Mormonism and the Bible/Scripture interpretation

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Biblical scripture interpretation

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Question: When the Bible talks about being "born again," what does this mean?

Latter-day Saints have unknowingly had the same interpretation as those early writers who came after the Apostles

These authors may have had a more clear picture of the apostles' interpretation of Scripture than a modern reader does.

To be sure, baptism must be accompanied by faith in Christ and repentance of sins, or it is of no worth.[1] But, to argue that baptism is unnecessary, or only a formality, does not seem to be in keeping with either scriptural or early Patristic testimony.

A witness of the Spirit pushes those who are truly born again to repent, change their lives, and obey the Lord's commandments insofar as they are able to do so: e.g., be baptized. This witness by the Holy Ghost of the truth of the restored gospel has been shared by millions of people of all nations, ethnic backgrounds, cultures and tongues, and is the primary reason that thousands choose to join the Church even in the face of defamatory material published against it.

1. Baptisms

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.(John 3:3-5)

Latter-day Saints believe this scripture should be interpreted as saying a man must be baptized in order to enter into the kingdom of God, while some conservative Christians often interpret this as saying that one need only believe in Jesus Christ to enter into the kingdom of God.

It is interesting to note that the LDS interpretation concurs with what the ancients taught and believed. Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D) said the following:

For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, "Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.[2]

Irenaeus wrote:

‘And dipped himself,’ says [the Scripture], "seven times in Jordan." It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [it served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’[3]

The Clementine Homilies reads:

And do not think, though you were more pious than all the pious that ever were, but if you be unbaptized, that you shall ever obtain hope. For all the more, on this account, you] shall endure the greater punishment, because you have done excellent works not excellently. For well-doing is excellent when it is done as God has commanded. But if you will not be baptized according to His pleasure, you serve your own will and oppose His counsel. But perhaps some one will say, What does it contribute to piety to be baptized with water? In the first place, because you do that which is pleasing to God; and in the second place, being born again to God of water, by reason of fear you change your first generation, which is of lust, and thus you are able to obtain salvation. But otherwise it is impossible. For thus the prophet has sworn to us, saying, "Verily I say to you, Unless ye be regenerated by living water into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.[4]

The Apostolic Constitutions says:

Nay, he that, out of contempt, will not be baptized, shall be condemned as an unbeliever, and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says: "Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven." And again: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."[5]

2. A "born again" experience?

In some religious traditions the term “born again” often refers to a strong emotional experience that is interpreted in that tradition as a manifestation that he or she who has experienced it has been saved. Latter-day Saints do not accept the idea that one can enter the kingdom of God on this basis alone; but do not deny the sincerity of those who feel that the experience is sacred to them.

It is not uncommon for a Latter-day Saint to have a personal spiritual experience, or witness, which is often intense but differing from mere emotion. This experience is often life-changing, affirming, and strengthening to those that experience it. Occasionally members of other religious traditions tell a Latter-day Saint who has had such a spiritual witness that he or she has instead had a “born again” experience, inferring that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false.

On the contrary, an actual spiritual experience affirms to the Latter-day Saint the truth and efficacy of the restored gospel. Latter-day Saints believe in all of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and that these may be experienced by any Latter-day Saint as appropriate to his or her faith and circumstance.

People who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but are investigating its truth may also experience a witness from the Holy Ghost that what they are being taught by missionaries, members, or the Book of Mormon is true. This enables them, by faith, to follow the Lord’s teachings and be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Question: Was the Gospel of Christ a mystery that was unknown until the advent of Christ?

"Mystery" denotes a knowledge available only through revelation: There is clear Biblical evidence that some before Christ knew of Jesus

Members of the Church believe that the gospel of Christ has been known since the days of Adam. However, it is claimed by some Christians that the New Testament teaches that the Gospel of Christ was a mystery unknown until the advent of Christ. (In defense of this claim, they often cite such scriptures as Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 4:1; or Ephesians 3:1-10;

"Mystery" denotes a knowledge available only through revelation. There is clear Biblical evidence that some before Christ knew of Jesus. If Moses, for example, had this mystery revealed to him, then it is fallacious for one to claim that no other pre-Christian prophets could have known of Jesus and his saving gospel.

It is an error to assume that the term "mystery" has the same meaning to the New Testament writers as it does to the modern creedal Christian

As a non-LDS Bible reference explains:

[A "mystery" is] [s]omething revealed by God, at least to a few. The meaning is different from the usual English sense of an unsolved problem....

Its principal occurrences [in the NT] are in Pauline literature, where it is found 21 times....

Paul's use of the term...[connects] it with Jesus' crucifixion rather than with esoteric forms of knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:1-7). For Paul the mystery that has been revealed is God's plan of salvation. In Ephesians 6:19 he speaks of the mystery of the gospel. Similarly, in Colossians 2:2 he calls God's mystery Christ himself. The mystery is ancient. According to Romans 16:25 it was kept secret for long ages, but in the following verse and in Ephesians 3:9-10 Paul indicates that it was revealed int he fullness of time. The mystery relates to the inclusion of the Gentiles as well as the Jews in God's plan of salvation (Romans 16:25-26, Colossians 1:26-27, Ephesians 3:3-6....

The word "mystery" is also used in a derivative sense in several passages where the terms to which it applies are significant in the divine plan of salvation which has been revealed....[6]

The LDS Bible Dictionary gives a similar perspective:

[The word "mystery"] [d]enotes in the N.T. a spiritual truth that was once hidden but now is revealed, and that, without special revelation, would have remained unknown. It is generally used along with words denoting revelation or publication (e.g., Rom. 16:25–26; Eph. 1:9; 3:3–10; Col. 1:26; 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:16). The modern meaning of something incomprehensible forms no part of the significance of the word as it occurs in the N.T."[7]

Thus, a mystery is not necessarily something that is unknown or unknowable. Rather, it is truth that is known only through revelation. As the first quote indicates, one of the mysteries that Paul claims has been hid is the extension of gospel blessings to all, both Jew and Gentile. This does not mean, however, that the entire gospel was hid even from the covenant people of the pre-Christian era.

Indeed, the NT is clear that at least one Old Testament figure knew of Christ:

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26} (italics added)

How can Moses have chosen the "reproach of Christ" if he did not have a knowledge of Christ? Yet, that knowledge was a "mystery"—a knowledge which could only be known through revelation.

Question: How did the authors of the Bible view the earth and the universe?

The authors of the Bible believed that the moon, sun, and other luminaries are fixed in a curved structure which arches over the earth

The standard reference work, the Anchor Bible Dictionary writes:

The variety in date, origin, and scope of the Hebrew Bible's cosmological materials means that achieving a single, uniform picture of the physical universe is hardly possible. Still, sufficient overlap does obtain between the many accounts of the universe, however these may vary in their details, to allow for a few generalizations. The earth on which humanity dwells is seen as a round, solid object, perhaps a disk, floating upon a limitless expanse of water. Paralleling this lower body of water is a second, similarly limitless, above, from which water descends in the form of rain through holes and channels piercing the heavenly reservoir. The moon, sun, and other luminaries are fixed in a curved structure which arches over the earth. This structure is the familiar "firmament" (raqiya) of the priestly account, perhaps envisioned as a solid but very thin substance on the analogy of beaten and stretched metal. Though some texts appear to convey a picture of a four-storied universe (Job 11:8-9 or Psalms 139:8-9), the great majority of biblical texts assume the three-storied universe so clearly assumed in other, ancient traditions. Thus, the Decalog's prohibition of images specifies "heaven above," "earth below," and "water under the earth" as the possible models for any such forbidden images (Exodus 20:4). If we understand the common term "earth" (erets) as designating at times the "underworld," then the combined references in Psalms 77:19 to heaven, the "world" (tebel), and the "earth" ('erets) are another appeal to the universe as a three-storied structure (for other texts where 'erets may refer to the underworld, see Stadelmann 1970: 128, n. 678). Clearer reference still to the same structure is to be found in Psalms 115:15-17, where we find grouped together "the heaven of heavens," "the earth," and the realm of "the dead" (cf. Psalms 33:6-8 snf Proverbs 8:27-29).

The curving, solid structure which arches over the realm of humanity is sometimes called a "disk" or "vault" (hug; Isaiah 40:22, Proverbs 8:27). That which allows the heavenly abyss to water the earth are occasional interruptions in this solid structure, openings called variously windows, doors, or channels. In some texts, that which suspends the habitable earth above the underworld's waters (see 1 Samuel 2:8 for another reference to these rivers) are pillars or some such foundational structures. These seem envisioned in Job 38:4-5; Psalms 24:2; 104:5; Proverbs 8:29, and elsewhere. Finally, the realm beneath the arena of human activity is not only imagined as one of watery chaos but also given the specific designation "Sheol" (she'ol), usually translated "the underworld." In the different elaborations upon just what one should imagine Sheol as including, again there is little consistency. At times, Sheol is personified, with a belly or womb and a mouth (Jonah 2:3-Eng 2:2); Proverbs 1:23; Proverbs 30:16; and Psalms 141:7), while at others Sheol is rather more architecturally portrayed (Isaiah 38:10; Job 7:9-10; Job 14:20-22; Job 17:13; Job 18:17-18), as a dark and forgetful land or city (Stadlmann 1970: 1666-76).[8]

Question: Does the Bible condemn genealogical research?

The Bible rejects the use of genealogies to "prove" one's righteousness, or the truth of one's teachings

Critics charge that the Bible condemns genealogy, and therefore the Latter-day Saint practice of compiling family histories is anti-Biblical, often citing 1 Timothy 1:4 or Titus 3:9.

The Bible does not condemn all genealogy per se. Rather, it rejects the use of genealogy to "prove" one's righteousness, or the truth of one's teachings. It also rejects the apostate uses to which some Christians put genealogy in some varieties of gnosticism.

Latter-day Saints engage in genealogical work so that they can continue the Biblical practice of providing vicarious ordinances for the dead

Latter-day Saints engage in genealogy work so that they can continue the Biblical practice—also endorsed by Paul—of providing vicarious ordinances for the dead, such as baptism (See 1 Corinthians 15:29) so that the atonement of Christ may be available to all who would choose it, living or dead. See: Baptism for the dead

The Bible clearly does not reject all uses of genealogy

This can be seen through its many genealogical lists, including two such lists for Jesus Christ Himself. (See Matthew 1:1–24 and Luke 3:23–38.)

The condemnation of "genealogies" in Timothy and Titus likely came because:

  • the Christians perceived a Jewish tendency to be pre-occupied by "pure descent" as a qualification for holding the priesthood. Since only pure descendents of Levi could hold the priesthood, there was endless wrangling about one's pedigree—since Paul considers the Aaronic Priesthood to have been superceded by Christ, the great High Priest like Melchizedek (see Hebrews 5), this probably strikes him as pointless.
  • some Jewish scribes and other teachers claimed that their "traditions" were directly descended from Moses, Joshua, or some other prominent leader, and thus superior to the Christian gospel.[9]
  • some gnostic sects had involved accounts of the descent of the Aeons (up to 365 "generations" in one scheme) and other mystic or pagan variations thereon.[10]

Since all these genealogies were either speculative or fabricated, they could cause endless, pointless debate.[11] Rather Paul wants the faith (in Christ) which builds up ("edifying") testimonies and lives.

Question: Why did Joseph describe the United Order in revelation as "everlasting" and "immutable and unchangeable" until Jesus comes?

The United Order is an "everlasting" covenant because it comes from God, reflects his purposes, and is attended by promised blessings for all who obey

This does not mean—just as with biblical examples which use identical language—that "everlasting" is a prophecy about its practice or implementation.

The relevant scripture reads (color emphasis added for clarity):

1 Verily I say unto you, my friends, I give unto you counsel, and a commandment, concerning all the properties which belong to the order which I commanded to be organized and established, to be a united order, and an everlasting order for the benefit of my church, and for the salvation of men until I come—

2 With promise immutable and unchangeable, that inasmuch as those whom I commanded were faithful they should be blessed with a multiplicity of blessings;

3 But inasmuch as they were not faithful they were nigh unto cursing.

4 Therefore, inasmuch as some of my servants have not kept the commandment, but have broken the covenant through covetousness, and with feigned words, I have cursed them with a very sore and grievous curse.

5 For I, the Lord, have decreed in my heart, that inasmuch as any man belonging to the order shall be found a transgressor, or, in other words, shall break the covenant with which ye are bound, he shall be cursed in his life, and shall be trodden down by whom I will;

6 For I, the Lord, am not to be mocked in these things—(DC 104:1-6)

Several points need to be made:

  • the practice of the Order is not prophesied to be "immutable and unchangeable." Rather, the Lord says that the promise is "immutable and unchangeable"—and, that promise is that "inasmuch as those whom I commanded were faithful, they should be blessed with a multiplicity of blessings.
  • the United Order is to be everlasting—that is, it is always the Lord's highest law. Temple-worthy Latter-day Saints promise to observe the law of consecration. They are not, at present, commanded to enter the United Order, but covenant to do so if asked.
  • the Lord makes it clear (verses 3-6) that some might break the covenant, and suffer the penalty. Thus, failure to live the law is not failure of a prophecy, but failure to live a commandment.

Biblical parallels: similar uses of the term "everlasting" that describe the importance and efficacy of certain commandments or ordinances

There are similar uses of the term "everlasting" that describe the importance and efficacy of certain commandments or ordinances. Yet, Christians do not believe they are bound to continue to observe these ordinances and covenants at all historical times. For example (emphasis added in all cases):

  • Aaron and the Levites are given an "everlasting priesthood throughout their generations" (Exodus 40:15, see also Numbers 25:13). Yet, modern day Christians (like many of our critics) do not seem to believe that the only legitimate priestly authority persists with Levitical descendants, or that such descendants currently enjoy divine sanction.
  • Circumcision is described as "a token of the covenant betwixt me and you" that "my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." Those who are not circumcised "shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant" (Genesis 17:10-14). Yet, modern Christians do not believe that circumcision continues to be binding or necessary.
  • Likewise, the "bread for a memorial" is commanded to be " order before the Lord continually," since it is "taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant" (Leviticus 24:8). Do the critics likewise believe that this ought to be continued in unbroken succession to the present for it to be a valid commandment from God?

Question: Why do Mormons use the Aaronic Priesthood, since Hebrews 7 states that the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood was "changed" to the unique priesthood "after the order of Melchizedek" held by Jesus Christ?

The idea that the Melchizedek Priesthood superseded the Aaronic Priesthood is a correct one, but this does not necessarily imply that there is no Aaronic Priesthood

As other Christians see it, the Aaronic Priesthood is like a small glass of water that is replaced by a fruit juice (the Melchizedek Priesthood). They are distinguished from each other, in most Christians' eyes, as quite separate things.

The LDS would use a different metaphor to explain things: they might compare the Aaronic Priesthood to a glass of water that is filled only part way. Instead of being replaced by an entirely different drink, more water is poured into it until it is a full glass (the Melchizedek Priesthood).

From a Mormon perspective, the two priesthoods are really the same substance: the power of God delegated to man

From whence do the two priesthoods originate? The same source—God. What is the purpose of the two priesthoods? They bring mortals to the Lord (note that only the Melchizedek Priesthood can do so entirely—see Hebrews 7:11—but the Aaronic Priesthood was instrumental in keeping ancient Israel holy and pure). The Aaronic Priesthood is merely a limited form of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or (as LDS scriptures call it) an "appendage" to it (D&C 107:13–14).

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles illustrated the doctrine clearly:

Since all priesthood is Melchizedek, the Aaronic Priesthood being a portion of it, one does not lose the Aaronic Priesthood when he is ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood [...][12]

Why does the Aaronic Priesthood persist in the Church?

So, if the Church possesses the Melchizedek priesthood, then why would the Aaronic Priesthood persist today? The Aaronic priesthood serves as a 'preparatory priesthood' (see D&C 84:26.) Just as the Levitical authority in ancient Israel acted as a "schoolmaster" to prepare Israel to receive Christ (see Galatians 3:24–25), in the modern Church the Aaronic priesthood serves to school young men for service in God's kingdom on earth.

The modern Aaronic priesthood's organizational structure follows the pattern established by the New Testament Church, and consists of Deacons (see Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8,10,12–13), Teachers (Acts 13:1,1 Corinthians 12:28–29), and Priests (see Acts 6:7), and countless references in the Old Testament to Levitical/Aaronic 'priests').

Each Aaronic priesthood office is trusted with more responsibility, providing LDS young men with the opportunity to progress and mature until they are ready to receive the priesthood in full—the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Aaronic priesthood duties and function similar to ancient Israel

Despite some modern differences from ancient Israel, the Aaronic Priesthood is not much different compared to ancient times.

The Aaronic priesthood performs two ordinances (some Christian groups would call these 'sacraments').

  1. Baptism: John the Baptist held the Aaronic Priesthood, which holds the keys of baptism, and baptism is of course a fundamental part of salvation through Christ (see Acts 2:38).
  2. Sacrifice: The modern Church does not, of course, sacrifice animals because Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us, giving us the last great sacrifice (see Ephesians 5:2). Yet, the Church rejoices in and recalls His sacrifice for us by partaking of the sacrament ("communion" or "the Lord's supper" in other denominations) Matthew 26:26-29). Thus, the modern priest repeats a ceremony of atonement and sacrifice through the sacrament of the Lord's supper; this plays a similar theological role to the animal sacrifices offered by Aaronic priests anticipation of Christ's atonement and resurrection.

Separation of priesthood duties in the New Testament Church

It should be noted that all priesthood was not equivalent in the New Testament Church either. For example, many members had been baptized with water (an ordinance of the Aaronic priesthood) but had not yet received the Holy Ghost until one of the apostles laid hands upon them (a Melchizedek priesthood function). (See Acts 8:15–19, Acts 19:2–6).

Question: Why do Mormon's believe that ongoing divine revelation is necessary?

If revelation was meant to cease, it would have ceased after Jesus ascended to heaven, but the Bible teaches that revelations and visions didn't cease

It is claimed that there is no need for on-going divine revelation; some even charge that claims of visions from God or revelations to a modern prophet is a blasphemous idea. According to one ministry:

Jesus Christ, the final and complete revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-3) has made "further revelation" obsolete and unnecessary. To claim to have such a "revelation" is to say that Jesus really wasn't what and who He said He was, and who the Bible describes Him as being. In actuality, it is the simple fact that Mormonism's teachings cannot be supported from the Bible that drives the leadership to find another source of authority. Everything that has ever claimed to be "further revelation" has failed the test of Scripture, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price

—Copyright 2005-2006 Alpha and Omega Ministries

If revelation was meant to cease, it would have ceased after Jesus ascended to heaven, but the Bible teaches that revelations and visions didn't cease.

Biblical history has recorded many instances of God speaking to prophets, and it also tells of many instances of apostasy. To end each period of general apostasy, God has shown His love for His children by calling another prophet and giving him priesthood authority to restore and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ anew. In essence, the prophet acts as a steward to oversee the household of God here on earth. Such periods of time headed by prophetic responsibility are called dispensations.[13]

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:15

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

John 20:30-31

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

We have the teachings of Jesus in the four gospels, why do we need the Book of Revelation, or the epistles of Paul? LDS scriptures clarify the importance of revelation.

What about Hebrews 1:1-3?

1 GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

It is true that Jesus' coming in the flesh was the most complete revelation of the divine nature. But, these verses do not say that revelation thereby ceased. None of the New Testament was written until well after Jesus died and was resurrected—the early Christians do not seem to have regarded his coming as a bar to on-going revelation and scripture. Even after Jesus' ascension, he continued to give revelation to those chosen to lead his Church. For example, the Lord revealed to John, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" Revelation 1:19

What about 1 Corinthians 13:8?

This scripture is not talking about the last days.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away (KJV)

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away(NIV)

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away(NASB)

Our jobs will not be eternal; much of our formal education will be forgotten; our Church callings will come to an end[14]

Why do we need revelation today?

  1. New revelations and visions are necessary for our progression: time and circumstances always change
  2. So that we can have success in our own time and circumstances
  3. Despite the best efforts of Christian believers, the Bible has not proved capable of answering all questions in a universal way.[15] There are thousands of Christian groups, and each understands some scriptures differently than others. The unity that should prevail among believers does not, despite their best efforts. Clearly more revelation is needed.

Question: Do the Latter-day Saint "Three Degrees of Glory" have a basis in the Bible?

It is clear that Joseph Smith went far beyond the information found in the Bible concerning the degrees of glory in the resurrection

It is claimed that the doctrine of three heavens has no basis in the Bible.

It is clear that Joseph Smith went far beyond the information found in the Bible concerning the degrees of glory in the resurrection. However, it is equally clear that many of those extra details he included are corroborated by the testimony of the early Christian writers—and this to such an extent that it is hard to explain the phenomenon as mere coincidence.[16]

The Bible makes clear that all mankind will be "judged. . . according to their works." (Revelation 20:12) And if so, won't everyone's rewards be different one from another? Jesus insisted that in His "Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2), and Paul wrote that in the judgment a person's works might be added to his reward or burned up, but either way he might still be saved: "If any man's work abide which he hath built [upon the foundation of Jesus Christ], he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:14-15) Paul also indicated that he had seen a vision of "the third heaven." (2 Corinthians 12:2) Therefore, one might logically conclude from these passages that recipients of salvation will be allotted varying rewards within at least three different "heavens" or "degrees of glory." However, it must be admitted that this fact is not really made explicit in the Bible, so it is understandable that the Christian world has for many centuries been content with the doctrine of one heaven and one hell.

The Mormon doctrine of degrees of glory

While pondering the significance of certain of the aforementioned passages in the Bible, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were given a most striking vision of the fate of mankind after the general resurrection and judgment, which included a description of the three principal kingdoms of glory. (D&C 76) They found that the first kingdom, called the Celestial, will be inhabited by those who have overcome by faith in Jesus Christ (D&C 76:50-70, 92-96), including children who have died and those who would have accepted the gospel in this life, but were not given the chance until they reached the spirit world. (D&C 137:1-10) The second kingdom, called the Terrestrial, will be inhabited by good people who were just and kind, but were not valiant in their testimony of Jesus. Those who rejected the gospel in this life, but afterwards received it will be given a reward in this kingdom, as well. (D&C 76:71-80,91,97)[17] The third, or Telestial, kingdom will be given to the generally wicked masses of the earth who spent their entire residence in the Spirit World in Hell, and so were not worthy of any higher glory. (D&C 76:81-90,98-112)

Another distinction between these kingdoms is that those who receive Celestial glory will reside in the presence of the Father Himself, while those in the Terrestrial kingdom will receive the presence of the Son, and those in the Telestial will have the Holy Ghost to minister to them. (D&C 76:62,77,86)

Sun, Moon, and Stars as Types of the Degrees of Glory

What marvelous light this vision has thrown upon obscure Bible passages! For example, what good does it do to know that there are three heavens if one does not know anything about them? Another example of a passage illuminated by this revelation is Paul's description of the glory of the resurrected body:

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:40-42)

In the vision of the kingdoms of glory, the Lord revealed that this passage is not just a comparison of earthly bodies with heavenly, but also a reference to the fact that there are three different major levels of glory to which a body can be resurrected:

And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one. And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one. And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differeth from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world. (D&C 76:96-98)

Origen, in the early third century, revealed that the early Church interpreted this passage in essentially the same way:

Our understanding of the passage indeed is, that the Apostle, wishing to describe the great difference among those who rise again in glory, i.e., of the saints, borrowed a comparison from the heavenly bodies, saying, "One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, another the glory of the stars."[18]

He further explained that the highest of the three degrees is associated with the Father, and the second degree with the Son:

And some men are connected with the Father, being part of Him, and next to these, those whom our argument now brings into clearer light, those who have come to the Saviour and take their stand entirely in Him. And third are those of whom we spoke before, who reckon the sun and the moon and the stars to be gods, and take their stand by them. And in the fourth and last place those who submit to soulless and dead idols.[19]

We shall see that Origen's doctrine of a fourth degree for the very wicked is fairly consistent with LDS belief, as well.

John Chrysostom was another witness to the fact that the early Church considered this passage to be a reference to degrees of reward in the afterlife:

And having said this, he ascends again to the heaven, saying, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon." For as in the earthly bodies there is a difference, so also in the heavenly; and that difference no ordinary one, but reaching even to the uttermost: there being not only a difference between sun and moon, and stars, but also between stars and stars. For what though they be all in the heaven? yet some have a larger, others a less share of glory. What do we learn from hence? That although they be all in God's kingdom, all shall not enjoy the same reward; and though all sinners be in hell, all shall not endure the same punishment.[20]

More Ancient Witnesses to the Three Degrees of Glory

This doctrine goes back much further than Origen and Chrysostom, however. Irenaeus preserved the same tradition which had supposedly come from the elders who knew the Apostles. Many think he received it from Papias:

And as the presbyters say, Then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour shall be seen according as they who see Him shall be worthy. [They say, moreover], that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold: for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second will dwell in paradise, the last will inhabit the city; and that was on this account the Lord declared, "In My Father's house are many mansions." For all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place; even as His Word says, that a share is allotted to all by the Father, according as each person is or shall be worthy. And this is the couch on which the guests shall recline, having been invited to the wedding. The presbyters, the disciples of the Apostles, affirm that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved, and that they advance through steps of this nature; also that they ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father, and that in due time the Son will yield up His work to the Father, even as it is said by the Apostle, "For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."[21]

Clement of Alexandria also expressed belief in the three degrees, and echoed the Lord's revelation to Joseph Smith that those in the highest degree "are gods, even the sons of God." (D&C 76:58)

Conformably, therefore, there are various abodes, according to the worth of those who have believed . . . . These chosen abodes, which are three, are indicated by the numbers in the Gospel--the thirty, the sixty, the hundred. And the perfect inheritance belongs to those who attain to "a perfect man," according to the image of the Lord . . . . To the likeness of God, then, he that is introduced into adoption and the friendship of God, to the just inheritance of the lords and gods is brought; if he be perfected, according to the Gospel, as the Lord Himself taught.[22]

Clement also preached that the three gradations of glory are procured by virtue of three types of actions:

[Clement of Alexandria] reckons three kinds of actions, the first of which is . . . right or perfect action, which is characteristic of the perfect man and Gnostic alone, and raises him to the height of glory. The second is the class of . . . medium, or intermediate actions, which are done by less perfect believers, and procure a lower grade of glory. In the third place he reckons sinful actions, which are done by those who fall away from salvation.[23]

Other Systems of Multiple Heavens

Actually, there were several schemes for the structure of the heavens, with different numbers of heavens which varied also in their contents.[24] But even where three degrees were not specifically mentioned, it was maintained that various gradations of the elect exist. For example, Similitude 8 in the Pastor of Hermas discusses various types of elect. The editors of one collection of early Christian documents preface the chapter with this summary: "That there are many kinds of elect, and of repenting sinners: and how all of them shall receive a reward proportionable to the measure of their repentance and good works."[25]

Jesus, in the Epistle of the Apostles, made a distinction between the "elect" and "most elect."[26] And consistent with this, the Jewish Christian Clementine Recognitions reduced the number of heavens to two.[27]

One of the most popular schemes was that of seven heavens. Daniélou asserts that the idea of seven heavens was first introduced by certain Jewish Christian groups and "derives from oriental, Irano-Babylonian influences," while the older Jewish apocalyptic tradition and many other early Christian groups held to the three heavens scheme.[28] However, it appears that the seven heavens may originally have been consistent with the three heavens doctrine. For example, we have seen that Irenaeus preserved Papias's doctrine of three heavens, but in another passage he asserted that "the earth is encompassed by seven heavens, in which dwell Powers and Angels and Archangels, giving homage to the Almighty God who created all things . . . ."[29] As Daniélou points out, since the seven heavens were the dwelling places of angels, they probably were thought to have been gradations within the second of the three principal heavens.[30]

Outer Darkness

As we noted in the discussion of the nature of the spirit world, both the Latter-day Saints and the early Christians have taught that the "hell" associated with the spirit world will have an end. It should be noted here, however, that there will be an everlasting hell after the resurrection, and the promise of eternal punishment is very real for those who in this life and the next not only reject Christ and His Kingdom, but who consciously fight against it once they have received a witness of its truth. The Lord revealed to the Prophet that those who deny the Holy Ghost, and thus committing the unpardonable sin, will be given a kingdom of totally without glory called "outer darkness":

Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power--They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born; For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity; Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come--Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame. (D&C 76:31-35)

Similarly, both the gnostic Christian Gospel of Philip and the Pastor of Hermas describe the denizens of "outer darkness" as those who have made a conscious and specific choice to rebel against God:

An Apostolic man in a vision saw some people shut up in a house of fire and bound with fiery chains, lying in flaming ointment . . . . And he said to them, "[Why are they not able] to be saved? [They answered], "They did not desire it. They received [this place as] punishment, what is called 'the [outer] darkness,' because he is [thrown] out (into it)."[31]

From the first mountain, which was black, they that believed are the following: apostates and blasphemers against the Lord, and betrayers of the servants of God. To these repentance is not open; but death lies before them, and on this account also are they black, for their race is a lawless one.[32]

Origen taught that the wicked in outer darkness would be devoid of intelligence, and possessed of bodies stripped of all glory.

But the outer darkness, in my judgment, is to be understood not so much of some dark atmosphere without any light, as of those persons who, being plunged in the darkness of profound ignorance, have been placed beyond the reach of any light of the understanding . . . . The wicked also, who in this life have loved the darkness of error and the night of ignorance, may be clothed with dark and black bodies after the resurrection . . . .[33]

Finally, the Lord told Joseph Smith that He never fully reveals to men the punishments of outer darkness, but only brief visions thereof. Consider the wording of this revelation as compared to that used by Jesus in the apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew:

And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof; Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again; Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation. (D&C 76:45-48)

And the earth was rolled up like a volume of a book and the deep [hell] was revealed unto them. And when the Apostles saw it, they fell on their faces upon the earth. But Jesus raised them up, saying: Said I not unto you, "It is not good for you to see the deep." And again he beckoned unto the angels, and the deep was covered up.[34]

The Loss of the Doctrine of Degrees of Glory

We have seen that the doctrine of degrees of glory was soon confused so that a number of schemes, notably that of seven heavens, were adopted, but it was always clear to everyone that there were different degrees of glory in the heavens. So how was this enlightening doctrine lost? Its fate is not completely clear, but the example of Jovinian, a monk from Milan who preached around the turn of the fifth century, may be instructive. Clark describes Jovinian's teaching, and Jerome's reaction to it: "Jovinian's view, that there are only two categories, the saved and the damned, is assessed by Jerome as more akin to the philosophy of the Old Stoics than that of Christians."[35] Therefore, once again an older Christian doctrine was replaced by the speculations of a Greek philosophical school.

List of Scholars that Support that Paul Believed in Multiple Heavens

Latter-day Saints have most often appealed to 2 Corinthians 12:2 in order to support the idea of multiple heavens in ancient Christian thought. Below we list a collection of twenty different non-Latter-day Saint, academic sources that support this interpretation. This demonstrates that belief in multiple heavens, and more particularly three heavens with the third being the highest, is firmly rooted in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.[36]

  • William Baird:This means that for Paul the third heaven and paradise are the same place, or that paradise is located in the third heaven. Here Paul’s perception of the celestial order is in harmony with the cosmology of 2 Enoch (8:1-8) and the Apocalypse of Moses (40:2). For Paul, the third heaven may be the highest, though the tendency in later apocalyptic literature is to add heavens. In paradise, Paul should have viewed the final abode of the souls of the righteous (2 Esdr 8:51-52, Luke 23:43); and in the highest heaven, he should have seen cosmic paraphernalia, angelic beings, and the radiant throne of God (2 Enoch 20:1-4; T. Levi 3:1-8; 3 Apoc. Bar. 11:1-9).”[37]
  • Hans Bietenhard and Colin Brown: “Ancient cosmology pictured three, five, seven, ten and various numbers of heavens, though three was a commonly accepted number (SB III 531 ff.). Paul’s use of either this term or that of paradise gives no clear indication of his cosmological views. He may be doing no more than using a commonly accepted image to suggest what by his own account is ineffable (cf. v. 4), though possibly the number three may imply perfection (—> Number, art. treis). Sl. Enoch 8 placed the third heaven in paradise, and Apc. Mos. 37: 5 pictures God commanding Michael to lift Adam up into paradise, the third heaven, and leave him there until the day of judgment.”[38]
  • Adela Collins:By the Second Temple period…it was common to conceive of heaven as having multiple levels or layers. The Pseudepigrapha in particular contains many references to multiple heavens, seven being the most common notion (2 Enoch, Ascension of Isaiah). In the NT, Paul says that he knows someone (though many scholars suspect he is speaking of himself) who was 'caught up to the third heaven' (2 Cor. 12:2).”[39]
  • James H. Charlesworth: "According to 2 Corinthians, Paul describes 'revelations of the Lord' that he has experienced. Note his description and caution:
'I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know. God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.' (2 Cor. 12:2-4; RSV)
Paul is certain that he was taken up into the third heaven, saw paradise, and heard things that can never be revealed. These three concepts are developed within the Jewish apocalypses and apocalyptic writings. Ascension dominates in many apocalypses. Two Jewish apocalyptic compositions place paradise in the third heaven; the most important one is 2 Enoch. And within the apocalypses, there are revealed insights that can be communicated only to the elect ones, if at all. Paul could have known the traditions that were later incorporated into 2 Enoch:
'And the men took me from there. They brought me up to the third heaven. And they placed me in the midst of Paradise. And that place has an appearance of pleasantness that has never been seen. Every tree was in full flower. Every fruit was ripe, every food was in yield profusely; ever fragrance was pleasant. And the four rivers were flowing past with gentle movement, with every kind of garden producing every kind of good food. And the tree of life is in that place, under which the LORD takes a rest when the LORD takes a walk in Paradise. And that tree is indescribable for pleasantness of fragrance.'” (2 En. 8:1-3; recension A58)[40]
  • Raymond F. Collins: “Paul describes the experience as rapture. He was caught up to the third heaven. Apart from 1 Thess. 4:17, Paul uses the verb 'snatched up' only in verses 2 and 4. The passive voice indicates that Paul’s being caught up into heaven was a divine action. The apostle shares with many of his contemporaries the idea that there were several levels of heaven. He says that he was caught up to the third heaven. Most likely that third heaven is in paradise. In 2 Enoch, the longer version of which begins, 'The story of Enoch, how the Lord took him to heaven,' Enoch says, 'And the men took me from there, and they brought me up to the third heaven, and they placed me in the midst of Paradise' (2 En. [A] 8.1). The Apocalypse of Moses says that God instructed the archangel Michael to take Adam 'up into Paradise, to the third heaven' (L.A.E. 37.5).
Seemingly overwhelmed by his experience, Paul immediately repeats himself. And I know such a person—whether in body or outside the body I do not know, God knows—that he was snatched up to paradise (12:3–4a). Some older commentators, among whom Alfred Plummer (1915, 344) should be named, take the apparent repetition as describing a sequential action on the part of God. Paul would have experienced rapture to the third heaven and then rapture from the third heaven to paradise. In light of the cited parallels in Jewish apocalyptic literature and the Semitic literary device of synonymous parallelism in which a separate phrase repeats and slightly moves the thought of the first sentence forward, it is best to take verses 2 and 3a as synonymous. 'Paradise' is a synonym for the third heaven, which is in paradise.[41]
  • James D.G. Dunn: “The picture, then, seems to be very clear. Paul shared a common belief that there were several heavens; he had even experienced a heavenly journey to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4). More to the point he shared what was presumable also a common belief that the lower heavens were populated by various hostile powers or that the hostile heavenly powers mounted a kind of roadblock to prevent access to the higher heavens (paradise being in the third heaven — 2 Cor. 12.3). If this meant that they also hindered or could even prevent access to God (cf. Rom. 8.38-39), that would be serious indeed.”[42]
  • Neal Elliot: “Alan F. Segal understood Paul’s visionary experience of Christ in the context of the apocalyptic-mystical tradition in early Judaism. Indeed, Segal demonstrated in Paul the Convert that Paul was our earliest and best (because first-person) witness to that tradition. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul described an unnamed man’s visionary journey into 'the third heaven,' a passage that is generally recognized to be an oblique reference to his own ecstatic experience. Segal argued that this experience was probably not an isolated event. Rather, here 'Paul reveals modestly that he has had several ecstatic meetings with Christ over the previous fourteen years.' Participants in Jewish mysticism, 'and perhaps apocalypticism as well, sought out visions and developed special practices to achieve them. Thus, we can assume that Paul had a number of ecstatic experiences in his life, [and] that his conversion may have been one such experience.' Hardly 'incompatible' with Judaism in Paul’s day, as language of a 'rupture' or 'irruption' implies, such an experience 'parallels ecstatic ascents to the divine throne in other apocalyptic and merkabah mystical traditions.' While those parallel sources are later than Paul, the close similarity of themes and terminology convinced Segal that Paul was indeed an early participant in a wider stream of mystical-ecstatic experience that included those later sources as well. Indeed, 'Paul alone demonstrates that such traditions existed as early as the first century.'”[43]
  • Matthew Emerson: “The second reference to paradise in the New Testament comes in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, when Paul describes his out-of-body experience. Here, he refers to the place of the righteous dead, where Christ now dwells bodily, as both paradise and 'the third heaven' (2 Cor 12:2). The spatial description of paradise shifts from the underworld to the third heaven, not because it has been physically moved (it is a spiritual, not physical, realm) but because its spiritual reality has changed. While it is not yet the paradise of the new heavens and new earth, the restored Eden, the ultimate paradise, it is nevertheless the place where Christ dwells bodily… Thus the descent once again confirms this three-tiered thinking of the biblical writers and their sociocultural context, but it also inaugurates a shift in cosmography. Paradise, because of the descent and the coming resurrection and ascension, experiences a shift in its reality. It is no longer full of the righteous dead waiting for the Messiah but is now a place where the resurrected and ascended Messiah dwells with his people.”[44]
  • Thomas Francis Glasson: “Some of the noncanonical writings give detailed descriptions of multiple heavens, up to seven more more [,] Paul was not necessarily thinking of these when he wrote of his mystical transport into the third Heaven (2 Cor. 12.2); an alternate explanation is that the expression indicates a high degree of spiritual exaltation.“[45]
  • John P. Harrigan: “The Bible clearly portrays a plurality of heavens. Though the exact number of heavens is not stated explicitly in the Scriptures, Jewish tradition varies from three to ten. As color classifications of a rainbow vary, so also might the delineation of the heavenly realms. A threefold arrangement of lower, middle, and upper heavens preserves plurality while allowing for the possibility of further dissection.
Within this plural framework, the heavens are also described in the Scriptures as continuous, meaning there are no hard delineations between them. They are the abode of birds (Gen. 1:20; 2:19; Dan. 2:38); of clouds, rain, and thunder (Gen. 8:2; Job 38:29; Isa. 55:10); of sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 1:14–18; Deut. 4:19; Ps. 8:3); of idols, spirits, and powers (Ex. 20:4; Deut. 3:24; Isa. 24:21); and of God himself (Deut. 26:15; 1 Kings 8:30; Ps. 2:4). All of these things function together in the heavens, and there are no clear lines of distinction between them. There are delineations between different areas of the heavens, as Paul distinguishes the 'third heaven' (2 Cor. 12:2), but there is not a substantial change of existence between these regions…So Paul references the heavenly paradise: 'I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven...I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter' (2 Cor. 12:2–4).
Paul’s third-heaven experience was not unfamiliar in his day, and by no means would anyone have questioned the reality of a paradise in the height of the heavens. It was common knowledge, since deities were understood to dwell in 'garden-temples.' Most of the ancient world believed the gods dwelled in some sort of idyllic paradise above.”[46]
  • Matthew Goff: "Second Corinthians resonates powerfully with Enochic ascent traditions in other ways. Paul was taken up to paradise and the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2, 4). In 2 Enoch paradise, the ultimate abode of the righteous, designed after the garden of Eden, is likewise in the third heaven. In 3 Enoch, the visionary who journeys to heaven is not Enoch, but Rabbi Ishmael. He speaks with Enoch/Metatron in heaven. He reveals divine knowledge to the rabbi. Ishmael’s goal is 'to behold the vision of the chariot' (3 En. 1:1). 3 Enoch is an important example of merkabah mysticism, a late antique phenomenon in the context of which rabbis devised various ecstatic techniques one could use to obtain a vision of the 'chariot,' a reference to God seated upon his heavenly throne. Paul may have used some of these practices to attain the vision mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12 . . . Paul’s assertion about his vision can also be helpfully interpreted in relation to ancient Jewish accounts of heavenly ascents (2 Cor. 12:6). One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, entitled the Self-Glorification Hymn (4Q491c), contains an account of someone claiming to have had some sort of experience in heaven that transformed him. He asserts that he is now among the angels. He boasts about his transformed status. He asks 'Who is comparable to me in my glory?' (line 8) Moreover, the speaker claims that because of this experience, he is able to endure sorrow and suffering as no one else can (line 9)."[47]
  • C.J. Hemer: "3.2 Cor. 12:2 speaks of 'the third heaven'. Some have seen allusion here to a Jewish conception of seven heavens (Test. Lev. 2, 3; Sl. Enoch 3-21). This explanation is questionable: Paul would seem to imply that he was carried to the highest heaven, not to a lower place in a hierarchy of heavens. Nor is it clear that the largely Gentile Corinthians would have understood this kind of Jewish speculation. 'Paradise', however, mentioned in 2 Cor. 12:4, was linked with the 'third heaven' of the series (~Heaven; ~ Paradise)."[48]
  • Craig S. Keener: “Because the Persian loanword 'paradise' meant 'garden,' it applied well to the garden in Eden (Gen 2:8–3:24 LXX; Josephus Ant. 1.37). Jewish people spoke of paradise as in heaven (T. Ab. 20:14 A; 3 Bar. 4:6) and expected a new paradise or Eden in the future (4 Ezra 7:36; 8:52; 2 Bar. 51:11). Jewish texts placed paradise, the new Eden, on earth in the coming age, but in heaven at the present. Jewish texts ranged from 3 to 365 in the number of heavens they imagined; the most common numbers were three (T. Levi 2–3) and seven. Texts often placed paradise in one of these (in the third in 2 En. 8:1; Apoc. Mos. 37:5; 40:1); the lowest of 'heavens' was the lower atmosphere. Paul presumably envisions paradise as in the third of three heavens.
Visions of paradise appear commonly in apocalyptic texts (L.A.E. 25:3). Later rabbis often retold the story of the four rabbis who achieved a vision of paradise, in which only Akiba escaped unharmed (t. Hag. 2:3–4; b. Hag. 14b–15b).”[49]
  • Steven Mason and Tom Robinson: "12. 2 the third heaven: In ancient cosmologies the earth was seen as more or less flat, with ascending levels of heaven above. Paul apparently shares this view; see 1 Thess. 4:13–18."[50]
  • Frank J. Matera: "The mention of the 'third heaven' indicates that Paul like many of his contemporaries, thought of heaven as comprising multiple levels. But how many? Expressions such as 'heaven and the heaven of heavens' (Deut 10:14) and 'heaven and the highest heaven' (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chr 2:6; 6:18) imply that there are at least two levels of heaven, a notion also found in 1 En. 71:5. Certain intertestamental writings, however, reckon with even more levels. The Testament of Levi (chap. 3), for example, refers to three heavens: the first contains the spirits that will carry out God’s judgement; the second holds the armies of God that are prepared for the day of judgment; and in the third the great glory of God dwells in the Holy of Holies. In Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah (7-11), however, Isaiah journeys through seven heavens, and when he arrives at the seventh, he sees a wonderful light, innumerable angels, and all the righteous. Finally, the J Recension of 2 Enoch speaks of ten heavens, identifying the tenth as the place where Enoch views the face of the Lord that is not to be talked about since it was so marvelous (chap. 22). Since Paul is intent upon showing the surpassing character of his own ecstatic experience, and since he appears to identify the third heaven with paradise, he likely thinks of the third heaven as the highest heaven, the place where God dwells. Unlike the writers of the intertestamental books, however, he steadfastly refuses to describe the different levels of heaven or his journeys through them."[51]
  • C.R.A. Morray Jones: “The relationship between the 'third heaven' of 2 Cor 12:2 and the 'paradise' of 2 Cor 12:4 requires consideration. Are verses 2 and 3-4 to be understood sequentially or in parallel? If a seven-heaven cosmology is assumed, either interpretation is theoretically possible, but it seems most unlikely that Paul would have based his claim to apostolic authority on an ascent merely to the third of seven heavens, which would hardly qualify as an 'exceptional' revelation (2 Cor 12:7a). Moreover, our analysis of the Jewish mystical tradition has shown that pardes was a term for the celestial Holy of Holies in the uppermost heaven. The seven-heaven model must, then, imply a 'two-stage' ascent, first to the third heaven and subsequently to paradise in the seventh. There is, however, no parallel for this in apocalyptic or Jewish mystical literature. Normally, the ascent through all six lower levels to the seventh is described (or at least mentioned) unless (as at Rev 4:1-2, for example) the visionary proceeds directly to the highest heaven without mention of intervening levels. Nowhere, to my knowledge, does the elevator stop, so to speak, on only one intermediate floor. Since there is evidence for an alternative, and probably earlier, three-heaven cosmology, it seems most natural to assume that this is the model employed by Paul.“[52]
  • Mitchell G. Reddish: “Postexilic Jewish literature manifests an intense curiosity about the contents of heaven. Various writings describe heavenly visions or journeys of revered individuals such as Enoch, Abraham, and Baruch (1 Enoch, 2 Enoch, Testament of Abraham, 3 Baruch). The topography of heaven, the inhabitants of heaven, the places of judgment, as well as other heavenly secrets are revealed to these persons. Many of these writings describe heaven as containing various levels, referred to as different heavens. The most popular number‎ of‎ heavens‎ was‎ seven.‎ (Compare‎ Paul‘s‎ statement‎ in‎ 2 Cor 12:2 concerning the third heaven.) The various heavens contain not only the throne room of God, paradise (the intermediate reward for the righteous), and the eternal abode of the righteous, but in many cases one or more of the heavens also contain the places of punishment for the wicked.”[53]
  • James D. Tabor: “In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul mentions an ecstatic experience that he had 'fourteen years ago' in which he was taken up into the heavenly realms, and even entered paradise, seeing and hearing things that were so extraordinary he was not permitted to reveal them… The idea of ascending to the third, or highest, level of heaven and gazing upon the glory of God was viewed within the mystical Jewish circles of Paul’s day as the highest and most extraordinary experience a human could have. Moses alone had been allowed to ascend Mount Sinai and communicate directly with God and Elijah had been taken up to heaven in a fiery heavenly chariot (Exodus 24:15–18; 2 Kings 2:11–12). In the two centuries before Paul’s time, texts like the Similitudes of Enoch, 2 (Slavonic) Enoch, and the Ascension of Isaiah, in which Enoch and Isaiah ascend to the highest heaven, gaze upon God’s throne, and experience a transformed glorification, were widely circulated.”[54]
  • James Buchanan Wallace:The third heaven: As Bousset recognized, the three heaven cosmology most likely predated the more elaborate schemas of the heavens. Even 1 Enoch, which has but a single heaven, divides this heaven into three sections. The earliest stratum of T. Levi contains a three heaven cosmology. Although evidence exists for the seven heaven cosmology before 70 C.E., only after 70 does this cosmology became dominant, and even then, it is not the only possibility. Ultimately, internal evidence must provide the final decision, but the evidence favors three.
Paradise: In most cases, Paradise serves as the final abode of the righteous, where they will enjoy the immediate presence of God. In some cases it is on earth, though it appears several times to be a place in the third heaven. Internal evidence will support the tentative conclusion that Paul, too, either equates the third heaven with Paradise or considers Paradise to be a locale within the third heaven.”[55]
  • N.T. Wright: “What about the praxis we vaguely call ‘mysticism’? Paul – we assume he is talking autobiographically, albeit obliquely – had on some occasion found himself being taken, as we now say, ‘into a different space’; each generation, no doubt, develops metaphors for saying something for which we otherwise have no speech, waiting for the time when we shall be tongued with fire beyond the language of the living. Just as the Corinthians dragged out of him practical life-experiences of which otherwise we would know nothing (those other shipwrecks, for instance; what happened to Sanders’s pack-animals in those circumstances, and to the tools of Paul’s trade?), so they finally compel him to reveal one secret at least of what we call his own private ‘spiritual experience’: caught up into the third heaven (the only time he speaks of multiple heavens), hearing unrepeatable words and seeing indescribable sights.”[56]

Question: Does the biblical story of Peleg describe the separation of the continents?

Some Latter-day Saint thinkers have understood the matter as referring to the sudden separation of the continents in a catastrophic event. Others have regarded this as a misunderstanding of the text

Does the biblical story of Peleg describe the separation of the continents? There is a reference to this event in DC 133:.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

The Church does not take an official position on this issue

This is one of many issues about which the Church has no official position.

Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency...and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.

—LDS Newsroom, "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," (4 May 2007) off-site]

Some Latter-day Saint thinkers have understood the matter as referring to the sudden separation of the continents in a catastrophic event. Others have regarded this as a misunderstanding of the text. The Church has no official position on the matter, and it does not play much of a role in LDS thought or discourse.

Genesis 10:25 contains a passing reference to man called Peleg, who received his name because "in his days was the earth divided". The Hebrew verb פלג (palag) means "separate" or "divide."

Some Latter-day Saints have interpreted this passage with extreme literalness

Some Latter-day Saints have interpreted this passage with extreme literalness, believing that the earth's tectonic plates, which were once a single land mass, all separated into the continents we know today during the life of a single mortal, instead of over hundreds of millions of years as scientists have theorized. Two of these were Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie.

It is more likely that Peleg's name anticipates the division of languages at Babel in the following chapter

But the scripture doesn't require such an extraordinary conclusion: It is more likely that Peleg's name anticipates the division of languages at Babel in the following chapter. (Note that palag appears in Psalms 55:9 to refer to a division of languages.)

In the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, 1,000 miles of fault line slipped 50 feet, resulting in a 9.3-magnitude earthquake that created seismic sea waves up to 100 feet high. These tsunamis caused the deaths of nearly 230,000 people. The amount of force required to move the major continents thousands of miles apart in the lifetime of a single individual would cause much worse devastation, a global catastrophe on an unimaginable scale. Thus, to accomplish this without a divine miracle which hid all trace of such an event would be extraordinarily unlikely. But, such a miracle cannot be proven or identified by science or observation. Those who choose to believe that this is what happen can only rely on faith.

If the division is one of language, then DC 133:22–23 would refer to the return to a time when languages no longer divide humankind. This will take place during the 1,000 years of peace when the Savior reigns. Such a return to unity might also symbolize the passing of all the temporary, petty, and earthly matters which alienate humans from each other.

Question: What’s the best way to understand the Tower of Babel scientifically?

By all indications, we can believe that something happened. Though we should probably be aware that exaggerations very likely exist in the account

The science behind the Tower of Babel can be separated into two questions 1) Was there a tower that could reach the heavens? 2) Were tongues actually confused? Both of those questions are addressed in this excellent article by Michael Ash who cites Hugh Nibley:

Michael R. Ash - Is the Tower of Babel historical or mythological?

Last week I began discussing the Jaredites and the Tower of Babel, and how the story might be reconciled for those who believe that science and religion do not necessarily conflict. Some people, for instance, believe that the story of the Tower of Babel falls into the realm of fantasy rather than history. There are historical indicators, however, that suggest that the story is a myth in the scholarly sense.

While most people think of myths as fables (which is what the word actually means), scholars loosely define myths as culturally-shared narratives that bind, inspire or help delineate a particular culture. In the academic world, the word myth “is detached from popular associations with falsehood.” They equate to “legends,” which may or may not be based on actual truths. Myths are often pre-scientific stories used to explain why things are as they are. They may represent “types” or models, or they might exaggerate a real event. They may conflate multiple events into a single story, and they typically make erroneous assumptions based on an incomplete understanding of actual facts.

Anciently, oral and written traditions were not “histories” in the modern sense. While such accounts were often based on actual events, historical accuracy was not a high priority. The main purpose was to share cultural events, heroes and villains intentionally selected to relate specific points. Tales of real events could be molded to help convey the moral of the story. As detailed in a past issue, while I believe in actual Jaredites, Nephites and Lamanites, I also believe we can better appreciate the scriptures when we realize that ancient societies — including prophets — recorded their narratives according to their own understanding of the world around them.

When we shine the light of science and scholarship on the Tower of Babel, we find some interesting things. First, the word “Babel” comes from an Assyro-Babylonian word that means “Gate of God” and is related to a Hebrew word that means “confusion.” It appears that the author(s) of the Babel account are engaging in some word-play to make a particular point about the story. It’s also interesting to note that the book of Ether never mentions “Babel” but simply the “great tower.”

In the Bible, we learn that some time after the days of Noah the land of Shinar (modern Mesopotamia) was ruled by the wicked Nimrod. In Genesis 10:9 he’s referred to as a “mighty hunter before the Lord.” Early Judaic traditions, however, interpret this as a mighty hunter “in opposition to the Lord.” Nimrod’s name, in fact, comes from the Hebrew word verb “let us revolt.” Once again, we see Hebrew word-play utilized as a teaching tool. Nimrod was not a hunter of animals but of the souls of men. And according to ancient traditions, Nimrod was responsible for building the Tower of Babel.

In ancient Mesopotamia, from at least 3,000 B.C., we find the construction of ziggurats — stepped temple monuments. Ancient cultures believed that gods resided on the tops of mountains, and this belief was even incorporated into Greek mythology, which taught that Zeus lived atop Mount Olympus. Early prophets, including Abraham and Nephi, went up into the mountains to pray or commune with God. Likewise Moses met God on Mount Sinai. Temples were considered to be man-made cosmic mountains. As Dr. Nibley notes, they are the “‘binding-place of heaven and earth,’ where alone one could establish contact with the upper and lower worlds.” The ziggurats of Mesopotamia were temples or towers built to reach the heavens or intended “gates” to God. While Nimrod’s connection to the Tower of Babel can only be inferred from the Bible, other ancient traditions support this inference. According to some of these ancient traditions, Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, acquired (stole — in many legends) the skin garment that God gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden. The garment supposedly gave Nimrod great power — God-like power. Nibley wrote:

“Now I am not insisting for a minute that the legendary Nimrod ever existed. … I am only interested in the type of thing that happened, and after having examined hundreds of legends from all parts of the ancient world, all telling substantially the same story, I think that anyone would find it difficult, in view of the evidence, to deny that there was some common event behind them. It seems to have been a single event, moreover.”

In ancient Judaic thought, Babylon (the ancient city-state of Mesopotamia) represented the wicked while Zion represented the righteous. Since the “priesthood” is God’s power bestowed upon mankind, an imitation God-like power would be a false priesthood and a tower associated with this power would be a false temple. The Tower of Babel, therefore would represent — either historically or mythically — the false temples and priesthoods of wicked men who opposed the true priesthood and the living God.[57]

Further Reading

As further reading, the following is an even more detailed treatment of the issue:

The Ur Ziggurat. Many Biblical scholars have argued that these types of ziggurats could have been the Tower of Babel mentioned in the Bible. This is one proposed location.

Question: What’s the best way to understand the ages of antediluvian patriarchs scientifically?

There is no consensus among biblical scholars as to how to interpret these ages.

Scholars have generally separated the interpretation of the ages into three camps: the literal view, the symbolic view, and the blended view. The literal view seeks to understand every age as literal historical, the symbolic view seeks to understand why the biblical authors might have used these ages to represent perhaps power or prestige, and the blended view seeks to find somewhere in the middle for their interpretation. All views are laid out in this article by Andrew P. Kvasnica from the Dallas Theological Seminary published in 2005.

Andrew P. Kvasnica: The Ages of the Antedeluvian Patriarchs in Genesis 5


Numbers command attention. Whether it's on a recipe, on a price tag, on a head count, or on a paycheck, numbers make us search for their meaning, and we trust that meaning to be dependable. We hope that number one means first place, and that having twins means there are two new babies rather than five. Numbers have inherent reliability.

Sometimes, though, when sweat is pouring down your face, you might venture a guess and say, "Man, it must be 500 degrees!" Also, why does the 13th floor contain more underlying meaning than just the floor on level 13? Some numbers have inherent meaning that varies from their stated value”numbers given for effect.

The numbers in Gen 5 appear to be actual long ages of the antediluvian patriarchs. However, many have taken note of their atypically extensive size. Living over 900 years?! This has caused many scholars and other curious people to plunge into finding out what these numbers actually mean.

This paper is designed to present the various major issues regarding the interpretation of the numbers in Gen 5. Realistically, the issue must essentially include numerical, literary, rhetorical, cultural, historical, chronological, grammatical, geographical, and authorial issues (besides many more, probably). To interpret Gen 5 without considering all of the factors listed above is simply an incomplete interpretation. So, this paper is meant to reach a conclusion on a small part of the vast whole. It covers the numerical aspect of Gen 5 followed by a brief evaluation of some noted literary factors.

On the Meaning of the Numbers

Contemporary and historical solutions to the numbers in Gen 5 show three categories of general interpretation: literal, symbolic, and fictional/symbolic. Among these solutions, there is also an interpretation that combines the literal and symbolic view. This view, as literal/symbolic, is discussed following the symbolic view.


Historically, the most prevalent way to take these numbers is as literal ages.[58]These numbers are called "conventional" by John J. Davis, Biblical Numerology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968). Philo seems to accept their accuracy in his Questions and Answers on Genesis, 1:91, The Works of Philo: New Updated Edition, trans. C. D. Yonge (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 811. Josephus, in his Antiquities, even advises against speculation of these numbers because they are unlike ours, The New Complete Works of Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 1.3.9§105.</ref> The numbers mean what they appear at first sight to mean. This is reason enough for many. Some add reasons to this and hold that the patriarchs needed to personally pass on to future generations the wisdom and art that they learned”such a duty, it is said, could not have happened during a "normal" life span of 70 or 80 years.[59] Some also propose longevity based on the idea of a water vapor canopy that protected the earth from physically and genetically harmful solar radiation.[60]

Against this, though, factors are brought up opposing a literal reading of the numbers. First, the numbers don't appear to be random. Each number in Gen 5 (except Methuselah's 969 years) ends in either a 0, 5, 2, or 7, which can be thought of as a factor of 5 (0 or 5) and at times adding 7 (e.g. 5 + 7 = 12). Etz implies that the chance of this happening without deliberate alteration is essentially impossible.[61]Some feel that the definition of "year" was different in this context and should rather mean "month" or "day." For example, Methuselah at the age of 969 years would instead be only 969 months, or now, 81 years by the new figuring”a more reasonable age in today's standards. Using this definition, though, places the numbers into even more severe problems than at the outset.[62]This issue loses weight, too, just by the context of Gen 6. Wenham agrees that a year at that time was still about 360 days.[63] Westermann, though, asserts that the basic issue of "greater human vitality" is not reason enough to explain the ages.[64]

Taking these numbers literally would also require reconciling differences between them in the MT, LXX, and SP. The totals of the ages in these are 1,556 (MT), 2,142 (LXX), and 1,207 (SP) years. To solve this dilemma, some suggest that there was an artificial scheme that was developed for these texts.[65] Dealing with this difficulty, Larsson contends that those who redacted Genesis "did not look upon the ages of the patriarchs as historical data but used them to develop systems with different purposes."[66]What then is this system? Larsson proposes a varied use of chronology and different calendars by the scribes of the different text traditions.[67] This, however, doesn't solve any difficulty with the size of the numbers.

Although taking the numbers at face value seems most appropriate (as in our present culture), the general size of the ages leads many to reconsider their validity as actual ages. The solving of the MT/LXX/SP number differences seems to contribute to the difficulty of seeing these numbers as actual ages. However, there are still many proponents of the literal interpretation of these numbers.


Many also propose a symbolic use of the numbers. To lay the foundation, Waltke states that there is enough evidence for this in the Scripture that it couldn't have been coincidence,[68] and Plaut states that there is a "biblical predilection for number symbolism."[69] Some of these matters are in relation to the prevalence of the numbers seven and ten, known respectively in diverse ancient Near Eastern texts for their perfection and completeness. The list of ten names in Gen 5 has caused many to see an "undoubtedly" deliberate construction of the names to fit the scheme of an "optimal ten-generation pattern" which would then "lend an authentic ring" to this genealogy.[70]

Larsson supports the symbolic use of numbers stating that playing with numbers, the magic of certain figures, and the symbolism of certain dates was "nothing new in the chronology of the Bible."[71]However, Hasel contends that some of the foundations of this system are weak. He cites the missing connection between the strength of the historical content of the OT and the use of this system that seems to take that history lightly.[72]

Barnouin suggests a different symbolic use of the numbers. He proposes the scribal use of synodic periods of the planets for some of the numbers in Gen 5. For example, 777 (the years of Lamech) would be related to the cumulative synodic periods of Jupiter and Saturn; 962 (of Jared) would be related in the same way to Venus and Saturn.</ref> He suggests that, according to the Babylonians, there was a connection between age and astrologic periods. Wenham doubts this however, except that it might show the orderliness of life.[73]

There is plenty of literature that proposes number symbolism in the Bible, but the prospect of it being used for all numbers in Gen 5 still isn't convincing to some. The trouble with the symbolism is that among all of the conjectures, no one knows for certain what the numbers symbolize.[74]


Some suggest a system of figuring the numbers based on knowledge of ancient Near Eastern king lists and the use of a sexagesimal number system (i.e., base 60, rather than the decimal base 10). The figuring for this is essentially based on the Sumerian King List, which is a list of kings who reigned before and after the flood. In general, the numbers of some of the Sumerian texts show a predilection to the number 60.[75] Because of the age longevity comparisons between the SKL and the genealogy of Gen 5, scholars searched to find a way to link the Sumerian method of reckoning numbers to the biblical text. Using the number 60 as a starting point, proposals have been made on how the large numbers of Gen 5 were actually to be seen against the backdrop of the Sumerian number system.

Despite the interesting appearance of correlating the numbers between the two texts, heated disagreement exists as to whether or not this system of figuring can be adequately used to explain the numbers in Gen 5. The debate hinges not only on the validity of the math and possible Mesopotamian connection between the SKL and Gen 5, but also on the validity of comparing these two texts. Wenham finds the math interesting, but doubts its appropriate use in understanding Gen 5,[76] and Hasel contends that the whole comparison seems forced to fit together.[77] Bailey, though, has kept the connection alive,[78] also along with Walton.[79]

Because of the continuing debate on the alleged connection between the SKL and Gen 5, here is a basic look at some pros and cons to each position. Bailey sets forth five reasons why the parallel should be maintained,[80] but these are fairly simplistic and have little weight in many of the foundational matters concerning the SKL and Gen 5.[81] Cassuto states that there is "a similarity here than cannot be considered fortuitous." He also claims that there was "undoubted" Israelite knowledge of the Babylonian tradition of genealogies as well as a shared appreciation of the sexagesimal system, the number seven, and the span of five years (which is to be noted, 60 months).[82] Because of this, he feels that the writer of the Torah used the Babylonian tradition, but desired to "purify and refine" the generations and ages and "to harmonize them with its own spirit."[83] Walton states that, since the totals of the numbers in the two texts can be found in the same mathematical way, that there was a "common tradition;" and therefore, possibly there was a time when they were the same text”"coincidence [that these texts were never related] is out of the question."[84]

Against the SKL/Gen 5 correlation, Hasel counters with a diverse array of observations. Gen 5 is a history of mankind, whereas the SKL is a history of a people; Gen 5 is the creation of mankind, whereas the SKL is the establishment of a kingship; Gen 5 is a genealogy, whereas the SKL is a king list; Gen 5 has no hint of a "political ideology or ideal," whereas the SKL is political;[85] Gen 5 is the tracing of ancestors, whereas the SKL is the unification of the land; and, Gen 5 has ten listings, whereas the SKL (in different copies) has from seven to ten.[86] Hess continues the assault by observing that Gen 5 involves kinship relations, whereas the SKL deals with succession of rulership and office holders; Gen 5 numbers are to record lifespan, whereas the SKL's are for length of reign; Gen 5 moves the reader to look to the future, whereas the SKL looks to the past.[87]

Based on the arguments, it seems that to completely connect and interpret one of these texts by using the other appears to be incorrect. This is based on what seems to be the more foundational reasons behind each text. Still, though, as supported by Cassuto, Bailey, and Walton, the solution to understanding the numbers of Gen 5 by using the SKL method seems to amaze most who study the possible correlation.


Lastly, some suggest a completely fictional interpretation of the numbers of Gen 5. Although claiming that there is a good level of historicity with the names and people, Kitchen sees the numbers as "pure myth."[88]Jacobs concurs that these are only legendary numbers resulting from the "fictitious reduction of the enormous numbers" found in other cultures.[89] Others contend that these numbers were only meant to point the reader to a time in an "unimaginably distant past,"[90] or that they were meant to show the "progressive deterioration of everything,"[91] or that the numbers only are meant to signify that the patriarchs were "larger than life" and thus superior to their descendants.[92]

However, the numbers still refer to something. So, some propose solutions by using decimal mathematics. Etz states that the writer of Genesis began with "a set of [invented] plausible numbers." From there, "each lifespan (except Enoch's) was increased by 300 years," and Enoch's by only 100 years. Then all numbers were multiplied by 10, then divided by 4, and "rounded down to whole numbers if necessary."[93] He suggests that the patriarchs had life spans similar to today”these normal life spans make up his originating "plausible numbers."

Another computation is proposed by Young. His figuring is based on Babylonian sexagesimal algebra with which he states you can account for all but three figures in both genealogies of Gen 5 and 11: those figures being 777, 365, and 110, which, he states, have already been solved by other methods.[94]For example, Adam's lifespan could be found by using the formula x² + ax = b where (for Adam) x = 30 and, in this case, a = 1. After computing, the result is 930 years. Young states that this "basic type" of algebra is a "fitting manner" with which to begin a series of numbers regarding the patriarchs.[95] To calculate the ages of other patriarchs, one would use any of a number of different algebraic formulas. He states that his calculations were apparently "the classic examples taught in the classrooms over the centuries" and that, based on persisting cultural mathematical methods, "a Sumerian writer of the late third millennium and a Jewish priest of the sixth century would have been exposed to essentially the same mathematical education in a Mesopotamian school."[96]

Besides the general thought in the scholarly community that these methods are a little too involved, there is additional information shed regarding some views of the ancient Hebrews and math. It is mentioned that the rabbis had a lack of interest in theoretical math unless it applied to "practical applications that would help them to construct the Hebrew calendar."[97]In agreement with this is that there was also a general lack of interest in math within the community unless it helped the people to live better quality lives.[98] In light of this, it would seem difficult to imagine that the math problems above would be used in the chronologies or genealogies of the MT. However, the math does seem to amaze the observer.

A kaleidoscope of scholarly proposals have settled on the meaning of the numbers in Gen 5. Each proposal is met with an antagonistic view. The full meaning of these numbers, in the end, appears uncertain. Josephus (although supporting a literal view) comments on the number and longevity issue by stating, "let everyone look upon [these matters] as he thinks fit."[99]Sarna comments that what these numbers represent individually or collectively, symbolically or schematically, are "presently unknown...If any such exists, it has not yet yielded its secret."[100]

On the Purpose of Gen 5, and other Literary Factors

Aside from trying to figure out the numbers directly, many scholars look simply at the overarching purpose of the genealogy in Gen 5. Out of the majority views, there are two different purposes given. The first is that the numbers, and everything included, are a literary means of communicating the divine blessing directly from God through Adam to Noah. This is termed the theological purpose of Gen 5.[101] Others see the purpose of this genealogy as simply moving the narrative quickly from the story of Cain to the event of the flood.[102] However people think about this second purpose, it is difficult to miss the extensive length of time that passes relatively quickly through this genealogy. Aside from what the numbers mean directly, many propose these purposes as the themes that drive the entire genealogy.

In regard to the purpose of the Gen 5 genealogy, I would briefly like to note what I feel are some significant literary aspects in the text. Many major things happen in the first five chapters of Genesis. Upon reaching the record of the descendents of Cain in 4:16, rhetorically the story speeds through the family line of Cain. Although the details of this family are major, they come across as less-so because of a less structured literary presentation and the author's method of keeping the reader/listener moving. The details seem to have no felt depth, and the roles of the descendents of Cain come across almost as if the author felt obligated to put them in the text.

At Gen 4:25, the scene takes a dramatic shift, which is even heightened by some positive discourse from Adam's wife (directly contrasting the more negative feeling in discourse from Cain's family). The post-script in 4:26 about people beginning to worship the Lord draws the readers attention even more. In 5:1-2 there is a harkening back to the first creation of mankind in the Lord's image and likeness (which is lacking in 4:17), as if the Lord was doing something new again. Again, rhetorically, these things seem to slow down the reader/listener. Lastly, 5:3-31 seems long and deliberate (contrasted with the hurriedness and chaotic structure of 4:17-24) as if this was the place to sit and ponder. Enhancing this feeling, the multiple ages slow the pace of the text, and through its methodical rhythm, we learn about each descendant. The pace continues in a consistent way except when even more positive shifts in the pattern come (as with Enoch in 5:22-24). Then, after a while, the text lands at Noah, and it's on to another story.

Considering these literary factors, the overriding point of the Gen 5 genealogy seems to be a captivation for the reader/listener to see what God is doing. The rhetorical development before and during the genealogy lend to this purpose. In the genealogy, the size of the numbers (whatever they mean) add punch and cause the reader to take more notice of what's happening. To me, the purpose of the parts of the Gen 4 and 5 genealogies seem to contribute to this stark notice of what the Lord is recreating anew. Gen 5 tells of a line of mankind who will have the image and likeness of the Lord present in them to do a good work through the Lord's blessing. This overriding point must not be missed.


In regard to this foregoing glance at the purpose, it would seem that, as the numbers stand, they don't appear to be the point of the genealogy. In regard to their meaning, the field seems quite open. Each view of literal, symbolic, literal/symbolic, or fictional/symbolic interpretation of these numbers appears to carry enough strong evidence for and against each category. By looking at the evidence, it would appear that an assessment would yield inconclusive evidence to convincingly prefer one interpretation over another. However, a lack of determinative interpretation in this area does not cause the reader/listener to miss the point of the genealogy. Literary clues and the sheer presence of the numbers seem deliberately designed to lead us to sense the blessed work of the Lord through Adam and Seth. Levin notes a common view in regard to the structure of a genealogy: "form [of the genealogy] must always follow function" so that if the literary need is different, its presented form is different.[103] The literary and structural factors in the Gen 5 genealogy and surrounding context seem to strongly support a primary point: the Lord's work in blessing this lineage. In light of this, all factors of this genealogy would be subservient to that main point, i.e., all details, including the meaning of the numbers, serve the overriding primary purpose of the genealogy. The form of this genealogy, with all of its details, follows its ultimate function.


A look at the technical information regarding the numbers of Gen 5 yielded various main camps regarding interpretation. Assessment of the technical evidence leads to a lack of convincing conclusiveness on the exact meaning of the numbers, i.e., an interpretation that can explain all of the issues and that rings true with all aspects of the text. The purpose of the genealogy (whether it be a theological purpose or a literary way to speed through time) helps the reader/listener to get a more primary point and not to get hopelessly lost on the details of the presentation.

In light of all this, I don't feel that our lack of conclusiveness of the exact meaning of the text should cause anyone to despair about the truthfulness of Scripture. I think it's fair to state that what the Lord intended to mean by these numbers and this genealogy is still what he intends, whether or not we understand it fully. I hold that the text, even apart from full human understanding, remains completely reliable to give its intended meaning.[104]

Question: What’s the best way to understand the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot turning into a pillar of salt scientifically?

There is no consensus as to how to understand the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife scientifically.

There are a number of rock deposits located close to claimed locations of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, since we do not know the actual location of Sodom and Gomorrah, we cannot be sure about the rock/salt deposits that are formed in the shape of pillars at these claimed spots. Wikipedia offers valuable commentary on the historicity of the locations and of the story of Lot’s wife. [105]

Question: What is the best way to understand the story of Jonah and the Whale scientifically?

The story of Jonah and the big fish is best seen as a beautiful Hebrew poem—the main point of the story coming in the last four verses in the last chapter

From the Latter-day Saint Bible Dictionary:

The present book of Jonah does not claim to be from the hand of the prophet; it describes an episode in his life and is due to some later writer. The key to the book is to be found in Jonah 3:10–4:11 in the reasons the prophet gives for his flight and unwillingness to preach at Nineveh. The writer is opposing a narrowmindedness that would confine the love of God to a single nation. He shows that Jehovah reigns everywhere, over sea and land; even in the gentile world the minds of men are conscious of sin and prepared to acknowledge that Jehovah is God. The book is a beautiful poem, whether it paints the humanity of the gentile sailors; the mourning of the prophet over the decay of the grass of the field; or the divine tenderness in ministering to the prophet with his imperfect conceptions or in pitying the little children of Nineveh. The story of Jonah was referred to by our Lord on two occasions when He was asked for a sign from heaven. In each case He gave “the sign of the prophet Jonah,” the event in that prophet’s life being a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own death and resurrection (Matt. 12:39–41; 16:4; Luke 11:29–30).[106]

Latter-day Saint biblical scholar Ben Spackman elaborates:

Jonah is four short chapters. I’ve done a lot with Jonah in the past, addressing the short book several times, from several angles, including the history question. In brief, if you’re focused on the “whale” instead of the last four verses of chapter 4, you’re entirely missing the point.

[. . .]

Jonah strikes me as very much as a satirical parable, and I explain this in the podcast. But what is ultimately important is the last few verses of the last chapter.[107]

Question: Is it appropriate to celebrate holidays as a Christian?

Ancient Israelites celebrated holidays

It is commonly claimed by members of the Jehovah’s Witness organization that it is inapprorpriate to celebrate holidays. This is sometimes used as a criticism against members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jews celebrate many holidays[108]. Among these is Purim which is a day that, among other things, children dress up in costumes and masks as characters from the Book of Esther and exchange food and drink, donate to charity, eat a celebratory meal, have a recitation of the Esther scroll, and so forth[109] There is no issue with seeking to increase devotion by not celebrating holidays. But there is no biblical evidence that definitively outrules the celebration of holidays as a doctrine of Christian living.

Question: Was Moses a real person?

Biblical scholarship still holds the possibility of a Moses like figure in history

Some have wondered, based upon findings from Biblical scholarship, if Moses is an actual person from history. His presence during Biblical events is not extremely important to Latter-day Saints. What is most important to Latter-day Saints is that he existed, received the priesthood, and that he gave the keys of priesthood he held to Joseph Smith in April 1836 (D&C 110). Biblical scholarship doesn’t rule out the possibility of Moses’ existence or of a Moses-like figure in history—it only doubts that a lot of the miracles ascribed to him occurred (which is a natural skepticism). Biblical scholars generally see several things that can help affirm some sort of existence. Among these are his authentic Egyptian name (“moseh”) meaning “is born”, the evidence for some form of Israelite exodus, and so on. It has been said that even if none of the traditions of the Pentateuch originated from Moses, scholars would still have to posit his existence since Israelite religion seems a deliberate innovation, not a natural outgrowth[110].

We could simply defend the existence of Moses from his appearance to Joseph Smith but in order to defend against the counter of that vision being subjective, we’d need to provide evidence for Joseph's calling. The most convincing evidence of that calling is that of the Book of Mormon which can be defended vigorously as authentic and has been for roughly the last century[111].


  1. Articles+of+Faith 1:4
  2. Justin Martyr, "First Apology of Justin," in Chapter 61 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:183. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  3. Irenaeus, "?," in ? Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:574. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  4. Clementine Homilies, 11:25–26. off-site In Ante-Nicean Fathers 8:223–347. off-site
  5. Apostolic Constitutions, "?," in 6:15 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)7:456–457. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  6. Alice Ogden Bellis, "Mystery," in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, edited by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 931. ISBN 0802824005.
  7. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Mystery,", 736. off-site
  8. Anchor Bible Dictionary, at 1:1167-68, s.v. "Cosmogony, Cosmology."
  9. George H. Fudge, "I Have a Question: How do we interpret scriptures in the New Testament that seem to condemn genealogy?," Ensign (March 1986), 49.
  10. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1811-1817, New Testament, "1 Timothy 1:4" & "Titus 3:9"
  11. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds., The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968), 353.
  12. M. Russell Ballard, cited in Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 72.
  13. Preach My Gospel, 31–46.
  14. Jean Knight Pace, "The Joyful Surprise of Motherhood," Ensign (Jan 2006), 54–57.
  15. Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture (Brazos Press, 2012).
  16. This response is originally from Barry R. Bickmore, "Salvation History and Requirements," in Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Redding, CA: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999). It may have been added to or modified since, by nature of a wiki project.
  17. Note also that the paradise of Adam and Eve was in a Terrestrial state, and translated beings dwell in this sphere awaiting the resurrection, as well. See Chapter Note 2.
  18. Origen, De Principiis 2:10:2, in ANF 4:294.
  19. Origen, Commentary on John 2:3, in ANF 10:324-325.
  20. John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:4, in NPNF Series 1, 12:251.
  21. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:36:1-2, in ANF 1:567, brackets in original.
  22. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:14, in ANF 2:506.
  23. ANF 2:506.
  24. Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 179.
  25. The Lost Books of the Bible (New York: Bell Publishing Company, 1979), 240.
  26. Epistula Apostolorum, in NTA 1:210.
  27. Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 174; However, it is clear from the passages which mention two heavens in the Recognitions that the two heavens spoken of are the visible heaven, which men can see, and the invisible, where the angels, etc., dwell. See Clementine Recognitions 9:3, in ANF 8:183; Clementine Recognitions 3:27, in ANF 8:121; Clementine Recognitions 2:68, in ANF 8:116. There is no mention of any division in the invisible heaven, but the following passage may be an oblique reference to the three degrees: "Be this therefore the first step to you of three; which step brings forth thirty commands, and the second sixty, and the third a hundred, as we shall expound more fully to you at another time." Peter, in Clementine Recognitions 4:36, in ANF 8:143. The footnote to this passage makes clear that whatever it referred to was most likely part of the esoteric tradition.
  28. Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 174.
  29. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 9, in ACW 16:53.
  30. Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 176.
  31. The Gospel of Philip, in , James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1977), 140, brackets in original.
  32. The Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:19, in ANF 2:50.
  33. Origen, De Principiis 2:10:8, in ANF 4:296.
  34. The Gospel of Bartholomew, in ANT, 173.
  35. Clark, The Origenist Controversy, 131.
  36. FairMormon thanks Jaxon Washburn for his compilation of these sources.
  37. William Baird, “Visions, Revelation, and Ministry: Reflections on 2 Cor 12:1-5 and Gal 1:11-17,” Journal of Biblical Literature 104, No. 4 (December 1985): 655.
  38. Hans Bietenhard and C. Brown, “Paradise,” The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Collin Brown (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975), 1:763.
  39. Adela Yarboro Collins, “Heaven,” The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, rev. and ed. Mark Allan Powell, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2011)
  40. James H. Charlesworth, “Paul, the Jewish Apocalypses, and Apocalyptic Eschatology,” Paul the Jew: Rereading the Apostle Paul as a Figure of Second Temple Judaism, ed. Gabriele Boccaccini and Carlos A. Segovia (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016), 96.
  41. Raymond F. Collins, Second Corinthians (Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 237–238.
  42. James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 108.
  43. Neal Elliot, “The Question of Politics: Paul as a Diaspora Jew,” Paul Within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle, ed. Mark D. Nanos and Mangus Zeiterholm (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2015), 218–219. Citing Alan F. Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990), 36.
  44. Matthew Y. Emerson, He Descended to the Dead: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 2019), 169–170.
  45. Thomas Francis Glasson, “Heaven,” Oxford Companion to the Bible, ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 271.
  46. John P. Harrigan, The Gospel of Christ Crucified: A Theology of Suffering Before Glory (N.P.: Paroikos Publishing, 2019), 74; 83.
  47. Matthew Goff, “Heavenly Mysteries and Otherwordly Journeys Interpreting 1 and 2 Corinthians in Relation to Jewish Apocalypticism,” Paul the Jew: Rereading the Apostle Paul as a Figure of Second Temple Judaism, ed. Gabriele Boccaccini and Carlos A. Segovia (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016), 142–143.
  48. C.J. Hemer, “τρίτος,” The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology ed. Collin Brown (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975), 1:688.
  49. Craig S. Keener, 1-2 Corinthians: New Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 239.
  50. Steve Mason and Tom Robinson, Early Christian Reader: Christian Texts from the First and Second Centuries in Contemporary English Translations Including the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013), 104.
  51. Frank J. Matera, II Corinthians (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 280.
  52. C.R.A. Morray-Jones, “Paradise Revisited (2 Cor 12: 1 12): The Jewish Mystical Background of Paul’s Apostolate—Part 2: Paul’s Heavenly Ascent and its Significance,” The Harvard Theological Review 86, No. 3 (July 1993): 277–278.
  53. Michael G. Reddish, “Heaven,” Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992).
  54. James D. Tabor, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), 190–191.
  55. James Buchanan Wallace, Snatched into Paradise (2 Cor. 12:1-10): Paul’s Heavenly Journey in the Context of Early Christian Experience (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), 164–165.
  56. N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), e-book location 1,023–1,024.
  57. Michael R. Ash, "Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Michael R. Ash: Is the Tower of Babel historical or mythological?" Deseret News, 27 September 2010. Accessed 29 March 2019. <>
  58. Quoted from the midrash by Radak in Meir Zlotowitz, Bereishis, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, Ltd., 1986), 168.
  59. Luther states that these patriarchs also had a better diet, more sound bodies, and experienced a less developed impact of sin on the physical creation. Martin Luther, The Creation: A Commentary on the First Five Chapters of the Book of Genesis, trans. Henry Cole (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1858), 449.
  60. John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961), 399-404. The vapor canopy idea has met strong scientific resistance in recent years.
  61. Donald V. Etz, “The Numbers of Genesis V:3-31: A Suggested Conversion and Its Implications,” Vetus Testamentum 43 (1993): 178.
  62. Lloyd R. Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?” in A Gift of God in Due Season, ed. Richard D. Weis and David M. Carr (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press Ltd, 1996). By the new figuring, a Hebrew year would equal a lunar month. However, applying this idea to all of the numbers in Gen 5, Enoch would have been only 5 years old when his son Methuselah was born!
  63. Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987). cf. Gen 8:3-4.
  64. Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, trans. John J. Scullion S.J. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1974), 353.
  65. Cf. J. B. Payne, “Antediluvian Patriarchs,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979).
  66. Gerhard Larsson, The Secret System: A Study in the Chronology of the Old Testament (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1973), 59. Hasel concludes that the LXX and SP show schematization, but only the MT has a "non-schematic presentation of figures," Gerhard F. Hasel, “Genesis 5 and 11: Chronogenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings,” Origins 7 (1980).
  67. Larsson, The Secret System: A Study in the Chronology of the Old Testament, 8. This includes a lunar year of 354 days, an Egyptian solar year of 365 days and a "standard" year of 365.25 years.
  68. Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 114.
  69. W. Gunther Plaut, The Torah: A Modern Commentary: Genesis (New York: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1974), 55. An example he includes is from Gen 6:3: 120 yrs = 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5. Bullinger attributes this symbolic use to divine interest as seen in Dan 8:13 with the transliterated "Palmoni," Bullinger's stated angel whose divine function was numbers, Ethelbert W. Bullinger, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1894), 20. Christensen also follows such methods as Plaut. See Duane L. Christensen, “Did People Live to Be Hundreds of Years Old before the Flood? No,” in The Genesis Debate: Persistent Questions About Creation and the Flood, ed. Ronald Youngblood, ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986).
  70. Abraham Malamat, “King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and Biblical Genealogies,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (1968): 165. See also the discussion of "ten" in the Gen genealogies in M. Abot section 5, Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 685. Garrett also thinks this is deliberate, thus indicating redaction, Duane A. Garrett, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Bible (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000), 99. Hasel, though, disagrees depending on Noah's role in the Gen 11 genealogy. Therefore, he states that these two lists (Gen 5 and 11) don't show a 10-10 pattern but rather a 10-9 or 11-10 pattern, Gerhard F. Hasel, “The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11,” Origins 7 (1980): 60. Against his view would be a literary argument: Gen 11 is the line of Shem, as stated (Gen 11:10), therefore Noah does not need to be placed in the genealogy of Gen 11. What stands is ten genealogical names in both Gen 5 and 11.
  71. Larsson, The Secret System: A Study in the Chronology of the Old Testament, 16. He holds that there is support for this secret writing in the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, which contain astrological and chronological contents (17).
  72. Hasel, “The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11,” 64.
  73. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 134. He states this while agreeing that Barnouin shows impressive math and striking coincidences.
  74. This is the summary of Wenham, Ibid. See also Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 301-02.
  75. For example, some of the lengths of reign in the SKL are listed to be 28,800 yrs, 36,000 yrs, or 18,600 yrs. Basing these numbers off of 60, the solutions are as follows: 28,800 = 60² x 8; 36,000 = 60² x 10; and finally, 18,600 = (60² x 5) + (60 x 10). Bailey has a chart working out all of the calculations of three different texts of the SKL where he uses calculations based off of 60 and the symbolic number 7, in Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?” 90-91.
  76. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 133. See also Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 301 ft13.
  77. Hasel, “The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11,” 65. This writer agrees that the figuring does appear very forced with both authors' figuring.
  78. Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?” 94. He includes a chart calculating all of the numbers contained in Gen 5 (except the final ages of the patriarchs”the calculations shown could just be added together) by using combinations centered on the use of 60 and 7. All of the calculations yield their answers in months. He suggests that this is valid because 5 years (5 being another significant number) equals 60 months.
  79. John Walton, “The Antediluvian Section of the Sumerian King List and Genesis 5,” Biblical Archeologist 44 (1981): 207-08.
  80. Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilsgeschichte?” 92-93. These include the divine activity at the outset, the same number of generations, the use of 60, the special 7th characters, and the similar age decrease and increase.
  81. This will be shown later in the presentation of those who don't see a parallel between these texts.
  82. U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One: From Adam to Noah (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961), 254-59. He sees "very frequent" sexagesimal system use in Talmudic, midrashic, and biblical literature.
  83. Ibid., 263. Also seeing Gen 5 as being influenced by the Mesopotamian tradition in the ten generations, the ages, and the last hero figure, is Robert R. Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World (London: Yale University Press, 1977), 166.
  84. Walton, “The Antediluvian Section of the Sumerian King List and Genesis 5,” 207-08. He details a potential scenario on how the texts were originally related and subsequently came to look rather different. Using unearthed tablets from Ebla, he sets forth a case that the number system at Ebla was "decimal in its operations but sexagesimal in its symbolic notation (208)." Through all further implications of this, the basic end of the scenario is that there was scribal confusion resulting in a misinterpreting of one system of numbers for another. At that point, the numbers appeared radically different though started the same.
  85. For comments on the political nature of the SKL, see William W. Hallo, “Royal Hymns and Mesopotamian Unity,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 17 (1963).
  86. Gerhard F. Hasel, “The Genealogies of Gen 5 and 11 and Their Alleged Babylonian Background,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 16 (1978): 365-70.
  87. Richard S. Hess, “The Genealogies of Genesis 1-11 and Comparative Literature,” Biblica 70 (1989): 247-53. See also Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, 348.
  88. K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1966), 40.
  89. Joseph Jacobs, “Chronology,” in Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. Isidore Singer (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1903), 66-67.
  90. Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, 354.
  91. K. Luke, “The Genealogies in Genesis 5,” Indian Theological Studies 18 (1981): 228.
  92. Etz, “The Numbers of Genesis V:3-31: A Suggested Conversion and Its Implications,” 176.
  93. Ibid.: 181. For example, Adam's figures would look like this if his "plausible" begetting age was 52 and there were 20 years left until his death: 52 + 20 + 300 = 372, then 372 x 2.5 = 930 years, as is found in Gen 5.
  94. Dwight Wayne Young, “On the Application of Numbers from Babylonian Mathematics to Biblical Life Spans and Epochs,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 100 (1988): 331, 60.
  95. Ibid.: 343.
  96. Ibid.: 322. (Note the late dating”he assumes the priestly writing of Gen 5.) He works through the problem of the number 800 in another article, Dwight Wayne Young, “The Influence of Babylonian Algebra on Longevity among the Antediluvians,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 102 (1990): 326-28. This pivotal number in figuring the ages of Gen 5 can be resolved by understanding the importance of the numbers 30 and 20, which were taught at the elementary level in Mesopotamia. This resolution, then is 800 = (30 + (30 “ 20)) x 20.
  97. Hyman Gabai, Judaism, Mathematics, and the Hebrew Calendar (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 2002), 67.
  98. Ronald H. Isaacs, The Jewish Book of Numbers (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1996), 1.
  99. The New Complete Works of Josephus. From Antiquities 1.3.9§108.
  100. Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 41.
  101. Cf. Ibid. Cf. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 35.; Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One: From Adam to Noah, 253.; Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World, 164.; Hasel, “The Meaning of the Chronogenealogies of Genesis 5 and 11,” 69.; Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, 354.; Luther, The Creation: A Commentary on the First Five Chapters of the Book of Genesis, 437.; Donald L. Fowler, “History and Chronology of the Old Testament,” in Foundations for Biblical Interpretation (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 237.
  102. Cf. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 295.; John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989), 295.; Yigal Levin, “Understanding Biblical Genealogies,” Currents in Research: Biblical Studies 9 (2001): 33.
  103. Levin, “Understanding Biblical Genealogies,” 40. He also proposes that this idea was familiar to the intended readers so that there was no question about the use of a form of genealogy. See also Wilson, Genealogy and History in the Biblical World,166.
  104. Andrew P. Kvasnica, "The Ages of the Antediluvian Patriarchs" 2005 Student Academic Conference, Dallas Seminary < (accessed 19 July 2019)
  105. See Wikipedia “Sodom and Gomorrah” [1] and “Lot’s wife” [2]
  106. See "Jonah" [3]
  107. See "Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 33: Jonah and Micah" [4]
  108. "Jewish Holidays & Celebrations – List” <> (accessed 20 August 2019)
  109. Wikipeda, “Purim” <> (accessed 20 August 2019)
  110. William H.C. Propp, “Moses” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000) 921-22. For more on the historicity of Moses see Richard Elliot Friedman, "The Exodus" (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017) and William G. Dever, "What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel" (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2001)
  111. Written 20 August 2019. See Brant A. Gardner, “Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History” (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015); Brant A. Gardner, “Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon” 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007); John L. Sorenson, “Mormon’s Codex” (Provo and Salt Lake: BYU Religious Studies Center and Deseret Book, 2013); John Welch et al., “Knowing Why: 137 Evidences that the Book of Mormon is True” (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2017); Noel B. Reynolds (ed.), “Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins” (Provo: FARMS, 1997). We also shouldn't discount the role that other restoration scripture can play. See, for instance, the astounding evidence for the Book of Abraham. For evidence for the Book of Moses see Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, "In God's Image and Likeness" (Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2009).