Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Teraphim and the Urim and Thummim

This is an article found on the BYU/FARMS website as published by Matthew Roper, posted with permission. Please let us know your comments and insight.

Teraphim and the Urim and Thummim

Biblical scholars have long puzzled over the nature and function of objects referred to as “teraphim” in the biblical record. A recent study of divination practices in the ancient Near East notes that the term “is of disputed derivation and uncertain meaning” and that in the biblical text it “does not consistently designate the same type of object.” Yet evidence in Hosea 3:4 (8th century B.C.) suggests that, in the preexilic Israelite religion, the teraphim may once have been considered “a legitimate method” of divination until they were taken away from Israel during a period of discipline.1

In a recent study, Cornelius Van Dam argues that in ancient Israel the teraphim were a substitute for the Urim and Thummim and may have functioned in a similar way. He suggests that teraphim (plural of terep) derived from the root rpp, which corresponds to the Arabic root raffa (“quiver”) but can also mean “shine, glisten.”2 If so, teraphim, like the Urim and Thummim, “may have been made of a precious stone with light-reflecting qualities.”3 Van Dam thinks that teraphim had a revelatory function in early Israel and that they may later have been replaced by the Urim and Thummim, or “perfect light.”4

Similarly, the Book of Mormon prophets associated the Nephite interpreters (two stones consecrated to God for revelatory purposes) or their function with the concept of light. For example, we read about “Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light” and “bring to light” all the secret abominations of the people who possessed the land (Alma 37:23, 25). Moroni used similar language in describing how the Nephite record would be brought forth in the latter days (Mormon 8:15–16).

Other biblical scholars suggest that teraphim is the altered metathesized form of an earlier term, petarim, from the verb ptr, “to interpret.”5 This would mean the teraphim were originally called “interpreters.” Under this theory, while the use of teraphim may have been a legitimate method of divination in early Israelite times, later biblical writers gave these oracular instruments a name with a more negative connotation, teraphim.

In addition to its similarities to Aramaic psr and Arabic fassara, both of which can mean “interpret,” ptr appears to be related to the Egyptian verb ptr, “to see.”6 Both meanings are consistent with Ammon’s explanation in Mosiah 8:13 of the sacred instruments that King Mosiah used to translate ancient records.

In contrast to biblical commentators of the day, who viewed teraphim only as idolatrous images,7 early Mormon writer W. W. Phelps suggested that teraphim may have sometimes fulfilled a positive role and were similar in form and function to the Urim and Thummim possessed by Israel’s high priest. In the light of more recent studies of these objects, Phelps’s suggested connection between the Old Testament teraphim and the Book of Mormon interpreters utilized by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the translation of the Book of Mormon seems entirely plausible.8


1. Ann Jeffers, Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria (1996), 222–27.

2. Cornelius Van Dam, The Urim and Thummim: A Study of an Old Testa-ment Means of Revelation (1997), 228–29.

3. Ibid., 229. See John A. Tvedtnes, “Glowing Stones in Ancient and Medieval Lore,” appendix 2 in The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books (2000), 195–225.

4. Van Dam, Urim and Thummin, 229.

5. C. J. Lubuschagne, “Teraphim: A New Proposal for Its Etymology,” Vetus Testamentum 16 (Jan. 1966): 115–17.

6. Adolf Erman and Hermann Grapow, W├Ârterbuch der aegyptischen Sprache (1935–53), 1:564.

7. Thomas C. Upham, Jahn’s Biblical Archaeology (1823), 528–29.

8. W. W. Phelps, “Hosea Chapter III," Evening and Morning Star 1/2 (July 1832): 6; “Despise Not Prophesyings,” Times and Seasons 2/7 (1 Feb. 1841): 298. See Tvedtnes, "Glowing Stones,” 209–10.

By Matthew Roper


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Jewish Torah Deuteronomy 18,15-22
Gospels Mathew 24, 29-31; Mark 13; Luke 21,25-28
Revelation 22,20
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When apostle John wrote the washing feet ceremony, he quoted Psalm 41 words 9; (John’s Gospel Chapter 13-words 18) which itself proves that Jesus is Serpents or sinner or perversed. (See page 7). The rest of the Gospel authors did not mention it even though their feet had also been washed (of Mathew and Mark) because they tried to hide the proof that Jesus is serpent. Also most of the apostles were either unmarried or left wives and children. Even to day majority of the Christian evangelists are celibates which corroborates the fact that Jesus is homosexuality blessor. Another fact is that in Gospel Gabriel tells Jesus as to be son of Heavenly Father, while in Quran he tells Jesus to be prophet which it self is sufficient for sensible people to leave Jesus or doubt his credibility. Another fact is that any sexual intercourse between male and female without God’s dream permission is adultery and eating of fruit of tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But in child marriage it is not sin nor adultery. God saved several salvation desiring people, from Christianity by snatching several ways. Now a days there is no child marriage and God (God Christ) reiterates Judaism and the Jewish Thummim for salvation desiring people (Mathew 24,29-31, Mark 13;24-27’Luke21,25-28 Revelation 14-6,7; 22-20).

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a1soldier said...

if you would like to see the real Urim and Thummim,go to youtube and enter in todd walker urim and thummim.this is no joke.van dam is right 100%,the images are revealed through the lights reflection off of this object.i have seen it and held it.you can buy the documentary on amazon.it will blow you away.how would you like to see it in person?email me at a1soldier@yahoo.com

god bless all