Talk:1 Ne 15:1-11

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I really like the exegesis added for verses 1-3, and this question deserves far more thought. Instances of the word "dispute" in the Book of Mormon: 1 Ne 15:2, 6; 2 Ne 10:9; Mosiah 27:15; Alma 2:5; 30:51; 51:4; Hel 8:12, 21; 3 Ne 6:10; 8:4; 11:22, 28; 18:34; 27:3-4; 4 Ne 1:2; Ether 12:6; Moro 8:4-5. Especially interesting here are the references that fall within the visitation of Christ to the Nephites and Lamanites, since it is clearly connected with another project I'd like to take up at some length: the contentions and disputations surrounding Abinadi's teachings. Much to think here. More soon. --Joe Spencer 19:46, 13 June 2007 (CEST)

I wonder if "dispute" could be a reference to a legal hermeneutic, in particular an approach to the scripture in which one prioritizes a dialectic discussion aimed at divining the scope of the legal duties that it imposes. One sees, I think, something like this approach in the NT, where the Pharisees try to have legal dialectics with Christ. I am just wandering if there is any basis for believing that that there is an older pre-Exilic tradition of legal argument over the scriptures? --Nathan Oman 22:05, 23 June 2007 (CEST)

Nate, I recently skimmed an interesting chapter in James Bruckner's Implied Law in the Abraham Narrative: A Theological Analysis (JSOTS 335). The 2nd chapter is "Methodology: A Plurality of Methods for Reading Legal Referents in Pre-Sinai Narrative" and gives, I think, a pretty good and recent overview of the literature regarding how to read legal terminology as used in Genesis, a very interesting and controversial literature of course, since the law only becomes big with Moses. If we follow the Mormon notion that Moses wrote some "original version" of the Pentateuch, then perhaps we should think of this legal terminology coming directly from Moses (but not earlier). Anyway, the entire book looks quite interesting--wish I had time to read it carefully.

Also, I think the Hebrew word natah is quite intriguing since it is often translated "wrest" (used as early as Exodus), and for the stretched ("stiff" in the small plates?) necks in Isa 3:16 ("not somuch to walk with the head held high, but rather to extend the neck in a manner that looks side to side and behind coyly to see if anyone notices them, as a potential sexual misbehavior" is what one of my Lexicons says...), not to mention the infamous "out-stretched hand" in Exodus and Isaiah (infamous b/c of Nephi's apparently midrashic spin on this doubling as an embracing gesture...).

Also, I remember reading that when Jesus says "ye do err" in the NT when others effectively wrest scripture, he is using the LXX word for "wander." This connection between the giving of the law and wandering--both as a form of punishment?--strikes me as quite interesting.

And I just noticed that ekklino, the LXX word translated "wrest" in the KJV of Deut 16:19, uses the same root as the "to and fro" staggering of the drunkard in Isa 24:20--interesting to me since Joe and I have been talking about drunkenness for a while now, esp. as it pertains to Isa 28-29 and associated BoM passages. --RobertC 23:23, 23 June 2007 (CEST)

Robert: Very interesting. I am wondering if it is possible to read the refernce to "disputing" as a reference to some sort of legal dialectic on the scriptures of the kind that we associate with the Talmud and Rabbinic Judiasm. I am just wondering if we have any basis for believing that such a formalized practice of legal disputes over the meaning of the text can be found in any pre-Exilic sources. --Nathan Oman 01:25, 24 June 2007 (CEST)

Yeah, there may be direct source evidence for this, but obviously nothing I'm aware of. I'm thinking of indirect linguistic/etymological evidence you might find, in which case you'd probably want to go back and reconstruct a history of legal terminology itself. What I think is interesting, esp. from a BoM perspective, is that we see an establishment of judges under Moses himself. Although I don't think this was really a rule of law type of society, I think the more diffuse power structure (to put it very crudely) relative to the later-established monarchy suggests a different understanding of mishpat (judgment/justice) than under the monarchy. In the Old Testament, it seems that the move toward a Talmudic tradition doesn't occur again until post-exile (perhaps the time of Nehemiah?), but in the Book of Mormon we see a rather detailed account of the shift away from centralized monarchical power. So, the understanding of judgment becomes less of something that only the king decides, but something that more localized judges decide. It is precisely this "space for judgment" that I think later became occupied by Talmudic interpretation etc. in the old word. My sense is that earlier, however, the written word or law was not given the same kind of prominent position as it was later. Rather, it was up to the judges or king to "exercise judgment/justice" directly, rather than simply trying to interpret laws (or precedent, of course). So it was most likely a hermeneutic of justice that was much less mediated by law or written codes. What is much less clear (at least to me) is the extent to which the codes, say, in Leviticus were taken. The BoM seems to suggest much more of a "spirit of the law" interpretation of them--which is loosely consistent with what I've read about mishpat (esp. in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) in the distance from, say, legal formalism--than what we see at the time of the Pharisees.

But of course I don't really know very much about any of this, it's the impression I've gotten from from a scattered sampling of commentaries, lexicons, etc. It sounds like a fascinating question though. I also wonder if you'd find any helpful sources in Noel Reynolds work on the establishment of judges in the BoM, the extent to which this is a completely new undertaking vs. a harking-back to, say, the kind of judges we read about in Numbers, or find sometime in later pre-monarchic Israel.... --RobertC 14:50, 24 June 2007 (CEST)

I really like the direction you are heading with this, Nathan. I imagine that you've already made note of the several echoes of such an experience later in the Book of Mormon, almost universally in a legal context: Abinadi ("What is Isaiah saying?"), Alma ("What does Genesis mean?"), and Amulek ("What did King Benjamin mean?"). Certainly one can ask a very broad question about this collection of legal situations: Why was interpretation of particular texts so fundamental to the legal situation? There are certainly cultural presuppositions at work there. The difficulty, as you say, is in trying to establish a genealogy. Might Isa 8:16-18 be a good place to start? There a prophecy is committed to writing precisely as an indictment, and Isaiah speaks specifically of the role it will play in later judgment. And the passage is universally held to be pre-exilic. But I doubt one would find too many helpful passages, given the history of the biblical text: so much of it seems to have been made public (and thus canonical) so late in history.... --Joe Spencer 15:31, 24 June 2007 (CEST)