Criticism of Mormonism/Video/The Bible vs Joseph Smith

Table of Contents

Response to The Bible vs. Joseph Smith

This article is a draft. FairMormon editors are currently editing it. We welcome your suggestions on improving the content.

Overview

In 2010 Sourceflix & Living Hope Ministries (LHM) produced a DVD entitled "The Bible vs Joseph Smith". This film compares and contrasts the prophecies found in the Bible with the prophecies found in the Book of Mormon. The format of the film is a dialogue between Joel Kramer of LHM and Greg Gifford, a Latter-day Saint. The film is shot entirely in Israel, and various scholars are interviewed for their opinions. Overall the filming is well done and leaves the sense of a solid case against Joseph Smith, when in reality the arguments are very poor and easily debunked.

The test of a prophet

The film opens with a short conversation about the biblical test for determining whether a prophet is a true prophet or a false prophet as found in Deuteronomy 18:20-22:

20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?
22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him .

Commenting on this passage, Kramer says,

"A prophet is someone who claims God is speaking through them. So how can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord? The answer is the test of a prophet. Here’s how it works. Since only God knows the future people can test a prophet by how accurately he predicts the future. If even one of his predictions does not take place or come true that prophet fails the test. And if a prophet fails than God commands the people to put him to death and to not be afraid of him."

A few important points should be made about this:

  1. prophecy may be fulfilled in ways or at times that the hearers do not expect;
  2. most prophecies are contingent, even if this is not made explicit when the prophecy is given—that is, the free agent choices of mortals can impact whether a given prophecy comes to pass
  3. sectarian critics may apply a standard to modern LDS prophets whom they reject that they do not apply to biblical prophets. This double standard condemns Joseph unfairly.


The following articles discuss this issue further:

Bible vs The Book of Mormon: "plain and precious parts"

In 1 Nephi 13-14 Nephi describes an apocalyptic vision that he has of the "great and abominable church" and one of the things that this church does is to remove many "plain and precious things" from the Bible. In 1 Nephi 13:26-28 it specifically notes that these events will take place after Christ and his original twelve apostles have left the Earth.

26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

Kramer challenges this prophecy by focusing on the chronology of Nephi's statement, that corruptions will occur after the apostles. He consults scholars of the Old Testament and New Testament in an effort to determine whether many plain and precious things have been removed from the Bible. By comparing texts that pre-date the apostles to texts that post-date the apostles Kramer believes he can prove that plain and precious things were not removed from those texts and that Nephi uttered a false prophecy.

Old Testament

Kramer consults Dr. Randall Price, who is described as a Dead Sea Scrolls expert, to discuss whether ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament which predate the apostles differ in any significant way from Old Testament manuscripts which postdate the apostles. Dr. Price remarks, "There is nothing different between it [the Dead Sea Scrolls] and the translation from which our modern Bibles come. So there’s nothing missing." This point is worth debating, but a larger point first needs to be made. The text of 1 Nephi 13:26-27 speaks only about the book that proceeds forth from the "hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" as being corrupted. This obviously refers to the New Testament, and not the Old Testament. If it can be demonstrated that many plain and precious parts of the Old Testament are not missing, as Kramer claims to do, it would not invalidate Nephi's prophecy because Nephi refers only to the New Testament as being corrupted at the hands of the great and abominable church.

New Testament

  • Nephi's prophecy that many "plain and precious" things would be taken from the scriptures
  • No ancient manuscript evidence for the Book of Mormon
  • Transmission and reliability of Biblical texts
    • Were "plain and precious" things removed from the Old Testament after Christ?
    • Were "plain and precious" things removed from the New Testament after Christ?
  • Did Nephi utter a false prophecy?

Relevant articles: John Gee: The Corruption of Scripture in Early Christianity (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=42&chapid=206)

Bible vs Book of Mormon: Prophecies of Christ

Christ's Birthplace

Other Bible Prophecies

  • Isaiah 16:5 prophecy of Christ
  • Psalm 22:16 prophecy of Christ
  • Daniel 9:26 prophecy of Christ
  • Psalm 16:10 prophecy of Christ
    • Evidence for Christ's resurrection

Conclusion

  • No evidence for Book of Mormon prophets/prophecies

Bible vs The Joseph Smith Translation (JST)

What exactly is the nature of the "Joseph Smith Translation" (JST) of the Bible, also known as the "Inspired Version"? In his discussion of this text Joel Kramer approaches it as a restoration of the "plain and precious parts of the Bible", as described in the chapter heading of 1 Nephi 13. Describing the JST, Kramer says,

"What's being said here is this is the plain and precious portions that have been lost from the Bible and this is it being restored by Joseph Smith."

Kramer then investigates three different instances in which the JST differs from the text of ancient manuscripts of the Bible and in each case Kramer concludes that Joseph Smith's translation does not match the best manuscripts available today. Kramer ultimately concludes that Joseph Smith himself has corrupted the Bible and it is implied that Joseph is a hypocrite for claiming (through Nephi) that "the great and abominable church" is responsible for corrupting the Bible.

But Joseph Smith himself never explained what exactly the nature of the JST is. The JST was a continual project for Joseph, one he did not finish before his death in 1844. In the absence of a clear explanation of the nature of the JST, many Latter-day Saints have made the same assumption that Kramer makes, that it is a restoration of text which was lost or corrupted by translators and scribes. But LDS scholarship in recent decades has helped to provide insight into exactly what the JST is. It has been described as a combination of the following:

  1. Portions may amount to restorations of content material once written by the biblical authors but since deleted from the Bible.
  2. Portions may consist of a record of actual historical events that were not recorded, or were recorded but never included in the biblical collection
  3. Portions may consist of inspired commentary by the Prophet Joseph Smith, enlarged, elaborated, and even adapted to a latter-day situation. This may be similar to what Nephi meant by "Likening" the scriptures to himself and his people in their particular circumstance. (See 1 Nephi 19:23-24; 2 Nephi 11:8).
  4. Some items may be a harmonization of doctrinal concepts that were revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith independently of his translation of the Bible, but by means of which he was able to discover that a biblical passage was inaccurate.

To demonstrate that this view is not a new one, we quote from an official editorial of Church News in 1974 (emphasis added):

“The Inspired Version does not supplant the King James Version as the official Church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages." …
Matthews, Robert J. (April 1977). "Why don’t we use the Inspired Version of the Bible in the Church? Would it be helpful to me to read it?". New Era: 46–47.

See the following FAIRwiki article for more information: The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. With these principles in mind, we turn to commenting on the specific cases that Kramer discusses.

JST Isaiah 29

JST John 1:1

JST Romans 4:16

Conclusion

Bible vs Doctrine & Covenants: Temple Prophecies

Conclusion: Joseph Smith fails the test

  • Does the evidence so far suggest that Joseph is a false prophet?
  • Putting a false prophet to "death"
    • Kramer's ridiculous interpretation of Deut 18:20

Scholars/Individuals appearing in the film

  • Joel Kramer
  • Greg Gifford
  • Dr. Christophe Rico
  • Dr. Randall Price
  • Dr. Gabriel Barkay
  • Dr. William L. Craig
  • Todd Bolen
  • Dr. Shimon Gibson
  • Paul Trask