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Satan in the Book of Mormon


David Bokovoy

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So this is a continuation from a previous discussion. The topic, however, is important enough to deserve its own thread.

One of the criticisms raised by critics of the Book of Mormon against its authenticity includes the detailed view of Satan witnessed throughout the work. I believe, however, a careful analysis of the use of Satan in the account actually provides evidence for the book's authenticity. I maintain that we can trace historically how the Book of Mormon authors came to understand the Satan concept. The view derives from Lehi's careful analysis of the book of Isaiah. This analysis set the foundation for the way subsequent Book of Mormon authors understood the doctrine of the Lord's Adversary.

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I'm sharing Zerinus' response on this thread:

David Bokovoy, on 15 February 2010 - 12:16 PM, said:

The Book of Mormon in no way addresses the traditional Protestant/Evangelical approach to the ha-Satan in Job you advocate.

By the Book of Mormon I meant all the modern revelations of the Church, including the books of Moses and Abraham where the doctrine of Satan is very well developed.

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Moreover, I believe we can trace historically how the Book of Mormon authors came to understand the Satan concept and the view derives from Isaiah, not the book of Job. Lehi set the foundation for this concept used by later Book of Mormon authors/prophets.

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We don't know that Lehi had access to the books of Moses and Abraham as we have them today. A quick appeal to the index of the triple doesn't reveal any mention (by name) of Satan or the devil in the BoA. There is one cryptic reference that I can recall, the last two verses of the last chapter.

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David,

I really like the thought behind this.

I think we see the same thing at work with Jacob, who quotes from Isaiah 51 (2 Ne 8 ) concerning Rahab, the waters of chaos, and the oppressor. He then segues into his atonement theology (2 Nephi 9 ) about the angel who fell from the presence of God and the monster death and hell. I think it is fairly clear that he is taking his "adversary theology" from Isaiah at this point.

Cheers.

[edited to remove stupid smiley faces]

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Zerinus,

You are making a lot of assumptions here which are unwarranted. We know that the Old Testament sacred literature that was available to Lehi was much larger in volume than what is available to us in our Bible. This is attested by the Angel who appeared to Nephi:

That's true, there were more religious texts available to Lehi than what appears in our Old Testament and perhaps there was in one of those documents, a more detailed analysis of Satan that inspired Lehi to comprehend this doctrine. Who knows! If this explanation works for you, great, run with it! It's really no big deal. However, please be advised in your apologetic efforts that critics of the Book of Mormon will never buy into the possibility of missing texts as a satisfactory explanation for historical anachronisms. Moreover, one can easily illustrate, as I have done, how Lehi would have deduced this doctrine from the material that we know he had access to according to the book's claims.

Sorry, but I don
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David,

I really like the thought behind this.

I think we see the same thing at work with Jacob, who quotes from Isaiah 51 (2 Ne 8 ) concerning Rahab, the waters of chaos, and the oppressor. He then segues into his atonement theology (2 Nephi 9 ) about the angel who fell from the presence of God and the monster death and hell. I think it is fairly clear that he is taking his "adversary theology" from Isaiah at this point.

Cheers.

[edited to remove stupid smiley faces]

That's where I'm at with the imagery in Jacob as well! I also like his use of traditional Canaanite mythology in terms of swallowing death, etc.

Best

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David,

I really like the thought behind this.

I think we see the same thing at work with Jacob, who quotes from Isaiah 51 (2 Ne 8 ) concerning Rahab, the waters of chaos, and the oppressor. He then segues into his atonement theology (2 Nephi 9 ) about the angel who fell from the presence of God and the monster death and hell. I think it is fairly clear that he is taking his "adversary theology" from Isaiah at this point.

Cheers.

[edited to remove stupid smiley faces]

I remeber we started a discussaion over Jonah a while ago and the concept of Hell. I think that both reflect the worldview of Lehi and his contemporaries, but the focus on Isaiah to understand the devil is certainly a feature of Lehi's family. They were ahead of their time. Personally, I feel that after they had searched the scriptures and reached certain conclusions, they later recieved confirmation through revelation.

I think the developement of thought, of ideology in the BoM is a new favourite topic.

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The OT did not exist in an historical vacuum. OT authors were influenced by their cultural background, as was their original audience.

Same goes for Joseph Smith. We are all products of our times. Truth can be found even in pagan, Canaanite myths.

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I thought I would go ahead and post something here that I posted on the other thread in hopes that I can get David to weigh in on whether he thinks it possible that the Book of Moses (ostensibly quoting much older material) preserves the idea of a "ha-satan":

David Bokovoy, on 11 February 2010 - 05:02 PM, said:

As is well known, translating the term ha-satan in Job 2 as "Satan" is grammatically incorrect. The Hebrew particle ha- functions as the definite article, which cannot precede a proper noun.

Strangely, the Book of Moses seems to follow that usage . . .

Moses 4:1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying
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We don't know that Lehi had access to the books of Moses and Abraham as we have them today. A quick appeal to the index of the triple doesn't reveal any mention (by name) of Satan or the devil in the BoA. There is one cryptic reference that I can recall, the last two verses of the last chapter.

The author(s) of 1st and 2nd Nephi are quite open with their references to and lengthy quotations from Isaiah. The simplest explanation for Lehi's "supposition" is either DB's explanation or a variant thereof. Simplest explanations are always best, and an explanation that doesn't include the BoMoses or BoA is to be preferred over one that requires the BoMoses and BoA on the Brass/Bronze Plates.

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That's true, there were more religious texts available to Lehi than what appears in our Old Testament and perhaps there was in one of those documents, a more detailed analysis of Satan that inspired Lehi to comprehend this doctrine. Who knows! If this explanation works for you, great, run with it! It's really no big deal. However, please be advised in your apologetic efforts that critics of the Book of Mormon will never buy into the possibility of missing texts as a satisfactory explanation for historical anachronisms. Moreover, one can easily illustrate, as I have done, how Lehi would have deduced this doctrine from the material that we know he had access to according to the book's claims.

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Hello Consiglieri,

Thanks for bringing this issue up again. It's a fantastic question that I meant to address the first time through.

I thought I would go ahead and post something here that I posted on the other thread in hopes that I can get David to weigh in on whether he thinks it possible that the Book of Moses (ostensibly quoting much older material) preserves the idea of a "ha-satan":

Strangely, the Book of Moses seems to follow that usage . . .

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

In Biblical Hebrew, the definite article ha- can function as a demonstrative adjective qualifying or determining a noun in relationship to a remote distance in terms of the speaker. In English, the "near" demonstrative is

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Well, I'm not a Priesthood leader if that's what you're getting at. I have recently been "promoted," however, from Nursery leader to a Junior Primary position with no ambitions whatsoever to ever further ascend into the ranks of administrative hierarchy. Still, I'm "active" enough with a testimony of the restored Gospel.

What, you don't seek to become stake primary president? I'm beginning to doubt your testimony. =)

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What, you don't seek to become stake primary president? I'm beginning to doubt your testimony. =)

Actually, if I could choose any calling whatsoever in the Church it would be Gospel Doctrine instructor, but alas, I fear I may need to develop a testimony of Satan before I could ever qualify.

P.S. Did my emailed response make it through?

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Lehi connected the dots between the figures mentioned in Isaiah to the serpent in the garden. He logically deduced that if one falls from the presence of God one becomes miserable and misery likes company.

So you have "logically deduced" that that is what Lehi has "logically deduced"! That is quite a lot of "logical deductions". I wish I had the mind-reading capability that you do---especially of someone who lived two and a half centuries ago.

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Actually, if I could choose any calling whatsoever in the Church it would be Gospel Doctrine instructor, but alas, I fear I may need to develop a testimony of Satan before I could ever qualify.

P.S. Did my emailed response make it through?

Yes it did but I had internet problems yesterday so couldn't reply.

Before I moved I was 2nd counsellor in the BP, gospel doctrine instructor and Aaronic Priesthood class teacher (or however you call it), simultaneously. The most enjoyable is the GD, I'm lucky to have recieved that here. My next turn teaching the lesson is when we teach the aqedah.

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What are some good works on ANE demonology, particularly Canaanite?

Oh man, we got to chat! I did my graduate work with the Assyriologist Tzvi Abusch, the world's foremost expert in such matters. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I've spent pouring over ANE magic, witchcraft, and demon texts, especially in Akkadian! I'll put a list together for you, but I hope you're aware of my all time favorite book Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible! I've got two warn out copies on my shelf right now. It really is one of the most exciting books ever written!

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So you have "logically deduced" that that is what Lehi has "logically deduced"! That is quite a lot of "logical deductions". I wish I had the mind-reading capability that you do---especially of someone who lived two and a half centuries ago.

Come on, the BoM is a lot older than that.....

Logical deduction is not too hard, don't knock it until you've tried it.

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Oh man, we got to chat! I did my graduate work with the Assyriologist Tzvi Abusch, the world's foremost expert in such matters. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours I've spent pouring over ANE magic, witchcraft, and demon texts, especially in Akkadian! I'll put a list together for you, but I hope you're aware of my all time favorite book Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible! I've got two warn out copies on my shelf right now. It really is one of the most exciting books ever written!

That does sound fun. I think it is directly relevant here. After all, the Hebrew Bible seems (and I do emphasise seems, as appearances can be decieving) to have very little direct mention of beings such as devils and demons, yet we know from outside sources and archaeological evidence that the belief in such was widespread, and the way the BoM uses the term the devil, it would have had to carry some meaning to the listeners and authors.

I grew up in a town where most of the population was from North Africa, but also from Yemen, Kurdistan and Iran. Especially for the older generation, demons were very real indeed. Garlic hanging up to dry was not merely in the interests of food preservation!

Why I bring this up is because, although the specifics details may have changed, I'm not sure the outlook of a mid-20th century Berber peasent from a remote village in the Atlas mtns is really that dramatically different from that of his ancient Israelite counterparts in the Kingdom of Judah, when it came to the presence and effect of evil forces. Wives could miscarry, crops could fail and disease could strike, to name but a few problems. The same spirit that drives science is probably behind the belief in demons, that is, cause and effect. If one identifies the cause, then one can work towards eliminating or at least minimilising the effect.

Lehi would have spoken in terms that his family could relate to. Before Zerinus starts accusing me of claiming that they believed in demons, Im not saying that they necessarily did, but that the terms he used would have resonated with them, having come from such an environment and background.

I think demonology of the ANE could shed light on certain passages and constructs in the BoM.

BTW, I remeber that as a kid i had read something about a calendar or almanach of sorts for Akkadian demons, which ones were about at what hours. Fascinating stuff.

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