25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles;
I wish I understood more of what was going on with the Great and Abominable Church. Who were they? Why did they do what they did? What was their M.O. in deciding what would be left out and what would stay in? There are several things I find odd or interesting about this description of what was taken away:
- It’s extremely important to Nephi, I think, that the records were pure when the Jews gave them.
- The transfer of the gospel from Jew to Gentile seems to done by the Apostles themselves, perhaps not intending to leave Jews out but in effect the Gentiles take over from that point
- The G & A Church is formed simply “after” that transfer
- verse 26 says that the G & A Church takes “away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.” Notice that Nephi says the G & A Church takes away from the gospel plain & precious things. Is this done through preaching and theological work? Did their preachers downplay certain parts of the gospel and create a complete image that replaced the fulness of the gospel? So those plain and precious parts became just unnecessary? Unimportant? Uninteresting?
- Then verse 28 says that “after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book.” Two questions: 1) Is this the same move as verse 26, or are these two events happening at the same time? That is, are we to understand the removal of the plain and precious parts from the book as the removal of the plain and precious parts from the gospel? Or, did the G & A Church begin to remove the plain and precious parts from the gospel by how they preached, and then the plain and precious parts were removed from the book when they were no longer seen as relevant? Or perhaps removed to cover up for their dishonesty? 2) Who took things away from the book? I would assume the G & A Church, but it could also mean that people who received the gospel from the G & A Church decided to edit it to match what they had received. I can’t tell, myself.
- Note that the plain and precious parts are removed from the gospel (and the book) before the book goes out to all the nations of the Gentiles. So regardless of whether or not there was a 2-step process of removing the plain and precious parts from the gospel and then the book, and also regardless of whether they were removed by the G & A Church or by Gentiles closely related to them, all of this took place before the general Gentile population received them. The Gentiles, as a general category, were innocent of this tampering,
- I was really struck by the fact that verse 26 mentions covenants and verse 28 doesn’t. I can’t tell exactly what verse 26 means by “and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.” First, why covenant in the plural? Second, taken away from what – from the gospel? From their preaching? From their version of the gospel picture? That would be my initial idea. The references to the Abrahamic Covenant which are in the Bible get re-interpreted and metaphorized so that they no longer mean what they used to mean. So in that sense, the covenants are still in the book but they have been taken away from the gospel. Joe’s been reading up a bit on early Christian history and how it talked about the Old Testament and the covenant Jewish people. Fascinating stuff.
- Looking at verse 23, I think it might be clear that the book does still contain the covenants. (It’s hard to tell. It could be that it contains many of them but the G & A Church took away others. I can’t tell. But it could be read that the covenants are still in the book, but the gospel picture has obscured them and their importance.) Here’s verse 23, and then I’m done for this morning:23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
Here are some additional thoughts after talking with Joe:
- What if “taken out” simply means “not included” in the canonization process? There was a point at which some books became scripture and some were left out. Could that be what Nephi learned about? At that point, was there a certain vision of the gospel that determined with books were included as scripture and which weren’t? (Secondarily, I’d wonder, they weren’t all scripture, were they? I mean, God tells Joseph Smith that the Apocrypha has truth if you have the Spirit… but is that true of other book already in the Bible? I have lots of questions I probably won’t be studying out any time soon!)
- I’m also curious about describing the Bible as the book by the twelve apostles. For example, verse 41 talks about “the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” I don’t think about the New Testament in those terms. Should I? Is this a fair description of what we have? Or of what was there originally? Or is it just a handy way for the angel to explain which dispensation/which book he is talking about?