You Are a Temple

I decided to type the word “temple” into BibleGateway.com to see what would come up in the New Testament.  The results are listed below.  I left out historic references to the Jerusalem temple listed in the Gospels and the book of Acts.  I also left out references in the Revelation of John which are always references to God’s Heavenly Temple.  So these are all text with Christian instruction on the word “temple”.

Romans 9:3-5

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

1 Corinthians 3:15-17

If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

1 Corinthians 9: 9, 12-14

For it is written in the Law of Moses . . .

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Ephesians 2:19-22

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

1 Peter 2: 4-5

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Most of these verses point to the Christians temple being the body of believers or the body of a believer.  I Cornithians is considered the first New Testament writing (about 15 years after the crucifixion) and you can see how many times in that letter alone that Paul calls the believer the temple of God (rather than direct believers toward a temple).

There are two passages here that may cause a problem with this overall trend.  The first is I Corinthians 9.  But given the context, Paul is citing the Law’s provision that priest are to eat from the meat that is sacrificed in the Jewish temple., So it’s a historic reference rather than a contemporary teaching.  His teaching in the passage is not about temples but rather about Gospel preachers being paid for their work (that is a discussion for another time).

The other passage is 2 Thessalonians which is an end times prophecy about the Anti-Christ.  It could be considered ambiguous if he is talking about the Jewish temple, a Christian temple or God’s heavenly temple as described in Revelation .  But there seems to be only one temple that the Anti-Christ can set himself up in.

Given the weight of all the passages together it seems abundantly clear that Paul and Peter were not out setting up new Christian temples but rather telling Christians everywhere that they are the temple.

How do LDS incorporate these passages into their teachings on temples?

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50 thoughts on “You Are a Temple

  1. admittedly I haven’t taken the time to really study out the verses you cite, so here’s my quick answer: In current LDS speech, we often talk about the body as a temple, which is just a way of saying “Your body is really, really sacred.” It’s certainly not meant by LDS to denigrate the temple building. It’s easy to see how Paul et al were doing the same thing.

    I’ll wait for more comments and also look at the verses in more detail. Either way, I think you raise an interesting question of how the early Christians (especially the Apostles) viewed the temple.

  2. I remember discussing this subject with others while I was an active believing LDS member. I have heard people say that this is one of the “plain and precious truths” that has been removed from the Bible. That the original text DID discuss Christian Temples. Of course, I don’t believe that but I have heard that mentioned.

    Darrell

  3. I don’t claim to be very informed on this topic. However, it seems to me that the frequent references to the temple (even if not always to a physical structure) indicate that the temple was front and center in the conciousness of the earliest Jewish-Christians. For example, John’s vision at Patmos was full of temple imagery, including a description of a great temple in Heaven.
    Margaret Barker has accumulated an astonishingly vast amount of data that leads quite persuasively to the conclusion that the temple was at the center of early Christian thought.

    These Christians would have been considered apostate Jews, and Paul was a fierce advocate for the nullification(bear with me on that word choice) of the law of Moses. Therefore, they would not have been welcome in Herod’s Temple.

    Being incapable of contructing a Christian version of the temple, these earliest Christians nonetheless appropriated temple themes and allusions into their theological dialogue and ritual.

  4. Tim asked:

    How do LDS incorporate these passages into their teachings on temples?

    To the best of my knowledge, the answer is that we don’t. Like other Christians, we tend to emphasize those parts of scripture that fit in best with our theological framework.

    Two points, however:

    1) I think James’ answer is one that knowledgeable Mormons might give: The fact that the temple is so important is one reason Paul uses its imagery. And while, as Darrell said, many LDS might say that references to the temple have been lost from the New Testament, I don’t believe such is specifically taught (only that some teachings may have been lost, possibly but not necessarily the ones about temples).

    2) The idea of the body being a temple is very much emphasized in LDS thought. We place strong emphasis on the body; in fact, one of the reasons we are on earth is so we could get one. The belief that the body is sacred supports many of our practices, both official (e.g., the Word of Wisdom) and semi-official (e.g., the tattoo/piercing taboo and a preference against cremation). Of course, we don’t always practice what we preach (e.g., obesity is a serious problem among U.S. Mormons), but certainly the very clear teaching is that the body is something we should treat with profound respect.

  5. Tim – Those are all absolutely beautiful references to temple imagery in the scriptures. I especially love the imagery conveyed in Peter’s writings and wonder how you would approach the idea of becoming one of the “living stones” without a temple?

    I wish I had time to give you a more thorough review of each of those scriptures, but do not have time today. You can read more about the centrality of the Savior’s Atonement in our worship in temples at LDS Temples.

    Thanks.

  6. Tim – Those are all absolutely beautiful references to temple imagery in the scriptures. I especially love the imagery conveyed in Peter’s writings and wonder how you would approach the idea of becoming one of the “living stones” without a temple?

    Um, the fact that Peter tells you to be a living stone might be a hint, just a hint, mind you, that he might not be talking about a literal, physical temple where priesthood ordinances are performed.

  7. I’m glad you’re not missing the subtlety Kullervo. Yes indeed, I think this verse (and others) makes it quite clear to me that the temple of the New Covenant is the body of believers with only one High Priest (Jesus Christ).

    The idea of the body being a temple is very much emphasized in LDS thought. We place strong emphasis on the body; in fact, one of the reasons we are on earth is so we could get one.

    This goal of a body/temple in the pre-existence would seem to have some sort of conflict with the Old Testament teaching that there is only one temple and it is a physical structure.

    I’m quite comfortable with the New Testament offering a new idea of the temple, but throwing the pre-existence into things seems to say that this “new” idea is actually old.

    Being incapable of contructing a Christian version of the temple, these earliest Christians nonetheless appropriated temple themes and allusions into their theological dialogue and ritual.

    Yes, no denying that they were appropriating temple themes into their writings. The verses above all illustrate this. The question is if they temple in Christianity is metaphorical or literal/structural.

    I have heard people say that this is one of the “plain and precious truths” that has been removed from the Bible. That the original text DID discuss Christian Temples.

    It’s important to recognize without any evidence, this is just conjecture. You can just as easily say that Alien Lizard people were an important part of early Christianity but any citation of them is a plain a precious truth that has been lost.

    In addition to evidence that Christian temples (or Alien Lizard people) existed, you have to deal with the evidence that is contradictory to them (such as the verses cited above).

  8. I don’t think the above verses prove much one way or the other with regard to the existence or non-existence of temple ritual.

    I think we have to have a very open mind about what is not in the Bible we have. I think Evangelicals often approach the Bible we have as the only thing that was worth keeping, when there was surely much more written and said, and surely a lot of it would tilt doctrine and practice in todays church if it had been preserved and canonized-

    I think there is an argument that the temple analogies made sense because the temple existed, however it is far from established.

    I don’t think that there is much significant evidence that temple ritual references were actually taken out of the scriptures. I don’t think you would expect them to be in the epistles either. As many of us have seen, you attend Mormon church for years and years without any substantial discussion of temple worship other than plans for temple trips and encouragement to attend the temple. during a time and a place when actual temples were far from Rome, Corinth, Ephesia,and Rome you wouldn’t expect direct references in open letters. In short there are all kinds of scenarios where Mormon style temple worship fits in with the Scriptural text here.

    Mormons would probably admit that they wouldn’t necessarily be building temples and believe that there were early christian temples based on the bible alone. If Joseph’s revelations hadn’t brought to light “things that were hidden” they would not be establishing Temple building sects of protestantism.

    I think the bottom line is that we really have very little hard evidence about what this small, persecuted, secretive religion did during its first decades.

    Other early writings such as the Didache show ritual and practice that differ from the Mormons and nearly all modern christian practice.

    Here is an interesting story that some Mormons have taken to be evidence of temples (of course there is nothing conclusive in archeology either.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7446812.stm

  9. “would seem to have some sort of conflict with the Old Testament teaching that there is only one temple and it is a physical structure.”

    What’s the scripture cite on that. It’s a matter of archeological fact that there was more than one Jewish temple in existence during certain periods of Pre-Babylonian Exile Judaism. Even temples authorized by the central religious hierarchy.

    At any rate, there seems to be a certain fluidity between the literal and the symbolic throughout the Bible. I don’t think the fact that something was at one time either literal or symbolic is going to ultimately mean much in proving one side, or refuting the other in this debate.

  10. Tim wrote:
    “This goal of a body/temple in the pre-existence would seem to have some sort of conflict with the Old Testament teaching that there is only one temple and it is a physical structure.”

    Two points about that. First, as Seth just pointed out, the centralization of temple worship in Jerusalem was a relatively late event in Jewish history. It was advocated by a religious minority mostly to consolidate their political power in Jerusalem. Jewish temples existed as far away as Egypt.
    Secondly, all of this really doesn’t have anything to do with the LDS belief in the pre-existence. That we consider our bodies to be temples does not suggest they are the same kind of temples that we construct out of stone and wood. They serve a different purpose. Our bodies are temples for our spirits, but King Solomon’s temple, King Herod’s temple, the Salt Lake Temple, and the Hong Kong temple (and all other modern day temples) are temples for God to dwell in when he communes with his saints.

    Tim also said:
    “Yes, no denying that they were appropriating temple themes into their writings. The verses above all illustrate this. The question is if they temple in Christianity is metaphorical or literal/structural.”

    Why appropriate temple imagery if the temple is something they do not believe in (as your original post implies)? At the least, we ought to be able to recognize that the biblical authors considered the “temple” to be something extremely important, so important that they frequently referenced it when teaching about Jesus Christ. Is there a significant difference between using temple imagery in teaching about Jesus, and in standing in a real temple when teaching about Jesus? No.
    It wouldn’t have made sense for these biblical authors to reference the temple so often if the temple was something far from their minds, and far from the minds of their audience. We can confidently conclude that the temple was front and center in the consciousness of the earliest Christians, whether or not they could afford to contruct their own (which they couldn’t).

    Analogous to this is the temple imagery employed by the OT authors during the exile, when there was no available temple. They had no temple, yet they wrote about the temple, they taught about the temple, they prophesied about the temple. I ask you the question you asked us, were these references “metaphorical or literal/structural”?

    Tim, your original post reads:
    “I left out historic references to the Jerusalem temple listed in the Gospels and the book of Acts. I also left out references in the Revelation of John which are always references to God’s Heavenly Temple.”

    Why would you leave those out? The temple is front and center in the life and ministry of Jesus, and Jesus certainly considered the temple to be worth fighting for (as he demonstrated when he cleansed it).

    The Gospel of Matthew, in the KJV, has at least 17 references to the temple. Mark has 11. Luke has 19. John has 14, and Act has 24! The book of Acts is full of stories about the very first Christians worshiping, teaching, and being kicked out of the temple. The Book of Revelation has 13 references to the temple. How can we ignore this?

    Furthermore, let us not forget that any reference to the temple need not explicitly use the word “temple.” For example, LDS discourse very frequently alludes to temple themes without directly naming the temple. Margaret Barker powerfully demonstrates that temple themes and imagery is strewn about the NT, whether or not modern readers recognize it for what it is. See her book “Temple Themes in Christian Worship”.

    Clearly, the temple was not pushed to the backburner of early Christian theology.

  11. Jared,

    I would respect your answer a lot more if you just said that temple worship is something new that came through the restoration rather than grasping at straws or ignoring contrary evidence. We do indeed have much more than the Bible which informs us on the beliefs and practices of early Christians. None of it mentions Christians temples, not even the heretical forgeries. Further, I think we can expect to see the epistles giving instruction on temple ceremonies if they existed. Paul gave instructions on all kinds of things. Things such as communion, giving, worship, qualifications for leadership and instruction. He even went back to the basic a number of times. There was plenty of room in those letters for him to talk about temple worship.

    James,
    The exiled Jews were referring to the literal temple that they hoped to rebuild.

    You can’t really get after me for leaving out some New Testament uses of the word “temple” when I explicitly stated that I was leaving them out and telling you why I was leaving them out. A word count means nothing, context is everything.

    I left out the Gospel and Acts references to the temple because every single one of them refers to the Jewish temple (or in some cases a pagan temple). Not one is about a Christian temple. I left them out because they aren’t relevant to the discussion of the existence/non-existence of Christian temples.

    Christianity came out of Judaism so it’s quite natural to see the center piece of the Jewish faith referenced many times in a historical Jewish setting.

    I left out the book of Revelation because all of the temple reference there refer to God’s Heavenly Temple. Obviously something quite different than what Mormons are building today.

    In no way am I denying that the early Christians didn’t find an importance to the temple. What I am pointing out is what the early Christians said themselves about the temple; it’s something new and different than what the Jews had.

    Our bodies are temples for our spirits, but King Solomon’s temple, King Herod’s temple, the Salt Lake Temple, and the Hong Kong temple (and all other modern day temples) are temples for God to dwell in when he communes with his saints.

    I’ll refer you to your own scriptures:
    Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

  12. Tim, in regard to your latest comments directed towards Jared, I think you ignore the important information both within and without the bible that demonstrates that secret “mysteries” were in fact taught privately and not written down by the earliest Christians. I’ll return to that after I address your comments about Paul.

    You claim that Paul had adequate opportunity to teach about temple worship in his letters, but your claim suffers from two major flaws. First, you overlook the point we made earlier– that these Christians had no temple of their own to worship in, therefore giving instructions for how to do such a thing would be pointless.
    Secondly, you said, “He even went back to the basic a number of times. There was plenty of room in those letters for him to talk about temple worship.” Well, fortunately, Paul addresses this very question with the following verses:

    Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)

    Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory . . . . (1 Corinthians 2:6-7)

    I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (1 Corinthians 3:2)

    Thus we see that Paul was aware of “mysteries” that were not communicated by letter but rather were communicated in person to the spiritually mature. Consider 2 John 1:12

    “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

    More biblical references to secret teachings can be furnished if requested.

    Post-biblical references to secret teachings should not be overlooked either. Because such references are legion, one will suffice for now (unless more are requested).

    In the Clementine Homilies Peter explained that certain “hidden truths” were to be kept from the wicked.

    And Peter said: “We remember that our Lord and Teacher, commanding us, said, ‘Keep the mysteries for me and the sons of my house.’ Wherefore also He explained to His disciples privately the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. But to you who do battle with us, and examine into nothing else but our statements, whether they be true or false, it would be impious to state the hidden truths.
    Clementine Homilies 19:20, in ANF 8:336.

    Now, I don’t think it would be wise for a Mormon to argue that the LDS ordinances and rituals that we practice today can be found in their entirety in early Christian documents. Without a doubt much of it is new to this dispensation. After all, we believe that Joseph revealed brand new things never before taught on Earth. Nonetheless, one can confidently argue that the earliest Christians believed in sacred teachings, rituals, ordinances, etc. which were to be kept from the public at large. This is the essence of a temple. Although these earliest Christians did not have a physical temple structure in which to worship, they made up for it by practicing their more esoteric forms of worship outside of a temple.

    I recommend this presentation given by my friend Andrew for more information:

  13. Tim,
    Now to address your latest comments that were directed to me (sorry Jared for butting into your discussion).

    By the way, I’m glad I stumbled upon this website. I enjoy friendly discussion about Evangelical/Mormon differences and similarities, and so far I appreciate the civil tone I have encountered here.

    We agree that the exiled Jews spoke of a real physical temple, not a metaphorical one. I suggest that the earliest Christians did likewise. Their frequent allusions to the temple should tell us something about their love of the temple.

    I felt it was important to “get after [you]” about leaving out the many references in the Gospels and other NT books to the temple because I think they tell us something important. Of course, a very limited number of those references are to a pagan temple, but let’s not make the mistake of assuming that the ancient writers had the same disdain for the pagan temple as you or I might have today. Pagan worship was not a distant or ancient concept to them as it is to us today. It was all around them, it was the world in which they lived. No doubt they ultimately disapproved of the doctrines of those temples, but I suggest that they did not hold those temples in such disapproval as you do.

    What of the MANY references to the Jewish temple? You seem to suggest that these references do not count. I sense a dichotomy in your mind between the Jewish temple and a Christian temple. Well, such a dichotomy was not the reality for these ancient Christians. In their minds, the Jewish temple was their temple and it had been taken over by apostate Jews. Remember, Jesus (the first Christian, of course) considered the Jewish temple to be his Father’s house and spent much of his time there.

    The first Christians were Jews (Israelites). The Jewish temple was their temple. Modern day LDS consider themselves to be Israelites as well. We consider our modern day LDS temples to be the continuation of Solomon’s ancient temple. We don’t hold in our minds a dichotomy of the Jewish vs. Christian temples, they are one and the same to us. We believe that God commanded Solomon to build his temple, and directed Solomon on how to worship there. We also believe that God commanded modern day Israelites (LDS) to build a temple and gave them instructions on how to worship there.

    Therefore, references to the Jewish temple in the NT are references to the Christian temple.

    As for the temple descriptions in the Book of Revelation, I don’t see any reason to exclude it. If anything, it can be read as the ancient Christian longing for a temple to worship in. Since they couldn’t build one, and they couldn’t practice in the Jewish temple, they hoped for a day when they could worship in a temple, even if said temple was currently in Heaven.

    You might be saying, “But James, the ancient Jewish temple, the LDS temple, and the temple in the book of Revelation are not the same temple because they don’t perform all the same functions. You don’t worship in LDS temples today the same way that Solomon did.”

    We don’t define God’s temples by how the various doctrines or rituals are taught or performed in them. They are defined by being God’s house where his saints come to make sacred covenants with him. It doesn’t matter if the process for doing that changes over the centuries. In fact, in our view, it should change.

    Finally, you said:
    “I’ll refer you to your own scriptures:
    Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

    Well, I’m grateful that you are at least one Evangelical who accepts that Mormons believe in the bible as authoritative scripture. Far too often we are told that we do not, strange as that may seem.

    In a sense our bodies can serve as a “temple” for God, inasmuch as the Holy Spirit can dwell in our hearts. But, it is not the temple of God in the sense in which we are discussing, that being a temple like the ones the earliest Christians did not have. We are sure that God has a temple of that sort, a temple that is not our fleshy bodies. For example, Rev 7:15 says:
    “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”

    Mine have been some pretty long responses. I apologize if I have been too long winded. Here are the main points I wish to emphasize:

    1. The earliest Christians considered the Jewish temple to be out of their reach, and they did not have one of their own.

    2. They appropriated temple imagery into their teachings because it was something important to all early Christians.

    3. They considered the Jewish temple to be the temple of God, and they looked forward to a day when the temple would return (Book of Revelation).

    4. The earliest Christians had “secret” teachings and rituals which were not imparted to the public, and which were not written down in epistles. This practice is in essence, if not in exact practice, temple worship.

  14. Don’t know about Old Testament period, but Judaism following the sack of Jerusalem by the Romans developed the Kabbalah as a mode of worship delving into the hidden mysteries of the Torah.

    Secret teachings is hardly a new concept. From what I can tell, it is modern Evangelicals who are the aberration in insisting that none of God’s teachings can be secret or taught to a select few initiates. Most of the rest of the world’s religious heritage just assumes a higher level of knowledge taught to select initiates.

  15. I don’t know why my name isn’t linking to my own blog. I’ve never had this problem before. If your interested, my blog is http://www.lehislibrary.wordpress.com

    To respond to your question, I first must admit that I’m not an expert on this, just an amateur “armchair apologist”.

    Judaism in the time of Jesus was not a monolithic religion as we sometimes assume. Instead, it was fractured with various competing sects just as Christianity is today. Ever heard of the Essenes? This sect required that new ‘members’ swear terrible oaths to never reveal the sects secret teachings to outsiders.

    LDS author Barry Bickmore, in his book “Restoring the Ancient Church”, quotes scholar Morton Smith:

    “Morton Smith, of Harvard University, concurs with Jeremias that the religious environment of Judaism was permeated with secrecy–not only the Essenes, but the priests of the temple at Jerusalem and the Samaritan priests had “a large body of secret traditions and practices.” There were, in addition, a large number of secret sects in Judaism, including the well-known Pharisees. The Pharisees had a large body of secret doctrines which they not only were sworn to keep secret from outsiders, but from less reliable members of their own sect.”

    Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 84; cf. Ernst Müeller, A History of Jewish Mysticism (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1995), 44.

    The rituals of the ancient temple of Solomon involved the admittance of only a few special individuals. Furthermore, scholars today still don’t really know what went on in that temple, to my knowledge. The rituals performed there were not preserved, possibly because they were not written down.

  16. Just a thought, I’ve had while reading through the comments: There is a big difference in the way I view my LDS temple and how I perceive the ancient Jews viewed theirs. For the Jews, the building itself was sacred (and the artifacts therein—don’t touch the ark, etc.).

    There’s nothing in Mormonism that (for me) holds this type of sacredness; the temple building is special to me because of what it represents, not because the bricks and carpet are somehow special—though I might get some raised eyebrows from some fellow Mormons for saying so. Nevertheless, I’m confident that most Mormons would agree with me on a parallel: the temple garment, which is ‘sacred’ for what it reminds us of but once worn-out, is cut up and thrown away like any old piece of clothing (no special ‘burial’ like the US flag gets, for example).

    It seems to me that whether the early Apostles had a Christian temple or not*, either way they needed to assert that the physical temple in Jerusalem was not the center of their faith.

    ______
    * I’ve actually discussed on my blog (too lazy to find references) my beliefs on this. Basically, I’m of the assumption that ancient temple worship was limited and the rites were quite different than today (though the actual covenants were similar). But I leave it as an assumption because to me it really doesn’t matter: when I go to the temple, I believe that I am doing God’s work; whether Paul did similar work or not doesn’t change that.

  17. I’m not sure it makes a whole lot of difference the extent to which early Christians had an analogue to modern LDS temples. I don’t think it’s possible to prove things one way or the other by the New Testament, other than that early Christians practiced baptism for the dead.

    If there was an endowment ritual (to give the primary example of temple worship) during that time, it may not have been written down; even modern LDS writings make very few references specific about what goes on in temples. Also, rites wouldn’t have necessarily have had to take place in a temple; there could have been space set aside in a home, synagogue or some other ordinary structure.

    And like BrianJ, I assume that if there were analogues to today’s temple rituals in early Christianity, they were performed differently than are today, as today’s ceremonies take a form that grew out of 19th-century American culture. Although the covenants may have been the same 2,000 years ago, the way they would have been presented probably wouldn’t be instantly recognizable to us today.

  18. Tim,

    I absolutely concede that modern Mormon temple worship probably does not bear any close resemblance to early christian temple worship. Considering how much the temple rites have been adjusted in the history of the latter-day church, we should assume that much of what we have was newly revealed rather than recreated from previous ritual and that previous rituals were tailored to those early Christians.

    The revelation of Joseph Smith that there were Christian temples and temple rights is largely based on a belief in the inspiration of Joseph rather than anything else. I think Mormons generally look to things other than his understanding of early christian rituals as evidence of his inspiration.

  19. I don’t think it’s possible to prove things one way or the other by the New Testament, other than that early Christians practiced baptism for the dead.

    The fact that Paul refers to being “baptized for the dead,” almost toally without context, in no way necessarily–or even likely–means he was talking about “baptism for the dead” like it is conceived and practiced by Mormons.

  20. Kullervo,

    It should at least be noted, however, that according to most contemporary critical biblical scholars 1 Cor. 15.29 does indeed refer to vicarious baptism dead persons. I quote Harvard Divinity School’s (late) Krister Stendahl at length:

    “In his first epistle to the Corinthians Paul wrote: “Otherwise, what shall they do who are being baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are they being baptized for them” (Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians 15:29).

    This verse is part of Paul’s argumentation against those who denied a future resurrection (cf. 2 Tim. 2:18, Justin, Dial. 80). He refers to a practice of vicarious baptism, a practice for which we have no other evidence in the Pauline or other New Testament or early Christian writings. Interpreters have puzzled over the fact that Paul seems to accept this practice. At least he does not see fit to condemn it as heretical, but Paul clearly refers to a distinct group within the Church, a group that he accuses of inconsistency between ritual and doctrine.

    A practice of vicarious baptism for the dead (for example among the Marcionites, A.D. 150) was known and seen as heretical by the ancient commentators. Thus they interpreted Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:29 so as not to lend support to such practices or to any theology implicit in it. Through the ages their interpretations have persisted and multiplied (B. M. Foschini reports and evaluates forty distinct explanations of this verse). Most of the Greek fathers understood “the dead” to refer to one’s own body; others have interpreted the verse as referring to pagans seeking baptism “for the sake of joining” lost Christian relatives. Still others have suggested different sentence structures: “Otherwise what will they achieve who are being baptized? Something merely for their dead bodies?”

    Once the theological pressures from later possible developments of practice and doctrine are felt less constricting, the text seems to speak plainly enough about a practice within the Church of vicarious baptism for the dead. This is the view of most contemporary critical exegetes. Such a practice can be understood in partial analogy with Paul’s reference to how the pagan spouses and joint children in mixed marriages are sanctified and cleansed by the Christian partners (1 Cor. 7:14). Reference has often been made to 2 Maccabees 12:39-46, where Judas Maccabeaus, “taking account of the resurrection,” makes Atonement for his dead comrades. (This was the very passage which Dr. Eck used in favor of purgatory in his 1519 Leipzig debate with Martin Luther. So it became part of the reason why Protestant Bibles excluded the Apocrypha or relegated them to an Appendix.)

    To this could be added that the next link in Paul’s argument for a future resurrection is his own exposure to martyrdom (1 Cor. 15:30-32), a martyrdom that Paul certainly thinks of as having a vicarious effect (Phil. 2:17, Rom. 15:16, cf. Col. 1:24).

    Such a connection may be conscious or unconscious. In either case it makes it quite reasonable that Paul’s remark refers to a practice of a vicarious baptism for the dead.”

    At any rate, I don’t think Mormons need the baptismal ceremony that the Corinthian saints were performing to be completely identical with contemporary Mormon practice in order to use this passage in support of their position. Perhaps it is the case that the Corinthians were only performing this rite for their close relatives or for Christians who had not been baptized before their death. Mormons, I believe, could accept that they have both adopted the original practice as well as expanded it under the direction of revelation.

  21. “Baptism for the dead” does not equal “Christian temples”. Even the earliest forms of Mormon baptisms for the dead were not done inside a temple.

    I know that you know, but I’m not sure that I know that you know that others do not know what you and I both know.

  22. Tim,

    I was simply replying to Kullervo’s comment. I haven’t even read the post or the other comments. I just stopped by and clicked on the last comment.

    TYD

  23. I think Yellow Dart’s point does support the general contention that a lot went on inside the early church that we just don’t know about, leaving room for secret temple rites that were lost, later to be restored.

  24. Tim said:

    I know that you know, but I’m not sure that I know that you know that others do not know what you and I both know.

    I assume that most of the active participants here know. But perhaps not so for casual web surfers who happen upon this conversation.

  25. In regard to regular members not knowing that baptisms for the dead were not originally performed in temples, it was about 3 months ago that I said exactly that over the pulpit in sacrament meeting during a talk I gave about temple work.

    It isn’t a secret, and if members don’t know it is because they don’t read their history.

  26. Yeah, but Jared, anything could have been “done in secret,” with no evidence left because of how carefully it was guarded.

  27. Kullervo,

    It is without doubt that the earliest Christians held to secret teachings that were carefully guarded. The Christians of later generations knew about them too. For example, St. Basil the influential Cappodocian father said:

    “The apostles and fathers who prescribed from the beginning the matters that concerned the Church, guarded in secret and unspoken, the holy things of the mysteries…A whole day would not be long enough from me to go through all the unwritten mysteries of the Church” (On the Holy Spirit 67) (1-2).

    Fortunately, though we don’t have much to work with, there are hints and clues found in the ancient literature. Strangely enough, when we read this information we come to find many elements that are reflective of or similar to modern LDS temple teachings and practices. How is that possible?

    John Tvedtnes makes mention of some of those:
    http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/1999_Early_Christian_and_Jewish_Rituals_Related_to_Temple_Practices.html

  28. Strangely enough, when we read this information we come to find many elements that are reflective of or similar to modern LDS temple teachings and practices. How is that possible?

    Complete bullshit.

  29. Or it just means he’s having a pissy day and can’t be fussed to come up with a real answer.

    Not that I’m ragging too much on you Kullervo. I just gave a similarly unhelpful response on another Evangelical blog yesterday.

  30. Just FYI James, prooftexting Gnostic texts as evidence of Christians temples or secret rituals doesn’t fly real well with those who follow Orthodox Christianity. You might as well be referring me to the Watchtower for evidence that Christians shouldn’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. (similar to Scientologist piggy-backing JW apologetics that brain washing doesn’t really exist).

    I’m more than convinced that the Gnostics were into secret rituals and secret teachings. That one ancient cult of Christianity practiced the same thing as you doesn’t improve your argument.

    I’m wondering if FAIR and Tvedtnes would accept all of the teachings found in those text that come along with the rituals they describe.

  31. Kullervo,

    You are right, anything could have happened in secret. Good news is that we Mormons have revelation that tells us some of those lost secrets.

    YES!

    Archeologists? We don’t need no stinking archeologist!

  32. Tim,

    Citing the words of ancient Christians, whether they be Gnostics, Montanists, proto-Orthodox, or otherwise, serves the purpose of establishing the plausibility of our case. We certainly don’t intend to absolutely prove anything by it.

    What it at least highlights is the religious environment in which the earliest Christians belonged to.

    By the way, since when is St. Basil considered a Gnostic?

  33. “I’m wondering if FAIR and Tvedtnes would accept all of the teachings found in those text that come along with the rituals they describe.”

    Obviously not. Denial of the embodied nature of God would be one example.

    Tvedtnes’s own article (linked above) finishes off with an account of Adam and Eve in the Garden that many Mormons would find problematic in one or two ways.

    I think you are mistaking the LDS purpose in citing such sources however.

    LDS scholars do not generally point to Gnostic or Coptic sources in an attempt to authoritatively establish doctrine. They merely use them to answer our critics’ assertions that there is absolutely no evidence that early Christianity believed anything even remotely resembling Mormon practice.

    Gnostic and Coptic sources often refute that specific Evangelical argument. There were some practices going on in 1st century Christianity that very much echo modern Mormon practice and themes.

    We already do not believe the Bible to be a sufficient owners manual for every religious practice and belief God wanted promulgated. Why would we expect something similar from the Gnostic Gospels?

    For the rightness and authority of our teachings, we refer to modern revelation and the inherent value of those teachings – in and of themselves, and without reference to any other source or authority.

    Study of early Christianity is mostly a way of defending Mormonism from unsupportable claims from our critics that history refutes the Mormon claim.

  34. I suppose such a response is one way to circumvent cognitive dissonance.

    Wow, James. I have to say that I think it’s pretty… bold for a Mormon to accuse other people of cognitive dissonance.

  35. Kullervo,
    Before I wrote that, I had already browsed your blog a bit. You clearly have gone through a period of cognitive dissonance, and I respect that you struggled through it and have come out on one side. Most people don’t seem to explore beyond the safe harbors of what their religious leadership tells them.

    It is often said that Mormons struggle uphill with cognitive dissonance, implicitly more than other Christians. If that is true, I wonder if it is because Mormons are more likely to explore, ponder, and question than other Christians are….and not because of any fault in their theology.

    Anyway, all this is off the topic of the thread. I didn’t actually accuse you of struggling with cognitive dissonance, I explicitly said that you had circumvented it.

  36. Seth, I’m by no means an expert on Gnostic writngs, but as far as I know, none of those are first century writings. Some are as old as 3rd and 4th century text. They don’t represent Christian ideas or first century practices.

    It’s quite similar to some one saying that Mormons were practicing polygamy in the early part of the 21st Century and using Warren Jeffs as proof. Or perhaps as far out as saying Mormons believe in Thetans and pointing to Mormon converts to Scientology (or vice versa) as proof.

    James, the quote by St. Basil by itself gets you no where close to what is purposed by the FAIR article. I can make an argument for “the secrets” being Alien Lizard people just as easily as 19th Century Masonry.

    It is often said that Mormons struggle uphill with cognitive dissonance, implicitly more than other Christians. If that is true, I wonder if it is because Mormons are more likely to explore, ponder, and question than other Christians are….and not because of any fault in their theology.

    As Kullervo likes to say “It’s a feature not a bug”.

  37. I’d be shocked if Mormons on average “explore, ponder, and question [more] than other Christians.” Some do, some don’t. Either way, James, I can’t help but think that’s a pretty arrogant thing to say. Seriously, there have been hundreds of Christian sects and philosophers over the centuries exploring, pondering, and questioning.

  38. Tim,
    I didn’t suggest that St. Basil’s quote revealed anything about what the mystery was, just that there was a mystery. It was my understanding that you called him a Gnostic. If I misunderstood, I apologize.

    Brian,
    “I’d be shocked if Mormons on average “explore, ponder, and question [more] than other Christians.” Some do, some don’t. Either way, James, I can’t help but think that’s a pretty arrogant thing to say.”

    I hate to be so confrontational (I don’t like it), but isn’t it at least equally arrogant to be “shocked” at the thought that Mormons might be more exploratory than the average Christian? Why would you be shocked? Are we less studious than the average Christian?

  39. Brian,
    I don’t mean to sound arrogant at all. I apologize if I did.

    I know we are going way off topic with this, but bear with me.

    I have little doubt that on average an active LDS is better informed as to the doctrines and teachings of his church than the average active non-LDS Christian. Eight to nine years of primary, 6 years of SS, 4 years of daily seminary, and for many 2 years of missionary training. Furthermore, our leaders never stop pushing us to “feast upon the word” (as your blog reminds us).

    A study by the Barna group found that “Mormons are more likely to read the Bible during a week than are Protestants”, a difference of 67% to 54%. I realize that this isn’t really a big deal, and I’m not saying all of this in an attitude of “we are better than them.” All these facts just lead me to conclude that Mormons are generally better informed of their doctrines than most Christians. The LDS Church is a finely oiled machine, and it excels at educating its people.
    Source: http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=93

    But, I recognize that being informed isn’t exactly the same thing as being “exploratory”. Being studious doesn’t equate to questioning one’s faith. I only threw out the speculation about Mormons being more exploratory as a…well…a speculation! I merely wondered.

    But I don’t think it is a speculation without foundation. People don’t start to question their faith unless they know something about it. You can’t know something about it unless you study it. If Mormons study their faith on average more frequently than other Christians, it just might follow that they question their faith on average more than the average Christian.
    In other words, it could have more to do with a higher percentage of informed individuals than with flaws in the faith.

    I recognize that what I am saying is probably a bit inflammatory. I have encountered no lack of very studious, knowledgeable, and exploratory Christians…and no lack of those who are undoubtedly smarter than I am!

  40. All of this has nothing to do with what I meant.

    What I meant it, I think it’s pretty audacious for a Mormon to claim that the historical and archeological evidence for Mormonism is so good that other people have to experience cognitive dissonance or admit its truth.

  41. I have little doubt that on average an active LDS is better informed as to the doctrines and teachings of his church than the average active non-LDS Christian. Eight to nine years of primary, 6 years of SS, 4 years of daily seminary, and for many 2 years of missionary training. Furthermore, our leaders never stop pushing us to “feast upon the word” (as your blog reminds us).

    Wait, wait… So, because an active Mormon goes to Sunday school (as do active Christian children), they are better informed of their church doctrines? Not to pull the straw man out on you, but what about all those people who went to all those years of primary, sunday school, seminary, institute, etc… and came out not knowing about polygamy? Hmmm… I’m feeling some dissonance here. Whether it’s cognitive, I’m not sure. I’m not really assimilating it (or thinking too hard–auditing Fannie Mae is frying my brain).

    (Brian–note my appropriate use of italics, as I remain a member of your italics cult)

  42. I have heard some people note that – on the whole – your average church-going Mormon is better informed of the scriptures than your average church-going Evangelical or Protestant, or Catholic.

    I have heard some Evangelical bloggers concede this point, but point out in the same breath that even so, the average Mormon understanding does not tend to go very deep either. I would probably say that the average Mormon understanding certainly does not rival that of a Protestant minister usually and doesn’t always even rival the understanding of an Evangelical blogger.

    But these comparisons are tricky because your looking at very different populations to begin with – and who do you include in the sample?

    Mormonism indisputably requires more from its worshipers than a lot of other Christian churches. Temple recommend interviews, mandatory attendance at church meetings, lay ministry, all that. The active Mormon is simply required to step up to the plate more than your average Evangelical. There is no question that you learn the scriptures better when you have to teach them every week than when you simply listen to a preacher (maybe) talk about them once a week. While watching Jeopardy as a kid, my siblings and I always nailed about 80-90% of the questions whenever “The Bible” came up as a topic and couldn’t understand why all these otherwise really smart contestants just sat there like idiots on more than half the answers usually. As a freshman in high school, I knew the Bible better than most Jeopardy contestants. Even my 10 year old kid brother was about on par with the contestants.

    But notice, I’m talking about “active” Mormons. What happens when you include everyone else that Salt Lake typically designates on its membership rolls?

    Probably tanks the averages I would imagine.

    And then you have to calculate that vis a vis who the other Christian churches are listing as members. Lots of stuff has come out recently about how Protestants are cooking the books too and listing people in their membership numbers who have no business being there. The Southern Baptist Convention recently admitted to almost tripling its real membership when it reported its numbers. Mega Churches tout massive numbers, much of which seems largely transitory or illusory. And do you even count mega church Protestants for purposes of doing a “Gospel Knowledge” interdenominational rumble?

    And if you only count the “elite” membership in the Mormon Church (the proverbial “20% of the cows who give 80% of the milk”), do you then have to stack them up against the “elites” in Protestant congregations – the guy who does youth Bible study each summer, or the minister, or the woman who runs her own online ministry?

    And how do you determine who the Evangelical equivalent of a “former LDS Bishop who now teaches Gospel Doctrine Class” is? Is it fair to match that Bishop with a Baptist minister who went to four years of divinity school? Or is it fair to match that Bishop against the random guy or girl sitting in the pews at Tim’s church on Sunday.

    I don’t think it is. But how do you even make these kind of comparisons?

    Personally, I think we could spend our time better.

  43. I think if we lined up all the other social criteria (education, salary, health record, marital status, military service, etc.) we would get pretty comparable numbers.

    Seth, you weren’t the only kid giddy for Jeopardy Bible categories.

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