Chapter 51 * John 17 & 13:38—All Things Are By Covenant

The Savior’s prayer in John 17 is a review and report of his and his apostles’ eternal covenants. All things that matter and persist in eternity are made by covenants that are validated by ordinances. The Savior was explaining that concept when he said,

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23, 3 Nephi 14:21-23).

The wording in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is the same as in 3 Nephi. However, the Prophet’s Inspired Version clarifies it. Where Matthew says “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23), the Joseph Smith translation says, “Ye never knew me” (JST Matthew 7:33).
The Book of Mormon shows that the Matthew version is correct, but the Prophet’s change shows that the Savior’s intent was to describe a relationship that never happened.
Herbert B. Huffmon has shown that the Hebrew word “yada”, translated “know” in the Bible, is a technical term “to indicate mutual legal recognition” in a covenant or treaty and “is also used as a technical term for recognition of the treaty stipulations as binding.”{1} He cites “a number of texts in which “yada” would seem to be used in reference to covenant recognition of Israel by Yahweh.” One of those is Amos 3:2.

1 Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,
2 You only have I known [yada`] of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed? …
7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret [sode] unto his servants the prophets (Amos 3:1-7).

In verse 7, “secret” is sode in Hebrew and refers to the covenants made at the Council in Heaven. Jeremiah understood this, for when he was called to be a prophet the Lord said,

5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew [yada`] thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

As Jeremiah struggled to teach Israel to repent he prayed, “But thou, O Lord, knowest [yada] me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee” (Jeremiah 12:3).
Huffmon cites that verse as an example of “the frequent combination, ‘know’ and ‘see’” and Deuteronomy 34:10 is an example of one “whom Yahweh knew face to face.”

10 And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew [yada`] face to face. 12:3).

The beautiful 36th Psalm puts it all together in a single verse.

10 O continue thy lovingkindness [hesed] unto them that know [yada`] thee; and thy righteousness [zedek] to the upright in heart (Psalms 36:10).

So it appears that when the Savior says “I never knew you,” or “You never knew me,” that what he was saying is “I never made a covenant with you,” or “No covenant you made with me was ever sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.”
Once again, we are back where we began: at the Council in Heaven where we made those covenants. One of those covenants is what James called the “royal law.”

8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well (James 2:8)

John assures us that the royal law was taught “from the beginning.”

7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
8 Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him (1 John 2:7-10).

Nothing ever changes! That royal law which was taught “from the beginning” is still the sealing power that binds those in the celestial kingdom together in a perfect order. We are assured,

1 When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.
2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy (D&C 130:1-2).

It is, and has always been, about relationships: with family, with friends, and with God, and those lasting relations are founded upon eternal covenants.


{1}Stephen D. Ricks, and RoseAnn Benson—“Treaties and Covenants: Ancient Near Eastern Legal Terminology in the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2005), Volume – 14, Issue – 1, Pages: 48-61, 128-29.
Herbert B. Huffmon, “The Treaty Background of Hebrew Yada’,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No.1 B 1 (Feb., 1966), pp. 31-7 Published by: The American Schools of Oriental Research Stable URL: Accessed: 09/02/2015 12:10
The Hebrew word Vada` (Strong # 3045) also can mean the very intimate relationship in marriage, which also has strong contractual overtones. Adultery violates the terms of that contract.

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