I’m writing a paper, and in the course of my work I came upon 1 Nephi 11:21-22:
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
I was quite taken by the expression “the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men.” I had never noticed that fascinating usage before!
The word is spelled sheadeth in O and shedeth in P. Skousen does not mention this passage in his textual commentary, which indicates that his critical text would retain 1981 sheddeth (with the orthography corrected).
What does this mean? How does love shed itself?
My first two thoughts were:
1. Since the love is symbolized by a tree, maybe this refers to a tree shedding its leaves, which then cover all the ground [world, children of men].
2. Perhaps this is proleptic for the blood of Christ which he would one day shed for all.
The English verb shed comes from Middle English sheden and ultimately is related to Latin scindere to cut, split and Greek schizein to split [cf. English “schism” derived from this Greek verb.] Its most basic meaning is to separate or divide, which doesn’t work in our passage. Among its meanings are the ones I came up with: to let fall (as leaves from a tree) or to cause (blood) to flow by cutting or wounding.
But it isn’t necessarily the case that the word has such a specific meaning here. One of the meanings listed in the OED is to emit, give forth, pour out. So the expression could simply be archaic for something like “the love of God which sends itself out, pours itself abroad into the hearts of the children of men.”
Have any of you ever noticed this interesting usage before? Any thoughts on how we should take it in this BoM passage?