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Looking Beyond the Mark


volgadon

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A few minutes ago I was reading Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Poetry, and, completely unexpectedly, came across the following, rather striking excerpt on pg. 117. Though part of his treatment of the first psalm, the implications of this excerpt affect the reading of Jacob's sermon in the BoM.

That is, the essence of wrongdoing is to miss the mark (that is etymologically what the Hebrew word for "sinners" means), to pursue foolish or unattainable objects of desire that will lead only to frustration, while the man whose delight is in the Lord's teaching knows the art of sitting still in the right place, of finding fulfillment within the limits of law and of his own human condition.

Jacob 4:14, it is true, does not contain any word that would have the root het-tet-aleph, but I believe that Jacob left it unsaid. An attentive listener would have made the connection between missing the mark or goal, and sin. Or, rather, how it results in sin.

Another nice little Hebraism I noticed is the connection between fall and stumble, which would be chet-shin-lamed, making the connection betwee all the ideas in his prologue all the tighter than in our translation.

Anyway, just a few pre-breakfest musings.

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A few minutes ago I was reading Robert Alter's The Art of Biblical Poetry, and, completely unexpectedly, came across the following, rather striking excerpt on pg. 117. Though part of his treatment of the first psalm, the implications of this excerpt affect the reading of Jacob's sermon in the BoM.

Jacob 4:14, it is true, does not contain any word that would have the root het-tet-aleph, but I believe that Jacob left it unsaid. An attentive listener would have made the connection between missing the mark or goal, and sin. Or, rather, how it results in sin.

Another nice little Hebraism I noticed is the connection between fall and stumble, which would be chet-shin-lamed, making the connection betwee all the ideas in his prologue all the tighter than in our translation.

Anyway, just a few pre-breakfest musings.

Look for Paul Hoskisson's article on the mark. In the English of the day, it meant a "target", something you shot at. It may well be drawing on some kidn of archery imagery, since he also talks about "pointing our souls" towards Christ.

http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/witness-restoration-essays-honor-robert-j-matthews/7-looking-beyond-mark

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Look for Paul Hoskisson's article on the mark. In the English of the day, it meant a "target", something you shot at. It may well be drawing on some kidn of archery imagery, since he also talks about "pointing our souls" towards Christ.

http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/witness-restoration-essays-honor-robert-j-matthews/7-looking-beyond-mark

Interesting connection from Alter. And from Hoskisson. Though personally, I'm drawn to the implications of this use of "mark" in Ezekiel, an exact contemporary of Jacob, and like Jacob, a temple priest.

Ezek. 9:4

And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

Margaret Barker has observed that this "mark" would be the High Priestly anointing that signified the divine name, a quite literal taking upon oneself the name of God.

Mark," however conceals what that mark was. The Hebrew says that the angel marked the foreheads with the letter tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the ancient Hebrew script that Ezekiel would have used, this letter was a diagonal cross, and the significance of this becomes apparent from the much later tradition about the high priests. The rabbis remembered that the oil for anointing the high priest had been lost when the first temple was destroyed and that the high priests of the second temple were only "priests of many garments," a reference to the eight garments worn on the Day of Atonement. The rabbis also remember that the anointed high priests of the first temple had been anointed on the forehead with the sign of a diagonal cross. This diagonal cross was the sign of the Name on their foreheads, the mark which Ezekiel described as the letter tau.
Margaret Barker, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Which God Gave Him to Show to His Servants What Must Soon Take Place (Revelation 1.1) (Edinburgh: Clark, 2000), 162.

That particular passage in Jacob is interesting because it shows how different contexual approaches to a single word lead to quite different readings. And these different readings do work quite well separately. But since they don't fit together, they raise interesting thoughts about the translation and interpretation of the Book of Mormon. Was Joseph, in studying it out in his mind, thinking of the 1828 Webster's dictionary definition? Or was Jacob thinking in the mode of Ezekiel, and is Joseph's use of "mark" in the translation pointing to the Biblical usage in that passage? How is the mark connected with the "blindness" in Jacob?

And is the blindness in Jacob the same as the pre-Exlic charge of blindness in Jeremiah, in Ezekiel and 1 Enoch? How does the mark relate to vision, in contrast to the blindness?

And after that in the sixth week all who live in it shall be blinded, And the hearts of all of them shall godlessly forsake wisdom. And in it a man shall ascend; And at its close the house of dominion shall be burnt with fire, And the whole race of the chosen root shall be dispersed. (R.H. Charles, 1 Enoch 93:7-8 )

Jeremiah 5:21

Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:

Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. (Ezek. 12:2)

Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came from looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken his plainness away from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand because they desired it. (Jacob 4:14)

Ezekiel's own visions are a clear contrast to the blindness [here in 40:2-4]:

2 In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain [compare Nephi], by which was as the frame of a city on the south.

3 And he brought me thither, and, behold, there was a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring creed; and he stood in the gate.

4 And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.

The most obvious candidates for the blind, are, of course, the Deuteronomists, who insist that "ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude" (Deut. 4:12] And I think there are interesting patterns claims about both vision and blindness in Ezekiel, Jeremiah, 1 Nephi, Jacob, and 1 Enoch make good sense together in light of the actions of the reformers.

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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