I’ve been looking through old files on my computer, and found these notes on a book I read a few years ago. It came highly recommended and, as Gileadi touts on his books and web sites, he’s been glowingly endorsed by some very respectable people. I remember sitting in a sealing room of the temple several years ago, waiting for some work to start, and the sealer telling those of us who were there some of his thoughts, including that more Latter-day Saints don’t live by the writings of Hugh Nibley and Avraham Gileadi because we aren’t spiritual enough.
So I started the book with high hopes, and I did find Gileadi to be a talented author who sincerely encourages devotional living. However, I ultimately found his primary thesis to be unfounded and disturbing–he seems to find Isaiah to be almost entirely a testament of a latter-day temporal savior who is not Jesus Christ. In the first chapter or two, I wondered if he was making an inappropriately worshipful homage to Joseph Smith, but I quickly realized that Gileadi’s vision was not congruent with anything remotely mainstream.
Whenever I hear people praise Gileadi, they gush about his Hebrew scholarship and literary discoveries, but I found zero evidence of that in the book. Maybe his other books are more detailed, but the few hints he gives in Isaiah Decoded, including his supposed patterns in Isaiah, clearly seem like a random, arbitrary jumble–there’s no reason or order to it at all.
A fan of Gileadi’s might counter that since he was rebaptized into the Church, he’s operated openly and without opposition from the Church, but I suspect that reflects the Church’s tolerance and focusing on more important things than on Gileadi’s orthodoxy. If I’ve misinterpreted his work, or failed to see the faithful grounding of it, I’m happy to change my mind, but as I’ve read it, this book was ultimately heretical. My notes are below. The four comments in bold reflect my strongest problems with the text.
- Why would Isaiah prophesy more about a temporal servant than about Jesus himself?
- Why doesn’t Gileadi bother to more clearly explain and document the evidence behind his interpretations?
- Why doesn’t Gileadi deal with doctrinal statements that refute him, including those from the Savior himself?
- If there is an important temporal savior / servant coming, why hasn’t it been clearly revealed through the Church?
- If the Church’s origin and doctrine are true, as Gileadi seems to agree, why is he so brazen in condemning its present and future?
- Why doesn’t Gileadi bear a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ than he does of this “servant”?
- How does Gileadi know that types will play out in the end times as he describes? It’s a tempting assumption, but not necessarily accurate. No evidence, research, sources, etc. are given.
- Pages 30b-31a Aren’t these scriptures about a latter-day shepherd about the Savior?
- 35 Good reference to Hezekiah (Is. 38)
- 34-38 This is a genuinely inspiring view of spiritual progress
- 40b-41a Good thesis
- His many “figures” are usually pointless and lame
- Is. 66:24 = damnation
- Bold assertions in practically every paragraph lack scriptural support… evidence?!
- 43b Interesting chaos / creation parallel at beginning / end of world
- 44b-45 Proof?!
- 47-49 Isaiah 52-53 are mostly about this servant, and not the Savior?! References to “righteousness” and “servant” don’t refer to Jesus?! What justifies seeing two people in this prophecy?
- 49b-54a Good spiritual lesson. DSS quote? Ref. BoM “two ways” à blessing for obedience, cursing for disobedience. Good use of Deut. 28.
- 54-58 America as latter-day Israel
- 60 Archtyrant = water in 5:30, 17:12, 28:2, 8:7-8
- 60 Immanuel doesn’t equal Jesus?!
- 61-65 In many great quotes, “Egypt” = America in last days
- 67b Tyrant will literally rule from space?! How do you know?
- 68-69 Good work combining types; how do you know Ezekiel means someone else?
- 72 How does he know at which level we’re born?
- 73-74a Good thoughts about spiritual maturity and suffering
- 76 Hebrew sub = repent (spiritual) + return (physical) à they’re linked
- 78-79 Isaiah 13 = global nuclear war?
- 80 1st paragraph, last part… citation, please?
- 80-81 Zion/ Babylon contrasts… citations?!
- 94-102 Great section on idolatry, with fascinating ancient references!
- 106-107 Great use of Malachi 3
- Most of this chapter = good and solid, but little really new or noteworthy
- 112-115 Good explanation of gathering of Israel
- 115b-116a Isaiah à tenth of people “tithed”… source?
- 118 Hebrew aliya means “pilgrimage” and “ascent”
- 118 Three years of possible repentance and then judgment, per Isaiah 16:14, 37:30, at end of world? How do you know?
- 121 Figure 50, “Parallels with Fairytale Archetypes,” is genuinely interesting
- 129a Building on fairytale analogy- good
- 122b-123a Isn’t Isaiah 29 a prophecy of Joseph Smith?
- 123 Figure 51 is good – spiritual state leading to physical condition
- 125 – Fig. 52- NO blessings for those at “Jacob/Israel” level?
- 128 Where is ANY of this in the scriptures?
- 129 Is. 60:1-7 says nothing about a “servant”
- 130 Good use of Is. 19:19-22!
- 131-134 Best pages of the book so far… actually talks about God! Very spiritual
- 132 Fig 56 is good
- 136b-138a Great description of spiritual growth in life
- 138 middle Citation from Isaiah?
- 140-142 Nice spiritual analogies to oak trees and supernovas as spiritual evolution
- 145 middle Why are there never authoritative quotes given from Isaiah that clearly describe this “servant”?
- 146b-147a Is this really fair, or true?
- 147b-150 As spiritual insights, these are generic; as a plan for the future, without sound scriptural and prophetic backing, isn’t this just fantasy?
- 150b-151 Why three tests? Why these three? Nothing in Isaiah seems to suggest these three clear tests- no analysis of Isaiah is given to justify this. Interesting Odyssey reference, though
- 153b-154a As always, good writing about idolatry
- 154b-155a Is Gileadi actually chastising the Church because of his own disciplinary past? Unbelievable! Of his four citations for this, only 66:5 remotely applies to and supports it, and only then if Gileadi conveniently sees himself as the victim in this verse; more likely it’s the Church itself being unfairly maligned in books like this! Shame!
- 155 middle Yet again, no rationale is given for applying these verses to anyone other than Jesus Christ
- 157-162 Nothing in Isaiah justifies viewing God’s people as “at home” or “abroad”
- 162-167 This description of Isaiah’s millennium is generic and obvious- it’s been written about a thousand times. Still, the idea of humanity throughout history descending, then ascending, is interesting
- 167 Overwrought, but a nice original insight
- 170 1st para= good gender insight
- 174 Nice differentiation between sins and iniquities
- 177 Fig 75 good (exile/return)
- 180-185 Fascinating section on covenant sonship
- 186 Again, Gileadi uses Isaiah 53 to refer to a “servant” rather than Jesus. Absurd
- 187-189 So now our physical safety depends on this “servant”? Disturbing claim
- 191 Great references to Moses and Jeremiah- Exodus 17:8-13, 32:11-13, 30, 33, Jeremiah 1:10
- 192a These Isaiah citations, as ususal, fail to support Gileadi’s “servant” thesis. Is. 42 is clearly about Jesus, 45 is about the literal Cyrus, and 51 would appropriate much of God’s own power to this “servant”!
- 194b-195 Gileadi is on much stronger ground when re-telling historical OT material
- 196b-202a A truly inspiring section about spiritual progress
- 204 middle How does the “idea” of male and female first appear on this “level”?
- 202-208 Not only is this section trite, nothing in Isaiah seems to explicitly endorse marriage
- 212 create=beget. Examples?
- 214a This insight, about comparisons to stones, if legitimate, is genuinely useful
- 219 Inspiring and insightful. The whole chapter should have been more like this.
- 226 “Wings” are literal energy?
- 229-230 What “word links”? The citations are unclear..more explanation
- 232a The “servant” seals the 144,000? Gileadi clearly writes for a general audience, but he owes LDS readers a clear explanation of how this servant operates within the Church. He does, doesn’t he?
- 233 Only 1 of the Hosea citations include Gileadi’s quotes
- 232-236 “There is little evidence for calling Jesus Christ the endtime David”? Wrong. In The Promised Messiah pg 192-195, Bruce R. McConkie uses the exact same verses from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah that Gileadi uses, to do just that.
- 236-248 Is there anything the “servant” doesn’t do? Gileadi has alone discovered a man who leads the gathering of Israel, builds the new temple, defeats the Antichrist, and more? Is there anything in Isaiah that is not a type of his mission? For Gileadi, not much.
Most disturbing of all is that this “servant,” according to these pages, rescues God’s people from spiritual apostasy and replaces a failed religious leader—an explicit rejection of the Church’s authority. That’s heresy, plain and simple.
- 254-262 This is actually a very positive section, with an interesting insight about Holy Grail legends
- 263-273a Poor reasoning and shallow insights, even to non-LDS. Very bland
- 273-277a Gileadi’s attempt to introduce Heavenly Mother by his own reasoning comes up short. Why is he so afraid to come out and say what he means, or use LDS sources when they would help him? Is it because he wants to ignore authorities who contradict his weird ideas?
- 277-283a A genuinely interesting section with some fascinating science metaphors
- 283b-294a Not bad, but not original. Just old stuff dressed up in a new way. Is Gileadi not aware that Jesus was fully God before his mortal ministry?
- 294b-302a An interesting metaphorical description of the Atonement
- 302 Gileadi’s authoritative tone has become unbearable—the way he forces his Isaiah quotations to fit into his “levels” structure is sad. He wants to show every restored gospel doctrine (though he won’t call them that) to be “hidden” in Isaiah. Whatever happened to “the scriptures are of no private interpretation”?
- 323 Interesting idea about national, universal, and individual thirds in Isaiah. Look into it
- 329-330 After yet more pointless, redundant, authoritarian pontificating, here’s another striking analogy in fig 136. Nice
- 323a Where does Isaiah name these seven levels?
- 333b-335b Why doesn’t Gileadi mention the three degrees of glory as the standard symbolism of the tabernacle?
- 341 Is Gileadi now suggesting that the “servant” is Joseph Smith?
- 346 “We can influence and inspire those around us by ministering to them physically and spiritually.” Great line
- 346b –347a People literally become stars?
- 348-357 The book ends on a high note, with two powerful sections on spiritual success