3 Ne 15:11-16:3
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Relationship to Chapter 15b-16. The relationship of Verses 15:11-16:3 to the rest of Chapter 15b-16 is discussed at Chapter 15b-16.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Verses 15:11-16:3 include:
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- 3 Ne 15:12: Remnant of Joseph. Christ addressing the Nephites here as a remnant is significant, alluding to a covenantal promise first occurring in Deut 28:54. The very nature of the word remnant suggests an act of destruction. Although the destruction referred to in Deut 28 and most other Old Testament passages occurs in relation to an enemy nation or army (e.g. Deut 28:48ff), here the most recent destruction has been occassioned by the forces of nature. However, the fact that Christ says "remnant of Jacob" suggests that he is reminding them of the larger covenantal relationship he has with them.
- 3 Ne 15:22. The misunderstanding of those at Jerusalem on this point is interesting for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most fascinating one of all is the fact that the misunderstanding becomes here, for Christ, a sort of segue to discussing the intertwining roles of Israel and the Gentiles in the restoration of the Jews (under the Davidic covenant?). The misunderstanding is, in other words, of so radical a character that the Lord Himself sees it as deserving some sustained attention and explanation (not only during this discourse of the first day of visitation, but in another discourse of greater length the next day as well). There is the hint here that the misunderstanding itself is of importance, and some interpretive attention might therefore be paid to it.
- The misunderstanding is attributed in this text to "your [the Nephites'] brethren at Jerusalem" in verse 14. The phrase sounds felicitous, and, as an almost unconscious result, one tends to assume, while reading the content in 3 Nephi, that the "other fold" discourse was given to the Old World disciples. However, the hints in John's gospel suggest otherwise. The group he mentions immediately before Jesus delivers the discourse is one "of the Pharisees" (John 9:40), and the group he mentions immediately after the discourse--and more directly in connection with the discourse itself--is "the Jews" (a rather derogatory term throughout the gospel of John): "There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings" (John 10:19). However, in short, "your brethren at Jerusalem" might be read, it seems clear from these references that the best interpretation would be to understand "brethren" less as tying the Nephites/Lamanites to those at Jerusalem through the brotherly bonds of discipleship than as pointing explicitly to a perhaps unfortunately literal brotherhood of blood.
- However, all of this seems to clash with verse 22. Here "they" (apparently the same "brethren at Jerusalem") who "understood not" are also those who will do the "preaching." The suggestion is, then, that the disciples are in question. There are two (broadly speaking) ways to handle these apparently disparate texts. One might, on the one hand, argue that the two are manifestly different, that there is little or no reason to try to reconcile them (and this position might have two variations: the biblical text might arguably have been corrupted, or Christ might be taking some liberties in teaching the Nephites, since they are not acquainted with the Johannine text at all). On the other hand, one might argue that the texts can quite easily be reconciled, and only thus can they be understood (and this position might also have at least two variations: one might argue that since the Johannine text does not explicitly state to whom the discourse was delivered, it must have been given to the disciples, or one might argue--and this seems to be, not only the most fruitful, but the least apologetic explanation--that, just as "the Gentiles" seems to be of rather broad referential value, the same might be said of "your brethren"). In the end, the most appealing of these possibilities is the second variation of the attempt to reconcile the texts: Christ's words ("your brethren at Jerusalem") are not meant to pick out a specific group (whether of apostate Jews or whether of loyal disciples), but are meant to point to Jews in the broadest sense (as Nephi's phrase, "those who are at Jerusalem," often does).
- In other words, though the discourse might at first be understood to be discussing just a specific group of Gentiles and an even more specific group of Jews, in the end, it is clear that what Jesus is teaching about here is a very broad theme of Jews and Gentiles, the interplay between two whole classes of people rather than between two small groups extracted from larger classes. And, after all, one should probably expect this broadening of the theme: the words to follow in the present discourse seem to work on that more global scale.
- 3 Ne 15:23-24. Given the incredibly broad classes in question, discovered through exegesis of the previous verse, verse 23 might be read as further exploring the roles these classes play in the larger scope of the unfolding history of the Abrahamic covenant. On the one hand, the Jews are those who have the opportunity to "hear my [Christ's] voice." On the other hand, the Gentiles "should not at any time hear my [again, Christ's] voice," receiving the manifestation of the Savior rather "by the Holy Ghost." When this distinction is further clarified in verse 24, there is almost an exclusion at work: while the Jews have heard and seen, called the sheep, and numbered among those chosen (?), the absolute non-reference to the Gentiles in the verse appears rather ominous. The classification at work in these two verses, then, seems to suggest that the Gentiles are only to receive the presence of God (or at least of the Son) through a sort of derivative means: they are not to hear His voice, nor to see Him, but are to receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost. Whether or not this is disparaging--and whether or not this classification might fall apart someday--can only be seen as the discourse of the following chapter unfolds.
- However, the issue is not so simple. Christ is not referring again to the Jews of the Old World in verse 24, but is speaking directly to the Nephites and Lamanites (etc.) who have gathered to hear his word in Bountiful. In other words, beyond Jews and Gentiles, Christ offers a preliminary classification of a third broad group: the Israelites (elsewhere in the Book of Mormon, the Nephites/Lamanites are offered as a sort of summary or token for the whole of Israel; cf. 1 Ne 22:7). In short, in these two verses together, the Savior opens up the following chapter's words by presenting three groups of vital importance in the unfolding history of the Abrahamic covenant: the Jews, the Gentiles, and Israel. The fact remains that the Gentiles appear to be, to some extent, excluded, relegated only to the experience of the Holy Ghost. The Jews, for the moment, only hear the voice of the Christ. But Israel, if verse 24 is representative over against verse 23, hears, sees, becomes, and is numbered. The Jews are not, in the end, the privileged, but Israel (whatever that classification means for now).
- 3 Ne 16:1. The chapter break is somewhat unfortunate here, since the discourse is clearly continued without a moment's pause from chapter 15 (hence, see the commentary at the endof that chapter for context). Read in light of the last two verses of the last chapter, in fact, it is clear that this first verse is an extension of the categorization at work concerning Israel (as over and against the Jews and the Gentiles). While the Nephites and Lamanites have been, to some extent at least, privileged as a sort of representative token of Israel, the Lord offers other Israelite groups that make up the remainder of this broader, classified group. Tying this verse quite explicitly to the last verse of chapter 15 is the word "sheep," marking these others as bound up with the Lamanites and Nephites as those to whom the Lord Himself not only speaks but appears. But even as Christ binds them together, He separates them, since He has not "been to minister" to these. In other words, by binding the Nephites and Lamanites to these other "lost" groups of Israel, the lack of visitation (or manifestation) He mentions is, effectively, already overcome, decidedly to be undone: Christ binds Himself to visit the other "lost" groups precisely by binding the Nephites and Lamanites to these others as "sheep."
- v 1-2 Most members of the church are confused about the other sheep and the 10 tribes even after years of studying and mentioning them in Gospel Doctrine and seminary classes. How could Joseph have possibly understood all this at such a young age and made-up such a bold statement and attribute it to the mouth of Jesus?
- 3 Ne 16:2-3. The implications of verse 1 are drawn out explicitly in verses 2-3: since Christ has neither offered His voice nor His visible appearance to these other groups, He has "a commandment of the Father" to go to them and number them His sheep as well. All sheep will thereby be gathered into "one fold," even as there is "one shepherd." These statements of action finish off the classification of three major groups, a classification that began with 3 Ne 15:23: Israel (who apparently hears and sees), the Jews (who apparently at least hear), and the Gentiles (who neither hear nor see, but receive the ministration of the Holy Ghost). Christ has obviously spent--due to the audience--the most time explaining the classification of Israel.
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- 3 Ne 15:23: In verse 23 when Christ referred to the Gentiles that are not to hear his voice was He referring to specific group of Gentiles or to all Gentiles?
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