"There is so much more in the Book of Mormon than we have yet discovered. The book's divine architecture and rich furnishings will increasingly unfold to our view, further qualifying it as 'a marvelous work and a wonder' ...The Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. All the rooms in this mansion need to be explored..."
-Neal A Maxwell

Friday, November 23, 2012

Statutes, judgments, and commandments

In an earlier post, I proposed an example of how language used by both Old World Israelites and the Nephites appeared and disappeared (or evolved) within similar timeframes. Here's another example: 

The words 'statutes, judgments and commandments' (not necessarily in that order) appear together in a cluster fifteen times in the Old Testament, beginning with the book of Leviticus (keep that in mind), and seven times in the Book of Mormon. This cluster does not at appear all in the New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants (two out of three words do appear together in a few places) or Pearl of Great Price.  

These words are all synonymous with the word 'law,' and indeed, almost half of this cluster's appearances in the Old Testament are in Deuteronomy, which literally means "repetition of the law." Additionally, even a quick glance at the occurrences in the Book of Mormon reveals a close association with the law of Moses:
"And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses." (2 Nephi 5:10
"And I would that ye should behold that the more part of them are in the path of their duty, and they do walk circumspectly before God, and they do observe to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments according to the law of Moses." (Helaman 15:5)
John Welch notes that this cluster exemplifies Hebrew's use of "several words to express different semantic aspects and subtle nuances of our word law (emphasis original)." The Hebrew word for 'judgment,' mishpat, "embraces most phases of a legal trial, [not just the verdict, and] usually has something to do with the rules of governing properly." Hoq or huqqah (masculine and feminine words which essentially share the same definition) can be translated as either 'statute' or 'ordinance,' and are defined as "more than priesthood rites, ceremonies, or sacraments," but also "'custom, manner, decree, portion, order, prescription, limit,' and so on." Mitzvah is a broad term that is often translated as 'commandment,' and "is found frequently in Deuteronomy to signify divine commandments in general." [1]

The tie to Mosiac law is why this pleonastic list of words never appears in the book of Genesis (or the books of Abraham and Moses in the Pearl of Great Price), as that period predates both the law and Moses himself. Similarly, as Christ's coming fulfilled the law, the cluster's absence from the New Testament is to be expected. The presence of this language in the Book of Mormon follows a similar timeframe; the cluster never appears in the book of Ether, as the Jaredites colonized the New World long before Moses' time and never had the law, nor in the Nephite record after the coming of Christ.

[1] Online version of John W Welch, et al. Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon. Provo: FARMS, 2002.

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