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Holiness in the Bible and the Book of Mormon


David Bokovoy

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For the serious student of the Bible, the book of Leviticus holds countless treasures. Far from merely a boring compilation of Priestly legislation and purification ritual, the book of Leviticus reveals important theological issues connected with temple worship, holiness, and the biblical mandate for humanity to become like God. The biblical call to holiness relies upon an extremely subtle view connecting life with deity and death with the unclean/profane. Interestingly, via the Priestly author Jacob, the Book of Mormon reflects this extremely subtle Old Testament perspective.

I've put up a new series that explores what in my mind amounts to an extraordinary theological link between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. In Leviticus, Holiness, in part, describes a state of being linked with life, whereas its anthesis, i.e. the impure, reflects death. Significantly, Book of Mormon sermons, especially the priestly writings of Jacob, appear to draw upon this subtle biblical concept in an impressive manner.

It

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For the serious student of the Bible, the book of Leviticus holds countless treasures. Far from merely a boring compilation of Priestly legislation and purification ritual, the book of Leviticus reveals important theological issues connected with temple worship, holiness, and the biblical mandate for humanity to become like God. The biblical call to holiness relies upon an extremely subtle view connecting life with deity and death with the unclean/profane. Interestingly, via the Priestly author Jacob, the Book of Mormon reflects this extremely subtle Old Testament perspective.

I've put up a new series that explores what in my mind amounts to an extraordinary theological link between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. In Leviticus, Holiness, in part, describes a state of being linked with life, whereas its anthesis, i.e. the impure, reflects death. Significantly, Book of Mormon sermons, especially the priestly writings of Jacob, appear to draw upon this subtle biblical concept in an impressive manner.

It

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For the serious student of the Bible, the book of Leviticus holds countless treasures. Far from merely a boring compilation of Priestly legislation and purification ritual, the book of Leviticus reveals important theological issues connected with temple worship, holiness, and the biblical mandate for humanity to become like God. The biblical call to holiness relies upon an extremely subtle view connecting life with deity and death with the unclean/profane. Interestingly, via the Priestly author Jacob, the Book of Mormon reflects this extremely subtle Old Testament perspective.

I've put up a new series that explores what in my mind amounts to an extraordinary theological link between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. In Leviticus, Holiness, in part, describes a state of being linked with life, whereas its anthesis, i.e. the impure, reflects death. Significantly, Book of Mormon sermons, especially the priestly writings of Jacob, appear to draw upon this subtle biblical concept in an impressive manner.

It

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In Leviticus, Holiness, in part, describes a state of being linked with life, whereas its anthesis, i.e. the impure, reflects death. Significantly, Book of Mormon sermons, especially the priestly writings of Jacob, appear to draw upon this subtle biblical concept in an impressive manner.

I haven't had a chance to look at the videos yet, but I wonder what you mean by "subtle" when referring to the concept of holiness- life vs. impurity-death. Isn't that one of the biggest cliches in all religions?

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I haven't had a chance to look at the videos yet, but I wonder what you mean by "subtle" when referring to the concept of holiness- life vs. impurity-death. Isn't that one of the biggest cliches in all religions?

I realize that the videos involve about a 30 minute investment, but you'll really have to get through them if you're truly interested in understanding the argument.

In sum, however, Jacob is identified in the Book of Mormon as a consecrated Priest, who minsters in the Solomon-like Mosaic temple. Throughout his writings, Jacob makes repeated literary allusions to blood and holiness. In the OT, blood acts as a ritual detergent, absorbing impurities that threaten the state of Holiness, particularly that of the temple, which is made holy by the physical presence of God.

Impurity is the antithesis to Holiness and according to the Priestly view in the OT, human beings serve as carriers of impurity via corpse contamination, scale disease, and genital discharge. These issues may at first seem arbitrary, but in reality are all linked by the common denominator--death. Death is the anthesis to Holiness from a Priestly view.

Significantly, in his sermon devoted to the Atonement of Christ whereby the Savior's blood cleanses humanity from impurity, Jacob, the temple priest, refers to Christ as the Holy One of Israel twenty-three times in one chapter (he uses the word holy twenty-four times). In Jacob's sermon, holy appears as a biblical-like leitwort or "theme word" functioning as the antithesis to death which the Holy One of Israel overcomes. Jacob also specifically refers to the Holy One of Israel as the being responsible for giving man "breath," an allusion to the life-giving process described in Genesis.

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Great stuff. I once did a morphological statistical search on "holy" terminology using BibleWorks. Top hits in the in Hebrew Bible were three chapters in Leviticus (23, 16, and 22, in that order). Top hit in the BoM is 2 Ne 9. The link in my mind between Lev 16 and 2 Ne 9 is pretty strong.

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I wanted to add one thing. I really support the direction you're going with this because I've long felt that the BoM deserves a good look from a true priestly perspective. For example, take the current discussion of "others" in the BoM, where some express consternation that there wouldn't be explicit mention of indigenous inhabitants if they were there. Yet when I look at priestly narratives in biblical and extra-biblical literature, I see the following:

1. Qumran priestly literature intentionally ignores outsiders, using special code words to discuss ruling priestly class at Jerusalem temple and non-Israelites, such as the Romans (see the whole "kittim" discussion).

2. A majority of scholars feel (to varying degrees) that there was some form of yearly autumnal enthronement ceremony enacted in Israel that is similar in some way to the Babylonian Akitu rites, yet this enthronement ceremony is not explicitly found in the biblical corpus. How can even the more conservative scholars who publish in Eerdmans concede the probability of this ritual in some form when there is no explicit reference to it anywhere? Why did the priestly literature intentionally ignore this entirely? Why did they shape the literature to intentionally exclude it?

3. The priestly levitical corpus discusses in great detail the steps of all the rituals (the "how") while intentionally ignoring the meaning behind them (the "why"). What did these rituals represent? Many scholars comb the Psalms, the Enochic corpus, etc. to recover this aspect of the temple ritual, wondering why the priests intentionally left this out of their narrative.

4. Priestly and Deuteronomistic literature intentionally ignores those left behind during Babylonian Exile, portraying them as virtually non-existant (see 2 Kings 25), when in point of fact they were the vast majority. The priestly authors represent them as not following the true religion during the time the others are in exile and portray them as mixing bloodlines and religious traditions after those in exile return. Yet there are doubts about the accuracy of this portrayal.

5. Many scholars posit a rival priesthood to the Aaronid line, such as a Mushite/Kenite house, yet like the autumnal festival, there really isn't any explicit reference to this other than some tension in stories like the sons of Korah, or what looks like an attempt to make Zadok an Aaronite when he possibly wasn't, etc. What is intentionally being left out by the priestly editors, and why?

I don't know how great this list is--it certainly isn't comprehensive--but it illustrates many trends I've seen where priestly authors are viewed as intentionally ignoring incredibly important aspects of reality, only alluding to them in very coded ways, just as Isaiah, Qumran authors, and the Enochic literature all use coded ways to refer to corrupt priests at Jerusalem using the fallen angels imagery. It is the priestly way of doing business.

So if the BoM is a priestly document, should we expect the same things going on to a certain extent? The thesis statement right from the beginning is that of scattered Israel. And then we have the clean/unclean theme of the Lamanite "curse" and how it separates them from the Nephites. Is there a purpose behind ignoring "others"? I don't know. But I do know given what we see from priestly literature elsewhere that we shouldn't rule it out.

Long winded, I know. But the point is I think the BoM deserves a look from multiple frames of reference, and I think we're overdue for a good priestly perspective to see what that gives us. And I think you're starting to do that. So thanks.

Cheers.

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