Barker examines the first temple traditions not only because they provide the background of expectation of the early Christians regarding the Messiah, but they also provide the context for Jesus' own self-understanding. This section will highlight a few of her key observations regarding significant divine titles and Messianic expectations and will show how these are reflected in the Book of Mormon. It will then sketch some of Barker's interpretations of the life of Jesus and show how these compare with Mormon scripture and scholarship. Finally, this section will close by looking at the Day of the Lord expectations.
Here we look at the significance of the divine titles of the "Holy One of Israel," the "Servant" and the "Lamb," and "Melchizedek," and show how these tie into Messianic expectations.
The Holy One of Israel
Besides the title "Lord of Hosts," discussed previously, another title that Barker cites as important is "Holy One of Israel."1 She notes that the title "Holy One" is
hardly used outside of Isaiah, and may, therefore have had a special significance in his theology. If I am to establish links between Isaiah and 1 Enoch, this cannot be done simply by comparing the two works. I shall therefore establish a possible set of associations for the title Holy One, using material from other sources to provide a control and prevent circular argument. If any picture emerges from texts associated with the title Holy One, these should provide the context of Isaiah's and 1 Enoch's usage if the occurrence of the title is significant.2
She surveys passages in Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and the Psalms, and concludes that
there is a pattern clearly associated with the title Holy One. Many of its elements are of the later apocalypses, such as visions, heavenly tablets, theophany, and angelic judgement, but the royal figure is also prominent, dependent for his power upon the might of the Holy One. The royal figure faces threats and enemies, but, we assume, overcomes them. Judgement upon foreign nations is also part of the pattern, and there are associations with the Temple.3
We have seen much of the pattern associated with the Holy One already in her picture of the first temple themes in the Enoch literature. She emphasizes this pattern because Isaiah is the best source of information on the first temple period. The connection between the Enoch literature and Isaiah shows again that the first temple ideas continued to the time of the first Christians.
The title "Holy One of Israel" appears forty-one times in the Book of Mormon. Some of these occur in the Isaiah quotations. Jacob uses the title seventeen times. Lehi and Nephi account for fourteen other instances among Book of Mormon prophets. The same themes that show the connections between the Enoch literature and the Holy One in Isaiah also occur in the Book of Mormon. Lehi's initial vision includes a theophany, angels, his reading a heavenly book, and judgments.4 Nephi becomes a royal figure, dependent on the Holy One for deliverance from his enemies.5 Welch observes that Jacob serves as a temple priest and that his temple discourse in 2 Nephi 6–10 centers on the atonement made by the Holy One.6
Barker observes that "the most important elements in this setting for the Holy Ones are the creation and covenant motifs."7 Compare 2 Nephi 1:10, which combines the creation and covenants:
But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them.
Welch comments that "after the time of the small plates, this title [Holy One of Israel] drops out of Nephite usage."8 Yet the later Book of Mormon prophets who use the shortened title of the Holy One9 do so in the proper contexts and with the associated judgment themes.
Servant Songs and the Lamb in Barker and the Book of Mormon
Barker also places emphasis on the figures of the servant in the Old Testament and the Lamb of God in the New Testament.
Wordplay was characteristic of the prophets and visionaries. The Aramaic word tly' can mean either 'Lamb' or 'Servant.' . . . John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), by which he must have meant the Servant.10
Most of the evidence for the Servant is found in the prophecies of Isaiah. There are four passages, usually known as the Servant Songs, which describe him (Isaiah 42:1–4; 49:1–4; 50:4–9 and 52:13–53:12).11
The Lamb is the key figure in the Book of Revelation and the Servant is the key figure in other parts of the New Testament. Jesus is depicted as the Servant. At the baptism, Jesus heard the voice from heaven speaking the words of the first Servant Song: 'Thou art my beloved son, with thee I am well pleased' (a version of Isaiah 42:1, quoted in Mark 1:11). John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb, but Jesus himself heard the words of the Servant Song. . . .
A glance at these examples will show that they come from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and Peter, that is, from all the major authors of the New Testament. Jesus as the Servant was not a minority viewpoint, but the original claim of the Christians.12
The Book of Mormon authors also see the central importance of the Lamb and Servant titles, and apply them to Jesus. The Book of Mormon quotes three of the four Servant Songs from Isaiah.13 We should also look carefully at the role of the servant as advocate in the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees in Jacob 5 and 6.
And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Let us go to and hew down the trees of the vineyard and cast them into the fire, that they shall not cumber the ground of my vineyard, for I have done all. What could I have done more for my vineyard? But, behold, the servant said unto the Lord of the vineyard: Spare it a little longer.14
Nephi's vision of the tree of life makes frequent reference to Jesus as the Lamb. In an article discussing arguments that the Lamb title is pre-Christian, Welch comments that "Forty-four references to 'the Lamb' appear in Nephi's vision in 1 Nephi 11–14 alone."15 Barker sums up the significance of the Lamb and Servant titles by saying:
the Lamb was central to this vision and whatever the Lamb was, Jesus believed himself to be. The Servant Lamb is central not only to the understanding of Revelation . . . the Servant Lamb is central to any understanding of Jesus, since it is what he believed himself to be.16
The Servant Lamb is also central to the Book of Mormon understanding of Jesus.
The Importance of Melchizedek
In looking to establish the background context for the origins of Christianity, Barker observes that since "Psalm 110, the Melchizedek Psalm, is the most frequently used text in the New Testament, it seemed the obvious place to start."17 She also observes that the Qumran Melchizedek text exemplifies a set of ideas regarding "a heavenly priest figure from the cult of the first temple who would bring salvation and atonement in the last days."18 Despite his being mentioned only briefly in the Old Testament, Barker observes that
Melchizedek was central to the old royal cult. We do not know what the name means, but it is quite clear that this priesthood operated within the mythology of the sons of Elyon, and the triumph of the royal son of God in Jerusalem. We should expect later references to Melchizedek to retain some memory of the cult of Elyon . . . The role of the ancient kings was that of the Melchizedek figure in 11QMelch. This accounts for the Melchizedek material in Hebrews, and the early Church's association of Melchizedek and the Messiah. The arguments of Hebrews presuppose a knowledge of the angel mythology which we no longer have.19
Without presuming to offer a new commentary on the Melchizedek passages in the Book of Mormon,20 we should first note that the Alma 13 discussion is crowded with themes that recur in Barker's books as signs of the preexilic tradition—the Father God,21 his begotten Son as the atoning one,22 the council in heaven at the foundation of the world,23 the Day of Atonement imagery of garments being "washed white in the blood of the Lamb,"24 angels being sent to "all nations,"25 judgment,26 hell, and the second death.27 This puts the Melchizedek passage in the Book of Mormon in tune with the angel mythos presupposed by Hebrews.
Barker suggests that the Melchizedek expectations at the time of Jesus tie directly to the quotation of Isaiah 61:1–2 with which Jesus began his ministry:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.28
Barker's talent shines impressively as she makes associations between a wide range of primary sources to recover the larger implications of Jesus making this particular citation. She notes that
Daniel's prophecy of the Great Atonement, which would put an end to sin and destroy both Jerusalem and the temple, reckons seventy weeks of years from 'the going forth of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem' (Daniel 9:25). Seventy weeks of years, 490 years, can also be reckoned as ten Jubilees, and in the Melchizedek text (11QMelch) there is a similar expectation of the Great Atonement and judgement after ten Jubilees. . . . Throughout the Melchizedek text there is allusion to Isaiah 61, the one anointed by the Spirit 'to proclaim liberty,' the Jubilee prescription in Leviticus 25:10.
Reckoning from Ezra's Jubilee in 424 BCE gives the date 66 CE for the end of the tenth Jubilee, and so the first week of that Jubilee would have fallen between 18 and 24 CE. Now if Jesus was born between 12 and 6 BCE . . . , then his baptism at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23) would have occurred, during the first week of the tenth Jubilee. Jesus believed himself to be the Melchizedek high priest, the anointed one who was to appear in the tenth Jubilee. . . . The Book of Revelation records the prophecies of the tenth Jubilee, when the kingdom of God was at hand and the Day of the Lord was expected.29
I have already mentioned that the Melchizedek material in Alma 13 contains much that stands out in high relief in comparison to Barker's work. Notice the central importance that she puts to the Qumran Melchizedek text and the allusions in that text to Isaiah 61. While the Book of Mormon does not quote Isaiah 61, Alma 13 contains a number of shared themes: priesthood,30 "garments of salvation" compared to "garments washed white through the blood of the Lamb,"31 and a calling to preach the good news and repentance.32
In Barker's work, the temple themes embodied in the titles of the Holy One, the Servant/Lamb, and the Melchizedek figure provide a context for interpreting the life of Jesus.
The paradigm I am proposing answers several questions. It shows the link between Christology and Soteriology and roots both in first-century Palestine, interpreting what is there within the resources of available tradition. . . . The paradigm I am proposing also shows that what Jesus believed about himself was identical with what the young church preached about him, even though he had been imperfectly understood at times. It makes Jesus himself the author and finisher of the faith, rather than the early communities, a supposition which has been fashionable for some time. The great message of atonement was not just a damage limitation exercise on the part of a traumatized group of disciples who could find no other way of coming to terms with the death of their leader.33
Barker uses her background research and this foreground premise as a means to show that Christianity springs from the self-understanding of the historical Jesus and that Christianity is best explained if Jesus knew who he was, and knew what his life was for. Her arguments in The Risen Lord show her disagreement with scholars who prefer to imagine that Christianity originated with the despair of the apostles in trying to come to terms with the unexpected death of Jesus. She marshals an impressive range of evidence to back up her assertions.
Barker uses the background expectations of first-century Palestine to support suggestions that are startling and interesting by themselves, but which also turn out to have unexpected support in Mormon scripture.
The Risen Lord and Doctrine and Covenants 93
As we have seen, the Holy One texts, the Melchizedek texts, and the first temple cult all have associations with the high priest figure who ascends to the presence of God. The foreground assertion in The Risen Lord is that Jesus had an ascent experience at his baptism that, against the conceptual background of the first temple, served to provide his self-understanding.
All the gospels agree that the baptism of Jesus marked the beginning of his ministry. I want to explore the possibility that for Jesus this was the moment at which he 'became' son of God. His baptism was a merkavah34 ascent experience when he believed he had become the heavenly high priest, the Lord with his people.35
Note that the passage from Isaiah 61 that Jesus quoted to start his ministry begins with the declaration that "the spirit of the Lord is upon me," and this comes after his baptism by John. Barker believes that when the Gospel of Mark says that after his baptism,
Jesus was with the beasts and that the angels served him, [Mark] may well have been revealing the true nature of this desert experience. . . . Beasts would be a normal experience for a man in the desert, but angels suggest something more. I suspect that the beasts and angels were around the throne of God and that the experience in the desert resembled that in Revelation 5. . . .
The prophetic word: 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29) was the moment of revelation for Jesus, who then found himself caught up in the vision recorded in Revelation 4–5.36
In Barker's reading, then, first John the Baptist received the inspiration to identify Jesus as the Lamb. Then when he was baptized, Jesus was visited by the Holy Ghost, heard the voice of the Father, and had an experience where the heavens opened and he had a vision of himself as the Lamb.37 John the Revelator describes the Lamb ascending to the divine throne in a book that begins with the explanation that it is "the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants."38
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;39
Barker notes that after Jesus' visionary experience with the beasts and angels came the temptations, all of which began with the probing question, "If you are the Son of God . . ." I find the Gospel story becomes more poignant and moving, and Jesus' experience more real to me, the better I understand what Barker has done to put these passages in a first-century context.
Her emphasis in The Risen Lord is on what the concept of a baptismal "ascent" experience does to illuminate Jesus' life and ministry. However radical her claim might seem, we, of all Christians, should be keenly interested in her ideas. This is not only because Nephi's vision includes a suggestive mention of Jesus' baptism:
And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.40
That the Book of Mormon mentions the event in this context of the vision of the tree of life, which touches the Book of Revelation at so many points, becomes more interesting the better we understand Barker's work. But more than this, we should consider Doctrine and Covenants 93:11–19, a revelation that Joseph Smith received and wrote on May 6, 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio:
And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us. And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first. And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son. And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father; And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him. And it shall come to pass, that if you are faithful you shall receive the fulness of the record of John. I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
Joseph Smith provided no commentary on what prompted this revelation. Passages from Doctrine and Covenants 93 are frequently quoted for key statements on truth, faith, preexisting intelligences, epistemology, ontology, and the responsibility of parents to raise up children in light and truth. However, little has been done with the idea that Jesus received the "fulness of the glory of the Father" at the time of his baptism. Barker's The Risen Lord provides a significant commentary on and contextualization of just these ideas. The impressive research into primary materials is so well grounded that if we want to discuss these Doctrine and Covenants passages at all, we should take a serious and respectful look at what she has to say. The context that Barker develops in her commentary not only enhances our appreciation of the New Testament and the Doctrine and Covenants, but has arresting parallels with the Book of Mormon.
For example, Barker describes Jesus' ascension experience as a merkavah mystic experience (where merkavah refers both to the chariot throne in the temple and the vision of the chariot reported by Ezekiel). Mormon scholars have already observed similarities in the descriptions of merkavah mysticism and the temple.41 An impressive number of the other texts that Barker uses to contextualize the claim that Jesus had a profound revelatory experience at his baptism should already be familiar territory to informed Mormons. For example, besides the Bible, she refers to the Gospel of Philip, the Pistis Sophia, the Ascension of Isaiah, the Book of Enoch, the Hymn of the Pearl (which she suggests may have actually come from Jesus),42 and many others.
The arresting parallels between her ideas and Doctrine and Covenants 93 do not occur in isolation, but call for close attention to a web of interrelated themes. We will need to further discuss the seven seals and the Day of the Lord expectations, but must first examine a few other ideas related to the ascent.
The Baptism Ascension as Resurrection
Another of Barker's interpretations in The Risen Lord is that Jesus' ascension experience was his resurrection. That is, during his precrucifixion ministry, he was the "risen" Lord. For example, she cites the Gospel of Philip, which says:
Those who say that the Lord died first and then rose up are in error for he rose up first and then he died.43
Within the canon, she observes that texts quoted in the scriptures for Jesus' resurrection were "ascension" texts rather than "resurrection" texts.44 Is she asserting that there was no resurrection from the dead after the crucifixion? At times in The Risen Lord it may seem that way and may make readers nervous about her intent,45 but I do not believe so. Her point is that it was not his being raised from the dead that established that Jesus of Nazareth was Jehovah, the Son of the High God. She notes that neither Lazarus, nor Jairus's daughter, both of whom were raised from death, became Messianic figures. Rather, Barker claims that the visions accompanying his baptism and the transfiguration established who Jesus was. For example, she says:
Far from being a misplaced resurrection experience, the Transfiguration could prove to be important evidence for what I am proposing. The experience of the transfigured Lord was given to some of the disciples before the crucifixion; they had not fully understood what was happening, but the memory of these experiences later enabled them to proclaim that Jesus had been raised beyond physical death. This raising had originally taken place at the start of the ministry. Jesus had spoken of it and how he had become the Messiah. The post-crucifixion appearances proved to the disciples that what he had claimed was true: he had been raised up and he was the Messiah.46
The Old World post-resurrection narratives have affinities with 3 Nephi 8–29, and, therefore, the Old World accounts and the Book of Mormon tend to support one another, particularly since most of these accounts have emerged since the translation of the Book of Mormon.47 So with Barker's suggestions, it is not a matter of excluding one concept of resurrection for another, but a matter of adding to our understanding. That affinity between the Book of Mormon and the Old World postresurrection accounts permits us not only to view the Book of Mormon in light of Barker's work, but also to offer the Book of Mormon's witness as significant towards understanding these accounts.
The Messiah's Power over the Evil Angels
In discussing the angel mythology, Barker provides another insight about the Messianic expectations that casts significant light on the Book of Mormon:
There are significant word patterns in [Isaiah] 35:5–6: the blind, the deaf, the lame and the dumb are healed in the renewal of the creation, but the names of these four are also those of four types of angel. . . . How these supernatural beings were connected to these disabilities is not clear, but it is surely no coincidence that Jesus used the curing of these four types as his sign. John the Baptist asked if Jesus was the one expected (Luke 7:20ff), and the reply was an amalgam of these verses and Isaiah 61:1. . . . In the Gospels, the defeat of what these creatures represented is seen as a sign of the kingdom of God.48
Barker's point is that there was a specific expectation that the Messiah should demonstrate his power over these specific manifestations of evil. John's disciples asked, "Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?"49 By way of response Luke says that "in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight."50 Then, after performing these particular miracles, "Jesus . . . said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached."51 The answer through specific action shows rather than tells, and therefore makes sense only in light of a preexisting expectation. Recall that John the Baptist had identified Jesus as "the Lamb of God," so the title that Nephi uses in his prophecy of these events may be significant:
And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.52
Notice, too, how appropriate it is that in the Book of Mormon, Benjamin not only reports an angelic visitation during which he was told of these miraculous demonstrations of the power of the Messiah over evil spirits, but he does so in the proper temple context, during the autumn festival:
And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me. And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy. . . . For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent53 who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases. And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men. And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people . . . And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men. For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.54
In fulfillment of this prophecy, 3 Nephi 26:15 duly notes these specific signs of the Messiah:
And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—
The expectation that Barker sees for the Messiah to demonstrate his power over the fallen angels is demonstrated in Book of Mormon prophecies and in the record of their fulfillment.
The Cosmic Covenant
In the Hebrew scriptures there are several covenants: with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses and with David, and Jeremiah looked forward to a new covenant. The Eternal Covenant was the oldest and most fundamental of all and was envisaged as the system of bonds which restrained cosmic forces and maintained an ordered creation where people could live in peace and safety. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures is the establishing of this covenant described, but there are many places where it is assumed.55
While the use of the term covenant in the Book of Mormon does have some resonance with Barker's ideas, it does not strike me as describing the underlying cosmic covenant that she suggests. This is not necessarily a problem, since she says that the establishment of that covenant is not described in the Hebrew scripture. Garold Davis recently examined the Book of Mormon use of the term covenant:
The term covenant appears in the same Book of Mormon sections in which the Isaiah passages and the term house of Israel occur. In the Book of Mormon the term covenant most frequently refers to God's covenant promises, given through Abraham to the house of Israel, of an "infinite atonement" (see 2 Nephi 9). The Book of Mormon further teaches that the law of Moses and "all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began" (Mosiah 13:33) have pointed to the fulfillment of this covenant promise (see Mosiah 13, 15) and, more specifically, that God has not forgotten "scattered" Israel but will remember and restore them "in the last days." . . . [T]he word [covenant] appears prominently in the small plates [Nephi to Words of Mormon] and then disappears until 3 Nephi, when the Savior reintroduces the concept to the people in connection with his reintroduction of the theme of the house of Israel and his citation of the prophet Isaiah.56
If the cosmic covenant is not described in the Book of Mormon and other Mormon scripture, might it be implied? This passage from The Risen Lord suggests places for us to look:
1 Enoch 10 describes the judgement; the four archangels are sent out to bind Azazel and imprison him and then to destroy the fallen angels and their children. They then heal the earth, purify it from all defilement, oppression and sin and inaugurate an era of righteousness and fertility: 'And he will proclaim life to the earth that he is giving life to her' (1 Enoch 10:7). Here, at last, is a text which gives the meaning of atonement; it was the process by which the effects of sin were removed so that the earth could be healed and restored. It was a rite of recreation when the Lord came forth from his holy place and established his kingdom.57
Mormon readers should immediately discern numerous parallels between this paragraph and the Enoch passages in Moses 7:45–67. These match Barker's notions very well.
And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?58
And it came to pass that Enoch cried unto the Lord, saying: When the Son of Man cometh in the flesh, shall the earth rest? I pray thee, show me these things. And the Lord said unto Enoch: Look, and he looked and beheld the Son of Man lifted up on the cross, after the manner of men; And he heard a loud voice; and the heavens were veiled; and all the creations of God mourned; and the earth groaned; and the rocks were rent; and the saints arose, and were crowned at the right hand of the Son of Man, with crowns of glory; And as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God; and the remainder were reserved in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day. And again Enoch wept and cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the earth rest? And Enoch beheld the Son of Man ascend up unto the Father; and he called unto the Lord, saying: Wilt thou not come again upon the earth? . . . And the Lord said unto Enoch: As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah; And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;59
And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest. And it came to pass that Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, in the last days, to dwell on the earth in righteousness for the space of a thousand years.60
This fits with Barker's notion of "recreation" as the "Lord [comes] forth from his holy place and establishe[s] his kingdom."61 And once we start thinking in these terms, we can see that 3 Nephi 9–28 follows the same pattern: a renewal of the creation, the appearance of the Lord, and the establishment of his kingdom. Doctrine and Covenants 1:15, 22 describes the past "breaking" and current effort in "establishing the everlasting covenant." Recall that Barker describes this covenant as "the system of bonds which restrained cosmic forces and maintained an ordered creation where people could live in peace and safety."62 Doctrine and Covenants 88:7–13 may give the best description of those bonds:
This is the light of Christ. . . . Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.63
Barker's picture of a cosmic covenant casts a valuable light on Latter-day Saint scriptures as well as upon the Bible.
Bridging the Gulf between the Sacrifice of Animals and the Sacrifice of a God
Barker's The Risen Lord proposes to answer an important set of questions regarding the atonement:
Where in the traditions available to the original disciples in Palestine do we find a belief or a hope that it was a divine being or even the Lord himself who was the atonement sacrifice? The priestly laws of the Old Testament are both complex and obscure on the matter of atonement; the details about lambs and goats are clear enough, but the theology which the rituals expressed is still largely unknown. This must be a major obstacle in any attempt to understand Christian origins because it is a very big step indeed from goats and lambs in the temple to the human sacrifice of one declared to be the Lord, the Son of God. This step is unacknowledged in any account I have read of atonement in the New Testament.64
Barker attempts, in The Risen Lord,65 to answer these questions, to describe the theology behind the atonement ritual, and to show from that theology the necessity for the atonement of the Son of God. Her answers do make for fascinating reading. But I wish to note here simply that the Book of Mormon treats exactly these issues in discussing the atonement.66
After I read this passage in Barker's book, I read through all of the chapters in the Book of Mormon that discuss the atonement. Personally, I found this to be a powerful and moving experience and I recommend doing so in light of the situation that Barker describes and the questions that she poses. While I will quote only a few of them here, I must also say that every discourse contributes to the overall picture, and that the text repays close and careful study. The Book of Mormon always treats the sacrifices required of the law of Moses as being types, in the similitude of the coming sacrifice of Christ:
Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them.67
The Book of Mormon prophets explain in detail why it is that the Son of God must perform the atonement:
For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made. For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice. Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay. But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world. Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away. And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.68
Atonement in the Book of Mormon includes, but involves much more than the satisfaction of an objective legal requirement, a paying of justice:
Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father. And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.69
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance.70
It is characteristic of the Book of Mormon that at-one-ment is accomplished very literally in both the physical sense of the Lord's condescension (his descent with us, literally becoming one among the children of men, suffering physical experience), and in the spiritual sense of his suffering anguish "for the wickedness and abomination of his people" such that "blood cometh from every pore."71 This anguish must have been felt so deeply because of his complete empathy and awareness of all that in us is unholy and contrary to his nature. The pain of atonement beyond the physical trial of the crucifixion is direct consequence of him becoming at one with us. As a result of that oneness, the light of Christ has entered in all of us to "invit[e us] and entic[e us] to do good" and "persuade [us] to believe in Christ."72 When we accept the atonement and repent of our sins, we are filled with his love, with the promise that we can be transfigured to become like him.
Again, in that it contains specific answers to the questions that Barker poses, and does so within the paradigm of the role of the high priest who performs sacrifices in the temple on the Day of Atonement, the Book of Mormon picture dovetails beautifully with the picture Barker describes.
Next we look at Barker's picture of the Day of the Lord expectations that provide the background to interpret the experiences of both the people of Jerusalem and of the Land Bountiful in the Book of Mormon.
Jehovah as Warrior: The Day of the Lord and 3 Nephi 8–10
The Holy One texts, the Melchizedek texts, and the Servant Lamb texts all point to the role of the high priest who ascends to the presence of God, who performs the atonement rite, and who emerges from the holy place to give the judgment. In The Risen Lord and in The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Barker describes the Day of the Lord expectations in Palestine at the time of Christ:
The earliest text recoverable from the first chapter of the Book of Revelation is a temple vision of the angel high priest emerging from the holy of holies on the Day of the Lord. This is what was enacted every year on the Day of Atonement and many non-biblical texts describe what the ritual represented. The Assumption of Moses, a text whose present form dates from the first century CE also describes the emerging high priest:
"Then his kingdom will appear throughout his whole creation
And the Satan shall be no more . . .
Then the hands of the angel shall be filled
Who has been appointed chief
And he shall forthwith avenge them of their enemies
For the heavenly one will arise from his royal throne
And he will go forth from his holy habitation
With indignation and wrath on account of his sons." (Assumption of Moses 10:1–3)
This priest figure is a warrior who emerges from his holy place to bring the Judgement.73
On the other hand, Barker explains that among those who understood the role of the atoning high priest, there were different expectations for the city of Jerusalem when the Day of the Lord came. She says
the most ancient belief had been that the Lord would defend Jerusalem against her enemies, but there were others who believed that the greatest enemy of the Lord's people was the wicked city herself. The sacrifice on the Day of the Lord would be Jerusalem, as prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 9:26). . . . These two incompatible themes stand side by side in the Book of Revelation: the invading army is destroyed by The Word of God and the armies of heaven, and yet the same army appears elsewhere as the sixth bowl of wrath poured out to destroy Jerusalem ([Revelation] 16:12–16).
Jesus predicted the destruction of the city and warned the scribes, Pharisees and lawyers that the blood of the prophets would bring judgement on their generation (Luke 11:50).74
This passage shows a tension that runs through The Revelation of Jesus Christ. The roles and the expectations that Jesus claimed by quoting Isaiah 61 in the synagogue point to an imminent return of the Lord to complete the atonement by bringing judgment and defeating the enemies of Israel. Yet Barker sees conflicting expectations towards Jerusalem both in Revelation and in Jesus' warning prophecy of destruction in Matthew 23. Her reading of Revelation records the fulfillment of the Jubilee prophecies up to a crucial point.
The six seals on the scroll which the Lamb opened were prophecies of events in Palestine during the Jubilee and as each happened, so a seal was believed to have opened. The third seal was the great famine of 46–48 CE, prophesied by Agabus (Acts 11:28) whose enigmatic words were preserved (Revelation 6:6). The fifth was the martyrdom of James the Righteous who was murdered in the temple in 62 CE and buried where he fell, and the sixth was Nero's persecution which followed the great fire of Rome in 64 CE, the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). The seventh seal would bring the return of the heavenly high priest to complete the great atonement at the end of the tenth Jubilee which was, by that time, imminent. In August 66 CE, the nationalists gained entrance to the temple area and burned all records of debt, the start of the Jubilee.75
Six seals have been opened and their prophecies fulfilled. Following the sequence in the Synoptic Apocalypse, the seventh seal was to bring the Son of Man in clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13:26). He did not appear. . . . Eventually the Man did return, but only to John his seer and only in a vision to give him a further commission.76
The new interpretation that Barker describes is that the Parousia (that is, the return of the Lord in Glory, the second coming) would be delayed, but that the Lord would be present with his people through the eucharist (the bread and wine of the sacrament).77 Barker reads this passage from Revelation as describing this change in expectations and a further commission to John to escape from Jerusalem:
And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.78
Barker's focus throughout her work has been on literal expectations and happenings, interpreting the accounts of Jesus' life and ministry and the symbols of Revelation in terms of first temple imagery and the events in Palestine leading to the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet in the very end, she must turn to a "spiritualized" interpretation of the Lord's return. A reader of her book on Revelation comes away impressed and uplifted, feeling a solidity in her portrait of Jesus and his times, and yet a little uneasy, wondering if a Jesus who expected to return to enact the Day of the Lord after making the atonement can be worshipped as God. The Jesus that the gospels describe claims both a Messianic role and prophsetic foreknowledge:
And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.79
Barker does emphasize that Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and warned that the blood of the prophets would be required of that generation, and she documents the ways in which Jerusalem at the time fulfills the description of the harlot in Revelation.80 Still, against the terrible destruction at the fall of Jerusalem, and the frustrated expectations in that defeat, the new interpretation at a late date may not seem enough to balance the agonies, particularly in light of Jesus' own declarations of his role. This is where Mormon scripture and scholarship may be able to resolve the tension. In a survey of commentaries on Revelation, Thomas MacKay observes that
the early writers follow Papias, Tertullian, and Hippolytus in a literal approach to the Millennium, resurrection, and judgment. . . . Following the lead of Clement, the Alexandrian school developed an allegorical method of interpretation and applied it systematically to all scriptures, including the Apocalypse.81
If the oldest understandings involved literal readings, where can the literal expectations of the Lord's role as the Shepherd, Servant Lamb, and High Priest have been fully met?
Who Expected What at the End of the Aeon?
Mormons are fond of saying that the reason that the Jews did not recognize Jesus as the Christ is that they were expecting a different kind of Messiah, one who would free Israel from the Roman oppressors. This overlooks the circumstance that the earliest Christians were Jews, and that the evidence suggests that both Jews and Christians alike expected their Messiah to fight their battles in specific ways, demonstrating his power over earth, water, air, and fire. As Barker shows, many people at the time had not only had a specific expectation of when things would happen (the end of the tenth Jubilee), but what would happen on the Day of the Lord.
In The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Barker makes a compelling case that the revolt against Rome was fueled by the Palestinian expectations (both Jewish and Christian) of the return of the Lord at the end of the tenth Jubilee.82 She cites correspondences between the events described in Revelation and those described in Josephus' account of the Jewish Wars. She points out that Josephus had been of a priestly family, and that he switched sides in the war after having been captured by the Romans. Josephus ingratiated himself with the Romans by claiming that he had the gift of prophecy. Barker sees Josephus as the False Prophet of Revelation. Indeed, she argues that "the prophecies in the Book of Revelation were a significant factor in the war against Rome."83
Barker herself recognizes the tension in Revelation in which the sixth bowl of wrath seems to be ready to destroy the armies surrounding Jerusalem, and in which the armies may also be the wrath poured on Jerusalem as the harlot city. She notes Jesus' taking the role of the anointed one who was expected to bring atonement and then to emerge from the holy place and bring the judgment. She cites 1 Thessalonians as describing an expectation for an imminent return:
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.84
While 1 Thessalonians insists that the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night, that is, that no one knows the day or hour, it plainly indicates a belief that the day would come in the very near future. Barker also cites Peter's remarks to show that not everyone expected an immediate Parousia:
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night . . . ;85
Second Thessalonians paints a different picture than 1 Thessalonians, insisting that the time is not yet, and citing specific conditions that should be met before anyone should expect the event:
Now we beseech you, brethren . . . That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.86
Barker does mention this passage, but she does not read it the same way Mormons do. Mormons think in terms of a prediction of general apostasy. While she describes the historical evidence of the loss of significant teachings, and the corruption and suppression of scripture in the generations after the destruction of Jerusalem, she does not tie these events to prophecy. Hugh Nibley gives the perspective that a general apostasy was foreseen by Jesus from the beginning:
(I) Jesus announced in no uncertain terms that his message would be rejected by all men, as the message of the prophets had been before, and that he would soon leave the world to die in its sins and seek after him in vain. The Light was soon to depart, leaving a great darkness "in which no man can work" while "the prince of this world" would remain, as usual, in possession of the field. (II) In their turn the disciples were to succeed no better than their Lord: "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" Like him they were to be "hated of all men," going forth as sheep among wolves, "sent last as it were appointed unto death," with the promise that as soon as they completed their mission the end would come.
(III) But what of the church? Those who accepted the teaching were to suffer exactly the same fate as the Lord and the apostles; they were advised to "take the prophets for an example of suffering affliction and patience," and to "think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try" them, but rejoice rather to suffer as Christ did "in the flesh . . . that we may also be glorified together." After them too the prince of this world was waiting to take over; they too were to be lambs among wolves, rejected as were the Master and the disciples: "The world knoweth us not because it knew him not." Knowing that "whosoever will save his life must lose it," they openly disavowed any expectation of success, individual or collective, in this world. (IV) As for the doctrine, it was to receive the same rough treatment, soon falling into the hands of worldly men who would "pervert the gospel of Christ" from a thing the world found highly obnoxious to something it was willing to embrace, for such has always been the fate of God's revelations to men.
(V) All this bodes ill for the "interval" between the Ascension and the Parousia; the Zwischenzeit was to be a bad time and a long one. What is more, it begins almost immediately, the apostles themselves calling attention to all the fatal signs, and marveling only that it has come so soon. As soon as the Lord departs there comes "the lord of this world, and hath nothing in me"; in the very act of casting out the Lord of the vineyard the usurpers seize it for themselves, to remain in possession until his return; no sooner does he sow his wheat than the adversary sows tares, and only when the Lord returns again can the grain be "gathered together," i.e., into a church, the ruined field itself being not the church but specifically "the world." After the sheep come the wolves, "not sparing the flock," which enjoys no immunity (Acts 20:29); after sound doctrine come fables; after the charismatic gifts only human virtues (1 Corinthians 13:8, 13). The list is a grim one, but it is no more impressive than (VI) the repeated insistence that there is to be an end, not the end of the world, but "the consummation of the age." It is to come with the completion of the missionary activities of the apostles, and there is no more firmly rooted tradition in Christendom than the teaching that the apostles completed the assigned preaching to the nations in their own persons and in their own time, so that the end could come in their generation.87
Mormons view most of the urgency in the message of the Old World apostles as based on their awareness that their time was short, rather than upon a belief that the Lord's return was imminent. This picture calls for a much longer span of time for the arrival of the Parousia than would be implied from 1 Thessalonians alone. The passages from Peter and Paul in 2 Thessalonians demonstrate that key authorities had to actively resist the belief of an immediate return of the Lord. Barker's identification of the Jubilee expectations in Israel at that time explains the source of that hope. Yet despite the explicit prophesies and declarations that Nibley documents, we should recognize that a significant part of the hope for an imminent Parousia comes from Jesus' own declaration of his filling a role that in turn suggests a pattern of expectation. For example, Barker explains the significance of the Shepherd image that Jesus takes for himself. A larger picture appears in the Book of Dreams in 1 Enoch 83–90, where the history of Israel
is divided into periods, as in Daniel, and each is in the charge of a shepherd, an angel figure. Angels, especially guardian angels, are often called shepherds in this tradition . . . The Lord was regarded as the guardian angel of his people. This is what is meant by the name 'the Holy One of Israel.' . . . When Jesus says, 'I am the good shepherd,' we have to remember what a shepherd represented. It did not mean just a gentle rustic figure with a lamb on his shoulders, familiar to us from our childhood Sunday School pictures.88
She writes that "the Lamb on the throne . . . is not a meek and gentle figure, despite all the sermons to that effect; this is a warrior, a conqueror who controls and reveals the destiny of the creation and is worshiped by the hosts of heaven and the redeemed of the earth."89 Barker frequently returns to the image of Jehovah as the Holy One of Israel, the shepherd, the guardian, the warrior, the Destroying Angel who defends Israel and brings judgment, who "treads the wine press." Further, "The Lord, the God of Israel was a warrior. . . . The Lord fights for his people on a cosmic scale; the floods congeal, the earth swallows their enemies."90 In The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Barker observes:
The Hebrew Scriptures show that when the Lord came to rescue his people he came in a storm. Psalm 18 is one of the oldest storm theophany texts. . . . When 'David' was in danger he called on the Lord to help him.
"From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked because he was angry . . .
Out of the brightness before him
there broke through his clouds
hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them" (Psalm 18:6–7, 12–14)
All the phenomena are here: thunder, lightning, voices, earthquake and hail. Psalm 77:16–21 described the Exodus in a similar way: thunder, whirlwind, lightning and earthquake.91
With respect to the shepherd image, we should also mention John 10:16:
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
This passage opens up the possibility that the role that Jesus declared for himself could be fulfilled in a way that is consistent with his prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem. The closer we look at the expectations surrounding the notion of Jehovah as the Shepherd of Israel, a warrior in connection with the ritual dramatizations of this role in the autumn festivals and specifically, the Day of the Lord, the more remarkably apt the 3 Nephi account becomes.
The Shepherd and the Sheep of Another Fold
The very things that some readers of the Book of Mormon find troubling in 3 Nephi 8–10 are exactly the events that were expected of the Shepherd, the Holy One of Israel, the Servant Lamb, the Melchizedek high priest. These include not only the terrifying scenes of destruction, but the way that during the darkness that succeeds the destruction, the survivors hear the voice of the Lord, taking full responsibility for the violent upheavals:
And it came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying: Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; and it is because of their iniquity and abominations that they are fallen! Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof. And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned. And behold, that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof, to hide their iniquities and their abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come any more unto me against them. And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth; Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, to hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them.92
In discussing the symbolism of the Old World festivals, Barker writes:
The destruction was part of the creation, or rather the preliminary to the recreation. This was the most ancient pattern of the autumn festivals, where the judgement enacted by Yahweh/the King preceded the renewal of the earth with the autumn rains. Thus the Memra, the creating presence of Yahweh, was revealed in destruction wrought by the avenging angel, as well as in creation.93
Some years ago, my understanding of 3 Nephi 8–10 changed when I saw the ancient festival pattern underlying the events. I had long wondered why the Lord would address the survivors of the destruction the way he did. For several years I kept that question on the mental back burner I use for such issues. Then after having had my paradigm shifted by John Welch's illumination of the temple context of 3 Nephi 11–28,94 I saw the possibility for a ritual context and mythic significance in the events in 3 Nephi 8–10. As a consequence I saw apt parallels between observations by Mircea Eliade in his classic work, Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, on the Year Rite, and passages in 3 Nephi:95
The Rites of the New Year
The destructions described in 3 Nephi become especially striking, not just as perils, but as potent symbols when considered against the pattern of the New Year Temple rites current throughout the ancient world. Mormon tells us that this all happens "in the ending of the thirty and fourth year." Eliade informs us that " . . . in the expectation of the New Year there is a repetition of the mythical moment of passage from chaos to cosmos."96
In my review, I then cited the following passages from Eliade and from 3 Nephi:
Regression to Chaos
The first act of the ceremony . . . marks a regression into the mythical period before the Creation; all forms are supposed to be confounded in the marine abyss of the beginning, . . . overturning of the entire social order. . . . Every feature suggests universal confusion, the abolition of order and hierarchy, "orgy," chaos. We witness, one might say, a "deluge" that annihilates all humanity in order to prepare the way for a new and regenerated human species.97
There arose a great storm . . . also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder. . . . The city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea.98
The Sacred Combat
The ritual combats between two groups of actors reactualize the cosmogonic moment of the fight between the god and the primordial dragon . . . for the combat . . . presupposes the reactualization of primordial chaos, while the victory . . . can only signify . . . the Creation.99
That great city Zarahemla have I burned. . . . That great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea. . . . And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people, because of their wickedness and abominations.100
I continued by saying:
The ritual/mythic context shows that by speaking in this way, the Lord may be ritually casting the destroyed cities in the role of the dragon, the leviathan, the representation of chaos which he must defeat in order to bring forth a new creation. 3 Nephi agrees with Barker's picture in that the destruction is judgment and the vengeance of the Lord as well as a preliminary to a new creation.
I quoted the following passages, again from Eliade and 3 Nephi, to continue the comparison:
The Symbolism of Light Coming into Darkness
Renewal of the world through rekindling of the fire, . . . a renewal that is equivalent to a new creation. . . . It is at this period that fires are extinguished and rekindled; and finally, this is the moment of initiations, one of whose essential elements is precisely this extinction and rekindling of fire.101
I am the light and the life of the world. . . . The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.102
This triumph was followed by the enthronement of Yahweh as king and the repetition of the cosmogonic act.103
They did cry out with one accord, saying: Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.104
The comparisons fit well with Barker's picture. After the destruction the voice of the Lord declares "I am the light and life of the world," evoking the image in Genesis of light coming into darkness. It is a new creation, where Jesus expressly declares that "Old things are done away, and all things have become new."105
In an essay in the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Richard Rust offered some convergent perspectives about the meaningful combination of high priest and creation imagery used in the 3 Nephi 10 passages on the destruction:
For example, faith in Jesus Christ the Creator, the Son of God, is shown in the contrast of light and dark and in reference to the four major elements of earth, air, fire, and water. These are brought together in the section of the Book of Mormon that prefigures the Second Coming of Christ. The chaos of things splitting apart and intense darkness—the opposite of creation—is associated with the death of the creator. Cities are sunk in the sea, Zarahemla is burned, and Moronihah is covered with earth. We are told:
"It was the more righteous part of the people who were saved. . . . And they were spared and were not sunk and buried up in the earth; and they were not drowned in the depths of the sea; and they were not burned by fire, neither were they fallen upon and crushed to death; and they were not carried away in the whirlwind; neither were they overpowered by the vapor of smoke and of darkness." (3 Nephi 10:12–13)
Those elements that had been destructive before now bring great uplifting and salvation at the coming of "the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning" (Helaman 14:12). Water is represented by baptism by immersion, air and fire by the Holy Ghost, and earth by people being instructed to build on the solidity of Christ's rock.
The Savior's coming to the Nephites out of darkness and great destruction is a miracle of light, establishing order where previously there had been chaos: After the earth "did cleave together again, that it stood" (3 Nephi 10:10), a Man descends out of heaven "clothed in a white robe" (3 Nephi 11:8) and declares, "I am the light and the life of the world" (3 Nephi 11:11).106
Rust emphasizes the motifs of earth, fire, water, and air as symbols of the cosmos, and of the creation and destruction. Recall that in ancient Israel, the high priest wore the sacred name on his head to show that he represented Jehovah.107 Initially, the high priest passes from behind the veil dressed in linen clothing that was dyed in four colors to represent the four elements and signify his visible incarnation.108 The veil through which the high priest passed to enter into the holy of holies to perform the atonement sacrifice also represents the four elements of the creation, this physical world. Discussing Philo's commentaries on the role of the high priest, Barker explains that
when he went through the veil he divested himself of the multicoloured garb of the material world and put on the glorious robe of the angels, of which he was the chief. "To his Logos, his archangel, the Father of all has given the special prerogative to stand on the border and separate the creature from the creator. This same Logos both pleads with the immortal as suppliant for afflicted mortality and acts as ambassador of the ruler to the subject."109
Jesus' prayers in 3 Nephi demonstrate his role as supplicant:
And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one.110
Barker writes that "when certain people were granted access to the throne, they were transformed into heavenly beings and given a garment of light and eternal life. The transfigured Jesus was one such: 'His face shone like the sun and his garments became white as light' (Matthew 17:2)."111 She continues: "The implication of this is that the transforming effect of the glory is now available to all; those who have seen the glory have been changed from this life to the life of heaven. They have become angels, or, in the language of the visionaries, they have become sons of God."112
And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof.113
Everything that occurs in 3 Nephi 8–28 fits perfectly with the Messianic expectations and high priestly roles that Barker describes. And, therefore, the Book of Mormon resolves the tension of unfilled expectation that underlies Barker's discussion. For believers of the Book of Mormon, the Day of the Lord did occur according to prophecy among the sheep of another fold. That event in the Book of Mormon prefigures the Parousia yet to come.