I beleive the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated, copied, and interpreted correctly. In the course of my studies of the Bible, I've discovered that it has a long and convoluted history. So, these are my discoveries and my musings of Christian history and doctrines.

Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Flaming Sword Part 4

Does reproving "with sharpness" mean to get mean, angry, to get into someone's face yelling and hollering? What examples do we have in the scriptures or that type of behavior? None that I am aware of. In fact, according the scriptures, the voice is so quiet and mild that it has to be repeated several times before it can even be understood. The first example of which is one in which Nephi and Lehi were cast into prison by the Lamanites and apostate Nephites:

"And it came to pass that there came a voice as if it were above the cloud of darkness, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.

And it came to pass when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul-

And notwithstanding the mildness of the voice, behold the earth shook exceedingly, and the walls of the prison trembled again, as if it were about to tumble to the earth; and behold the cloud of darkness, which had overshadowed them, did not disperse-

And behold the voice came again, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; and seek no more to destroy my servants. And it came to pass that the earth shook again, and the walls trembled.

And also again the third time the voice came, and did speak unto them marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls did tremble again, and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder." (1)
Note that this "mild" voice "pierced" them even to the very soul. Another example I like is when Christ visited the Americas in 3rd Nephi:

"And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.

And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:

Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name-hear ye him." (2)
Again, note that the voice was not a harsh voice, nor a loud voice, but a small voice, a mild voice. It wasn't till the third time before they understood it because they had to make a specific effort to try and understand, but note the piercing action accompanied with the burning action - the flaming sword. So what does it mean to reprove with sharpness? Perhaps it means that you get "straight to the point" with no beating around the bush; "get to the heart of the matter" or "cut to the chase" as it were.

"And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us." (3)
In doing more searches on the subject, it seems that the sword metaphor is used with us ordinary mortals along the same lines in terms of gossip and criticism.

"The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords." (4)

"Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity:

Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:

That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not." (5)
Ever hear of the phrase "he stabbed me in the back"? or "What a back stabber!".

1. Helaman 5:29 - 33, Book of Mormon

2. 3 Nephi 11:3 - 7, BofM

3. 1 Nephi 16:2 - 3, BofM

4. Psalms 55:21, King James version

5. Psalms 64:2 - 4, KJV

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Flaming Sword Part 3

Before I continue with my musings regarding the meaning of fire in the scriptures, I would like to backtrack a little here and get back to the sword issue. It has been "pointed" out (pun intended) to me by some of my readers that I left something out. And indeed I did. It seems that there is another layer of meaning behind the sword icon. Consider these scriptures:

"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:" (1)
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (2)
So we see here that the word of God is represented by the sword. Note how Paul describes the cutting off and separation action of the sword as a "dividing asunder" of soul and spirit, and bone and joints. Here again, a separation of spirit and body is hinted at. And we have other, indirect inferences to the sword and the word of God.

"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;" (3)
An effective sword is sharp is it not? So what does it mean to reprove with sharpness?

To be continued ...

1. Ephesians 6:17, King James vesion.

2. Hebrews 4:12, KJV.

3. Doctrine and Covenants, Section 121:43.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Flaming Sword Part 2

But the fire. The flaming sword. What's with that?

Let's describe fire. It is the rapid combination of oxygen with some other material, the process of which emits energy in the form of light and heat. But did the ancients know about oxygen? I don't know. But we all know that the ancients used fire for a variety of different things. Heat is and has been used for ages to cook food. In nature, the ores of metals such as iron, copper, silver, gold are found in impure states in that they are mixed with oxygen, sulfides, and the silicates of other metals. Heat is often used, along with a "chemical reducing agent", to extract the metal of interest from the ore and purify it. Fire was used in lamps and torches to light up the darkness of night. But fire can cause pain and suffering. Intense pain and suffering. It can even cause death.

Interestingly enough, fire is talked about in the scriptures in several senses. One sense is used to describe the inhabitation of God, where only the perfect and pure in heart can dwell.

"The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?

He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;" (1)
Fire is also referenced in the process of purifying the soul.

"Only the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead,

Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water." (2)

"And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel:" (3)

"The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." (4)

"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifer of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (5)
Last of all, fire or the flame means is used ... (to be continued)

1. Isaiah 33:14 - 15, King James Version.

2. Numbers 31:22 - 23, KJV.

3. Numbers 19:17, KJV.

4. Psalms 12:6, KJV.

5. Malachi 3:2-6, KJV.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Garden of Eden Symbolism - The Flaming Sword

What would be the symbolic meanings of the cherubim and flaming sword? What are the characteristics native to each? First, to describe the characteristics of a cherubim, we need to know what it is. I have done much research and discovered that nobody seems to really know what it is. It is my suspicion that somebody knows but they are not going public with it, but I will discuss my reasons for this on another day.

For today, then, let’s focus on the flaming sword. We don’t use swords in the kitchen to make dinner salads. It should be obvious that the sword could represent death just by it’s mere association with death. It is a weapon used to inflict death and inspires fear in those who are to be victims of it’s violence. A sword is used to cut. The term “cut off’ is often used in the scriptures to talk about death. It is used about 231 times in the Bible and 310 times in all the standard works combined. The first reference that we have of the term in reference to death is in talking about the great flood.

"And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth." (1)
Moreover, cutting something off is an act of separation. If you cut off your finger, you separate it from the hand and body. When Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, not only did they become separated from the presence of God, but they became subject to conditions of mortality and death.

1. Genesis 9:11, King James Version

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tips to Help in Understanding Biblical Imagery

Before diving headfirst into the meaning of Biblical symbols, in this case the cherubim and flaming sword, and other symbols used in the Adam and Eve story, I thought it might be useful to forth some ideas that I think are essential in helping to understanding Biblical symbols.

In the footnotes of The Lost Language of Symbolism, Gaskill quotes from a book called Dictionary of Biblical Imagery:

"Bible dictionaries and commentaries commonly err in … [that] some resources channel all their energies into uncovering the original context of an image, making sure that we get the literal picture but never asking what the feelings or meanings are elicited by the image. Images call for interpretation, and to leave biblical imagery uninterpreted is a great waste. The images of the Bible exist to tell us something about the godly life, something they will not do if they are allowed to remain as physical phenomena only. In short, a common failing of commentaries and dictionaries is that they do not adequately speak to the issue of significance (what an image signifies by way of meaning)." (1)

In another footnote, Gaskill quotes another scholar as writing:
"The significance of a symbol is based upon the literal or actual nature and characteristics of that which is being used as a symbol. A symbol is meant to represent something essentially different from itself. The link between that which is used as a symbol and that which is symbolized is the characteristic common to both." (2)
1. Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman. Dictionnary of Biblical Imagery (Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill., 1998), p. xiv-xv.
2. Conner, kevin J.. Interpreting the Symbols and Types (City Bible Publishing: Portland, Ore, 1992), p.13.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Garden of Eden Symbolism - The East. Part 2.

Doing a word search in my computerized scriptures program, I verified that east is the direction used most in the scriptures. According to Alonzo L. Gaskill, east represented God, "If something came from the east it was representative of the idea that it was of God, sent by God, or godly in nature. Both blessings and punishments were believed to have been sent from the east (i.e., from God). People from the east were often respected for their wisdom and perceived as being messengers from God." (1)

One thing in which I disagree with Dr. Gaskill is that he claims that Adam and Eve moved east after being expelled from the garden of Eden, and consequently their fall into mortality was a movement toward God. Where does Genesis say that? All Genesis says is that "God sent him forth from the garden" and "drove out the man" (2), but it doesn't say in what direction. Not east. Not west. Not south. Not north. It just doesn't say. All it says is that they were expelled.

Genesis does say that God placed the cherubim and flaming sword at the east end of the garden "to guard" or PREVENT THEM from partaking of the Tree of Life, which means they were PREVENTED FROM GOING EAST towards God. What's the tree of life? Who said "I am the light and the life of the world."?(3). The flaming sword is BETWEEN God and man. If the flaming sword is on the east end (in front of God, or in God's presence) and I walk in an eastward direction towards God the flaming sword is going to be in the way. I am going bump into that flaming sword that is set there in the east (in front of and before God's presence), which is set there to prevent me from going further east and from entering into God's presence; I am going to get burned and chopped up into mince meat. Somebody give this guy a compass. Where does it say that they were moving towards the flaming sword? It doesn't say that anywhere.

On the other hand, what is the meaning of west? If I face west, my back is to the east. Have you ever heard the phrase "He turned his back on me"? Does it not mean that somebody has ignored you, set at naught your counsel, or avoided you? And isn't that what Adam and Eve did when they partook of the forbidden fruit, ignored God's counsel to not partake of it? If east is the presence of God, then going west would mean going away from God's presence. Isn't that what happened when they were expelled from the Garden? They were being driven AWAY from His presence. Can you and I enter into God's presence any time we feel like it? No.

Not surprisingly, scholars noticed that references regarding the west are bad and undesirable, including sorrow, chaos, death, evil, dark, etc...(4) Note that God said to Adam "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; and in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." And to Eve He said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children..." If they are heading east as Gaskill claims then why are they experiencing conditions associated with the west? It is because they are in the west, and heading west, away from God's presence, with their back towards Him, symbolically speaking of course.

(West) Adam ---------- Flaming Sword (East) --- God

1. Gaskill, Alonso L., The Lost Language of Symbolism (Deseret Book: Salt Lake City, Utah), p. 150.

2. Genesis 3:23-24, King James Version

3. 3 Nephi 9:18, The Book of Mormon

4. The Lost Language of Symbolism, p. 166.

5. Genesis 3:16-17, KJV

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Garden of Eden Symbolism - The East. Part 1

The creation story in the book of Genesis states that "...the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed." (1) One day the thought came to me "East of what? On a round globe, of which the Earth is, without some point of reference, east could be anywhere." Then we read in the account of the creation that after Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they were sent out of the Garden of Eden.

"Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
So He drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."(2)
I thought "Why does God only guard the east end of the garden? If Adam wanted to, couldn't he circle back and come back in through the north, south or the west ends? Obviously, he couldn't if there were other barriers to prevent him from doing so, but the only barrier mentioned is the Cherubim and the flaming sword." Because of the ambiguous nature of these verses, I have come to the conclusion that the account is symbolic in nature, even if it really did happen. Rabbi's have long held that though the lives of the great patriarchs were real and really did occur, at the same time their lives were symbolic and prophetic in and of themselves. I remember hearing a Rabbi say that the stories of the Old Testament are more than quaint little stories - there is more information there that doesn't meet the eye. If the account of Adam and Eve is a parable or an allegory of sorts in addition to actually having had occurred, then it would be imperative to understand what meaning the people of that culture placed on the individual components of the parable.

A good place to start would be the whole concept of "East". The following definition concerning the east is found in Sir William Smith's Bible Dictionary:

"East. The Hebrew term kedem properly means that which is before or in front of a person, and was applied to the east from the custom of turning that direction when describing the points of the compass, before, behind, the right and the left representing respectively east, west, south and north. Job 23:8,9." (3)
If Smith is correct concerning the meaning of the term "east" and we apply it to the previously quoted verses, then we should understand that a garden was planted before God's face. Sending Adam towards the west would be synonymous with Adam being sent out of God's presence.

Justin Martyr (Apologist and martyr. Died circa 165 A.D.) writes in his letter entitled Dialogue with a Jew about how the scriptures are full of signs and symbols. Justin discusses several names by which God is known by in the Old Testament. He quotes an unspecified source as saying "His name is the East." (4) The translator or editor of Justin's work references the scripture Zechariah 6:12 which actually reads "...whose name is The BRANCH;..." in 5 different Old Testament translations that I've read.

I did a word search for the phrase "His name is the East" and also the words "name" and "east" together on the computer, but found no references anywhere in the Bible. Either Justin misquoted Zechariah or he is quoting a source that is not in our current Bible or there is a linguistic, cultural, or kabbalistic connection between the words "branch" and "east" that I am not aware of. In fact, our current King James version of the old testament comes from the Masoretic text and Justin accuses the Jews of leaving many things out of that particular translation when they translated the Old testament into Greek. He apparently was using the Septuagint. It is also quite possible that he is quoting a source that we do not have available to us today.

1. Genesis 2:8, King James Version

2. Genesis 3:23-24, KJV

3. Smith, William, Sir, 1813-1893. A Dictionary of the Bible (
Thomas Nelson Publishers: London, England), p. 154.
4. Dialog With Trypho, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Roberts, Alexander, D.D., and Donaldson, James, LL.D. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids Michigan), Vol 1, p. 252.