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Source:Echoes:Ch8:9:Translation of Moses and John
The Translation of Moses and John
The Translation of Moses and John
The Book of Mormon indicates that the prophet Moses and the apostle John were both translated. Again, there is ancient textual support for these declarations that are not mentioned in the Bible.
Alma 45:18–19 says that after the disappearance of Alma, some Nephites came to believe that he might have been taken in the same way "the Lord took Moses unto himself." That Moses was translated may be suggested in Doctrine and Covenants 84:25, where we read that the Lord "took Moses out of their midst." Only one text known in Joseph Smith's day suggested that Moses had not died. The first-century AD Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote that when Moses went atop a high mountain with "Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared in a certain valley, although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary virtue, he went to God" (Antiquities of the Jews 4.8.48).54 The story is confirmed in a fourth-century AD Samaritan document, Tibat Marqa (also called Memar Marqa) 269a, which says that "when he got to the top of the mountain, a cloud came down and lifted him up from the sight of all the congregation of Israel."55
A number of early Jewish texts unavailable to Joseph Smith confirm that Moses never died but was alive and serving God in heaven. Among these are the Talmud (TB Sotah 13b); Midrash ha-Gadol, Zot habberakhah 4:5; Sifre to Deuteronomy 357;56 and Midrash Leqah Tob.57 The medieval Zohar reflects the same tradition (Zohar Genesis 37b; Exodus 88b–89a, 174a; Leviticus 59a).
Some of the early Christian fathers also held that Moses had not died but had been taken by God. Among these are St. Ambrose (died AD 397) in his On Cain and Abel 1.2.8 and Cassiodorus (ca. AD 468–560) in his Latin translation of Clement of Alexandria, commenting on Jude 1:9.
We learn of the apostle John's translation in 3 Nephi 28:6–9, where Christ promises three of the Nephite disciples that they will not die and compares their situation to that of John. That John may have been spared death is merely hinted at in John 21:20–23, which cautions that while "this saying [went] abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" A revelation given to Joseph Smith in April 1829 confirmed that John had, indeed, been translated (Doctrine and Covenants 7).58A fourth-century Christian document, the Discourse on Abbatôn, first published in 1914, confirms that John had been translated. The preface speaks of "the Holy Apostle Saint John, theologian and virgin, who is not to taste death until the thrones are set in the Valley of Jehoasaphat."59 The text itself has the resurrected Jesus saying, "And as for thee, O My beloved John, thou shalt not die until the thrones have been prepared on the Day of the Resurrection. . . . I will command Abbaton, the Angel of Death, to come unto thee on that day. . . . Thou shalt be dead for three and a half hours, lying upon thy throne, and all creation shall see thee. I will make thy soul to return to thy body, and thou shalt rise up and array thyself in apparel of glory."60