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David Bokovoy

The Divine Council In D&c 128

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Hello CK,

All things considered, I see no reason to suggest that tis passage is specifically modeled on Isaiah 40

Perhaps your word â??modeledâ? is too strong. D&C 128 may not be modeled after Isaiah 40; the two texts are more dissimilar than they are similar. D&C 128, however, as you acknowledge, has clearly been constructed or fashioned with Isaiah 40 in mind (either consciously or subconsciously).

Given this fact, I find the use of the heavenly assembly to speak and console in both texts quite significant. Particularly when most readers are unaware that Isaiah 40 in fact addresses the heavenly assembly. TO be honest, I fail to see how the fact that D&C 128 aludes to additional scripture could negate the connection between Isaiah 40 and D&C 128.

or that there is any reference to a divine council or to a prophetic commission here.

Where is â??hereâ?? Isaiah 40 or D&C 128?

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Where is â??hereâ?? Isaiah 40 or D&C 128?

D&C 128. Here is the structure of this passage as I see it:

v. 19 - A number of biblical (especially prophetic) verses about divine or angelic proclamation of the gospel are alluded to.

v. 20 - The history of the Restoration is recounted, with particular emphasis on moments of divine or angelic proclamation. First an angel brings Joseph the plates. Then the Lord speaks to the 3 witnesses. Then Michael shows up on the Susquehannah. Finally, Peter James and John appear.

v. 21 - Angels have been proclaiming the gospel thoughout all time, and the Restoration is just the latest occurrence.

Certainly there is a plurality of heavenly beings proclaiming the gospel throughout this passage, but there is no account here of someone appearing before Yahweh's divine council, or of Yahweh commanding his divine council to do this or that, or of Yahweh speaking in the first person plural, or for that matter any of the really distinctive markers of the divine council motif. Christians have always believed in angels, and have always believed that angels are Yahweh's messengers. For that matter, they have always interpreted certain passages (e.g. in Daniel and Revelation) as Yahweh holding "court" with his angels. The really revolutionary perspective that modern scholarship brings to divine council imagery is 1) the Canaanite connections, and 2) the use of the term "gods" to describe these beings.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that A) there's nothing in D&C 128 that Joseph couldn't or shouldn't have known, and B ) I see no reason to give the Isaiah 40 allusion priority over the other biblical allusions in the passage.

-CK

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Hello CKS,

I really am interested in any critique that you or any others might offer. It appears, however, that you may have read my OP too quickly, since the distinction between the singular and plural references I highlighted is a very minor, if not inconsequential, issue for my analysis.

Regards,

--David

Hi Davidâ??

I'm sure you're right. I'll reread it.

The problem is that I'm not particularly well-versed in the relevant issues. At least I know enough to know that.

I'm afraid that any perceptive critique will have to come from someone else.

Best to you.

CKS

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Hello CK,

Certainly there is a plurality of heavenly beings proclaiming the gospel throughout this passage, but there is no account here of someone appearing before Yahweh's divine councilâ?¦

This is true. D&C 128 does not refer to a prophet appearing before Yahwehâ??s divine council. This observation, however, in no way negates the fact that D&C 128 refers to heavenly beings, i.e. â??angelsâ? and â??godsâ? who speak and console.

From a biblical perspective heavenly beings, i.e. â??angelsâ? and â??godsâ? are the very beings who comprise the divine council. The divine council simply refers to the heavenly organization of celestial beings (the D&C also refers to this body as the "General Assembly" and "The Church of the First Born" (see 107:19).

Simply because a text does not refer to a prophet appearing before Yahwehâ??s council doesnâ??t automatically negate the possibility that the text refers to the council. For example, Psalm 82 refers to the idea that â??God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgmentâ? (Psalm 82:1; NRSV), even though this council text does not describe a prophet appearing before Yahwehâ??s council.

...or of Yahweh commanding his divine council to do this or that...

True.

Unlike the depiction presented in Isaiah 40, in D&C 128 God does not address the heavenly assembly via direct speech. In Isaiah 40 God speaks directly to the council, commanding the assembly to comfort and speak. In contrast, D&C 128 reports that Godâ??s assembly has spoken and consoled via the Restoration. I have no doubt, however, that the D&C 128 presupposes that the heavenly host spoke and comforted in accordance with Godâ??s command.

...or of Yahweh speaking in the first person plural...

Isaiah 40:1-2 does not present Yahweh speaking in the first person plural. God speaking in the first person plural is not an essential divine council motif, though it does appear as such in the opening chapters of Genesis.

...or for that matter any of the really distinctive markers of the divine council motif.

Except for the ones identified in Isaiah 40, i.e. the council â??speakingâ? and â??comforting.â?

Christians have always believed in angels, and have always believed that angels are Yahweh's messengers.

Of course.

For that matter, they have always interpreted certain passages (e.g. in Daniel and Revelation) as Yahweh holding "court" with his angels.

Indeed.

The really revolutionary perspective that modern scholarship brings to divine council imagery is 1) the Canaanite connections, and 2) the use of the term "gods" to describe these beings.

I would argue that modern scholarship has brought a lot more to our understanding of council imagery than these two points. The fact that Isaiah 40 presents God addressing his council would be only one of many points that I would want to add to your list.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that A) there's nothing in D&C 128 that Joseph couldn't or shouldn't have known,

Except that the command to comfort and speak in Isaiah 40 to which D&C 128 directly alludes, presents a command given to the heavenly host and that D&C 128 presents an account of the heavenly host fulfilling both of these mandates.

Donâ??t forget to consider the traditional interpretations of the intended audience in Isaiah 40:1-2 summarized by Frank Moore Cross.

...and B ) I see no reason to give the Isaiah 40 allusion priority over the other biblical allusions in the passage.

I donâ??t need the connections between Isaiah 40 and D&C 128 to be given "priority" in order for the connections to be legitimate.

Feel free to bump them to a secondary status (or even a bit lower for that matter).

Regards,

--David

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Hi David,

So I guess the main point you are making is that the Isa. 40 "voice crying in the wilderness" to which D&C 128 alludes has traditionally been interpreted as a human messenger (e.g. John the Baptist), and is not obviously a divine messenger in the KJV. But in light of modern scholarship we now believe it really refers to an angel, and in fact D&C 128 connects the "voice crying in the wilderness" (and several other phrases) with a series of divine messengers. So D&C 128 makes a connection that was unknown in Joseph Smith's day. Correct?

That is interesting, but I think it attributes a nuance to D&C 128 that isn't there. The voices of joy and gladness in Jeremiah 33:11 are clearly referring to human worshippers, yet these phrases are unabashedly appropriated by Section 128 to refer to heavenly messengers proclaiming the gospel. What's more, Section 128 attributes the "voice crying in the wilderness" directly to the Lord rather than to one of his messengers.

I think you make an interesting point, but I don't see that it has any great significance.

-CK

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So I guess the main point you are making is that the Isa. 40 "voice crying in the wilderness" to which D&C 128 alludes has traditionally been interpreted as a human messenger (e.g. John the Baptist), and is not obviously a divine messenger in the KJV. But in light of modern scholarship we now believe it really refers to an angel, and in fact D&C 128 connects the "voice crying in the wilderness" (and several other phrases) with a series of divine messengers. So D&C 128 makes a connection that was unknown in Joseph Smith's day. Correct?

No. This was not my main point.

I think you make an interesting point, but I don't see that it has any great significance.

Alas, I fear that your assessment in part derives from missing my points. I blame myself for an inability to properly convey the significance.

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No. This was not my main point.

Alas, I fear that your assessment in part derives from missing my points. I blame myself for an inability to properly convey the significance.

David,

I do want to understand.

When I said above, "there's nothing in D&C 128 that Joseph couldn't or shouldn't have known," you replied,

Except that the command to comfort and speak in Isaiah 40 to which D&C 128 directly alludes, presents a command given to the heavenly host and that D&C 128 presents an account of the heavenly host fulfilling both of these mandates.

The only direct allusion I see to Isaiah 40 is the "voice crying in the wilderness." References in D&C 128 to "voices" and speaking could just as easily refer to one of the other biblical passages that are alluded to here.

I'm just trying to nail down exactly what you're saying, and precisely what steps we have to take to get from point A to point B. I apologize if I'm coming across as somewhat overbearing.

-CK

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Not in my opinion. The language that follows makes clear that Jerusalem is to become again the Bride of Heaven, and that we're not talking about the Queen of Heaven:

"2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORDâ??s hand double for all her sins."

When you say Jerusalem, do you mean Israel, the covenant children of God?

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And Don't forget about the Tower!

Gen. 11: 7

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

And how about the 3 that had lunch with Abraham?

And how about these that I just found as I was doing my daily reading? I am not sure though, the question would be, did Nebuchadnezar know about this council too? See Daniel 4:8,18. (the holy Gods) or does he have something else in mind? What say ye?

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And how about these that I just found as I was doing my daily reading? I am not sure though, the question would be, did Nebuchadnezar know about this council too? See Daniel 4:8,18. (the holy Gods) or does he have something else in mind? What say ye?

Smith , in reading the verses and looking at the words that were translated , every place in Daniel 4 where the word holy "gods" appears the word from which it was translated is given as Elah , which is Aramaic for God in the singular. So , I don't know why the Aramaic word Elah , singular for God or the God of Israel , was translated into the plural , "holy gods" in those passages.

Maybe someone else with more knowledge about that subject can reply and tell us whether the translation from the singular Elah into the plural "gods" is correct or if it should be translated holy "god" instead.

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Hello CKS,

I really am interested in any critique that you or any others might offer. It appears, however, that you may have read my OP too quickly, since the distinction between the singular and plural references I highlighted is a very minor, if not inconsequential, issue for my analysis.

Regards,

--David

good stuff

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Thanks, Her Amun. I'm really glad that this information seems to make sense to you. Perhaps if I could find a better way of expressing the issues, I'd convince a few more.

Hello Ed2276,

Smith , in reading the verses and looking at the words that were translated , every place in Daniel 4 where the word holy "gods" appears the word from which it was translated is given as Elah , which is Aramaic for God in the singular. So , I don't know why the Aramaic word Elah , singular for God or the God of Israel , was translated into the plural , "holy gods" in those passages.

Maybe someone else with more knowledge about that subject can reply and tell us whether the translation from the singular Elah into the plural "gods" is correct or if it should be translated holy "god" instead.

The Aramaic word translated in the KJV as "gods" is â??elahin. This is the masculine plural form of the Aramaic word for God (in Aramaic, the â??in ending serves as the masculine plural marker for absolute nouns).

Marcus Jastrowâ??s Dictionary of Talmud Babli Yerushalmi, Midrashic Literature and Targumim identifies the form â??elahin as a possible plural of majesty; see vol. 1, 67.

In Daniel 4, the term â??elahin appears modified by the masculine plural adjectival form â??holy.â? All of this information simply means that the term may be understood as either â??holy God,â? or â??holy gods.â?

John J. Collins provides the following information in his commentary on Daniel:

â??The plural [holy gods] is naturally read as a polytheistic formulation on the lips of Nebuchadnezzar. Compare the expression [the holy gods] on the sarcophagus of Eshmunazar of Sidon, but also â??lhym qdshym as a characterization of Yahweh in Josh 24:19. The singular â??godâ?? of Theodotion is therefore defensibleâ?; in Daniel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993): 222.

Hope that helps.

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I heard the divine comfort theme again in church yesterday. I'll be darned if I can remember what it was right now...something to do with the Nauvoo era but it really stood out after seeing this connection. The covenant lawsuit formula helped me to put meaning into the OT prophetic passages but this piece of it didn't stand out until now. I think it makes a great difference in understanding God.

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When you say Jerusalem, do you mean Israel, the covenant children of God?

Yup . . . just as the NT scriptures are generally understood to refer to the Church as G-d's bride.

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Hello Juliann,

The covenant lawsuit formula helped me to put meaning into the OT prophetic passages but this piece of it didn't stand out until now.

The two conceptsâ??the covenant lawsuit formula and the divine councilâ??are interrelated in the Bible. As Frank Moore Cross argued, the biblical lawsuit oracle â??undoubtedly has its origins in the conceptions of the role of Yahwehâ??s heavenly assembly as a court;â? (see Ibid 274 note 3).

Iâ??ve written a paper on the invocation of the gods as witnesses for the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting at the Andover Newton Theological Seminary.

I see the invocation of the council gods through many of the undefined masculine plural imperatives in prophetic texts.

Iâ??m now convinced that G.E. Wright was correct to suggest in 1950 that even the invocation of â??heaven and earthâ? to serve as witnesses is best interpreted â??in the light of the Divine Assembly, the members of which constitute the host of heaven and of earthâ?; G.E. Wright, The Old Testament Against Itâ??s Environment (London:SCm Press LTD, 1950), 36.

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