“If Christ Had Not Come into the World”

Nicholas J. Frederick

Nicholas J. Frederick, “'If Christ Had Not Come into the World',” in Abinadi: He Came Among Them in Disguise, ed. Shon D. Hopkin (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018), 117–138.

Nicholas J. Frederick was an assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was written.

The study of the relationship between different texts is commonly known as intertextuality. The idea behind intertextuality is that texts can communicate meaning through the adoption and adaption by one text of words, images, and phrases that refer explicitly or implicitly to another text. Thus, “intertextuality” is simply “the literal presence (more or less literal, whether integral or not) of one text within another.”[1] Julia Kristeva famously stated that every text is actually a “mosaic of quotations,” whether that text is nonfiction, fantasy, or, in the case of the Bible or the Book of Mormon, scripture.[2] The Book of Mormon, filled with hundreds of quotations from and allusions to the King James Bible (KJV), provides a fertile field for an exploration and consideration of the usefulness of intertextuality.[3] The thesis of this paper is that intertextuality plays a valuable role in reading the Book of Mormon critically. This thesis will be explored through a close, intertextual comparison of New Testament passages with six key verses in Abinadi’s speech: Mosiah 16:6–11.[4]

Mosiah 16:6–11—Overview and Aims

A crucial component of Abinadi’s speech before the priests of King Noah concerns the condescension of God. Beginning in 13:34, Abinadi engages in a lengthy elaboration of this doctrine, one that includes a chapter-length quotation from Isaiah 53 as well as a discussion of how Jesus Christ can be both Father and Son.[5] Toward the conclusion of this rich and complex apologia, Abinadi presents his views on the resurrection of the dead, which he interprets as the logical outcome or consequence of the act of condescension. The crux of his insightful argument is recorded in Mosiah 16:6–11, one of the Book of Mormon’s most explicit statements on the necessity of the Resurrection. (I have isolated the intertextual language, discussed below, in bold, italics, and underlining.)

And now if Christ had not come into the world—speaking of things to come as though they had already come—there could have been no redemption.[6] And if Christ had not risen from the dead or broken the bands of death—that the grave should have no victory and that death should have no sting—there could have been no resurrection. But there is a resurrection. Therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. He is the light and the life of the world, yea, a light that is endless that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death. Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God to be judged of him according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil: if they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them—which is damnation[7]

The intertextual nature of Mosiah 16:6–11 becomes apparent through the borrowing of three specific New Testament passages, cited below, with the language common to both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon bolded:

  1. 1 Corinthians 15:14, 53–55 (bolded):

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. . . . For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?[8]

  1. John 1:4–5 (italicized):

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.[9]

  1. John 5:29 (underlined):

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

With the relationship between Abinadi’s words and the New Testament in mind, we can now

turn our attention to a closer analysis of these passages.

Mosiah 16:6–7 and 1 Corinthians 15:12–19—Hypothetical Propositions

Mosiah 16:6 begins its intertextual engagement with 1 Corinthians 15 through a hypothetical

proposition:

And now if Christ had not come into the world—speaking of things to come as though they had already come—there could have been no redemption.

Abinadi repeats the hypothetical proposition in Mosiah 16:7:

And if Christ had not risen from the dead or broken the bands of death—that the grave should have no victory and that death should have no sting—there could have been no resurrection.

Abinadi’s rhetorical strategy in Mosiah 16:6–7 closely mirrors Paul’s own words in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19.[10] Throughout this lengthy chapter, Paul attempts to convince the Corinthians of the reality of the Resurrection. In order to accomplish this, he poses a series of conditions constructed around a series of hypothetical protases (“If” statements) and apodoses (“Then” statements):[11]

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead

[then] how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? (15:12)

But if there be no resurrection of the dead

then is Christ not risen: (15:13)

And if Christ be not risen

then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (15:14)

if so be that the dead rise not

[then] we are found false witnesses of God; (15:15)

For if the dead rise not

then is not Christ raised: (15:16)

And if Christ be not raised

[then] your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (15:17)

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. (15:18)

If in this life only we have hope in Christ

[then] we are of all men most miserable. (15:19)

Through this series of carefully constructed quasi-syllogisms, Paul attempts to convince his Corinthian audience of not only the reality but the necessity of resurrection, a difficult doctrine that clashed with certain Hellenistic notions such as the immortality of the soul.[12] Simply put, how can the Corinthians express a belief in the Resurrection of Jesus yet deny the doctrine of resurrection? What is the point, Paul asks, of believing in Christ if he is not risen from the dead? To hold a belief in the redemption of sins through Jesus yet deny his bodily resurrection is illogical and nonsensical, a point Paul drives home with his argumentum ad absurdum in 1 Corinthians 15:17–18.[13]

Abinadi employs similar deliberative rhetoric in Mosiah 16:6–7, where he posits two conditions, both of which have a protasis:

And now if Christ had not come into the world (16:6)

And if Christ had not risen from the dead or broken the bands of death—that the grave should have no victory and that death should have no sting (16:7)

and an (implied) apodasis:

[then] there could have been no redemption. (16:6)

[then] there could have been no resurrection. (16:7)

While Abinadi’s probatio or “proof” is shorter than Paul’s (two conditional statements as opposed to seven), the intent is similar, namely to illustrate the irrationality of his opponents’ position. How can the priests of Noah insist upon salvation while rejecting the notion of the condescension of God? Like the Corinthians, who accept the divinity of Jesus yet deny the Resurrection, the position of the priests of Noah appears illogical and nonsensical. Abinadi’s deliberative strategy reduces the complex issue of salvation through the law of Moses to a simple sine qua non—without the reality of Jesus Christ’s condescension there could be no salvation from spiritual death, and without his subsequent resurrection, there could be no salvation from physical death. Humanity, due to their “carnal and devilish” nature (Mosiah 16:3), would be void of all hope in respect to their future state. In order for humanity to enjoy a full measure of happiness following their death, death must be conquered—there is simply no other way.

Mosiah 16:7–8 and 1 Corinthians 15:53–55—The Conquest of Death

Mosiah 16:7–8 add a further layer of complexity to this intertextual analysis, due specifically to Paul’s introduction of Old Testament quotations in 1 Corinthians 15:53–55, bringing three texts into play. First, Abinadi’s words to the priests of Noah:

And if Christ had not risen from the dead or broken the bands of death—that the grave should have no victory and that death should have no sting—there could have been no resurrection. But there is a resurrection. Therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. (Mosiah 16:7–8)

Now, Paul’s statement regarding the conquest of death in 1 Corinthians 15:53–55, first in the King James translation and then in the Greek:

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:54–56)

Δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀθανασίαν.* ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν, τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος· κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος. ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος; ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον;[14]

In these verses Paul appears to be quoting Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14:

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 25:8)[15]

κατέπιεν ὁ θάνατος ἰσχύσας, καὶ πάλιν ἀφεῖλεν ὁ θεὸς πᾶν δάκρυον ἀπὸ παντὸς προσώπου· τὸ ὄνειδος τοῦ λαοῦ ἀφεῖλεν ἀπὸ πάσης τῆς γῆς, τὸ γὰρ στόμα κυρίου ἐλάλησεν.[16]

and

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. (Hosea 13:14)

ἐκ χειρὸς ᾅδου ῥύσομαι αὐτοὺς καὶ ἐκ θανάτου λυτρώσομαι αὐτούς· ποῦ ἡ δίκη σου, θάνατε; ποῦ τὸ κέντρον σου, ᾅδη; παράκλησις κέκρυπται ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν μου.

As is often the case when he referenced the Greek Septuagint (LXX), Paul modifies the two verses to mold them into one cohesive unit. First, he replaces ἡ δίκη from Hosea with τὸ νῖκος (underlined above) in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “thus bringing it into verbal agreement with the previous quotation from Isaiah.”[17] Second, Paul borrows the personification of death, ὁ θάνατος, from Hosea and proceeded to taunt death in 15:55, specifically in respect to its having lost its “sting,” τὸ κέντρον. Simply put, Paul adopts the theme of “victory” over “death” from Isaiah 25:8, and the personifications of “death” and the “grave” with its “sting” from Hosea 13:14, and adapts them into his own theological statement on the impotence of death in a post-Christ world.

With this in mind, how can an emphasis upon Abinadi’s quotations from Paul and 1 Corinthians help readers understand Abinadi’s argument in 16:7–8? Paul’s primary point is to emphasize the impotence and sheer powerlessness of death now that the Resurrection has happened:

Thus this taunt is Paul’s way of looking forward to the triumph of the ages. Death’s victory has been overcome by Christ’s victory; and death’s deadly sting has been detoxicated—indeed, the stinger itself has been plucked—through Christ’s resurrection. . . . God’s people will be raised and changed into the likeness of the risen and ever-living Christ himself.[18]

Abinadi emphasizes the same point. In confident language, Abinadi declares, “But there is a resurrection. Therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ” (Mosiah 16:8).

Furthermore, just as it is important to look at the similarities between the two authors, it is also useful to look at their differences. In Mosiah 16:7, Abinadi details the magnitude of Jesus’s Resurrection through his lengthy protasis: “If Jesus had not been resurrected,” “if the bands of death would not have been broken,” “if the grave would have its victory,” and “if death would still wield its sting.” However, because Jesus will be resurrected, none of these potentially damning events will be realized. Instead of taunting death, as Paul does, Abinadi explores the seriousness of a world in which Jesus would not conquer death. This may be a reflection of different temporal contexts. Paul can taunt death because the Resurrection was an event that lay in his past, but for Abinadi, Jesus’s resurrection lay nearly 150 years in the future. Abinadi can challenge the priests of Noah to seriously consider a reality in which the Resurrection does not exist because, at this point, it does not, although Abinadi chooses to speak of the Resurrection and other future events “as though they had already come.”[19] Furthermore, by focusing upon the enormity of the Resurrection, Abinadi continues to strengthen his overarching argument regarding the absolute necessity for the condescension of God. Why must God become man? Because if he doesn’t, death would be victorious and the grave would wield its sting, thus damning the progression of all humanity.

Mosiah 16:9—Praising the Light and Life

In the following verse, Abinadi continues his explication of the absolute necessity of Jesus Christ through a brief encomium:

He is the light and the life of the world, yea, a light that is endless that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death. (Mosiah 16:9)

This verse has an enigmatic provenance. The language is clearly that of the Gospel of John, but it is difficult to pin down whether or not the source is a specific, single verse or the general theological language of John’s writings. While the title itself, the “light and the life of the world,” is not found anywhere in the King James Bible, it does appear several times in the Book of Mormon.[20] If the quotation originates from a single verse in John, then John 1:4, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men,” or John 8:12, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,” provide probable candidates. (There may also be influence from John 11:25: “I am the resurrection, and the life.”) These are the only places in the Bible where these two words (light and life) appear in a manner similar to Mosiah 16:9.[21]

So how does this quotation from John’s gospel inform readers of the Book of Mormon? John 1:4 highlights an important element of John’s opening prologue, eighteen verses that underscore the crucial nature of the relationship between Jesus and humanity. John 1:1–3 establishes that Jesus functioned as the creator, a point emphasized in verse 4 with John’s statement that the “life” that is “in” Jesus is the “light of men.” John relays that, without Jesus and his “light,” humanity would be buried in death and darkness. Only the unique qualities possessed by Jesus, those characteristics that only he can offer, can bring to pass the salvation of humanity. John will continue to emphasize the contrasts between “light” and “dark,”[22] directing the attention of his readers to the “life” that one finds only through Jesus Christ. Thus the use of terms like “light” and “life” becomes crucial in understanding Jesus’s salvific role.[23]

With this Johannine context in mind, Abinadi’s claim that “he is the light and the life of the world” fits quite well into the framework of Mosiah 16:6–11. Abinadi’s overall argument in these verses is that without Jesus salvation is impossible. The law of Moses, which the priests of King Noah offer as the pathway to salvation, has no long-term salvific effect but is merely a “shadow” (Mosiah 16:14) of the true act of Atonement that Jesus himself would perform. The use of the “life” and “light” imagery, especially when paired with the similarly Johannine “darkened” and “death” in the second half of Mosiah 16:9, serves to underscore Abinadi’s contention that salvation comes through Jesus Christ, not through the law of Moses.

Mosiah 16:10—Immortality and Incorruption

In Mosiah 16:10, Abinadi returns to the topic of the Resurrection, and once more he turns to the

language of 1 Corinthians 15:

Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God to be judged of him according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil: (Mosiah 16:10)

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:53–55)[24]

Even though the order of the clauses appears reversed in Mosiah 16:10,[25] the terms “corruptible/corruption,” “incorruption,” “mortal,” and “immortality” firmly establish the intertextual links between Mosiah 16:10 and 1 Corinthians 15:53–55.

1 Corinthians 15:53–55 finds Paul engaging in an eschatological discussion with the Corinthians, one that was necessitated by statements he had made earlier in the chapter. Pivotal for Paul’s understanding of Jesus’s salvific role was the connection Paul saw between Adam and Jesus:

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21–22)

Paul’s use of parallel language in 1 Corinthians 15:53–55, such as “corruptible” and “incorruptible,” “mortal” and “immortal,” reflect that duality. Adam’s fall introduced corruption and mortality into the world. Jesus’s Resurrection reverses that corruption and mortality, transforming humanity into beings incorruptible and immortal. For Paul, this final transformation is vital, as evidenced by the presence of Δεῖ γὰρ (For it is necessary. . .) at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15:53.

However, while the process that will lead humanity toward this state may have been initiated by the Resurrection, the fulfillment of this promise lay in the future. The allusion in the first clause of 1 Corinthians 15:52 to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first,” directs the attention of the reader toward the future parousia of Jesus. For Paul, the Second Coming of Jesus and the subsequent Resurrection of the just represent a defining historical moment when death will be conquered and humanity can once and for all shrug off the curse of Adam. Pauline scholar James D. G. Dunn notes that for Paul, “As the resurrection of Jesus began a new age, a new humanity, so his coming again will bring that age to a climax and complete the work of salvation which was then begun.”[26]

Paul’s eschatology and Christology are tightly welded together. It is only through Jesus’s death and Resurrection that he could overcome death, and it will only be at his parousia (or “coming”) that faithful Christians such as Paul can anticipate their own resurrection and conquest of death:

Because the final events have already begun with the resurrection of Christ and since that event Christ has been appointed by God as Lord, the resurrection of Christians will not take place until the parousia of Christ, which in turn will bring about the end, in which all hostile powers will be destroyed and God will be all in all.[27]

Paul views the eschatological parousia as pivotal for finally overcoming Adam’s Fall, a transformation that could only be realized if (1) Jesus is resurrected, and (2) Jesus makes a triumphal return.

The quotation of 1 Corinthians 15:53–55 within Abinadi’s speech serves a similar purpose, although with a different point of emphasis. For Paul, there is a logical process involved with overcoming the curse of Adam:

  1. The Resurrection of Jesus
  2. The parousia of Jesus
  3. The transformation from “corrupt” and “mortal” to “incorrupt” and “immortal”
  4. The conquest of death

Abinadi also sees a logical progression of events leading to the conquest of the natural man. Although both use the same language, the way Abinadi constructs his statements in Mosiah 16:6–10 produces a slightly different emphasis and order than does Paul:

  1. The condescension of Jesus
  2. The conquest of Sin
  3. The Resurrection of Jesus
  4. The conquest of death
  5. The transformation from “mortal” and “corrupt” and “immortal” and “incorrupt”

Abinadi’s construction differs from Paul’s in two key ways:

  1. The focus for Paul in 1 Corinthians is primarily upon the Resurrection of Jesus—that is the singular event that overcomes the natural man. For Abinadi, the focus is twofold: The condescension and the Resurrection. Both are requisite for humanity’s transformation.
  2. For Paul, the parousia is crucial. It is Jesus’s triumphant return that will pave the way for the transformation of humanity into an “immortal” and “incorruptible” state. For Abinadi, the only parousia that matters is the first one—Jesus’s birth. There is no indication in Abinadi’s speech that he conceives of a “second” coming of Jesus.

Both points accentuate what has been the major emphasis all along for Abinadi—the essential nature of the incarnation, ministry, and death of Jesus.

This is certainly not to suggest that Paul does not feel the same way—far from it. One needs only read Romans and Galatians to understand how central a role Jesus’s life and death plays in the conquest of sin. But the beauty of the linguistic construction of Mosiah 16:6–8, 10 comes from how carefully and sensibly Abinadi’s language connects with Paul’s. Readers who are familiar with 1 Corinthians 15 recognize similar language in Mosiah 16:6–8, 10, drawing their attention to the Resurrection. However, they also notice the subtle shifts and the added nuances that exist between Abinadi’s language and Paul’s, which, upon further examination, narrows their focus to the condescension and subsequent redemption bestowed upon humanity following his sacrifice.

Mosiah 16:11—The Just and the Unjust

The final verse under consideration in this paper is Mosiah 16:11, where Abinadi briefly elaborates upon the dual nature of the Resurrection:

If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them—which is damnation—

This verse appears to be a quotation or at least an allusion to John 5:29, a statement also

describing the Resurrection:

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

The language shared between the two passages includes “good,” “resurrection of life,” “evil,” and “resurrection of damnation.” Thus, Abinadi’s statement, with the Johannine language underlined, reads:

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and theythat have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Again, what can readers glean from a close comparative reading of both authors? John 5 is one of the most significant Christological chapters in the New Testament. It begins with Jesus healing on the Sabbath day, an action that quickly incurs the anger of the Jews:

And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. (5:16)

In response to this provocation, Jesus makes the following claim:

But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. (5:17)

Viewing Jesus’s bold proclamation as blasphemy, those listening “sought the more to kill him” (5:18). Jesus responds to this threat by explicitly describing the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Son, Jesus claimed, essentially acts as agent for the Father.[28] The Son “can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (5:19).

One of the responsibilities given to the Son by the Father involves judgment:

And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. (5:27)

This is the context for Jesus’s statement concerning the Resurrection in 5:29. His elaboration on how the Resurrection will work—two separate Resurrections, one for the “good” and one for the “evil”—plays a secondary role to the overall purpose of the pericope, namely further defining the relationship between the Father and the Son.[29]

The interaction between John 5:29 and Mosiah 16:11 serves a similar dual purpose. Abinadi’s primary emphasis at this point in his speech involves outlining for his audience the eschatological reality of a Resurrection and a Judgment. For this reason, the interaction with John 5:29 is completely logical and consistent, as John’s language functions to both bolster Abinadi’s illustration of what must come and to warn the priests of Noah that their wickedness will not go unpunished. However, when the context of John 5:29 is considered, Abinadi’s words can also be viewed as bringing the attention of the readers back to the significance of Jesus Christ. Even though Jesus is not explicitly mentioned in Mosiah 16:11 (or Mosiah 16:10), the combination of the language and context of John 5:29 implicitly returns to Jesus through its appropriation of John’s Christological argument. Abinadi’s argument becomes clearer—Jesus is a fundamental part of God’s plan for salvation and to interpret the law of Moses in any other fashion is to grossly violate its purpose.

Conclusion

Mosiah 16:6–11 presents readers of the Book of Mormon with a brilliant intersection between two books of scripture. While it is clear that the New Testament authors, in particular Paul and John, play a key role in the composition of this pericope, one remarkable facet of this textual interaction is how they are carefully integrated throughout Abinadi’s words. To a reader unfamiliar with 1 Corinthians 15, John 1, or John 5, Mosiah 16:6–11 would not necessarily stand out as sharing language with another text. Abinadi’s words certainly sound biblical, but nothing directly reveals the presence of Paul and John. Abinadi does not, as do Matthew or Paul, include a statement such as “for it is written” (Galatians 3:10) or “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets” (Matthew 2:23), indications that another source has been introduced into the discussion. Rather, as demonstrated above, Abinadi’s speech represents a sophisticated weaving of language from the New Testament with Abinadi’s own, careful to maintain the important terms and structure while also altering the order of words and phrases and even introducing words and phrases of his own. One of the most astonishing aspects of the Book of Mormon is the attention given to the weaving of text. To interact with the Bible to the extent that the Book of Mormon does risks producing a “textual Frankenstein,” a book where the parts have been so clumsily constructed that the seams linking the Book of Mormon to the Bible are not only visible but obtrusive. That the Book of Mormon (largely) avoids this speaks to its complexity.

Yet the relationship between Abinadi, Paul, and John does not end with the subtle weaving together of text. The Book of Mormon pushes this textual interaction further by recontextualizing Paul and John in a way that fits well within the larger argument Abinadi makes. Abinadi’s speech appropriates 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter primarily concerned with the concept of resurrection and secondarily with the importance of Jesus, and produces a series of verses primarily concerned with the importance of Jesus and secondarily with the Resurrection. Abinadi’s speech appropriates John 5, a verse primarily concerned with the role of Jesus Christ and secondarily with the Resurrection and Judgment, and produces a verse where the primary emphasis is upon the Resurrection and Judgment, with the role of Jesus implicitly recognized only by the overall context of Abinadi’s argument. This recontextualization is not necessarily present in Mosiah 16:9 and 10, Abinadi’s textual interaction with John 1:4–5 and 1 Corinthians 15:53–54. The context of both are largely reflected in how Abinadi uses them, yet his speech rearranges the language of Paul and John and even adds words and phrases to the extent that Mosiah 16:10–11 are no longer Paul and John’s words, but Abinadi’s.

Two broader points also deserve mention. First, this analysis of Mosiah 16:6–11 demonstrates that, if nothing else, the Book of Mormon is a confident text. To take the sacred language of the King James Bible and not simply reproduce it but deconstruct and reconstruct it is a brazen act, one that risks alienating your target audience who may perceive the text as plagiarism or even blasphemy. However, studies analyzing the reaction of early Mormon converts demonstrate that a primary reason for their conversion was the familiarity of the Book of Mormon—it felt biblical.[30] Passages such as Mosiah 16:6–11 contributed to that familiarity, and thus textual interactions such as those between figures such as Abinadi, Paul, and John need to be recognized as a basis for the success of the Book of Mormon in securing an audience.

Second, this analysis of Mosiah 16:6–11 demonstrates that the Book of Mormon is a demanding text. To expect a reader to not only grasp the doctrine and theology of the Book of Mormon amidst a complex and often confusing narrative is one thing, but to ask that same reader to recognize where the Book of Mormon interacts with the Bible and analyze similarities and differences in language, context, and meaning is another thing altogether. Yet that is precisely what the Book of Mormon does. By carefully weaving the words of the Bible throughout its own passages, the Book of Mormon requires readers to utilize both texts together if they are to fully grasp the Book of Mormon’s nuanced and intricate message. In her intertextual study of how Paul quotes from and alludes to the text of Jeremiah, biblical scholar Gail O’Day stated, “It is the essence of biblical texts to be reinterpreted.”[31] The Bible itself stands as the product of centuries of reinterpretation, and the reinterpretation of the New Testament found in the Book of Mormon serves to cement, rather than dissolve, the significant bond between the Book of Mormon and the Bible as records of God’s interactions with his people.

Notes
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[1] Gerard Genette, The Architext: An Introduction, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 81–82. As G. K. Beale has noted, the term “intertextuality” when used to refer to a method of biblical criticism is somewhat problematic, as “intertextuality” usually refers to two different texts that have a common point of interaction. Beale writes that in biblical studies “‘intertextuality’ is sometimes used merely to refer to the procedure by which a later biblical text refers to an earlier text, how that earlier text enhances the meaning of the later one, and how the later one creatively develops the earlier meaning. In this respect, ‘intertextuality’ may be seen as a procedure of inner-biblical or intrabiblical exegesis, which is crucial to doing biblical theology and for understanding the relation of the OT to the NT.” Beale suggests that “inner-biblical exegesis” or “inner-biblical allusion” may be more appropriate terms, but the idea of “biblical intertextuality” has become common enough that it is unlikely to be changed in the near future. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Books, 2012), 40.

[2] Toril Moi, ed., “Word, Dialog and Novel,” in The Kristeva Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 37. It was in Julia Kristeva’s groundbreaking work Semiotike: Recherchés pour une semanalyse (Collections Tel Quel; Paris: Le Seuil, 1969) that notions of “intertextuality” began to develop. Kristeva argued that all texts share links between them that “intersect and neutralize one another.” Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, ed. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 36. See also Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” in Image-Music-Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), 148.

[3] This paper will bracket the question of King James English and the Book of Mormon translation, an issue that often detracts from intertextual conversations and generally ceases to yield anything more than the well-worn arguments of plagiarism vs. divine revelation. For those interested in reading more on this question, I have dealt with it in previous publications. See Nicholas J. Frederick, “Evaluating the Interaction between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon: A Proposed Methodology,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 24, no. 1 (2015): 2–31; Nicholas J. Frederick, “What Hath Moroni to Do with John?,” Religious Educator 14, no. 3 (2013): 93–109; Nicholas J. Frederick, The Bible, Mormon Scripture, and the Rhetoric of Allusivity (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2016), xxiii–xxviii. For more on the translation process of the Book of Mormon in general, see Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015), and Michael Hubbard MacKay and Nicholas J. Frederick, Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016). See also “Towards a Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon, BYU Studies 30, no. 1 (Winter 1990): 41–69; “Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997), 61–93; John W. Welch, “Approaching New Approaches,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6, no. 1 (1994): 145–86; Davis Bitton, “Review of Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6, no. 1 (1994): 1–7; Brant A. Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon (Draper, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2011), 307–8.

[4] To my knowledge, this paper is the first attempt to perform an intertextual study of Mosiah 16:6–11 and the New Testament. For other intertextual studies comparing the Book of Mormon and the Bible, see Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch, eds., Isaiah in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998); Victor L. Ludlow, Unlocking Isaiah in the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003); and David P. Wright, “Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah,” in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, ed. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 157–234; Krister Stendahl, “The Sermon on the Mount and Third Nephi,” in Reflections on Mormonism, ed. Truman G. Madsen (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1978), 139–54; John W. Welch, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount (Salt Lake City; Deseret Book; Provo, UT: FARMS, 1990); Stan Larson, “The Historicity of the Matthean Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi,” in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 115–63; David P. Wright, “In Plain Terms That We May Understand: Joseph Smith’s Transformation of Hebrews in Alma 12–13,” in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 165–229; and Julie M. Smith, “So Shall My Word Be: Reading Alma 32 Through Isaiah 55,” in An Experiment Upon the Word: Reading Alma 32, ed. Adam S. Miller (Salem, OR: Salt Press, 2011).

[5] The terms “quotation” and “allusion” have been the topic of much recent debate in biblical studies. For the purpose of this paper, I will define “quotation” as “a phrase from the Book of Mormon which can be determined in all likelihood to share language with a specific text due to the uniqueness of that text within the Bible, regardless of length” and “allusion” as “a phrase in which it is not certain but is probable that it has originated in a specific text, either because it repeats a few key words, is located within a pericope which also shares language with the same author, or employs a similar context.” For more on this topic, see Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989) and The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2005). More recent works expanding on Hays’ own writings are G. K. Beale’s and D. A. Carson’s massive work, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), as well as books dealing with individual New Testament texts, such as Michael Thompson, Clothed with Christ: The Example and Teaching of Jesus in Romans 12:1–15:13 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), and Christopher A. Beetham, Echoes of Scripture in Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians (Society of Biblical Literature, 2010). For more on Abinadi’s use of Isaiah, see Joseph M. Spencer, An Other Testament (Salem, OR: Salt Press, 2012), 141–72. See also John W. Welch, “Isaiah 53, Mosiah 14, and the Book of Mormon,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998), 293–312.

[6] Recognizing how self-aware the Book of Mormon is as a written text, one cannot help but notice the irony in 16:6. The phrase “speaking of things to come as though they had already come” appears to parenthetically refer back to “And now if Christ had not come into the world.” But for those who recognize the Book of Mormon use of New Testament quotations in Abinadi’s speech, the phrase could also be looking forward to how Abinadi is going to draw on records such as 1 Corinthians or the Gospel of John, the “things which are to come” in his description of Jesus’s future coming.

[7] All Book of Mormon quotations come from Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (Yale: Yale University Press, 2009).

[8] I have maintained one small variation. Abinadi uses “corruption” whereas Paul uses “corruptible.”

[9] I have maintained one small variation. Abinaid uses “darkened,” whereas John uses “darkness.”

[10] This section provides an instance where intertextual analysis combines with rhetorical criticism. For an introduction to rhetorical criticism, including the terms used in this section, see George A. Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation Through Rhetorical Criticism (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1984).

[11] “It was a regular practice for a rhetor to try to refute an argument by showing that its logical consequences were unacceptable and thus that the logic must be flawed. Paul offers a kind of syllogism to correct their view.” Ben Witherington III, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Social and Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1995), 303.

[12] For a discussion of this issue, see Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2014), 793–96; N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 2003), 277–374; and Gaye Strathearn, “Soma Sema: The Influence of ‘The Body is a Tomb’ in Early Christian Debates and the New Testament,” in The Life and Teachings of the New Testament Apostles, ed. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010), 276–98.

[13] For further rhetorical analysis of 1 Corinthians 15, see Burton L. Mack, Rhetorical Criticism and the New Testament (1990): 56–59; D. F. Watson, “Paul’s Rhetorical Strategy in 1 Corinthians 15,” in Rhetoric and the New Testament, ed. S. E. Porter and T. H. Olbricht (JSNTSup. 90; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993), 231–49.

[14] For the text of the Greek New Testament, I am relying upon Nestle-Aland 28th edition.

[15] This is likely the passage Paul has in mind when he states “then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written” in 1 Corinthians 15:54. This is the only instance where Paul quotes a prophecy yet to be fulfilled. See Witherington, Conflict and Community, 310.

[16] All LXX quotations come from the 1979 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart edition. Although Isaiah and Hosea were originally written in Hebrew, Paul would most likely have used the Septuagint when quoting from them in his own letters, hence the use of the Greek Septuagint here.

[17] Fee, First Corinthians, 889.

[18] Fee, First Corinthians, 890.

[19] This curious Nephite compression of time is noted by authors both in the text (cf. Jarom 1:11) and out. See John Christopher Thomas, A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon (Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2016), 203–4.

[20] See Alma 38:9; 3 Nephi 9:18; 11:11; Ether 4:12; See also D&C 10:70; 11:28; 12:9; 34:2; 39:2; 45:7.

[21] This is not to say that the Hebrew scriptures did not use “life” and “light,” for the combination of these two words is present in the wisdom literature such as Psalms (27:1; 36:9), Job (3:20; 33:28), and Proverbs (6:23; 16:15). However, other appearances of the title “he is the light and the life of the world” in the Book of Mormon can be found (but not always—cf. Alma 38:9; 3 Nephi 11:11) in conjunction with language from the Gospel of John (see 3 Nephi 9:17–18; cf. Ether 4:12). Of course, it must always be kept in mind that Abinadi didn’t speak English and Mormon didn’t write it. There are obviously other languages at work in the Book of Mormon, but the only one with which we have to work is the English.

[22] Craig R. Koester calls this “light/dark” imagery of the Fourth Gospel “probably its most striking motif” (Craig R. Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003], 141).

[23] Koester notes three ways in which the “light” becomes crucial to the “life” of man: (1) “Light manifests the power and presence of God. It emanates from the λόγος, a term that could designate the creative and sustaining power of God, and the presence of God himself;” (2) “Light manifests the ‘life’ given to people through God’s Word;” (3) “Light means knowing God through faith in Christ . . . to believe in Jesus is to believe in God; to see Jesus is to see God; to know Jesus is to know God. And those who come to know God in Jesus receive the light of eternal life” (Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel, 143). For a broader discussion of possible interpretations of “life” and “light,” see J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2010), 51–57.

[24] The intertextuality at work in the second half of the verse is more difficult to pin down. There is a possible allusion to a passage from the book of Revelation 20:12: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” There is also a possible allusion to 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Perhaps it is a riff on both passages together, similar to what Paul does with Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:53–55.

[25] Some manuscripts of 1 Corinthians, such as A, likewise switch the parallelism in 15:53. See the discussion in R. F. Collins, First Corinthians (Collegeville, MI: The Liturgical Press, 1999), 581–82.

[26] James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 295.

[27] Udo Schnelle, Apostle Paul: His Life and Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Books, 2003), 583.

[28] For the Son as the “agent” for the Father, see Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 1:310–17.

[29] “What they (the Jews) should understand—but do not because of their unbelief (vs. 18)—is that in Jesus as the Son sent by the Father they are confronted with the great future that they themselves expect and are thus placed in the presence of him whose voice will one day be heard (not only by those who are listening now but) by all who are in the graves and who on hearing it will rise—those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” Herman Riderbos, The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1992), 201. For other possible interpretations, see Michaels, John, 301–5. See also C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John (London: John Knox Press, 1978), 257–58.

[30] See Steven C. Harper, “Infallible Proofs, Both Human and Divine,” RAC 10 (2000): 99–118. Paul Owen adds, “The language and themes appeared to early converts to have a seamless flow. . . . A perceived harmony between the original and the latter-day revelations was essential for their acceptance of the Mormon message.” “The Apologetic Impulse in Early Mormonism,” in The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 36.

[31] Gail R. O’Day, “Jeremiah 9:22–23 and 1 Corinthians 1:26–31: A Study in Intertextuality,” Journal of Biblical Literature 109, no. 2 (1990): 260.