Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Pre-Nicene New Testament

The Pre-Nicene New Testament is Robert M. Price's own translation of the early works of Christianity including everything from the canonical New Testament as well as several works which didn't make the cut. It's easier to read than the King James Translation both because he arranges the scriptures into paragraphs rather than verses and because he writes them in modern English vernacular. For example, the King James Version has:

Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. (John 13:37-38)

The Pre-Nicene New Testament translates this same passage as:

Peter says to him, "Lord, why can I not follow you yet? I will gladly lay down my life for you!" Jesus answers, "Oh, will you, now? Amen, amen: I say to you, cock-crow will not roll around till you have repudiated me three times!"

Citing many other Biblical scholars and variant versions of the scriptures, Price attempts to reconstruct the original versions of the texts. He highlights the parts which he takes to be later additions, makes educated guesses in order to reconstruct fragmentary portions, and in some cases, rearranges the order of the chapters. The Gospel of John, for example, is full of narrative discontinuities which disappear when he rearranges the order of the passages.

Price includes many books that you won't find in a standard New Testament. The Book of John the Baptizer is a reconstruction of the Mandaean Book of John. The Mandaeans are a Gnostic sect which still survives in modern day Iraq who believe that John the Baptist was a true prophet, but Jesus was the antichrist. There are also a couple books by disciples of John the Baptist, The Revelation of Dositheus and The Great Declaration of Simon Magus. There's also The Infancy Gospel of Thomas which recounts the miracles Jesus performed as a child and The Generations of Jesus (Toledoth Jeschu), a Jewish anti-gospel in which Judas is the hero and Jesus is the villain.

Price attempts to reconstruct the earliest known Biblical cannon, Marcion's Apostolicon. The Gospel of Marcion was later rewritten into the Gospel of Luke, and no copies of the original survive. However, using clues from early church fathers such as Tertullian, Price reconstructs the original as best he can.

The best parts of this book, however, are not the scriptures, but Price's introductory essays to each book and his footnotes. I found it interesting that the King James Version originally included the Apocrypha. He points out second century anachronisms in the gospels and epistles which challenge the main stream view held by Christian scholars that these works were written in the first century. The epistles written to the Corinthians seem to have originally been written not to the city of Corinth, but rather to the gnostic Cerinthian sect. 2 Thessalonians actually accuses 1 Thessalonians of being a forgery (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). Ephesians (also know as Laodiceans) is not an actual epistle, but rather a cut and paste compilation of the other epistles. Luke, Acts, Titus, and 1 and 2 Timothy all appear to have been written by the same author who Price suggests might be Polycarp.

The Shepherd of Hermas, which many early church fathers considered to be canonical but which later fell out of favor, is extremely long and boring, however, it's interesting to note that it never mentions Jesus by name, so it was likely written before the Gospels. The Epistle of Barnabas, also considered canonical by early church fathers, is interesting to me since it seems to bridge the gap between the earlier Pauline Epistles in which Jesus is a spiritual personage, and the later Gospels in which Jesus is situated into an historical setting. Barnabas attempts to find out who the mysterious Jesus was by quoting from Old Testament scriptures and claiming these refer to Jesus in code. The Gospels take this idea one step further by giving Jesus a narrative story built almost entirely out of Old Testament passages.

According to Revelation, Jesus was crucified not in Jerusalem, but rather in Rome (Revelation 11:8). Also, Revelation shares more in common with Jewish apocalyptic literature than Christian writings, so it may not even be a Christian work at all. Interestingly, The Revelation of John seems to have been written during the reign of Domitian (81-96AD) based on the fact that its "predictions" are only accurate up to this point. Since most of the other books in the New Testament contain second century anachronisms, The Book of Revelation, which is listed last, may actually have been written first. (see Matthew 20:16)

Friday, November 25, 2011

To Know in the Biblical Sense

In the Bible, the word "know" is used as a euphemism for sex.

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain (Genesis 4:1)
And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch (Genesis 4:17)

This same word is used later when two angels come to the city of Sodom to visit Lot. All the men of Sodom come to Lot's house to "know" the angels.

And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. (Genesis 19:5)

So does this mean that the men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the angels or could "know" mean something else in this context?

Yahweh said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do... For I know him. (Genesis 18:17,19)

Whoa! If "know" always means sex, then God just admitted to doing it with Abraham! It turns out the Hebrew word yadha (to know) appears over 900 times in the Old Testament, but it refers to sexual intercourse only ten of those times. If "know" meant sex every time it was used in the Bible, we'd all have to stifle giggles when reading verses such as these:

I know all the fowls of the mountains (Psalm 50:11)

O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. (Psalm 139:1)

If we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain. (Hosea 6:3)

Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. (Hosea 13:4-5)

I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep (John 10:14)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them (John 10:27)

As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father (John 10:15)

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. (2 Corinthians 5:16)

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you (1 Thessalonians 5:12)

And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them (Genesis 42:7)

And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him (1 Kings 18:7)

The ox knoweth his owner (Isaiah 1:3)

No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son (Matthew 11:27)

OK, so if "know" doesn't automatically mean sex, what else could it mean in the context of the Sodom story? Why did the men of Sodom want to "know" the angels who were spending the night with Lot? The men of Sodom were suspicious of the angels because they were strangers. They wanted to know who they were and what business they had in the city. They wanted to size them up and see if they were going to be trouble makers. Lot was afraid they were going to beat his guests up, for he says:

I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. (Genesis 19:6-8)

If the men of Sodom were homosexual, why would Lot tell them to rape his virgin daughters? Homosexual men generally aren't interesting in having sex with women.

And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. (Genesis 19:9)

Lot himself is a sojourner in Sodom. He is not a full citizen, but rather a (gasp!) immigrant. The men of Sodom don't look too kindly on immigrants. Lot's refusal to release the angels to their custody makes him as guilty as they are. Fortunately the angels use their special illegal immigrant powers:

But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. (Genesis 19:10-11)

The Bible itself never suggests that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. There's a strikingly similar story in Judges 19 where a man spends the night with a sojourner in Gibeah:

Behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. (Judges 19:22-24)

This version of the story has a more gruesome ending:

But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. (Judges 19:25-29)

Unlike the version in Genesis, this earlier version of the story explains what the men of the town intended to do:

I came into Gibeah that belongeth to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to lodge. And the men of Gibeah rose against me, and beset the house round about upon me by night, and thought to have slain me: and my concubine have they forced, that she is dead. (Judges 20:4-5)

According to the Bible, when the men of Gibeah asked to "know" the stranger, that meant they wanted to kill him, not have sex with him. If this is what "know" means in the Judges version of the story, then that's probably what it means in the Genesis version of the story as well. The sin of Sodom is not described as being homosexuality elsewhere in the Bible either:

I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. (Jeremiah 23:14)

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

Whereas the men of Sodom received not the strangers when they came among them, so the Egyptians made slaves of the guests who were their benefactors. (Wisdom 19:13-14, Ecclesiastes 16:8).

Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. and when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in that day of judgement than for that city! (Matthew 10:11-14, Luke 10:8-12)

So according to the Bible, the sin of Sodom wasn't homosexuality, but rather inhospitality. Thus the word sodomy, just like onanism, came about due to a misreading of the text. Technically, the definition of the word "sodomy" should be "being hostile to foreigners." The Bible does indeed condemn homosexuality elsewhere (Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-28), but not in connection with Sodom.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mormonism and Masonry

The Mormon Expressions podcast recently did a series on Mormonism and Masonry (Episodes 144, 145, 149, and 152) in which someone who calls himself George Miller (I got the impression this was a pseudonym) proposes that Masonry had a much bigger influence on Mormonism than has been previously thought. He is planning on publishing his findings, but unfortunately this will take years. Since most of his ideas can't be found anywhere else, I decided to provide a summary here.


Even though there are numerous men who belong to both the Mormon and the Masonic organizations, only superficial similarities have been discovered thus far because both organizations have changed quite a bit over time. To truly understand Mormonism's dependance on Masonry, one needs to have a thorough knowledge of the state of both traditions during the early 19th century in New England.

During Joseph Smith's time, anti-Masonic sentiment was on the rise. In fact, the Anti-Masonic Party, the first "third" political party in the United States, was founded at this time. The reason for the hostility was something called the Morgan Affair in which a man named William Morgan was kidnapped by Masons near Canandaigua (a city very close to Joseph Smith's hometown) because he threatened to publish an expose on the Masonic Royal Arch degree. There had been previous exposes done on Freemasonry before this, but the Royal Arch degree hadn't yet been revealed to the public. Morgan ended up disappearing and was presumed murdered, which gave rise to the anti-Masonic sentiment of the time. Joseph Smith likely knew William Morgan and went to the same lodge as him. Incidentally, Joseph Smith later made William Morgan's widow one of his polygamous wives.

Masonry was a Smith family tradition. Joseph Smith's father Joseph Sr. and his brother Hyrum were Masons, as well as three of his uncles. Blue Lodge Masonry in particular was on the rise during Joseph Smith Sr.'s time with three new lodges being built within a 25 mile radius of Joseph Smith Jr.'s birthplace.

Universalism was also important to the Smith family. Both Joseph Smith Sr. and his father Asael Smith were Universalists. Hosea Ballou, who has been called the Father of American Universalism, lived just 10 miles away from the Smith family home. The Smith family interest in both Masonry and Universalism were not mutually exclusive. In fact, during Joseph Smith's time, the Masonic lodges contained a disproportionate number of Universalist members. Hosea Ballou even gave orations in Masonic lodges in which he interpreted Masonic rituals in terms of Jesus becoming God.

The Book of Mormon has often been considered anti-Universalist, but it really isn't. Mormonism embraces the central Universalist idea that there is no Hell and everybody goes to Heaven. There are also other similarities. For example, Ballou's Treatise on Atonement talks about the trinity in a way that's similar to the Mormon Temple ceremony.

Antiquities of Freemasonry

In 1823, a Mason named George Oliver wrote a book called The Antiquities of Freemasonry. The reason he wrote the book was because there was a need to rewrite Masonic history when the Ancients and the Moderns (two rival forms of Freemasonry) combined. He was against the idea that the mystery cults in Egypt that revered Osiris and Dionysius practiced true Freemasonry, so he came up with the idea that there was a spurious form of Masonry. True Masonry was founded by God, while spurious Masonry was founded by Satan.

While there's no solid proof that Joseph Smith owned a copy of this book, the New York Masonic lodges which Joseph Smith and his family attended had several copies of it before Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, so he was very likely familiar with it.

According to Antiquities of Freemasonry, God was a Freemason and He initiated Adam into the priesthood. Masonry was then passed down over the generations to Seth, Enoch, Noah, Shem (also known as Melchizedek), Abraham and down through the Jewish line to Solomon. Then it was passed on through to Christianity. Satan started spurious Masonry which he taught to Cain. This was also passed down the generations to Lamech. Spurious Masonry led to the Deluge, but survived in Noah's son Ham and eventually got passed on to the pharaoh of Egypt who stole the secrets of Masonry, but didn't get it quite right.

In Mormonism, God is a priesthood holder and He initiated Adam into the priesthood which got passed down through the generations. This idea couldn't have come from the Bible because the Bible mentions the priesthood only sparsely. Just like the Antiquities of Freemasonry, Joseph Smith's Book of Moses parallels Cain and Lamech's spurious Masonry with Enoch's true priesthood or speculative Masonry. In fact, everything in the Book of Moses that doesn't come from the Genesis account comes from Antiquities of Freemasonry. For example, both contain a scene in which Adam calls his posterity together that isn't found in the Bible.

Many have considered the Book of Mormon to be anti-Masonic, but it really isn't. The evil "secret combinations" of the Book of Mormon thought to represent Masons, actually represent spurious Masonry, while the priesthood in the Book of Mormon represents true Masonry. After all, Nephi builds the Temple of Solomon.

Joseph Smith tells us in the Book of Mormon (Alma 7:17-18) that Melchizedek's people had gone astray, but he brought them back. This isn't mentioned anywhere in the Bible, but it is mentioned in Antiquities of Freemasonry (p. 148-50, 154, 161-163).

The Book of Mormon also tells us that a pure bloodline is important and stresses the fact that Nephi and his posterity are direct descendants of Joseph. This idea is not found in the Bible, but again is an important one in Antiquities of Freemasonry.

Antiquities of Freemasonry tells us Enoch had an underground temple, a fact which is hinted at in the Masonic Royal Arch degree. The story goes that a group of Masons uncovered a keystone underneath the rubble of the Jewish Temple after it had been destroyed by the Babylonians. They discovered that the keystone was connected to an underground arch. They ended up descending 9 levels and found a gold plate on a pedestal with the true name of God written on it.

According to Mormon tradition, Joseph Smith found Golden Plates containing the Book of Mormon by digging into the Hill Cumorah and he even refers to the plates as the "keystone" of his religion on the title page of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith then returned the Golden Plates along with some other items to a cave in the Hill Cumorah. Accorinding to the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, Moriancumer (perhaps a reference to the Hill Cumorah) is the name of the place where the Jaredites settled for a time. George Miller supposes that Joseph Smith thought the Temple of Enoch was located under the Hill Cumorah.

There was a legend amongst New York Masons at the time that a war would soon break out. The legend goes that a Mason would make the grand hailing sign of distress and be rescued by an Indian. It was a Masonic rumor that the Native Americans possessed a degraded form of Masonry. This parallels the claim made by the Book of Mormon that the Native Americans had a degraded form of the priesthood.

The Book of Abraham

In July 1835, Joseph Smith purchased four mummies (an old female, a young female, a male, and a deformed mummy) and accompanying papyri from a man named Michael Chandler.

The old female's papyrus (Book of the Dead Belonging to Tshemmin), which was written in red and white ink, was translated by Joseph Smith into the Book of Joseph. This papyrus contained a picture of a snake whispering into a woman's ear (which Joseph Smith thought represented Eve) as well as two pillars which Joseph Smith called the "Pillars of Enoch." He claimed this phrase came from the writings of Josephus, but Josephus never uses this term. The "Pillars of Enoch" is a phrase exclusive to Freemasonry.

The male mummy came with an excerpt from the Hor Book of Breathings which Joseph Smith translated into the Book of Abraham. The Book of Abraham is based on the Biblical account, however there is also additional material. Just as with the Book of Moses, all the additional material comes from Antiquities of Freemasonry.

For example, both books tell us about the assassination attempt made on Abraham and the idea that the Egyptians modeled their worship on the religion of the ancients. They both tell us that Abraham was an expert in astronomy (although Joesphus does too). Also, Abraham is described as having great knowledge, but seeking greater knowledge. He was a follower of righteousness, but was going to be a greater follower. These descriptions are both found in Masonic ritual.

Also, Antiquities of Freemasonry tells us that Abraham was initiated into Freemasonry when he visited Shem (also known as Melchizedek). This is hinted at by Joseph Smith. The name Melchizedek literally means King of Righteousness and he was also the King of Salem (or literally "King of Peace"). Melchizedek was a prophet, priest, and king like Adam, Moses, and others. The phrase "prophet, priest, and king" was a common phrase around Joseph Smith's time, however the Catholics, Church of England, and others only used it in reference to Jesus. Joseph Smith and the Masons were the only ones who used the phrase for other people.

Joseph Smith believed that prophet, priest and king were degrees one could graduate to as evidenced by a speech he gave on July 16th, 1843. In this speech, he gave up the title of prophet and bestowed it upon his brother Hyram, saying that Hyram would become a prophet by birthright. (Both Masons and Mormons of the time stressed the importance of primogeniture.) Willard Richards wrote in reference to this talk that Joseph Smith would be a priest now and a king by and by.

Further Similarities

Much like the different degrees of Freemasonry, Joseph Smith taught there were different levels of the priesthood: Levitical, Melchizedek, and Patriarchal. The similarities don't stop there. Both Mormonism and Masonry contain the ideas of lineal priesthood, the preexistence, and the idea that there is more than one world with people on it.

While writing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith referred to the priesthood as the Order of Melchizedek. Then in Kirkland, he calls it the Order of the High Priesthood. Then finally in Nauvoo, he calls it the Holy Order of the High Priesthood. This corresponds with the Masonic Order of Melchizedek degree (in which the initiate plays the role of Abraham as he visits Melchizedek) since the name of this degree was changed to the Order of the High Priesthood, then finally to the Holy Order of the High Priesthood.

The structure of the Mormon church in Joseph Smith's time was divided into stakes and wards (or branches), which correspond to grand lodges and lodges in Masonry. The head of a lodge is called the Worshipful Master and he has both a Senior and Junior Warden. This corresponds to Mormonism's Bishop attended by a First and Second Counselor. Mormonism divides its members up into different ranks and callings much like a Masonic lodge.

The phrase "seek and they shall find, and to knock that the door may be opened" is common in Masonic ritual. This phrase is also an important one to Joseph Smith.

In Missouri, Joseph Smith decided to try his hand at his own Masonic organization outside the confines of official Masonry in the form of the Danites who modeled their oaths and covenants on Freemasonry.

Masons were interested in magic and theurgy (the process of becoming a god). Joseph Smith's mother wrote in her diary that the Smith family practiced magic and specifically uses the phrase "Faculty of Abrac" which comes from the Masonic document called the Leland Manuscript. The writings of Henry Cornelius Agrippa (which were reprinted in a book called The Magus) were big with the Smith family, perhaps because Masons of the time considered Agrippa to be the founder of Freemasonry in France.

In his book, Mormonism and the Magic World View, D. Michael Quinn painstakingly details all the evidence that Joseph Smith was an occult practitioner. However, the Smith family descendants referred to Smith's magical dagger, lamens and jupiter talisman as Masonic.

Joseph's Jupiter Talisman (created with instructions from Agrippa's book) was called "Joseph's Masonic Jewel" by Joseph's family. According to Masonic legend, Hiram Abiff (who was said to be the chief architect of King Solomon's Temple) had a "jewel" or medallion on which was carved the Secret Name of God and he died with it on him. Jupiter was one of God's names and Joseph's talisman had many other names for God written upon it. According to Joseph's first wife Emma, he died with the Jupiter medallion on him just like Hiram Abiff.

The rods which Joseph Smith and other early Mormons used for treasure digging are also Masonic in origin. In Antiquities of Freemasonry, Moses's rod was said to be a branch Adam took from the Tree of Life. It was said to be carved to resemble the head of a snake. One of Joseph Smith's canes matches this description (Joseph Smith walked with a limp ever since he was 7 due to a surgery). So even Joseph Smith's interest in magic was derived from Masonry.


In Masonry, it is said that the language spoken by Adam is the Universal Language. Antiquities of Freemasonry claims that Enoch made the Adamic written language.

Joseph Smith was interested in the Adamic language as evidenced by some of his writings. The 1832 Kirkland Revelation Book contains a few Adamic words God revealed to Joseph Smith. His revelation titled A Sample of Pure Language wasn't included in the Doctrine and Covenants for some reason, but we do have a sample of the Adamic written language from a letter Joseph Smith's scribe W. W. Phelps wrote to his wife. Joseph Smith would sometimes refer to glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, as the Adamic language.

Masonic legend has it that Enoch's gold plate was written in the Masonic Royal Arch Cipher. Agrippa's book contains a cipher that looks exactly like the Royal Arch Cipher except it's all assigned Hebrew letters. Joseph Smith created his Adamic language by combining the Royal Arch cipher with Agrippa's cipher. Further, he combines symbols together like Agrippa did to make further meanings.

Antiquities of Freemasonry states that pharaoh stole the Adamic writing system but changed it. The Adamic language was phonetic and symbolic, while the Egyptian language was only symbolic. This means the pure Adamic writing system would be a reformed version of Egyptian. Joseph Smith tells us the Book of Mormon was written in reformed Egyptian. A document called the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language explains how Joseph Smith translated it.

The Endowment

Joseph Smith originally created the Relief Society (an organization for female Mormons) with the intention of making it into a Masonic lodge. However, after his first wife Emma found out about his polygamous marriages, she took over the Relief Society in order to use it against him.

Female Masonry is unheard of today, however after the Morgan Affair, female degrees were initiated in the "burned over" district of New York where Joseph Smith was from. One was called the True Kindred degree and was based on the Biblical Book of Ruth. Another was called the Heroines of Jericho degree and was based on the Biblical story of Rahab, the prostitute who helped the Israelites destroy her hometown of Jericho. This degree included something that looks like the Five Points of Fellowship (which was removed from the Mormon temple ceremony in 1990). We know this was practiced amongst the Mormons because Zena Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young, one of Joseph Smith's plural wives and later a plural wife of Brigham Young, wrote in her diary in June 1844 that "now I understand the Kindred Degree of Masonry."

Masonry was a big part of Mormon life during the Nauvoo period. There were 3 lodges in Nauvoo itself with 2 others nearby. In fact, there were more Masons in Nauvoo than all the rest of Illinois combined within one year of its founding. (You can still visit the Nauvoo lodge to this day, although modern Mormons embarrassed by their Masonic origins refer to it as a "Cultural Hall" and claim it was used for dances.) This is because Joseph Smith wanted every Mormon to go through all the Masonic degrees. He saw Masonry as a stepping stone to the endowment ceremony of the Mormon temple. In fact the symbols used in the endowment such as the secret handshakes only make sense to a Mason.

Joseph Smith intended the endowment ceremony to be an appendant body to the Blue Lodge degrees of Masonry which required Mormon membership (just as the Knight Templar degrees require one to be a Christian). The endowment (or Josephs's Rite) uses the same signs and tokens. It's a recapitulation of what came before. He makes the implicit Christian interpretations of the Blue Lodge and Royal Arch degrees explicit in the Mormon endowment ceremony. It's representative of when one becomes a prophet, priest, and king or heir like Christ in Heaven. Hosea Ballou thought the same thing. What Joseph Smith did with the endowment wasn't far off from how the typical Christian Mason of the time interpreted the Royal Arch degree.

Salem Town, a Royal Arch Mason, interpreted the Masonic rituals of passing through the veil, receiving a new name, being annointed, and placed upon a throne, as Christian allegory. So it was common to associate Masonry with Christianity. However, after the Morgan Affair, preachers distanced Christianity from Freemasonry.

The grips, passwords, and penalties of the Mormon endowment ceremony are taken word for word from Masonry, although the keywords are different. Salem Town said the apprentice and fellow-craft degrees were symbolic of Adam's expulsion from Eden. The three Blue Lodge and four Royal Arch degrees were interpreted by Masons as creation scenes in 1825. When opening a lodge (which is symbolic for the universe itself) the Worshipful Master (Elohim) talks to the Senior Warden (Jehovah) who talks to the Junior Warden (Michael) who then tells everybody and then they all return and report. These all correspond to endowment scenes.

Calling and election are part of the Royal Arch degree. The fourth degree of Masonry is interpreted as receiving your own Urim and Thummim as well as a new name. Masonry's goal, according to Antiquities of Free Masonry, is to weld together the chain of brothers throughout time. In Joseph Smith's time, Royal Arch Masons as well as Mormons wore white aprons on which they sewed green leaves during their ceremonies.

The Mormon operation at the veil is a Masonic catechism - there's one almost exactly like it in the Royal Arch ritual. In Joseph Smith's original ritual, multiple veils were passed through symbolizing the advancing from degree to degree as one moves through the rooms of the temple, just as in the Royal Arch ritual. Joseph Smith's idea of three degrees of glory was also taken from Masonic ritual.

There were three different designs for the Nauvoo Temple. The Masonic symbols appear on the final draft, after Joseph Smith becomes a Mason. The sunstone, moonstone, and five pointed star on the temple are definite Masonic symbols. The weathervane on top of the temple is an angel flying over a Masonic square and compass and wearing the robes of a Royal Arch Mason.

The bronze doorknobs and beehive of the Salt Lake City Temple are directly modeled on Masonic symbols. In describing them, Brigham Young almost quotes a Masonic ceremony word for word. On either side of the doors in the Mormon Temple, there are little alcoves which used to contain statues of Joseph and Hyram Smith just like the statues of the patron saints of Masonry, John the Baptist and John the Revelator, found in Masonic buildings. Brigham Young used to refer to the Mormon endowment ceremony as Celestial Masonry. In fact, the original plans of the Salt Lake Temple contained even more Masonic symbols, particularly a square and compass around all the windows.


According to John Taylor, who was in prison with Joseph Smith when he was murdered, Joseph Smith gave the Masonic grand hailing sign of distress right before he died, which isn't a surprise, since Joseph Smith had a history of using the grand hailing sign of distress when he was in trouble. A year earlier, when Joseph Smith had been jailed, he made this same sign and some Masons helped him out legally to get him out of jail. He even eludes to the grand hailing sign of distress in Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language. Joseph Smith's last words before he died, "Oh Lord, my God" was the beginning of the hailing sign (Oh Lord, my God, is there no help for the widow's son?). While modern Mormons balk at this, no Mormon of the time disputed that Joseph Smith was giving the grand hailing sign of distress as he died.

During the Utah period, Mormons were barred from becoming Freemasons because they broke the law by practicing polygamy. Brigham Young and others from the original generation of Mormons knew the Mormon church was based upon Masonry. The Utah state flag contains the Masonic beehive symbol and Utah's currency in the early days contained the Masonic All Seeing Eye. You can still see Masonic symbols in Utah cemeteries to this day. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneer Museum in Salt Lake City contains numerous Masonic artifacts which belonged to early Mormons.

However, the next generation of Mormons who were barred from participating in Masonry lost touch with their roots, and Masonry has been slowly disappearing from Mormon culture ever since. In 1900, it became Mormon church policy to prohibit Mormons from being Masons. Recently in the 1980s, the Utah Masonic lodge started to allow Mormon members once again and Mormon policy changed to allow Mormons to be Masons. The two organizations are now on good terms, although they've diverged from each other quite a bit and hence no longer have as much in common as they once did.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Sacred Executioner Part 2

This is the second part of my review of The Sacred Executioner: Human Sacrifice and the Legacy of Guilt by Hyam Maccoby


Next, Maccoby tackles another confusing Biblical passage in which Moses' wife circumcises his son.

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26)

There have been numerous different explanations for what's going on here. A big part of the confusion has to do with figuring out which pronoun refers to whom. Maccoby translates the Hebrew as follows:

And it came to pass on the way at the lodging place, that the Lord afflicted him (with madness), and he (Moses) sought to kill him (the child). And Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his (Moses') feet; and she said: 'Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me.' So He (God) withdrew from him (Moses, i.e. the fit of madness left him). Then she said, 'Bridegroom of blood for the circumcision.' (Exodus 4:24-26)

This translation indicates that Moses was about to perform a child sacrifice, but God decided that sacrificing the foreskin was enough. Thus circumcision, like animal sacrifice, was used in place of human sacrifice as religion evolved. A further clue that this passage is about human sacrifice is found in the passage immediately preceding:

Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” (Exodus 4:22-23)

Maccoby cites another interpretation of this passage from the scholar Julius Wellhausen. He points out the Hebrew word for "bridegroom" is derived from a Semitic root which means "to circumcise". The Hebrew word for "father-in-law" also derives from the same root. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was also known as hoten Mosheh (the circumciser of Moses). This indicates to Wellhausen that this passage marks a transition from the practice of circumcising young males just before marriage to circumcising males at birth.

An example of puberty circumcision still in the Bible is found in Genesis 17:24 where Ishmael is said to be thirteen at the time of his circumcision. Another possible instance of pre-marital circumcision is found in Genesis 34 in which the inhabitants of Shechem agree to be circumcised in preperation for an intermarriage with the family of Jacob. Also Joshua circumcises the young men of Israel to prepare for the invastion of Canaan (Joshua 5).


The sacrifice of Jesus parallels the sacrifice of Isaac and is described in the same language. However, in the case of Jesus, God isn't asking someone else to sacrifice their only son, He is making Himself sacrifice His only son to appease His own anger. As is common with human sacrifice, the victim becomes deified as a way of justifying the slaughter. So too with Jesus.

The Jewish people as a whole are the Sacred Executioner in the story of Jesus. It is they who cry out "His blood be on us and on our children" (Matthew 27:25). They are the ones who are blamed and held responsible for the death of Jesus. Sharing in their blame and in the role of Sacred Executioner are Judas Iscariot (in a way a personification of the Jewish race), the Wandering Jew, and Pilate.

Judas is like a brother to Jesus. This is because the Sacred Executioner cannot be an outsider. Just as with Cain and Abel, a close relationship is required between executioner and victim. Judas may have even been the brother of Jesus if all the characters named Judas in the Gospels are the same person. In the Acts of Thomas, Judas Thomas is considered the twin of Jesus. In fact, the Hebrew word "Thomas" simply means "twin".

Further evidence that Judas was a Sacred Executioner is the fact that his motive for betraying Jesus is flimsy and contradictory. However, since he dies instead of being cursed with immortality, he doesn't fit the role of Sacred Executioner exactly. This part of the role is taken up by the Wandering Jew and the Jewish people as a whole.

The Jews are cursed to eternally wander the earth. As in previous human sacrifices, the death of Jesus, necessary as it was, is both a crime for which the Jews must be punished and a saving event by which all Christians can profit.

Pilate symbolizes the role of the community. He orders the execution, yet washes his hands of it. Just like earlier communities which demanded, but were horrified by human sacrifice.

As an aside, I found it interesting that the reforms Jesus set out to accomplish in spite of the Pharisees in the Gospels, were the same reforms already instituted by the Pharisee movement in history. I was also interested to learn that during the Middle Ages, Christianity turned its focus from the adult Jesus to the infant Jesus held in the arms of the Virgin Mary. Maccoby refers to this change in focus as a regression.


Maccoby sees the goat for Azazel (Leviticus 16:9-10) as being a later version of the Sacred Executioner when animal sacrifice has replaced human sacrifice. He also suspects the death of Achan (Joshua 7) was originally a human sacrifice. Of course, Jephthah's sacrifice of his daughter (Judges 11:30-40) is an explicit human sacrifice taking place in the Bible.

In the ancient world, sacrifice was required each spring to renew the earth. God seems to be calling for an end to human sacrifice when he says "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." (Genesis 8:22) God is saying the seasons will continue on their own, they no longer require human sacrifice to be initiated.

The last few chapters of the book get away from the Bible and the Sacred Executioner to focus on the poor treatment of Jews by Christians during the Middle Ages and the Holocaust. There's some interesting information here, but it's off topic.

I think Maccoby makes several unjustified leaps in this book. He tends to read too much into the Bible and is sometimes found harmonizing contradictions. I wish he would have cited his sources better (sometimes he doesn't even give the Biblical verse he is discussing). However, he does provide some thought provoking interpretations of the Biblical text. While his interpretation of the text is certainly possible, I wouldn't go so far as to say it's the most probable.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Sacred Executioner Part 1

This post is part one of my review of The Sacred Executioner: Human Sacrifice and the Legacy of Guilt by Hyam Maccoby

According to Hyam Maccoby, the Sacred Executioner is a figure appearing in various ancient religions who performs a necessary function to society in the form of human sacrifice, but is then cursed and banished from society for doing such a despicable deed. In this book, Maccoby attempts to prove that there are traces of the Sacred Executioner in the Bible.


According to the Bible, Cain kills his brother Abel because God accepted Abel's animal sacrifice, but not Cain's vegetable sacrifice. If the story of Cain and Abel is simply one of murder, why does God then place a mark upon Cain and declare that if someone kills Cain, Cain will be avenged sevenfold? Here, Maccoby sees the traces of an earlier version of the story in which Cain is a Sacred Executioner. He performed a needed human sacrifice, so he cannot be punished for his actions. However, the act is so horrible that he cannot remain a part of society.

Maccoby thinks that Abel (whose name in Hebrew means "vapour" or nothingness) wasn't the name of the person Cain originally killed. Rather, Cain killed his son Enoch. The evidence for this is the fact that human sacrifices were commonly performed in the ancient world in order to dedicate a new city and Cain named the city he built after his son Enoch. Enoch died young, at the sun-god age of 365 during a time when most people lived to be about 900. Also, the Bible doesn't say that Enoch died, but rather that he "walked with God, and he was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24) which implies human sacrifice to Maccoby.

Further, Maccoby supposes that Cain was originally the first man, not Adam (whose name simply means "man"). Like Adam, Cain was punished by having to toil agriculturally (Genesis 4:12) and he was also banished to the east of Eden to the land of Nod (literally "land of exile"). This implies that Cain was originally from Eden, but got kicked out. It is said that Adam "knew his wife" when he fathered Cain. Likewise, Cain "knew his wife" when he fathered Enoch. Since the phrase "knew his wife" isn't used again until the time of Noah, this implies that knowing one's wife isn't simply the act of conception, but rather the initiation of a new race.

The name Cain means "smith" in Hebrew, and indeed his descendants (particularly Tubal-Cain) are said to be blacksmiths and metalworkers. There is a tribe of smiths in the Bible called the Kenites whose name is derived from Cain and in fact their name is sometimes translated as Cain (Numbers 24:22). The father-in-law of Moses was a Kenite (Judges 4:11) and in another verse is even named Cain. Saul spares the Kenites because they showed kindness to Israel in the past (1 Samuel 15:6). The Israelites seem to have been on good terms with the Kenites since there is only one hostile reference to them in the Bible (Number 24:21-22).

Maccoby thinks that the original Kenite creation story in which Cain is the first man was replaced by the Israelite version in which Adam was the first man. Further evidence of this is the genealogy given for Adam's son Seth. The descendants of Seth listed in the Bible are based on the descendants of Cain. Their names are only spelled slightly differently: Cain, Kenan; Irad, Jared; Mehujael, Mahalalel; Mathushael, Methuselah. Also, both Cain and Seth have descendents named Enoch and Lamech.


Very few verses are spent on Lamech in the Bible (only Genesis 4:17-24), but Maccoby suspects he was an important figure in the Kenite myth. Like his ancestor Cain, Lamech is also a murderer and in fact boasts that "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." Lamech lives to be 777 years old, in reference to this statement. Lamech's sons are said to be the fathers of tent-dwellers, cattle raisers, musicians, and metal workers. How can this be since according to Biblical chronology they all died in the Flood? Maccoby's answer is that in the original Kenite myth, Lamech and his three sons were the ones to survive the Flood, not Noah and his three sons. Noah's wife is the first wife mentioned since Eve in the Sethian line, likewise Lamech's wives are the first mentioned since Cain's in the Cainite line.

Evidence that the Kenite/Cainite line continued after the flood is found in the geneology of Genesis 10:21-24 and 11:11-13. In the Greek Septuagint, the name Cainan, a variation on Cain, appears seven times (although it appears to have been edited out of the Masoretic text.) Cainan appears to have been used as a title since Noah's son Shem has both a son and grandson named Cainan.

Maccoby supposes that Noah's animal sacrifice giving thanks to God after the Flood had a parallel human sacrifice in the hypothetical Kenite myth. This is why Lamech claims he will be avenged like Cain; he was also a Sacred Executioner. Further, Maccoby points out the Hebrew can be translated in such a way to indicate that Lamech killed not just any man, but his own child, a theory which finds support in Midrash Tanhuma which gives the following story: Lamech was blind and would often go hunting with his son Tubal-Cain who would point him in the right direction. One day, they accidentally kill a man with a horn coming out of his head. This man is Lamech's ancestor Cain whose "mark" was the horn. Lamech claps his hands together in grief, but unfortunately, his son is standing between his hands and dies from the blow. Lamech's wives refuse to have intercourse with him for fear that any offspring they have will be under the curse. Lamech explains that even though Cain was cursed, he was allowed to have seven generations of descendants before he died, therefore Lamech would be allowed seventy seven generations. 

Maccoby supposes that in the original version of this myth, Lamech made a human sacrifice of his son, Tubal-Cain. Perhaps Cain was a god in the Kenite religion and when a child was sacrificed to him, the child became deified and associated with the god. This might be why Tubal was given the odd double name of Tubal-Cain.


Another part of the Bible that contains textual difficulty is the scene in which Noah gets drunk and passes out naked in his tent. His son Ham then sees him naked. When Noah wakes up, he somehow knows that his son saw his nakedness and responds by cursing his grandson Canaan (whose name in Hebrew actually has nothing to do with Cain even though the names are similar in English). How did Noah know what happened? Why was his son seeing him naked such a big deal? Why did he curse his grandson instead of his son?

According to the Midrash (See Genesis Rabbah 36:7; Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 70a; Yalqut Shimoni Noah 61) , Ham didn't just see his father naked, but he castrated him. He did this so Noah couldn't have anymore sons. The more sons Noah had, the less inheritance Ham would get, and in the case of Noah, his inheritance was the entire world. Maccoby then links this story to Greek and Egyptian myths involving castration and further supposes that in the original version of this myth, Canaan was the hero like when Cronus castrated Uranus. He then became the villian in the Kenite version, and finally Ham was made to share his blame in the Israelite form of the myth.

Genesis 9:24 states that "Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done to him." Ham is not Noah's youngest son, but Canaan was the youngest son of Ham. This is further evidence of tampering done with the text and points to Cronus, the youngest son of Uranus who castrated his father at his mother's urging. (The youngest son is often the champion and favorite of the mother in matriarchal myths.)


There is no devil in the Hebrew Bible. The serpent in the Garden of Eden was not thought to be Satan in disguise before the Christian era. Satan does appear in the Book of Job, but he is not the devil, but rather one of God's angels whose job it was to reveal mankind's faults before God. This is how Satan is presented in the Talmud as well.

In the Bible, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, but substitutes an animal at the last minute. In the Book of Jubilees, the dark angel Mastema is the one who suggests God test Abraham in this way, providing the same role as Satan in the Book of Job. In later Midrash, Satan is presented as trying to prevent the sacrifice, jogging Abraham's hand to make him drop the knife (Tanhuma, Vayera 23). This is in stark contrast to the sacrifice of Jesus in which Satan helps God make the sacrifice happen. Even though God is demanding the sacrifice of Jesus just like earlier gods demanded human sacrifice in general, God is absolved of the blame. This is another aspect of the Sacred Executioner, that not only the tribe, but also their god are absolved of blame for performing a human sacrifice.

Perhaps in an earlier version of the story, Abraham actually did sacrifice Isaac. A trace of this is found in Genesis 22:19 in which only Abraham, not Isaac departs Mount Moriah after the sacrifice. One Midrash (Shibbolei ha-Leket 9a-9b) even states that Isaac was killed and burnt to ashes but brought back to life.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Father of Joshua/Jesus by Saul Levin Part 3

This is the third part of my book review of Saul Levin's The Father of Joshua/Jesus in which I summarize the concluding chapter.

Chapter VI

Although the names of Jesus and Joshua are different in English translations, they  are both the same name in Greek and Hebrew. In fact, Jesus seems to have been named after Joshua. While the Gospels of Matthew and Luke have completely different nativity stories from one another, one thing they both agree on is that Jesus was named by an angel. In Luke, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and says "You shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus" (Luke 1:31). In Matthew, the angel appears to Joseph, so the wording only differs by a pronoun: "She shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." (Matthew 1:21) Luke goes on to call Jesus "son of the Highest" (Luke 1:32), perhaps with Joshua son of the Lord in mind.

In the apocryphal Protevangelium of James, the parents of Mary were sterile. So Mary's father Joakim  goes to the desert to fast for forty days, while Mary's mother Anne prays to get pregnant in a fertility rite setting - sitting under a tree, wearing a headband, and looking at a nest of sparrows. Angels appear to both of them promising a miraculous birth. Mary's mother Anne (based on Anne, the mother of the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament, also compare 1 Samuel 2:1 with Luke 1:46) vowed to give her child to serve the Lord. Accordingly, when Mary was three years old, she was given to the temple where she was fed by an angel. Perhaps her being given to the temple is an echo of the "hallowed ones" or temple prostitutes of the Hebrew Bible. When she turned twelve, the priests were worried she would pollute the temple (by menstruating) so they gave her to the elderly widow Joseph. While spinning thread to make a curtain for the temple, Mary is visited by an angel and becomes pregnant with Jesus.

In a footnote, Levin points out that the Gospels (Mark 11:8-11, Matthew 21:8-10, John 12:12-13)  confuse the autumn festival of Tabernacles where palms were waved and people cry "please save" with the spring festival of Passover. He explains their ignorance of Jewish customs by supposing the authors of the Gospels wrote after the Temple was destroyed (70 CE) and they did not attend synagogues either. I think a better explanation for why the Gospels are ignorant of Jewish customs is that they were not written by Jews, but hey, that's just me.

While Jesus recreates most of the miracles performed by Elisha and Elijah in the book of Kings, one miracle is conspicuously absent: making a sterile woman fertile (although Luke has John the Baptist born to aged parents similar to Abraham and Sarah, this happens before the birth of Jesus). Levin supposes that Jesus's miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-11) could be thought of as a fertility miracle since having plenty of wine at a wedding makes the occasion more joyous which in turn makes it more likely that the marriage will produce children, but I think this is stretching it a bit.

In another footnote, Levin points out that the name of Jesus's mother is never given in the Gospel of John, and in fact her name being Mary as it is in the other Gospels is unlikely since her sister is named Mary. While it wouldn't be unusual in Roman families to have two sisters both named Mary, this wasn't done amongst Jews. Does this indicate that John had a different name in mind for the mother of Jesus, perhaps edited out later to conform with the other Gospels, or is it an indication that the Gospel writer was Roman?

Jesus is called the "son of David" when he heals the blind or performs exorcisms (Matthew 9:27, 15:22,  20:30-31, Mark 10:47-48, Luke 18:38-39), which implies that David was known for performing such miracles himself. David does cure Saul of an evil spirit (1 Samuel 16:14) and the Talmud tells us he was a gynecologist (Tractate Berakoth 4a). However, David did not heal the crippled Mephibosheth, although he did provide for him (2 Samuel 9:1-9). Perhaps with this in mind, Jesus is not called the "son of David" when he heals the lame (Luke 5:17-26, John 5:1-15). The only other time Jesus is called the "son of David" is during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem during Passover (Matthew 21:9-16). 

Although Jesus is called "the Anointed One" (i.e. Christ), there is no depiction of him actually being anointed. The closest the Gospels come is when a woman pours perfume on him (Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3, John 12:3, Luke 7:36-50) although Jesus himself says this is for his burial (Matthew 26:12, Mark 14:8), not for anointing. Acts 10:38 is the most explicit reference to an act of anointing, although this refers to being anointed by spirit. Levin muses that the anointing had to be kept secret since when the disciples of Jesus say he is the anointed one, he instructs them to tell no one (Matthew 16:16-20, Mark 8:29-30, Luke 9:20-21). Calling himself the anointed one was tantamount to calling himself King of the Jews, which is what ended up getting him into trouble. Jesus not being officially anointed like King David makes him more like Joshua who wasn't anointed either. This is because Joshua was from an earlier time when leadership was bestowed by the laying on of hands rather than anointing (Numbers 27:18-23).

Just as Joshua's spies in Jericho stay at the house of Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1), Jesus kept the company of prostitutes. Joshua's miracle of destroying the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:1-20) finds a possible correspondence in Jesus's claim that he will destroy the temple and in three days build another ( Mark 14:57-59, Matthew 26:60-61, John 2:19). Although Levin doesn't mention it, Joshua's miracle of making the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-13) may correspond to the darkening of the sun at the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44-45). Levin claims Jesus was meant to be a military leader like Joshua and plays up the militant aspect of Jesus, pointing out that the followers of Jesus were armed (Luke 22:49), one of Jesus's followers cut off a servant's ear (Mark 14:47, Matthew 26:51, Luke 22:50, John 18:10), Jesus tells his disciples to sell all they have to buy swords (Luke 22:35-36), and Jesus says he came not to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34-36).  I must admit that all these similarities seem more like parallelomania than actual evidence of a correspondence to me.

In direct contradiction to his own introduction, Levin uncritically accepts the Gospel accounts as history rather than literature and cherry picks out passages that match his view of Jesus as a guerilla leader. He ends his book by telling us that Jesus being called the son of God was originally due to his being a great man, not due to being thought of as God's literal offspring.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Father of Joshua/Jesus by Saul Levin Part 2

This is the second part of my review of Saul Levin's book The Father of Joshua/Jesus covering chapters 4 and 5.

Chapter IV

Rabbinical literature and Bible codices record that scribes changed the text of the Bible. This chapter lists numerous changes made in the text, proving that the Bible has indeed been revised. Levin notes that in public readings, the divine name was never spoken, being too holy. Also certain phrases that were too obscene were replaced by euphemisms. However, the only time the written text was altered was to avoid blasphemy. 

One of these "corrections" was made to remove a reference to polytheism. The word "god" was nonsensically changed to "tents" in the follow passage:

We have no part in David, and we have no heritage in Jesse's son; everyone to his own god, O Israel. (2 Samuel 20:1)

Levin uncovers another reference to polytheism using one of the Dead Sea Scrolls that was available when his book was written. In the following passage the word "God" found in the Dead Sea Scrolls was nonsensically changed to "Israel" in the Massoretic text.

When the Most High parceled out nations,
when he split up the sons of man,
he fixed the boundaries of peoples
to the number of the sons of God
For the Lord's portion is his people,
Jacob the lot of his heritage. (Deuteronomy 32: 8-9)

Originally, YHWH, or the Lord, was one of several gods. Each god was given a nation of men and YHWH got Israel. Later on, YHWH merged with his father, the Most High and became the only god there was. As this idea was considered blasphemous later on, it was changed in the Massoretic text, but the Dead Sea Scrolls preserve the original.

By comparing the Septuagint with the Massoretic text, Levin finds many unattested changes in the text. For example, the hero named Jerub-Baal or "The Master Strives" in the Septuagint gets his name changed to "Shame Strives" in the Massoretic (Judges 6:32-9:57, 1 Samuel 12:11) This is because The Lord went to war with a rival god called The Master (not to be confused with the Dr. Who villain) in 1 Kings 18 and 2 Kings 10. Other Hebrew names which contain a reference to The Master were also changed. A Jewish hero just couldn't be named after a rival god.

More relevant to the topic of whether or not Joshua's original patronymic was son of the Lord, there's an early king of Judah (Abijah) whose name in the Septuagint translates to "The Lord is My Father", but whose name was changed in the Massoretic text to "The Sea is My Father"! It came to be considered blasphemous for a mortal to be fathered by god, so the name had to be changed. This was certainly the case with Joshua son of the Lord being changed to Joshua son of Nun (which means fish). Not only did the scribes have motive to remove this blasphemy from the text, but, as Levin demonstrates, they could make the change easily with only minor changes to the letters.

Chapter V

The tribe of Judah far exceeded the number of any other tribe in every census of the Bible. A possible explanation for Judah's fertility is found in Genesis 38. Judah had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Judah got a wife for Er named Tamar. Tamar is the Hebrew word for palm, which was a sign of fertility since the palm tree is green throughout the year and produces dates for months on end. However, Er was wicked and the Lord put him to death. Tamar then married Onan, but he was also wicked and the Lord killed him as well. Not wanting his last son to die also, Judah refused to let Tamar marry Shelah, so she dressed up as a hallowed one (temple prostitute) and slept with Judah at twin springs where she got pregnant and later gave birth to twins, replacing the two sons Judah had lost.

The tribe of Judah settled in the south in a land that was famous for its palm trees. Levin points out that Tamar's father is never named, even when the text calls for it, which is very strange. She originally must have been a literal palm tree and Judah's impregnating her was a metaphor for the tribe of Judah's cultivation of the palm, which made a more sedentary life possible and led to them being more numerous than the other tribes of Israel. Trees and May-poles are linked with fertility in many places in the Bible. For example, the place where Sarah and Abraham overcome their sterility is called "the great trees of Mamre" (Genesis 18:1).

Ruth is another woman whose parentage is strangely lacking in the text. Like Tamar, she is not from the tribe of Israel. Both Ruth and Tamar have in-laws who are reluctant to provide a male relative for them to marry after having two sons die without producing children. However both Ruth and Tamar end up seducing the male head of the clan and becoming pregnant with sons.

Foreskins were a symbol of vitality and virility. When Moses was near death, his wife cut off their son's foreskin and touched it to his feet, which restored him to health (Exodus 4:24-26) and they later had another son (Exodus 18:2-4). King David, who had numerous wives and sons perhaps obtained his superhuman virility from cutting off the foreskins of two hundred Philistines (1 Samuel 18:25-27). David's expertise when it came to getting woman pregnant extended into the medical realm since according to the Talmud, he was also a gynecologist.

The prophet Elisha somehow gets a childless woman pregnant in 2 Kings 4:9-17. Apparently her husband was old (i.e. impotent) so Elisha lives with them for awhile, and then the woman gets pregnant. The most obvious way for him to accomplish this would be to have sex with her, although medical knowledge may also have played a role.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Father of Joshua/Jesus by Saul Levin Part 1

This post is a review of the first three chapters of The Father of Joshua/Jesus by Saul Levin. In case you're wondering about the title, both Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Hebrew. Joshua is the English translation of Yehoshua, while Jesus is based on Iesous which is the Greek version of Yehoshua (Yeshua in Aramiac). The first part of this book sticks to the Hebrew Bible, but he does discuss the New Testament Jesus later on.

Chapter I

The first chapter is really just an introduction in which Levin explains his methodology and gives a summary of the book to come.

"The whole subject, as I approach it, belongs to philology rather than history or theology. In dealing with accounts of divine procreation, it would be chimerical to play the historian, as though I knew what actually happened to certain persons at such-and-such a time in such-and-such a place. [...] The primary evidence consists of texts, mostly but not altogether literary; and I look upon them less as sources of information about the material life of the past than as artifacts of importance and interest in their own right."

Chapter II

The Biblical hero Joshua, who became the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses, is said to be the son of Nun. However, Joshua's patronymic is kind of strange. Hebrew usually uses "ben" to indicate "the son of" (for example Joseph ben Mattathias). However, in Joshua's name, "bin" is used instead. Also, his father's name, Nun, is simply one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It's equivalent to saying he is the son of N. As Joshua's patronymic is used more than any other in the Pentateuch, it was the most liable to be simplied due to frequent use, but being simplified to a single letter is a bit too much.

Also, while the Hebrew versions of the Bible, the Massoretic and Samaritan texts, present Joshua as the son of Nun, the Septuagint, which is written in Greek, presents him as the son of Naue. Josephus, also writing in Greek, renders Joshua's patronymic in a curious way (Antiquities 3.2.3 and 3.14.4), although since I don't know Greek I can't explain why it's curious. Scholars usually just chalk this up to a corruption of the text, but in his book The Father of Joshua/Jesus, Saul Levin uses philology to argue against this. He demonstrates that Naue cannot be the Aramaic form of Nun, it can only be an Aramaism of the divine name. Joshua wasn't originally the son of Nun, but rather the son of the Lord.

Since I don't know Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, I can't vouch for how persuasive his arguments are. While they were a recent discovery when Levin wrote this book (1978) and he therefor does not reference them in detail, the Dead Sea Scrolls do prove that the Septuagint is often closer to the original Hebrew than the Massoretic or Samaritan texts. I don't know whether the DSS strengthen Levin's argument or not.

Chapter III

So if Joshua is the son of the Lord, what does this mean? Was he literally YHWH's son, or was "son of the Lord" simply an honorific title applied to a great man? Odysseus, for example, was called the son of Zeus in an honorific, not a literal, sense (Iliad 2.173). Calling someone the son of a god doesn't fit Jewish culture very well, so its origins are most likely Pagan, although there are vestiges of proof that Samson was originally the son of a sun god.

Sterile couples miraculously having children with the help of God or an angel is a common theme in the Bible. Samson's mother seems to have gotten pregnant by having sex with a stranger who was possibly an angel since the Hebrew phrase for "a man comes to a woman" is most often used euphemistically for sexual intercourse.

A man of God has come to me [had sex with me], and his looks were like the looks of God's messenger [an angel], very awesome; I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name. (Judges 13:6)

The prophet Samuel also had a miraculous birth. Reading between the lines, Levin suggests that it may have been the priests at the temple who got Samuel's mother pregnant.

Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (1 Samuel 2:22)

When a childless woman goes to the temple to pray for offspring and comes back pregnant, is this what's happening? In the ancient world, if you got impregnated by a temple worker, or "hallowed one", the pregnancy was considered a gift from God and the child produced would be called a son of god. Temple prostitution was a common fertility rite in the ancient world, but was it practiced in Israel?

There shall be no hallowed woman from the daughters of Israel; and there shall be no hallowed man from the sons of Israel. You shall not bring a prostitute's hire or the price of a dog (male prostitute?) to the house of the Lord your God for any vow; for both of them are an abomination to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 23:17-18)

Notice how the above passage doesn't condemn temple prostitution outright, it only forbids Israelites from being temple prostitutes. As long as the "hallowed ones" are strangers, the practice seems to have been acceptable.

The three kings of Judah (Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah) all dedicated themselves to eradicating the hallowed ones from the temple.

And he demolished the houses of the hallowed ones [temple prostitutes] that were in the house of the Lord where the women wove coverings [literally "houses"] for the May-pole. (2 Kings 23:7)

So it appears that temple prostitution did occur in Israel, although it became unpopular in later times.

Turning back to Joshua,  we find that it was Moses who gave him his current name in the Massoretic text: "And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua" (Numbers 13:16) The Samaritan Pentateuch, on the other hand, does not contain the name Hoshea at all, rendering the passage ridiculous: "And Moses called Joshua the son of Nun, Joshua." This can't just be a scribal error because the Samaritan text removes the name Hoshea everywhere it appears. What's going on here?

Most of the great men in the Bible have miraculous birth narratives, but the Bible tells us nothing about Joshua's parents. In the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Sotah 35a), Joshua is called "the one with the lopped off head." An eighteenth century rabbinic writing by Abraham ben Elijah, which appears to originate from a much earlier date, explains why.

In a cento (a story mainly constructed from different Biblical passages cobbled together), we are told that Joshua's mother was sterile and miraculously got pregnant. However, Joshua's father learned from heaven that his son would one day cut off his head, so they put him in an ark and sent him down the Nile a la Moses where he was swallowed by a fish a la Jonah. Someone caught the fish and brought it before the king. When they opened up the fish and found a child inside, the king decided to make Joshua an executioner. Joshua ends up chopping off his father's head and sleeping with his mother. However, their marriage bed fills up with milk from her breasts. Joshua is about to kill her for being a witch when she reveals that she's his mother. Joshua is called the son of Nun (which means fish) because he came out of a fish.

This story helps explain why Joshua was called the son of the Lord. Not only is his birth due to divine intervention, but his patronymic "son of a fish" indicates that his human father is either non-existant or utterly insignificant.

In the thirteenth century document called the Zohar, Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Eleazar encounter a divine stranger and ask him the name of his father, to which he replies that his father was a great and ancient fish who swallowed all the other fish in the sea and spit them out again alive. Even though his father is not YHWH, his father is still a god. When pressed for his own name, the stranger says it's Benajahu (The Lord Builds or Son of the Lord) son of Jehoiada (The Lord Knows). If the Zohar intends Jehoiada to be the name of his mother, then "know" could be intended in a sexual sense. She knew the Lord and the stranger is the son of the Lord. Although he isn't named outright, this stranger is most likely meant to be Joshua.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute?

The Bible doesn't tell us much about Mary Magdalene, although she was apparently an important figure to early Christianity since she was the first person to see Jesus after he was raised from the dead (Mark 16, John 20). She is also the only person who was present at all three major events of the crucifixion (Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56, John 19:25), the burial ( Mark 15:47, Matthew 27:61), and the empty tomb (John 20:1, Mark 16:1, Matthew 28:1,  Luke 24:10). Besides this, all the Bible tells us about her for sure is that Jesus cured her of seven demons (Mark 16:9,  Luke 8:2). She is not mentioned in Acts or the epistles.

Some scholars such as Elaine Pagels and Raymond E. Brown suggest it's possible Mary Magdalene was originally the unnamed Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of John since whenever the Beloved Disciple and Mary Magdalene appear at the same time, there are inconsistencies indicating the text may have been tampered with.

In the Gnostic Gospels such as the Pistis Sophia and the Gospel of Mary, it's said that Jesus loved Mary more than his male disciples. The Gospel of Philip tells us that Jesus used to kiss her often. (Philip 63:34-36) Some take this as an indication that Mary was the wife of Jesus, however, kissing was a common greeting, so it's not necessarily romantic. Consider the famous scene of betrayal where Judas greets Jesus with a kiss.

The tradition that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute seems to come from combining her with the unnamed sinful woman of Luke 7:36-50 who washes the feet of Jesus with her hair and tears. Luke 7 doesn't tell us what the sin of the sinful woman was, but tradition has a way of filling in missing details.

John 11-12 tells us Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, was the one who anointed the Lord's feet. It's possible Mary Magdalene is the same person as Mary of Bethany since both are often referred to as simply Mary and they never appear at the same time. If they are the same person, that doesn't mean Mary was a prostitute, unless you also combine her with the unnamed woman caught committing adultery in John 8:2-11 who Jesus saves by telling her accusers that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. However, this pericope does not appear until later versions of John, so it's obviously a later addition. It's possible Mary was a prostitute, but it's not stated outright by the text. Or is it?

Do we know anything else about Mary Magdalene? Based on the name Magdalene, many think she came from a town called Magdala. However, there's no evidence that a town called Magdala existed. No such town is mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures or in the writings of Josephus, although some think Magdala was the city Josephus calls Taricheae. Also, Magdalene is wrong grammatically speaking. The -ene ending is not the correct one to indicate a person from a particular town, it should use the -aia ending. If Mary came from a town called Magdala, her name would be Mary Magdalaia.

In Aramaic, Magdala can mean tower, elevated, great, or magnificent. So maybe her name means Mary the Magnificent. However, there's no evidence the New Testament was written in Aramaic. All available evidence points to the original language of the New Testament being Greek. What else could "Magdalene" mean?

In his Pre-Nicene New Testament, Robert M. Price translates Mary Magdalene as "Maria the hair dresser." Maria is the way the name Mary appears in the original Greek and "medgaddlela" is a Talmudic expression referring to the curling of women's hair. This actually brings us full circle since the Talmud uses the term "hair curler" euphemistically to refer to a prostitute, so it appears Mary Magdalene (or more literally, "Maria the prostitute") was a prostitute after all.

It wouldn't necessarily have been scandalous for Mary to be a prostitute given the historical context. In his Panarion, Epiphanius tells us that Simon Magus considered himself God. He descended down to earth to rescue the prostitute Helen of Tyre, who was really the latest incarnation of the Divine Thought which had been imprisoned on earth by evil angels. Much like Jesus does in the Ascension of Isaiah, Simon Magus changed his form as he descended down through the seven heavens so the Principalities and Powers would not recognize him. (Panarion 56) Is is possible the historical Mary Magdalene was Helen of Tyre and the seven demons Jesus cast out of her correspond to the seven heavens he descended down to get to earth?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

1 Thessalonians vs. 2 Thessalonians

Let's face it. There's a lot of epistles out there claiming to have been written by Paul. How do we know which ones were really written by Paul and which ones are forgeries?

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as if from us that the Day of Christ is at hand. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)

OK, so if an epistle says that the Day of Christ is at hand, it isn't really from Paul.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
(1 Thessalonians 4:17-18, 5:1-2)

Whoa! 1 Thessalonians just said that the end will come suddenly during Paul's lifetime. So, if 2 Thessalonians is telling us the truth, that makes 1 Thessalonians a liar!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Do the Dead Sea Scrolls prove the Book of Mormon is true?

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the earliest known copy of the Hebrew Bible (which Christians refer to as the Old Testament). Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest copy of the Old Testament written in Hebrew were the Masoretic texts (c. 1000 AD). The Dead Sea Scrolls predate the Masoretic texts by over a thousand years, with some of the scrolls dating to as early as 100 BC.

Although there are copies of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint dated to as early as the 4th century, this was written in Greek, not Hebrew. The King James Version of the Bible is based on the 10th century Masoretic texts since it was thought that the  Septuagint mistranslated the original language in several places.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the entire book of Isaiah as well as parts of every canonical book in the Hebrew Bible except for Esther, along with several Apocryphal writings. While there are numerous spelling and grammatical differences, the Dead Sea Scrolls are essentially the same as the Masoretic texts for the most part. However, there are a few major differences.

For example, Psalm 145 is an acrostic poem. The first verse begins with aleph, the second verse begins with beth, and so forth all the way through the Hebrew alphabet. However, the Masoretic text is missing the verse that should begin with nun. This lost verse was found again in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Growing up as a Mormon, I heard the claim that the Dead Sea Scrolls proved that Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible was correct and that the King James Version of the Bible was translated incorrectly. There's no question that the KJV contains numerous translation errors, however, do the Dead Sea Scrolls validate Joseph Smith's Translation?

The short answer is no. Joseph Smith's version of Psalm 145 is exactly the same as the King James Version (specifically Blayney's 1769 revision of the KJV). He didn't notice that a verse was missing.

The Dead Sea Scrolls give us an extra verse before verse 1 of 1 Samuel 11, which I will call "verse 0":

Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites viciously. He put out the right eye of all of them and brought fear and trembling on Israel. Not one of the Israelites in the region beyond the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not put out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the Ammonites and went  to Jabesh-gilea" (1 Samuel 11:0)

This verse is missing from both the King James Version and the Joseph Smith Translation. Reading the following passage in the KJV or the JST makes it seems like Samuel ripped his own mantle:

And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. (1 Samuel 15:27, KJV & JST)

However, the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal that it was actually Saul who did the ripping:

And as Samuel turned about to go away, Saul laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. (1 Samuel 15:27, DSS)

In 1 Samuel 17:4, the DSS give the height of Goliath as "four cubits and a span" which is over 7 feet tall. The Masoretic text, which was written a millennium later, gives his height as "six cubits and a span" which would make him over 9 feet tall. It's only natural that some stories grow with the telling. Again, the JST is exactly the same as the Masoretic-based KJV.

As an aside for fans of Antiquities of the Jews, (Go Team Josephus!), Josephus' account of first and second Samuel matches the Dead Sea Scrolls version more closely than either the Masoretic text (MT) or the Septuagint (which is commonly abbreviated as LXX for some reason). This provides some evidence that the writings of Josephus are indeed based on an earlier version of the Hebrew Bible than we currently possess.

Next, let's go back to where it all began:

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. (Genesis 1:9 KJV & JST)

The Dead Sea Scrolls add an extra sentence:

And God said, let the waters underneath the heavens be gathered together in one gathering, and let the dry land appear. And it was so.  And the waters under the heavens gathered to their gatherings and the dry land appeared. (Genesis 1:9 DSS)

Joseph Smith didn't get this one right either, however the LXX does give the longer version of the verse, making it more accurate than the Masoretic in this case. Another instance where the LXX matches the DSS, but the Masoretic does not is Psalm 22:16 where the DSS has "they have pierced my hands and feet" while the Masoretic has "like a lion are my hands and feet" which is just crazy talk.

Another example of this can be found in Deuteronomy 32:8 where both the DSS and the LXX have "according to the number of the sons of God" while the Masoretic (and therefor the KJV and JST) have it as "according to the number of the sons of Israel" which actually doesn't make sense when put into context:

When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:8)
This verse, as the KJV and JST have it, tells us that all the nations of the world are children of Israel. The original Dead Sea Scrolls version implies the older Jewish theology that the world was divided up into different nations each with its own god who was the son of the most high God.

The paragraph where Joshua constructs an altar is located at Joshua 8:30-35 in the KJV and JST. The LXX puts the paragraph a little bit later (Joshua 9:7-8), but in the DSS, the paragraph is located at the beginning of Joshua 5. The only source that agrees with the Dead Sea Scrolls in this case is Josephus. (Go Josephus!)

Exodus 1:3 has "Joseph and Benjamin" in the DSS, but the KJV and JST both leave out Joseph. Judges 6:7-10 are not found in the DSS and are therefor a later insertion, but again the JST blindly follows the KJV.

The DSS version of Psalms is radically different from the version we have today with the psalms appearing in a different order, some psalms missing, and 15 new psalms. The JST actually differs from the KJV when it comes to Psalm 32:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1 KJV)

Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and who have no sins to be covered. (Psalm 32:1 JST)

Unfortunately, it doesn't match with the DSS version, because Psalm 32 is missing from the DSS entirely, as are psalms 70 and 90 (Joseph Smith copies the KJV exactly for these two). Joseph Smith does completely rewrite Psalms 11, 14, and 24, unfortunately, the DSS versions of these psalms are basically the same as the KJV.

There are a few minor differences between the DSS and the Masoretic text in Psalm 138:

To David, I will praise you with all my heart, before God I will make your music. (Psalm 138:1 Masoretic text)

To David, I will praise Yahweh with all my heart, before Yahweh God I will make your music. (Psalm 138:1 DSS)

If I walk in among trouble you will revive me, over the anger of my enemies you will send your hand you will rescue me, your right hand. (Psalm 138:7 Masoretic text)

If I walk in the middle of trouble you will revive me, over the anger of my enemies you will send your hand you will rescue me, your right hand. (Psalm 138:7 DSS)

Joseph Smith didn't notice these small differences, but he does rewrite the next verse.

Yahweh will end on behalf of me, Yahweh, your mercy is for eternity, the works of your hands will not sink. (Psalm 138:8, the same in both Masoretic and DSS)

The Lord will perfect me in knowledge, concerning his kingdom. I will praise thee O Lord, for ever; for thou art merciful, and wilt not forsake the works of thine own hands. (Psalm 138:8 JST)

Perhaps the most major difference between the JST and the KJV is that the JST completely removes the Song of  Solomon. However, it is included in the DSS. The DSS lack Esther, however the JST includes it.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll give a few more examples from the book of Isaiah. The Book of Mormon quotes from Isaiah quite extensively so it was obviously a very important book to Joseph Smith.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 KJV & JST, also 2 Nephi 17:14)
You can't tell from the KJV, but in the Masoretic text, the final verb in this verse is "she will call" indicating that the virgin (or young woman as it's more correctly translated) is the one who names the son. In the DSS, the verb "he will call" is used instead.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV & JST, also 2 Nephi 19:6)
Instead of "The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" the DSS has "Elgibor, the father of Ad, ruler of Hashalom." The reason this is so different is due to minor manuscript differences. The name Elgibor in the DSS gets changed to "mighty God" in the Masoretic text simply by inserting a space ("el gibor" means "God is a warrior"). Similar minor differences change "father of Ad" into "everlasting Father" and "ruler of Hashalom" into "ruler of peace".

The Masoretic text translates Isaiah 53:11 as "from the labor of his soul, he will see, he will be satisfied". The Dead Sea Scroll text translates to "from the labor of his soul, he will see light and he will be satisfied". The JST again follows the KJV.