Tag Archives: Hebrews

What does the Oath promise about the Melchizedek Priesthood?

Months and months ago I did a lot of reading on Hebrews and what it says about oaths and covenants related to the priesthood. I won’t do that research justice today (in part because I’m writing a quick blog post as my children are waking up and ready for breakfast, and in part because I’m sure I’ve unfortunately forgotten most of what I read). But I wanted to record a few things that impressed me as I reviewed Hebrews 5-8 this morning.

In Hebrews, the “oath” seems to mainly serve to guarantee that the position of priest will extend beyond the grave. Aaronic priests under the law of Moses served while they were alive in this world, but there was no promise given that their priesthood would remain after this world. Second, this promise changes the way we receive certain covenants. The author of the Hebrews suggests that certain promises, like those associated with Abraham, were never actually realized under the Law of Moses. But Christ was promised by an oath of the Father, that His priesthood would last forever.

On top of that, Christ resurrected, meaning that his life will last forever.

And even beyond that, Hebrews says He set himself up as a guarantor of the promises (that is, like a co-signer, someone who can fulfill a promise given by another). The idea is that Christ now sits at the side of the Father, and he is a guarantor of covenants and promises. He will make sure that the promises are fulfilled, even when earthly priests can’t quite make that sure.

The Melchizedek priesthood is the priesthood after the order of the Son. Perhaps then, these priests are effective on earth because they are servants according to His position of Eternal Savior, Eternal Son (by the side of the Father), and Eternal Priesthood Holder. By virtue of His position, Melchizedek priesthood holders can do what they do — perform ordinances, promise blessings, be a prince of peace even, because of Christ.

So what does D&C 84 mean by something being according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood? What is according to that? And why does every priesthood holder (who obtains these two priesthoods and becomes renewed) also receive this oath and covenant? Isn’t that just something Christ received?

Well, one possible reading is that like Christ, those who obtain and magnify the Melchizedek Priesthood assignment are promised, like Christ, that their priestly role will continue beyond death. That would make sense of the practice of ordaining deceased men by proxy in the temple before they receive an endowment. These also receive a covenant too, though? Are they the bearers of the covenant — the messengers?

The topic at hand when this language appears is the promise of eternal life, and receiving all that the Father hath. Is this the covenant that a priesthood holder receives as well? The promise that they too can receive all the Father has? But also these verses are talking about those who receive priesthood servants. Is the covenant that anyone can receive all the Father hath? If so, then they, as a human, have that promise extended to them, and also they, as servants, declare that promise to others?

And is that really what the Abrahamic Covenant amounts to, as well? Blessings possible for those of Abraham’s family, but also blessings that they are supposed to declare to everyone not in their family?

A few notes from Study Group on D&C 84:39

  • The words “oath” and “covenant” from D&C 84:39 are clearly drawn from Hebrews, as any one in Joseph’s time would have recognized.
  • Note that God made oath and covenant, that it’s His (D&C 84:40). Not actually a covenant we make with God! This is one sided when it is made, and then we are told/asked to receive it.
  • D&C 132:22-25 are very worth looking at, as well as JST Genesis 14!
  • The language of confirmed is related to oaths and covenants in Bible.
  • Where else does “oath and covenant” come up together, as a phrase? In the Book of Mormon! But it always means oaths and covenants of robbers, bad secret society. Is the priesthood meant to be thought of as the “good” secret society? The one that counters the bad?
  • The consequence for breaking an oath or covenant in a bad secret society is usually death! Severe consequence. D&C 84:41 is also severe.
  • Interesting that it’s not about this life, as D&C 132 talks about (hard time this life, ok in next)
  • The good secret society. It is a fundamental change in how we relate to other people. [Tangent here about how even when we as Latter-day Saints don’t understand all that this gospel is or how deep and wonderful the covenants are, there is still a change in how we relate to others. There are all sorts of “fringe benefits”that come even from the watered-down version of things. And the real vision is still buried in there, still being carried along by the church members even though we don’t realize it.
  • Now, some notes/thoughts from what Don shared with us:
  • “According to” usually means we’re referring to something just talked about, or to something clearly established. This “accords” with that previous thing.
  • This seems to accord with Hebrews, which refers back to Psalms
  • But also, look at Gen 14 “order of the covenant” also “oath by himself”
  • JST Hebrews was worked on only 7 months earlier, and Joseph had just gone back through it about this time. So not only would the audience have thought about Hebrews, Joseph was thinking about Hebrews a lot during this time
  • Some sort of “everlasting covenant” talked about in stories of David and others but Hebrews might be only place in NT (Heb 13:20).
  • The JST of Hebrews 9 changes testament to covenant
  • JST Hebrews 7:19 adds “without an oath” Law was administered without an oath
  • JST Deut 10:2 adds “save words of everlasting covenant of priesthood” (second tablets did not have words of the covenant)
  • So with JST changes, Deut says law did not have words of covenant, and Hebrews says law did not have oath
  • D&C 84:25 God took Moses and priesthood out from them (=took words of covenant & no oath?)
  • Similar to 1 Ne 13 – took plain and precious from gospel, even many covenants. Then took from book.
  • D&C 132:19 – what is “it”?  everlasting covenant (later in 19: as hath been sealed upon their heads)
  • b/c everlasting covenant from JST Gen 14 = godhood, this makes sense.
  • D&C 132:19 and JST Gen 14 both use principalities and powers
  • D&C 84:42 “by mine own voice” also in JST Gen 14:29 and Hebrews (and Alma 13 – called)
  • Oaths – Hebrews talks about Abraham’s oath, and Christ’s priesthood oath
  • “confirm” talked about in Hebrews 7 and D&C 84:39-42
  • D&C 132:59 by mine own voice Aaron Hebrews also says called of God
  • back to covenants taken out: Covenant given to Adam etc, then missing until Abraham, then missing until Moses, then missing until Christ, then missing until Joseph Smith
  • covenant is received, as we emphasized earlier. Given by God, oath made by God. Receive covenant, receive oath, over and over. Alma 13, God ordains. God calls. D&C 84:40, D&C 66:  , D&C 132:27.
  • Consequences come after that is clear D&C 132:27, D&C 84:41
  • In 1831 office of high priest given, thought of as sealing lots of things, even sealing up to eternal life
  • D&C 84 was in 1832 developed, but think context of sealing up to eternal life
  • Joseph Smith’s later discourses, Moses’s people won’t accept last stage the gift of eternal life. Why did they reject? don’t know. D&C 84 says same thing didn’t want to enter God’s rest, see face to face. See discourses maybe March 1844
  • Receive everlasting covenant, not obey everlasting covenant.
  • Joseph Smith’s creativity with everything (laws on polygamy, etc.) may reflect his position of receiving this higher law and power, like Nephi (in Helaman), Enoch, etc. They had power to move rivers, mountains, create famines, etc.
  • did Joseph’s confidence come from lost 116 pages? God has many ways of doing His work, He is wise, I can’t ruin it, in for the ride

Oath & Covenant, which belongeth

I’m still perplexed by D&C 84:39 and what exactly this oath & covenant is. The language is so wonderfully elusive. It simply says that what comes before it is “according to” this oath and covenant, and then that this oath and covenant “belongs” to the priesthood.

In my latest reflections on this verse, I’ve been thinking through Hebrew’s assertion that the Aaronic priesthood does not need to be received with an oath and the Melchizedek priesthood does. If that is the case, then I think the language of “belonging” to the priesthood probably means that an oath & covenant is associated or belongs or is necessary for the Melchizedek priesthood. (That would also mean that “priesthood” here means Melchizedek priesthood.)

What I’ve gathered from the Hebrews Interpretation commentary is that that author is setting up a comparison between Christ as a Melchizedek figure and the current temple priesthood as Aaronic/Levitical. The Aaronic priesthood performs outward rituals that aren’t lasting (they need to be repeated) and their priesthood doesn’t go with them into the grave. But Christ, as a Melchizedek figure, performs rituals that are lasting (that only need to be performed once) and His priesthood does extend past the grave. The reason that last point is important is because when we extend past the grave, He is there as our priest to guide us back to the Father Himself.

The Interpretation commentary isn’t, of course, thinking of Melchizedek priesthood as a Mormon would. We don’t think of Christ and Melchizedek as uniquely holding the Melchizedek priesthood. The commentary gives the sense that Christ, as eternally holding the priesthood, was the last priest necessary. If He still holds it and officiates for us, why would any new priests be necessary? That’s what happens in the Aaronic priesthood, not the Melchizedek.

So, I’ve got to work around that idea when I read D&C 84. I think the section agrees with a lot of what the book of Hebrews says about Aaronic versus Melchizedek priesthood. Except, that Moses and others also had the Melchizedek priesthood. And, also, that they “sought diligently” to use that authority to bring their people into the presence of God while on earth, and not only when they passed beyond into the heavens.

When those are combined, what do we make of D&C 84:39? The previous verses talk about coming into the presence of God and receiving what God has. This sounds similar to what Hebrews says Christ can do because He is a high priest forever. (Because He is still our priest after death, He can take us to God Himself in the true temple — that is, in Heaven.) If that idea is what D&C 84 has in mind, then this idea is being applied to any person with Melchizedek priesthood. Those who receive God’s servants who have this priesthood can also enter into God’s presence. And this promise is according to oath & covenant of the priesthood, which promises this priesthood will last forever.


D&C 84 is a mix of both halves of Hebrews

So that title doesn’t make much sense but it was feeling I had rereading through D&C 84. In the commentary I’m reading on Hebrews the author is constantly showing how Hebrews compares the old priesthood to the new covenant. But in the commentary, this means letting go of priesthood itself. The only priesthood that remains is Christ as high priest, but that role replaces the earthly priesthood. The earthly temple is replaced by heaven itself, etc.

That may very well be what Hebrews is explaining (indeed it seems it is). So when Joseph Smith comes along and restores some more information, I can see why he is so interested in the book of Hebrews. It’s like D&C 84 wants to agree with everything Hebrews is saying, except adding in the idea that the Melchizedek priesthood existed before and meant to do all those same things that Christ did when he came (take us to the Father, for example!).

Currently, I think what Hebrews is adding to my thoughts on “oath and covenant” in D&C 84 is that the Melchizedek Priesthood office is given for now and after this life, so therefore a priest in that order can keep taking us to God after this life. Because a priest in an eternal order can commune with God and walk into His presence, then those following that priest have the chance to do the same. So, therefore:

35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

That’s my best connection so far, but I hope to get a lot more out of this study before I’m done.

Another thought from this Hebrews commentary

Some have been tempted to understand this as a supercessionist claim, that is, as a product of the idea that the faithful church is God’s replacement for a disobedient Israel. The notion is that God somehow erased the word “Israel” off the board and wrote “Christian church” in its place.

In truth, though, such a reading runs precisely counter to the Preacher’s intent. Keep in mind that the Preacher is evoking the memory of Israel’s failures to warn the church here, not patting the church on the back for being superior to Israel. Indeed, the Preacher’s aim is to remind his congregation that the people of God. beginning with Adam and Abraham and flowing forward all th way to the end of time, form an unbroken chain of faith (see 11:1-40). No link in the chain stands alone; at no point along the way could any group of God’s people say, “We are the complete and finished expression of God’s will for human community”–not Israel and not the church, either.

…Israel’s failure, then, is the same problem that threatens the Preacher’s congregation: discouragement because they cannot see anything past their own role, their own moment in history.”

In what way is the Church “holy”?

The commentary I’m reading on the book of Hebrews had this thoughtful aside on why a church could be called “holy”:

…the church is holy, which is, of course, a tricky concept.  The Preacher certainly knows that everyone who has spent more than a day around church people inevitably knows: the trees in the church’s moral forest do not grow any higher than anywhere else. If greed infects the world, it poisons the church, too. If bigotry walks through society, it slithers its way along Church Street as well. The same goes for lust, pride, anger, sloth, and all the other deadly sins; the church is immune to none of them. Nevertheless, the Preacher dares to call the church holy because he knows that holiness is not an intrinsic human virtue but a divine gift. A scalpel is nothing but a knife until it is used by the surgeon for healing; a church is nothing but a collection of sinful people until it is gathered by the grace of God into seasons of worship and acts of love.

The church is holy not because of the purity of its membership but rather because it is made holy by Jesus. Jesus, through his own sufferings, knows every crevice of human weakness, and the living Christ is at work in the church, strengthening the community of faith beyond their own capacities for a ministry of mercy, service, and worship. In this sense, holiness is not so much a description of the church’s moral stature as it is a sign of how gracefully God puts the church to work in the world. The church is holy like the bread at the Lord’s Table is holy; though quite ordinary, it is nonetheless set apart for holy use and becomes the instrument of the extraordinary purposes of God.

Link to this page (on google books): https://books.google.com/books?id=payF5gRJRUoC&pg=PA47&lpg=PA47&dq

Thoughts from Christian blogs about covenant and oath in Hebrews

I’ve decided today to search out how other churches understand Hebrews and the oath and covenant described there. So, here are a few things I found interesting, mostly just cut & pasted for now (from here and here):

  • We also find a different kind of covenant in the Bible. It is a covenant in which God binds Himself to do certain things, but not conditioned upon the actions of others. In the case of the Abrahamic Covenant, God promised to make a great nation of Abram, and to bless his seed greatly, and thus he and his offspring would become a blessing to others. This was an unconditional covenant, and in addition, it was a covenant that was confirmed by God’s oath. Thus, it was an unchangeable covenant.
  • Isaiah prophesied of a new covenant constantly
  • 15 Brothers and sisters, I offer an example from everyday life: When a covenant has been ratified, even though it is only a human contract, no one can set it aside or add anything to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. Scripture does not say, “and to the descendants,” referring to many, but and to your descendant, referring to one, who is Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: The law that came four hundred thirty years later does not cancel a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to invalidate the promise (Galatians 3:15-17).

  • Both Israel and Judah would be restored and forgiven, not on the basis of the Old, Mosaic Covenant, but on the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant. The promises of the New Covenant are then spelled out by Jeremiah in 31:

    31 “Indeed, a time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the Lord. 33 “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people. 34 “People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the Lord. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

    Further confirmation follows in the next chapter of Jeremiah:

  • The New Covenant is one that will be fulfilled in the future, Jeremiah assures us, for “the days are coming” when this covenant will be completed. This covenant is with the “house of Israel” and with “the house of Judah.” Since the kingdom was divided at this point in time, the two kingdoms will have to be re-united. More than this, since the northern kingdom of Israel had been carried off and dispersed by the Assyrians,6 this would be no small miracle.

  • (This is interesting to me:) 

    I would understand the “time of Jacob’s distress” to be the time of the Great Tribulation. I believe that the church has been “grafted into” the blessings of the New Covenant, and that it will be after the “fullness of the Gentiles” is complete that God will turn, once again, to the nation Israel, bringing her to repentance and to salvation, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant.

  • (I’m realizing that some of these interpreters see the Old Covenant as being unable to ever bring people into the presence of God, and therefore anyone living before Christ was unable to comprehend or receive that blessing. (Though Christ’s work retroactively fixes that problem.) I think I see now why D&C 84 is clear that Moses tried to teach his people according to the Melchizedek priesthood how to enter into God’s rest, but they refused, and therefore therefore an imperfect covenant was left with them. I also found it interesting that some interpreters connected the new covenant with the Abrahamic covenant, which seems spot-on to me.)
  • Now this is huge.  The author of Hebrews is not satisfied to say, that now that Christ has come, His sacrifice serves as the atoning sacrifice, as the atoning offering for all of God’s people present and future for the work of Christ.  He wants you to understand that Christ’s sacrifice actually works proleptically.  It works backwards in time, as well as, forwards in time.  So that Christ’s sacrifice is not only the sacrifice for all of those who are under the New Covenant, but is actually the real sacrifice that brought about union with God, under the Old Covenant, and the Old Covenant sacrificial system was merely a shadow of that real sacrifice.  This is why Hebrews is the key book in the New Testament to teach you how to understand typology, because it teaches us that the relationship between Old Testament shadows, and New Testament realities.
  • Not just that the Old Testament is predicting something that is going to come, but it is that the effectiveness of the Old Testament system itself is dependent upon the heavenly reality of the work of Christ, which is fulfilled in time, after the Old Testament event, but because it is a heavenly reality, it already has significance before it actually occurs in time.  And that is why the author of Hebrews can so confidently say, all the Old Testament sacrifices offered from here to here could not forgive sins, and yet at the same time, could be so confident that all the believers in God, from here to here, were indeed accepted in God, because Christ’s heavenly work pertained to them, just like it pertains to us.  Now that is mind-boggling stuff.  But it is rich.  So it is worth pondering.