Thursday, August 3, 2017

With One Accord (1 Nephi 10:13)

Draft Only

Swept along in the poetic crescendo, I but catch at the meaning of Scripture: "Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth" (1 Nephi 10:13).

Might "with one accord," I wonder, signify led with full intent; with an overriding purpose; by the Lord's guiding hand and purpose, "unto the fulfilling of [His] word"?

"Led. . . unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord": the accent falls on the verb of leading and on the Lord as the Agent, the Leader, the One who acts, without hindrance whatsoever, to fulfill His purposes. After all, with Back-to-Jerusalem-or-Bust Laman and Lemuel on the ship and on the sands, there was precious little accord among the little band.

A moment's thought gives us the literal meaning: Lehi addresses the phrase to his family in the hopes that from this moment forward they might be "led with one accord," that is, "with one heart and one mind." Lehi urges them to rise above the passivity of being "acted upon" and instead begin to act with one hope, one dream, as yoke-fellows in the Lord's forward-looking purposes. Yet even should they not come to terms--and they don't--the phrasal punch seems to sweep them along to fulfillment of God's will in history.

A very strange copy of the Book of Mormon buckles the shelves of the Translation Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a copy that cross-references every single phrase which makes the King James Version of the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ truly "one in thine hands." A VERY STRANGE BOOK--think Parley P. Pratt, here. I held the tome once, plunged in amazement: it references Everything. It is the master edition for the conceptually and scripturally uniform translation of the Book of Mormon into every language on earth. The Holy Bible in every tongue, the King James Version leading the way, becomes the sacred instrument, the Directors or Interpreters, "one in thine hand," for reading the Book of Mormon throughout the world, "with one accord."

Keeping that cross-referenced copy well in mind, along with the "small and simple means" of a powerful Scriptural search engine on, I turn to the French translation of 1 Nephi:

13 C’est pourquoi il fallait, dit-il, que nous fussions conduits d’un commun accord à la terre de promission pour accomplir la parole du Seigneur que nous serions dispersés sur toute la surface de la terre.

"D'un commun accord": it's clear that the marked-up master copy, which points unerringly to a phrase appearing a stunning 10 times in the Acts of the Apostles, governs the reading--even while the bracing quality of the sentence as it appears in English falls to the side (at least to these ears). Lehi exhorts his family, and in particular his strong-willed sons--to be possessed "d'un commun accord." Is that the correct and one-and-only reading of "with one accord" in 1 Nephi 10:13? Of course it is, though on certain days of the week I may still grasp at other possibilities.

How well the French accords with the English--its the very same word. Tyndale first conjured up "with one accord" to translate Greek homothumadon (homothumos). Accord is, of course, the Latin ad corda, at heart, to the heart, altered in French, then brought into English.  

The Spanish is even more true to the original Greek and Hebrew antecedents:

13 Por tanto, dijo que era necesario que fuéramos conducidos unánimemente a la tierra de promision, para que se cumpliese la palabra del Señor de que seríamos dispersados sobre toda la faz de la tierra.

English knows unanimous and unanimity, which signifies "everybody's in favor," but the Spanish unanimemente still carries the old sense "with one spirit, energy, mind, one animo." How does Liddel and Scott translate homothumos (homou, thumos): of one mind, unanimous. Here, the thumos, the soul, the life, the breath, speaks to mind, will, purpose (while also suggesting spirit, courage). Lehi's sons are to have the same mind and purpose. United in a common cause, they will be led in Zion-like unity, of one heart and one mind, to the promised land, even to Zion.

These clarifying Book of Mormon translations exist in many a tongue for the words of Lehi all thanks to the ten appearances of with one accord (homothumadon) in the Acts of the Apostles. Mostly, it's the "band of Christians" who meet and pray and word "with one accord," but, often, the phrase describes the attacking populace: mobs attack "with one accord." The Greek phrase (or the English rendering) in Acts conveys the single purpose of many agents, not the Act or Agency of God, though one could also say that He leads us "with one accord," that is, "without variance or distraction." I like that reading, too.

There is another place in the King James Bible where we find "with one accord," and that is Joshua 9:2: "That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord." The enemies of Israel, like the mob in Acts, attack Joshua and Israel peh echad ("mouth single" = "with one mouth"). The Hebrew wording places emphasis on the phrase: vayyitqabbetsu yachdav lehillahem im-Yehoshua veim-Yisrael--peh echad ("and they gathered in one to battle Joshua and Israel, with one mouth, or as the Orthodox Jewish Bible renders: "with one peh" [accord]). (The various translations may be found on BibleHub.)

Wycliffe's Bible has a curious reading: "with one will, and with the same accord," in which "with one will" and "with the same accord" translate, in fine duplicate, both the phrase and its emphatic placing. It's clear that Tyndale's "with one accord" nicely sums the matter up. He must have had Wycliffe's Old Testament translations very much in mind, even memorized, while translating the New Testament. Whether that's so or not, Tyndale transcends Wycliffe. Had he translated peh echad in Joshua 9:2, we would have seen "with one accord."

Adverbial peh echad, or peh-echad, also occurs in 2 Chronicles 18:12. A royal messenger warns hapless Michaiah that 400 prophets have agreed on a prophecy of "good news" for Ahab: "Lo! the words of all the prophets tell with one mouth good things to the king" (Wycliffe's Bible).

"There is not ish echad" (one man) of the 400 who casts a dissenting vote (Orthodox Jewish Bible). Michaiah, #401--and the narrative anticipation runs high--will be that ish echad. Goodbye forever peh echad, for the one who sticks out like a sore thumb, as Nibley would say of Lehi, becomes the man of thumos, the spirited soul, who can speak for God. Overriding his entire cabinet, Lincoln was wont to say: "the ayes have it." The Lord's overriding purpose moves swiftly "with one accord," "in unanimity," "the unanimity of One with one," God with prophet, to fulfill His Word. Ahab falls.

And now to Lehi: "It must needs be that we are led--peh echad--into the land of promise."

A land of promise is a land of prophecy, of new beginnings. Lehi becomes a new Jacob, his sons, the heads of new branches of Joseph. And as every reader notes, the theme of what will befall Lehi's posterity in the latter-days persists throughout the books of Nephi. Besides being apocalyptic prophets themselves, Lehi and his sons Nephi and Jacob quote such far-seeing prophets as Joseph, Isaiah, Zenos, Zenock, and Neum. As for Laman and Lemuel, they are continually hearing and discussing all these prophecies, all these readings, and peppering Nephi with questions. The Book of Mormon opens as the Bible ends, as a grand Apocalypse, all tailored to Lehi's posterity, and to us: "that which shall befall you in the last days."

It should come as no surprise, then, that Lehi's prophecies and promises find striking correspondences with a midrash (found in two versions), and associated rabbinic commentary, on Genesis 49. In Midrash Tanchuma Chapter 8, Jacob, after hesitating, speaks to his sons about the latter days. (Well, I'm surprised!) 2 Nephi 3 shows how Lehi himself both quoted and expounded Genesis 49 in setting forth the blessings and promises on his son Joseph. We keep in mind that Lehi's copy of Genesis 49, found on the brass plates, was much longer than the version in our Bibles.

According to the commentary on Midrash Tanchuma Vayechi, when Jacob wished to speak to his 12 sons about the latter days, he felt, Nephi-like, constrained not to do so, because he sensed one or more of his sons was in Esau-like or Ishmael-like rebellion (Laman-like and Lemuel-like--and sons of Ismael-like), and thus incapable to holding to the covenant and of receiving the promised latter-day blessings. Jacob mourned in his heart. Yet at the last minute all 12 sons responded to his wishes peh echad, "with one mouth": D'accord. Jacob could then deliver the apocalyptic message with his last blessing. All Bible readers who encounter the first chapters of 2 Nephi immediately think of Genesis 49. Such readers need no compendious volume to tell them What's what.

Did such a story about Jacob's prophetic hesitation in speaking to his sons appear on the Plates of Brass? Jacob foresaw the apostasy of so many of his seed, and his heart, like Lehi's, like Nephi's, almost failed him. The same prophecy of covenantal failure, finally overcome by the covenantal faithful, appears in Moroni's narrative of Jacob and the remnant of the coat of Joseph.

A close study of Lehi's discourses and blessings to his sons so indicates.


Genesis 49 bears the story out most succinctly: He seeks to bless his sons and tell them about the latter-days. They gather (q-b-ts, as the enemies gather in Joshua 9:2), whereupon we twice read that they are prepared to "listen" (shema') to their father, Jacob. The repetition shows assertion and implies a moment of doubt: Yes, we will indeed listen! We will certainly hear about our latter-days! (Hearing such a prophetic forecasting could be a troubling prospect for anyone, much less for 12 potential rivals.) As the midrash says, they finally spoke with peh echad. How telling that this midrash should light on this phrase; how fitting that Lehi should use it as well. It's the mot juste in either case. Such a peculiar detail shines so bright as a constellation of chiasmus or a discovery of a lush Bountiful by blue Arabian shores. It speaks to the specific and the peculiar, as Hugh Nibley would say.

Lehi somehow discerned both all this filial tension and rebellion and all the possibilities of a final coming to unity--though not until the last day. He apparently found the very story of which the midrash witnesses engraved on the plates of brass. Captain Moroni, after all, gives a wonderfully expansive story about Jacob and his sons (Alma 46). These are "the words of Jacob" about the preserved coat of Joseph and what that signified for the latter-day remnant of Joseph's own seed. Recall that the Brass Plates places the accent on Joseph's seed, Lehi's genealogical line, as if another Stick of Joseph, and so forth. 2 Nephi 3 also shows a much longer Genesis 49 than we know. The chapter went on and on--it was a prophecy of the latter days.

Jacob mourned, believing that he could not reveal the events of the latter-days to his 12 sons. Suddenly they spoke peh achad--then he blessed them.

Happy coincidence or not, the occurence of peh echad in the midrash harmonizes beautifully with Lehi's admonition to his own recalcitrant sons to forge ahead "with one accord."

Lehi clearly is a New Jacob, the leader "of the people of Jacob." In Laman and Lemuel he discerns, perhaps, Reuben and Levi; in Nephi and Sam, there is Joseph and Judah; in Jacob and Joseph; there is Joseph and Benjamin, and so forth.

The midrash showing Jacob's sons speaking peh echad--that's what Lehi is all about here: "'amru kulan b'peh echad"--They all spoke with one accord.
Nephites, Lamanites, all with one accord--the Latter-day unity.
I'll be adding my on the midrash here, in a few days.......................
My Source : Musings on Midrash: Vayechi--Shema Yisrael (RPT)
the midrash of Jacob's sons speaking peh echad--that's what Lehi is all about here.  "'amru kulan b'peh echad"

"And I pray for the day when we can follow the example of our ancestors, Ya'akov's twelve sons, by truly saying b'peh echad--Shema Yisrael, HaShem Elokeinu HaShem Echad."


But was it reasonable for Lehi to suppose that his sons could be of one mind? They were not--and he knew it--but he never gave up hope until the day he died. His final blessing included the first blessing for Laman and Lemuel--the blessing of favor--it came with one condition, but without restriction. If they would only take it. They wanted more than anything else that first blessing; yet they also wholly refused it.

Laman (and Lemuel) was, contrary to a surface view very much inclined to repentance, The account shows anything but a one-dimensional Laman; the man was repenting all the time. even kneeling and throwing himself into the dust. What, then, did Laman (and Lemuel and the sons of Ismael) lack? He lacked knowledge--he read and discussed the Scripture, he pondered his father's visions and dreams--but he lacked both full intent and desire and a comprehensive knowledge--the big picture--the overriding purpose "with one accord"--what Paul would call the mystery, the dealings of that God who made them. He lacked humility. Above all, he lacked endurance. I speak not of enduring to the end, but even of enduring through the next trial or the next.

This leads to the matter of tribal or clan loyalties. To make it through the wasteland, the clan must have a single mind and determination. Nothing must weaken the resolve to come through--the pioneering "we came through"--to survive. To rebel, to murmur, to threaten to return--go backwards--these were threats to the survival of all. The real miracle is that with such dissonance, born of a lack of resolve, the entire clan didn't perish at every contretemps. The essence of desert survival is to survive, endure, the next difficulty--to do so require some vision of the journey as a whole, as a cycle.

Laman epitomizes another type of the ish echad, the one out-of-step with the aims and purposes of the struggling tribe--and his ignorance and his pride led him not to care about the consequences. He should have died a thousand deaths along the arduous road, along with those foolish enough to attend to his words. Yet he even thought that his father was a "foolish man." Foolish imaginations Lehi might have had--if you follow Laman's way of looking at things--but Lehi in the Desert was anything but a fool.

Laman played the fool.

So how could anything have been accomplished, much less "with one accord."
The answer is simple, and it's the necessary answer of survival--Laman had to be forced to comply. Force hardly seems to answer to our view of Agency, yet Force was what was applied, a force that reduced Laman, like Esau, like Pharaoh, to one "acted upon" to the fulfillment of the Lord's overarching purposes. Half the characters in the Bible seem to be so "acted upon." It's not a matter of predestination; these biblical transgressors souls each exercised moral choice, but even so, the divine plan and program could not be thwarted.  They knew not the dealings, or the purposes, and yet were swept up, then even swept away, by them. See Also: