Friday, 10 December 2010

Mormonism’s “Lost Books of the Bible” Part 2: The Existing (and non-existent) Books

We have been examining the Mormon view of Scripture and of the Bible in particular. Observing that Mormons believe they work from an open canon we have studied the Mormon view of Scripture in general. Then we looked at the claim that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel and is another testament of Jesus Christ. We have met the challenge to pray about this book and asked should a Christian read the Book of Mormon?

Last time we started to look at the Mormon claim that at least twenty books are missing from the Bible and saw that these serious gaps are often used to explain why Mormonism can’t actually be found in the Bible. We identified and explained the books that are indeed absent, although not necessarily missing and now we come to books that are on the missing list although they are found in the Bible or never actually existed in the first place.

Old Testament

The Book of the Covenant cited in Ex.24:4-7 is the earliest “missing book”; except it isn’t missing. It is a record of the covenant between God and Israel. In this text the covenant is read out, “And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.’” (Ex.24:3) What is the covenant between God and Israel and where do we find the terms of the covenant? The covenant is initiated by God in these words:

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex.19:4-6)

The Book of the Covenant is the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1-21) and the commands and rules that follow (Ex.20:22-23:33). It describes how a covenant people live towards their God in light of what he has done in saving them.

The Book of Statutes cited in 1 Sam.10:25 is another form of covenant, this time between Israel and Israel’s king. It is a legal agreement between people and king setting out how the king would conduct himself, the rule of kingship setting out the duties and prerogatives of the king. This rule was laid up before the LORD as had been the Book of the Covenant. These rules are described by God through his prophet in Deut.17:14-20 in anticipation of the people rejecting God and demanding an earthly king “like other nations.”

The Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite cited in 2 Chr.9:29. The account of Ahijah is found in 1 Kings 11:29-40 where he prophesied taking the kingdom from Solomon, giving ten tribes to Jeroboam, but retaining Jerusalem for the sake of David.

The Visions of Iddo the seer cited in 2 Chr.9:29. Iddo is traditionally identified with the unknown Prophet, “the man of God”, in 1 Kings 13. As stated in 2 Chr., the vision of this man of God from Judah concerned Jeroboam.

New Testament

The “missing text” referenced in Mt.2:23 isn’t missing at all. It is not a reference to a particular Old Testament prophecy but clearly states, “And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” It is prophets plural not prophet singular. The phrase “He shall be called a Nazarene” is not simply a reference to his place of origin but a term of derision, as in Nathaniel’s dismissive “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn.1:46 cf Jn.1:41; Jn.1:52)

“To be called a Nazarene, was to be called a despicable man, a man from whom no good was to be expected, and to whom no respect was to be paid. The devil first fastened this name upon Christ, to render him mean, and prejudice people against him, and it stuck as a nickname to him and his followers.” (Matthew Henry)

Like Nazareth he will be despised (Is. 49:7; Is.53:3)

Paul’s “revelation, as I have written briefly” in Eph.3:3-4 is not a reference to a lost writing but to a passage earlier in the same Ephesian letter (Eph.1:9; Eph.1:17). Having alluded to this revelation earlier in his letter he proceeds to elaborate on it from chapter 3 verse 6 “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel...”

The so-called “Declaration of Belief” Mormons insist is referenced in Lk.1:1 is Luke’s allusion to other writings “undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us...concerning the things you have been taught.” (Lk.1:1-4) These other writings we have in the other gospels and other writings of the New Testament.

There may well have been still other writings covering the same ground, eyewitness reports etc. but there is no reason at all to believe that we don’t have all we need to exercise saving faith and we come back to the question of whether the Bible is intended to be complete in the sense of an exhaustive account or complete in the sense of a sufficient and trustworthy account.

Jude 3 reads “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Mormons read into this a “missing letter” but Jude’s “was very eager...” and “I found it necessary...” is not a reference to a previous letter but to a previous intent aborted by pressing circumstances. It was in this letter that he “was very eager to write to you about our common faith”, and it was in this present letter that he had to change his mind and “found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith.”

Jude set out to rejoice with the saints of God but found he instead had to warn the saints that “certain people have crept in unnoticed...ungodly people...” It is this letter that carries that warning, a description of false teachers and their false teachings and a description of their motives methods and certain end, as well as a clear teaching on how to deal with them.

In Jude 14 there is a quote from Enoch 1:9 concerning the Second Advent and the judgement of the wicked. 1 Peter 3:19-20, a text familiar to Mormons and about spirits in prison, also has parallels in Enoch 21:6. Enoch has an interesting history, from long being thought lost to being discovered in the 17th century in the Ethiopian language. It is a mystical text that has never been considered canonical by Jews or Christians, except in the Ethiopian Church where it was discovered.

It was apparently well known in the early church but the fact of its being quoted does not mean it’s being accepted as canonical any more than Paul’s quoting a Cretan proverb in Titus 1:12 or a Greek poet in Acts 17:28 canonises Greek or Cretan literature.

Conclusion

Our overview of this list of books considered missing by Mormons gives an insight into the Mormon approach to Scripture. In the Old Testament much of what they regard as missing is historical by nature and so it comes down to whether we have a reliable historical record, not whether we have a collection of exhaustive accounts from any number of viewpoints.

The writers of Israel’s history drew on many sources to compile their chronicles, a process that, by its nature, makes these sources superfluous once the history the writers wish to relate is told. Mormons don’t really understand how we got our Bible, what process produced it, how it has been transmitted and the relationship of human and divine authorship.

Then there are those books that are not missing. The Book of the Covenant is fundamental to understanding the history of God’s relationship with his people and yet Mormons, who claim to be God’s covenant people in these “latter days”, are at a loss to know what or where it is. The humblest serious Bible student might have told them.

Finally, there are those books that have never existed. The determination of Mormons to find fault with the Bible is so visceral that it overrides reason and the rules of plain English. Jude, writing of his original intent to rejoice with the saints and his revised purpose in writing instead as he does, is so plainly a reference to the same letter that it is embarrassing to have missed it.

Yet, to a Mormon prophet, neither reason nor logic will turn him from his determined course to cast doubt on the Bible and promote the message of Mormonism as the only safe haven in a sea of apostasy.

But the Word of God has always been a safe harbour and careful attention will show that you can trust your Bible for it has been wonderfully kept down the ages.

“Defend the Bible? I would just as soon defend a lion. Just turn the Bible loose. It will defend itself.” Charles Spurgeon

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