Learning of the Jews
2 Nephi 11: 2 RE
“For I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews, and I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets. And there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews.”
Nephi’s eyes beheld the things of the Jews, and because he beheld the things of the Jews he had first hand, first person knowledge of Jewish learning and its effect on the religious mind and in turn the effect of that mind upon correct worship and correct religious belief. Nephi says that the “Jews do understand the things of the prophets”. This statement, outside the context of what Nephi says before and after it, appears to be Nephi endorsing the “learning of the Jews”. We will look deeper to see what Nephi says before and after this statement, and most importantly we will look at what Nephi does with his firsthand knowledge of what the learning of the Jews leads to and how to avoid those negative consequences.
As an aside, the scriptures are not a series of sound bites that can be understood in a vacuum or in isolation from the entirety of the Word of God. Scripture clarifies, often seemingly contradicts itself, and qualifies meaning based upon the context of ideas and thoughts God is attempting to communicate to mankind in a particular moment in particular contexts to teach lessons, spread across the vastness of the scriptural texts, and often hidden in parables and mystery writing. If you remove this statement or any other from the context and complete meaning of the passages in which they are placed, meaning can be corrupted or confounded. What does Nephi mean when he writes about Jewish understanding of prophets? Is it an endorsement of Jewish learning? As a ruler, Nephi is given of God to be the one authorized to measure or weigh things and to draw out truth or discern between two or more things. How does Nephi measure or weigh the learning of the Jews?
Let’s look deeper at the words: “there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews.” Let’s parse this. This is not an endorsement of Jewish learning. It is simply saying that no one understands the prophecies the same way the Jews understand the prophecies. There is no validation of the learning of the Jews here, only a statement that Jews understand like Jews understand, and if you are not a Jew you will not understand like they do unless you are taught like a Jew. There is no implicit validation of the learning of the Jews in Nephi’s statement.
It’s like saying, Englishmen understand the things of prophets like Englishmen understand things, and unless you are a Englishman or have been taught like a Englishman, you will not understand the prophets like a Englishman. There is no value attached to the learning except to say that unless you understand things a certain way you won’t understand like those who understand them that way. Jews understand the prophets like Jews or those who have been taught like Jews. That’s it. Jews get Jewish learning that non-Jews don’t get. Whether Nephi endorses and vouches for the learning of the Jews is not found in this statement alone about Jews understanding prophets, rather, Nephi’s endorsement or ruling, is found in what he states in the verses around this one, and in what he does! Nephi is being clever, and how we read and interpret the words tells God about what is in our hearts. Will we follow Nephi’s example and instruction? Or will we seek the same learning of the Jews that has led to captivity and the Judgement of God?
What source for your understanding do you seek? For Gods ways are not man’s ways and true understanding of the meaning of the Word requires the honest seeker of Gods Truth to seek Gods ways and accept God’s definitions. The greatest and most trustworthy source of the authentic Word of God that is True and Faithful to Gods mind, way, and definitions, is found in the Book of Mormon. If more people trusted the meanings given us in this book contention would disappear from among those willing to do so. Don’t contend against the Word of God. Don’t do that. But if you do, understand that Nephi is warning you that to do so is to risk God’s judgement and you are going to find yourself in the dark and worshipping abominations before Him.
I gave a talk on confounded language that addresses this issue, go listen to it, or read it for more detail on perception and understanding according to Gods ways. This is a continuation of that topic and was edited out because of time restrictions put upon me in giving that talk. What is your source for truth? The learning of the Jews? The Holy Spirit? The Book of Mormon? What is Nephi, who saw our day, attempting to communicate to us? That we must understand the prophets like Jews? If that is the case we need Jewish commentators and scholars to come and teach us and educate us in Jewish understanding so that we “get it”. If the learning of the Jews is not what Nephi is testifying of, what is Nephi’s solution to fixing our awful situation?