Question: Was the Gospel of Christ a mystery that was unknown until the advent of Christ?

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Question: Was the Gospel of Christ a mystery that was unknown until the advent of Christ?

"Mystery" denotes a knowledge available only through revelation: There is clear Biblical evidence that some before Christ knew of Jesus

Members of the Church believe that the gospel of Christ has been known since the days of Adam. However, it is claimed by some Christians that the New Testament teaches that the Gospel of Christ was a mystery unknown until the advent of Christ. (In defense of this claim, they often cite such scriptures as Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7, 1 Corinthians 4:1; or Ephesians 3:1-10;

"Mystery" denotes a knowledge available only through revelation. There is clear Biblical evidence that some before Christ knew of Jesus. If Moses, for example, had this mystery revealed to him, then it is fallacious for one to claim that no other pre-Christian prophets could have known of Jesus and his saving gospel.

It is an error to assume that the term "mystery" has the same meaning to the New Testament writers as it does to the modern creedal Christian

As a non-LDS Bible reference explains:

[A "mystery" is] [s]omething revealed by God, at least to a few. The meaning is different from the usual English sense of an unsolved problem....

Its principal occurrences [in the NT] are in Pauline literature, where it is found 21 times....

Paul's use of the term...[connects] it with Jesus' crucifixion rather than with esoteric forms of knowledge (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:1-7). For Paul the mystery that has been revealed is God's plan of salvation. In Ephesians 6:19 he speaks of the mystery of the gospel. Similarly, in Colossians 2:2 he calls God's mystery Christ himself. The mystery is ancient. According to Romans 16:25 it was kept secret for long ages, but in the following verse and in Ephesians 3:9-10 Paul indicates that it was revealed int he fullness of time. The mystery relates to the inclusion of the Gentiles as well as the Jews in God's plan of salvation (Romans 16:25-26, Colossians 1:26-27, Ephesians 3:3-6....

The word "mystery" is also used in a derivative sense in several passages where the terms to which it applies are significant in the divine plan of salvation which has been revealed....[1]

The LDS Bible Dictionary gives a similar perspective:

[The word "mystery"] [d]enotes in the N.T. a spiritual truth that was once hidden but now is revealed, and that, without special revelation, would have remained unknown. It is generally used along with words denoting revelation or publication (e.g., Rom. 16:25–26; Eph. 1:9; 3:3–10; Col. 1:26; 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:16). The modern meaning of something incomprehensible forms no part of the significance of the word as it occurs in the N.T."[2]

Thus, a mystery is not necessarily something that is unknown or unknowable. Rather, it is truth that is known only through revelation. As the first quote indicates, one of the mysteries that Paul claims has been hid is the extension of gospel blessings to all, both Jew and Gentile. This does not mean, however, that the entire gospel was hid even from the covenant people of the pre-Christian era.

Indeed, the NT is clear that at least one Old Testament figure knew of Christ:

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26} (italics added)

How can Moses have chosen the "reproach of Christ" if he did not have a knowledge of Christ? Yet, that knowledge was a "mystery"—a knowledge which could only be known through revelation.


Notes

  1. Alice Ogden Bellis, "Mystery," in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, edited by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 931. ISBN 0802824005.
  2. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Mystery,", 736. off-site