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Title"What Thank They The Jews?"
Publication TypeVideo
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsBowen, Matthew L.
KeywordsAntisemitism; Israel; Jews; Judah; Language; Language - Hebrew

The Hebrew Bible explains the meaning of the personal and tribal name “Judah”—from which the term “Jews” derives—in terms of “praising” or “thanking” (*ydy/ydh). In other words, the “Jews” are those who are to be “praised out of a feeling of gratitude.” This has important implications for the Lord’s words to Nephi regarding Gentile ingratitude and antisemitism: “And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them?” (2 Nephi 29:4). Gentile Christian antisemitism, like the concomitant doctrine of supersessionism, can be traced (in part) to widespread misunderstanding and misapplication of Paul’s words regarding Jews and “praise” (Romans 2:28-29). Moreover, the strongest scriptural warnings against antisemitism are to be found in the Book of Mormon, which also offers the reassurance that the Jews are still “mine ancient covenant people” (2 Nephi 29:4-5) and testifies of the Lord’s love and special concern for them.

There are many reasons why we should thank the Jews. Historically, the “the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles” (2 Nephi 29:4) unquestionably included the recording and preservation of biblical texts—both “Old” and “New” Testaments. However, these efforts also included taking the message of salvation to the Gentiles. The Lord’s words in 2 Nephi 29:4-5 deliberately recall Isaiah’s description of Israel in Isaiah 49:3 (“Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified”) and the description of Israel’s work as “servant” in Isaiah 49:6: “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” The description of Israel’s role of “servant” in the foregoing (and other passages) connects Israel’s work with that of the “servant” of Isaiah 53. That servant is described as a “man of pains” (v. 3) who “carried our pains” (v. 4) and from the “travail of [whose] soul” justification and sanctification comes to the human family. Jesus of Nazareth stated that “salvation [cf. Heb. yĕšûʿâ] is of the Jews” (John 4:22) both in reference to himself as a Jew (Jesus = yēšûaʿ) and the ongoing “work of salvation” in which the Jews and all of Israel ultimately share. That work of salvation not only includes the sharing of the “good tidings of good” (the gospel) mentioned in Isaiah 52:7-10—in this life and the next (D&C 138:30, 56-59)—but also the ordinance work of the temple. In all of this, the Jews—including and especially Jesus of Nazareth—are those who are to be “praised” or “thanked” out of a feeling of gratitude.

Citation Key3319

Scripture Reference

2 Nephi 29:4