Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Authorial Influence: Nephi and Jacob

As stated in the introduction (last entry), I wanted to look at specific words, phrases, or ideas unique to individuals that have a literary or spiritual effect on someone closely related. In today's entry, I'll explore the ideas that show Nephi's influence on Jacob. As an aside, I don't think this is a one-way relationship. Jacob must have influenced Nephi substantially, for Nephi includes five chapters of Jacob's words in the middle of his own record (2 Ne 6-10) and calls on him as a fellow witness of the Savior (2 Ne 11:3). But we'll leave that for another day.

Condescension of God

When Nephi asks to be shown the things his father had seen and to know the interpretation thereof, he is shown the birth of the Son of God to a fair virgin and asked, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” (1 Ne 11:16). Then, about to show Nephi the ministry of the Savior, the angel tells him, “Look and behold the condescension of God!” (1 Ne 11:26). This concept of the condescension of God obviously impresses Nephi, for he then uses it in his own ‘Psalm’:
2 Nephi 4:26
26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
The only other time this word shows up again in the Book of Mormon is when it is used twice by Nephi’s brother Jacob:
2 Nephi 9:53
53 And behold how great the covenants of the Lord, and how great his condescensions unto the children of men; and because of his greatness, and his grace and mercy, he has promised unto us that our seed shall not utterly be destroyed, according to the flesh, but that he would preserve them; and in future generations they shall become a righteous branch unto the house of Israel.

Jacob 4:7
7 Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.
That the word only shows up within the writings of two brothers demonstrates the influence Nephi’s teachings must have had on Jacob.

A whore of all the earth

The angel who is guiding Nephi through his vision refers to the great and abominable church as ‘the whore of all the earth’:
1 Nephi 14:10
10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
Nephi then immediately uses it in his narrative in the following verses to describe the activities and characteristics of this church:
1 Nephi 14:11–12
11 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.
12 And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.
Nephi then uses it to explain two chapters of Isaiah (1 Ne 20, 21—Isaiah 48, 49) about the scattering and gathering of Israel:
1 Nephi 22:13–14
13 And the blood of that great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall turn upon their own heads; for they shall war among themselves, and the sword of their own hands shall fall upon their own heads, and they shall be drunken with their own blood.
14 And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.
Nephi then uses it for the last time to describe the activities of the great and abominable church in the last days:
2 Nephi 28:18
18 But behold, that great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth, must tumble to the earth, and great must be the fall thereof.
The only other person in the Book of Mormon to employ this concept like this is Nephi’s brother Jacob, who explains or defines just who this ‘whore of all the earth’ or ‘great and abominable church’ really is:
2 Nephi 10:16
16 Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish; for they are they who are the whore of all the earth; for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.

The use of the phrase by Jacob shows the influence of his brother’s visions and writings on his own spiritual development and points to the literary richness in the Book of Mormon.

A blessed people

In his vision, Nephi is shown the Gentiles who are brought to the promised land. If these Gentiles will not harden their hearths, they can become a blessed people:
1 Nephi 14:1–2
1 And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks--
2 And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.
The only other person in the Book of Mormon to talk about the concept of a blessed people like this is Nephi’s brother Jacob. While talking about the wickedness of the Lamanites, he tells us that there will come a time when the descendents of the Lamanites will become a blessed people.
Jacob 3:5–6
5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father--that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.
6 And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people.
Jacob’s use of the same phrase shows the impact his brother’s teachings had upon him.

Persuading men to Christ

Nephi frequently uses the word 'persuade' as he talks about convincing others to believe in Christ.
1 Nephi 19:18
18 And I, Nephi, have written these things unto my people, that perhaps I might persuade them that they would remember the Lord their Redeemer.

1 Nephi 19:23
23 And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.

See also 1 Ne 3:21; 1 Ne 6:4; 2 Ne 25:16,23; 2 Ne 26:27; 2 Ne 33:4. Then Jacob uses it in the same context:
Jacob 1:7-8
7 Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.
8 Wherefore, we would to God that we could persuade all men not to rebel against God, to provoke him to anger, but that all men would believe in Christ, and view his death, and suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world; wherefore, I, Jacob, take it upon me to fulfil the commandment of my brother Nephi.
While this concept is also used by the editors of the Book of Mormon at the end of the record (For Mormon, see Mor 3:22; 5:14; Mor 7:16, 17. For Moroni, see Eth 4:11, 12; 8:26), there are no other non-editors who use this concept of 'persuading to come unto Christ.' The fact that the two authors who use it together are brothers argues for the literary/spiritual influence that they had on each other. You could also argue that the use of it by the two main editors at the end of the record demonstrate an influence on each other as well.

Nursing scattered Israel

Nephi quotes Isaiah 49 to the effect that gentile leaders would later assist scattered Israel:
1 Nephi 21:23
23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be
ashamed that wait for me.
Nephi then uses the word 'nurse' in the same context himself when explaining the Isaiah passages to Laman and Lemuel:
1 Nephi 22:6
6 Nevertheless, after they shall be nursed by the Gentiles, and the Lord has lifted up hIs hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their children have been carried in their arms, and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal;
It is interesting that Jacob then does the exact same thing. He uses the same quote from Isaiah 49 . . .
2 Nephi 6:7
7 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
. . . then explains it to his people using the same word in context, just as Nephi did:
2 Nephi 10:9
9 Yea, the kings of the Gentiles shall be nursing fathers unto them, and their queens shall become nursing mothers; wherefore, the promises of the Lord are great unto the Gentiles, for he hath spoken it, and who can dispute?
No one else uses this term at all in the Book of Mormon. The fact that Nephi and Jacob both quote the same passage from Isaiah and then explain it in similar fashion demonstrates the influence Isaiah had on them and that Nephi had on Jacob.

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