Friday, January 3, 2014

Moses 5 in the Mailbag

A query from an astute reader has been passed on to me. The query is whether in Moses 5:51 the verb knew should be understood carnally. Here is the relevant passage:
51 For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother.
52 Wherefore the Lord cursed Lamech, and his house, and all them that had covenanted with Satan; for they kept not the commandments of God, and it displeased God, and he ministered not unto them, and their works were abominations, and began to spread among all the sons of men. And it was among the sons of men.
53 And among the daughters of men these things were not spoken, because that Lamech had spoken the secret unto his wives, and they rebelled against him, and declared these things abroad, and had not compassion;
54 Wherefore Lamech was despised, and cast out, and came not among the sons of men, lest he should die.
55 And thus the works of darkness began to prevail among all the sons of men. (Moses 5:51–56)
I had always understood the phrase "they knew every man his brother" to mean that every man in the secret combination recognized his brother and was cognizant that he was a confederate in iniquity. This alternate reading is certainly intriguing. There is a simple way to test it.

The book of Moses uses the verb to know in both carnal and intellectual senses. Bracketing the phrase in question, lets look at the other uses by category.

In the following instances, the verb to know is used in the intellectual rather than the carnal sense:
all things are present with me [God], for I know them all. (Moses 1:6)
I [Moses] know that man is nothing (Moses 1:10)
they are mine and I [God] know them. (Moses 1:35)
the name of which shall not be known among the children of men (Moses 1:42)
This I [Adam] know now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh (Moses 3:23)
he [Satan] knew not the mind of God (Moses 4:6)
God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Moses 4:11)
they [Adam and Eve] knew that they had been naked (Moses 4:13)
the man is become as one of us to know good and evil (Moses 4:28)
I [Adam] know not, save the Lord commanded me. (Moses 5:6)
Were it not for our transgression we [Eve and Adam] never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. (Moses 5:11)
they [Adam and Eve] made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. (Moses 5:12)
Who is the Lord that I should know him? (Moses 5:16)
Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him. (Moses 5:21)
this that thy father may not know it (Moses 5:29)
I [Cain] know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:34)
and Irad, the son of Enoch, having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam (Moses 5:49)
God hath made known unto our fathers that all men must repent. (Moses 6:50)
they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good. (Moses 6:55)
it is given unto them to know good from evil (Moses 6:56)
[the Comforter is] that which knoweth all things (Moses 6:61)
Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness (Moses 7:41)
thou art God, and I know thee (Moses 7:59)
he shall know that all flesh shall die (Moses 8:17)
The following are passages where the verb to know is used in the carnal sense:
And Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters (Moses 5:2) 
And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain (Moses 5:16) 
And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bare Enoch (Moses 5:42)
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bare a son (Moses 6:2)
This lengthy listing shows that in most cases when the object of the verb to know is used of a mortal person, it is used in a carnal sense; there are, however, two exceptions:
And death hath come upon our fathers; nevertheless we know them, and cannot deny, and even the first of all we know, even Adam. For a book of remembrance we have written among us (Moses 6:45–46)
In this passage, the two uses of to know are clearly of an intellectual nature not a carnal nature because they are known through a book.

This would argue that the suggested reading in Moses 5:51 of the verb to know in a carnal sense can be a valid reading of the text but it cannot rule out the other reading. There are some interesting implications of the new reading which I leave to the reader.