovered in Egypt in 1945 described the tree as beautiful, fiery, and with fruit like white grapes. I do not know of any other source that describes the fruit as white grapes. Imagine my surprise when I read the account of Lehi's vision of the tree whose white fruit made one happy...

Consider as well the mysterious rod of iron in this Book of Mormon vision (1 Nephi 8:20; 11:25). In the Bible, the rod of iron is mentioned four times as the rod of the Messiah. Each mention in the King James Version says the Messiah uses the rod to "break" the nations (Psalm 2:9) or to "rule" them (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). The ancient Greek translation (the Septuagint) is significantly different; it understood the Hebrew word in Psalm 2:9 to mean "shepherd" and it reads, "He will shepherd them with a rod of iron." The two Hebrew verbs for "break" and "shepherd, pasture, tend, lead" look very similar and in some forms are identical. The Greek text of the Book of Revelation actually uses the word "shepherd," poimanei, of the Messiah and his iron rod, so the English versions here are not accurate. The hold child who was taken up to heaven (Revelation 12:5) was to "shepherd the nations with a rod of iron." The King James Version of Micah 7:14 translates this same word as "Feed thy people with thy rod," where "guide" would be a better translation. Psalm 78:72 has, "He fed them...he guided them," where the parallelism of Hebrew poetry would expect the two verbs to have a similar meaning: "He led them...he guided them." Lehi's vision has the iron rod guiding people to the great tree--the older and probably the original understanding of the word.
You can watch or listen to Barker's comments in their entirety at LDS.org.


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