God Instructs Adam and Eve

Book of Moses Essay #57

Moses 3:15-17

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In this Essay, we review the instructions given to Adam and Eve: the commandments to be fruitful and multiply and not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge; the instruction for Adam to cleave to Eve, the most unique of God’s creations; and the commandment for them to “dress” and “keep” the Garden. As with other parts of this rich story, there is far more than meets the eye when the details are fully appreciated.

The First Two Commandments to Adam and Eve

The illustration above shows God creating Eve and then instructing the couple. It was created under the direction of Herrad of Hohenbourg a twelfth-century abbess under who was responsible for assembling a comprehensive and copiously illustrated compendium of knowledge and salvation history, called Hortus Deliciarum (Garden of Delights).1  The details of the depiction draw on traditions from outside of Genesis:

· The commandment to be fruitful and multiply (Moses 2:27). As was discussed in Essay #50, an essential part of the plan was for Adam and Eve to have children. In the middle of the drawing above, a Tree of Life has sprouted human faces resembling Adam and Eve, attesting to ancient traditions about individual premortal existence.2  This “Tree of Souls”3  which, in Jewish legend, represented the heavenly Tree of Life, was thought to produce “new souls, which ripen and then fall from the tree into the Guf, the Treasury of Souls in Paradise. There the soul is stored until the angel Gabriel reaches into the treasury and takes out the first soul that comes into his hand” so it can be born into mortality.4

· The commandment to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Moses 3:16–17). Gary A. Anderson points out an interesting divergence between Genesis story and the drawing featured here: “Whereas Genesis 2 recounts that Adam was created first (2:4–7), given a commandment (2:16–17), and only then received a spouse (2:19–24), the Hortus Deliciarum has it that Adam was created, then Eve was drawn from his rib, and finally both were given a commandment.”5  At right, God gestures toward the Tree of Knowledge in warning as He takes Adam by the wrist. At the same time, Eve raises her arm in what seems a gesture of consent to God’s commandment.6

Eve’s Fivefold Uniqueness

Donald W. Parry sees a “five-fold uniqueness” in the creation of Eve that is related in Moses 3:7

1.       Creation as forming vs. building. While the Hebrew verb used to describe Adam’s creation is yṣr — to form or fashion — the verb used for Eve is bnh — to build, “recall[ing] the building of temples and altars.” The terms is also used “with regard to women bearing and delivering children.”8

2.       Formed from the ground vs. built from a living creature. Whereas Adam and the animals were formed from ’adamah, the ground, Eve was built from a ṣela, traditionally translated as a “rib” but perhaps more accurately translating as a “side,” containing both flesh and bone. Hence, Adam’s exclamation of joy: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.”9  Richard Draper et al. observe that the expression “does not mean that Eve’s physical body was derived from Adam but rather that the bodies of Adam and Eve derive from a common source. … This interpretation is supported by the account of Jacob’s initial meeting with Laban. When Laban learned that Jacob was his sister’s son, he said, ‘Surely thou art my bone and my flesh’ (Genesis 29:14).”10

3.       Eve was created while Adam slept. “Hebrew tardemah is used of abnormally heavy sleep, divinely induced.”11  The image is one of transition from a former state into a new one, a “sleep and a forgetting.”12  When the sleeping Adam lost the memory of his past, he also became ignorant of other things. The Apocalypse of Adam records Adam saying that “the first knowledge that breathed within us” left them and that “the eternal knowledge of the God of truth withdrew from me and your mother Eve.”13  The awakening of Adam represents the beginning of his recovery from his state of ignorance. In the Apocalypse of Adam, he is instructed by “three men” of surpassing “glory.” Although in Adam’s new state of ignorance he was at first “unable to recognize” them, they proceeded to reveal knowledge to him about his Creator.

4.       “It was not good that the man should be alone” (Moses 3:18). Prior to this point, every step of Creation had been pronounced “good,” but “Eve’s absence from the Creation was ‘not good.’”

5.       ‘Ezer. “Of all God’s creative works, she is singularly called ‘ezer.”14  The Hebrew means “a helper or strength corresponding to him”—or, in other words, a completing counterpart. This term cannot be taken as demeaning because Hebrew ‘ezer, employed here to describe the intended role of the woman, is often used of God in His relation to man.”15  President Howard W. Hunter said: “The Lord intended that the wife be … a companion equal and necessary in full partnership.”16  Thus, in Moses 2, both man and woman are created in the image of God, and in Moses 3, they are described as corresponding strengths.17  Targum Yerushalmi captures the sense when it refers to the woman as the man’s “yoke-fellow.”18

The Marriage of Adam and Eve

In Moses 3:22, God specifically says: “I … brought [Eve] unto the man.” “As noted in a midrash, the image may well be that of God playing the role of the attendant who leads the bride to the groom. Without doubt, the verse conveys the idea that the institution of marriage is established by God Himself.”19

God declared that a husband “shall cleave unto his wife.”20  “The underlying meaning of the [idea of two distinct entities becoming attached to one another while preserving their separate identities] becomes clear, if it is noted that the verb d-v-k [cleave] is often used to describe human yearning for and devotion to God.”21  “Sexual relations between husband and wife do not rise above the level of animality unless they be informed by and imbued with spiritual, emotional, and mental affinity.”22

When Moses 3:25 states that Adam and Eve “were both naked,” it means that they were no longer “clothed” with the memory and glory of their earlier state. The verse attests to the couple’s innocence, their lack of awareness of the initial change that had come over them at this point of the story — and of the greater change that was yet to come after the Fall, a greater change that they would try to correct at that later time with the putting on of the fig leaf apron.

Note that the verse is meant to prepare us for Moses 4:13.23  It “forms the transition to the next episode by means of a word play on ‘naked’ (Hebrew ’arom, plural ’arummim) and ‘shrewd’ (Hebrew ’arum). It also conveys an anticipatory hint at [how the two concepts are going to be related].”24  Approximating the Hebrew word-play in English, we might say (with Gordon Wenham) that the couple aspired to be “shrewd” (like the serpent), they ended up “nude.”25

The fact that Adam and Eve “were not ashamed” expresses the idea that while the two partners were as yet free from transgression they could stand “naked” in God’s presence without shame,26  being “clothed with purity”27  in what early commentators called “garments of light.”28

The Work of Adam and Eve

Given the picture of the naturally growing, life-sustaining yields of the Garden of Eden, coupled with the absence of any troublesome weeds, students of the Bible have made various attempts to understand how Adam and Eve managed to stave off the “curse of idleness”29  during their sojourn in that happy place. For example, supposing that the daily labors of the first parents must have closely mirrored our own, Matthew Henry imagined that the man and the woman were placed in Eden to improve on God’s arrangements for the beauty and productivity of the fruit trees placed there. He reasoned that: “Nature, even in its primitive state, left room for the improvements of art and industry.”30  Supposing that the “husbandman’s calling … was needed even in Paradise,” he drew out the lesson from God’s instructions to Adam and Eve to “dress” and “keep” the Garden that “[s]ecular employments will very well consist with a state of innocency and a life of communion with God.”31

However, in contrast to attempts to draw parallels between “secular employments” and the work of the first couple in Paradise, it is important to realize that the very point of the scriptural injunction in Moses 3:15 is to inform Adam and Eve that no labor of the ordinary kind was required so long as they qualified to remain in that place. In this view, any conception that they were to focus their energies on digging and pruning the trees of Eden is surely mistaken, since the account makes clear that “man’s food was ever ready at hand.”32

Instead, a different, and even more strenuous and demanding kind of work was required of Adam and Eve while they lived in the Garden of Eden.  Consistent with the temple symbolism of Eden in Essay #55, we can conclude that Adam and Eve’s occupation in Paradise was “temple work.”

Moses 3:15 states that Adam and Eve were put in the Garden of Eden “to dress it, and to keep it.” The Hebrew terms in Genesis for “to dress” (abad) and “to keep” (shamar) respectively connote to “work, serve, till”33  and “keep, watch (guard), preserve.”34  Of course, these meanings are not, on the face of it, inconsistent with the practice of husbandry. However, when we recall the temple-like layout of the Garden of Eden35  and the fact that these are the very words that are used to describe the tabernacle duties of the Levites36  the phrase takes on deeper significance. Wenham remarked that “if Eden is seen then as an ideal sanctuary, then perhaps Adam should be described as an archetypal Levite.”37  John Sailhamer similarly comments:38

Man’s life in the garden was to be characterized by worship and obedience; he was a priest, not merely a worker and keeper of the Garden. … Throughout [Moses 3] the author has consistently and consciously developed the idea of man’s “likeness” to God along the same lines as the major themes of the Pentateuch as a whole, namely, the theme of worship and Sabbath rest.

In considering what occupied Adam and Eve’s time during their stay in the Paradise, remember that God had not yet declared an end to the period of sanctification He had purposed for the seventh day of Creation.39  The first couple was no doubt meant to “imitate the divine pattern”40  of sacred “rest,” paralleling in a general way mankind’s later weekly Sabbath-keeping.41


The idyllic setting of Eden, the commandments of a loving Father, and the companionship and strength afforded by a marriage partner set up what would seem to be the ideal conditions for happiness. However, so long as Adam and Eve remained in the Garden, their opportunities for progression were limited. In the next Essay, #58 we will discuss the symbolism of the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. In a later Essay, we will examine the temple layout of the Garden of Eden in more detail. In this way we will better appreciate the opportunities provided by God and exploited by Satan.


This essay is adapted from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/details/140123IGIL12014ReadingS, pp. 180–186, 228.

Further Reading

Bradshaw. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/details/140123IGIL12014ReadingS, pp. 180–186, 228.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 234–235.

Parry, Donald W. “Eve’s role as a ‘help’ (‘ezer) revisited.” In Seek Ye Words of Wisdom: Studies of the Book of Mormon, Bible, and Temple in Honor of Stephen D. Ricks, edited by Donald W. Parry, Gaye Strathearn and Shon D. Hopkin, 199–216. Orem and Provo, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Religious Education, Brigham Young University, 2020.


Anderson, Gary A. “The original form of the Life of Adam and Eve: A proposal.” In Literature on Adam and Eve: Collected Essays, edited by Gary A. Anderson, Michael E. Stone and Johannes Tromp, 215-31. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2000.

———. The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.

Arnold, Bill T. Genesis. New Cambridge Bible Commentary, ed. Ben Witherington, III. New York City, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/download/140123IGIL12014ReadingS.

Brodie, Thomas L. Genesis as Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, and Theological Commentary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Pres, 2001.

Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs. 1906. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.

Brown, Matthew B. The Gate of Heaven: Insights on the Doctrines and Symbols of the Temple. American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 1999.

Cassuto, Umberto. 1944. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Vol. 1: From Adam to Noah. Translated by Israel Abrahams. 1st English ed. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1998.

Christenson, Allen J. “The sacred tree of the ancient Maya.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 6, no. 1 (1997): 1-23.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.

Etheridge, J. W., ed. The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch, with the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum from the Chaldee. 2 vols. London, England: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862, 1865. Reprint, Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2005. http://www.targum.info/pj/psjon.htm. (accessed August 10, 2007).

Friedman, Richard Elliott, ed. Commentary on the Torah. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001.

Grant, Heber J. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002.

Green, Rosalie, Michael Evans, Christine Bischoff, and Michael Curschmann, eds. The Hortus Deliciarum of Herrad of Hohenbourg: A Reconstruction. 2 vols. London, England: Warburg Institute, 1979.

Henry, Matthew. 1706-1714. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991.

Heschel, Abraham Joshua. 1962, 1965, 1995. Heavenly Torah as Refracted Through the Generations. 3 in 1 vols. Translated by Gordon Tucker. New York City, NY: Continuum International, 2007.

Hunter, Howard W. The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1997.

MacRae, George W., William R. Murdock, and Douglas M. Parrott. “The Apocalypse of Paul (V, 2).” In The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M. Robinson. 3rd, Completely Revised ed, 256-59. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990.

Marden, Orison Swett. The Architects of Fate, or Steps to Success and Power. Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company, 1895.

Parry, Donald W. “Service and temple in King Benjamin’s speech.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 16, no. 2 (2007): 42-47.

———. “Eve’s role as a ‘help’ (‘ezer) revisited.” In Seek Ye Words of Wisdom: Studies of the Book of Mormon, Bible, and Temple in Honor of Stephen D. Ricks, edited by Donald W. Parry, Gaye Strathearn and Shon D. Hopkin, 199–216. Orem and Provo, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Religious Education, Brigham Young University, 2020.

Peterson, Daniel C. “The Qur’anic tree of life.” Presented at the BYU Tree of Life Symposium, Provo, UT, September 29, 2006.

Richards, LeGrand. 1950. A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1976.

Ricks, Stephen D. “Oaths and oath-taking in the Old Testament.” In The Temple in Time and Eternity, edited by Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks, 43-53. Provo, UT: FARMS at Brigham Young University, 1999.

Robinson, Stephen E. “The Apocalypse of Adam.” BYU Studies 17, no. 2 (Winter 1977): 1-28.

Ryen, Jon Olav. The Tree in the Lightworld: A Study in the Mandaean Vine Motif. Oslo, Norway: Unipub/Oslo Academic Press (Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo), 2006.

Sailhamer, John H. “Genesis.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 1-284. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990.

Sarna, Nahum M., ed. Genesis. The JPS Torah Commentary, ed. Nahum M. Sarna. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Schwartz, Howard. Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Thomas, M. Catherine. “Hebrews: To ascend the holy mount.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry, 479-91. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994.

Wenham, Gordon J., ed. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary 1: Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1987.

Westermann, Claus, ed. 1974. Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary 1st ed. Translated by John J. Scullion. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994.

Wyatt, Nicolas. “When Adam delved: The meaning of Genesis 3:23.” In ‘There’s Such Divinity Doth Hedge a King’: Selected Essays of Nicolas Wyatt on Royal Ideology in Ugaritic and Old Testament Literature, edited by Nicolas Wyatt. Society for Old Testament Study Monographs, ed. Margaret Barker, 55-59. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 2005.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Add. 144.a. Fol., with the assistance of Mme Zerkane and Ingrid Appert, as well as the help of Elizabeth Witchell of the Warburg Institute. From R. Green, et al., Hortus, Vol. 1, Original fol. HD 17r. (Figure 21); see also Vol. 2, p. 31, Figures 17-18, from the Bastard Calques plate 12, tracings of the original made ca. 1840.



1 Preserved for centuries at the Augustinian monastery of St. Odile at Hohenbourg, it was placed in the municipal library of Strasbourg about the time of the French Revolution. Though it was tragically destroyed during the siege of Strasbourg in 1870, portions of the text and illustrations had been previously copied, enabling the later partial reconstruction and publication of the work.

2 See Essay #47.

3 In support of this idea, Jewish tradition cites Hosea 14:9: “I am like a cypress tree in bloom; your fruit issues froth from Me” (H. Schwartz, Tree, 199, p. 165).

4 See Schwartz, 2004 #1235}, 199, p. 165. For descriptions of similar Gnostic and Mandaean concepts, see J. O. Ryen, Mandaean Vine, pp. 217, 223–224. In the New World, Mayans had an analogous teaching (A. J. Christenson, Sacred Tree, p. 11). As to the Tree of Life as a symbol for divine motherhood, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, 3-9g, p. 163; R. Green et al., Hortus, vol. 1, Figure 21; see also 2:31.

5 G. A. Anderson, Perfection, p. 83. Cf. G. A. Anderson, Original Form, pp. 216–217 n. 6; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, 49b, p. 252.

6 S. D. Ricks, Oaths, pp. 49–50. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Figure 5-3, p. 330.

7 D. W. Parry, Eve’s Role, pp. 204–207.

8 Genesis 16:2; 30:3; Deuteronomy 25:9.

9 Moses 3:23.

10 R. D. Draper et al., Commentary, p. 234.

11 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 22.

12 William Wordsworth in L. Richards, Marvelous, p. 290.

13 G. W. MacRae et al., Paul, 64:24-29, 65:10-11, p. 279; cf. S. E. Robinson, Apocalypse of Adam, pp. 10-11.

14 See D. W. Parry, Eve’s Role for an in-depth discussion of this term.

15 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 21.

16 H. W. Hunter, Teachings 1997, November 1994, p. 152.

17 R. E. Friedman, Commentary, p. 19. Thomas L. Brodie contrasts the positive picture of Woman at her creation with the highly negative Greek account of Hesiod (T. L. Brodie, Dialogue, p. 141).

18 J. W. Etheridge, Onkelos.

19 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 23.

20 Moses 3:24.

21 A. J. Heschel, Heavenly Torah, pp. 190–193.

22 Sarna, 1989 #296}, p. 23.

23 C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, p. 234.

24 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 23.

25 G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 72; B. T. Arnold, Genesis 2009, p. 63.

26 See Doctrine and Covenants 121:45.

27 2 Nephi 9:14.

28 G. A. Anderson, Perfection, p. 215.

29 This expression has become well-known because of the First Presidency statement on the Welfare Program in the October 1936 General Conference wherein it was said that “the curse of idleness would be done away with” (H. J. Grant, Teachings 2002, p. 115). However, it seems to have originated with Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Victorian preacher and advocate of the British Charity Organization Society. He characterized this society as “a charity to which the curse of idleness is subjected to the rule of the under-magistrate of earthly society: work.” By providing jobs to the poor, the society would fulfill what he saw as the biblical mandate “ to rid the impoverished of the curse of idleness” and to “rebuild self-reliance and productivity.” The phrase “curse of idleness” was further popularized in O. S. Marden, Architects—see esp. pp. 463ff.

Though idleness is not a virtue, neither is much of the world’s work, especially when fueled by greed, inequity, careerism, dishonesty, or when it fosters neglect of the higher purposes of life.

30 M. Henry, Commentary, Genesis 2:8-15, p. 9.

31 Ibid., Genesis 2:8-15, p. 9.

32 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 18. But see the interesting discussion in N. Wyatt, When Adam.

33 F. Brown et al., Lexicon, pp. 712b-713c. Wyatt notes that the various shades of meaning in the Hebrew word ‘bd are an analogue to the common etymology in English of the terms “cultivate,” “cult,” and “culture” (N. Wyatt, When Adam, p. 56).

34 F. Brown et al., Lexicon, p. 1036b.

35 J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 146-149.

36 G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 67; cf. U. Cassuto, Adam to Noah, pp. 122-123; D. W. Parry, Service, p. 45. For example, Numbers 3:8 says that the Levites “shall keep (shamar) all the instruments of the Tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service (abad) of the Tabernacle.” Consistent with a general tendency to downplay or omit temple imagery, Islamic sources do not mention the duty of Adam and Eve to care for the Garden (D. C. Peterson, Qur’anic tree of life).

37 Cited in M. B. Brown, Gate, p. 33.

38 J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 45; cf. Deuteronomy 30:16, 1 Nephi 2:20.

39 Moses 3:2-3. Sailhamer observes: “Unlike the other days of Creation, … the seventh day stands apart from the other six days in not having an account of its conclusion. It is this feature of the narrative that has suggested a picture of an eternal, divine ‘Sabbath’… Consequently, immediately after the narrative of the Fall (Moses 4:27), …the verb asah points to an interruption of God’s ‘Sabbath’” when, as a final act of Creation, He made coats of skin for Adam and Eve” (ibid., pp. 38-39).

40 N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 15. Note that the words borrowed from Sarna were written in a context describing mankind’s weekly Sabbath, not the seventh day of Creation.

41 Like other events in the story of Genesis, the scriptural account also portrays the past as harbinger of the future. Writes Sailhamer: “At important points along the way, the author will return to the theme of God’s ‘rest’ as a reminder of what yet lies ahead (Moses 3:15; 8:9; Genesis 8:4; Exodus 20:11; Deuteronomy 5:14; 12:10; 25:19). Later biblical writers continued to see a parallel between God’s ‘rest’ in Creation and the future ‘rest’ that awaits the faithful” (J. H. Sailhamer, Genesis, p. 39. See Psalm 95:11; Hebrews 3:11).

In the book of Hebrews, readers are urged to enter into the “Lord’s rest” (Hebrews 4:3, 10). Explains Catherine Thomas: “They had tarried too long in the foothills of spiritual experience. Having ‘tasted of the heavenly gift,… the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come’ (Hebrews 6:4-6), they could no longer delay resuming the climb lest they lose the promise.… The promise that Paul refers to repeatedly is that same promise explained in Doctrine and Covenants 88:68-69: ‘Therefore, sanctify yourselves… and the days will come that you shall see [God]; for he will unveil his face unto you’” (M. C. Thomas, Hebrews, pp. 479-480).

The Naming of Animals, Angels, Adam, and Eve

Book of Moses Essay #56

Moses 3:19–20, 23; 4:26

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In the depiction of the Garden of Eden above, Jan Brueghel the Elder masterfully fills the foreground of the scene with the abundance, happiness, and beauty of newly created life. From there, however, he skillfully draws our eyes toward the two tiny figures in the background ominously reaching for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

However, it should not be forgotten that prior to that event wherein Eve and Adam received crucial knowledge as a consequence of their transgression, an important test for knowledge was administered to Adam when he was required to go through a test of naming.

Though the story of the naming of the animals is couched in the Bible as a proof of Adam’s dominion and as a motivating prelude to the creation of Eve, there are hints in competing versions of the event that the account may not be as straightforward as it seems. Building on the foundation of Essay #39 that discussed a series of sacred names given to Moses representing important junctures in his mortal journey and heavenly ascent, this Essay describes an alternative Islamic interpretation of the event that understands Adam to be engaged, not in naming the animals, but rather in demonstrating his knowledge of secret names to the angels.

Animals or Angels?

Moses 3:19 recounts the well-known story of how Adam gave names to all the animals:

And out of the ground I, the Lord God, formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and commanded that they should come unto Adam, to see what he would call them; and they were also living souls; for I, God, breathed into them the breath of life, and commanded that whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof.

Figure 2. Adam Enthroned, the Angels Prostrating Themselves before Him, 1576.

Intriguingly, the story in Jewish writings of what happened afterward differs significantly from other ancient sources. Whereas some strands of Jewish tradition, consistent with the thrust of the biblical account, record that the animals subsequently bowed to Adam, other Jewish, Christian, and Islamic accounts insist that it was the angels who paid homage to him.1

While it is impossible to reconstruct how and why these two versions of the story differ, it has been argued that some scriptural passages relating to angels were controversial and subject to tampering by Jewish scribes during the second temple period.2  We also know from the book of Revelation about the close association between beasts and angels, who worship together at God’s throne in heaven.3  It does not seem impossible that in some contexts “beasts” were interpreted as “angels” by readers familiar with such imagery.

With these considerations in mind, we will consider a parallel tradition from Islamic sources that appears in place of the episode of the naming of animals.4  In a manner similar to temple initiates in other cultures, Adam — before the Fall and after having been given instruction by God — is said in these sources to have been directed to recite a series of secret names to the angels in order prove that he was worthy of the elevated status of priest and king that had been conferred upon him.5

What Was the Nature of the Test?

It is seen specifically as a test of knowledge. Ida Zilio-Grandi comments that:

While in the Bible God lets Adam choose the names of things, in the Qur’an it is God who teaches — who reveals therefore—the names to Adam. … Extremely high value is attributed to knowledge. … Indeed, it is not by obedience that the ability to represent God in the governance of the world is measured, but by knowledge.6

What Was the Nature of the Names Involved?

There are several different opinions about the nature of the names involved. With respect to Adam’s purported premortal accomplishment, Qur’an commentators themselves “dispute which particular names were involved; various theories [taking the position that] they were the names of all things animate and inanimate, the names of the angels, the names of his own descendants, or the names of God.”7

Mahmoud Ayoub writes similarly of the diversity of opinions on the matter:

Much disagreement has arisen among commentators regarding the words that Adam received from his Lord. … Ibn ‘Arabi says that these were ‘lights and states or stations of the realm of dominion and power and the realm of the subtle spirits. … It may also be that Adam received from God gnoses [hidden knowledge], sciences, and truths.’8

Regardless of the specifics, Al-Mizan asserts that this was not a simple dictionary recital showing off the power of Adam’s memory, but rather “something totally different from what we understand from the knowledge of names.”9  Alusi concludes that Adam’s saying of these names is “in the end, like saying the names of God, for power concerns God Himself in His ruling of the world.”10

The Names As Helps in Repentance and Reconciliation

Additional passages from Islamic sources connect the knowledge said to have been given to Adam in a general way to temple-related practices to effect repentance and reconciliation elsewhere in the ancient Near East. Though Islamic sources studiously avoid any reference to atonement rituals connected with the Jewish temple, a penitential function is accorded to a knowledge of certain words given to Adam. Describing a separate incident that was said to have occurred after the Fall, Islamic writings recount that “Adam received (some) words from his Lord”11  that enabled him to repent and return to good standing with God, so he could eventually go back to the Garden of Eden.12

While Al-Mizan declines speculation about what specific words were revealed, it likewise elaborates on their function:

It was this learning of the words that paved the way for the repentance of Adam. … Probably, the words received at the time of repentance were related to the names taught to him in the beginning. … There must have been something in those names to wipe out every injustice, to erase every sin and to cure every spiritual and moral disease; … those names were sublime creations hidden from the heavens and the earth; they were intermediaries to convey the grace and bounties of Allàh to His creation; and no creature would be able to attain to its perfection without their assistance.13

The Names As Required Knowledge for Heavenly or Ritual Ascent

In the Qur’an, the specific means by which these “words” were meant to assist in the attainment of Adam’s perfection is left unspecified. However, an exchange of sacred words is implied in the accounts of conversations between Muhammad and heavenly guardians during his “night journey” (isra), when he ascended on a golden ladder (mi’raj) to the highest heaven.14  Moreover, the literature of mystical Judaism and Christian Gnosticism abounds with accounts of righteous prophets and sages who were taught how to advance past a series of celestial gatekeepers toward the presence of God by the memorization and use of sacred names and phrases.15

Is it possible that Adam himself received his name as part of the episode reported in Moses 3:19?16  It is difficult to say because the Hebrew word for Adam is used as a generic term for “the man” in the early chapters of Genesis. However, it seems significant that the final instance of naming in the story of the Garden and the Fall — Adam’s bestowal of a permanent proper name on Eve — occurs in immediate proximity to the account of God’s making coats of skin for the couple.17  In this connection, it may be significant that Islamic traditions associate a test of naming with the marriage of Adam and Eve.18

Just as the episode reported in 3:19 was considered by Islamic commentators to be a test of Adam’s knowledge of certain names as a measure of worthiness for his exalted role, so also was the story of the naming of Eve seen in precisely the same way. Thus, the test of Adam’s knowledge of certain names culminated in an examination to determine whether Adam could identify Eve and recite her name. Notice the words al-Tha’labi uses to describe the incident:19

When Adam awoke from his sleep he saw [Eve] sitting at his head. The angels said to Adam, testing his knowledge: “What is this, Adam?” He answered: “A woman.” They asked: “And what is her name?” he replied: “Eve (hawwa).”

Al-Tha’labi precises that when Adam and Eve were rejoined after the Fall “they recognized each other by questioning on a day of questioning. So, the place was named Arafat (= questions) and the day, ‘Irfah [= knowledge or recognition].”20


Whether or not traditions that revise the story of Adam’s naming of the animals and of Eve to refer to something like ancient temple naming practices are authentic, Latter-day Saints certainly have no quarrel with the idea that Adam and Eve received the fulness of the saving ordinances. Indeed, Joseph Smith taught explicitly that the origins of modern temple ordinances go back beyond the foundation of the world. For example, in 1835, as the Saints prepared to receive the ordinances that would be available to them in the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet stated:

The order of the house of God has been, and ever will be, the same, even after Christ comes; and after the termination of the thousand years, it will be the same; and we shall finally enter into the celestial kingdom of God, and enjoy it forever.21


Adapted from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/details/140123IGIL12014ReadingS, pp. 177–180, 183–184.

Further Reading

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/details/140123IGIL12014ReadingS, pp. 177–180, 183–184.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey, and Matthew L. Bowen. “‘Made Stronger Than Many Waters’: The Names of Moses as Keywords in the Heavenly Ascent of Moses.” In Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses: New Perspectives on Literary, Historical, and Textual Aspects of a Divinely Inspired Work, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David R. Seely, John W. Welch and Scott Gordon. Orem, UT; Springville, UT; Reading, CA; Toole, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, Book of Mormon Central, FAIR, and Eborn Books, 2021, in preparation.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 234–235.


Adam and Eve.  In Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_and_Eve. (accessed September 27, 2008).

al-Kisa’i, Muhammad ibn Abd Allah. ca. 1000-1100. Tales of the Prophets (Qisas al-anbiya). Translated by Wheeler M. Thackston, Jr. Great Books of the Islamic World, ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Chicago, IL: KAZI Publications, 1997.

al-Tabari. d. 923. The History of al-Tabari: General Introduction and From the Creation to the Flood. Vol. 1. Translated by Franz Rosenthal. Biblioteca Persica, ed. Ehsan Yar-Shater. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989.

al-Tha’labi, Abu Ishaq Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim. d. 1035. ‘Ara’is Al-Majalis Fi Qisas Al-Anbiya’ or “Lives of the Prophets”. Translated by William M. Brinner. Studies in Arabic Literature, Supplements to the Journal of Arabic Literature, Volume 24, ed. Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

at-Tabataba’i, Allamah as-Sayyid Muhammad Husayn. 1973. Al-Mizan: An Exegesis of the Qur’an. Translated by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi. 3rd ed. Tehran, Iran: World Organization for Islamic Services, 1983.

Ayoub, Mahmoud M. The Qur’an and Its Interpreters. Vol. 1. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1984.

Barker, Margaret. “Beyond the veil of the temple: The high priestly origin of the apocalypses.” In The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy, edited by Margaret Barker, 188-201. London, England: T & T Clark, 2003.

———. The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy. London, England: T & T Clark, 2003.

———. The Hidden Tradition of the Kingdom of God. London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 2007.

Bednar, David A. “Honorably hold a name and standing.” Ensign 39, May 2009, 97-100.

bin Gorion, Micha Joseph (Berdichevsky), and Emanuel bin Gorion, eds. 1939-1945. Mimekor Yisrael: Classical Jewish Folktales. 3 vols. Translated by I. M. Lask. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1976.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey, and Matthew L. Bowen. “‘Made Stronger Than Many Waters’: The Names of Moses as Keywords in the Heavenly Ascent of Moses.” In Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses: New Perspectives on Literary, Historical, and Textual Aspects of a Divinely Inspired Work, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, David R. Seely, John W. Welch and Scott Gordon. Orem, UT; Springville, UT; Reading, CA; Toole, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, Book of Mormon Central, FAIR, and Eborn Books, 2021.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Book of Moses. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2010.

———. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/download/140123IGIL12014ReadingS.

Budge, E. A. Wallis, ed. The Book of the Cave of Treasures. London, England: The Religious Tract Society, 1927. Reprint, New York City, NY: Cosimo Classics, 2005.

Gee, John. “The keeper of the gate.” In The Temple in Time and Eternity, edited by Donald W. Parry and Stephen D. Ricks. Temples Throughout the Ages 2, 233-73. Provo, UT: FARMS at Brigham Young University, 1999.

Ginzberg, Louis, ed. The Legends of the Jews. 7 vols. Translated by Henrietta Szold and Paul Radin. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909-1938. Reprint, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Hamblin, William J., and David Rolph Seely. Solomon’s Temple: Myth and History. London, England: Thames & Hudson, 2007.

Josephus, Flavius. 37-ca. 97. “The Wars of the Jews.” In The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus, the Jewish Historian. Translated from the Original Greek, according to Havercamp’s Accurate Edition. Translated by William Whiston, 427-605. London, England: W. Bowyer, 1737. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1980.

Madsen, Truman G. “‘Putting on the names’: A Jewish-Christian legacy.” In By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley, edited by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 458-81. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1990.

Mathews, Edward G., Jr. “The Armenian commentary on Genesis attributed to Ephrem the Syrian.” In The Book of Genesis in Jewish and Oriental Christian Interpretation: A Collection of Essays, edited by Judith Frishman and Lucas Van Rompay. Traditio Exegetica Graeca 5, 143-61. Louvain, Belgium: Editions Peeters, 1997.

Milstein, Rachel, Karin Rührdanz, and Barbara Schmitz. Stories of the Prophets: Illustrated Manuscripts of Qisas al-Anbiya. Islamic Art and Architecture Series 8, ed. Abbas Daneshvari, Robert Hillenbrand and Bernard O’Kane. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1999.

Monneret, Jean-Luc. Les Grands Thèmes du Coran. Paris, France: Éditions Dervy, 2003.

Morray-Jones, Christopher R. A. “Divine names, celestial sanctuaries, and visionary ascents: Approaching the New Testament from the perspective of Merkava traditions.” In The Mystery of God: Early Jewish Mysticism and the New Testament, edited by Christopher Rowland and Christopher R. A. Morray-Jones. Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 12, eds. Pieter Willem van der Horst and Peter J. Tomson, 219-498. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2009.

Neusner, Jacob, ed. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis, A New American Translation. 3 vols. Vol. 1: Parashiyyot One through Thirty-Three on Genesis 1:1 to 8:14. Brown Judaic Studies 104, ed. Jacob Neusner. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985.

Oaks, Dallin H. “Taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ.” Ensign 15, May 1985, 80-83. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1985/04/taking-upon-us-the-name-of-jesus-christ?lang=eng. (accessed October 22, 2016).

Ostler, Blake T. “Clothed upon: A unique aspect of Christian antiquity.” BYU Studies 22, no. 1 (1981): 1-15.

Ouaknin, Marc-Alain, and Éric Smilévitch, eds. 1983. Chapitres de Rabbi Éliézer (Pirqé de Rabbi Éliézer): Midrach sur Genèse, Exode, Nombres, Esther. Les Dix Paroles, ed. Charles Mopsik. Lagrasse, France: Éditions Verdier, 1992.

Porter, Bruce H., and Stephen D. Ricks. “Names in antiquity: Old, new, and hidden.” In By Study and Also by Faith, edited by John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks. 2 vols. Vol. 1, 501-22. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1990.

Pritchard, James B. “The God and his unknown name of power.” In Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B. Pritchard, 12-14. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1975.

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Townsend, John T., ed. Midrash Tanhuma. 3 vols. Jersey City, NJ: Ktav Publishing, 1989-2003.

Weil, G., ed. 1846. The Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud or, Biblical Legends of the Mussulmans, Compiled from Arabic Sources, and Compared with Jewish Traditions, Translated from the German. New York City, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1863. Reprint, Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2006. http://books.google.com/books?id=_jYMAAAAIAAJ. (accessed September 8).

Young, Brigham. 1853. “Necessity of building temples; the endowment (Oration delivered in the South-East Cornerstone of the Temple at Great Salt Lake City, after the First Presidency and the Patriarch had laid the Stone, 6 April 1853).” In Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Vol. 2, 29-33. Liverpool and London, England: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1853-1886. Reprint, Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1966.

Zilio-Grandi, Ida. “Paradise in the Koran and in the Muslim exegetical tradition.” In The Earthly Paradise: The Garden of Eden from Antiquity to Modernity, edited by F. Regina Psaki and Charles Hindley. International Studies in Formative Christianity and Judaism, 75-90. Binghamton, NY: Academic Studies in the History of Judaism, Global Publications, State University of New York at Binghamton, 2002.

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Picture Library, The Royal Collection, with the assistance of Karen Lawson. Copyright 2007 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Figure 2. With the kind permission of Rachel Milstein. From R. Milstein, et al., Stories. Original in Topkapi Saray Museum Library, H. 1227: Ms. T-7, Istanbul, Turkey. For more detailed explanation of this figures, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Figure 4-7, p. 225.



1 See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 225–226, 582–583 for a discussion of these traditions.

2 M. Barker, Beyond, pp. 195-196; M. Barker, Great High Priest: Temple Roots, p. 157.

3 Revelation 4:6-9, 19:4; D&C 77:2-4.

4 J.-L. Monneret, Grands, p. 481 n. 12; cf. M. i. A. A. al-Kisa’i, Tales, p. 28; al-Tabari, Creation, 1:94-97, pp. 266-269; G. Weil, Legends, p. 22.

5 Qur’an 2:30-33; cf. the idea of the naming as a test for Adam (vs. Satan) in al-Tabari, Creation, 1:97, p. 269; M. J. B. bin Gorion et al., Mimekor, 3, 1:6-7; L. Ginzberg, Legends, 1:62-64, 5:84-86 n. 35; E. G. Mathews, Jr., Armenian, p. 148 and n. 35; J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 17:4:2, p. 183; M.-A. Ouaknin et al., Rabbi Éliézer, 13, pp. 87-88.

6 I. Zilio-Grandi, Paradise, pp. 84, 87; cf. D&C 107:18-19, 130:18-19, 131:5-6. This is a theme often mentioned in the teachings of Joseph Smith.

7 Adam and Eve, Adam and Eve. Compare J. T. Townsend, Tanhuma, 6:12, 3:171.

8 M. M. Ayoub, Qur’an (Vol. 1), p. 85.

9 A. a.-S. M. H. at-Tabataba’i, Al-Mizan, 1:163.

10 Cited in I. Zilio-Grandi, Paradise, pp. 86-87.

11 Qur’an 2:37.

12 A. I. A. I. M. I. I. al-Tha’labi, Lives, p. 59; cf. M. i. A. A. al-Kisa’i, Tales, p. 60.

13 A. a.-S. M. H. at-Tabataba’i, Al-Mizan, 1:188-189, 211.

14 J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 39.

15 See, e.g., C. R. A. Morray-Jones, Divine Names, passim. See also J. Gee, Keeper, p. 235. Among other ancient documents from around the world, the Egyptian Book of the Dead takes up a similar theme as it describes the manner in which initiates were to advance past a series of gatekeepers through his knowledge of certain names (B. T. Ostler, Clothed, pp. 8-10). For a detailed analysis specifically relating to the sacred names of Moses, see J. Bradshaw et al., ‘Made Stronger Than Many Waters’ (Ancient Threads).

Descriptions of this sort recall President Brigham Young’s succinct definition of the modern endowment ordinance: “Your endowment is to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being able to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell” (B. Young, 6 April 1853 – B, p. 31).

Examples of the use of naming in similar functions abound. The Coptic Discourse on Abbaton explicitly associates “absolute authority” over the angels with a knowledge of their names (E. A. W. Budge, Cave, pp. 58-59; cf. Judges 13:17-18) and, elsewhere, Josephus records that the Essenes were under a vow to preserve the names of the angels (F. Josephus, Wars, 2:8:7, p. 477). Hence, the frequent theme of danger for any possessor of the name who revealed it to an unauthorized party (J. B. Pritchard, Unknown Name; cf. Judges 16:4-20; B. H. Porter et al., Names, pp. 508-513). Truman G. Madsen proposes that the idea that the “proper use of the name YHWH constitutes a covenant between Israel and her God” may be the reason behind the third commandment (T. G. Madsen, Putting, p. 459. According to Schimmel, a scholar of Islamic mysticism: “The Hope of discovering the Greatest Name of God has inspired many a Sufi who dreamed of reaching the highest bliss in this world and the next by means of this blessed name” (A. Schimmel, Mystical, p. 25; cf. B. H. Porter et al., Names, pp. 510-512). The dedicatory prayer for Solomon’s temple stressed that it was not meant to be a residence for God, since He “lived in his ‘dwelling place in heaven’ but that the ‘name of God’ dwelt in the Temple” (W. J. Hamblin et al., Solomon’s Temple, p. 27, cf. p. 182. See also 1 Kings 8:27-30; Doctrine and Covenants 110:7). The shout of the people at Christ’s triumphal entry becomes more understandable when translated as “Blessed is he who comes with the Name of the Lord” (“With” = “in’” in Hebrew (M. Barker, Hidden, p. 44; cf. Matthew 21:9). The meaning of being “willing to take upon [us] the name of Jesus Christ” in the sacrament is clear in light of temple ordinances (D. H. Oaks, Taking Upon Us; D. A. Bednar, Name, p. 98; Doctrine and Covenants 20:77; 109:22, 26, 79).

16 Revelation 2:17; D&C 130:11.

17 See the discussion of the nakedness and clothing of Adam and Eve in J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 234-240.

18 J.-L. Monneret, Grands, p. 481 n. 12; cf. M. i. A. A. al-Kisa’i, Tales, p. 28; al-Tabari, Creation, 1:94-97, pp. 266-269; G. Weil, Legends, p. 22.

19 A. I. A. I. M. I. I. al-Tha’labi, Lives, p. 48. Cf. p. 54. See also al-Tabari, Creation, 1:120, p. 291.

20 A. I. A. I. M. I. I. al-Tha’labi, Lives, p. 54. Cf. al-Tabari, Creation, 1:120, p. 291.

21 J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 12 November 1835, p. 91; cf. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-12-november-1835/4. Of course, the Nauvoo Temple ordinances had not been given to the Saints at the time these statements were made, so it is evident that the Prophet is making a broad claim about the antiquity of saving ordinances here, including the general “order of the house of God,” and not making an assertion about the completeness and exactness in every detail of the ordinances the Saints had then received. After the Nauvoo endowment was administered on 4 May 1842, Elder Willard Richards wrote: “In this council was instituted the ancient order of things for the first time in these last days” (ibid., 4 May 1842, p. 237; cf. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/journal-december-1841-december-1842/25) — asserting both the antiquity of the ordinance and the fact that this order was new to the select group to whom it had been given.

The Garden of Eden as a Model for the Temple in Israel and Old Babylon

Book of Moses Essay #55

Moses 3:8-15

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

In Essay #32, we discussed the view of Latter-day Saint scholar Donald W. Parry that the outbound journey of the Creation and the Fall is mirrored in the inbound journey of the Tabernacle, the prototype for later Israelite temples.1  The Garden of Eden can be seen as a natural “temple,” where Adam and Eve lived in God’s presence for a time. Significantly, each major feature of Eden (e.g., the river, the cherubim, the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Life) corresponds to a similar symbol in the Israelite temple (e.g., the bronze laver, the cherubim, the veil,2  the menorah3 ).

Elsewhere in the ancient Near East, Creation, garden, and temple themes were also combined, as illustrated in this famous Mari Investiture panel from Old Babylon, created in the Abrahamic era. A study of this panel can enrich our study of the temple-like description of the Garden of Eden in Moses 3, preparing us for the temple themes we will encounter in the story of the Fall (Moses 4).

Figure 2. Line-drawing of the Mari Investiture Panel.

Garden and Temple Themes in Old Babylon

This mural was found the Court of the Palms at Mari, where excavations began in 1933. It dates from about 1800 BCE, possibly during the reign of King Yahdun-Lim.4  Most scholars believe that it represents the ritual by which the king’s right to rule was renewed each year.

Al-Khalesi argues that the central scene of the mural depicts “a religious ceremony taking place inside [an inner sanctuary] as viewed through an open door.”5  He concludes that the scene in the Investiture mural is a “figurative representation of the actual architectural form of the [inner sanctuary] and the statues which were originally set up inside it.”6  Since the ritual would have been witnessed by only a few people, al-Khalesi thinks that “the purpose of the mural was to illustrate the actual act of the ceremony—a given moment” to those standing outside.7

In the exact geometric center of the panel, we see a statue representing the goddess Ishtar conferring royal insignia on the king, highlighting the prime importance of this event in the annual kingship ritual.8  Below the investiture scene, in the lower half of the mural, we see “figures holding jars from which flow four streams,” with a seedling9  growing out of the middle, recalling the streams that flowed out from underneath the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.10  In the context of the Investiture Panel, the streams could be seen as suggesting the theme of ritual washings or libations as a prelude to the renewal of kingship.11

Note that the two sides of the Investiture panel are mirror images. The sequence of movement from the more public to the most private portions of the palace complex would correspond to a stepwise movement from the outer edges of the Investiture Panel toward its sacred center.

J. R. Porter writes of how the scene depicted in the mural “strikingly recall[s] details of the Genesis description of the Garden of Eden. In particular, the mural depicts two types of tree,” one type clearly being a date palm analogue to the Tree of Life. In the symmetrical side panels at the far left and right of the mural, two men climb each of the two date palms.12 In many traditions, sacred trees are identified with a human king,13 or with the mother of a king, whether human or divine.14  Like the two figures witnessing the investiture, two other individuals near date palms raise their hands in supplication,15  suggesting a parallel between the tree and the king himself. Like the Tree of Life, the king is an “archetypal receiver and distributor of divine blessing.”16  The palm tree on the right can clearly be seen as harboring a bird.17

As an intriguing parallel to the notion of the Tree of Knowledge as the veil of the sanctuary, note that two exemplars of the second type of tree are placed in immediate proximity to the most holy place — suggesting the possibility that they represented treelike wooden posts that would have supported a veil.18  These two trees are “guarded by mythical winged animals[—the Assyrian version of the] cherubim”19  who would be responsible for “the introduction of worshippers to the presence of a god.”20

Sequence of Ritual Events

Though differing in important details, scholars of Mari are in general agreement that the areas in the ritual complex have been laid out so as to accommodate a ceremonial progression of the king and his entourage toward the innermost sanctuary.21  We will review some of the themes of the king’s journey, including

·         Creation

·         A garden with a central tree bearing sweet fruit

·         Sacrifice

·         A veil held up by a second kind of “tree”

·         Renewal of kingship.

Creation. Although we know little directly about the details of the Old Babylonian investiture ritual performed at Mari, it is certain that the fourth22  of the twelve days of the later Babylonian New Year akītu festival always included a rehearsal of the creation story, Enuma Elish (“When on high…”),23  a story whose theological roots reach back long before the painting of the Investiture Panel.24  In its broad outlines, this ritual text is an account of how Marduk achieved preeminence among the gods of the heavenly council through his victorious heavenly battles, and the subsequent creation of the earth and of mankind as a prelude to the building of Marduk’s temple in Babylon.25  The epic ends with the conferral upon Marduk of fifty sacred titles, including the higher god Ea’s own name, accompanied with the declaration: “He is indeed even as I.”26  Seen in this light, a better title for Enuma Elish might be “The Exaltation of Marduk.”27

Figure 3. Margueron’s reconstruction of the Court of the Palm with an artificial tree in the “exact center” of the open air space.

Garden with a central tree bearing sweet fruit. A tree, either real or artificial, typically took the central position in palace courtyards of the Babylonians and Assyrians,28  recalling the biblical account of the Tree of Life “in the midst” (literally “in the center”) of the Garden of Eden.29

In this attempted visual reconstruction of the Court of the Palm at Mari, the sacred date palm with its sweet fruit is placed in the exact center. A single date palm tree “often yielded more than one hundred pounds of fruit per year over a productive lifetime of one hundred years or more. Akkadian synonyms for ‘date palm’ included ‘tree of abundance’ (iṣu mašrû) and ‘tree of riches’ (iṣu rāšû)—appropriate names for the vehicle of agricultural success and richness.”30

The Investiture Panel is shown just to the right of the entry to the fore throneroom. Though the central palm no doubt dominated the courtyard symbolically and visually, the courtyard might also have been filled with potted trees and plants to create a luxurious garden.

The motif of eating sacred fruit is preserved in the Sumerian myth of Enki and Ninhursag, where Enki was cursed because he ate the carefully nurtured plants of Ninhursag, the mother-goddess.31  However, according to both early Mesopotamian and later Palestinian texts, date palms were not only a source of sweet fruit but also they sometimes were climbed to obtain access to a source of wisdom or warning that was termed “the conversation of palm trees.”32  The action of eating sweet fruit or honey from such a tree was associated in the Bible with the “opening of the eyes” and the attainment of “supernatural vision.”33  More generally in the ancient Near East, sacred trees were seen as a source of energy, grace, and power.34

Sacrifice. Following the king’s ordeal and a recital of the events of the creation, the royal party would make its advance from the gardenlike open space in the courtyard with its central palm. This is consistent with a sacrificial scene painted on the walls of the courtyard that has been “interpreted as representing the king … leading a ‘procession of several temple servants towards’ an enthroned god.”35  Texts from Mari tell us that the queen was the one who furnished sacrifices for the “Lady of the Palace,”36  presumably meaning the goddess Ishtar.

A veil held up by a second kind of “tree.” Scholars contrast the realism in the Investiture Panel depiction of the date palm to the representation of the second type of “Sacred Tree,” which seems to be “imaginary” or artificial in kind.37

As to the function of the second type of sacred tree, al-Khalesi concludes that it was “meant to symbolize a door-post.”38  From archaeological evidence, he conjectures that such posts could have provided supporting infrastructure for a partition made of “ornamented woven material.”39  This recalls the kikkisu, a woven reed partition ritually used in temples through which the Mesopotamian flood hero received divine instruction.40  Al-Khalesi cites the presence of a rectangular chink in the pavement of the inner throne room as evidence for the presence of tree-like gatepost.41  He conjectures that such posts could have provided supporting infrastructure for a partition made of “ornamented woven material.” If symmetrically placed, the gateposts would have defined a portal of about two meters in width.42  The neo-Hittite temple at ‘Ain Dara provides a parallel to such an arrangement in its screened-off podium shrine located at the far end of its main hall.43  In essence, the veil shielded the “Holy of Holies” of the Mari palace from public view, suggesting the same symbolic function as the Tree of Knowledge, which in Genesis hid the Tree of Life from view.44

Figure 4. Guardians of the gate with trees rising up immediately behind them. The central figure in the image labeled as A is the standing god.

Priests acting in the role of cherubim, shown above next to the treelike posts of the veil, would be responsible for “the introduction of worshippers to the presence of a god.”45

Figure 5. The upper register of the central portion of the Investiture Panel, showing the king being invested by the victorious Ishtar in the presence of intercessory goddesses and a divinized royal figure (at right).

Renewal of kingship. This scene seems to “depict a king being invested by the Mesopotamian fertility goddess Ishtar:46  Eve has been associated with such divine figures.”47

As one part of his initiation ceremony, the king would have touched or grasped the hand of the statue of the god of the palace. Within the innermost sacred chamber, the king raises his right hand, perhaps in an oath-related gesture.48  At the same time, his left hand receives the rod and coil that signified his worthiness for the prerogatives of his office. These two items of regalia are measurement tools used in construction, corresponding in their general function to the later symbols of the square and compass. They served as symbols of divinely authorized power.49


John Walton observed that “the ideology of the temple is not noticeably different in Israel than it is in the ancient Near East. The difference is in the God, not in the way the temple functions in relation to the God.”50   Of course, resemblances between authentic, revealed religion in Old Testament times and the religious beliefs and practices of other peoples do not simply imply that the Israelites got their religion from their neighbors. Rather, to believing Latter-day Saints, they provide “a kind of confirmation and vindication”51   that the Gospel was preached in the beginning and that ancient evidence of distorted fragments of truth found outside of biblical tradition may be the result of subsequent degeneration and apostasy.


Adapted from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and Ronan J. Head. “The investiture panel at Mari and rituals of divine kingship in the ancient Near East.” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity 4 (2012): 1-42. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/sba/vol4/iss1/1/.


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Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Published in D. W. Parry, Garden, pp. 134–135. We have modified Lyon’s original drawing by moving the Tree of Life to the top of the mountain. It was originally placed slightly downhill. For the rationale for this modification, see J. M. Bradshaw, Tree of Knowledge.

Figure 2. Drawing from J. R. Porter, Guide, p. 28. With permission.

Figure 3. Image from J.-C. Margueron, Mari, p. 892. Muller, agreeing with Margeueron, accounted for the seeming discrepancy between the single palm tree of the palace and the symmetric doubling of the palm tree in the Investiture Panel by citing rotation and flattening as principles of artistic perspective in the ancient Near East (B. Muller, Aspects, pp. 135, 138). Differing from al-Khalesi, however, they applied this same principle to the statue of the goddess with the flowing vase and concluded that there was only one such statue, rather than two, and that it stood on a pedestal within room 64, facing the opening from courtyard 106 (J.-C. Margueron, Mari Métropole, pp. 508, 511 figure 499; B. Muller, Aspects, p. 138).

Providing evidence for artificial palm trees at Mari is a “stone column base… cut in imitation of palm scales,” suggesting that “columns resembling palm-tree trunks would have been quite at home here,” and the fact that the left side of the doorway into the Dagan temple seems to have been decorated with palm trunks (Harvey Weiss, cited in M. Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, p. 187).

Regarding the “exact center,” see J.-C. Margueron, La Peinture: Rhythme, p. 106. Cf. B. Muller, Aspects, p. 138; J.-C. Margueron, Mari Métropole, p. 511 figure 499. Margueron qualifies this conclusion, stating that the tree was “almost in the center of the courtyard” (J.-C. Margueron, Mari, p. 892).

Figure 4. Image from M.-T. Barrelet, Peinture, p. 27 figure 11. With permission.

Figure 5. Image in J.-C. Margueron, Mari Métropole, p. 478. With permission.



1 D. W. Parry, Garden, p. 135. Cf. J. M. Lundquist, Reality; J. A. Parry et al., Temple in Heaven; T. Stordalen, Echoes, pp. 112-116, 308-309; T. D. Alexander, From Eden, pp. 20-23; G. K. Beale, Temple, pp. 66–80; G. J. Wenham, Sanctuary Symbolism; J. A. Parry et al., Temple in Heaven; R. N. Holzapfel et al., Father’s House, pp. 17–19; J. Morrow, Creation; D. R. Seely et al., Crown of Creation.

2 For more on the correspondence between the symbolism of the Tree of Knowledge and the temple veil, see J. M. Bradshaw, Tree of Knowledge. See also Essay #58.

3 In most depictions of Jewish temple architecture, the menorah is shown as being outside the veil—in contrast to the Tree of Life, which is at the holiest place in the Garden of Eden. However, Margaret Barker cites evidence that, in the first temple, a Tree of Life was symbolized within the Holy of Holies (e.g., M. Barker, Hidden, pp. 6–7; M. Barker, Christmas, pp. 85–86, 140; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 366–367). Barker concludes that the Menorah (or perhaps a second, different, representation in arboreal form?) was both removed from the temple and diminished in stature in later Jewish literature as the result of a “very ancient feud” concerning its significance (M. Barker, Older, p. 221, see pp. 221–232). Mandaean scripture describes a Tree of Life within the heavenly sanctuary as follows: “They … lifted the great veil of safety upward before him, introduced him, and showed him that Vine,” meaning the Tree of Life (M. Lidzbarski, Ginza, GL 1:1, p. 429:3–20; cf. E. S. Drower, Prayerbook, 49, pp. 45–46).

4 Long presumed to have been created in about 1760 BCE during the reign of its last independent sovereign, King Zimri-Lim, it has now been convincingly dated by Margueron to a period decades earlier, most likely during the reign of Zimri-Lim’s father, the great Yahdun-Lim (J.-C. Margueron, La Peinture et l’Histoire, p. 23). For a ritual interpretation and comparative analysis of the Mari Investiture Panel, see J. M. Bradshaw et al., Investiture Panel.

5 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 38. The ceremony may have taken place during an Babylonian New Year’s festival called the “Offerings of Ishtar” (S. Dalley, Mari and Karana, p. 134). Known in greater detail from later periods, the New Year’s festival represented the annual renewal of kingship.

6 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 38, emphasis in original.

7 Ibid., p. 61.

8 Image from J.-C. Margueron, Mari Métropole, p. 510.

9 See Alma 32:41-42. Related imagery on a seal of Gudea suggests the idea that the sprout represents the new king (J. M. Bradshaw et al., Investiture Panel, p. 30).

10 Cf. Moses 3:10, 1 Nephi 11:25.

11 A restoration of the mural revealed fish in the water. Note also that the entire mural “is surrounded by a border of running spirals, probably symbolizing water, and there is another band of dome-like motif with a knob at the top and the bottom of the mural. It is interesting to note that the latter motif is somewhat similar to the tassels which adorn the robe of Idi-ilum’s statue from Mari” (Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 38).

12 Associated in some cultures with the idea of heavenly ascent and the attainment of divine vision. See, e.g., E. A. S. Butterworth, Tree, p. 213.

13 Cf. Daniel 4:20, 22: “The tree… is thou, O king.” See also Judges 9:7-21, E. D. Clark, Cedars; T. Stordalen, Echoes, pp. 89-92, 100-101, 291; G. Widengren, King and Tree of Life, pp. 42-50.

14 N. Wyatt, Space, p. 170; cf. 1 Nephi 11:8-22, M. Barker, Joseph Smith, p. 76; M. Cazenave, Encyclopédie, p. 44; D. C. Peterson, Asherah 1998; D. C. Peterson, Asherah 2000 H. Schwartz, Tree, p. 50. See also Qur’an 19:23-26, A. a.-S. M. H. at-Tabataba’i, Al-Mizan, 6:146.

15 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, pp. 45, 54, 56; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 355-356. Al-Khalesi concludes that this supplication “was on behalf of the worshipper” (Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 15).

16 T. Stordalen, Echoes, p. 101.

17 The bird, painted in blue, “has been identified as the ‘hunter of Africa’” and “was seen over the ruins of Mari in 1951” (Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 11). Others have identified it as a dove, a symbol associated with Ishtar. See also J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 42-43, 166, 209, 246, 473, 654.

18 This second type of tree with its prominent blossoms is identified by al-Khalesi simply as the “Sacred Tree” (Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, pp. 11, 43). Al-Khalesi notes the realism of the date palm but sees the “sacred tree” as “imaginary” in nature (ibid., p. 11). Al-Khalesi reproduces a figure of the façade wall of the Sin temple at Khorsabad where palm trees positioned immediately above identical goddesses with flowing vases flank the entrance to the ante-cella.

19 Cf. Moses 4:31.

20 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 67. Barrelet—citing texts associated with Gudea, a ruler of the city of southern city of Lagash, ca. 2144-2124 BCE—conjectures that the three composite animals symbolize the three major areas of the ritual complex where the investiture took place (M.-T. Barrelet, Peinture, p. 24).

21 Scholars agreeing on this general interpretation include Barrelet, Parrot, Margueron, Muller, and al-Khalesi. See, e.g., B. Muller, Aspects, p. 138 note 24; Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, pp. 61-65. While some of our specific conclusions and comparisons are unique to the present study, our overall interpretation follows most closely that of al-Khalesi.

22 Although the akītu festival was very often held on the New Year, particularly for national deities such as Marduk or Assur, it could be “observed at various times of the year, depending on the deity and city… As in ancient Israel, the Mesopotamians maintained two calendars—civil and religious—and as a result, it turns out that first-millennium Babylon actually held two akītus, a primary one during Nisanu 1-12 (the first civil month) and another during Tashritu 1-12 (the seventh civil month, the first religious month). The two months obviously corresponded to the vernal equinox and the autumnal equinox, underscoring the solar and, by implication, agricultural dimensions of the rituals” (K. L. Sparks, Ancient Texts, p. 166).

23 E. A. Speiser, Creation Epic.

24 Consistent with Lambert’s earlier findings, Yingling adduces internal evidence relating to the role of Marduk that Enuma Elish in its current form can be dated to no earlier than 1126–1105 BCE (E. O. Yingling, Give Me). However, speaking of the late and varied primary texts that provide ritual prescriptions for akītu rites, Sparks writes: “[O]ur image of the akītu is a composite result of dovetailing disparate sources, but the image is essentially a valid one. Scholars are also quite certain that these late copies of the akītu reflect much older ritual traditions” (K. L. Sparks, Ancient Texts, p. 167). For example, Howard Jacobson cites Sumerian elements in the introductory theogony that hearken back to the great god list An and additional echoes of the Ninurta myth Lugal-e. He also refer to what may be allusions to early Akkadian and Old Babylonian themes. A later Assyrian version of the tale finds the name of Marduk replaced by that of the god Ashur, and in Ugarit we find the motif of the battle between the storm god and the sea in the story of Ba’al and Yam (see H. Jacobson, Pseudo-Philo, pp. 167-168). See N. Wyatt, Arms for an extensive discussion and a collection of relevant texts from across the Levant that serve to set the major themes of Enuma Elish in a context stretching back to at least the third millennium BCE.

Thorkild Jacobsen reminds us of how the interpretation of the stories may change even when the stories themselves remain relatively intact (T. Jacobsen, Treasures, pp. 19-20):

It is not only that older elements disappear and are replaced with new; often the old elements are retained and exist side by side with the new; and often too, these older elements, though seemingly unchanged, have in fact come to mean something quite different, have been reinterpreted to fit into a new system of meanings. To illustrate with an example from our own Western cultural tradition, the story of Adam and Eve is retained unchanged since Old Testament times, but the [first chapters] of Genesis [have] been progressively reinterpreted by St. Paul, by St. Augustine, and by Milton (not to speak of modern theologians) so that [they have] come to carry a wealth of theological and anthropological meaning related to the essential nature of man, very different from what the story could possibly have meant in its earlier… cultural setting.

In approaching ancient Mesopotamian materials, it should be kept in mind that the older elements of culture survive, and that they may be reinterpreted over and over; for we find among these materials religious documents, myths, epics, laments, which have been handed down almost unchanged in copy after copy for as much as a thousand or fifteen hundred years, and it is often difficult to say with certainty whether a document originated in the period from which it seems to come, or whether it was in fact from earlier times.

25 Later, Marduk was granted the privilege of having his own temple built, in likeness of the temple of Ea (H. W. Nibley, Teachings of the PGP, 10, pp. 126-127). Of course, such temples were not directly built by divine hands, but rather by the king, on behalf of the gods, as one of his central duties. In return for his service and fidelity, the fruits of the victory won by the gods were transmitted to the new king, both through divine sanction for his kingship—expressed explicitly in the rituals of investiture—and also through the commission given him to build a royal palace, its function paralleling in the secular world that of the temple in the religious domain (I. J. Winter, King, p. 253).

Marduk’s life is, of course, a recapitulation of events from the story of the god Ea. It is quite possible that the version of the creation story told at Mari featured Ishtar rather than Marduk as its principal character—see S. Dalley, Esther’s Revenge, p. 148.

26 E. A. Speiser, Creation Epic, 7:140, p. 72. Philippe Talon observes (P. Talon, Enūma Eliš, p. 266):

Everything Ea… accomplished [was] later accomplished by Marduk, on a grander scale. Apsû and Mummu announce Tiamat and Kingu and they are vanquished in the same way, by magic. Ea has created his dwelling with the body of Apsû as Marduk will create the intelligible world with the body of Tiamat, the exact correspondence of the Apsû being the Ešarra. The deeds of Ea are thus a prefiguration of the great deeds of Marduk, who will receive as his last name the name of his father in Tablet VII.

Continuing his exploration of the means by which it seems possible that “something of the original Mesopotamian concept of the divine left its mark in the Western mind” (ibid., p. 277), Talon writes (ibid., p. 276):

The Chaldaean doctrine does not directly reflect Mesopotamian cosmology in itself, but is rather like an echo. Fragment 7 of the Oracles says: “Because the Father created everything in perfection and gave it to the second Intellect, whom you call the first, all of you, human race.” On which Psellus comments: “After having worked the whole creation, the first Father of the Triad gave it to the Intellect, the one that the human race, ignorant of the preeminence of the Father, calls the first God.” Psellus, being of Christian faith, is here linking the Oracle with his own doctrine and he adds: “Because in the book of Moses, the Father gives the Son the idea of the production of creatures, and the Son becomes the artisan of creation.” This agrees with the role of Marduk in the Babylonian myth if we see him as the Demiurge, the Twice-Beyond who created the universe, distinct from Aššur/ Marduk, the One from which the other gods emanate in the diagram elaborated by S. Parpola. It also agrees well with Enuma Elish, if we understand the Father as Ea and the son, the Creator, as Marduk. It is Ea who advises his son and gives him the plan, the idea, leading to his victory over Tiamat. Later, at the end of the myth, Marduk eventually assumes the name of his Father, Ea, and thus all of his powers.

27 R. J. Clifford, Creation, p. 93. Rennaker laments that “in spite of the fact that it was one of the few texts that we know was read in public each year (especially during the years of the Jewish Babylonian Exile), [Enuma Elish] hasn’t received an incredible amount of scholarly attention since… the early 1900s… When it has been examined, almost all of the scholarly focus is on Marduk, with its temple imagery being treated only secondarily” (J. Rennaker, February 24 2012).

Eaton finds it notable that “the story does not contain any death and resurrection of Marduk, nor a union with his consort” (J. H. Eaton, Kingship, p. 91). However, this does not mean that these ideas were not widespread in Old Babylonian culture. Regarding the notion of life after death in Mesopotamia, Lapinkivi writes:

[T]he widespread scholarly notion that belief in a resurrection did not exist in Mesopotamia but that all dead human souls stayed eternally in the Netherworld is contradicted by the Mesopotamian texts themselves: for instance, the kings Sulgi and Isbi-Erra ascended to heaven after death; Dumuzi died only temporarily and, according to one tradition, ascended to the highest heaven to be its gatekeeper. Ascent to heaven is the central theme in the Etana and Adapa myths. Utnapstim, the sage of the Gilgamesh Epic, was made divine and granted eternal life after the Flood. In the poem Ludlul bel nemeqi (“I will praise the lord of wisdom [i.e., Marduk]”) from the Kassite period (ca. 1595-1155 BC), the righteous sufferer pairs descent to the Netherworld with ascent to heaven, implying that both ideas were famliar to him (II 46-47): “In prosperity they speak of going up to heaven, under adversity they complain of going down to the Netherworld.” Later in the text (IV 33-36), the sufferer claims that only Marduk (the divine king) and Zarpanitu (= Ishtar of Babylon) can restore the dead to life or grant life. In short, the evidence indicates that the Mesopotamians believed humans had souls that were separate from the body because they were able to leave the body in dreams or ecstatic experiences. The soul survived after death and continued its existence in the Netherworld or in heaven.

In this context, it should be kept in mind that, while the human soul, according to the Hebrew Bible—as in Mesopotamia—generally ended up in the Netherworld, a different fate was reserved for select individuals such as Enoch and Elijah… According to Josephus’ (ca. 38-101 CE) Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades:

“The souls of all men are confined [in the Netherworld] until a proper season, which God has determined, when he will make a resurrection of all men from the dead, … raising again those very bodies, … giving justly to those who have done well an everlasting fruition, but allotting to the lovers of wicked works eternal punishment [cf. John 5:28-29; Alma 40:11-26].”

On various forms of sacred marriage in Mesopotamia, see B. Pongratz-Leisten, Sacred Marriage; P. Lapinkivi, Sumerian.

28 S. Dalley, Mesopotamian Gardens, p. 2.

29 Moses 3:9; cf. Revelation 22:1-2; Ezekiel 47:1, where the source of these waters is respectively identified as the “throne of God” and the temple. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 167-168; J. M. Bradshaw, Moses Temple Themes, pp. 69-89 for more on this motif.

30 T. Stordalen, Echoes, p. 82; cf. B. N. Porter, Date Palms, p. 134.

31 J. B. Pritchard, ANET, 197-219, p. 40.

32 B. L. Visotzky, Conversation. According to Dalley, the “tree was so important in ancient Mesopotamia that it was personified as a god, Nin-Gishzida, ‘trusty tree,’ and had the power of human speech” (S. Dalley, Mesopotamian Gardens, p. 2). Indeed, one of the most popular pieces of Old Babylonian literature was the debate between the tamarisk and the date palm, which king planted in his courtyard after a heavenly council had granted the first kingship to men at the beginning (W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom, pp. 151-164). The shade of the tamarisk is the setting for a king’s banquet, and at Mari we are, of course, not surprised to find evidence that “the king and his entourage often ate their meals in the garden” (S. Dalley, Mesopotamian Gardens, p. 2; see depiction of such an event in M. Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, figure 29).

Such traditions continued into later times. Notes Visotzky (B. L. Visotzky, Conversation, p. 212; cf. H. W. Nibley, Message (2005), p. 288):

For a period of close to five hundred years, stories from Semitic religious communities preserved (in Palestinian Aramaic, koine Greek, and rabbinic Hebrew) snatches of the conversation of palm trees. The palms speak in dreams to one another and in broad daylight to those who would transgress against them. What seems to bind the dialogues together is that in every case, the ultimate hearer is a towering religious figure.

An example of the theme of warning is illustrated in the Genesis Apocryphon, a Jewish text from Qumran where we find Abram dreaming of a cedar and a date palm, representing himself and his wife Sarai. It is only through the pleadings of the palm tree that the cedar is spared from the axes of the woodcutters (F. G. Martinez, Genesis Apocryphon, 19:14-17, p. 232). A similar theme is found in the later biography of Mani, where Elchasai the Baptist climbs a date palm and is apparently warned that he should not cut it down for wood (R. Cameron et al., CMC, pp. 11, 13.). The theme persists centuries later in the Persian Shahnama epic (A. Ferdowsi, Shahnama (1905-1925), pp. 517-519), where a talking tree rebukes Alexander the Great “for his lust of conquest and prophesies his death in a distant land” (E. Edson et al., Cosmos, p. 55, caption to Figure 29).

On the other hand, the function of the trees as a source of wisdom is shown in the Pistis Sophia, which reports that God spoke “mysteries” to Enoch “out of the Tree of Gnosis [Knowledge] and out of the Tree of Life in the paradise of Adam” (C. Schmidt, Pistis, 2:99, p. 495; G. R. S. Mead, Pistis, 2:246, p. 205).

33 See, e.g., E. A. S. Butterworth, Tree, p. 74, see also pp. 75, 78. Butterworth discusses this idea in the context of Genesis 3:6-7, 21:19; Numbers 24:3-4; 1 Samuel 14:25-29; and 2 Kings 6:17-20.

34 See the conclusions of Albenda, as cited in M. Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, pp. 172-173.

35 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 63, citing a study by Moortgat.

36 Durand, cited in N. Marinatos, Minoan Harem, p. 43. Marinatos sees it as no coincidence that the women’s apartments at Mari were not far from the Throne Room suite, where the sacrificial banquet would have taken place (ibid., p. 44).

37 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, pp. 11, 43; cf. Barrelet’s “arbres fictifs” (M.-T. Barrelet, Peinture, pp. 12, 27; cf. Parrot “arbre stylisé” (A. Parrot, Palais, Peintures murales, p. 59). Giovino refutes arguments by scholars who frequently conflate this second type of sacred tree with the date palm. Among other evidence, she includes several examples where, as in the Mari Panel, both kinds of trees appear together (see, e.g., M. Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, pp. 113-128 and figures 58-60).

38 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 18; cf. M.-T. Barrelet, Peinture, pp. 26-27; M. Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, pp. 195-196. See also T. D. Alexander, From Eden, p. 22 n. 20.

39 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 18; cf. M.-T. Barrelet, Peinture, pp. 26-27; M. Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, pp. 195-196.

40 H. W. Nibley, Lehi 1988, p. 362.

41 As evidence for one of the gateposts, al-Khalesi cites a drawing in a study by Parrot that includes a tiny rectangular chink (approximately 12 cm. wide and 25 cm. long) in the pavement at a distance of 4.80 m. from the northern wall of the room (the wall between Rooms 64 and 65). A gatepost at a similar distance from the opposite wall would have defined an opening of about 2 m. that was centered in the room. Al-Khalesi also observes that pieces of wooden beams lying on the floor that Parrot identified as part of the roofing beams of the room could have also been part of the partition structure (Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 57).

42 Ibid., p. 57.

43 J. Monson, New ‘Ain Dara Temple.

44 See Essay #58.

45 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 67. Barrelet—citing texts associated with Gudea, a ruler of the city of southern city of Lagash, ca. 2144-2124 BCE—conjectures that the three composite animals symbolize the three major areas of the ritual complex where the investiture took place (M.-T. Barrelet, Peinture, p. 24).

46 See Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, pp. 58-60 for arguments in favor of the identification of this goddess with Ishtar. Note, among other conventions, the lion under her foot. By way of contrast, the Egyptian Book of the Dead shows that “the cat who split the ished-tree and released the god also beheads the god’s mortal enemy, the Apophis serpent, beneath the same ished-tree,” its paw resting heavily on the head of the serpent in accompanying illustrations (H. W. Nibley, Message (2005), pp. 311-312). For related motifs in Jewish and Christian sources, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 266-267.

47 J. R. Porter, Guide, p. 28.

48 See S. D. Ricks, Oaths, pp. 49-50; P. Y. Hoskisson, Nīšum Oath.

49 Y. M. al-Khalesi, Palms, p. 58. Wyatt discussses these items as divine arms that relate the king’s military action to the mythic combat of the gods (N. Wyatt, Arms, p. 159): “The actual handing over of the weapons (taken by the king from the hands of the divine image?) indicates a process of direct transmission by touch, comparable to rites of laying of hands, as in investitures, and enthronement rites in which kings sit on the divine throne” (ibid., p. 160 n. 28). Based on fragmentary textual evidence, Wyatt conjectures three elements in the ritual (ibid., pp. 159-160):

Firstly, the king is escorted by the god to the throne of his father, where he presumably takes his seat. This suggests that he approaches the throne accompanied by the image of the god, perhaps holding his hand;

Secondly, he is given the “divine weapons,” which are identified as those used by the god in the mythical Chaoskampf [i.e., primeval battle between the god and the forces of chaos]. Something of their power and efficacy is evidently to be transmitted to the king;

Thirdly, he is anointed, in the first extra-biblical allusion to the anointing of a king. This most distinctive of Israelite and Judahite rites is now given a pedigree going back a millennium. This is the thus the formal inauguration of [the king’s] reign…

Differing from Wyatt in the interpretation of the “rod and ring,” Slanski concludes, from both linguistic and archaeological evidence, that the “ring” in the hand of Ishtar could well be an ancient chalk line (K. E. Slanski, Rod and Ring, pp. 47-48), symbolizing the just rulership of the king. As emblems that symbolically conjoin the acts of measurement and temple foundation-laying with the processes of cosmic creation, the Mesopotamian rod and ring can be profitably compared to temple surveying instruments in the biblical book of Ezekiel (see, e.g., D. I. Block, Ezekiel 25-48, pp. 512, 515) as well as to the analogous figures of the square and circle (or compass) (H. W. Nibley, Circle).

Note that the battle axe that hangs down from Ishtar’s left hand in the mural would have been a more fitting symbol of war. Since there is no explicit link between the Mari Investiture Panel and the text on which Wyatt bases his interpretation, Ronan J. Head and I have tentatively concluded that, just as the painting seems to depict an established rite involving the “rod and ring” that authorized the king to build a palace and establish his just rule, so there may have been an analogous ceremony to which Wyatt’s text alludes, where the god would stretch out his battle-axe to the king in preparation for war. A biblical parallel to the dichotomy between building and waging war can be found in the story of King David, who was forbidden by God from constructing a temple because of his career as a warrior. For this reason, Solomon his son, a “man of rest,” was eventually given the commission to build the earthly House of God (1 Chronicles 22:8-9).

50 J. H. Walton, Ancient, p. 129.

51 Summarizing the LDS attitude toward ancient and modern revelation of religious truths, Truman G. Madsen wrote (E. Benz, Imago Dei (1978), pp. xvi, xvii):

To say that the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness is restored is to say that something has been lost and regained — but it is not to say that everything has. The Mormon believes that after every outpouring of divine light there is a record of degeneration and loss, the signs of which he thinks he can see in every generation. But Mormons have resisted from the outset the sectarian impulse: the isolation of a text or principle and the insistence that they alone possess and practice it. Exultant at a new revelatory downpour, the Mormon sees the implication: unless the same truths, authorities, and powers can be found in prior times and places; unless there have been genuine prophets, apostles and holy men who were, for all their individual traits, in touch with divine outpourings; unless there have been saints of former as well as of latter days — unless these things are so, Mormonism is without foundation. In other words, Mormonism has no claim to be a viable religion in the present unless it has been a viable religion in the past. And this is not just a halfhearted concession that there has been sort of, or part of, or a shadow of the fulness of the Gospel. It is to say that some, at least, among the ancients had it all. It is to match the thesis that from the early (and supposedly crude) beginnings things have become better; just as often they have, instead, become worse. Spiritual anabolism and catabolism have been at work in the religious life from the beginning. …

If the outcome of hard archaeological, historical, and comparative discoveries in the past century is an embarrassment to exclusivistic readings of religion, that, to the Mormon, is a kind of confirmation and vindication. His faith assures him not only that Jesus anticipated his great predecessors (who were really successors) but that hardly a teaching or a practice is utterly distinct or peculiar or original in his earthly ministry. Jesus was not a plagiarist, unless that is the proper name for one who repeats himself. He was the original author. The gospel of Jesus Christ came with Christ in the meridian of time only because the gospel of Jesus Christ came from Christ in prior dispensations. He did not teach merely a new twist on a syncretic- Mediterranean tradition. His earthly ministry enacted what had been planned and anticipated “from before the foundations of the world,” (e.g., John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20; Alma 22:13; D&C 130:20; Moses 5:57; Abraham 1:3) and from Adam down.

Spiritual Creation

Book of Moses Essay #54

Moses 3:5-7

With contribution by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

This magnificent painting by Gaetano Previati shows the heavenly hosts as part of the light that appeared at the beginning of Creation. Some ancient sources assert that the heavenly hosts — variously described as including the angels, the sons of God, and/or the souls of humanity — were part of that light.1  Wesley Williams explains:2

The pneumatikos or spiritual first Adam, born on the first day, is associated [with] the light of Genesis 1:3. The latter reading is based on a pun on the Greek word phōs, used in the [Septuagint] translation of Genesis 1:3 meaning both “light” and “man.”3  Thus, the product of God’s command, “Let there be light (phōs),” was a divine Light-Man, an anthropos enveloped within and consisting of light. This interpretation is Jewish and can be found as early as the second century BCE.

In this Essay, we will discuss the spiritual creation of the Garden of Eden and the origin of the spirits of humankind before the foundation of the world. We hope that the discussion will shed light on Moses 3:5, one of the most misunderstood verses in the Creation chapters:

And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air.

“And Every Plant of the Field Before It was in the Earth”

every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. The passage beginning with this verse might be paraphrased as follows:

Before there were any troublesome weeds, before grain replaced the fruits of the Garden of Eden, before God caused the needed rain to fall, and before man was commanded to till the ground, I, God, made all things spiritually, and created the children of men in heaven. No flesh — that is no mortal beings, whether people, beasts, fish, or birds — yet dwelt on the earth.

The explanation provided in this verse forms the opening bracket to the account that ends in Moses 4:29 with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden. The emphasis on how easy their life was before they left the perfect, terrestrial world in which they had been placed highlights the fact that neither the troublesome weeds (that depend on rain) nor the life-sustaining grains (that depend upon human cultivation) would make their appearance until after the Fall, when humankind became subject to toil, grief, and death.

“For I, the Lord God, Created All Things, of Which I Have Spoken, Spiritually”

In my personal view there is no scriptural basis for the notion that allusions to “spiritual creation” in Moses 3:5 describe a separate creation of individual entities made of “spirit” corresponding to each created thing, including, e.g., rocks, plants, and the earth itself. Instead this verse describes the premortal creation of “all things” that God had spoken about in their spiritual state, including the premortal spirits of humankind and some other forms of life, the physical creation of Eden, and everything it contained. This is consistent with the view of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who “conceded that the word ‘spiritual’” in Moses 3:5 has “a dual meaning and applies to both the premortal life and the paradisiacal creation … [while emphasizing] that the ‘more pointed and important meaning’ is that of a ‘paradisiacal creation.’”4  The paradisiacal creation resulted in a world of terrestrial glory, the same glory to which the earth will be restored during the Millennium.

Everything placed in the Garden of Eden was considered “spiritual” in the sense that it was in a state of relative perfection before the Fall.5  We are told in Moses 3 that man, the trees, and the animals became “living souls” when they were formed out of the elements of the paradisiacal world.6  However, the statement that all these things were created from spiritual elements does not necessarily imply that they each possessed individual spirits. Only humans and animals are said in scripture to possess individual spirits that preexisted their physical bodies.7

Some readers see the planning process for the formation of the heavens and the earth as resulting in a “blueprint” that can be taken as constituting a sort of spiritual creation. Though advance planning doubtless took place, such a process is never referred to in scripture “spiritual creation.”

Note that the period of time mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 77:6 refers to “the seven thousand years” of the earth’s “temporal existence,” rather than to the period of its existence in a spiritual state. Thus, this seven-thousand-year period does not include the timeframe of the physical creation of the terrestrial world in which Adam and Eve lived, nor the time that led up to their Fall. Therefore, this rough description of time periods does not rule out a creation process for the earth that began billions of years ago.

Death Before the Fall

Scriptural descriptions of the Garden of Eden seem to imply that there was something different about the way “time” was perceived before and after the Fall.8  While it is logical from our perspective to speak of “beginning” phases and “last” phases of God’s work, from his eternal perspective the “works have no end, neither beginning” but are “one eternal round.” Besides this aspect of “time,” something about the “state” and “sphere”9  of the Garden of Eden was different. Lehi explained that had it not been for the Fall, “all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.”10  Some take this verse as an argument that death on earth did not occur before the Fall. However, this interpretation seems to be based on a misunderstanding.11

Differing views have been expressed by prophets and apostles with regard to the question of death before the Fall. For example, President Harold B. Lee gave the following description of the effects of Adam and Eve’s transgression on the rest of creation:12

Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants — all kinds of life were changed. The earth itself became subject to death. … How it took place no one can explain, and anyone who would attempt to make an explanation would be going far beyond anything the Lord has told us. But a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death. From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state.

President Lee’s clear statement about the effects of the Fall is difficult to reconcile with the presence of ancient fossils that unquestionably predate man’s arrival, arranged in progressive complexity in the earth’s strata. Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve, a geologist by training, expressed the following observations in 1931:13

The oldest … rocks thus far identified in land masses reveal the fossilized remains of once living organisms, plant and animal. … These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation. From the fossilized remains of plants and animals found in the rocks, the scientist points to a very definite order in the sequence of life embodiment, for older rocks, the earlier formations, reveal to us organisms of simplest structure only, whether of plants or animals. These primitive species were aquatic; land forms were of later development.

Those who, like President Lee, have made statements strongly expressing the view that no death existed on earth before the Fall should not be portrayed as intrinsically unsympathetic to science, but more fundamentally as resisting any views that compromise authoritatively expressed doctrines relating to the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement. Likewise, scientifically-minded people of faith such as Elder Talmage are not seeking to subordinate the claims of faith to the program of science, but naturally desire to circumscribe their understanding of truth—the results of learning by “study and also by faith”14  — into “one great whole.”15

In 1910, the First Presidency affirmed that to the extent that demonstrated scientific findings can be harmonized with “divine revelation [and] good common sense,” they are accepted “with joy.”16  In this regard, Elder Lee spoke approvingly of a story recounted by Latter-day Saint scientist Harvey Fletcher about President Joseph F. Smith’s reply to questions posed to him at BYU about the topic of evolution:17

After listening patiently he replied: “Brethren, I don’t know very much about science. It has not been my privilege to study… deeply… any of the sciences, but this I do know, that God lives, and that His Son instituted this church here upon the earth for the salvation of men. Now Brethren, you have that testimony, and I’ve heard you bear it. It’s your job to try and see how these seeming difficulties can be overcome.”

“For in Heaven Created I Them, and There Was Not Yet Flesh upon the Earth”

Though some readers have seen Moses 2:26-27 as a reference to the creation of the spirits of humankind, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith commented:18

There is no account of the creation of man or other forms of life when they were created as spirits. There is just the simple statement that they were so created before the physical creation. The statements in Moses 3:5 and Genesis 2:4 are interpolations thrown into the account of the physical creation, explaining that all things were first created in the spirit existence in heaven before they were placed upon this earth.

Joseph Smith taught that there is some aspect of the spirit’s existence that was not created, although the exact nature of this eternal part of man has not been authoritatively settled.19  In the Book of Moses, the fact that all mankind existed as spirits in “heaven” before they came to earth is stated in simple terms.20  The Book of Abraham relates that when God breathed the “breath of life” into man, it meant that He took Adam’s spirit and placed it into his body.21

While little is said about the process by which the spirits (and bodies) of humankind came to be, more detail is given about social organization and preparatory events that took place in the premortal life.22  The Prophet summarized:23

The organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeable to the most perfect order and harmony: their limits and bounds were fixed irrevocably, and voluntarily subscribed to in their heavenly estate by themselves, and were by our first parents subscribed to upon the earth.

Thus, “Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all, and our glorious Mother Eve,” among the “noble and great ones” who excelled in intelligence in their premortal life, were foreordained to their mortal roles.24  Having received perfect physical bodies of a terrestrial glory, Adam and Eve were placed in a specially-prepared proving ground where, until the time of their transgression, they would live in the spiritual state that prevails in terrestrial worlds.25


Adapted from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/details/140123IGIL12014ReadingS, pp. 134–145, 198–200, 540–545.

Further Reading

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/details/140123IGIL12014ReadingS, pp. 134–145, 198–200, 540–545.

Draper, Richard D., S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes. The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005, pp. 222–223.


Barker, Margaret. An Extraordinary Gathering of Angels. London, England: MQ Publications, 2004.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Creation, Fall, and the Story of Adam and Eve. 2014 Updated ed. In God’s Image and Likeness 1. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2014. https://archive.org/download/140123IGIL12014ReadingS.

Fossum, Jarl E. The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord: Samaritan and Jewish Concepts of Intermediation and the Origin of Gnosticism. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 36. Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1985.

Godfrey, Kenneth W. “The history of intelligence in Latter-day Saint thought.” In The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, edited by H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, Jr., 213-35. Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1989.

Harrell, Charles R. “The development of the doctrine of preexistence, 1830-1844.” BYU Studies 28, no. 2 (1988): 1-25.

Hunter, Howard W. The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1997.

Hyde, Paul Nolan. “Intelligences.” In Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow. 4 vols. Vol. 2, 692-93. New York City, NY: Macmillan, 1992. http://www.lib.byu.edu/Macmillan/. (accessed November 26).

Lee, Harold B. The Teachings of Harold B. Lee. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1996.

———. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee. Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000.

Smith, Joseph F., J. R. Winder, and A. H. Lund. “Words in Season from the First Presidency.” Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Evening News, December 17, 1910, 3.

Smith, Joseph Fielding, Jr. Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1954-1956.

Smith, Joseph, Jr., Andrew F. Ehat, and Lyndon W. Cook. The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, 1980. https://rsc.byu.edu/book/words-joseph-smith. (accessed August 21, 2020).

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Talmage, James E. The Articles of Faith. Salt Lake City, UT: The Deseret News, 1899. https://archive.org/details/articlesfaithas00talmgoog. (accessed September 25, 2016).

Williams, Wesley. 2005. The Shadow of God: Speculations on the Body Divine in Jewish Esoteric Tradition.  In The Black God. http://www.theblackgod.com/Shadow%20of%20God%20Short%5B1%5D.pdf. (accessed December 21, 2007).

Notes on Figures

Figure 1. Rome, Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna e contemporanea . With the permission of the Ministero per I Bene e le Attività Culturali.



1 See, e.g., M. Barker, Angels, p. 29.

2 W. Williams, Shadow.

3 This pun has been described in more detail by several modern scholars. See, e.g., this concise explanation by Jarl Fossum: “G. Quispel has argued that the myth of the origination of the heavenly Man as the primordial light presupposes a pun on phōs, meaning both ‘man’ (φώς) and ‘light’ (φῶς): ‘And God said: ‘Let phōs come into being!’ And phōs came into being’ (Genesis i.3)” (J. E. Fossum, Name of God, p. 280).

4 C. R. Harrell, Preexistence, p. 20. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 135, 198–199 n. 3–9.

5 J. F. Smith, Jr., Doctrines, 1954, 1:76.

6 Moses 3:7, 9, 19. See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, p. 200 n. 3–12.

7 Doctrine and Covenants 77:2. Regarding the scope of the word “creature” in this verse, including the question of whether every form of microscopic life is associated with an individual spirit or whether every particle of matter is “alive” in some sense, see ibid., p. 199 n. 3–10. Note that in Moses and Abraham the term “living creature” is reserved for animals, not plants.

8 Doctrine and Covenants 29:30–35.

9 On the likely meaning of “sphere” in this context, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 139–144.

10 2 Nephi 2:22.

11 See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 199–200 n. 3–11.

12 H. B. Lee, Teachings 2000, 23 June 1954, p. 20.

13 J. E. Talmage, Articles of Faith (1899), pp. 336.

14 Doctrine and Covenants 88:118.

15 H. W. Hunter, Teachings 1997, 30 August 1984, p. 182.

16 J. F. Smith et al., Words in Season.

17 H. B. Lee, Teachings 1996, 6 June 1953, p. 340. See also ibid..

18 J. F. Smith, Jr., Doctrines, 1954, 1:75–76.

19 See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp.540–543. See also K. W. Godfrey, Intelligence; P. N. Hyde, Intelligences.

20 Moses 3:5.

21 Abraham 5:7.

22 See J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp.544–545.

23 J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 9 October 1843, p. 325. Cf. J. Smith, Jr. et al., Words, Times and Seasons 4 (15 September 1843): 331–332, p. 253.

24 Doctrine and Covenants 138:38–39; Abraham 3:22–23.

25 2 Nephi 2:23-25.