What is Kolob?

And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees;
2 And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;
3 And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.
4 And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, according to the reckoning of Kolob.
5 And the Lord said unto me: The planet which is the lesser light, lesser than that which is to rule the day, even the night, is above or greater than that upon which thou standest in point of reckoning, for it moveth in order more slow; this is in order because it standeth above the earth upon which thou standest, therefore the reckoning of its time is not so many as to its number of days, and of months, and of years.
6 And the Lord said unto me: Now, Abraham, these two facts exist, behold thine eyes see it; it is given unto thee to know the times of reckoning, and the set time, yea, the set time of the earth upon which thou standest, and the set time of the greater light which is set to rule the day, and the set time of the lesser light which is set to rule the night.
7 Now the set time of the lesser light is a longer time as to its reckoning than the reckoning of the time of the earth upon which thou standest.
8 And where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them, that is, there shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still;
9 And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.

10 And it is given unto thee to know the set time of all the stars that are set to give light, until thou come near unto the throne of God.
11 Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made;
12 And he said unto me: My son, my son (and his hand was stretched out), behold I will show you all these. And he put his hand upon mine eyes, and I saw those things which his hands had made, which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and I could not see the end thereof.
13 And he said unto me: This is Shinehah, which is the sun. And he said unto me: Kokob, which is star. And he said unto me: Olea, which is the moon. And he said unto me: Kokaubeam, which signifies stars, or all the great lights, which were in the firmament of heaven.
14 And it was in the night time when the Lord spake these words unto me: I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, like unto these; and if thou canst count the number of sands, so shall be the number of thy seeds.
15 And the Lord said unto me: Abraham, I show these things unto thee before ye go into Egypt, that ye may declare all these words.
16 If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me.
17 Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.
18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.
19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.
20 The Lord thy God sent his angel to deliver thee from the hands of the priest of Elkenah.
21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
28 And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.

In an effort to make the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints look less Christian, many of Mormonism’s critics mock the idea of “God living on the planet Kolob.” This is false as no where in Mormon theology do you find the teaching that God lives on Kolob. God does not live on Kolob. In fact, Kolob plays no real role in Mormon doctrine or discourse. The only other mention of Kolob comes from a 19th century hymn, which uses Kolob in its first line to describe the glorious life of those who return to God:

There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

Because Mormon theology believes in a God with a physical body, it is in no way surprising that one might speak of God’s location in physical space. Creedal Christian critics who believe in a God without “body, parts, or passions” exploit this difference in perspective to make Mormon beliefs seem blasphemous or bizarre. But, to speak of God as having a physical location is no more strange than to speak of Jesus’ physical location in Bethlehem or Jerusalem during His mortal life.

So What is Kolob?

If you ask this question to fellow Latter-day Saints, many will not be able to answer, as there is actually no absolute sound and sure doctrine on Kolob.

In fact there are many answers to this question, from many different scholars, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus first on what our Church leaders have said about Kolob, then the scholarly thoughts. Here is what Elder Bruce R. McConkie said about Kolob:

“Kolob means “the first creation.” It is the name of the planet “nearest to the celestial, or residence of God.” It is “first in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time…One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth.” (Book of Abraham, pp. 34-35; Abraham. 3:3-9.)

(-Bruce R. McConkie “Mormon Doctrine”)

The Book of Abraham isn’t clear on whether Kolob is a star or a planet, and Mormon writings have taken positions on both sides of this issue. One part of the Book of Abraham states that Abraham “saw the stars … and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; … and the name of the great one is Kolob.” Thus, Kolob is referred to as a “star”. However, the book of Abraham defines the word Kokaubeam (a transliteration of the Hebrew “כּוֹכָבִים” [c.f., Gen. 15:5]) as meaning “all the great lights, which were in the firmament of heaven”. This would appear to include planets as among the “stars”, and the Book of Abraham refers to Earth as a star. In addition, the Book of Abraham’s text appears to classify Kolob as being among a hierarchy of “planets”. On the other hand, in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar paper, Kolob is classified as one of twelve “fixed stars”, in distinction with fifteen “moving planets”. The term “fixed stars” generally refers to the background of celestial objects that don’t appear to move relative to each other in the night sky, generally including all stars other than the sun, nebulae and other star-like objects. Though “fixed”, such objects were proven to have proper motion by Edmund Halley in 1718. Apparently referring to proper motion, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated that Kolob moves “swifter than the rest of the twelve fixed stars”. Also, the Book of Abraham refers to “fixed planets”, thereby including planets in the set of celestial objects that may be “fixed”. He also refers to the sun as a “governing planet”, which also further complicates the terminology. So, from the variety of terminology Joseph Smith used in referencing Kolob and other astronomical objects, it is unclear whether he understood Kolob to be a planet or a star.

Writers in the Latter Day Saint movement have taken positions on both sides of the issue of whether Kolob is a star or a planet. Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), spoke of Kolob as a planet. Likewise, LDS Church apostles John Taylor, Orson Pratt (a mathematician with an interest in astronomy), Orson F. Whitney, and Alvin R. Dyer referred to Kolob as a planet. Other Mormon theologians have also viewed Kolob as a planet. Several other Mormon writers have referred to Kolob as a star, including B. H. Roberts and LDS Church president David O. McKay.

The great Professor Hugh Nibley however, stated that Kolob may have been constructed as a metaphor for Jesus Christ.

Some Latter-day Saint scholars have sought to link the Kolob doctrine to ancient astronomy. Gee, Hamblin & Peterson (2006) have sought to show that this astronomy is more consistent with ancient geocentrism than with 19th-century Copernican and Newtonian astronomy, and thus carries with it the misconceptions of ancient astronomy. For example, in their interpretation, Kolob is the highest and slowest moving of a series of concentric heavenly spheres, which are centered on Earth. These authors believe that Smith, in the 19th century, would not have made this geocentric “mistake” about Kolob, and therefore, they argue that the Book of Abraham is of ancient origin. John Tvedtnes suggested that “Another possible Hebrew etymology is the Hebrew KLB ‘dog’ originally pronounced kalb just as it is in Arabic. This is used to denote the star Regulus in Arabic while the Syriac, which is also kalb denotes the star Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens.” He also suggested that the Hebraic use of “KLB” as both the word dog and an astronomical term refers to the universality of Sirius as the “Dog Star.” Other Latter-day Saint scholars believe that Kolob is Polaris.

I am very interested to hear about what other Latter-day Saints think about Kolob, and if anybody has any other material on the subject, I’d love to read it.

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