Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
Terms of speech called Hebraisms were commonly used in biblical times in a figurative way to emphasize facts more vividly. But it appears that Joseph Smith took these terms literally and built a whole new and exclusive theology out of them. The explanations in this chapter will make it easier for the reader to recognize errors in major Mormon teachings.
In biblical times the oldest son, or the first-born, was a VIP in that he enjoyed honour and special privileges that were not extended to any of his siblings (c/f Deuteronomy 21:17, etc.) So it became customary to use the term first-born to denote pre-eminence in rank.
For instance, in Exodus 4:22 God refers to the nation of Israel as His first-born to make the point that they were honoured above all the other nations, as they were His chosen people.
And in Psalm 89:27 He says of David, “I also shall make him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth.” But David was not God’s firstborn. Nor was he the first born child in his own family. He was the youngest. He wasn’t even the first king of Israel, Saul was. God was merely using the term first-born to emphasize the point that He was going to make David the most honoured out of all the earthly kings.
Colossians 1:15 refers to Christ as the first-born over all creation. But this doesn’t mean that He was God’s first-born child, and that the angelic beings and the rest of mankind were His younger brothers and sisters. As the previous scriptures clearly indicate, this isn’t what the Hebraism first-born, implies. In this context it has nothing to do with ancestry, but emphasizes that even during His incarnation (when he took on a human body), Christ had a special status of honour and pre-eminence over that of the whole of creation.
The term son, as used in biblical times, did not necessarily mean biological offspring, because this too was a Hebraism. And when used in this manner it denoted the characteristics or nature of the person concerned. An excellent example is Mark 3:17, where Christ called the brothers James and John “sons of thunder.” As the Bible doesn’t go into any detail here we can only assume that they had explosive tempers.
In the Old Testament, Judges 19:22, 1 Samuel 2:12, 2 Samuel 23:6, and 1 Kings 21:10 talk about “the sons of Belial.” Belial was an ancient pagan deity, c/f 2 Corinthians 6:15. And as Satan is the one who stands behind all false gods, the name Belial became synonymous with Satan. So referring to men as sons of Belial indicated that they were following Satan’s ways. In other words, they were demonstrating his nature and attributes. As 1 Samuel 2:12 puts it in the KJV, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.”
In just the same way, Christ’s title “the Son of God,” isn’t meant to imply that He was fathered by God through a marital relationship. No, it is a Hebraism that very clearly indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ revealed the nature of God. For instance, when Christ’s disciples were out fishing, He came to them, walking on top of the water, thereby displaying the abilities, power and attributes of God. They responded by saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33). That is how the Bible uses the Hebraism, “son.”
Don’t forget that Christ also called Himself “the son of man” (Matthew 8:20, 9:6, 10:23, etc.) But by so doing He wasn’t indicating that he had been sired by an ordinary man. He was merely signifying that although He had existed in the form of deity, in taking on the form of a man He had also taken on the nature and the frailty of a man. For instance he was subject to hunger, thirst, fatigue, and so on (c/f Philippians 2:6).
Then too in those days it was the responsibility of the father to train his sons. And when used as a Hebraism the word “sons” can also take on this connotation. For instance, when the Bible talks about “the sons of prophets,” this has nothing to do with their ancestry but merely indicates that these men were being trained and instructed by the prophets in ministerial service (c/f 2 Kings 2:7, 2 Kings 5:22, etc.)
Likewise, when the Bible refers to angels as “sons of God,” this doesn’t imply that they were the literal offspring of God as is taught by the LDS. Here again it merely indicates that the angels are ministers of God, who are under His instruction.
In the Bible, folk who did their best to follow God’s ways were referred to as “sons of God:”
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:35, NASB)
The LDS consistently misinterprets Hebrew terms of speech. This has culminated in their maintaining that we were all God’s children begotten in the normal manner that children are, in an earlier existence prior to the creation of the earth. But in direct contradiction, the Bible explains that only after we receive Christ as our Saviour, does He give us the power to become sons of God. In other words, through Christ’s saving power we are able to follow God and emulate His ways. This then qualifies us to be described by the Hebraism “sons of God:”
“But as many as received him [Christ], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, KJV).
When used as a Hebraism, the term “children” has a similar connotation to that of sons. And in this context, it does not indicate biological offspring either. It merely implies that they are exhibiting the same traits as does the person named. Here are some examples:
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be
called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, KJV)
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45, KJV)
Because an only son would be especially valued, the Bible uses the term only begotten son to indicate that the person concerned was special, unique and highly valued:
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Hebrews 11: 17-19, KJV)
Isaac was not the only son begotten by Abraham. He wasn’t even Abraham’s first-born son, Ishmael was. And Abraham also went on to father other sons after Isaac (c/f Genesis 25:1). The term only begotten son was used here to signify that Isaac was the special, unique son of Abraham. He was the son of the promise in that through his line would come the Redeemer of Israel.
And because Christ Himself is the special, unique, promised one, i.e. the Redeemer Himself, the Bible applies to Him the term only begotten son (Hebrews 11:17-19), in the same way as it did to Isaac.
However, the LDS wrongly interprets this Hebraism. They maintain that it implies that Christ was the only son that God had begotten in the flesh, through a physical relationship with Mary.
When used as a Hebraism, the term “father,” means one who is the origin or the source. In line with this the Bible sometimes refers to God as the Father of us all, because He was our creator: We had our source in Him. In chapter 1 verse 17 of his epistle, James calls God the Father of lights, as He created not only light itself, but also the light bearers, i.e. the sun, moon and stars (Genesis 1:1,14). And the Book of Revelation reveals that He is the origin of all light:
“And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them … (Revelation 22:5, NASU)
Then too, the term father was sometimes used to indicate a person who was the source, or the founder, of an occupation or a lifestyle:
“And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” (Genesis 4:20-21, KJV)
Another way the term “father” is used is illustrated in John 8:44, where Christ called Satan “the father of lies,” meaning that he is the source of lies, i.e. that his evil, perverse nature is personified in the spawning of untruths. Christ amplifies his statement by saying that whenever Satan speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature.
In the Hebrew culture it was also customary to give the title of “father” to a person who ruled over others and provided for their needs or protection; or who was the source of advice, wisdom, education and so on.
“Men, brethren, and fathers [i.e. those who
gave guidance, or provided for the needs of those less
fortunate], hear ye my defence which I make now unto
you.” (Acts 22:1, KJV)
“I was a father to the poor …” (Job 29:16, KJV) [i. e.Job provided for the needs of the poor]
[Concerning Joseph of the coat of many colours] “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh …” (Genesis 45:8, KJV)
So when Christ taught His disciples to pray to “our Father in heaven,” He wasn’t inferring that God had sired us all in a previous existence through cohabitation with his wives, as is claimed by the LDS. Not at all. Christ taught them to use the word “Father” as a term of honour and respect, in the context of God being our creator, our benefactor and the provider of all that we have.
The following article explains how the Bible uses symbols and rites to explain hard to understand spiritual concepts:
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