The LDS Inverse Old Testament, Part 5: Daniel to Malachi

The LDS Inverse Old Testament, Part 5: Daniel to Malachi

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Daniel is an apocalyptic book with some stories as well. Apocalypticism is a viewpoint that arose in Judaism after the Babylonian Captivity (probably due to influence in Babylon/Persia by Zoroastrianism) that is defined by the idea of a great cosmic war between good and evil with a time-line from a beginning to an end. Named for the Greek term "apokálypsis", which means "uncovering from", the idea is that the secret purposes of universal forces have been revealed. Apocalyptic literature portrays God as the highest representative of good battling against the forces of evil (often personified in the form of great earthly rulers or even a supernatural equivalent to God, such as the devil). This war has echoes in the physical world around us in the forms of injustice, violence, and wealth disparity, all of which will experience a great reversal after the war ends and those who were upheld by the evil side are brought down low and the righteous oppressed are upheld. After the Babylonian captivity, apocalypticism became an energetic thread of Jewish thought influencing such famous thinkers as the author of Daniel, the Essene community that wrote and hit the Dead Sea Scrolls, John the Baptist, the historical Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, and the John who wrote the book of Revelation (actually called "apokálypsis" in Greek).

The few parts of Daniel that the Latter-day Saints are familiar with only just barely cover any of these issues. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands that will destroy the nations and fill the whole world is an apocalyptic vision that fits right in line with other writings. The Latter-day Saints have appropriated themselves into the apocalyptic time-line such that they are preparing the world for the final upheaval, and as such view themselves as that stone. Or at least they used to. This interpretation has been removed from the Seminary Scripture Mastery verses for LDS youth to memorize, videos expressing the idea have been abandoned to be forgotten in old Stake Center libraries, and on the whole the message has become far more non-denominational in recent years. But the Sunday School manual has become more and more of an antiquated relic from the early 1990s and is unrepentant about have en entire lesson on the subject (with some random attention given to the bizarre "Ancient of Days" = Adam interpretation thrown in). Unfortunately, because of this, no attention is given to the rest of Daniel, leading to the false idea that the book of Daniel is a collection of stories of faith instead of a collection of stories where good overcomes evil through supernatural means in a reflection of the apocalyptic visions that cover the non-narrative parts of the book. King Nebuchadnezzar, as one of the world's supreme monarchs, is made insane and acts like an animal for "seven times" in similitude to how the rulers of this world will eventually be overthrown and brought low. Daniel sees visions of beasts and horns and fights. He sees a vision of Alexander the Great and the various Greek rulers that arose after his death, including Antiochus Epiphanes,the infamous ruler oppressing the Jewish nation in 1 Maccabees, followed by the arrival of the Messiah to overthrow the nations oppressing the righteous people of the earth (which gives something of a clue as to when Daniel was probably written as we can match the vision against history rather well up to the point where the Messiah comes, which hasn't happened yet even over two thousand years later).

Hosea and Amos as prophets who pronounce doom on the northern kingdom are not really viewed much in their context. In Hosea a lot of attention is given to Hosea's forgiveness of his adulterous wife, symbolic of Yahweh's forgiveness of his people who have gone after other gods. Yet the Northern Kingdom is utterly destroyed by the Assyrians; there are no more Israelites that can be brought back into a worship of Yahweh.

The minor prophets are strongly present in the Inverse Scriptures, yet again showing the preference for narrative over poetics and prophecy for the Latter-day Saint Sunday School bible. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah are present almost completely in the Inverse Bible.

The presence of Malachi is an interesting combination of items. The book begins with a condemnation against Judah for not offering their sacrifices correctly and promising their destruction because of it. It then moves on to speak against the priests who offer sacrifices and who have married foreign wives and pronouncing doom. My guess is that these chapters aren't meant to be read in combination with the following chapters because they contextualize those chapters to the Jerusalem Temple and the rituals of it.

Perhaps it is a small blessing that the minor prophets are present in the Inverse Bible and not in the Sunday School Bible. Mormon doctrine is strongly apocalyptic and tends to reinterpret all prophecies of doom by various Hebrew prophets as relating to the modern world the LDS Church inhabits. If these books were to be studied in an LDS Sunday School the ancient, Near Eastern context would almost certainly be destroyed beyond all recognition as various calamities prophesied upon Israel and Judah are extended as prophecies against modern, First-World countries.

This ends my read-through of the Inverse Bible. The only thing left in this series is a final post detailing my conclusions in pursing this study. See you there!

Notable Verses and Pericopes

Daniel

  • Nebuchadnezzar's first-person account (so you know it must be true!) of how he had a dream about a tree and went crazy for "seven times" (Daniel 4:1-37)

  • Daniel sees the Ancient of Days (Adam, according to LDS thought) judging millions from the books; he's described in godlike terms that might cause someone to think that Adam is God or something silly like that (Daniel 7:9-10)

Joel

  • Woe to those who desire the day of the Lord! (Amos 5:18) (see also Isaiah 5:18-19)

Obadiah

  • Saviors on Mount Zion, in context, rescue the land by destroying their neighbors. Or through doing their temple work, I guess. (Obadiah 1:17-21)

Habakkuk

  • Habakkuk doesn't understand being a prophet to an all-powerful deity in a world where evil exists (Habakkuk 1:1-4)

Haggai

  • Haggai tells Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah after the return from exile, that in only a "little while" God will shake all the nations and the Temple will be awesome again, with his chosen servant Zerubbabel as his signet ring (Zerubbabel pretty much disappears from history after this point) (Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23)

Zechariah

  • The only possible reference to Satan as a personified representative of opposition to God as the high priest, Joshua, is seen as standing between an angel of God and the Satan. (Zechariah 3:1-5)

  • Zerubbabel is against proclaimed to become so great and famous. (Zechariah 4:6-10)

  • God is so great: he makes the young men cheerful with beer, and the young women with new wine (which is not the same as grape juice, sorry) (Zechariah 9:17)

Tom Doggett

Tom Doggett

I'm a programmer, Ancient Greek reader, feminist, spouse and partner, and a dad.

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