The Three Men Who Appeared to Abraham: The Godhead, Angels, or Human Beings? (Old Testament Lesson 8)

In Genesis 18, we read that the Lord appeared to Abraham in Mamre, and also, in the same verse, that three “men” visited him.  This has to be one of the most debated passages of all time.  The big question is whether these three were divine beings (and if one of the three was the Lord, Yahweh), and if so, why are they described in these verses as “men” engaging in very human activities such as washing their feet and eating regular food (Gen. 18:4–8)? This is a very complicated matter, especially because the text is so vague, not providing the details that we would need to sort this out.  In fact, it is really impossible to come to a conclusion based on the biblical text. So why do I bother? Because divine theophanies are a serious matter and a correct understanding (or as close as we can get to it) of these narratives helps us understand the early Israelite beliefs concerning the nature of God.

But before I get into that, I want to point out that the blog Joel’s Monastery (which I’ve mentioned  here recently) has a great in-depth commentary on the scriptural passages covered in this Old Testament Lesson #8.  He does a good job of covering the material for the entire lesson, including a treatment of the Melchizedek tradition that is quite comprehensive.  My post is necessarily more limited, but, if you would like, please see some of my previous posts on Melchizedek as well:

Melchizedek: Priest, King, and God

Joseph Smith and the Genealogy of Melchizedek

Back to the question of who visited Abraham — we are specifically told in Gen. 18:1 that the Lord (YHWH) appeared to him (Abraham) near the trees/oaks of Mamre.  The Hebrew makes it perfectly clear that Yahweh himself appeared, at least at some point in the story. The Greek translators confirm, albeit somewhat more generically, that it was God (ho theos) that appeared.

This seemingly random appearance of Yahweh to Abraham was not an isolated occurrence. God had appeared to him a number of times previously (see Gen. 12:7; Gen. 17:1–3, 22).  These theophanies are not described with any detail, but relate in a rather nonchalant, non-spectacular fashion the idea that Yahweh descended from heaven to speak with Abraham (and then “went up” from him, Gen. 17:22).

So, in chapter 18, we are informed of another appearance of Yahweh to Abraham.  Many commentators make a point distinguish this appearance from that of chapter 17.  The open (blank) space in the Hebrew text between the two chapters is an indicator that we are starting a new, unrelated narrative.  Some commentators identify this first clause of verse 1 as an introduction to the following chapters, which are characterized by their narrative of divine contact with mortals.  Although this may indicate that we should understand this line apart from the following verses — that perhaps this is just the “heading” and not the actual beginning of the story–we will have to answer more questions before coming to any conclusion.

After these words of introduction, we are told that Abraham, while sitting in his tent, looks up and beheld three “men” approaching. Neither the Hebrew nor the Greek call them “angels” here, but use common words for mortal men.  However, in the next chapter, Gen. 19:1, two of the “men” are called angels (or “messengers”, in both Hebrew and Greek). If two of them leave for Sodom, then apparently the third is left behind. The way the narrative comes to us, the third visitor would seem to be the Lord, who is left by the other two and remains speaking to Abraham in the last part of chapter 18.

Many early Christians believed that this was an appearance of the Son of God with two angels.  Many argued in their apologetics (see, e.g. Justin’s dialogue with Trypho) that this must have been a pre-mortal appearance of Jesus Christ, since they believed that the Father did not visit people in this way.

Augustine expressed the popular belief that the three men were the three persons of the Holy Trinity.

But under the oak at Mamre he saw three men, whom he invited, and hospitably received, and ministered to them as they feasted. Yet Scripture at the beginning of that narrative does not say, three men appeared to him, but, “The Lord appeared to him.” And then, setting forth in due order after what manner the Lord appeared to him, it has added the account of the three men, whom Abraham invites to his hospitality in the plural number, and afterwards speaks to them in the singular number as one; and as one He promises him a son by Sara, viz. the one whom the Scripture calls Lord, as in the beginning of the same narrative, “The Lord,” it says, “appeared to Abraham.” He invites them then, and washes their feet, and leads them forth at their departure, as though they were men; but he speaks as with the Lord God, whether when a son is promised to him, or when the destruction is shown to him that was impending over Sodom.18

Interestingly, despite Joseph Smith’s apparent belief to the contrary, we also find this assumption expressed by some LDS Church leaders.  For example, Brigham Young stated, using the Lord’s visit to Abraham as an example of thes corporeality of God:

He conversed with His children, as in the case of Moses at the fiery bush, and with Abraham on the plains of Mamre. He also ate and drank with Abraham and others. That is the God the “Mormons” believe in, but their very religious Christian brethren do not believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which is the God the Bible sets forth, as an organized corporeal being. ((A DISCOURSE DELIVERED BY PRESIDENT B. YOUNG, IN THE TABERNACLE, GREAT SALT LAKE CITY, JULY 24, 1853. Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, 238. Accessed online at

More recently, Elder Mark E. Peterson, in his commentary on the three visitors at Mamre in Abraham: Friend of God, has no qualms about identifying the three men as the Lord and two angels.

The difficulty, then, is in determining how these three, if they were the Lord (Jesus/Jehovah) and his angels, could sit with Abraham and participate in physical activities, such as eating. The principal theory that I have seen among Christians is the idea that when a spirit personage (who is normally invisible) becomes visible, he necessarily takes on material qualities in order to do so.  Although only temporarily, the heavenly being would then have a “physical” body and would be able to perform “physical” actions. This temporary transformation from spiritual to physical, according to this theory, is also displayed at Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit becomes a dove (literally). This is the most common explanation that I have seen for these difficult passages in the Bible that portray heavenly beings as being able to manipulate material objects and the like.

Despite the above quotations from Brigham Young and Mark E. Peterson, this explanation doesn’t generally sit well with the LDS understanding of the nature of spiritual beings. The best known treatment of the corporeality of angelic beings is D&C 129:

1 THERE are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones—

2 For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

3 Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.

4 When a messenger comes saying he has a message from God, offer him your hand and request him to shake hands with you.

5 If he be an angel he will do so, and you will feel his hand.

6 If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—

7 Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message.

8 If it be the devil as an angel of light, when you ask him to shake hands he will offer you his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him.

9 These are three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God.

Now there are a number of complex issues presented here which are difficult to interpret — for example, why exactly would it be a deception for a righteous spirit to try to give you his hand to shake? Likewise, if the devil knows he is only a spirit, why would he be silly enough to give his hand to you to shake? Why wouldn’t he just refuse to move like the righteous angel? It seems to me that that would be a better deception!  Anyways, the point is that Joseph Smith taught that angels can have physical bodies, but only when they are resurrected (in this case their physical nature would be permanent, not temporary). The key example is that of the resurrected Christ when he differentiates between himself and spirits by explaining that a spirit would not have a physical body as he does (Luke 24:39). The resurrected Jesus, a divine being, could touch and be touched, eat and drink, etc.

So from this we can understand that, in the LDS perspective as well, angels can often be depicted as performing physical acts.  The only catch here is that Joseph Smith was describing the nature of angels as resurrected beings — a quality that they could have only after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who was the “firstfruits of the resurrection” (1 Cor. 15:20). The angels depicted in Genesis 18 and 19, then, according to this perspective, could not have been resurrected beings and could not, therefore, have resurrected, physical bodies.

A popular opinion among LDS is that the three men were angels, but in the sense of messengers of God, and that they were mortal messengers, not divine.  This idea is expressed well here:

Who then were Abraham’s three visitors at his encampment? They are not designated by name, but it is apparent that they were messengers sent by the Lord. I venture to express an opinion—an inference only for which I am personally and alone responsible—that the probabilities point to the great high priest, Melchizedek, and two associates who may have stood with him in the capacity of counselors.

The three beings in question were in all probability not “angels” but righteous men. The Hebrew says that three men, instead of three angels, visited Abraham. As for the title, Lords, it comes from adhon meaning Lord, a title of honor for men. The word Yhwh or Jehovah, which is often translated Lord (God) is not used to designate the three messengers.

The “Inspired Scriptures” states that “three men” visited Abraham and that he addressed them as “my brethren.” The Prophet Joseph undoubtedly wrote angel in the text with the meaning of messenger in mind; since angel in the English, Greek, or Hebrew means messenger. Especially is this true in this instance. The idea of mortal messengers is further substantiated in Genesis 18:23. (Inspired Revision.)

And the angels which were holy men, and were sent forth after the order of God, [meaning the “Holy Priesthood, after the order of God”] turned their faces from thence and went toward Sodom.

If one substitutes the word messenger for angel in the Inspired Scriptures, he will find the principal difficulty in use of the names cleared up.

It is, therefore, highly probable that the three men who came to Abraham and partook of his hospitality were three servants of God to whom he revealed his will concerning the people. Furthermore, it is possible that this was Melchizedek who was called the great “high priest” because he presided over the Holy Priesthood as President of the Church in that day. ((Oscar W. McConkie, Angels))

Here we have the idea that the angels (at least two of the three men) were mortals, priesthood bearers who wielded the power and authority of God.  The suggestion that the messengers were Melchizedek and his two councilors is an attractive proposition.  That Melchizedek and fellow priests could have been recognized as representatives of Yahweh and also as angels is supported by recent research of scholars such as Margaret Barker, Crispin Fletcher-Louis, James Davila, C.T.R. Hayward, and others.  It is well established that the high priest (king) in ancient Israelite religion was seen as representing Yahweh in the rituals of the temple and that the other priests were understood to be angels performing the heavenly liturgy.

The other important point brought out by the inspired revisions of Joseph Smith, as discussed above, is the idea that angels (as the men are called in Gen. 19:1) were messengers, and that “holy men” could be “angels” just as divine beings could be.  The Hebrew for messenger, malakh (which is rendered in Greek aggelos and is the basis for our word “angel”) could be used for both mortal and heavenly messengers. ((Under “Angels” in the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, we read: The most common of these functional terms is maLāk, “messenger, envoy.” It is from the translation of maLāk in the LXX (Gk aggelos) that the English word “angel” derives. As terms denoting functions, both aggelos and maLāk can refer equally to human or angelic beings. Consequently, there are occasionally passages in which it remains disputed whether the reference is to a heavenly being or a human one (see Judg 2:1; Mal 3:1). It was only with the Vulgate that a systematic distinction was made between angelic emissaries (Lat angelus) and human ones (Lat nuntius). Freedman, D. N. (1996). The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday.)) The argument that the men who visited Abraham were important humans of a priestly status sent by God is not a weak one. It would explain how they could be seen as participating in physical acts in chapter 18 and in the very “human” sequences of chapter 19.  It would also explain why they are referred to as “men” (although divine angels are also sometimes referred to as “men”).

But wasn’t one of them the Lord Yahweh? From Gen. 18:1 and later on in that chapter, it clearly states that Yahweh is talking to Abraham.  While this very well could have been Melchizedek or another representative of Yahweh authorized to speak in his name, we would have to be reading something into the text that isn’t there in order to interpret it in that way.  One possible interpretation is to say that Yahweh did visit Abraham at this time, but that he was not one of the three men — he was either speaking from heaven, or his visit to Abraham is not to be associated with the visit of the three men at all (perhaps it took place after the men left). Although the English translation of Gen. 18:3 seems to indicate that Abraham is addressing the three men (or at least one of them) as “my Lord,” the Hebrew does not use the name of God (YHWH), which is standardly rendered as “LORD” in our scriptures, but uses adonai, which, although it is often used to refer to God, can almost as often be found in the Bible used as a term of respect for a human being.  The Joseph Smith Translation amends “my Lord” to “my brethren.” Furthermore, the JST seems to consider all three visitors to be mortal messengers, as we see in the revision of Gen. 19:1 (“three angels” instead of “two angels”). Therefore, Abraham’s conversation with the Lord about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah at the end of chapter 18 would seem to indicate that the Lord is appearing to Abraham here separately, apart from the three messengers.

Before concluding, I would offer one more possible explanation (without necessarily endorsing it as the correct one).  There may be a middle argument that we can fit in between the uncomfortable discrepancy between the popular LDS idea that these were mortal messengers and the traditional Christian position that they were heavenly angels.  Again, I’m not suggesting that this is the correct interpretation, but but I would just offer it as a fun bit of speculation.  We are taught that a number of mortal men had been “translated”, as were Elijah and Moses, long before the time of Abraham. “Translation” consists of an intermediate stage between mortal life and full resurrection — in effect, a change is made to the individual so that the physical body is preserved and his life prolonged, so that he may continue serving the Lord long after he naturally should have died. Translated beings, although they are not resurrected yet, still possess a physical body.  From the teachings of Joseph Smith we are informed that not only Enoch, but his whole city were translated.  It may even be possible to derive, from the JST of Genesis 14 the idea that Melchizedek and his followers, by virtue of the Priesthood, had also (at some point) been translated:

32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this [priesthood] order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.

33 And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.

34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

Joseph Smith taught that these translated beings were often called to be “ministering angels”

Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead. ((Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 170))

If we take these ideas into account, then it is possible that Abraham’s visitors could have been translated beings serving as angels of God.  If I understand the nature of translated beings correctly, they would have had the normal appearance of men and have been able to perform physical activities such as those described in these chapters, but also would have been recognized as angels sent by God.  If Melchizedek and some of his fellows had already been translated by this time, then it is certainly plausible that they could have been the highly honored visitors that Abraham so graciously welcomed to his tent.

While, again, this is just speculation, I believe that this makes more logical and theological sense than trying to explain how spiritual beings simply “materialize” when the come into the mortal realm.  I guess when you believe in creation ex-nihilo, such a feat (coming up with a physical body out of nowhere, only to have it subsequently disappear into oblivion) is not so odd to believe, but that is not the LDS understanding of the nature of matter and of the way spiritual beings interact with the material world.

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  1. Posted February 19, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think you give your speculation about translated beings enough credit. That far and away combines the best of both worlds.

  2. David Larsen
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Zen! I do think it nicely resolves the problem — I’m just hesitant about it because I haven’t seen it “officially” suggested anywhere. Perhaps that is because we just don’t know much about the activities of translated beings and how much they have been in contact with the world (although the Prophet’s statement that they are called to be ministering angels is very clear).
    If anyone has seen this idea suggested elsewhere, please let me know.

  3. Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Great post. I like the suggestion that the visitors referred to as men in the Genesis references were translated beings. The covenants made with Enoch and Noah which were repeated with Abraham would of necessity cause Enoch to be very interested in Abraham and his posterity.

    And the activities of translated beings to further the work of the Lord is not without precedent. The three Nephites appeared to Mormon (3 Nephi 28:26), and he says, “And they are as the angels of God…” (verse 30). Joseph Smith was visited by them. The Prophet Joseph also had interactions with John the Revelator, another being who was translated.

    Although there is no doctrinal statement to assure us of your suggestion here, I think it is spot-on. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Posted February 21, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    No another possible source of a being from God that would have a ressurected body would be those ministering angels assigned to God who did not meet the requirements for complete exaltation in his world but were then assigned to minister to him until such time as they had advanced in light and knowledge and covenant to acquire the top tier celestial kingdom honours.

    Posted February 21, 2010 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    And John and the Nephites were definitively translated not ressurected as they must sojourn on this earth until it’s completion.

  6. Posted February 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    As always a great and thought-provoking post. Melchizedek is equated to both El Elyon and Yahweh in ancient tradition (e.g., 11QMelchizedek). Since the mortal Melchizedek represented God, imagine how a translated Melchizedek would equal God!
    In his journal, George Laub said that Joseph Smith explained that Enoch’s City was still visible during the time of the Tower, and that Nimrod built the tower to overthrow Heaven/Enoch’s City, and to toss out God – we should realize that the god of Zion was Enoch/Metatron! And when Melchizedek was translated with his people, he also became god incarnate (note the little ‘g’). They both represented El and Yahweh through Divine Investiture, and so when Abraham saw the Lord, he could easily have seen Melchizedek as Lord.

    Great post!

    Gerald Smith – Joel’s Monastery

  7. tyson
    Posted March 3, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    While reading this post I kept thinking about the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.

    Of particular, verse 33 which reads, “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.”

    In my simple mind I compare what we have now in the restoration with what I’ve read in the scriptures. For example, to me it makes sense that this “renewing of the body” under the priesthood covenant, was to be given to the House of Israel under the hand of Moses. (see D&C 84:23–25) Had the house of Israel been true and faithful, they possibly would have received the renewing of their body and enjoyed the presence of those already translated, but that of the Lord as well.

    The idea that the “angels” who visited Abraham seems consistant with what we understand about translated beings.

    • David Larsen
      Posted March 6, 2010 at 5:16 am | Permalink

      Thank you all for your comments.

  8. vivian
    Posted July 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m new here but I loved your blog… website… hum… whatever it is!! ha ha.

    I was reading about this topic a long time before and it was very clear to me the idea of this 3 messengers as men, regular men ( I’m sorry this is not my native language), or translated men. It’s OK this idea to me, I never felt that The Lord was in the same “scene”.
    I mean, Scriptures very often go from present to future and then they come back to the begining. You know …many precious parts are lost. And many changes are present in a translation.

  9. Posted November 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Your question–why exactly would it be a deception for a righteous spirit to try to give you his hand to shake?–has also brought me some moments of reflection, and I think that the answer may lie in Ether 3:6 where we read that the Brother of Jared “saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood.”

    I read that as meaning that spirits are not “see through” as portrayed in Hollywood, but that we would not be able to visually distinguish a difference between a unembodied spirit and an embodied spirit–both would have the appearance of actual flesh and blood. (Cf. D&C 77:2 – “…that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person….)

    Thus, if I were to reach out to take the hand of a spirit I would fully expect to feel a corporeal hand. The deception would be in the spirit reaching out his or her hand with the knowledge that when our hands meet, I “will not feel anything” per D&C 129:8, but he or she is still willing to give me the impression that I will feel something, at least up to the point of detection.

    This idea is captured by the old adage, appearances can be deceiving.

    • josue
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:54 am | Permalink

      Scores of instances mentioned in the Bible where incorporeal beings engaged in the affairs of human beings. The sons of God married the beautiful women on earth, Three men visited by Abraham dined with him, Jacob wrestled with an angel, Jesus proved that he ressurected to the doubting Thomas by touching his hands…etc. In my humble opinion with no deep religious study of the scripture, if this is true a potential possibility this could unlock of what really happened in the garden with our ancestors and the snake. Without going further for too much information the second thing is that the spiritual world is substantial and real.
      The last straw that breaks the camels back, again , if this is true why now in our time none of them (spiritual beings) appeared and intruded in our business? Our lives now are in great mess financially, politically…etc This must be the real time to reveal themselves???? Let say a farmer plowing the field to earn a living (both ends meet), show there kindness by milking the cow cleaning the barn.instead of being a wrestler, womanizer and an awesome magician and a guest of the society. Please pardon me I need an explanation

  10. Sibyl Graham
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree with the idea that Yahweh Himself visited Abraham. It says ”the Lord” visited Abraham. Jesus was also called “Lord”. Jesus was also the angel (messenger) of the Lord in the OT. Jesus Himself said in the NT that He saw Abraham’s day, meaning that it was He who visited Abraham. When the Lord spoke in the burning bush, He said He was the “I am”. In other words, “I am the good shepherd, I am the way, truth, and the life. I am… etc.” Scriptures say that no man can look on God and live, and therefore, Abraham couldn’t have seen Yahweh, or the scriptures would contradict themselves. Regardless, it does not use the name ”Yahweh’ in that context anyway, and therefore, to say that person definitely was Yahweh would be presumptuous.

    • David Larsen
      Posted October 27, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Hi Sibyl,
      Thanks for your comment. There are different ways of looking at who Yahweh was in the Old Testament. In my view, only rarely (if ever) should Yahweh be taken to represent God the Father. Yahweh was the God of Israel, but this does not equate him with the One that Jesus calls Father in the New Testament.
      The New Testament almost exclusively understands Jesus to be Yahweh. By NT times, believers didn’t speak the sacred name of God, but called Yahweh “Adonai” or, in the Greek, “Kyrios.” We note that in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew scriptures, the sacred name Yahweh is generally rendered as “Kyrios.” In the New Testament, it is Jesus that is repeatedly called Kyrios. He is the one who was given the name above all other names — it is stated that he will be acclaimed as Lord (Kyrios = Yahweh), to the glory of the Father (Phil. 2:9-10). This indicates that Jesus was seen as the Yahweh of the Old Testament, a figure subject to God the Father.
      The pre-existent Jesus as Yahweh was, of course, a visible figure. We see that Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and many other prophets plainly see Yahweh and came back from the experience alive. When they claim to have seen Yahweh, we should understand that they are seeing the Son of God.
      But what about the connection between Jesus and the Angel of Yahweh? There certainly is a connection. I would say that Jesus is both Yahweh and the Angel of Yahweh. If you read the text of the OT carefully, you will see no real distinction between the two figures. Who brought the Israelites out of Egypt — Yahweh, or the Angel? Who appeared in the burning bush — Yahweh or the Angel? The text doesn’t answer this — they seem to be the same figure.
      In truth, I believe that the two were, at one time, separate figures, but that they both become Yahweh at the hands of later biblical editors. Originally, the Israelites knew two separate divine beings, God Most High (the Father God) and Yahweh (his Son). These two are later conflated so that Yahweh is the Father God, but then what do we call the Son? The idea that God had sons became unpopular and Yahweh the Son became the Angel of Yahweh. This angel of Yahweh later gets named — Michael, etc. However, in the beginning there was God the Father and God the Son (Yahweh/Jesus) — the latter having been assigned by the Father to be Israel’s God. It was Yahweh who was the messenger (angel) of the Father, and the one who visits and is seen by the biblical figures.
      Does that help?

  11. Jerry Basford
    Posted March 11, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the post and all of the comments. So many posts have discussed the idea that these three “angels” were from the City of Enoch. In the Joseph Smith translation he says these angels were holy men (vs 22). I would argue that these holy men were NOT from the City of Enoch for a few reasons:
    1. In Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 1, page 16, President Joseph F. Smith states that they were “mortal men.”
    2. Translated beings come to earth in order to restore (you may disagree if you put the 3 Nephites in this category but I believe they are in a completely separate category since they never left the earth. Their mission was to preach and teach). Joseph received keys from John the Baptist. Abraham didn’t receive any restored keys from these men. We know they would be righteous, but they wouldn’t have any keys that Melchizedek didn’t have since he was the High Priest of Salem and Abraham just paid his tithes to him in the previous chapter therefore he would have known Melchizedek
    3. We have no other occurrence, that I’m aware of where transfigured men ate, drank, and had their feet washed. It would be speculation that they could do these things.
    I believe it was more likely Melchizedek and two other “sons of prophets,” possibly his counselors.
    As far as these men being The Lord, Joseph F. Smith states that verse 1 and verse 2 are two separate ideas. None of these men were The Lord.

  12. Posted March 12, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Joseph F. Smith was a prophet, not a scholar of ancient Near East. While a very intelligent man, he sought to push a certain agenda on many issues that the Church no longer agrees with, or at least does not view as being necessarily so. For example, he dismissed evolution, promoted the curse of Cain, etc. So, I would not consider JFS as an expert witness in this regard.

    You are presuming that Abraham never received keys from others. Ancient traditions suggest Abraham dwelt for a time with Noah and Shem. And his relationship with Melchizedek is suggestive that he may have received keys somewhere along the line.

    What David Larsen explained here fits in well with what ancient Israel believed. Modern Mormonism is basically a handful of actual doctrines, with a huge amount of speculation revolving around it, which members often assume to also be doctrine. The scriptures note that one of these men/angels was the Lord. Now, we can parse those words in a bunch of different ways, or we can try to understand them in the way the ancients did.

  13. andrew
    Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    As the Lord said he was going there and went, Abraham was still in the presence of the Lord.
    And about the angels read what Paul sais: Take notice, cause without your knowledge you mau have wellcomed angels to your house.
    And about Jesus after being resurected, he may have been in an inbetween state as he said do not touch Me cause I haven’t ascended yet to my Father.
    And again, Paul was taken in Heaven and could see, Enoch and Elijah didn’t die…
    God made all, matter and non matter so by His own laws He does how he pleases with appearence and shapes…

    • andrew
      Posted May 17, 2014 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      It may have been that as the sinfull nature grew, God didn’t communicate directly to people as with Adam and Abraham. He then did it through Moses, judges, prophets and then came directly God made man to clear the way so mevmay have eternal lives. Lord our God is one, and Hisson Jesus is our redeemer. Pray to Holy Spirit to give you guidance. Amen!

  14. JohnM
    Posted June 20, 2014 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    David Larsen: //”This temporary transformation from spiritual to physical, according to this theory, is also displayed at Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit becomes a dove (literally)”//

    Was just referred here from a link elsewhere, so excuse the late comment.

    According to Joseph Smith (TPJS, pp.275-276), the Holy Ghost did not appear in the literal form of a dove, but in the “sign of the dove”–a sign which Satan could not/was not allowed to duplicate as a sign vouchsafed to John the Baptist as a testimony of what was happening.

    The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in signof the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence.

  15. Posted October 12, 2014 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Hi there! This article couldn’t be written any better!
    Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept preaching about this. I’ll send this article to him.

    Pretty sure he’ll have a great read. I appreciate you for

  16. Alex
    Posted October 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    This is all very confusing as twice, in the New Testament, it says Nobody has EVER seen God, being said after the life and crucifiction of Christ. Therefore, I can only assume that God has agents who come in his name, but he himself has never been seen, except perhaps in visions.

    • Slcbtf
      Posted October 30, 2014 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      Acts 7:55 Stephen saw and testified as he saw the resurrected Savior at the right hand of God. If God wasn’t there… He would have designated his local as being on the right hand.

      Just a thought as I read your comment.

    • rameumptom
      Posted October 31, 2014 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      Alex, we have to recognize that the Bible was written by many people, each with a different understanding of the gospel. While there are verses saying no one has seen God, there are just as many places in the Bible showing man speaking face to face with God. Noah spoke with God face to face. Moses saw God face to face, as did his 70 elders of Israel. Many early Jewish and Christian books also have people seeing God face to face (Ascension of Isaiah has the prophet seeing the Father, Son and Holy Ghost). Clearly there is information missing from the statements saying no one has ever seen God. In fact, Joseph Smith suggested that no one has seen God unless he was filled with the Holy Ghost.
      In such case, we need to take all the related statements in the Bible into consideration, and not just pick one verse and ignore the others in regards to such an issue.

  17. voice in wilderness
    Posted November 6, 2014 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    It s about God in His Glory. Not manifested. Jesus was also God but man.

  18. Mark
    Posted November 18, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    sir with all do respect, i read up until the point where your stated Josheph Smith felt led to add to the Bible and i stopped. Have you read the end of the book of Revelation, when God speaks about those who add and subtract to the Word of God. Does the Bible hold any validity at all to you, or is that an empty threat from a weak God. I would strongly consider moving away from the beliefs of Joseph Smith as they are not compatible with true Christianity. Please read the Bible and ask yourself, who do you believe, the Bible (a historical book) or the book of mormon (an uproven non historical book). Please understand that this same man said, and i quote, “no man has ever held a church togther like I have, not the disciples, nor Paul, nor Jesus Christ himself.” Isn’t Jesus the whole reason for the church? Please i beg you, start asking questions, the Bible has been proven over and over historically, Mormonism is based on “golden plates”. Much the same as Islam on one mans “experience”. Please consider a relationship with Jesus for your salvation.

    • Tyson
      Posted December 1, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink


      The Book of Revelation was actually written before many of the epistles written by Paul. That verse has reference only to the Book of Revelations. The Bible, as it is compiled today, did not exist when the Book of Revelation was written.

      A similar warning is also found in Deuteronomy. That too has reference to that particular book and not the Bible in whole.

      The Bible is holy scripture. It contains the writings of prophets as they received revelation from God. It also relates the story of Jesus as he taught an apostate nation. This nation rejected living prophets and relied only on written and oral traditions. As Jesus and the following disciples taught, a living prophet contained the word of God. The Bible is a witness to this very principal.

      Mormonism is based on the testimony of living apostles and prophets. It also teaches that this witness is not exclusive to apostles, but available to all who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Jesus Christ is the center of that testimony as our Savior and redeemer. Just as He spoke in days of old, He remains the same and utilizes living prophets to light the path.

  19. rameumptom
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Mark, the last 4 verses of Revelation are not referring to the entire Bible, which was not compiled for centuries after Revelation was written. It is a standard curse placed on many documents anciently to ensure that nobody tinkered with the writing. So, John tells us that any MAN who adds or takes away from his Revelation will be accursed. However, John had no problem with God making changes to it. In fact, John’s Revelation foresaw 2 prophets in the last day, who would add to the prophesies of God. In Revelation 14:6, John also saw an angel flying through the heavens in the last days with the “everlasting gospel” to share with the world. As it is, your reading of the last verses of Revelation poses a very big problem for all Christians, as Moses also states the same thing in Deuteronomy 4. This would mean we would have to discard all the Prophets and New Testament, given your interpretation. I do not think it reasonable to believe that was Moses’ intent, nor was it John’s intent.
    Finally, there is the question of what should be in the Bible? Many books used to be considered inspired and scripture by early Jews and Christians: Enoch, Odes of Solomon, the Shepherd of Hermas, etc. What about all the books of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Many ancient Jews believed them to be scripture, and Jesus seems to reference some of them (as he and his apostles also referenced Enoch dozens of times). Do they belong in the Bible? That early Christians, like St Jerome, made the decision, partially on political basis, suggests that the Bible had several books “taken away” and others added to it, which may not belong there. Half of the epistles of Paul are not from Paul. Do we throw them out, or accept them as inspired? St Jerome was going to toss out Revelation and Hebrews, but kept them so the western Church would accept his list of scripture books. Does that mean we should toss them out, because St Jerome doubted them?
    The Bible is an amazing and inspired book. It is the word of God. However, we must be careful not to create personal interpretations that go against what the original prophets and apostles intended for scripture. They did not have a problem with more revelation and scripture, as many Christians do today. If God wishes to give us more of His word, who are we to deny it? Jews reject the New Testament, unwilling to consider God’s new revelations to man. Many Christians reject inspired writings that have come forth since, whether the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Book of Mormon. There is much to learn in the Bible, but it is not an island. It is a set of books that were compiled centuries after Christ, leaving out many other inspired books because St Jerome and others did not like the teachings in them, or questioned their provenance. We are blessed to have the Bible. It is our spiritual primer. But if we want to learn more about God, we need to be open to receive more from God. For all we know, the two prophets that John foresaw are already upon the earth. And if not them, there may be others that God has sent.

  20. Alex
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    why does the New Testament (at least twice that I can think of) state that “no one has ever seen God” if this meeting with Abraham included God? Also, if Jesus is God, the question must be asked again, for the statement is made after Jesus incarnation and resurrection.

  21. Inyang
    Posted April 7, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    The Lord means (The Lord). Is anything too hard for the Lord?

  22. Rich
    Posted July 1, 2016 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Abraham was talking to God at the entrance to his tent. Then he sees in the distance three “men” who were really angels. He gets up and goes to greet these travelers, leaving God to wait at the entrance of his tent. These three angels were Michael, Gavriel, and Raphael. Raphael was sent to heal Abraham because he was in great pain from his recent circumcision. Christians don’t have a clue what they are talking about when it comes to the Old Testament.

  23. Posted August 14, 2016 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Joseph smith was right in his expression. Those 3 men were either mortal men or translated beings. We hear of prophets who are granted power to stop rains, to kill their opponents by fire and to torment the earth with as many plagues as they like. It is then not strange if God sent mortal prophets to destroy sodom and gommorah. Even moses almost destroyed egypt.

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