From Feast upon the Word (http://feastupontheword.org). Copyright, Feast upon the Word.
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 Verse 1
- What does it mean for God to "come down"?
- What does the plural phrase "chidren of men" mean and how might it be related to the identical (in Hebrew) but singular title "Son of Man" which is later used for Christ?
- If Christ comes down "among" the children of men, is that how he attains the title "Son of Man"?
- Who are "his people" that God will come down to redeem? What makes them "his"?
- Is there a difference between "the children of men" and "his people"?
 Verse 3
- Here it states that Christ is the Father because He was conceived by the power of God. How does this make Christ more of a father rather than a son if He was begotten of another?
- In verse 3 "God" must refer to God the Father--the father of Jesus Christ. Why doesn't Abinadi give God the Father a title that would distinguish him from the many names he is using for Jesus Christ in these verses?
 Verse 4
- Does the title "the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth" refer to Christ? If so, why does Abinadi apply this title to him?
- With our understanding of the Godhead, this seems like a really complicated way to explain things. Did Abinadi have the same knowledge about the Godhead that we now do? If so, why did he choose this way of explaining things?
 Lexical notes
 Verse 1
- "Children of Men" This phrase (HEB Ben Adam) occurs only sparingly in most of the Old Testament--only 9 times (Gen 11:5,1 Sam 26:19, 2 Sam 7:14, 1 Kings 8:39, 2 Chronicles 6:30, Proverbs 15:11, Lamendations 3:33, Eze 31:14, Daniel 2:38) outside of the 14 times in Psalms. Its primary use in Psalms may indicate that it perhaps has an unrecognized ritual context. In particular, it occurs in the early Davidic Psalms and four times in Ps 107, presumably written after the Exile for the dedication of the Second Temple, which has the theme "The LORD delivers from trouble".
- This phrase is much more common in the Book of Mormon, where it occurs 7 times in 2 Nephi 27, and more especially in King Benjamin's discourse about Christ (Mosiah 3). Its usage here by Abinadi is practically identical to that used at roughly the same time by King Benjamin, where he declares that "For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles" (Mosiah 3:5). Both statements are in turn closely related to Nephi's account of his vision, where he reported that "I looked, and I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men" (1 Ne 11:24)
- The singular version of this phrase (son of man) is very common in the OT after the exile, occuring 108 times. This phrase is a title for the Messiah/Christ that some scholars such as Margaret Barker believe date to First Temple practices preserved in apocryphal literature such as 1 Enoch that pre-date more extensive usage in the New Testament.
 Verse 2
- "Will of the Father." In the small plates, the Son is referred to as the son of the Father or the son of God in several places: 1 Ne 11:21; 1 Ne 13:40; 2 Ne 25:16, 19; 2 Ne 31:11-14, 18, 21; Jacob 4:5. However, in the large plates, there is only one previous reference to "the Son of God," in Mosiah 3:8, and this is followed by the modifier, "Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things," which is similar to the wording here. Even if Nephi thought about the Father and the Son as separate persons, it is not clear whether Abinadi would have had this understanding. Notice also that in a subsequent story, Amulek answers affirmatively when Zeezrom asks, "Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father" in Alma 11:38ff. Later, in 3 Nephi, the Son seems to refer to himself as the Father, or in terms of the Father ("of the Father because of me", 3 Ne 1:14) early on but, after his resurrection, he refers to himself as being "with the Father", in a term that seems to imply distinction, although "in the Father" (3 Ne 9:15).
 Setting of the Discourse
Many readers consider the first verses of this chapter among the most confusing in the Book of Mormon. By way of context, this discourse follows immediatly upon Abinadi's full quotation of Isa 53, and should be seen as an explanation of Isaiah's song of the Suffering Servant. In particular, one way to read Abinadi's commentary here of Isa 53:2 (Mosiah 14:2), is to make the following pronouns substitutions: "For he [Christ] shall grow up before him [Elohim] as a tender plant" (see Nyman and Tate, pp. 165-166). In Mosiah 12:21ff, the priests of Noah quoted Isa 52:1ff; then in Mosiah 12:28ff, the priests respond to Abinadi's question about what they are teaching the people by claiming to teach the law of Moses which they later claim brings salvation (Mosiah 12:32). In response, Abinadi chastises the priests for perverting, failing to understand, and not teaching the law of Moses. In Mosiah 12:27ff, Abinadi begins to explain that the priests were wrong for believing that the law of Moses brings salvation. Abinadi's discussion of Isa 53, then, is given in response to this question about the purpose of the law of Moses. In returning to the very passage the priests quoted to Abinadi earlier (or one that was most likely in very close proximity to the one the priests quoted, in whatever scroll or book the priests were reading from), Abinadi shows the priests how they failed to "appl[y] their hearts to understanding" (Mosiah 12:27) by explaining how Isaiah's words should've been (or at least could've been) understood in terms of the Son's crucial role in bringing salvation.
 Verse 1
Abinadi's discourse—or really, the whole situation in which Abinadi delivers his discourse—is riddled with direct quotation, something that happens relatively infrequently in the large plates. This verse, as in every other instance of quotation connected with Abinadi, closes off the quotation with a narrative note of return: "And now Abinadi said unto them..." (cf. 12:25, 37; 13:25). In all previous instances, Abinadi turns immediately to comment upon, or at least to refer to, the texts just quoted, and one might be justified in assuming that something quite similar is at work here: Abinadi's words in this chapter would likely best be read as a kind of commentary on Isaiah 53, albeit a rather complex and unsystematic commentary (that is, it is not a verse-by-verse commentary as one commonly finds today).
Perhaps this is confirmed by the phrasing of Abinadi's first words as recorded in this first verse: "I would that ye should understand...." It would appear that Abinadi knew how Isaiah's words would be interpreted, and so his first words of commentary—though they do not amount to direct commentary at all—anticipate a misunderstanding. Indeed, this first verse might be read as Abinadi's laying out his own presuppositions (quite authoritatively): there is a truth, undiscussed in the text in question, through which the text is to be read. Strictly speaking, of course, this is "bad literary technique," but perhaps it lends some credibility to readings of these verses from a post-First-Vision standpoint. At any rate, it is quite clear that Abinadi announces a kind of programmatic reading: Isaiah 53 is here to be read from the standpoint of one who believes in a still-to-come divine redemption, a condescension through which salvation is to come. This presupposition makes all the difference, and it itself deserves careful interpretation.
The presupposition, in short: "God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people." On the surface, this sentence would not have seemed too radical to Israelite ears (cf. Ex 6:6: "I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments"). And yet it is clear that Abinadi expects Noah's priests not to bring this idea to bear on their reading of Isaiah. It would seem, then, that though Abinadi hardly introduces a radical idea in suggesting that "God himself shall come down ... [to] redeem his people," he recognizes that this idea would never be attached to Isaiah 53 in any kind of traditional reading.
- Nyman, Monte and Charles D. Tate. Mosiah: Salvation Only through Christ (link is to the relevant chapter, "Abinadi's Commentary on Isaiah," in GospeLink).
- Millet, Robert. Jesus Christ, Fatherhood and Sonship of. Millet explains here references in the Book of Mormon to Jesus Christ as the Son and the Father and explains Jesus's role in each case.\
- Kathryn Lynard Soper has posted some thoughts on verses 1-11 of this chapter at the T&S blog here.
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