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"Leaving the Doctrine of Christ"?: A look at Hebrews 6:1-2

Paradise by Carlo Saraceni
At the outset, I understand that it is unknown if Paul actually wrote The Book of Hebrews (I wouldn't call it an epistle). Even so, for brevity's sake, I will refer to Paul as if he was the author in this short article.

As a family, we read Hebrews 5-6 last night and I was amazed at the plainness of Paul's words at how we are to be weaned from milk onto meat (the Greek more accurately translates 'meat' as 'solid food'). He specifically states that milk is reserved for those who are "unskilled in the word of righteousness" and that meat belongs to those "are full of age" and who have had "their senses exercised to discern good from evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14). I would add as a side note that the context of this chapter is the transition from Aaronic privileges and authority to privileges and authority of the Melchezidek priesthood.

If we transition into Hebrews 6 we get Paul saying something that to many would seem like a mistranslation. He states that that the first principles of the Doctrine of Christ are supposed to be moved on from and move onto perfection. The JST footnote does make an interesting correction, but Wayment notes that the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament preserve what seems to be a glaring mistake. Wayment translates 'doctrine of Christ' as 'basic beliefs about Christ'. Verse 2 lists these basic beliefs which include much of what the doctrine of Christ includes.

It might be helpful to remember that chapter breaks are often placed where they shouldn't be in the scriptures. In fact, chapter breaks in the majority of our canon of scripture are not original to the text. With this in mind, take a look at the BYU Studies New Testament revision of Hebrews 5:11-6:2.
"We have much to say about this that is difficult to explain, since you have become hard of hearing. For although you should already have become teachers by this time, you need someone to again teach you the fundamental principles that God has spoken. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. For anyone who drinks only milk, being still an infant, is unacquainted with the teachings of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who because of their maturity have their faculties trained to distinguish between good and evil. Therefore let us advance beyond the elementary principles of Christ’s teachings and go on to full maturity and not lay down again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith in God, of the teachings of baptisms and the laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."
We shouldn't let the JST throw us off too much, therefore, as to what Paul is actually trying to say. He is not saying leave Christ, but he is saying that as believers we have a tendency to revert back to milk or, more precisely, live in such a way that demands milk now instead of solid foods.

The purpose of this article is to further illustrate what I believe was Paul's point by showing just how consistent it is with the light intensity of 2 Nephi 32.

Let's take a short but somewhat deep plunge.

In 2 Nephi 32 it begins where Nephi discerns that his brethren still "ponder somewhat in [their] hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way."

What is 'the way'? A conventional and trite reading of this chapter will assume it is baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. That reading is fine, but it misses the definition that Nephi gives of 'the way' in 2 Nephi 31. The previous verses (2 Nephi 31:20-21) puts the way in a context that follows right after the Father promises eternal life:

"Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way;"

'The Way' appears to be the entire process of the doctrine of Christ as it is laid out in chapter 31. This all culminates in verse 20 and then Nephi gives a definitive statement by calling it 'the way'. This makes the statement from 2 Nephi 32:1 further enlightening. Nephi discerns their thoughts which is that they wonder what happens after one has "entered in by the way". Nephi doesn't shut them off by saying "This is all you need", but he laments as if the answer should be so plain and straightforward.

If this is what 'the way' means, namely enter into the gate and endure to the end so that you have eternal life, then that makes verses 2-3 that follow specifically about what is expected from one who has already received eternal life. They are expected to speak the tongue of angels, aka commune with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn (the Divine Council).

Even further, Nephi laments that if they still do not understand his words that it is because they do not "ask, seek, or knock" (see verse 4) which John W. Welch teaches should be understood in a ceremonial context as it is read in the original Hebrew and Greek (suggesting temple themes).

Verse 5, assuming my interpretation of the context is correct, is really a verse about D&C 109:15 in connection with D&C 124:95. We move onto verse 6 which makes the startling but plain statement, "this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh."

To say there is more doctrine after the doctrine of Christ seems kind of blasphemous from a conventional understanding, but that is exactly what Nephi says here. He does say no more will be given until Christ visits them during the events of 3 Nephi. It is interesting, therefore, to see how many times in 3 Nephi the Lord tells the people not to write down certain things in order to prove the faith of his people so that they might receive it in a similar way they did.

Verse 7 is interesting as well. Here is Nephi's further lamentation about those who cannot get the grand picture. As much as the scriptures admonish to keep the commandments, this verse admonishes us to search for knowledge and understand great knowledge as well. This should remind us of Paul's comments in Hebrews 5:12-14. Namely, we should move onto solid food. The meat/solid food is found as we search and understand great knowledge. The symbol of food might give us an insight as to what is meant to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

In short, Paul is not saying something totally off base. Nor is it a mistranslation, in my opinion. Hebrews 5-6 play into the consistency of the scriptures that make the same point. Nephi and Paul BOTH lament our tendency to resist solid food/search and understand great knowledge. We forever remain on 'the way' and never get to the point where we can speak the tongue of angels. We do not seek, knock, or find. Let's take Paul's and Nephi's lamentation seriously and master the doctrine of Christ so we can move onto Christ himself.


  1. Thank you so much for this ❤️

  2. Thank you BJ. This has clarified some things up for me. You have helped me in a huge way in my understanding of certain things.


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