Saturday, August 11, 2007

“Born of Mary, at Jerusalem”

One criticism that is sometimes made of the Book of Mormon relates to the following verse, which seems to be saying that Jesus will be born in Jerusalem, instead of Bethlehem, where the Bible says He was born:

Alma 7:

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

And LDS have not always been very good at knowing how to answer it. The answer to it, however, is easy! As we study the Book of Mormon carefully, we note that the expression, “land of Jerusalem,” is frequently used by Lehi and his immediate family to indeed refer to the ancient city of Jerusalem and its suburbs, where they had originally come from. Here is a selection, not a complete list:

1 Nephi 3:

9 And I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, with our tents, to go up to the land of Jerusalem.

1 Nephi 3:

10 And it came to pass that when we had gone up to the land of Jerusalem, I and my brethren did consult one with another.

1 Nephi 7:

2 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him that I, Nephi, and my brethren, should again return unto the land of Jerusalem, and bring down Ishmael and his family into the wilderness.

1 Nephi 16:

35 And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father, and because of their afflictions in the wilderness; and they did murmur against my father, because he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, saying: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.

1 Nephi 17:

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.

As the subsequent history of the Nephites develops, however, we find that the expression, “land of Jerusalem,” begins to be used by the Nephites to refer to the whole territory from which their ancestors came form, meaning the whole of Palestine. Bear in mind that the Nephites lived in a completely different continent, and had no direct contact with, nor acquaintance of the geography and topography of Palestine. The following are some typical examples, not a compete list:

1 Nephi 18:

24 And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.

2 Nephi 1:

1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of teaching my brethren, our father, Lehi, also spake many things unto them, and rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.

2 Nephi 1:

3 And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.

Jacob 2:

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

Mosiah 1:

11 And moreover, I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord.

Mosiah 7:

20 And again, that same God has brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, and has kept and preserved his people even until now; and behold, it is because of our iniquities and abominations that he has brought us into bondage.

Alma 7:

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

Alma 10:

3 And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.

Alma 36:

29 Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day; and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity.

Helaman 16:

19 Yea, why will he not show himself in this land as well as in the land of Jerusalem?

3 Nephi 16:

1 And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.

Mormon 3:

18 Yea, behold, I write unto all the ends of the earth; yea, unto you, twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged according to your works by the twelve whom Jesus chose to be his disciples in the land of Jerusalem.

19 And I write also unto the remnant of this people, who shall also be judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land; and they shall be judged by the other twelve whom Jesus chose in the land of Jerusalem.

Note in particular how in the lasts couple of verses it even says that the Twelve Apostles of the Lord were chosen “in the land of Jerusalem,” thus making it clear that by that is meant the whole of area or part of the world where their ancestors had come from, meaning the Palestinian territories, not the actual city of Jerusalem.

We can dig deeper, and find that the expression “at Jerusalem,” or even just “Jerusalem,” is often used in a context implying the same thing:

2 Nephi 9:

5 Yea, I know that ye know that in the body he shall show himself unto those at Jerusalem, from whence we came; for it is expedient that it should be among them; for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.

2 Nephi 10:

5 But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.

Helaman 16:

18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come; if so, and he be the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, as it has been spoken, why will he not show himself unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Jerusalem?

3 Nephi 15:

14 And not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem.

3 Nephi 16:

4 And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, . . .

3 Nephi 17:

8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.

4 Nephi 1:

31 Nevertheless, and notwithstanding all these miracles, the people did harden their hearts, and did seek to kill them, even as the Jews at Jerusalem sought to kill Jesus, according to his word.

3 Nephi 21:

26 And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.

In all of the above, the context makes it clear that by “Jerusalem” is meant the entire territory of Palestine from which their ancestors had come from, among whom Jesus had ministered. But the last verse is the most revealing of all. It depicts all of the lost tribes of Israel as having been led away out of Jerusalem, making it clear beyond any controversy that by that term is meant the whole of Palestine, not just the city of Jerusalem. Thus, far from casting doubt on the truth of the Book of Mormon, this extraordinary internal consistency is further evidence of its truth.

Revised February 2008

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