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Does This “Molten Sea” Illustration in the 1560 Geneva Bible Look Familiar?

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The Geneva Bible is significant in the history of scripture—it was what some called the first “study Bible,” containing not only the verses of scripture but diagrams and aids to help the reader. This included a number of detailed woodcut illustrations that depicted scriptural places and events. 

For Latter-day Saints, some of these illustrations from over 400 years ago will look familiar. 

One illustration of note is found in 1 Kings 7. In this chapter of the Old Testament, King Solomon oversees the building of multiple structures, including important vessels for the temple, the House of the Lord. 

1 Kings 7:23 begins the description of a “molten sea,” or a large basin meant for ritual cleansing. 

“And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about… It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.”

This large basin is depicted in the Geneva Bible

Elder Bruce R. McConkie believed the main function of the large basin was as a baptismal font. In Mormon Doctrine he wrote:

“In Solomon’s Temple a large molten sea of brass was placed on the backs of 12 brazen oxen, these oxen being symbolical of the 12 tribes of Israel. This brazen sea was used for performing baptisms for the living. There were no baptisms for the dead until after the resurrection of Christ.”

“It must be remembered that all direct and plain references to baptism have been deleted from the Old Testament and that the word baptize is of Greek origin. Some equivalent word, such as wash, would have been used by the Hebrew peoples. In describing the molten sea the Old Testament record says, ‘The sea was for the priests to wash in.’ This is tantamount to saying that the priests performed baptisms in it.”

Today, Latter-day Saints believe in and practice proxy baptisms for their deceased ancestors. 

 

The baptismal fonts used in temples today are modeled after ancient temple basins such as the molten sea. You can see pictures of baptismal fonts from around the world below. 

Brasilia Brazil Temple Baptistry
Hamilton New Zealand Temple Baptistry
Jordan River Utah Temple Baptistry
Memphis Tennessee Temple Baptistry
Mesa Arizona Temple Baptistry – Detail
Mesa Arizona Temple Baptistry
Pocatello Idaho Temple Baptistry
St. George Utah Temple Baptistry
Saratoga Springs Utah Temple Baptistry
Washington D.C. Temple Baptistry

To learn more about baptisms for the dead, click here. 

 

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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