Question: Why are there discrepancies between translations in the Book of Mormon, King James Bible and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

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Question: Why are there discrepancies between translations in the Book of Mormon, King James Bible and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

Parallel passages from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible sometimes disagree not only with the King James Version of the Bible, but also with each other

Parallel passages from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible sometimes disagree not only with the King James Version of the Bible, but also with each other. Critics ask why Joseph's earlier work (i.e., the Book of Mormon) generally followed the King James Version of the Bible closely while his later work (i.e., the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible) did not. Critics ask which translation did Joseph get right, implying that one is wrong, hence bringing his prophetic calling into question. Critics generally cite any of a number of passages from Matthew 5-7 from the King James Version and Joseph Smith Translation and 3 Nephi 12-14 from the Book of Mormon. A much celebrated example is:

Matthew 6:25-27 (King James Version)

25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

3 Nephi 13:25-27) (Book of Mormon)

25 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

Matthew 6:25-27 (Joseph Smith Translation)

25 And, again, I say unto you, go ye into the world, and care not for the world; for the world will hate you, and will persecute you, and will turn you out of their synagogues.
26 Nevertheless, ye shall go forth from house to house, teaching the people; and I will go before you.
27 And your heavenly Father will provide for you, whatsoever things ye need for food, what ye shall eat; and for raiment, what ye shall wear or put on.

Joseph had different purposes in mind in his different translations

Joseph had different purposes in mind in his different translations. This is not unique or unusual in scripture -- even the Bible. Hence, neither the Book of Mormon nor the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible can be discounted because of seeming discrepancies with each other or with the King James Version of the Bible.

Joseph Smith had different purposes in mind when bringing forth the Book of Mormon and the Joseph smith Translation. His purpose in bringing forth the Book of Mormon was to witness "the reality that "Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations". Departing from the King James Version, i.e., the translation familiar to those who would become the Book of Mormon's first readers, would have been a stumbling block in achieving its purpose. On the other hand, Joseph's later purpose in bringing forth the Joseph Smith Translation is largely understood to have been one of redaction, or inspired commentary -- to resolve confusion regarding biblical interpretation[1] Hence the different wording, and in some cases, even content.

Biblical Parallel

Gleason Archer, well known Evangelical Christian and the Author of a highly respected book called "Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties", addresses the issue of Paul citing deficient Greek Septuagint translations that appear in our New Testaments today in lieu of better translations of the Old Testament he could have come up with. Archer says:

"Suppose Paul had chosen to work out a new, more accurate translation into Greek directly from Hebrew. Might not the Bereans have said in reply, “that’s not the way we find it in our Bible. How do we know you have not slanted your different rendering here and there in order to favor you new teaching about Christ?” In order to avoid suspicion and misunderstanding, it was imperative for the apostles and evangelists to stick with the Septuagint in their preaching and teaching, both oral and written.

"We, like the first-century apostles, resort to these standard translations to teach our people in terms they can verify by resorting to their own Bibles, yet admittedly, none of these translations is completely free of faults. We use them nevertheless, for the purpose of more effective communication than if we were to translate directly from the Hebrew or Greek."[2]

Archer's point is that it is more important in certain settings that Paul's writings be familiar rather than 100% precise.


Notes

  1. Kevin Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85-102.
  2. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.