Monday, August 20, 2007
Nephi said that he made his “record in the language of …[his] father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.”
What did he mean by the learning of the Jews? If we understood this Jewish knowledge would it enrich our understanding of the Book of Mormon and the gospel generally?
For example, the discovery of chiasmus (a Jewish learning) in the Book of Mormon has greatly increased our understanding of the text and has proven to be one of our best apologetic tools for defending the faith.
There are levels upon levels in the Book of Mormon that go unnoticed by the casual reader. There are symbols, figures of speech, and concepts being deployed that could add depth if we can see them.
I would submit that a most valuable tool that a modern day Mormon can have in understanding the “learning of the Jews” is the Zohar.
The word Zohar means Splendor or Radiance. First published by Moses de Leon (13th. century), and is purported (with many differing views) to be the work of a second century rabbi named Simeon ben Yohai. Most authorities believe De Leon to be the actual author. The Zohar is comprised of a group of books, originally written in Aramaic and medieval Hebrew.
The Zohar is given in story form, mostly of groups of Rabbis walking from place to place, meeting interesting people. The conversations are the lessons. It is a fascinating and wonderful book. If you take the Doctrine and Covenants admonition seriously to seek out the best books, you should seek out the Zohar.
The backdrop for the Zohar is the Tree of Life, just like Genesis and 1 Nephi.
I suggest Daniel C. Matt’s translation, 3 volume set, found here at Amazon.
ADDITION - HERE ARE A COUPLE ON-LINE LINKS FOR THE ZOHAR: [ZOHAR.COM and [LAITMAN]
 1 Nephi 1:2
 Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, Chapter 7, Noel B. Reynolds, Deseret Book.
 Doctrine and Covenants 109:7,14; 88:118