Criticism of Mormonism/Websites/MormonThink/Joseph's Translation of the Bible

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Response to MormonThink page "Joseph's Translation of the Bible"

A FairMormon Analysis of: MormonThink, a work by author: Anonymous
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Response to claims made on MormonThink page "Joseph's Translation of the Bible"

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Response to claim: "How is it that the BOM doesn’t match the" Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith corrected the Bible. In doing so he also corrected the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is the most correct book and was translated a mere decade before the JST. The BOM was not corrupted over time and did not need correcting. How is it that the BOM doesn’t match the JST?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Some have presumed that Joseph simply opened a Bible and copied those chapters when he came to material on the gold plates that he recognized as being from the Bible. Joseph's work on the Bible was for the purpose of clarification, and was not an attempt to restore original Biblical text.


Question: Why does the Book of Mormon match the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible so closely?

Some have presumed that Joseph simply opened a Bible and copied those chapters when he came to material on the gold plates that he recognized as being from the Bible

Some passages from the Bible (parts of Isaiah, for example) were included in the Book of Mormon text. Some people have long adopted the position that Joseph Smith simply copied the King James Version (KJV) Bible text for the relevant portions of, for example, Isaiah. Even some Church members have presumed that the close match between the texts indicates that Joseph simply opened a Bible and copied those chapters when he came to material on the gold plates that he recognized as being from the Bible.

The purposes of the Book of Mormon and JST translations were not identical. The LDS do not believe in one fixed, inviolate, "perfect" rendering of a scripture or doctrinal concept. The Book of Mormon likely reflects differences between the Nephite textual tradition and the commonly known Biblical manuscripts. The JST is a harmonization, expansion, commentary, and clarification of doctrinally important points. Neither is intended as "the final word" on a given concept or passage—continuing revelation, adapted to the circumstances in which members of the Church find themselves, precludes such an intent.

Joseph did not believe that there was "one and only one" true translation of a given passage or text. The Book of Mormon is "the most correct book" in the sense that it those who read and obey its precepts will draw nearer to God than in reading any other book. This is not a claim about textual perfection or inerrancy (which the book itself insists will still be present--title page, Mormon 9:31). In fact, Brigham Young taught that the Book of Mormon text would have been different if it were redone later:

Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings. [1]


Question: Why are many of the quotes from Isaiah in the Book of Mormon identical to those in the King James Bible?

Witnesses to the translation process are unanimous that Joseph did not have any books, manuscripts, or notes to which he referred while translating

There are several problems with the idea that Joseph simply copied passages from the Holy Bible.

1) Witnesses to the translation process are unanimous that Joseph did not have any books, manuscripts, or notes to which he referred while translating. Recalled Emma, in a later interview:

I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for [Joseph] I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat , with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Q. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
A. He had neither manuscript or book to read from.
Q. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
A. If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.[2]

Martin Harris also noted that Joseph would translate with his face buried in his hat in order to use the seer stone/urim and thummim. This would make referring to a Bible or notes virtually impossible:

Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine...[3]

2) It is not clear that Joseph even owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation. He and Oliver Cowdery later purchased a Bible, which suggests (given Joseph's straitened financial situation) that he did not already own one.[4]

3) It is not clear that Joseph's Biblical knowledge was at all broad during the Book of Mormon translation. It seems unlikely that he would have recognized, say, Isaiah, had he encountered it on the plates. Recalled Emma Smith:

When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time. .?. . When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, "Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?" When I answered, "Yes," he replied, "Oh! I was afraid I had been deceived." He had such a limited knowledge of history at the time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls.[5]

Emma also noted that

Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and wellworded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, . . . it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to any one else.[6]

And, if Joseph was merely inventing the Book of Mormon story, he picked some of the more obscure and difficult Bible passages to include.

4) If Joseph was forging the Book of Mormon, why include Biblical passages at all? Clearly, Joseph was able to rapidly produce a vast and complex text that made no reference to Biblical citations at all. If Joseph was trying to perpetrate a fraud, why did he include near-verbatim quotations from the one book (the Holy Bible KJV) with which his target audience was sure to be familiar?

The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text

Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV.

Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.[7]

Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this.

This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the King James (or any other) translation represented a true difference in the DSS text, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve existing translations.

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, it is possible that most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in later Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated. Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference.

Since there is no such thing as a "perfect" translation, this allows the reader to easily identify genuine differences between the Isaiah texts of the Old World and the Nephites.

Bible text itself quotes extensively from past scripture

When considering the presence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, it is also interesting to note that one Bible scholar has found that the four gospels attest to the fact that Jesus Christ and the apostles consistently quoted scripture. He calculated that over "ten percent of the daily conversation of Jesus consisted of Old Testament words quoted literally" and nearly 50% of the Lord's words as quoted by John were quotations from the Old Testament.[8]

When we consider the fact that Isaiah is the most quoted of all prophets, being more frequently quoted by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John (in his Revelation) than any other Old Testament prophet, it should not surprise us that both the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants also quote Isaiah more than any other prophet.[9] The Lord told the Nephites that "great are the words of Isaiah," and the prophet Nephi confessed, "my soul delighteth in his words... for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him" (2 Nephi 11:2).

New Testament writers literally quoted hundreds of Old Testament scriptures including 76 verses from Isaiah

It is clear that the writings of Isaiah held special significance for Jesus Christ and Nephi (see 2 Nephi 11:8, 2 Nephi 25:5; 3 Nephi 20:11; 3 Nephi 23:1-3). Isaiah's prophecies might also have been quoted frequently because they were largely concerned with latter-day events. The Saints understand Isaiah to have foretold the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith (see Isaiah 49:), the gathering of Israel in the last days (Isaiah 18:), the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (Isaiah 29:), wickedness in the last days (Isa. 33), and the Savior's second coming, and the millennium (Isaiah 13:, Isaiah 26:, Isaiah 27:). While he also wrote about the Savior's first coming (Isaiah 32:1-4) and events in his own time (Isaiah 20,23:), most of what he wrote about is yet to be fulfilled.[10]

When one considers that New Testament writers literally quoted hundreds of Old Testament scriptures including 76 verses from Isaiah[11] it should not surprise us that Book of Mormon writers did likewise. After all, these writings were part of the old world scriptures brought with them to the new world 1 Nephi 19:22-23). If the prophets of the Book of Mormon had not quoted Isaiah we might have questioned the authenticity of their words. That they did quote him extensively shows that they understood his writings as did Jesus and other apostles and prophets.

Paul has been cited as the most original of all New Testament writers but investigations of his epistles show that Paul often quoted from classical writers, orators, dramas, law courts, sports commentaries, and ancient religious rites. Even the well-known Pauline formula of "faith, hope, and charity," which appears also in the Book of Mormon, has been traced to Babylonian writings.[12]

Analysis of Specific Passages

2 Nephi 14:5

Walter Martin claims that Isaiah 4:5 is followed (mistakenly) by (2 Nephi 14:5). The phrase "For upon all the glory shall be a defense" should actually be "For over all the glory there will be a canopy."

Martin ignores that as translation literature, the Book of Mormon may well follow the KJV when the documents upon which the KJV is based match those of the Nephite text. Book of Mormon variants likely reflect only theologically significant changes not available in the Old World textual tradition.


2 Nephi 22:2

Some have questioned the use of the name JEHOVAH in 2 Nephi 22:2 and the use of some italicized King James Version words in the Book of Mormon. It seems clear that Joseph Smith was led to translate many passages as they appear in the King James Bible and made changes specifically by exception. Use of the proper name "Jehovah" which is an anglicized form of the Hebrew Yahweh, was common in the Bible[13] and was also in common use in Joseph Smith's day.[14] Although the name Jehovah is of more recent origin than the original Book of Mormon plates, it does not mean this name could not properly be used in translating a more ancient Hebrew title denoting the eternal I AM. Why should Joseph Smith be criticized for using the same name that King James scholars used?


Question: Do academic translators copy translations of other documents to use as a "base text"?

In some translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, approximately 90% is simply copied from the King James Bible

Even academic translators sometimes copy a previous translation if it serves the purpose of their translation. For example, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) provided previously unknown texts for many Biblical writings. However, in some translations of the DSS, approximately 90% is simply copied from the KJV.

Surely we are not expected to believe that the DSS translators dropped back into King James idiom and just happened to come up with a nearly identical text! They, in fact, unabashedly copied the KJV, except where the DSS texts were substantially different from already known Hebrew manuscripts.[15]

The purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access

Why was this done? Because, the purpose of the DSS translation is to highlight the differences between the newly discovered manuscripts and those to which scholars already had access. Thus, in areas where the DSS manuscripts agree with the Biblical texts that were already known, the KJV translation is used to indicate this. Here, for example, is how the first verses of Genesis are treated:

Dead Sea Scrolls Translation: 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [2 And] the earth [was] formless and void; and darkness was upon the fac[e of the dee]p: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," [and there was light. 4 And] God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light [from the darkness.] 5 And God called the light daytime, and the darkness he cal[led ni]ght. And there was evening [and there was morning,] one day.

KJV: 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

We can see that it generally follows that same King James language. In places, it has variant readings, and it footnotes what ancient texts caused these different readings. You can also see from the various punctuation marks that there is a system in place to help us understand what part of the text comes from which source. Why would a translation made in 1999 (170 years after the Book of Mormon gets published) generally follow the King James Version? It isn't because the King James Version is the best, or the easiest to understand. In 1830, it was the only mass produced translation (the next major translation wouldn't be published for another half century). And it remains today one of the most common translations of the Bible. You don't have to be a specialist to compare the two texts and see what the differences are. In this way, we can (as non-specialists) get a better feel for the various ancient versions of the biblical texts. The same is true for the Book of Mormon except perhaps in reverse. By using the KJV language, we are probably being clued in to the fact that the potential differences aren't the important parts of the Book of Mormon. Rather than focusing on how this or that word was changed, we can focus on what the passages are trying to teach us.

This is not to argue that there may not be a better way to render the text than the KJV—but, it would be counterproductive for the DSS committee spent a lot of time improving on the KJV translation. A reader without access to the original manuscripts could then never be sure if a difference between the DSS translation and the KJV translation represented a true difference in the DSS, or simply the choice of the DSS translators to improve the KJV.

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous

The situation with the Book of Mormon is likely analogous. For example, most of the text to which the Nephites had access would not have differed significantly from the Hebrew texts used in Bible translations. The differences in wording between the KJV and the Book of Mormon highlight the areas in which there were theologically significant differences between the Nephite versions and the Masoretic text, from which the Bible was translated. Other areas can be assumed to be essentially the same. If one wants an improved or clearer translation of a passage that is identical in the Book of Mormon and the KJV, one has only to go to the original manuscripts available to all scholars. Basing the text on the KJV focuses the reader on the important clarifications, as opposed to doing a new translation from scratch, and distracting the reader with many differences that might be due simply to translator preference.

Furthermore, using a KJV "base text" also helps us to identify the source of some scriptural citations that might be otherwise unclear. Consider this bit from Jacob 1:7:

Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.

This sounds nice, but its real impact on our reading Jacob occurs when we recognize that Jacob is alluding to Psalm 95:8-11:

8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.

Jacob wants us to understand what follows in the context of Israel being led in the wilderness by Moses. Drawing that connection is hard enough for people who don't have a lot of familiarity with the Old Testament. But had it followed language not found in the Bible they had (the KJV)—even if conceptually it was the same—it would have been far more difficult for readers to connect the two to understand the point Jacob was trying to make.

In this way, it makes a lot of sense for a translation—even a divinely inspired translation which is being read through revelation (from a seer stone) - to follow a conventional text where it duplicates the same original source material. It isn't just about trying to duplicate the source material, it is also about getting the reader who then reads the text to understand it.


Question: If the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is Joseph Smith's 'correction' of Biblical errors, why do these corrections not match known Biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is better thought of as an "inspired commentary" rather than a "translation"

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is not a translation in the traditional sense. Joseph did not consider himself a "translator" in the academic sense. The JST is better thought of as a kind of "inspired commentary"--Joseph was not usually restoring 'lost text' (though in some few cases he may have). The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is not, as some members have presumed, simply a restoration of lost Biblical text or an improvement on the translation of known text. Rather, the JST also involves harmonization of doctrinal concepts, commentary and elaboration on the Biblical text, and explanations to clarify points of importance to the modern reader.

Some aspects of the JST may reflect a restoration of lost Biblical text. But, such restoration is likely in the minority. Joseph did not claim to be mechanically preserving some hypothetically 'perfect' Biblical text. Rather, Joseph used the extant King James text as a basis for commentary, expansion, and clarification based upon revelation, with particular attention to issues of doctrinal importance for the modern reader. Reading the JST is akin to having the prophet at your elbow as one studies—it allows Joseph to clarify, elaborate, and comment on the Biblical text in the light of modern revelation.

The JST comes from a more prophetically mature and sophisticated Joseph Smith, and provides doctrinal expansion based upon additional revelation, experience, and understanding.

Joseph Smith: "I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands"

It is important to remember that Joseph did not consider one 'translation' of anything to be perfect or 'the final word.' Joseph had indicated that Moroni quoted Malachi to him using different wording than the KJV (See Joseph Smith History 1:36–39). However, when Joseph quoted the same passage years later in a discussion about vicarious baptism for the dead, he said:

I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism. for the dead (DC 128:18). (emphasis added)

Thus, to Joseph, the adequacy of a translation depended upon the uses to which a given text will be employed. For one discussion, the KJV was adequate; for others, not. A key element of LDS theology is that living prophets are the primary instrument through which God continues to give knowledge and understanding to his children. Scriptures are neither inerrant, nor somehow "perfect," but are instead produced by fallible mortals. Despite this, because of current prophets and the revelation granted each individual, the writings of past prophets are sufficient to teach the principles essential for salvation. Additional revelation is sought and received as required.

Modern readers are accustomed to thinking of a 'translation' as only the conversion of text in one language to another. But, Joseph used the term in a broader and more inclusive sense, which included explanation, commentary, and harmonization. The JST is probably best understood in this light.

An Example: The Lord's Prayer

There is a great example of this kind of difference in the Lord's prayer. Compare the following:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Book of Mormon).
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (KJV Bible).
And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil (JST Bible).

The JST changes the statement to passive voice whereas the KJV Bible and the Book of Mormon are in active voice. According to E. W. Bullinger, this particular scripture contains a Hebraism, namely, "active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said do." Consequently, Bullinger interprets the passage this way: "Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation."[16]

Adam Clarke agrees with Bullinger. He wrote this scripture means "'Bring not in,' or 'lead us not into.' (This is a mere Hebraism. God is said to do a thing which He only permits or suffers to be done)."[17]

In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament we read the same interpretation. "This phrase then must be used in the sense of permitting. Do not suffer us or permit us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God 'has such control over us and the tempter, as to save us from it if we call on him."[18]

When properly considered, this passage is an example of where the JST reading and the KJV/Book of Mormon are both correct. The KJV and Book of Mormon are literal interpretations while the JST is an interpretive translation that is also correct. Given Joseph's relative inexperience in prophetic interpretation in 1829, he would be far more likely to render a verse literally than engage in interpretation.


Response to claim: "Why didn’t the next prophet, or any subsequent prophet, finish the inspired version of the Bible?"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Why didn’t the next prophet, or any subsequent prophet, finish the inspired version of the Bible that the church thought was so important that they altered our version of the King James Bible to include the portions that Joseph did retranslate? Does it make any sense that the inspired version of the Bible should not be finished merely with the death of the first prophet of the restoration? If we really did have a succession of prophets since Joseph Smith, this important work would have been finished and published as God commanded Joseph to do.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The fact that Joseph was collecting funds to publish what we call the JST suggests that he believed it was sufficiently advanced to be published, so no further work on it was necessary. The Church did publish passages from the JST in the scriptures for use in comparison with the KJV text. The Book of Moses, which was produced as part of the Joseph Smith Translation, was canonized.


Question: Was Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible ever completed?

It is not known for certain whether or not Joseph Smith completed his revisions to the Bible

One critical website poses the question: "Why didn’t the next prophet, or any subsequent prophet, finish the inspired version of the Bible that the church thought was so important that they altered our version of the King James Bible to include the portions that Joseph did retranslate? Does it make any sense that the inspired version of the Bible should not be finished merely with the death of the first prophet of the restoration? If we really did have a succession of prophets since Joseph Smith, this important work would have been finished and published as God commanded Joseph to do." [19]

However, as one LDS scholar noted:

"The Bible Dictionary in the English LDS Bible states that Joseph Smith 'continued to make modifications [in the translation] until his death in 1844.' Based on information available in the past, that was a reasonable assumption, and I taught it for many years. But we now know that it is not accurate. The best evidence points to the conclusion that when the Prophet called the translation 'finished,' he really meant it, and no changes were made in it after the summer (or possibly the fall) of 1833."[20]

The fact that Joseph was collecting funds to publish what we call the JST suggests that he believed it was sufficiently advanced to be published

The JST (or "Inspired Version") is probably better seen as a type of inspired commentary on the Bible text by Joseph. Its value consists not in making it the new "official" scripture, but in the insights Joseph provides readers and what Joseph himself learned during the process. As such, it would never actually be "finished." However, the fact that Joseph was collecting funds to publish what we call the JST suggests that he believed it was sufficiently advanced to be published.

The Book of Moses, which was part of the JST, was completed and canonized

The Book of Moses was produced as a result of Joseph's efforts to clarify the Bible. This portion of the work was canonized and is part of the Pearl of Great Price. There was no attempt to canonize the rest of the JST then, or now.

Joseph felt that the JST was subject to further revision

Joseph did not view his revisions to the Bible as a "once and for all" or "finally completed translation" goal—he simply didn't see scripture that way. The translation could be acceptable for purposes, but still subject to later clarification or elaboration.

George Q. Cannon reported that Brigham Young heard Joseph speak about further revisions:

We have heard President Brigham Young state that the Prophet, before his death, had spoken to him about going through the translation of the scriptures again and perfecting it upon points of doctrine which the Lord had restrained him from giving in plainness and fullness at the time of which we write.[21]

Most important to note, the JST or other scriptures are not the ultimate source of LDS doctrine—having a living prophet is what is most vital. Joseph improved his prophetic capacity through the production of the JST.


Response to claim: "Joseph...left 'uncorrected' the passages about how in heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

The JST contradicts current Mormon teaching and practice that is so basic and important to Mormonism. The doctrine of eternal marriage is not taught in the JST. Joseph (and all the subsequent prophets who are also translators, see D&C 107:91-92) left 'uncorrected' the passages about how in heaven, they neither marry nor are given in marriage...
....
Some apologists say that Joseph covered this doctrinal error D&C 132:15-17 which they say correctly states the LDS view on eternal marriage. However, this provides another reason why Joseph should have corrected the marriage verses of the Bible when he did the JST so there would not be contradictions. Why bother translating the bible at all when he could merely correct all scriptural and doctrinal erros of the past by giving new revelations in the D&C?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The critics assume a certain meaning for the passage, and then claim that it was "uncorrected."


Question: Does Jesus Christ's statement "they neither marry, nor are given in marriage" contradict the Latter-day Saint doctrine of eternal marriage?

Jesus Christ was responding to the Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection

Matthew 22:23-30 (or its counterparts, Mark 12:18-25 and Luke 20:27-36) is often used by critics to argue against the LDS doctrine of eternal marriage.

The Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection, asked the Savior about a case where one woman successively married seven brothers, each of which died leaving her to the next. They then tried to trip up Jesus by asking him whose wife she will be in the resurrection. Jesus' answer is almost identical in all three scriptural versions.

Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. (Matthew 22:29-30)

Early Latter-day Saints did not see any difficulty in reconciling it to their views on eternal marriage: Jesus was talking about marriage for time, not eternity

Latter-day Saint scripture discussed it specifically:

15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever (DC 132:15-17) (emphasis added)

Joseph did not need to go back and correct the Bible each time he received a new revelation

So if the Doctrine and Covenants clarifies or corrects a teaching the Bible, then why didn't Joseph go back and correct the Bible as well? Because it simply wasn't necessary for him to continuously revise the Bible based upon new revelation. The Doctrine and Covenants, like the Book of Mormon, is considered to be scripture and an equal companion to the Bible. That is, after all, the purpose of receiving new scripture..

When Joseph Smith performed his inspired "translation" of the Bible, he clarified and revised a number of items. This was a continuous process that involved various portions of the Bible - it was not performed from "start to finish." He did not consider it necessary to revise the Bible every single time he received a new revelation.


Joseph Fielding Smith (1941): While the Church, as well as the world, would recognize that marriage while they are in the world, yet the fact remains that when they are dead the marriage comes to an end

Joseph Fielding Smith:

While the Church, as well as the world, would recognize that marriage while they are in the world, yet the fact remains that when they are dead the marriage comes to an end.

Therefore when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven; which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding and an eternal weight of glory.

I take it that this has reference to those who have been just and honest and have been willing to keep other covenants and commandments the Lord has given them. They are members of the Church, but have not been willing to enter into this great and crowning covenant, if you please, which would exalt them to be the sons and daughters of God. And therefore, as I read further:

For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

Forever and ever! Think of it! It fills my heart with sadness when I see in the paper the name of a daughter or a son of members of this Church, and discover that she or he is going to have a ceremony and be married outside of the Temple of the Lord, because I realize what it means, that they are cutting themselves off from exaltation in the Kingdom of God.

Now, again, the Lord continues, in this revelation, to say that if they are married by His word, then they shall pass on to the exaltation, and that exaltation is a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever. In other words, the family organization is intact throughout all eternity and there shall be eternal increase,--and that is the crowning glory, if you please, in the Kingdom of God. [22]


Response to claim: "the Book of Abraham....distinctly taught the plurality of gods....Why didn’t Joseph correct this when he translated the Bible"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's 1842 translation of portions of the Book of Abraham, however, distinctly taught the plurality of gods as well as does the Book of Moses -- a concept of deity Joseph had started teaching a few years earlier, but one which many Saints neither understood nor appreciated. Why didn’t Joseph correct this when he translated the Bible, including many, many verses he corrected in Genesis and not wait until he produced the Book of Abraham and the Book of Moses a decade later?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The King James Bible already supports a "plurality of Gods."


Question: When Joseph performed his inspired translation of the Bible, why didn't he rewrite the creation account in Genesis to read more like that in the Book of Abraham?

The Bible does support plurality of gods

When God gives new insight and revelation, he doesn't typically "rewrite" all scripture that has gone before: He simply adds to it.

The creation account in the Book of Abraham supports a plurality of gods. Critics claim that the Bible does not support this. However, there are two errors in the assumption that the Bible does not support a plurality of gods.

There are clearly multiple divine personages in Genesis

Error #1: It is debatable that the unedited King James Version of Genesis truly only includes "one God." There are clearly multiple divine personages in Genesis:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.... (Genesis 3:22)

Only creeds or convictions that insist on a single divine being make us unable to notice.

The Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis, the Book of Moses, actually did clarify the role and existence of multiple divine personages

Error #2: The Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis actually did clarify the role and existence of multiple divine personages. The Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price (which is the simply the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis) has many examples of multiple divine personages:

I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all (Moses 1:6).

Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee? (Moses 1:13)

for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten....Call upon God in the name of mine Only Begotten, and worship me. (Moses 1:16-17)

Moses lifted up his eyes unto heaven, being filled with the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son;" (Moses 1:24)

And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. (Moses 1:33)

That's just the first chapter of the JST of Genesis. There are many, many more examples in Moses.

In chapter 2 of Moses, God prefaces his remarks by saying, "I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest" (Moses 2:1).

So, in each case when "I, God" did something in the creation, it should be understood that the Only Begotten is also involved, since it is by him that God created all. So, there are multiple divine personages in each mention in the verses that follow.


Response to claim: "Another error in the King James Version is the introduction of the name 'Lucifer'"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Another error in the King James Version is the introduction of the name “Lucifer” into the English translation of Isaiah 14:12, a name with occurs nowhere else in the Bible.....This error is compounded in Mormon theology, with Lucifer appearing as a character in the endowment ceremony in the Mormon temple.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

In LDS theology, "Lucifer" is a name which designates the pre-mortal Satan, prior to his rebellion against God. Because of Isaiah's use of the term, it has a long history in that role in western Christianity


Question: Why is the name "Lucifer" used to represent Satan in Latter-day Saint scriptures and the temple ceremony?

"Lucifer" is a name which designates the pre-mortal Satan, prior to his rebellion against God

One critical website claims, "Another error in the King James Version is the introduction of the name “Lucifer” into the English translation of Isaiah 14:12, a name with occurs nowhere else in the Bible." [23]

In LDS theology, "Lucifer" is a name which designates the pre-mortal Satan, prior to his rebellion against God. Because of Isaiah's use of the term, it has a long history in that role in western Christianity.

The use of Satan/Lucifer in the endowment is not surprising—the endowment is a symbolic ritual drama designed to teach important spiritual truths. It does not matter what Satan's "pre-fall" name really was. Names like "Jehovah" and "Jesus Christ" are Hebrew and Greek respectively: yet, Hebrew and Greek are not likely the language of the pre-mortal world either. The names are used because they quickly and accurately transmit meaning to western Christians.

John Milton, in Paradise Lost used the term in the same way—because its use would be familiar and instantly recognizable to his Christian audience. He knew that it was an allusion, but used it because it was a well-known symbol:

Citie and proud seate

Of LUCIFER, so by allusion calld,

Of that bright Starr to SATAN paragond. - Paradise Lost, Bk IX.


Response to claim: "Each time linguists make a new Bible translation....not one to date has confirmed any of Joseph Smith's inspired version passages"

The author(s) of MormonThink make(s) the following claim:

Each time linguists make a new Bible translation such as the NIV, The Message, NKJV, etc. , they all go back to the original sources and try to use new information such as the Dead Sea Scrolls in making the translations, and not one to date has confirmed any of Joseph Smith's inspired version passages.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph was not restoring the original Biblical text. The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is better thought of as an "inspired commentary" rather than a "translation".


Question: If the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is Joseph Smith's 'correction' of Biblical errors, why do these corrections not match known Biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is better thought of as an "inspired commentary" rather than a "translation"

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) is not a translation in the traditional sense. Joseph did not consider himself a "translator" in the academic sense. The JST is better thought of as a kind of "inspired commentary"--Joseph was not usually restoring 'lost text' (though in some few cases he may have). The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is not, as some members have presumed, simply a restoration of lost Biblical text or an improvement on the translation of known text. Rather, the JST also involves harmonization of doctrinal concepts, commentary and elaboration on the Biblical text, and explanations to clarify points of importance to the modern reader.

Some aspects of the JST may reflect a restoration of lost Biblical text. But, such restoration is likely in the minority. Joseph did not claim to be mechanically preserving some hypothetically 'perfect' Biblical text. Rather, Joseph used the extant King James text as a basis for commentary, expansion, and clarification based upon revelation, with particular attention to issues of doctrinal importance for the modern reader. Reading the JST is akin to having the prophet at your elbow as one studies—it allows Joseph to clarify, elaborate, and comment on the Biblical text in the light of modern revelation.

The JST comes from a more prophetically mature and sophisticated Joseph Smith, and provides doctrinal expansion based upon additional revelation, experience, and understanding.

Joseph Smith: "I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands"

It is important to remember that Joseph did not consider one 'translation' of anything to be perfect or 'the final word.' Joseph had indicated that Moroni quoted Malachi to him using different wording than the KJV (See Joseph Smith History 1:36–39). However, when Joseph quoted the same passage years later in a discussion about vicarious baptism for the dead, he said:

I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other-and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism. for the dead (DC 128:18). (emphasis added)

Thus, to Joseph, the adequacy of a translation depended upon the uses to which a given text will be employed. For one discussion, the KJV was adequate; for others, not. A key element of LDS theology is that living prophets are the primary instrument through which God continues to give knowledge and understanding to his children. Scriptures are neither inerrant, nor somehow "perfect," but are instead produced by fallible mortals. Despite this, because of current prophets and the revelation granted each individual, the writings of past prophets are sufficient to teach the principles essential for salvation. Additional revelation is sought and received as required.

Modern readers are accustomed to thinking of a 'translation' as only the conversion of text in one language to another. But, Joseph used the term in a broader and more inclusive sense, which included explanation, commentary, and harmonization. The JST is probably best understood in this light.

An Example: The Lord's Prayer

There is a great example of this kind of difference in the Lord's prayer. Compare the following:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Book of Mormon).
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (KJV Bible).
And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil (JST Bible).

The JST changes the statement to passive voice whereas the KJV Bible and the Book of Mormon are in active voice. According to E. W. Bullinger, this particular scripture contains a Hebraism, namely, "active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said do." Consequently, Bullinger interprets the passage this way: "Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation."[24]

Adam Clarke agrees with Bullinger. He wrote this scripture means "'Bring not in,' or 'lead us not into.' (This is a mere Hebraism. God is said to do a thing which He only permits or suffers to be done)."[25]

In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament we read the same interpretation. "This phrase then must be used in the sense of permitting. Do not suffer us or permit us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God 'has such control over us and the tempter, as to save us from it if we call on him."[26]

When properly considered, this passage is an example of where the JST reading and the KJV/Book of Mormon are both correct. The KJV and Book of Mormon are literal interpretations while the JST is an interpretive translation that is also correct. Given Joseph's relative inexperience in prophetic interpretation in 1829, he would be far more likely to render a verse literally than engage in interpretation.


Matthews: "To regard the New Translation...as a product of divine inspiration given to Joseph Smith does not necessarily assume that it be a restoration of the original Bible text"

In describing the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST), the leading expert, Robert J. Matthews, said:

To regard the New Translation [i.e. JST] as a product of divine inspiration given to Joseph Smith does not necessarily assume that it be a restoration of the original Bible text. It seems probable that the New Translation could be many things. For example, the nature of the work may fall into at least four categories:

  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.

The most fundamental question seems to be whether or not one is disposed to accept the New Translation as a divinely inspired document.[27]

The same author later observed:

It would be informative to consider various meanings of the word translate. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives these definitions: "To turn from one language into another retaining the sense"; also, "To express in other words, to paraphrase." It gives another meaning as, "To interpret, explain, expound the significance of." Other dictionaries give approximately the same definitions as the OED. Although we generally think of translation as having to do with changing a word text from one language to another, that is not the only usage of the word. Translate equally means to express an idea or statement in other words, even in the same language. If people are unfamiliar with certain terminology in their own tongue, they will need an explanation. The explanation may be longer than the original, yet the original had all the meaning, either stated or implied. In common everyday discourse, when we hear something stated ambiguously or in highly technical terms, we ask the speaker to translate it for us. It is not expected that the response must come in another language, but only that the first statement be made clear. The speaker's new statement is a form of translation because it follows the basic purpose and intent of the word translation, which is to render something in understandable form…Every translation is an interpretation—a version. The translation of language cannot be a mechanical operation … Translation is a cognitive and functional process because there is not one word in every language to match with exact words in every other language. Gender, case, tense, terminology, idiom, word order, obsolete and archaic words, and shades of meaning—all make translation an interpretive process.[28]


Question: How is the Joseph Smith Translation best understood?

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is probably better understood as a kind of midrashic commentary on the text

Much of the JST is probably better understood as a kind of midrashic commentary on the text.

The JST for the opening of the Gospel of John is as follows:

1 In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made.

It seems more likely that the point of this revision is to avoid directly equating the Word (Greek: Logos) with Jesus Christ. This equation was based on Greek philosophical usage, in which the concept of a Logos as an intermediary agency between God and man was first articulated. So equating the Logos with the gospel and not Jesus directly seems to be a way of rejecting too great a reliance on Greek philosophy in articulating the premortal nature of Jesus Christ. This is likely not a return to some primitive purity of the text, but a helpful explanation or commentary provided by the Lord through Joseph Smith to prevent us from going too far down a theological "blind alley."


Notes

  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:311.
  2. Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51
  3. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887), 12; cited frequently, including by Neal A. Maxwell, "By the Gift and Power of God," Ensign (January 1997), 34–41. off-site
  4. John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, "Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha: Shadow or Reality? (Review of Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 326–372. off-site
  5. Emma Smith to Edmund C. Briggs, "A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856," Journal of History 9 (January 1916): 454.
  6. Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Advocate 2 (Oct. 1879): 51
  7. “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, (1 Oct. 1879): 290.
  8. Jay P. Green Sr., The Interlinear Bible, Hebrew-Greek-English (Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1995), 975. ISBN 1878442821. ISBN 1565639774.
  9. See LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "{{{article}}},", 707. off-site
  10. Bruce R. McConkie, "Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah," Ensign (October 1973), 78–83. off-site.
  11. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "{{{article}}},",756–759. off-site
  12. Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 128. ISBN 0875791395.
  13. See Exodus 6:3; Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4.
  14. See such scriptural examples as DC 109:34,42,56,68; DC 110:1-3; DC 128:9. See also Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 220, 221, 250–251. off-site
  15. See, for example, Martin G. Abegg, Jr., Peter Flint, Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (HarperCollins, 2012). Other examples of similar choices in translation include: Robert H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), Theodor H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures, 3rd ed. (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1976), and Robert Lisle Lindsey, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark (Jerusalem: Baptist House, n.d.).
  16. See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used In the Bible: Explained and Illustrated (London: Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1898), 819-824.
  17. Adam Clark, Commentary an the Bible, abridged by Ralph Earle, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1979), 778.
  18. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, edited by Ingram Cobbin, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), 30.
  19. "JST Bible Translation," MormonThink.com http://mormonthink.com/jst.htm#full
  20. Kent P. Jackson, "New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," in Religious Educator 6, no. 3 (2005): 149–160 (link).
  21. George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 142.
  22. Conference Report (April 1941), 37-38.
  23. "JST Bible Translation," MormonThink.com
  24. See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used In the Bible: Explained and Illustrated (London: Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1898), 819-824.
  25. Adam Clark, Commentary an the Bible, abridged by Ralph Earle, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1979), 778.
  26. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, edited by Ingram Cobbin, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), 30.
  27. Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985), 253.
  28. Robert J. Matthews, "Joseph Smith as Translator," in Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man, edited by Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr. (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 1993), 80, 84.