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The Book of Mormon and Hebrews


Introduction

Joseph Smith made much use of the book of Hebrews, particularly in developing his doctrine of the Priesthood. Quotations from the book appear all over the Book of Mormon, and expansions of Old Testament texts as found in the book of Hebrews also appear in the Book of Mormon.

The Days of Provocation

Hebrews 3:7,8,11 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness...So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest)... Jacob 1:7 ...that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.
Jacob 6:6 Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts...
Alma 12:34,35 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart...these shall enter into my rest. And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.

The Hebrews quotation is taken from Psalms 95:

Psalms 95:7,8,11 ...To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness...Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

Since the text of Hebrews follows Psalms so closely, it is not completely possible to determine if Smith used Hebrews or Psalms as his source for the quotations in Jacob and Alma. There are, however, a few clues. Firstly, the Hebrews quotation does differ slightly from Psalms in that it uses the plural word 'hearts', while Psalms uses the singular 'heart'. Jacob 6:6 uses the plural 'hearts' as in Hebrews. Alma, however, uses the singular 'heart'. In the case of Alma, it should be noted that the quote appears in context with an apparent quote from Hebrews 7 (see section 5). The quote from Hebrews 7 appears in Alma 13, just one chapter from the quote from Hebrews 3/Psalms 95 in Alma 12. Since it can be shown that the text in Alma 13 was most definitely inspired by Hebrews 7, and not an Old Testament passage, this increases the likelihood that the text in Alma 12 is taken from Hebrews as well.

The Thoughts and Intents of the Heart

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Mosiah 5:13 ...and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?
Alma 12:7 ...he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart...
Alma 18:32 ...he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart...
Helaman 3:29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil...

The word 'intent' is used in it's plural form only three times in the Book of Mormon, every time in the phrase 'thoughts and intents of the heart'. The archaic word 'asunder' is used six times, five times with the word 'divide', and once with the word 'part'.

Although the word 'quick' is used a number of times in the Book of Mormon, it is used in the archaic sense of 'alive' only three times - in every case a quotation from the King James Bible. (II Nephi 21:3, Helaman 3:29, Moroni 10:34).

The Heavenly Gift

Hebrews 6:4,9,18,19 ...and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come...But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you...who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us...Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil... Jacob 6:8 ...and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you?
IV Nephi 1:3 ...they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.
Moroni 7:39 But behold, my beloved brethren, I judge better things of you...
Mormon 7:8 ...lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you...
Ether 12:4,19 ...which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast...who could not be kept from within the veil...

Melchizedec the King

Alma 12 and 13 contains a discussion of the priesthood. During this discussion, the text appeals to Melchizedek as a type of Christ. A similar discussion is found in Hebrews, chapter 7.

Hebrews 7:1-3 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Alma 13:7,15,17,18 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things-- And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed. Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.

The Hebrews passage is loosely based on a passage from Genesis 14.

Genesis 14:18-20 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

It is quite evident that Alma contains information about Melchizedek which does not appear in the Genesis passage, but does appear in Hebrews. The obscure phrase 'having neither beginning of days, nor end of life' in Hebrews finds an echo in Alma 'without beginning of days or end of years'. Genesis indicates that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, which Alma also records. However, both Alma and Hebrews expand the meaning of 'tithe' to a tenth. Most telling however, is the fact that Genesis simply records that Melchizedek was a priest. Both Alma and Hebrews apply this priesthood to the Son of God.

Even more interesting is the fact that Alma 13 appears to contain another quote from Hebrews, concerning the priesthood, which does not appear in Hebrews 7, but two chapters earlier in Hebrews 5.

Hebrews 5:6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Alma 13:9 Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years...

Although the Hebrews quote mentions Melchizedek, Alma changes this priesthood to be after the 'order of the Son'. However, in context, Alma 13:9 appears in the middle of a passage concerning Melchizedek.

It should also be noted that the Book of Mormon appears to contain more quotes from Hebrews 7, which do not concern Melchizedek.

Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. II Nephi 2:9,10 Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men...And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God...
Mosiah 15:8 ...giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men...

It has been suggested that the author of Hebrews drew upon an ancient apocraphyl Jewish source for his information concerning Melchizedek, which the Nephites may have had access to. If true, it still fails to explain why both Hebrews and Alma interpret Melchizedek as a type of Christ, especially with regard to the priesthood.

Appointed to Die

Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment... Alma 12:27 ...but it was appointed unto men that they must die; and after death, they must come to judgment...
Alma 42:6 But behold, it was appointed unto man to die...

Fiery Indignation

Hebrews 10:27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. Alma 40:14 ...and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them...
Hebrews 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God... Alma 5:53 ...can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet...

The Hall of Faith

Hebrews 11 is often called the Faith chapter of the Bible. The author introduces the concept of faith, and then goes on to list examples of faithful characters from Jewish history. Ether chapter 12 contains a very similar construct. The author opens with a definition of faith very similar to that of Hebrews, and then goes on to list several examples of faithful characters from Nephite history. The similarity between the two passages is quite striking.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Hebrews 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
Hebrews 11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
Hebrews 11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
Ether 12:6 ...faith is things which are hoped for and not seen... (Hebrews 11:1)
Ether 12:13 Behold, it was the faith of Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to tumble to the earth. (Hebrews 11:30)
Ether 12:17 And it was by faith that the three disciples obtained a promise that they should not taste of death... (Hebrews 11:5,33)
Ether 12:22 And it is by faith that my fathers have obtained the promise that these things should come unto their brethren... (Hebrews 11:33)

Note that both passages make frequent use of the phrase 'by faith', or 'through faith'.

As an aside, it should be noted that Ether 12 contains no explicit references to any events that occurred in first section of the Book of Mormon (i.e. I Nephi to Words of Mormon). The obvious answer is to note that this section was dictated after the book of Moroni, and thus Smith had not yet invented any such events for Moroni to refer to.

Hebrews chapter 11 appeared to inspire other parts of the Book of Mormon as well.

  Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Hebrews 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
Hebrews 11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
Alma 32:21 And now as I said concerning faith...therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. (Hebrews 11:1)
I Nephi 2:20 ...and shall be led to a land of promise...
I Nephi 7:13 And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise... (Hebrews 11:9,33)
I Nephi 10:17 ...the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him... (Hebrews 11:6)
Mosiah 4:9 Believe in God; believe that he is... (Hebrews 11:6)

Compassed About

Hebrews 12:1,2 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. II Nephi 4:18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
II Nephi 9:18 ..they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it...and their joy shall be full forever.
II Nephi 10:20 ...let us remember him, and lay aside our sins...
Alma 7:15 ...and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you...
Moroni 6:4 ...relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

The archaic word 'beset' occurs only twice in the Book of Mormon, both times in conjunction with the words 'easily' and 'sin'.

Yesterday, Today and Forever

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. I Nephi 10:18 For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever...
II Nephi 2:4 ...for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever...
II Nephi 27:23 ...I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever...
II Nephi 29:9 ...I am the same yesterday, today, and forever...
Alma 31:17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever...
Mormon 9:9 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever...
Moroni 10:19 ...remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever...

The word 'yesterday' is used only seven times, every time in the phrase 'yesterday, today, and forever'. The word 'today' is used ten times, seven times in the phrase already noted, twice in a biblical quotation (Jacob 6:6/Hebrews 3:7, III Nephi 13:30/Matthew 6:30). Only once is it used in an original Book of Mormon passage (II Nephi 28:5).

Conclusion

There can be little doubt that the book of Hebrews was a fruitful source of the Book of Mormon. The fact that Hebrews was not written until well into the first century AD raises serious questions about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.


Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel

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