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The Meaning of the Mystery

Rumaging through old Facebook messages the other day, I came across this little gem sent to friend on August 25, 2010. A few days before that, I had said something in a group conversation about the original meaning of mystery being associated with esoteric rites. He asked if I could send him something on it, so I whipped this up. (Gives you a bit of a peek into what I was busy reading approx. 3 years ago, eh?) Not wanting to loose it in an Inbox clear out, I thought I would post it here, where I'll always be able to find it and  where it may be of some benefit to others. Enjoy!!

The word “mystery” comes from the Greek word “mysterion” (sometimes rendered “musterion”), which is based on the Greek root “myo,” which means “to shut the mouth.”(Strong) On the same entry in the same dictionary, Strong defines “mysterion” as a secret which is kept “through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites.” (Ibid) In an article about the apostasy, John Gee notes, “Between the time of writing the New Testament and the end of the second century, the meanings of several of the words changed.” (Gee) As an example of these changes, Gee says that “mysterion” changed from meaning “(initiation) rite” to simply mean “secret.” (Ibid) Commenting on 1 Cor. 2:6-7, Stephen E. Robinson explains that “The Greek word translated ‘mystery’ is ‘musterion,’ and it means ‘a mystery,’ ‘a secret,’ ‘a secret rite,’ or ‘a secret teaching.’” (Robinson) Barry R. Bickmore explains:
“Actually, the word ‘mystery’ [Greek mysterion] is a technical religious term equivalent to the Latin sacramentum, which simply means ‘ordinance.’ The term was normally used in the context of the Greek ‘mystery religions’ which were common in the ancient world, and included various secret doctrines and rites. Therefore, when Paul and later Christian writers spoke of ‘the mysteries,’ they were borrowing a technical term loaded with meaning, and may well have been referring not only to certain doctrines, but to various rites associated with them.” (Bickmore)
Lastly, Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks briefly note that “the word ‘mystery’ was regularly used by the early Christians to refer to secret rites or ordinances.” (Peterson and Ricks)
Now, while all of these various quotes are not completely harmonious on the exact meaning and history of the word “mystery,” one element is common to everyone them: The meaning of the Greek word for “mystery” (mysterion) was originally tied to secret initiation rites. Thus, we can be almost certain that when Jesus, Paul, and other apostles speak of the “mystery” in the New Testament , they are almost certainly referring to some sort ritual, rite, or ordinance which was later lost to the rest of Christianity. A great deal of historical and scholarly evidence has confirmed this, and some VERY interesting parallel’s can be (and have been) made to LDS Temple services.
James Strong, Transliterated Strong’s Greek-English Dictionary of the Greek New Testament, g3466
John Gee, “The Corruption of Scripture in Early Christianity” in Noel B. Reynolds [Editor], Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy
Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians?
Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity

Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word


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