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 FAIR 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?

FAIR's 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.


Articles about Joseph Smith

Articles about the Holy Bible

What is the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST)?

Is the JST intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text?

Video published by BYU Religious Education.


The JST is not intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text.

As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on churchofjesuschrist.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible."

Two main points should be kept in mind with regards to the Joseph Smith "translation" of the Bible:

  • The JST is not intended primarily or solely as restoration of text. Many mainline LDS scholars who have focused on the JST (such as Robert J. Matthews and Kent Jackson) are unanimous in this regard. The assumption that it is intended primarily or solely as a restoration of text is what leads to expectations that the JST and Book of Mormon should match up in every case. At times the JST does not even match up with itself, such as when Joseph Smith translated the same passage multiple times in different ways. This does not undermine notions of revelation, but certainly challenges common assumptions about the nature and function of Joseph's understanding of "translation".
  • One of the main tendencies of the JST is harmonization. Readers are well aware of differences in Jesus' sayings between different Gospels. For example, Jesus' statements about whether divorce is permitted and under what conditions differ significantly. Matthew offers an exception clause that Mark and Luke do not, and this has severely complicated the historical interpretation of Jesus' view of divorce.
The JST often makes changes that harmonize one gospel with another. While one gospel says "judge not" (though this may not be as absolute as some make it out to be), John 7:24 has Jesus commanding to "judge righteous judgment." The JST change harmonizes the two gospels by making Matthew agree with John. If there is a real difference between being commanded to "Judge righteously" and being commanded to "Judge not", then it is a problem inherently present in the differing accounts of the Gospels, which the JST resolves.

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.[1]

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.[2]

What is the relationship between the JST and biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation does claim to be, in part, a restoration of the original content of the Bible. This may have been done (a) by reproducing the text as it was originally written down; or, (b) it may have been about reproducing the original intent and clarifying the message of the original author of the text in question. We are not entirely sure, but in either case the JST does claim to be, in part, a restoration.

Critics who fault the JST because it doesn't match known manuscripts of the Bible are being too hasty: we do not have the original manuscripts of any text of the Bible, nor do we know the exact nature of every change made in the JST and whether a particular change was meant to be a restoration of original text.

Kent P. Jackson, another leading expert on the JST, wrote:

Some may choose to find fault with the Joseph Smith Translation because they do not see correlations between the text on ancient manuscripts. The supposition would be that if the JST revisions were justifiable, they would agree with the earliest existing manuscripts of the biblical books. This reasoning is misdirected in two ways. First, it assumes that extant ancient manuscripts accurately reproduce the original test, and both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon teach otherwise.[3] Because the earliest Old and New Testament manuscripts date from long after the original documents were written, we no longer have original manuscripts to compare with Joseph Smith's revisions. The second problem with faulting the JST because it does not match ancient texts is that to do so assumes that all the revisions Joseph Smith made were intended to restore original text. We have no record of him making that claim, and even in places in which the JST would restore original text it would do so not in Hebrew or Greek but in Modern English and in the scriptural idiom of early nineteenth-century America. Revisions that fit in others of the categories listed above are likewise in modern English, "given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language" (D&C 1꞉24)/[4]

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". 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. As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible". 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. In general, it 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.

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.

What was the translation procedure used by Joseph Smith and his scribes to produce the JST?

Kent Jackson reports:

The original manuscripts of the JST, as well as the Bible used in the revision, still exist. They show the following process at work: Joseph Smith had his Bible in front of him, likely in his lap or on a table, and he dictated the translation to his scribes, who recorded what they heard him say. ... there are no parts of the translation in which the scribes "copied out the text of the Bible." The evidence on the manuscripts is clear that this did not happen. The Prophet dictated without punctuation and verse breaks, and those features were inserted as a separate process after the text was complete. [Some have argued that after supposedly] copying of text out of the Bible, the scribes then inserted the "numerous strikethroughs of words and phrases, interlinear insertions, and omissions," and thus Joseph Smith’s revised text was born. But the overwhelming majority of the revisions were in the original dictation and are simply part of the original writing on the manuscripts. There are indeed strikeouts and interlinear insertions on the manuscripts, but they came during a second pass through parts of the manuscripts and comprise only a minority of the revisions Joseph Smith made.[5]:20-21

Did Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary significanly influence the JST?

In March 2017, Thomas Wayment, professor of Classics at Brigham Young University, published a paper in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research titled "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation". In a summary of their research, Wayment and his research assistant wrote:

Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible has attracted significant attention in recent decades, drawing the interest of a wide variety of academics and those who affirm its nearly canonical status in the LDS scriptural canon. More recently, in conducting new research into the origins of Smith’s Bible translation, we uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s famous Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, was a mainstay for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Direct borrowing from this source has not previously been connected to Smith’s translation efforts, and the fundamental question of what Smith meant by the term "translation" with respect to his efforts to rework the biblical text can now be reconsidered in light of this new evidence. What is noteworthy in detailing the usage of this source is that Adam Clarke’s textual emendations come through Smith’s translation as inspired changes to the text. Moreover, the question of what Smith meant by the term translation should be broadened to include what now appears to have been an academic interest to update the text of the Bible. This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith’s translation projects, particularly his Bible project, and how he used academic sources while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text. In presenting the evidence for Smith’s usage of Clarke, our paper also addressed the larger question of what it means for Smith to have used an academic/theological Bible commentary in the process of producing a text that he subsequently defined as a translation. In doing so, we first presented the evidence for Smith’s reliance upon Adam Clarke to establish the nature of Smith’s usage of Clarke. Following that discussion, we engaged the question of how Smith approached the question of the quality of the King James Bible (hereafter KJV) translation that he was using in 1830 and what the term translation meant to both Smith and his close associates. Finally, we offered a suggestion as to how Smith came to use Clarke, as well as assessing the overall question of what these findings suggest regarding Smith as a translator and his various translation projects.

Our research has revealed that the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary are simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds, a number that is well beyond the limits of this paper to discuss. A few of them, however, demonstrate Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance. In presenting the evidence, we have attempted to both establish that Smith drew upon Clarke, likely at the urging of Rigdon, and we present here a broad categorization of the types of changes that Smith made when he used Clarke as a source.[6]

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon then published a more detailed account of their findings together in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity (2020) edited by BYU professor Michael Hubbard MacKay, Joseph Smith Papers researcher Mark Ashurst-McGee, and former BYU professor Brian M. Hauglid.[7] Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.[8]

Wayment outlined what he and Haley Wilson believed they had found:

What we found, a student assistant (Hailey Wilson Lamone) and I, we discovered that in about 200 to 300 — depending on how much change is being involved — parallels where Joseph Smith has the exact same change to a verse that Adam Clarke does. They’re verbatim. Some of them are 5 to 6 words; some of them are 2 words; some of them are a single word. But in cases where that single word is fairly unique or different, it seemed pretty obvious that he’s getting this from Adam Clarke. What really changed my worldview here is now I’m looking at what appears obvious as a text person, that the prophet has used Adam Clarke. That in the process of doing the translation, he’s either read it, has it in front of him, or he reads it at night. We started to look back through the Joseph Smith History. There’s a story of his brother-in-law presenting Joseph Smith with a copy of Adam Clarke. We do not know whose copy of Adam Clarke it is, but we do know that Nathaniel Lewis gives it to the prophet and says, "I want to use the Urim and Thummim. I want to translate some of the strange characters out of Adam Clarke’s commentary." Joseph will clearly not give him the Urim and Thummim to do that, but we know he had it in his hands. Now looking at the text, we can say that a lot of the material that happens after Genesis 24. There are no parallels to Clarke between Genesis 1–Genesis 24. But when we start to get to Matthew, it’s very clear that Adam Clarke has influenced the way he changes the Bible. It was a big moment. That article comes out in the next year. We provide appendi [sic] and documentation for some of the major changes, and we try to grapple with what this might mean.[9]

Accusation of plagiarism

In another interview with Kurt Manwaring, Wayment addressed the charge of plagiarism directly:

When news inadvertently broke that a source had been uncovered that was used in the process of creating the JST, some were quick to use that information as a point of criticism against Joseph or against the JST. Words like "plagiarism" were quickly brought forward as a reasonable explanation of what was going on. To be clear, plagiarism is a word that to me implies an overt attempt to copy the work of another person directly and intentionally without attributing any recognition to the source from which the information was taken.

To the best of my understanding, Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke as a Bible commentary to guide his mind and thought process to consider the Bible in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise. It may be strong to say, but Joseph didn’t have training in ancient languages or the history of the Bible, but Adam Clarke did. And Joseph appears to have appreciated Clarke’s expertise and in using Clarke as a source, Joseph at times adopted the language of that source as he revised the Bible. I think that those who are troubled by this process are largely troubled because it contradicts a certain constructed narrative about the history of the JST and about how revelation works.

The reality of what happened is inspiring.

Joseph, who applied his own prophetic authority to the Bible in the revision process, drew upon the best available scholarship to guide his prophetic instincts. Inspiration following careful study and consideration is a prophetic model that can include many members of the church.

I hope people who read the study when it comes out will pause long enough to consider the benefit of expanding the definition of the prophetic gift to include academic study as a key component before rejecting the evidence outright.[10]

Mark Ashurst McGee of the Joseph Smith Papers team made similar points as those of Wayment at the 2020 FAIR Conference held in Provo:


A rebuttal to the Adam Clarke hypothesis

In October 2020, Kent P. Jackson (Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and a leading expert on the JST) responded to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's work.[5]

Jackson's paper identified several striking weakness to the Adam Clarke hypothesis. These include:

  • "I have examined in detail every one of the JST passages they set forth as having been influenced by Clarke, and I have examined what Clarke wrote about those passages. I now believe that the conclusions they reached regarding those connections cannot be sustained. I do not believe that there is [Page 17] Adam Clarke-JST connection at all, and I have seen no evidence that Joseph Smith ever used Clarke’s commentary in his revision of the Bible. None of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have set forward as examples, in my opinion, can withstand careful scrutiny."[5]:16-17
  • "Too often Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon did not read carefully what Clarke wrote, and thus they frequently misinterpret him by ascribing intentions to him that cannot be sustained from his own words."[5]:28
  • "There is much evidence in the JST to show that when the Prophet removed or replaced words, he had a tendency to save the deleted words and place them elsewhere, and this [Psalms 33:2] is a good example. All of these revisions are the opposite of what Clarke wanted."[5]:30
  • [there are] "several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made."[5]:31
  • "In his commentary on the surrounding verses in Isaiah 34, Clarke makes several suggestions for revising the text. The fact that none of those suggestions are reflected in Joseph Smith’s translation adds to the unlikelihood that Clarke was the Prophet’s source here at all."[5]:33
  • Regarding Mark 8, "Clarke provides what he felt was better wording for four passages in this chapter. Joseph Smith’s translations contains none of them. And Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in the chapter, some of them rather extensive, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke."[5]:39
  • "There is even further reason to rule out Clarke as the source for this change [in John 2:24]. [Clarke's] commentary on John 2 has over 3,000 words, and he recommends changing the text in ten places. Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in this short chapter, but this is the only one that resembles anything in Clarke. Why, among Clarke’s thousands of words and scores of thoughtful insights, would Joseph Smith make only this one small revision of minimal consequence if he had Clarke’s commentary in front of him?"[5]:40
  • "Wayment states that Adam Clarke 'shaped Smith’s Bible revision in fundamental ways.' Even if all of the passages he attributes to Clarke were really influenced by Clarke, it seems difficult to justify such a sweeping statement, given the mostly minor rewordings that we have seen. If among the verses listed above are the best examples, as Wilson-Lemmon states,102 then the Adam Clarke-JST theory can be dismissed out of hand."[5]:53

Jackson concluded that "none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means."[5]:15

Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past,[11] wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."[12]

To be sure, neither Jackson nor Barney are opposed to the idea that there could be secondary source influence on the production of the JST. Thus, this is a faith-neutral issue for both.

At the 2022 FAIR Conference held in Provo, UT, Professor Kent Jackson responded to the theory directly and in depth.[13]


Was the JST ever completed?

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."[14]

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. Joseph was, however, collecting funds to publish the JST—which indicates that he believed it was ready for public use and consumption.

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.[15]

We again see that the JST or any other scripture is not the ultimate source of LDS doctrine—having a living prophet is what is most vital.

Why does the Church continue to use the KJV instead of the JST as its official bible?

The answer to this question is complex. There is no single reason; instead, there are many:

  1. There is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would require both prophetic instruction and a sustaining vote of the membership.
  2. The original manuscripts for the JST were retained by Emma Smith when the Saints went west. She later gave them to her son, Joseph III, and he had the first JST Bible printed under the auspices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this time there was a great deal of animosity between the LDS and RLDS churches; Brigham Young feared that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. Given that the Utah Church could not verify the translation, along with the fact that they did not own the copyright, kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. The LDS interest in the JST came much later, largely due to the scholarly work of Robert Matthews on the manuscripts in the early 1970s, and apostle Bruce R. McConkie's embrace of the JST.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST could cause a stumbling block for converts. The doctrine of Joseph Smith, modern prophets, and modern books of scripture are already difficult for many Christians to consider. In this sense, the KJV serves as a connection between the LDS Church and the remainder of the Christian world.
  4. Portions of the JST have been canonized: Our Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew are excerpts from the JST.

In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work—it included multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST. (Ironically, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before critics of the Church began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[16])

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use.[17]

Among Church leaders, Elder Bruce R. McConkie was especially vocal about the JST. In 1980, he said:

[Joseph] translated the Book of Abraham and what is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This latter is a marvelously inspired work; it is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. By pure revelation, he inserted many new concepts and views as, for instance, the material in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis about Melchizedek. Some chapters he rewrote and realigned so that the things said in them take on a new perspective and meaning, such as the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and the first chapter in the gospel of John.[18]

In 1985 Elder McConkie told members during a satellite broadcast:

As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.[19]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Why does the JST translation of Genesis (the Pearl of Great Price's Book of Moses) contain New Testament language?

The Book of Moses comes from the few chapters of the JST—it is essentially the JST of the first chapters of Genesis.

The translation includes many phrases from the New Testament. The following occurences of New Testament language and concepts reflected in the Book of Moses were documented by David M. Calabro—a Latter-day Saint and Curator of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University.[20]

Phrase Location in Book of Moses Location in New Testament
"Only Begotten" and "Only Begotten Son" Moses 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32, 33; 2:1, 26, 27; 3:18; 4:1, 3, 28, 5:7, 9, 57; 6:52, 57, 59, 62; 7:50, 59, 62 John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9
"transfigured before" God Moses 1:11 Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2
"get thee hence, Satan" Moses 1:16 Matthew 4:10
the Holy Ghost "beareth record" of the Father and the Son Moses 1:24; 5:9 1 John 5:7
"by the word of my power" Moses 1:32, 35; 2:5 Hebrews 1:3
"full of grace and truth" Moses 1:32, 5:7 John 1:14; cf. John 1:17
"immortality and eternal life" Moses 1:39 Both terms are absent from the Old Testament but are relatively frequent in the New Testament: immortality occurs six times, all in Pauline epistles; eternal life occurs twenty-six times in the Gospels, Pauline epistles, epistles of John, and Jude; "eternal life" also appears elsewhere like in Moses 5:11; 6:59; 7:45.
"them that believe" Moses 1:42; 4:32 Mark 16:17; John 1:12; Romans 3:22; 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 14:22; Galatians 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 10:39; the contrasting phrase "them that do not believe" also appears (Rom. 15:31; 1 Cor. 10:27; 14:22)
"I am the Beginning and the End" Moses 2:1 Revelation 21:6; 22:13
"Beloved Son" as a title of Christ Moses 4:2 Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17; the phrase "beloved son" appears elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 20:13; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) and in the Greek Septuagint of Gen. 22:2, but it is absent from the Hebrew and KJV Old Testament.
"my Chosen," as a title of Christ Moses 4:2; 7:39 Compare "chosen of God" in reference to Christ in Luke 23:35 and 1 Pet. 2:4
"thy will be done" Moses 4:2 Matthew 6:10; 26:42; Luke 11:2
"the glory be thine forever" Moses 4:2 Compare Matthew 6:13 - "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever;" note the proximity of this phrase to "thy will be done" both in Moses 4:2 and in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–1.
"by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that [Satan] should be cast down" Moses 4:3 Compare Revelation 12:10 - "Now is come . . . the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down"; note that the Hebrew title Satan means "accuser"
"the devil" Moses 4:4 Sixty-one instances in the New Testament, translating the Greek word diabolos
"carnal, sensual, and devilish" Moses 5:13; 6:49 James 3:15 "earthly, sensual, and devilish"
"Satan desireth to have thee" Moses 5:23 Luke 22:31 "Satan hath desired to have you"
"Perdition," as the title of a person Moses 5:24 Compare "the son of perdition" in John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the word perdition as an abstract noun meaning "destruction" (translating the Greek word apoleia) occurs elsewhere in the King James version of the New Testament (Philippians 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, 11)
"the Gospel" Moses 5:58, 59, 8:19 Eighty-three instances in the New Testament; the word gospel, irrespective of the English definite article, occurs 101 times in the New Testament but is not found in the Old Testament.
"holy angels" Moses 5:58 Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22 (singular "holy angel"); Revelation 14:10
"gift of the Holy Ghost" Moses 5:58; 6:52 Acts 2:38; 10:45
"anointing" the eyes in order to see Moses 6:35 – "anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see" Compare John 9:6–7, 11 (Jesus anoints the eyes of a blind man with clay and commands him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he "came seeing"); Revelation 3:18 (the Lord tells the church in Laodicea, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see"); these are the only passages in the Bible that refer to anointing the eyes
"no man laid hands on him" Moses 6:39 John 7:30, 44; 8:20
"my God, and your God" Moses 6:43 John 20:17
"only name under heaven whereby salvation shall come" Moses 6:52 Acts 4:12
collocation of water, blood, and Spirit Moses 6:59-60 1 John 5:6, 8
"born again of water and the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit"; "born again"; "born of water and of the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit" Moses 6:59, 65 John 3:3, 5-8
"the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" Moses 6:59 Matthew 13:11. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is absent from the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found only in Matthew (thirty-two occurrences), but it is frequent in rabbinic literature
"cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten" Moses 6:59 Compare 1 John 1:7 ("the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin")
"the words of eternal life" Moses 6:59 John 6:68
eternal life "in the world to come" Moses 6:59 Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; the phrase "the world to come" is absent from the Old Testament but occurs five times in the New Testament; other than the two just quoted, see Matthew 12:32; Hebrews 2:5; 6:5
"by the Spirit ye are justified" Moses 6:60 Compare 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:16
"the Comforter," referring to the Holy Ghost Moses 6:61 John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7
"the inner man" Moses 6:65 Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16
"baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost" Moses 6:66 Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16
"they were of one heart and one mind" Moses 7:18 Compare Acts 4:32
"in the bosom of the Father," referring to heaven Moses 7:24, 47 John 1:18 (note that JST deletes this phrase in this verse, perhaps implying that it entered the text sometime after its original composition)
"a great chain in his hand" Moses 7:26 Revelation 20:1 (here the one holding the chain is an angel, unlike Moses 7:26, in which it is the devil)
commandment to "love one another" Moses 7:33 John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5
"without affection" Moses 7:33 Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3
"the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world" Moses 7:47 Compare Revelation 13:8 – "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," as a noun phrase); the term "the Lamb" is used as a title of the Messiah only in the New Testament and is distinctively Johannine (John 1:29, 36; twenty-seven instances in Revelation), and the words lamb and slain collocate only in Revelation 5:6, 12; 13:8.
"climb up" by a gate or door, as a metaphor of progression through Christ Moses 7:53 John 10:1

Video by The Interpreter Foundation.


This language can be explained by a few possible factors, not all mutually exclusive.

"After the Manner of Their Language" – Doctrine & Covenants 1:24

The first possibility to consider is that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Moses into a vernacular that was comprehensible to his 19th century audience. Joseph's contemporaries were steeped in biblical language and used it even in everyday speech. The language of the New Testament was the natural way to discuss certain theological ideas.

D&C 1꞉24 tells us that in revelation, God uses the language of his audience to communicate effectively" Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."[21]

An early Christian context for the creation of the Book of Moses

Another possibility is that the Book of Moses was originally written in an early Christian context. That would place the composition of the Book of Moses in the 1st and 2nd century AD (about 1900 to 1800 years ago). Calabro outlined and defended this theory.[20] Calabro argues that the Book of Moses can still preserve actual events from the life of Moses while placing the story in a Christian context describing it with Christian language. Thus, Joseph Smith could actually be restoring lost understanding of Moses—but that information has already been filtered through New Testament language.

One potential weakness of this theory is that it disrupts the understanding of many Church members about the Book of Moses, since it has more traditionally been seen as a restoration of Moses' writings in Genesis. However, Joseph Smith does not seem to have left a detailed account of what the Book of Moses represents. Joseph saw the JST as a restoration of "many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled."[22]

This theory could also, in essence, be turned on its head, making an ancient version of the Book of Moses the source of subsequent Christian writing. Latter-day Saint author Jeff Lindsay and former BYU professor Noel Reynolds have theorized that the Book of Moses influenced the language of the Book of Mormon via the brass plates or another source.[23]

Similar messages to different nations

Speaking in reference to the Bible, the Book of Mormon has God announce that "I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two enations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."[24]

It is certainly possible that the same concepts were revealed to Moses with similar language as that used in the New Testament.

Conclusion—New Testament and the Book of Moses

There are therefore multiple models which would explain the similarity between the Book of Moses and the New Testament. Given that the Book of Moses claims to be a translation, it is hardly strange that it would echo another translation (the KJV bible) that discusses the same ideas and issues.

Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17꞉22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

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.

Is the Church "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence

Some critics have claimed that the Church is "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. [25]

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence. The claim was made in 1977. In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work. Thus, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before the Tanners began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[26] It had multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST.

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use. Some examples of this effort published around the time the Tanners were making their claim include:

  • Robert J. Matthews, “The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration,” Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site
  • Monte S. Nyman, “Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site

The Church is not, and was not, embarrassed by the JST. In its historical context, the critics' claim is incredibly ill-informed.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

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[27] 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.[28]

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

Learn more about the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the bible
Key sources
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
FAIR links
  • Jeffrey Bradshaw, "The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden," Proceedings of the 2008 FAIR Conference (August 2008). link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
Online
  • W. John Welsh, "Why Didn't Joseph Correct KJV Errors When Translating the JST?", lightplanet.com off-site
  • Garold N. Davis, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [123–129] link
  • Kevin L. Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85–102.off-site
  • Cynthia L. Hallen, "Redeeming the Desolate Woman: The Message of Isaiah 54 and 3 Nephi 22," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998). [40–47] link
  • Matthew L. Bowen, "'They Shall Be Scattered Again': Some Notes on JST Genesis 50:24–25, 33–35," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 57/4 (23 June 2023). [107–128] link
  • Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph Smith's Translation Projects under a Microscope," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/15 (18 December 2020). [257–264] link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  • Spencer Kraus, "An Unfortunate Approach to Joseph Smith's Translation of Ancient Scripture," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 52/1 (17 June 2022). [1–64] link
  • Mark J. Johnson, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [130–138] link
  • Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4/1 (1992). [235–250] link
  • Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005). [12–25] link
  • A. Don Sorensen, "'The Problem of the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi (Review of “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone September–October 1982, 20–27)'," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [117–148] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "'Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books'," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [166–174] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Book of Mormon and the Problem of the Sermon on the Mount," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [153–165] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The 'Isaiah Problem' in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [129–152] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Isaiah Quotation: 2 Nephi 12–24," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [192–208] link
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Review of 'Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah.' in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 157–234.)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [161–172] link
  • Kurt Manwaring, “10 questions with Thomas Wayment”.
  • LDS Perspectives, Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment .
  • Thomas Wayment and Haley Wilson, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation".
Video
Video published by BYU Religious Education.

Print
  • Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985).
  • Matthew B. Brown, "The Restoration of Biblical Texts," in All Things Restored, 2d ed. (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2006),159–181. AISN B000R4LXSM. ISBN 1577347129.
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism—Discrepancies between KJV, JST, and Book of Mormon
Critical sources


Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. "History of Joseph Smith," 592; 1 Nephi 13:28; see 13:23–29.
  4. Kent P. Jackson, Understanding Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022), 34–35.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  6. Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," Journal of Undergraduate Research (March 2017) off-site
  7. Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, "A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, eds. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 262–84.
  8. Thomas A. Wayment, "Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, and the Making of a Bible Revision," Journal of Mormon History 46, no. 3 (July 2020): 1–22.
  9. Transcript of Laura Harris Hales, "Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment," LDS Perspectives, September 26, 2019, https://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/09/26/jst-adam-clarke-commentary/.
  10. Kurt Manwaring, "10 Questions with Thomas Wayment," From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring, January 2, 2019, https://www.fromthedesk.org/10-questions-thomas-wayment/.
  11. See, for instance, Kevin L. Barney, "A Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Revision of First Corinthians," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 57–105.
  12. Kevin Barney, "On Secondary Source Influence in the JST," By Common Consent, April 16, 2021, https://bycommonconsent.com/2021/04/16/on-secondary-source-infuence-in-the-jst/
  13. Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
  14. Kent P. Jackson, "New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," in Religious Educator 6, no. 3 (2005): 149–160 (link).
  15. George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 142.
  16. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  17. Robert J. Matthews, "The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration," Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site; "Plain and Precious Things Restored," Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site; "Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’," Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site; Monte S. Nyman, "Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible," Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site
  18. Bruce R. McConkie, "This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You," Ensign (June 1980): 54.
  19. Bruce R. McConkie, "https://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/12/come-hear-the-voice-of-the-lord?lang=eng Come: Hear the Voice of the Lord]," Ensign (December 1985): 54.
  20. 20.0 20.1 David M. Calabro, "An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 47/7 (20 September 2021). [181–262] link
  21. See also 2 Nephi 31꞉3.
  22. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 10–11.
  23. Jeff Lindsay and Noel B. Reynolds, "'Strong Like unto Moses': The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Related Content Apparently from the Brass Plates," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 44/1 (26 March 2021). [1–92] link Noel B. Reynolds, "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 34/5 (15 November 2019). [63–96] link
  24. 2 Nephi 29:8
  25. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 385.( Index of claims )
  26. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  27. 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.
  28. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.
Articles about Joseph Smith

Articles about the Holy Bible

What is the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST)?

Is the JST intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text?

Video published by BYU Religious Education.


The JST is not intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text.

As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on churchofjesuschrist.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible."

Two main points should be kept in mind with regards to the Joseph Smith "translation" of the Bible:

  • The JST is not intended primarily or solely as restoration of text. Many mainline LDS scholars who have focused on the JST (such as Robert J. Matthews and Kent Jackson) are unanimous in this regard. The assumption that it is intended primarily or solely as a restoration of text is what leads to expectations that the JST and Book of Mormon should match up in every case. At times the JST does not even match up with itself, such as when Joseph Smith translated the same passage multiple times in different ways. This does not undermine notions of revelation, but certainly challenges common assumptions about the nature and function of Joseph's understanding of "translation".
  • One of the main tendencies of the JST is harmonization. Readers are well aware of differences in Jesus' sayings between different Gospels. For example, Jesus' statements about whether divorce is permitted and under what conditions differ significantly. Matthew offers an exception clause that Mark and Luke do not, and this has severely complicated the historical interpretation of Jesus' view of divorce.
The JST often makes changes that harmonize one gospel with another. While one gospel says "judge not" (though this may not be as absolute as some make it out to be), John 7:24 has Jesus commanding to "judge righteous judgment." The JST change harmonizes the two gospels by making Matthew agree with John. If there is a real difference between being commanded to "Judge righteously" and being commanded to "Judge not", then it is a problem inherently present in the differing accounts of the Gospels, which the JST resolves.

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.[1]

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.[2]

What is the relationship between the JST and biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation does claim to be, in part, a restoration of the original content of the Bible. This may have been done (a) by reproducing the text as it was originally written down; or, (b) it may have been about reproducing the original intent and clarifying the message of the original author of the text in question. We are not entirely sure, but in either case the JST does claim to be, in part, a restoration.

Critics who fault the JST because it doesn't match known manuscripts of the Bible are being too hasty: we do not have the original manuscripts of any text of the Bible, nor do we know the exact nature of every change made in the JST and whether a particular change was meant to be a restoration of original text.

Kent P. Jackson, another leading expert on the JST, wrote:

Some may choose to find fault with the Joseph Smith Translation because they do not see correlations between the text on ancient manuscripts. The supposition would be that if the JST revisions were justifiable, they would agree with the earliest existing manuscripts of the biblical books. This reasoning is misdirected in two ways. First, it assumes that extant ancient manuscripts accurately reproduce the original test, and both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon teach otherwise.[3] Because the earliest Old and New Testament manuscripts date from long after the original documents were written, we no longer have original manuscripts to compare with Joseph Smith's revisions. The second problem with faulting the JST because it does not match ancient texts is that to do so assumes that all the revisions Joseph Smith made were intended to restore original text. We have no record of him making that claim, and even in places in which the JST would restore original text it would do so not in Hebrew or Greek but in Modern English and in the scriptural idiom of early nineteenth-century America. Revisions that fit in others of the categories listed above are likewise in modern English, "given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language" (D&C 1꞉24)/[4]

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". 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. As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible". 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. In general, it 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.

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.

What was the translation procedure used by Joseph Smith and his scribes to produce the JST?

Kent Jackson reports:

The original manuscripts of the JST, as well as the Bible used in the revision, still exist. They show the following process at work: Joseph Smith had his Bible in front of him, likely in his lap or on a table, and he dictated the translation to his scribes, who recorded what they heard him say. ... there are no parts of the translation in which the scribes "copied out the text of the Bible." The evidence on the manuscripts is clear that this did not happen. The Prophet dictated without punctuation and verse breaks, and those features were inserted as a separate process after the text was complete. [Some have argued that after supposedly] copying of text out of the Bible, the scribes then inserted the "numerous strikethroughs of words and phrases, interlinear insertions, and omissions," and thus Joseph Smith’s revised text was born. But the overwhelming majority of the revisions were in the original dictation and are simply part of the original writing on the manuscripts. There are indeed strikeouts and interlinear insertions on the manuscripts, but they came during a second pass through parts of the manuscripts and comprise only a minority of the revisions Joseph Smith made.[5]:20-21

Did Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary significanly influence the JST?

In March 2017, Thomas Wayment, professor of Classics at Brigham Young University, published a paper in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research titled "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation". In a summary of their research, Wayment and his research assistant wrote:

Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible has attracted significant attention in recent decades, drawing the interest of a wide variety of academics and those who affirm its nearly canonical status in the LDS scriptural canon. More recently, in conducting new research into the origins of Smith’s Bible translation, we uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s famous Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, was a mainstay for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Direct borrowing from this source has not previously been connected to Smith’s translation efforts, and the fundamental question of what Smith meant by the term "translation" with respect to his efforts to rework the biblical text can now be reconsidered in light of this new evidence. What is noteworthy in detailing the usage of this source is that Adam Clarke’s textual emendations come through Smith’s translation as inspired changes to the text. Moreover, the question of what Smith meant by the term translation should be broadened to include what now appears to have been an academic interest to update the text of the Bible. This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith’s translation projects, particularly his Bible project, and how he used academic sources while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text. In presenting the evidence for Smith’s usage of Clarke, our paper also addressed the larger question of what it means for Smith to have used an academic/theological Bible commentary in the process of producing a text that he subsequently defined as a translation. In doing so, we first presented the evidence for Smith’s reliance upon Adam Clarke to establish the nature of Smith’s usage of Clarke. Following that discussion, we engaged the question of how Smith approached the question of the quality of the King James Bible (hereafter KJV) translation that he was using in 1830 and what the term translation meant to both Smith and his close associates. Finally, we offered a suggestion as to how Smith came to use Clarke, as well as assessing the overall question of what these findings suggest regarding Smith as a translator and his various translation projects.

Our research has revealed that the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary are simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds, a number that is well beyond the limits of this paper to discuss. A few of them, however, demonstrate Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance. In presenting the evidence, we have attempted to both establish that Smith drew upon Clarke, likely at the urging of Rigdon, and we present here a broad categorization of the types of changes that Smith made when he used Clarke as a source.[6]

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon then published a more detailed account of their findings together in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity (2020) edited by BYU professor Michael Hubbard MacKay, Joseph Smith Papers researcher Mark Ashurst-McGee, and former BYU professor Brian M. Hauglid.[7] Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.[8]

Wayment outlined what he and Haley Wilson believed they had found:

What we found, a student assistant (Hailey Wilson Lamone) and I, we discovered that in about 200 to 300 — depending on how much change is being involved — parallels where Joseph Smith has the exact same change to a verse that Adam Clarke does. They’re verbatim. Some of them are 5 to 6 words; some of them are 2 words; some of them are a single word. But in cases where that single word is fairly unique or different, it seemed pretty obvious that he’s getting this from Adam Clarke. What really changed my worldview here is now I’m looking at what appears obvious as a text person, that the prophet has used Adam Clarke. That in the process of doing the translation, he’s either read it, has it in front of him, or he reads it at night. We started to look back through the Joseph Smith History. There’s a story of his brother-in-law presenting Joseph Smith with a copy of Adam Clarke. We do not know whose copy of Adam Clarke it is, but we do know that Nathaniel Lewis gives it to the prophet and says, "I want to use the Urim and Thummim. I want to translate some of the strange characters out of Adam Clarke’s commentary." Joseph will clearly not give him the Urim and Thummim to do that, but we know he had it in his hands. Now looking at the text, we can say that a lot of the material that happens after Genesis 24. There are no parallels to Clarke between Genesis 1–Genesis 24. But when we start to get to Matthew, it’s very clear that Adam Clarke has influenced the way he changes the Bible. It was a big moment. That article comes out in the next year. We provide appendi [sic] and documentation for some of the major changes, and we try to grapple with what this might mean.[9]

Accusation of plagiarism

In another interview with Kurt Manwaring, Wayment addressed the charge of plagiarism directly:

When news inadvertently broke that a source had been uncovered that was used in the process of creating the JST, some were quick to use that information as a point of criticism against Joseph or against the JST. Words like "plagiarism" were quickly brought forward as a reasonable explanation of what was going on. To be clear, plagiarism is a word that to me implies an overt attempt to copy the work of another person directly and intentionally without attributing any recognition to the source from which the information was taken.

To the best of my understanding, Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke as a Bible commentary to guide his mind and thought process to consider the Bible in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise. It may be strong to say, but Joseph didn’t have training in ancient languages or the history of the Bible, but Adam Clarke did. And Joseph appears to have appreciated Clarke’s expertise and in using Clarke as a source, Joseph at times adopted the language of that source as he revised the Bible. I think that those who are troubled by this process are largely troubled because it contradicts a certain constructed narrative about the history of the JST and about how revelation works.

The reality of what happened is inspiring.

Joseph, who applied his own prophetic authority to the Bible in the revision process, drew upon the best available scholarship to guide his prophetic instincts. Inspiration following careful study and consideration is a prophetic model that can include many members of the church.

I hope people who read the study when it comes out will pause long enough to consider the benefit of expanding the definition of the prophetic gift to include academic study as a key component before rejecting the evidence outright.[10]

Mark Ashurst McGee of the Joseph Smith Papers team made similar points as those of Wayment at the 2020 FAIR Conference held in Provo:


A rebuttal to the Adam Clarke hypothesis

In October 2020, Kent P. Jackson (Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and a leading expert on the JST) responded to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's work.[5]

Jackson's paper identified several striking weakness to the Adam Clarke hypothesis. These include:

  • "I have examined in detail every one of the JST passages they set forth as having been influenced by Clarke, and I have examined what Clarke wrote about those passages. I now believe that the conclusions they reached regarding those connections cannot be sustained. I do not believe that there is [Page 17] Adam Clarke-JST connection at all, and I have seen no evidence that Joseph Smith ever used Clarke’s commentary in his revision of the Bible. None of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have set forward as examples, in my opinion, can withstand careful scrutiny."[5]:16-17
  • "Too often Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon did not read carefully what Clarke wrote, and thus they frequently misinterpret him by ascribing intentions to him that cannot be sustained from his own words."[5]:28
  • "There is much evidence in the JST to show that when the Prophet removed or replaced words, he had a tendency to save the deleted words and place them elsewhere, and this [Psalms 33:2] is a good example. All of these revisions are the opposite of what Clarke wanted."[5]:30
  • [there are] "several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made."[5]:31
  • "In his commentary on the surrounding verses in Isaiah 34, Clarke makes several suggestions for revising the text. The fact that none of those suggestions are reflected in Joseph Smith’s translation adds to the unlikelihood that Clarke was the Prophet’s source here at all."[5]:33
  • Regarding Mark 8, "Clarke provides what he felt was better wording for four passages in this chapter. Joseph Smith’s translations contains none of them. And Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in the chapter, some of them rather extensive, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke."[5]:39
  • "There is even further reason to rule out Clarke as the source for this change [in John 2:24]. [Clarke's] commentary on John 2 has over 3,000 words, and he recommends changing the text in ten places. Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in this short chapter, but this is the only one that resembles anything in Clarke. Why, among Clarke’s thousands of words and scores of thoughtful insights, would Joseph Smith make only this one small revision of minimal consequence if he had Clarke’s commentary in front of him?"[5]:40
  • "Wayment states that Adam Clarke 'shaped Smith’s Bible revision in fundamental ways.' Even if all of the passages he attributes to Clarke were really influenced by Clarke, it seems difficult to justify such a sweeping statement, given the mostly minor rewordings that we have seen. If among the verses listed above are the best examples, as Wilson-Lemmon states,102 then the Adam Clarke-JST theory can be dismissed out of hand."[5]:53

Jackson concluded that "none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means."[5]:15

Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past,[11] wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."[12]

To be sure, neither Jackson nor Barney are opposed to the idea that there could be secondary source influence on the production of the JST. Thus, this is a faith-neutral issue for both.

At the 2022 FAIR Conference held in Provo, UT, Professor Kent Jackson responded to the theory directly and in depth.[13]


Was the JST ever completed?

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."[14]

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. Joseph was, however, collecting funds to publish the JST—which indicates that he believed it was ready for public use and consumption.

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.[15]

We again see that the JST or any other scripture is not the ultimate source of LDS doctrine—having a living prophet is what is most vital.

Why does the Church continue to use the KJV instead of the JST as its official bible?

The answer to this question is complex. There is no single reason; instead, there are many:

  1. There is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would require both prophetic instruction and a sustaining vote of the membership.
  2. The original manuscripts for the JST were retained by Emma Smith when the Saints went west. She later gave them to her son, Joseph III, and he had the first JST Bible printed under the auspices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this time there was a great deal of animosity between the LDS and RLDS churches; Brigham Young feared that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. Given that the Utah Church could not verify the translation, along with the fact that they did not own the copyright, kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. The LDS interest in the JST came much later, largely due to the scholarly work of Robert Matthews on the manuscripts in the early 1970s, and apostle Bruce R. McConkie's embrace of the JST.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST could cause a stumbling block for converts. The doctrine of Joseph Smith, modern prophets, and modern books of scripture are already difficult for many Christians to consider. In this sense, the KJV serves as a connection between the LDS Church and the remainder of the Christian world.
  4. Portions of the JST have been canonized: Our Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew are excerpts from the JST.

In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work—it included multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST. (Ironically, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before critics of the Church began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[16])

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use.[17]

Among Church leaders, Elder Bruce R. McConkie was especially vocal about the JST. In 1980, he said:

[Joseph] translated the Book of Abraham and what is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This latter is a marvelously inspired work; it is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. By pure revelation, he inserted many new concepts and views as, for instance, the material in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis about Melchizedek. Some chapters he rewrote and realigned so that the things said in them take on a new perspective and meaning, such as the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and the first chapter in the gospel of John.[18]

In 1985 Elder McConkie told members during a satellite broadcast:

As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.[19]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Why does the JST translation of Genesis (the Pearl of Great Price's Book of Moses) contain New Testament language?

The Book of Moses comes from the few chapters of the JST—it is essentially the JST of the first chapters of Genesis.

The translation includes many phrases from the New Testament. The following occurences of New Testament language and concepts reflected in the Book of Moses were documented by David M. Calabro—a Latter-day Saint and Curator of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University.[20]

Phrase Location in Book of Moses Location in New Testament
"Only Begotten" and "Only Begotten Son" Moses 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32, 33; 2:1, 26, 27; 3:18; 4:1, 3, 28, 5:7, 9, 57; 6:52, 57, 59, 62; 7:50, 59, 62 John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9
"transfigured before" God Moses 1:11 Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2
"get thee hence, Satan" Moses 1:16 Matthew 4:10
the Holy Ghost "beareth record" of the Father and the Son Moses 1:24; 5:9 1 John 5:7
"by the word of my power" Moses 1:32, 35; 2:5 Hebrews 1:3
"full of grace and truth" Moses 1:32, 5:7 John 1:14; cf. John 1:17
"immortality and eternal life" Moses 1:39 Both terms are absent from the Old Testament but are relatively frequent in the New Testament: immortality occurs six times, all in Pauline epistles; eternal life occurs twenty-six times in the Gospels, Pauline epistles, epistles of John, and Jude; "eternal life" also appears elsewhere like in Moses 5:11; 6:59; 7:45.
"them that believe" Moses 1:42; 4:32 Mark 16:17; John 1:12; Romans 3:22; 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 14:22; Galatians 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 10:39; the contrasting phrase "them that do not believe" also appears (Rom. 15:31; 1 Cor. 10:27; 14:22)
"I am the Beginning and the End" Moses 2:1 Revelation 21:6; 22:13
"Beloved Son" as a title of Christ Moses 4:2 Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17; the phrase "beloved son" appears elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 20:13; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) and in the Greek Septuagint of Gen. 22:2, but it is absent from the Hebrew and KJV Old Testament.
"my Chosen," as a title of Christ Moses 4:2; 7:39 Compare "chosen of God" in reference to Christ in Luke 23:35 and 1 Pet. 2:4
"thy will be done" Moses 4:2 Matthew 6:10; 26:42; Luke 11:2
"the glory be thine forever" Moses 4:2 Compare Matthew 6:13 - "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever;" note the proximity of this phrase to "thy will be done" both in Moses 4:2 and in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–1.
"by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that [Satan] should be cast down" Moses 4:3 Compare Revelation 12:10 - "Now is come . . . the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down"; note that the Hebrew title Satan means "accuser"
"the devil" Moses 4:4 Sixty-one instances in the New Testament, translating the Greek word diabolos
"carnal, sensual, and devilish" Moses 5:13; 6:49 James 3:15 "earthly, sensual, and devilish"
"Satan desireth to have thee" Moses 5:23 Luke 22:31 "Satan hath desired to have you"
"Perdition," as the title of a person Moses 5:24 Compare "the son of perdition" in John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the word perdition as an abstract noun meaning "destruction" (translating the Greek word apoleia) occurs elsewhere in the King James version of the New Testament (Philippians 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, 11)
"the Gospel" Moses 5:58, 59, 8:19 Eighty-three instances in the New Testament; the word gospel, irrespective of the English definite article, occurs 101 times in the New Testament but is not found in the Old Testament.
"holy angels" Moses 5:58 Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22 (singular "holy angel"); Revelation 14:10
"gift of the Holy Ghost" Moses 5:58; 6:52 Acts 2:38; 10:45
"anointing" the eyes in order to see Moses 6:35 – "anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see" Compare John 9:6–7, 11 (Jesus anoints the eyes of a blind man with clay and commands him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he "came seeing"); Revelation 3:18 (the Lord tells the church in Laodicea, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see"); these are the only passages in the Bible that refer to anointing the eyes
"no man laid hands on him" Moses 6:39 John 7:30, 44; 8:20
"my God, and your God" Moses 6:43 John 20:17
"only name under heaven whereby salvation shall come" Moses 6:52 Acts 4:12
collocation of water, blood, and Spirit Moses 6:59-60 1 John 5:6, 8
"born again of water and the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit"; "born again"; "born of water and of the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit" Moses 6:59, 65 John 3:3, 5-8
"the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" Moses 6:59 Matthew 13:11. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is absent from the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found only in Matthew (thirty-two occurrences), but it is frequent in rabbinic literature
"cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten" Moses 6:59 Compare 1 John 1:7 ("the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin")
"the words of eternal life" Moses 6:59 John 6:68
eternal life "in the world to come" Moses 6:59 Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; the phrase "the world to come" is absent from the Old Testament but occurs five times in the New Testament; other than the two just quoted, see Matthew 12:32; Hebrews 2:5; 6:5
"by the Spirit ye are justified" Moses 6:60 Compare 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:16
"the Comforter," referring to the Holy Ghost Moses 6:61 John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7
"the inner man" Moses 6:65 Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16
"baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost" Moses 6:66 Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16
"they were of one heart and one mind" Moses 7:18 Compare Acts 4:32
"in the bosom of the Father," referring to heaven Moses 7:24, 47 John 1:18 (note that JST deletes this phrase in this verse, perhaps implying that it entered the text sometime after its original composition)
"a great chain in his hand" Moses 7:26 Revelation 20:1 (here the one holding the chain is an angel, unlike Moses 7:26, in which it is the devil)
commandment to "love one another" Moses 7:33 John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5
"without affection" Moses 7:33 Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3
"the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world" Moses 7:47 Compare Revelation 13:8 – "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," as a noun phrase); the term "the Lamb" is used as a title of the Messiah only in the New Testament and is distinctively Johannine (John 1:29, 36; twenty-seven instances in Revelation), and the words lamb and slain collocate only in Revelation 5:6, 12; 13:8.
"climb up" by a gate or door, as a metaphor of progression through Christ Moses 7:53 John 10:1

Video by The Interpreter Foundation.


This language can be explained by a few possible factors, not all mutually exclusive.

"After the Manner of Their Language" – Doctrine & Covenants 1:24

The first possibility to consider is that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Moses into a vernacular that was comprehensible to his 19th century audience. Joseph's contemporaries were steeped in biblical language and used it even in everyday speech. The language of the New Testament was the natural way to discuss certain theological ideas.

D&C 1꞉24 tells us that in revelation, God uses the language of his audience to communicate effectively" Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."[21]

An early Christian context for the creation of the Book of Moses

Another possibility is that the Book of Moses was originally written in an early Christian context. That would place the composition of the Book of Moses in the 1st and 2nd century AD (about 1900 to 1800 years ago). Calabro outlined and defended this theory.[20] Calabro argues that the Book of Moses can still preserve actual events from the life of Moses while placing the story in a Christian context describing it with Christian language. Thus, Joseph Smith could actually be restoring lost understanding of Moses—but that information has already been filtered through New Testament language.

One potential weakness of this theory is that it disrupts the understanding of many Church members about the Book of Moses, since it has more traditionally been seen as a restoration of Moses' writings in Genesis. However, Joseph Smith does not seem to have left a detailed account of what the Book of Moses represents. Joseph saw the JST as a restoration of "many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled."[22]

This theory could also, in essence, be turned on its head, making an ancient version of the Book of Moses the source of subsequent Christian writing. Latter-day Saint author Jeff Lindsay and former BYU professor Noel Reynolds have theorized that the Book of Moses influenced the language of the Book of Mormon via the brass plates or another source.[23]

Similar messages to different nations

Speaking in reference to the Bible, the Book of Mormon has God announce that "I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two enations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."[24]

It is certainly possible that the same concepts were revealed to Moses with similar language as that used in the New Testament.

Conclusion—New Testament and the Book of Moses

There are therefore multiple models which would explain the similarity between the Book of Moses and the New Testament. Given that the Book of Moses claims to be a translation, it is hardly strange that it would echo another translation (the KJV bible) that discusses the same ideas and issues.

Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17꞉22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

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.

Is the Church "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence

Some critics have claimed that the Church is "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. [25]

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence. The claim was made in 1977. In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work. Thus, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before the Tanners began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[26] It had multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST.

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use. Some examples of this effort published around the time the Tanners were making their claim include:

  • Robert J. Matthews, “The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration,” Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site
  • Monte S. Nyman, “Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site

The Church is not, and was not, embarrassed by the JST. In its historical context, the critics' claim is incredibly ill-informed.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

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[27] 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.[28]

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

Learn more about the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the bible
Key sources
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
FAIR links
  • Jeffrey Bradshaw, "The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden," Proceedings of the 2008 FAIR Conference (August 2008). link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
Online
  • W. John Welsh, "Why Didn't Joseph Correct KJV Errors When Translating the JST?", lightplanet.com off-site
  • Garold N. Davis, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [123–129] link
  • Kevin L. Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85–102.off-site
  • Cynthia L. Hallen, "Redeeming the Desolate Woman: The Message of Isaiah 54 and 3 Nephi 22," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998). [40–47] link
  • Matthew L. Bowen, "'They Shall Be Scattered Again': Some Notes on JST Genesis 50:24–25, 33–35," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 57/4 (23 June 2023). [107–128] link
  • Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph Smith's Translation Projects under a Microscope," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/15 (18 December 2020). [257–264] link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  • Spencer Kraus, "An Unfortunate Approach to Joseph Smith's Translation of Ancient Scripture," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 52/1 (17 June 2022). [1–64] link
  • Mark J. Johnson, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [130–138] link
  • Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4/1 (1992). [235–250] link
  • Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005). [12–25] link
  • A. Don Sorensen, "'The Problem of the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi (Review of “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone September–October 1982, 20–27)'," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [117–148] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "'Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books'," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [166–174] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Book of Mormon and the Problem of the Sermon on the Mount," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [153–165] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The 'Isaiah Problem' in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [129–152] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Isaiah Quotation: 2 Nephi 12–24," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [192–208] link
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Review of 'Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah.' in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 157–234.)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [161–172] link
  • Kurt Manwaring, “10 questions with Thomas Wayment”.
  • LDS Perspectives, Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment .
  • Thomas Wayment and Haley Wilson, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation".
Video
Video published by BYU Religious Education.

Print
  • Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985).
  • Matthew B. Brown, "The Restoration of Biblical Texts," in All Things Restored, 2d ed. (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2006),159–181. AISN B000R4LXSM. ISBN 1577347129.
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism—Discrepancies between KJV, JST, and Book of Mormon
Critical sources


Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. "History of Joseph Smith," 592; 1 Nephi 13:28; see 13:23–29.
  4. Kent P. Jackson, Understanding Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022), 34–35.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  6. Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," Journal of Undergraduate Research (March 2017) off-site
  7. Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, "A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, eds. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 262–84.
  8. Thomas A. Wayment, "Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, and the Making of a Bible Revision," Journal of Mormon History 46, no. 3 (July 2020): 1–22.
  9. Transcript of Laura Harris Hales, "Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment," LDS Perspectives, September 26, 2019, https://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/09/26/jst-adam-clarke-commentary/.
  10. Kurt Manwaring, "10 Questions with Thomas Wayment," From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring, January 2, 2019, https://www.fromthedesk.org/10-questions-thomas-wayment/.
  11. See, for instance, Kevin L. Barney, "A Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Revision of First Corinthians," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 57–105.
  12. Kevin Barney, "On Secondary Source Influence in the JST," By Common Consent, April 16, 2021, https://bycommonconsent.com/2021/04/16/on-secondary-source-infuence-in-the-jst/
  13. Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
  14. Kent P. Jackson, "New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," in Religious Educator 6, no. 3 (2005): 149–160 (link).
  15. George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 142.
  16. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  17. Robert J. Matthews, "The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration," Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site; "Plain and Precious Things Restored," Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site; "Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’," Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site; Monte S. Nyman, "Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible," Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site
  18. Bruce R. McConkie, "This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You," Ensign (June 1980): 54.
  19. Bruce R. McConkie, "https://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/12/come-hear-the-voice-of-the-lord?lang=eng Come: Hear the Voice of the Lord]," Ensign (December 1985): 54.
  20. 20.0 20.1 David M. Calabro, "An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 47/7 (20 September 2021). [181–262] link
  21. See also 2 Nephi 31꞉3.
  22. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 10–11.
  23. Jeff Lindsay and Noel B. Reynolds, "'Strong Like unto Moses': The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Related Content Apparently from the Brass Plates," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 44/1 (26 March 2021). [1–92] link Noel B. Reynolds, "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 34/5 (15 November 2019). [63–96] link
  24. 2 Nephi 29:8
  25. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 385.( Index of claims )
  26. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  27. 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.
  28. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.
Articles about the Holy Bible

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Why does the Book of Mormon's translation of Isaiah material 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 Saints 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.

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. The book itself even insists that some errors 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]

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 thus several problems with the idea that Joseph simply copied the 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 no biblical content at all. If Joseph was trying to perpetrate a fraud, why did he include near-verbatim quotations from the one book (the KJV Bible) with which his target audience was sure to be familiar?

So, what else ought we to consider regarding the Isaiah passages?

Consideration #1—Adaptation of Isaiah

There are also areas in which Nephi seems to adapt Isaiah as he "likens it unto himself." Ancient scribes and authors did not have the same preoccupation with literal, precise citation that we do. They would adapt texts to make their point, which Nephi explicitly tells us he is doing.

Some differences, then, may not reflect a textual difference at all, but instead represent Nephi's novel adaptation of the text.

To learn more:Nephi likening the scriptures
Summary: This idea is explored in more detail below.

Consideration #2—Bible text itself quotes extensively from past scripture

When considering the presence of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, we 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.[7]

When we learn 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.[8] 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 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, 25꞉5; 3 Nephi 20꞉11; 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 49), the gathering of Israel in the last days (18), the coming forth of the Book of Mormon (29), wickedness in the last days (33), and the Savior's second coming, and the millennium (13, 26, 27). While he also wrote about the Savior's first coming (32꞉1-4) and events in his own time (20,23), most of what he wrote about is yet to be fulfilled.[9]

When one considers that New Testament writers quoted hundreds of Old Testament scriptures including 76 verses from Isaiah[10] 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 cause to question the text's authenticity.

Paul has been called 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.[11]

Consideration #3—Analogy with the Dead Sea Scrolls

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 of 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.

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.[12]

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 produced via revelation—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.

Consideration #4—Accounting for the rest of the Book of Mormon

Even if we insist that Joseph plagiarized the Book of Mormon, critics have failed to show the source of the remaining 93% (when all similar texts are removed). A 100% non-biblical book of scripture wouldn't have been much more difficult to produce—so why tip his hand by quoting the Bible? This is the one text his readers would be sure to know!

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Was Joseph Smith Smarter Than the Average Fourth Year Hebrew Student? Finding a Restoration-Significant Hebraism in Book of Mormon Isaiah"

Paul Y. Hoskisson,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (2016)
The brass plates version of Isaiah 2:2, as contained in 2 Nephi 12:2, contains a small difference, not attested in any other pre-1830 Isaiah witness, that not only helps clarify the meaning but also ties the verse to events of the Restoration. The change does so by introducing a Hebraism that would have been impossible for Joseph Smith, the Prophet, to have produced on his own.

Click here to view the complete article

So, were the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon simply plagiarized from the KJV?

Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah

If a Christian is making an accusation of plagiarism, then they are, by the same logic, indicting the Bible which they share with us. Close examination of the Old Testament reveals many passages which are copied nearly word for word including grammatical errors. Micah, who lived hundreds of years after Isaiah, copied word for word in Micah 4꞉1-3 from Isaiah's prophecy in Isaiah 2꞉2-4 without ogiving him credit.[13] That would be inappropriate today, but that's simply how ancient writers used other texts. They were far less concerned with originality, or on tracing an idea's source. In fact, if an idea was new, they tended to view it with suspicion. Besides, Micah may have relied on his literate audience knowing Isaiah without being told.

Ancient readers lived and breathed the biblical texts. Even the citation of a few words was enough to bring a whole series of associations, stories, and texts to mind. Modern readers experience something similar if someone says, "May the Force be with you." Without being told, they know that this is a quote from the movie Star Wars, and it brings a host of concepts about dangerous missions, seemingly impossible tasks, and heroism. Ancient readers had at least this rich an association with their holy writings.

We also find the genealogy from Genesis 5꞉10-11,36 repeated in 1 Chronicles, much of the history in Samuel and Kings is repeated in Chronicles, and Isaiah 36꞉2 through Isaiah 38꞉5 is the same as 2 Kings 18꞉17 through 2 Kings 20꞉6.

Although Old Testament scripture was often quoted by Old and New Testament writers without giving credit, Nephi and Jacob generally make it clear when they are quoting from Isaiah. Indeed, much of 2 Nephi may be seen as an Isaiah commentary. It is ironic that critics of the Book of Mormon find fault with its "plagiarism," even though its authors typically mention their sources, while they do not condemn the Bible's authors when they do not.

Additionally, the Church has made clear in the 1981 and the 2013 editions of the Book of Mormon [14] in footnote "a" for 2 Nephi 12꞉2 that: "Comparison with the King James Bible in English shows that there are differences in more than half of the 433 verses of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, while about 200 verses have the same wording as the KJV"[15] Thus it doesn't appear that the Church is afraid of having its members understand the similarities and differences between the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Finally, it may be that the use of King James language for passages shared by the Bible and the Book of Mormon allows the Book of Mormon to highlight those areas in which the Book of Mormon's original texts were genuinely different from the textual tradition of the Old World's which gave us the Bible of today.

A closer look at these duplicate Isaiah texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity

A closer look at these duplicate texts actually provides us an additional witness of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.[16]

The 21 chapters of Isaiah which are quoted (Chapters 2-14, 29, and 48-54) either partially or completely, represent about one-third of the book of Isaiah, but less than two and one-half percent of the total Book of Mormon. We also find that more than half of all verses quoted from Isaiah (234 of 433) differ from the King James version available to Joseph Smith.[17] Perhaps it may be said that the Book of Mormon follows the King James (Masoretic) text when the original meaning is closer to how the King James renders the passages in question.

Additionally, we often find differences in Book of Mormon Isaiah texts where modern renderings of the text disagree.[18] One verse (2 Nephi 12꞉16), is not only different but adds a completely new phrase: "And upon all the ships of the sea." This non-King James addition agrees with the Greek (Septuagint) version of the Bible, which was first translated into English in 1808 by Charles Thomson. [19] Such a translation was "rare for its time."[20] The textual variants in the two texts have theological import and ancient support. John Tvedtnes has documented many in this study of the Isaiah variants in the Book of Mormon.[21]

Main articles:Plagiarism of errors in the KJV?
Summary: There are many reasons to reject the notion that Joseph Smith either made use of a Bible during the translation of the Book of Mormon or had one nearby that he was memorizing prior to or at the time of the translation of the Book of Mormon. There are also reasons to question the charge of plagiarism.
Is the Book of Mormon plagiarized from the KJV?
Summary: The claim of 'plagiarism' is a superficially appealing one, but it ignores many facts and factors.

Do the changes in the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages reflect a better translation of the underlying Hebrew?

Here are the changes to the Isaiah text in the Book of Mormon that may make a significant change to the meaning of the text. These changes are taken from Book of Mormon Reference Companion (2003) edited by Dennis L. Largey.[22]

Significant changes to Isaiah material in the Book of Mormon
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The rest of the changes can be found in Royal Skousen’s Analysis of Textual Variants in the Book of Mormon online.

The vast majority of Book of Mormon changes to Isaiah are on places where italicized text was placed in the King James Bible.[23]:106 Some of these changes do not reflect a better translation of the earliest extant Isaiah source we have today.

The Book of Mormon’s rendering of Isaiah does not purport to be the original text of Isaiah

It should first be mentioned that the Book of Mormon does not purport to be the original text of Isaiah as composed by Isaiah himself. That is an assumption that readers of the Book of Mormon have brought to the text.

We do not know what the original text of Isaiah was

It should next be noted that we do not know what the original text of Isaiah as composed by Isaiah was like. We have early textual witnesses such as the Great Isaiah Scroll (1Qlsa[a]) recovered from the Dead Sea Scrolls, but this is not the original text as composed by Isaiah. We don’t know what the original was like and will likely never know. Thus anyone claiming to know how to judge the Book of Mormon’s rendering of Isaiah based on its fidelity to "the original Hebrew" is acting foolishly and likely tendentiously.

Nephi likely changed wording to comment on Isaiah

The changes in Isaiah can be thought of to be commentary by Book of Mormon authors. Joseph Spencer at BYU has most persuasively argued that Nephi’s selection and edits of Isaiah are deliberate and that they reflect a coherent theological vision of the scattering and gathering of Israel.[24]

Nephi may have been adding these changes in order to clarify Isaiah’s words, clarify the Lord’s words if Isaiah didn’t communicate them clearly enough, or as Nephi’s independent revelatory (or even non-revelatory) adding to Isaiah based in his then-current theological understanding.

Some of the changes do reflect a better translation of the Hebrew

John Tvedtnes has shown that many of the Book of Mormon's translation variants of Isaiah have ancient support.[25]

This throws a huge wrench into any critic's theories that Joseph Smith merely cribbed off of the King James Isaiah.

Some "Problematic" Variants Explained

Critics of the Book of Mormon have pointed to various passages in which the Book of Mormon derives much of its text from KJV Isaiah. These derivations also include some changes from the KJV that vary in their degree of significance. In some cases of these changes, critics allege that the Book of Mormon also changes the wording of the text from the KJV to such an extent that the changes cannot be considered an accurate reflection of the underlying Hebrew. These changes, in turn, become evidence against the notion that the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient text. Discussion of these supposed problematic changes has been limited to the Book of Mormon's variants with the KJV Isaiah.

Given the evidence of Nephi's "likening above", much of these variants can actually be considered Nephi's changes and Joseph Smith's accurate translation of Nephi's and not Isaiah's Hebrew. Thus the critics have evidently not considered a theory that could change their assessment of the Book of Mormon's Isaiah and ancient authenticity.

We can explore some of these "problematic variants" pointed to by critics in order to demonstrate that the Book of Mormon variants may fit in with a larger theological project undertaken by Nephi in the Book of Mormon.

Location in Canon Erroneous Translation Passage Commentary
"Problematic" Book of Mormon Variants from Hebrew Underlying KJV Isaiah
1. Isaiah 9꞉1 ~ 2 Nephi 19꞉1 "Red sea" Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, and afterwards did more grievously afflict by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations. See below in section following this table for a full analysis.
2. Isaiah 12꞉2 ~ 2 Nephi 22꞉2 Jehovah "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation." Some have criticized the use of the name JEHOVAH in 2 Nephi 22꞉2 because it is a later term. Use of the proper name "Jehovah"—which is an anglicized form of the Hebrew Yahweh—was common in the KJV Bible.[26] and was also in common use in Joseph Smith's day.[27]

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 translators used?

This criticism is the equivalent of complaining that Joseph used the word "God" in his translation. The English word "God" certainly did not exist when Isaiah was written! But this is a translation—and so of course terms that did not exist when the original was written will sometimes be used.

3. Isaiah 50꞉2 ~ 2 Nephi 7꞉2 Wherefore as a declarative "Wherefore when I came, there was no man; when I called, yea there was none to answer. O house of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a wilderness and their fish to stink because the waters are dried up and they dieth because of thirst." (Book of Mormon) David P. Wright states: "The [Book of Mormon] inverts the italicized words and reads as a statement rather than a "Wherefore, when I came there was no man; when I called, yea, there was none to answer." The [Book of Mormon] reading depends on the ambiguity or polysemy of the English "wherefore." In English this word can be an interrogative ("why?") or a conjunction ("therefore"). It is an interrogative in the KJV verse here, translating the Hebrew word maddûac "why?" The BM reading uses "wherefore" as a conjunction, which is not possible for Hebrew maddûac. This reveals the BM's dependence on the English text."

Wright cites Tvedtnes (The Isaiah Variants, 35, 80, 116-117), and states that Tvedtnes "thinks that this variant is due to a misunderstanding by Smith or the scribe (apparently the English copiest). The variant must be intentional and from Smith: not only does it involve italicized words ... the adverb 'yea' also appears in the BM reading. This well fits a change from interrogation to declaration. The variant also appears twice in the passage."

4. Isaiah 51꞉19 ~ 2 Nephi 8꞉19 Sons "These two sons are come unto thee. Who shall be sorry for thee, thy desolation and destruction and the famine and the sword? And by whom shall I comfort thee." (Book of Mormon) John A. Tvedtnes writes: "KJV's 'two things' read 'two sons' in [Book of Mormon]. MT has simply štym, the feminine numeral 'two'. It is hence not possible to admit that the original read 'sons'. Moreover, the two 'things' are then listed in the same verse as 'desolation and destruction', then reworded as the parallels 'the famine and the sword'.

On the surface, the substitution of another word for the one italicized in KJV looks like normal procedure for Joseph Smith, but it could also be a scribal error. The [Book of Mormon]change was probably prompted by the fact that vs. 18 ends by speaking 'of all the sons she hath brought up', while vs. 20 begins by speaking of 'thy sons'."[28]

David P. Wright writes: "In one case where the [Book of Mormon] has another word for an italicized word, the meaning is significantly changed, but not in accordance with the Hebrew original. The phrase 'These two things are come unto thee' becomes 'These two sons are come unto thee' (Isa 51꞉19//2 Ne 8꞉19). This is an extremely unlikely reading for any ancient text since the phrase in Hebrew is formulated in the feminine ($etayim hënnâ qör'ötayik) whereas 'sons' (bänîm) is masculine. The variant in the BM is oblivious to the requirements of Hebrew, and it is doubtful that the Hebrew developed from a masculine to feminine formulation. Smith apparently replaced the italicized word, picking up 'sons' from the context of vv. 18 and 20 which speak of 'sons.'"

Interestingly, Joseph Smith, in Old Testament Manuscript 2 (of the Joseph Smith Translation), replaced 'things' with 'sons'.

This change was noted by Orson Hyde in a letter dated July 7, 1840:

Jews are gathering; and have issued orders, or a circular, and universal proclamation for their brethren, in all the world, to return to Palestine, for the land is ready for their reception. "But there is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought up, but these two things are come unto thee."—See Isaiah 51꞉18,19. Things, you know, in English means any kind of fish, beast, or birds. But the book of Mormon says, "These two sons are come unto thee" this is better sense, and more to the point. As Jerusalem has no sons to take her by the hand and lead her among all thy number whom she hath brought forth, Bro. Page and myself feel that we ought to hurry along and take her by the hand; for are her sons but the Gentiles have brought us up. (Times and Seasons, 1, no. 10 [August 1840]: 156-57)
5. Isaiah 48꞉16 ~ 1 Nephi 20꞉16 Am 1 Nephi 20꞉16 deletes the italicized am in Isaiah 48꞉16's "from the time that it was, there am I". 1 Nephi 20꞉16 adds the word "declared" after "from the time that it was", deletes the italicized "am" from "there am I", and changes the phrase "there am I" to the phrase "have I spoken". Critics charge that the addition of "declared" requires another underlying Hebrew term that would give us that translation in English rather than merely the current term that is rendered as "that it was". Though here, just as with the addition of "have I spoken", the addition clarifies the underlying message of Isaiah and makes smoother the English translation of it. Scholar Brant Gardner proposed that the addition of "have I spoken" was done by Joseph Smith himself.[29] Though one could see the "declared" and "have I spoken" changes as Nephi's edits of Isaiah to clarify Isaiah.

One could also presume that perhaps there is a lost version of Isaiah that was on the brass plates that Joseph Smith eventually translated. Gardner cautions that "from a literary standpoint, ['have I spoken'] removes an important scriptural allusion. The declaration 'there am I' is not just an indication that Yahweh has spoken, as it becomes in the Book of Mormon rendition, but a declaration of the person, power, and reality of the Lord, related thematically to the appellation 'I AM,' since the Lord and the Spirit appear as separate entities (Blenkinsopp, 'Isaiah 40–55, 295)."[29] Though that allusion is made elsewhere in scripture, and the inclusion of such an allusion in 1 Nephi 20꞉16 is not necessary. Either way, there doesn't seem to be a huge problem here.

6. Isaiah 4꞉5 ~ 2 Nephi 14꞉5 defense And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory of Zion shall be a defence. 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.

To learn more:Table of alleged KJV translations errors persisting in the Book of Mormon
Summary: This article provides further, more detailed analysis of this alleged translation error.

2 Nephi 19:1-The 'Red' Sea?

The King James Bible reads as follows (italics from KJV included for convenience):

Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.

2 Nephi 19꞉1, a quotation of Isaiah by the prophet Nephi, reads:

Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali, and afterwards did more grievously afflict by the way of the Red Sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the nations.

The Book of Mormon deletes the word "her" from 9꞉1 and then inserts "Red" before "sea" making the verse read "afflict by way of the Red Sea". "The problem with this", describes one critic "is that (a) Christ quoted Isaiah in Matt. 4꞉14-15 and did not mention the Red Sea [true], (b) 'Red' sea is not found in any source manuscripts [from which one could translate Isaiah. [Also true.], and (c) the Red Sea [he likely is referring more specifically to the Gulf of Aqaba] 25 miles away [from the sea of Galilee, which the Isaiah prophecy refers to in context. Also True]."[30]

Despite having all these facts correct, the critic's conclusion is still overly hasty.

In context, Isaiah is prophetically anticipating "a period of gloom and darkness until a new Davidic monarch arises to replace Ahaz."[31] Several interpreters take this chapter to be speaking about the coming Messiah.

Hypothesis #1: Nephi's "likening" of Isaiah to his contemporary historical and theological context

In another article, we've discussed how this verse in the Book of Mormon actually perpetuates a translation error of Isaiah made by the King James translators of the Bible.

Instead of saying "and afterwards did more grievously afflict by the way of the sea", the text should say "but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan".[32] A question now arises: could the translation of "grievously afflicting" actually be some sort of modification by Nephi that provides commentary on Nephi? We know that there were modifications done by Nephi to affect the meaning and intent of Isaiah's scripture as a sort of commentary on Nephi's present situation that Nephi calls "likening" (1 Nephi 19꞉23). Could there be something similar going on here?

Suffering in the wilderness

As a guess, this may have something to do with the difficult journey that Lehi, Nephi, and their family faced by the borders of the Red Sea as they traveled down the Arabian Peninsula. In 1 Nephi 6, 7, 8, 2 Nephi 1, 2_short Nephi 2, 2_short Nephi 3, _short2 Nephi 4, and 5 Nephi mentions that he and his family experienced afflictions and that they began to murmur against God—perhaps presupposing that God was the source of those afflictions given their wickedness. Nephi says that the afflictions that he and his family faced in 1 Nephi 6 when he lost his bow came at a time when they were traveling in "the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea" (16꞉14, (emphasis added)).

Evidence from the original manuscript

Latter-day Saint linguist and scholar of the textual history of the Book of Mormon Skousen believes that "Red Sea" was not an accident by scribes of the Book of Mormon translation. Instead, "Red Sea" was actually on the plates that Joseph Smith translated from. He deduces this from the fact that there is no manuscript evidence that scribes of the Book of Mormon translation text inserted "Red" next to "sea" even in the original manuscript of the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Furthermore, there are four uses in the Bible of the phrase "by the way of the Red Sea" (Numbers 14꞉25; Numbers 21꞉4; Deuteronomy 1꞉40; Deuteronomy 2꞉1). Familiarity with the phrase, Skousen argues, perhaps led Nephi to add the word "Red" to sea in his copying of Isaiah. Either that or "Red" was actually a part of the text and Nephi didn't add anything to it. Furthermore, out of 82 occurrences of the word "sea" in the Book of Mormon, there is no manuscript evidence that scribes added "Red" to the word "sea", even as a mistake that was then corrected.[33] Skousen retained "Red Sea" in his reconstruction of the earliest text of the Book of Mormon: the text as it came from the mouth of Joseph Smith (or at least the best reconstruction of it).[34]

Nephi is explicitly "likening" Isaiah to his current situation (1 Nephi 19꞉23). It's likely that something similar is going on here. Thus, it's not an error, but (on this theory at least) an intentional emendation by Nephi to creatively "liken" the scriptures Isaiah wrote to his present situation which Joseph translated correctly. Thus, the intent of the verse is changed and does actually lead us into an incorrect understanding of what Isaiah meant to communicate about God’s nature. But it isn’t an error of what Nephi meant to communicate about God with his likening of Isaiah.

Hypothesis #2: Scribal Overcorrection

John Tvedtnes explains:

9:1 (MT 8:23) = 2 Ne. 19꞉1

KJV: "afflict her by the way of the sea"

BM: "afflict by the way of the Red Sea"

The deletion of italicized "her" is understandable, since it is not in [the Masoretic Text: the source for most current translations of Isaiah]. (I) However, [Book of Mormon] must be wrong in speaking of the "RED Sea", which is certainly not "beyond Jordan, in Galilee", nor near the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. This appears to be a case of scribal overcorrection, due to prior mention of the Red Sea in the BM text.[35]

In other words, Tvedtnes suggests that the addition of the word "red" is an example of Oliver Cowdery "over-hearing" (hearing "sea" and adding "red" in error).

Hypothesis #3: An error while copying the original manuscript to the printer's manuscript

D. Charles Pyle suggested that the error may be the result of Oliver miscopying the original manuscript to the Printer's manuscript, presumably following similar logic to that of John Tvedtnes.[36]

Hypothesis #4: Egyptian translator's error

Pyle also suggested that it's possible to understand this as an error of an Egyptian translator into Hebrew and that Joseph Smith translated this passage, error and all, into English.[36]

Hypothesis #5: Joseph inserting a word where it was missing

Author Stan Spencer wrote a long article for Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship in which he discussed the italics in the King James Bible as used in the Book of Mormon. When translating passages in the Book of Mormon that are quotations of the King James Bible, scholars of the Book of Mormon note that a large amount of differences between the King James Bible and the Book of Mormon's quotations of it center around the italics. The italics are sometimes omitted and sometimes revised in the Book of Mormon. Spencer outlined three possibilities to account for the differences between the King James Bible text and the Book of Mormon quotations of it:

Stan Spencer laid out three hypotheses for the italicized words of the KJV in the Book of Mormon including how and why they were revised or omitted:

  1. Elder B.H. Roberts hypothesized that the italics interaction represents what was on the actual Book of Mormon plates. In Spencer's words: "Roberts attributes the differences in the Book of Mormon to ancient variants in the Nephite plates, presumably reflecting the record on the brass plates, at least in the chapters Nephi and Jacob say they are reading." According to Roberts, the version of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon is consistently "superior [in] sense and clearness."[37]:56 Spencer calls this the Ancient Variants Hypothesis.
  2. Spencer calls the second the Italics Revision Hypothesis. Advocates include Stan Larson, David P. Wright, and believing Book of Mormon scholar Brant Gardner. It holds that Joseph Smith was intentionally targeting italics in the King James Bible, knew what they meant, and intentionally revised them.[37]:56-58
  3. Spencer's own theory he names the Missing Words Hypothesis. This theory holds that Joseph was given a vision of a biblical passage in his mind with missing KJV italics and that part of the work of translation for Joseph Smith was to decide whether to supply words to the passage and, if so, what words to supply.[37]

Thus, in Spencer's thinking, Joseph Smith could have seen the passage from Isaiah 9꞉1 in the Book of Mormon and inserted "red" before sea—perhaps thinking that the text in Isaiah was somehow in error.[38]

To learn more:KJV italicized text in the Book of Mormon
Summary: Many changes in the Book of Mormon occur in the KJV italicized text. What is that text for? Did Joseph focus on it during the translation?

Hypothesis #6: The way of the Red Sea

The following response is provided by Jeff Lindsay,

The Book of Mormon deletes "her" from the KJV and changes "sea" to "Red Sea." Based on verse 1 in light of verse 2 from Isaiah, many people conclude that the sea is the Sea of Galilee, not the Red Sea. The KJV for Isaiah 9꞉2 is:

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

So yes, these verses do appear to be a prophecy of the ministry of Christ, and the Sea of Galilee would make sense. So why does the Book of Mormon have the puzzling reference to the Red Sea? Here is a possible explanation offered by D. Charles Pyle in e-mail received June 2004:

There are those who say that this is an error. It is possible that it is a scribal error on the part of Oliver Cowdery in copying the printer's manuscript from the original manuscript. The problem is that this cannot be proven or disproven because this portion of the original manuscript no longer is extant. It also is possible that the Egyptian textual translation of the Hebrew is in error and that Joseph Smith translated it, error and all. On the other hand, it also is possible that it is not an error at all.

The King's Highway also was part of what was known in ancient times as the Way of the Red Sea, which led out of Egypt along the shores of the Red Sea, passed through Edom and changed direction after meeting with the Way of the Sea, in Galilee, to go into Mesopotamia. It is possible that Joseph journeyed this way, or at least part of this way, to avoid going through Judaea when he took Jesus into Nazareth as a young child. If so, it would be quite correct in that the light would pass into the region of Naphtali via the Way of the Red Sea. Joseph sought to avoid contact with Archelaus and a back route would be one of the best ways to avoid contact.

We also know that Jesus went into the wilderness for his temptation after being baptized in a region on the other side of the Jordan. The English Book of Mormon has Bethabara as do several versions of the Bible while [several other translations have] Bethany beyond Jordan. He would then have come down from Galilee to be baptized on the other side of the Jordan (east of the river; 'beyond Jordan' meant to the east of the Jordan River), and come down around the Way of the Red Sea and around the Dead Sea to the Wilderness of Judaea. Remember, Jesus' wandered the wilderness for forty days, plenty of time to travel around the Dead Sea in that manner, that region being one the most inhospitable in the main. There are possible hints that Jesus came through Edom or Idumea. One way that he could have done so is to travel the Way of the Red Sea, which passes through Edom. The records of Jesus' life and travels are scanty at best and it is impossible to know for certainty at this time. In any case, I am not willing to state without good evidence that this passage is in error with any degree of certainty, for in my opinion there is no certainty either way. I have sifted through much contradictory 'evidence' and have formed no solid conclusion on this textual matter.

Bottom line: we're not really sure, but there are a couple of reasonable possibilities consistent with the concept of the Book of Mormon being an authentic ancient text. ... There is a plausible basis from the ancient world for referring to the sea as the Red Sea. On the other hand, if Joseph were relying on his knowledge of the Bible and fabricating the text, changing "sea" to "Red Sea" would make no sense. What would motivate a Bible literate fabricator to make such a change?[36]

Solution #7: Joseph Smith "restoring" Isaiah intent JST-Style

A seventh solution was offered by Brant Gardner:

Joseph Smith appears to have understood that the italicized words were added by the KJV translators to make sense of the Hebrew. Combined with the addition of the "Red Sea," these changes appear to suggest a modern interaction with the KJV text that intends to both "restore" by removing the italicized words that were not originally present, and by attempting to clarify which sea. Such changes warn us that we should be very cautious about suggesting a literal translation of the plates. The evidence suggests that Joseph's intellect participated in the project (also suggested by D&C 9꞉7–10).[39]


How do we explain multiple "Isaiahs" and the Book of Mormon?

The challenge to the Book of Mormon is that Nephi quotes several chapters from Second Isaiah, who allegedly had not yet written his material in time for Nephi to quote from it

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Their Imperfect Best: Isaianic Authorship from an LDS Perspective"

Daniel T. Ellsworth,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (15 September 2017)
For Latter-day Saints, the critical scholarly consensus that most of the book of Isaiah was not authored by Isaiah often presents a problem, particularly since many Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon are assigned post-exilic dating by critical scholars. The critical position is based on an entirely different set of assumptions than most believers are accustomed to bring to scripture. This article surveys some of the reasons for the critical scholarly position, also providing an alternative set of assumptions that Latter-day Saints can use to understand the features of the text.

Click here to view the complete article

As part of the record Nephi creates for his people, he quotes heavily from the prophet Isaiah. The source for Nephi's text are the brass plates that he and his brothers obtained from Laban before leaving Jerusalem. Traditionally, the Book of Isaiah has been understood to be the composition of a single author living before Nephi, and before the Babylonian exile. However, modern scholars have found evidence in the Book of Isaiah that it was written by multiple authors spanning periods of time before and during the Babylonian exile, including before and after Nephi and his brothers obtained the brass plates. Nephi quotes from some of the passages of Isaiah that scholars believe were written after Nephi and his family left Jerusalem, creating a conundrum for students of the Book of Mormon.

The general division of Isaiah chapters according to this view looks like this:

  • Ch. 2-39, First Isaiah (Proto-Isaiah), written about 100 years before Lehi left Jerusalem, and so available to Nephi on Laban's brass plates.
  • Ch. 40-55, Second Isaiah (Deutero-Isaiah), written, at the earliest 20-30 years after Lehi left Jerusalem, and so allegedly not available to Nephi on Laban's brass plates.
  • Ch. 56-66, Third Isaiah (Trito-Isaiah), written at least 60-70 years after Lehi left Jerusalem, and so not available to Nephi on Laban's brass plates.

The challenge to the Book of Mormon is that Nephi quotes several chapters from Second Isaiah, who allegedly had not yet written his material in time for Nephi to quote from it. The key question is, "Were those passages available to Nephi on the plates of brass?". If some parts of Isaiah were not written until after Nephi obtained the brass plates then they obviously would not be available for Nephi to quote from. This criticism/question is not new to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For instance, the semi-official encyclopedic work Encyclopedia of Mormonism (1992, 2007) broached it in their entry on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon.[40] Among the Latter-day Saints who are familiar with this issue there is more than one approach taken. Some argue for single authorship of Isaiah, while others agree that the Book of Isaiah was authored by more than one person and look for ways to resolve that with the Book of Mormon.

We will look at both approaches now.

Option #1—Accepting multiple authorship

Many Latter-day Saint scholars and students have come to agree with mainstream biblical scholars who suggest that parts of the Book of Isaiah were written by multiple authors and at different times. There is no official position from the Church that requires Latter-day Saints to see Isaiah as having been written by one author. Therefore, Latter-day Saints are free to form their own opinions of this issue. Hugh Nibley summarizes the main reasons why many believe Isaiah was written by multiple authors:

"The dating of Deutero-Isaiah rests on three things: (1) the mention of Cyrus (Isa. 44꞉28), who lived 200 years after Isaiah and long after Lehi; (2) the threats against Babylon (Isa. 47꞉1, 48꞉14), which became the oppressor of Judah after the days of Isaiah and (3) the general language and setting of the text, which suggests a historical background commonly associated with a later period than that of Isaiah."[41]

Latter-day Saints who agree with this view do not do so because they don't believe that Isaiah could not prophecy of future events. Certainly it is within God's power to have Isaiah predict the name of Cyrus, or for Isaiah to write as if he were experiencing the Israelite exile to Babylon which would not happen for a couple hundred years. However, it would be very unusual for these things to happen. Those who accept the multiple authorship of Isaiah ask questions like, "Why would God have Isaiah predict the name of Cyrus, which would have been meaningless to his audience, and not predict the name of the Jesus?" Why would God have Isaiah write as if he were experiencing the Babylonian exile? It would make little sense to his contemporary audience, and would not be very helpful to them. They would be long dead before any of those prophecies made sense. It could be written like that as a sign to future audiences that God has predictive power, but to some that seems like an unusual and trivial thing for God to do.

The important question to ask for the purposes of this study is not "Who wrote the text of Isaiah", but rather "When and how was the text of Isaiah written?".

Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

The primary Isaiah passages found in the Book of Mormon are illustrated in the accompanying table.

Isaiah passages found in the Book of Mormon

2 Nephi 12-24 quotes 1st Isaiah. This is not a problem because it is agreed by scholars that this author wrote before Nephi obtained the brass plates. 1 Nephi 20-21, 2 Nephi 7-2 Nephi 8, and 3 Nephi 16꞉18-20all quote from 2nd Isaiah, which is a problem if those chapters were not written by 2nd Isaiah until after Nephi had obtained the brass plates. (The 3 Nephi example is a citation of Isaiah by the risen Christ, so any of the 'Isaiahs' would have written by that point. One could argue, however, that it would be strange for the Savior to cite a prophecy they did not have without pointing that out.)

Along with the quotations from the above table, Third Isaiah is alluded to in Jacob 6꞉3 of the Book of Mormon. It is important to remember that the only part of 2nd Isaiah we need to account for is Isaiah 48-Isaiah 53 and the only part of Trito-Isaiah (it should be remembered that some scholars reject trito-Isaiah) being the one verse from Isaiah 65 (65꞉2). Thus we have four chapters and four verses to account for.

The development of the text of Isaiah

Understanding the proposed development of the text of Isaiah may be helpful:

  • 1st Isaiah wrote during a time when a powerful nation, Assyria, threatened the destruction of Israel. While this was the immediate issue in 1st Isaiah's mind, he also may have been inspired to make general prophecies about a more future destruction of Israel. While not specifically mentioning "Bablyon" or "Cyrus", this 1st Isaiah may have made broad prophecies about a future threat to Israel separate from the immediate Assyrian threat.
  • Latter-day Saints scholar Sidney B. Sperry has suggested that we pay attention to the research of several non-Latter-day Saint scholars who "held that Isaiah 40-66 arose in exilic times, but consisted in considerable measure of ancient prophecies of Isaiah, which were reproduced by an author of Isaiah's school living in the exilic period, because the events of the day were bringing fulfillment of the prophecies." In other words, our current Isaiah 40-55 (or 40-66) may originate in primitive writings of 1st Isaiah, but they were reworked and reinterpreted by 2nd Isaiah, and it is in this form that we have them. This is very likely the best approach and one the easily accounts for the both the essential unity of the text of Isaiah and the presence of material from other chapters. Marc Schindler describes this approach in detail.[42]
  • In the same vein, Latter-day Saint scholar Brant Gardner writes:
Rather than seeing the specificity of "Cyrus" or "Babylon" as denying Isaiah's authorship because they must have been written later, those same techniques of analysis suggest that others added those names later when fulfillment made the intent of the prophecy obvious. Cyrus might not have been named when Isaiah ben Amoz [1st Isaiah] wrote, but anyone living after the fact would certainly recognize the name and perhaps "improve" the original Isaiah text by adding the specifics of the fulfilled prophecy. If the earliest versions of Deutero-Isaiah were actually written by proto-Isaiah, they were later redacted on the basis of the similar historical facts of destruction and hope of return from exile that were part of both the earlier Assyrian and later Babylonian captivity.

Issues of Translation

We now need to ask, "What text was available to Nephi?" He would have only had the text of 1st Isaiah (which presumably would include the 1st Isaiah version of the 4 chapters and 4 verses of Deutero-Isaiah that we need), a text which possibly included broad prophecies of the threat of future exile for Israel. The prophecies on Laban's plates of brass which Nephi was quoting from may not have specifically mentioned "Babylon" as that threat.

Thus, what Nephi quoted as he inscribed on his plates would have been the original, early, 1st Isaiah version of Isaiah 48-52 and all of chs. 2-40. However, the text that we have in the Book of Mormon of Isaiah 48-52 quotes from the later, 2nd Isaiah material (which is a reworked version of 1st Isaiah's earlier material) as found in the KJV Bible. How would advocates of the Deutero-Isaiah option address this?

The answer hinges on the translation process. Some have thought that the Book of Mormon must have been nothing but formal equivalency (word for word translation). The Book of Mormon does not likely represent a one-for-one conversion of text from Reformed Egyptian to English, however.

Using the Original and Printer's Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, Latter-day Saint scholar Royal Skousen has determined that none of the King James language contained in the Book of Mormon could have been copied directly from the Bible. He deduces this from the fact that spelling of words had indeed been standardized prior to the translation of the Book of Mormon (contrary to popular belief) and that Oliver Cowdery (Joseph's scribe) consistently misspells certain words from the text that he wouldn't have misspelled if he was looking at the then-current edition of the KJB.[43]

A Proposed Scenario

Skousen proposes that, rather than looking at a Bible (the absence of a Bible now near-definitively confirmed by the manuscript evidence and the unequivocal statements of witnesses to the translation to the Book of Mormon), Joseph was provided a page of text via his gift of seership. This page of text contained, in this view, the King James Bible text. Joseph was then free to alter the text for his audience. Thus:

  • As Joseph was translating the text of the Book of Mormon, he encounter something that was being roughly similar to texts from the Bible. This would occur most prominently when Nephi quotes from Isaiah.
  • Instead of translating Nephi's quotations of Isaiah word-for-word, the Lord gave the passages from Isaiah as contained in the KJV. Reasons for which this may have been done are discussed earlier in this article.
  • Consequently, the Isaiah chapters on Nephi's plates would have looked slightly different from the Isaiah chapters that we have now in the Book of Mormon. Nephi's version of Isaiah 48-52 would have been the primitive, early version written by 1st Isaiah. The version of Isaiah 48-52 that we have now in the Book of Mormon would not then be taken directly from Nephi's plates, but rather adapted from the KJV Bible as described.

A mistake Joseph doesn't make

If we're going to criticize the Book of Mormon for containing 2nd Isaiah, we need to give credit where it gets things right. Scholars believe that Isaiah chapter 1 was not part of 1st Isaiah's original book,[44] but was a later addition by a later writer, perhaps 2nd or 3rd Isaiah.

It is noteworthy that the Book of Mormon starts instead with Isaiah 2 and continues until Isaiah 14 without break. So this was a prime opportunity for Joseph Smith to make an error if he is fabricating the Book of Mormon. If you're going to quote that much Isaiah, why not begin from the beginning? But, he didn't.

Option #2—Theories of a “Single Isaiah” and the Book of Mormon

Some take a conservative view and argue for the unity of Isaiah, suggesting that theories about multiple authorship are not correct. This approach was taken by one author in an old article in the Ensign. The following represents part of that answer that was given (the full text may be read on churchofjesuschrist.org at the link below):

Many non-LDS scholars claim that the second half of the book of Isaiah was written after the time Lehi left Jerusalem, Yet the Book of Mormon contains material from both halves. How do we explain this?

....

Literary style in Hebrew is much more accessible to computer analysis than is English. This is partly because the Hebrew characteristic known as the function prefix can help identify speech patterns of a given author. For example, how an author uses Hebrew function prefixes, such as those that translate into “and in this,” “and it is,” and “and to,” are expected to be unique with him. Thus, comparing parts of an author’s work with other parts, as well as comparing his work with work by other authors, can yield statistical evidence for claims of authorship.

Accordingly, we coded the Hebrew text of the book of Isaiah and a random sampling of eleven other Old Testament books onto computer tape. 3 Then, using a computer, we compared rates of literary usage (such as unique expressions and idiomatic phrases including the function prefix and other such literary elements) from text to text. Since any author varies within himself, depending on context, audience, his own change of style, and so forth, variations for a given author were compared with variations between authors for any literary element.

The results of the study were conclusive: there is a unique authorship style throughout the various sections of Isaiah. The rates of usage for the elements of this particular style are more consistent within the book of Isaiah, regardless of the section, than in any other book in the study. This statistical evidence led us to a single conclusion: based on style alone, the book of Isaiah definitely appears to be the work of one man. The two parts of Isaiah most often claimed to have been written by different authors, chapters 1–39 and 40–66, were found to be more similar to each other in style than to any of the other eleven Old Testament books examined.[45]

Single or multiple Isaiahs?—Summary

We should recognize that:

  • We have four chapters and four verses to account for. We don't need to have the entire book of Isaiah date to a certain time—just those passages in the Book of Mormon.
  • The Book of Mormon uses KJV language for a variety of reasons which do not require "plagiarism" as an explanation.
  • Literary arguments for dating a text are often highly subjective and most prone to disagreement. Many scholars use narrative criticism to establish the dating of a text. This is one of the trickiest ways to date a text and several scholars have pointed out how tenuous these approaches can be.[46] This is significant: we have no manuscript evidence that would establish that there were multiple authors. The earliest manuscript of the text "ha[s been] dated using both radiocarbon dating and palaeographic/scribal dating[,] giving calibrated date ranges between 356–103 BCE and 150–100 BCE respectively."[47]
  • The argument would be settled were a copy of Isaiah—either whole or few of fragments of the 2nd or 3rd Isaiah material— within 7th century strata. This is unlikely because:
    • The texts themselves, if preserved, would most likely be contained within temple deposits. These would have been ransacked by the Babylonians when they took Israel captive circa 600 BCE. Upon taking Israel, the Babylonians pillaged and destroyed the Israelite's temples, records, and other belongings.[48] The most likely temple site would be the Temple of Solomon which is buried under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. It is archaeologically inaccessible by law for religious and political reasons.
    • The texts, if they survived outside temple deposits and survived Babylonian or other foreign invasion, would rarely survive for two millennia. For example, K.A. Kitchen commenting on arguments against the historicity of the Exodus narratives in the Bible, wrote the following:
Egyptian gods gave only victories to kings—and defeats indicated divine disapproval, not applause! It is no use looking for administrative registers giving the Hebrews "customs clearance" to clear out of Egypt. In fact, 99 percent of all New Kingdom papyri are irrevocably lost (administrative and otherwise), the more so in the sopping mud of the Delta; the few survivors hail from the dry sands of Sawwara and Upper Egypt, far away from Pi-Ramesse's total of our administrative texts so far recovered from Pi-Ramesse![49]
Thus, depending on what environmental conditions obtained upon deposition, the papyri or scrolls are likely lost. (In some ways, the survival of any ancient text is a near miracle given everything that can happen to it.)
But even in good conditions for preservation, it may be years before such a document were uncovered. Consider that one archaeological excavation took some 30 years to uncover a Philistine cemetery in southern Israel.[50] This argument against the Book of Mormon is an argument from silence. A single discovery can overturn such silence.
Learn more about Isaiah in the Book of Mormon
FAIR links
  • Wordprint evidence and 'Deutero-Isaiah' FAIR link
Online
  • Daniel T. Ellsworth, "Their Imperfect Best: Isaianic Authorship from an LDS Perspective," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 27/1 (15 September 2017). [1–28] link
Video
  • "Deutero-Isaiah," BH Roberts Foundation print-link.
  • KnoWhy #38, "What Vision Guides Nephi's Choice of Isaiah Chapters?," Scripture Central (12 February 2024). link
  • KnoWhy #214, "Why Did Jesus Mix Together Micah and Isaiah?," Scripture Central (21 August 2019). link
  • KnoWhy #216, "Why Did Jesus Quote All of Isaiah 54?," Scripture Central (21 August 2019). link

Saints Unscripted:

Print
  • Joseph M. Spencer, The Vision of All: Twenty-five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi's Record. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford, 2016. This book is remarkable in that, as part of its analysis, it demonstrates clearly that the selection of Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon is one not done at random but that there is a unifying theme and purpose that drives Nephi's use of Isaiah.
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The ‘Isaiah Problem’ in the Book of Mormon," in Book of Mormon Compendium. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968. An explanation of the problem and response from Sidney Sperry concerning the "Isaiah Problem."
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon," in A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2016. This book chapter responds to common questions about the so-called "Isaiah Problem" and offers resources for further study and help in resolving those questions.
  • David Carr, “Reaching for Unity in Isaiah,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 18, no. 57 (1993): 61–80. There is a large bibliography of scholars who believe in a single Isaiah in notes 3-5 of this article.
  • R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament. Grant Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969, 371–78.
  • F. W. Bush, D. A. Hubbard, and W. S.LaSor, Old Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982.
  • Donald Parry and John W. Welch, Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998. One of the largest studies done on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. John Welch offers his perspective on the "Isaiah Problem" near the end of the volume.
  • Alvin A. and Larry L. Rencher, "A Computer Analysis of the Isaiah Authorship Problem," Adams, BYU Studies 15 (Autumn 1974): 95-102. This analysis takes the English KJV text of Isaiah and through textual analysis argues that there was one singular author of Isaiah. That this study was done with the English translation of Isaiah instead of the original Hebrew is a weakness (though perhaps not necessarily fatal to the authors' arguments).
  • Francis L. Andersen, "Style and Authorship," in The Tyndale Paper 21 (June 1976): 2.
  • E. J. Kissane, The Book of Isaiah. 2 vols. Dublin, Ireland: 1941, 1943.
  • Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet. Salt Lake City, 1981.
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah and the Prophets, ed. M. Nyman. Provo, Utah: 1984.
  • Edward J. Young, Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: 1949.
  • Joshua M. Sears, "Deutero-Isaiah in the Book of Mormon," in They Shall Grow Together: The Bible in the Book of Mormon, ed. Charles Swift and Nicholas J. Frederick. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022. Perhaps the best treatment on different approaches taken by Latter-day Saints to the problem and resources for reconciling criticism.
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Why does Isaiah in the Book of Mormon not match the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The English Book of Mormon text of Isaiah does not purport to be the original Isaiah text

Mistranslations of the King James version of Isaiah have been corrected using the Isaiah version found with the Dead Sea scrolls. Why is it that the quotes from Isaiah contained in the Book of Mormon have the same translation errors contained in the King James version instead of matching the original ancient text?

The question makes some inaccurate assumptions:

  • It is not the case that the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa[a]) is the original text of Isaiah. It is an earlier witness to the text than we previously had before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), but it itself is centuries removed from the original(s).
  • The English Book of Mormon text of Isaiah does not purport to be the original text either; that is an assumption that many LDS have brought to the text, but is not necessarily true.

These are basic issues of what is called "textual criticism," which is the science/art of trying to recover to the extent possible the text in its original form. Critical text scholars do not believe that the Great Isaiah Scroll matches exactly the original text of Isaiah. It is true that the masoretic scribal tradition has tried valiantly to copy texts as perfectly as possible. Various approaches have been used, such as counting the letters in a chapter and testing a copy against that, in order to ensure a high degree of accuracy in their work. However, the masoretic scribes did their work in the second half of the first millennium A.D. Prior to that time, many errors had already crept in the text.

The term "redaction" refers to a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined together in order to make it appear that they comprise a single text. The standard scholarly theory of the development of Isaiah is that it was redacted from two or three different texts. Yet none of this is reflected in the Great Isaiah Scroll, which is close to the canonical form of the text we have today. So if the scholars are correct there was substantial redaction of the text long before the scribes ever had a chance to practice their efforts at copying on the text.

The Book of Mormon text would have been far removed from Isaiah: The brass plates version would have been at least a century after the fact

Even the Book of Mormon text would have been far removed from Isaiah. The brass plates version would have been at least a century after the fact (with many copies intervening), and that was copied and recopied into Book of Mormon records. The Nephite texutal tradition was a Josephite one (Ephraism and Manasseh) from the Northern Kingdom of Israel—this is where Lehi hailed from. It was thus probably an independent stream of textual variation from the Judah-based texts that our modern bible draws from. Differences between these two traditions would be expected.


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 by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887), 12 ; cited frequently, including Neal A. Maxwell, 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 8/2 (1996). [326–372] link
  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. Jay P. Green Sr., The Interlinear Bible, Hebrew-Greek-English (Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1995), 975.
  8. LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, 707. off-site.
  9. Bruce R. McConkie, "Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah," Ensign/10 (October 1973): 78–83. off-site
  10. See LDS KJV, Bible Dictionary, "Quotations from the Old Testament found in the New Testament," 756-59. off-site
  11. 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.
  12. See, for example, Martin G. Abegg, Jr., Peter Flint, Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (New York: 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.).
  13. See A. Melvin McDonald, Day of Defense (Sounds of Zion Inc., 1986; 2004), 49.
  14. These were the only editions consulted for this point.
  15. See page 81 of either edition of the Book of Mormon.
  16. See Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort Publisher, 2004),193–196. (Key source)
  17. See Book of Mormon note to 2 Nephi 12꞉2
  18. See also See also Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace, The Firm Foundation of Mormonism (Los Angeles, CA: The L. L. Company, 1981), 70–72.
  19. The implications of this change represent a more complicated textual history than previously thought. See discussion in Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005). [12–25] link For earlier discussions, see Gilbert W. Scharffs, The Truth about ‘The God Makers’ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1989; republished by Bookcraft, 1994), 172. Full text FAIR link ISBN 088494963X.; see also Milton R. Hunter and Thomas Stuart Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon (Kolob Book Company, 1964),100–102.; 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),129–143. ISBN 0875791395.
  20. Wikipedia, "Thomson's Translation," <http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomson%27s_Translation> (11 February 2015).
  21. A critic, David Wright, responded to Tvedtnes and Tvedtnes’ review of that critic’s response can be found in John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Review of 'Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah.' in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 157–234.)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [161–172] link.
  22. Please forgive blurriness from scanning/transmitting the images.
  23. Stan Spencer, "Missing Words: King James Bible Italics, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith as an Unlearned Reader," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38/5 (10 July 2020). [45–106] link
  24. See Joseph M. Spencer, The Vision of All: 25 Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2016). For a good summary, see BMC Team, "What Vision Guides Nephi’s Choice of Isaiah Chapters?" KnoWhy #38 (February 22, 2016).
  25. John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," in Isaiah and the Prophets: Inspired Voices from the Old Testament, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 165–78. A critic, David Wright, responded to John Tvedtnes' chapter there. Tvedtnes responds to Wright in John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon," The FARMS Review 16, no. 2 (2004): 161–72.
  26. See Exodus 6꞉3; Psalms 83꞉18; Isaiah 12꞉2; 26꞉4.
  27. See such scriptural examples as D&C 109꞉34,42,56,68; 110꞉1-3; 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
  28. John A. Tvedtnes, The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon, 87; note: there is no evidence that this is a scribal mistake. Skousen retains "sons"
  29. 29.0 29.1 Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 1:394.
  30. Jeremy T. Runnells, CES Letter: My Search for Answers to My Mormon Doubts (n.p.: CES Letter Foundation, 2017), 9.
  31. Marvin A. Sweeney, "Isaiah," in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, ed. Michael D. Coogan, 5th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 992n8.18–9.7.
  32. Royal Skousen, The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon, Part Five: King James Quotations in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2019), 216.
  33. Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon Part Two: 2 Nephi 1 – M (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2014), 732–33.
  34. Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, 2nd edition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2022). off-site
  35. John Tvedtnes, "The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," FARMS Preliminary Reports (1981): 45.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Jeff Lindsay, "Why does 2 Nephi 19:1 incorrectly change 'sea' in Isaiah 9 to 'Red Sea'?", LDS FAQ: Mormon Answers.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Stan Spencer, "Missing Words: King James Bible Italics, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith as an Unlearned Reader," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38/5 (10 July 2020). [45–106] link
  38. Stan Spencer, "Missing Words: King James Bible Italics, the Translation of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith as an Unlearned Reader," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 38 (2020): 45–106 (esp. 56–68).
  39. Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 2:267.
  40. Legrande Davies, "Isaiah: Texts in the Book of Mormon," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992). Worthy of mention is that two then-current apostles, Elder Neal A. Maxwell and Elder Dallin H. Oaks, and one future apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, were advisors for the encyclopedia and its editorial board. They are recognized in the acknowledgements to the encyclopedia.
  41. 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), "Chapter 5: The Bible in the Book of Mormon", subsection "The Book of Mormon Explains Isaiah". ISBN 0875791395.
  42. Marc Schindler, "Deutero-Isaiah in the Book of Mormon?," FAIR Papers FAIR link
  43. Interpreter Foundation, "The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon," <https://interpreterfoundation.org/the-history-of-the-text-of-the-book-of-mormon/> (25 January 2020).
  44. John Barton, Isaiah 1-39, (London: T&T Clark International, 1995), 25–26. See also Michael Fallon, "Introduction to Isaiah 40–48," Isaiah School in Exile—Isaiah 40–55 (6 September 2014), 194.
  45. L. La Mar Adams, "I Have a Question," Ensign 14 (October 1984): 29.
  46. Benjamin D. Sommer, "Dating Pentateuchal Texts and the Perils of Pseudo-Historicism," The Pentateuch: International Perspectives on Current Research eds., Thomas B. Dozeman, Konrad Schmid, and Baruch J. Schwartz (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 85-108.
  47. Wikipedia, "Isaiah Scroll," <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah_Scroll> (25 January 2020); citing Timothy A.J. Jull, et al., "Radiocarbon Dating of Scrolls and Linen Fragments from the Judean Desert," Radiocarbon 37-1 (1995): 14. doi:10.1017/S0033822200014740. Also citing All About Archaeology, "The Dead Sea Scrolls," <https://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/dead-sea-scrolls-2.htm> (25 January 2020).
  48. Wikipedia, "Siege of Jerusalem (587 BC)," <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Jerusalem_(587_BC)> (25 January 2020).
  49. Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, MA: William B. Eerdmans, 2010), 311.
  50. ABC News, "Philistine cemetery uncovered in archaeological dig in Israel, Goliath's people were 'normal sized'," <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-11/old-bones-cast-new-light-on-goliath-people/7584904> (4 November 2019).
Articles about Joseph Smith

Articles about the Holy Bible

What is the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST)?

Is the JST intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text?

Video published by BYU Religious Education.


The JST is not intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text.

As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on churchofjesuschrist.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible."

Two main points should be kept in mind with regards to the Joseph Smith "translation" of the Bible:

  • The JST is not intended primarily or solely as restoration of text. Many mainline LDS scholars who have focused on the JST (such as Robert J. Matthews and Kent Jackson) are unanimous in this regard. The assumption that it is intended primarily or solely as a restoration of text is what leads to expectations that the JST and Book of Mormon should match up in every case. At times the JST does not even match up with itself, such as when Joseph Smith translated the same passage multiple times in different ways. This does not undermine notions of revelation, but certainly challenges common assumptions about the nature and function of Joseph's understanding of "translation".
  • One of the main tendencies of the JST is harmonization. Readers are well aware of differences in Jesus' sayings between different Gospels. For example, Jesus' statements about whether divorce is permitted and under what conditions differ significantly. Matthew offers an exception clause that Mark and Luke do not, and this has severely complicated the historical interpretation of Jesus' view of divorce.
The JST often makes changes that harmonize one gospel with another. While one gospel says "judge not" (though this may not be as absolute as some make it out to be), John 7:24 has Jesus commanding to "judge righteous judgment." The JST change harmonizes the two gospels by making Matthew agree with John. If there is a real difference between being commanded to "Judge righteously" and being commanded to "Judge not", then it is a problem inherently present in the differing accounts of the Gospels, which the JST resolves.

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.[1]

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.[2]

What is the relationship between the JST and biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation does claim to be, in part, a restoration of the original content of the Bible. This may have been done (a) by reproducing the text as it was originally written down; or, (b) it may have been about reproducing the original intent and clarifying the message of the original author of the text in question. We are not entirely sure, but in either case the JST does claim to be, in part, a restoration.

Critics who fault the JST because it doesn't match known manuscripts of the Bible are being too hasty: we do not have the original manuscripts of any text of the Bible, nor do we know the exact nature of every change made in the JST and whether a particular change was meant to be a restoration of original text.

Kent P. Jackson, another leading expert on the JST, wrote:

Some may choose to find fault with the Joseph Smith Translation because they do not see correlations between the text on ancient manuscripts. The supposition would be that if the JST revisions were justifiable, they would agree with the earliest existing manuscripts of the biblical books. This reasoning is misdirected in two ways. First, it assumes that extant ancient manuscripts accurately reproduce the original test, and both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon teach otherwise.[3] Because the earliest Old and New Testament manuscripts date from long after the original documents were written, we no longer have original manuscripts to compare with Joseph Smith's revisions. The second problem with faulting the JST because it does not match ancient texts is that to do so assumes that all the revisions Joseph Smith made were intended to restore original text. We have no record of him making that claim, and even in places in which the JST would restore original text it would do so not in Hebrew or Greek but in Modern English and in the scriptural idiom of early nineteenth-century America. Revisions that fit in others of the categories listed above are likewise in modern English, "given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language" (D&C 1꞉24)/[4]

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". 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. As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible". 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. In general, it 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.

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.

What was the translation procedure used by Joseph Smith and his scribes to produce the JST?

Kent Jackson reports:

The original manuscripts of the JST, as well as the Bible used in the revision, still exist. They show the following process at work: Joseph Smith had his Bible in front of him, likely in his lap or on a table, and he dictated the translation to his scribes, who recorded what they heard him say. ... there are no parts of the translation in which the scribes "copied out the text of the Bible." The evidence on the manuscripts is clear that this did not happen. The Prophet dictated without punctuation and verse breaks, and those features were inserted as a separate process after the text was complete. [Some have argued that after supposedly] copying of text out of the Bible, the scribes then inserted the "numerous strikethroughs of words and phrases, interlinear insertions, and omissions," and thus Joseph Smith’s revised text was born. But the overwhelming majority of the revisions were in the original dictation and are simply part of the original writing on the manuscripts. There are indeed strikeouts and interlinear insertions on the manuscripts, but they came during a second pass through parts of the manuscripts and comprise only a minority of the revisions Joseph Smith made.[5]:20-21

Did Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary significanly influence the JST?

In March 2017, Thomas Wayment, professor of Classics at Brigham Young University, published a paper in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research titled "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation". In a summary of their research, Wayment and his research assistant wrote:

Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible has attracted significant attention in recent decades, drawing the interest of a wide variety of academics and those who affirm its nearly canonical status in the LDS scriptural canon. More recently, in conducting new research into the origins of Smith’s Bible translation, we uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s famous Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, was a mainstay for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Direct borrowing from this source has not previously been connected to Smith’s translation efforts, and the fundamental question of what Smith meant by the term "translation" with respect to his efforts to rework the biblical text can now be reconsidered in light of this new evidence. What is noteworthy in detailing the usage of this source is that Adam Clarke’s textual emendations come through Smith’s translation as inspired changes to the text. Moreover, the question of what Smith meant by the term translation should be broadened to include what now appears to have been an academic interest to update the text of the Bible. This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith’s translation projects, particularly his Bible project, and how he used academic sources while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text. In presenting the evidence for Smith’s usage of Clarke, our paper also addressed the larger question of what it means for Smith to have used an academic/theological Bible commentary in the process of producing a text that he subsequently defined as a translation. In doing so, we first presented the evidence for Smith’s reliance upon Adam Clarke to establish the nature of Smith’s usage of Clarke. Following that discussion, we engaged the question of how Smith approached the question of the quality of the King James Bible (hereafter KJV) translation that he was using in 1830 and what the term translation meant to both Smith and his close associates. Finally, we offered a suggestion as to how Smith came to use Clarke, as well as assessing the overall question of what these findings suggest regarding Smith as a translator and his various translation projects.

Our research has revealed that the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary are simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds, a number that is well beyond the limits of this paper to discuss. A few of them, however, demonstrate Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance. In presenting the evidence, we have attempted to both establish that Smith drew upon Clarke, likely at the urging of Rigdon, and we present here a broad categorization of the types of changes that Smith made when he used Clarke as a source.[6]

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon then published a more detailed account of their findings together in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity (2020) edited by BYU professor Michael Hubbard MacKay, Joseph Smith Papers researcher Mark Ashurst-McGee, and former BYU professor Brian M. Hauglid.[7] Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.[8]

Wayment outlined what he and Haley Wilson believed they had found:

What we found, a student assistant (Hailey Wilson Lamone) and I, we discovered that in about 200 to 300 — depending on how much change is being involved — parallels where Joseph Smith has the exact same change to a verse that Adam Clarke does. They’re verbatim. Some of them are 5 to 6 words; some of them are 2 words; some of them are a single word. But in cases where that single word is fairly unique or different, it seemed pretty obvious that he’s getting this from Adam Clarke. What really changed my worldview here is now I’m looking at what appears obvious as a text person, that the prophet has used Adam Clarke. That in the process of doing the translation, he’s either read it, has it in front of him, or he reads it at night. We started to look back through the Joseph Smith History. There’s a story of his brother-in-law presenting Joseph Smith with a copy of Adam Clarke. We do not know whose copy of Adam Clarke it is, but we do know that Nathaniel Lewis gives it to the prophet and says, "I want to use the Urim and Thummim. I want to translate some of the strange characters out of Adam Clarke’s commentary." Joseph will clearly not give him the Urim and Thummim to do that, but we know he had it in his hands. Now looking at the text, we can say that a lot of the material that happens after Genesis 24. There are no parallels to Clarke between Genesis 1–Genesis 24. But when we start to get to Matthew, it’s very clear that Adam Clarke has influenced the way he changes the Bible. It was a big moment. That article comes out in the next year. We provide appendi [sic] and documentation for some of the major changes, and we try to grapple with what this might mean.[9]

Accusation of plagiarism

In another interview with Kurt Manwaring, Wayment addressed the charge of plagiarism directly:

When news inadvertently broke that a source had been uncovered that was used in the process of creating the JST, some were quick to use that information as a point of criticism against Joseph or against the JST. Words like "plagiarism" were quickly brought forward as a reasonable explanation of what was going on. To be clear, plagiarism is a word that to me implies an overt attempt to copy the work of another person directly and intentionally without attributing any recognition to the source from which the information was taken.

To the best of my understanding, Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke as a Bible commentary to guide his mind and thought process to consider the Bible in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise. It may be strong to say, but Joseph didn’t have training in ancient languages or the history of the Bible, but Adam Clarke did. And Joseph appears to have appreciated Clarke’s expertise and in using Clarke as a source, Joseph at times adopted the language of that source as he revised the Bible. I think that those who are troubled by this process are largely troubled because it contradicts a certain constructed narrative about the history of the JST and about how revelation works.

The reality of what happened is inspiring.

Joseph, who applied his own prophetic authority to the Bible in the revision process, drew upon the best available scholarship to guide his prophetic instincts. Inspiration following careful study and consideration is a prophetic model that can include many members of the church.

I hope people who read the study when it comes out will pause long enough to consider the benefit of expanding the definition of the prophetic gift to include academic study as a key component before rejecting the evidence outright.[10]

Mark Ashurst McGee of the Joseph Smith Papers team made similar points as those of Wayment at the 2020 FAIR Conference held in Provo:


A rebuttal to the Adam Clarke hypothesis

In October 2020, Kent P. Jackson (Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and a leading expert on the JST) responded to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's work.[5]

Jackson's paper identified several striking weakness to the Adam Clarke hypothesis. These include:

  • "I have examined in detail every one of the JST passages they set forth as having been influenced by Clarke, and I have examined what Clarke wrote about those passages. I now believe that the conclusions they reached regarding those connections cannot be sustained. I do not believe that there is [Page 17] Adam Clarke-JST connection at all, and I have seen no evidence that Joseph Smith ever used Clarke’s commentary in his revision of the Bible. None of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have set forward as examples, in my opinion, can withstand careful scrutiny."[5]:16-17
  • "Too often Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon did not read carefully what Clarke wrote, and thus they frequently misinterpret him by ascribing intentions to him that cannot be sustained from his own words."[5]:28
  • "There is much evidence in the JST to show that when the Prophet removed or replaced words, he had a tendency to save the deleted words and place them elsewhere, and this [Psalms 33:2] is a good example. All of these revisions are the opposite of what Clarke wanted."[5]:30
  • [there are] "several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made."[5]:31
  • "In his commentary on the surrounding verses in Isaiah 34, Clarke makes several suggestions for revising the text. The fact that none of those suggestions are reflected in Joseph Smith’s translation adds to the unlikelihood that Clarke was the Prophet’s source here at all."[5]:33
  • Regarding Mark 8, "Clarke provides what he felt was better wording for four passages in this chapter. Joseph Smith’s translations contains none of them. And Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in the chapter, some of them rather extensive, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke."[5]:39
  • "There is even further reason to rule out Clarke as the source for this change [in John 2:24]. [Clarke's] commentary on John 2 has over 3,000 words, and he recommends changing the text in ten places. Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in this short chapter, but this is the only one that resembles anything in Clarke. Why, among Clarke’s thousands of words and scores of thoughtful insights, would Joseph Smith make only this one small revision of minimal consequence if he had Clarke’s commentary in front of him?"[5]:40
  • "Wayment states that Adam Clarke 'shaped Smith’s Bible revision in fundamental ways.' Even if all of the passages he attributes to Clarke were really influenced by Clarke, it seems difficult to justify such a sweeping statement, given the mostly minor rewordings that we have seen. If among the verses listed above are the best examples, as Wilson-Lemmon states,102 then the Adam Clarke-JST theory can be dismissed out of hand."[5]:53

Jackson concluded that "none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means."[5]:15

Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past,[11] wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."[12]

To be sure, neither Jackson nor Barney are opposed to the idea that there could be secondary source influence on the production of the JST. Thus, this is a faith-neutral issue for both.

At the 2022 FAIR Conference held in Provo, UT, Professor Kent Jackson responded to the theory directly and in depth.[13]


Was the JST ever completed?

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."[14]

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. Joseph was, however, collecting funds to publish the JST—which indicates that he believed it was ready for public use and consumption.

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.[15]

We again see that the JST or any other scripture is not the ultimate source of LDS doctrine—having a living prophet is what is most vital.

Why does the Church continue to use the KJV instead of the JST as its official bible?

The answer to this question is complex. There is no single reason; instead, there are many:

  1. There is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would require both prophetic instruction and a sustaining vote of the membership.
  2. The original manuscripts for the JST were retained by Emma Smith when the Saints went west. She later gave them to her son, Joseph III, and he had the first JST Bible printed under the auspices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this time there was a great deal of animosity between the LDS and RLDS churches; Brigham Young feared that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. Given that the Utah Church could not verify the translation, along with the fact that they did not own the copyright, kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. The LDS interest in the JST came much later, largely due to the scholarly work of Robert Matthews on the manuscripts in the early 1970s, and apostle Bruce R. McConkie's embrace of the JST.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST could cause a stumbling block for converts. The doctrine of Joseph Smith, modern prophets, and modern books of scripture are already difficult for many Christians to consider. In this sense, the KJV serves as a connection between the LDS Church and the remainder of the Christian world.
  4. Portions of the JST have been canonized: Our Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew are excerpts from the JST.

In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work—it included multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST. (Ironically, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before critics of the Church began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[16])

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use.[17]

Among Church leaders, Elder Bruce R. McConkie was especially vocal about the JST. In 1980, he said:

[Joseph] translated the Book of Abraham and what is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This latter is a marvelously inspired work; it is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. By pure revelation, he inserted many new concepts and views as, for instance, the material in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis about Melchizedek. Some chapters he rewrote and realigned so that the things said in them take on a new perspective and meaning, such as the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and the first chapter in the gospel of John.[18]

In 1985 Elder McConkie told members during a satellite broadcast:

As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.[19]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Why does the JST translation of Genesis (the Pearl of Great Price's Book of Moses) contain New Testament language?

The Book of Moses comes from the few chapters of the JST—it is essentially the JST of the first chapters of Genesis.

The translation includes many phrases from the New Testament. The following occurences of New Testament language and concepts reflected in the Book of Moses were documented by David M. Calabro—a Latter-day Saint and Curator of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University.[20]

Phrase Location in Book of Moses Location in New Testament
"Only Begotten" and "Only Begotten Son" Moses 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32, 33; 2:1, 26, 27; 3:18; 4:1, 3, 28, 5:7, 9, 57; 6:52, 57, 59, 62; 7:50, 59, 62 John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9
"transfigured before" God Moses 1:11 Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2
"get thee hence, Satan" Moses 1:16 Matthew 4:10
the Holy Ghost "beareth record" of the Father and the Son Moses 1:24; 5:9 1 John 5:7
"by the word of my power" Moses 1:32, 35; 2:5 Hebrews 1:3
"full of grace and truth" Moses 1:32, 5:7 John 1:14; cf. John 1:17
"immortality and eternal life" Moses 1:39 Both terms are absent from the Old Testament but are relatively frequent in the New Testament: immortality occurs six times, all in Pauline epistles; eternal life occurs twenty-six times in the Gospels, Pauline epistles, epistles of John, and Jude; "eternal life" also appears elsewhere like in Moses 5:11; 6:59; 7:45.
"them that believe" Moses 1:42; 4:32 Mark 16:17; John 1:12; Romans 3:22; 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 14:22; Galatians 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 10:39; the contrasting phrase "them that do not believe" also appears (Rom. 15:31; 1 Cor. 10:27; 14:22)
"I am the Beginning and the End" Moses 2:1 Revelation 21:6; 22:13
"Beloved Son" as a title of Christ Moses 4:2 Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17; the phrase "beloved son" appears elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 20:13; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) and in the Greek Septuagint of Gen. 22:2, but it is absent from the Hebrew and KJV Old Testament.
"my Chosen," as a title of Christ Moses 4:2; 7:39 Compare "chosen of God" in reference to Christ in Luke 23:35 and 1 Pet. 2:4
"thy will be done" Moses 4:2 Matthew 6:10; 26:42; Luke 11:2
"the glory be thine forever" Moses 4:2 Compare Matthew 6:13 - "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever;" note the proximity of this phrase to "thy will be done" both in Moses 4:2 and in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–1.
"by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that [Satan] should be cast down" Moses 4:3 Compare Revelation 12:10 - "Now is come . . . the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down"; note that the Hebrew title Satan means "accuser"
"the devil" Moses 4:4 Sixty-one instances in the New Testament, translating the Greek word diabolos
"carnal, sensual, and devilish" Moses 5:13; 6:49 James 3:15 "earthly, sensual, and devilish"
"Satan desireth to have thee" Moses 5:23 Luke 22:31 "Satan hath desired to have you"
"Perdition," as the title of a person Moses 5:24 Compare "the son of perdition" in John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the word perdition as an abstract noun meaning "destruction" (translating the Greek word apoleia) occurs elsewhere in the King James version of the New Testament (Philippians 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, 11)
"the Gospel" Moses 5:58, 59, 8:19 Eighty-three instances in the New Testament; the word gospel, irrespective of the English definite article, occurs 101 times in the New Testament but is not found in the Old Testament.
"holy angels" Moses 5:58 Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22 (singular "holy angel"); Revelation 14:10
"gift of the Holy Ghost" Moses 5:58; 6:52 Acts 2:38; 10:45
"anointing" the eyes in order to see Moses 6:35 – "anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see" Compare John 9:6–7, 11 (Jesus anoints the eyes of a blind man with clay and commands him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he "came seeing"); Revelation 3:18 (the Lord tells the church in Laodicea, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see"); these are the only passages in the Bible that refer to anointing the eyes
"no man laid hands on him" Moses 6:39 John 7:30, 44; 8:20
"my God, and your God" Moses 6:43 John 20:17
"only name under heaven whereby salvation shall come" Moses 6:52 Acts 4:12
collocation of water, blood, and Spirit Moses 6:59-60 1 John 5:6, 8
"born again of water and the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit"; "born again"; "born of water and of the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit" Moses 6:59, 65 John 3:3, 5-8
"the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" Moses 6:59 Matthew 13:11. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is absent from the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found only in Matthew (thirty-two occurrences), but it is frequent in rabbinic literature
"cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten" Moses 6:59 Compare 1 John 1:7 ("the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin")
"the words of eternal life" Moses 6:59 John 6:68
eternal life "in the world to come" Moses 6:59 Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; the phrase "the world to come" is absent from the Old Testament but occurs five times in the New Testament; other than the two just quoted, see Matthew 12:32; Hebrews 2:5; 6:5
"by the Spirit ye are justified" Moses 6:60 Compare 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:16
"the Comforter," referring to the Holy Ghost Moses 6:61 John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7
"the inner man" Moses 6:65 Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16
"baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost" Moses 6:66 Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16
"they were of one heart and one mind" Moses 7:18 Compare Acts 4:32
"in the bosom of the Father," referring to heaven Moses 7:24, 47 John 1:18 (note that JST deletes this phrase in this verse, perhaps implying that it entered the text sometime after its original composition)
"a great chain in his hand" Moses 7:26 Revelation 20:1 (here the one holding the chain is an angel, unlike Moses 7:26, in which it is the devil)
commandment to "love one another" Moses 7:33 John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5
"without affection" Moses 7:33 Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3
"the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world" Moses 7:47 Compare Revelation 13:8 – "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," as a noun phrase); the term "the Lamb" is used as a title of the Messiah only in the New Testament and is distinctively Johannine (John 1:29, 36; twenty-seven instances in Revelation), and the words lamb and slain collocate only in Revelation 5:6, 12; 13:8.
"climb up" by a gate or door, as a metaphor of progression through Christ Moses 7:53 John 10:1

Video by The Interpreter Foundation.


This language can be explained by a few possible factors, not all mutually exclusive.

"After the Manner of Their Language" – Doctrine & Covenants 1:24

The first possibility to consider is that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Moses into a vernacular that was comprehensible to his 19th century audience. Joseph's contemporaries were steeped in biblical language and used it even in everyday speech. The language of the New Testament was the natural way to discuss certain theological ideas.

D&C 1꞉24 tells us that in revelation, God uses the language of his audience to communicate effectively" Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."[21]

An early Christian context for the creation of the Book of Moses

Another possibility is that the Book of Moses was originally written in an early Christian context. That would place the composition of the Book of Moses in the 1st and 2nd century AD (about 1900 to 1800 years ago). Calabro outlined and defended this theory.[20] Calabro argues that the Book of Moses can still preserve actual events from the life of Moses while placing the story in a Christian context describing it with Christian language. Thus, Joseph Smith could actually be restoring lost understanding of Moses—but that information has already been filtered through New Testament language.

One potential weakness of this theory is that it disrupts the understanding of many Church members about the Book of Moses, since it has more traditionally been seen as a restoration of Moses' writings in Genesis. However, Joseph Smith does not seem to have left a detailed account of what the Book of Moses represents. Joseph saw the JST as a restoration of "many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled."[22]

This theory could also, in essence, be turned on its head, making an ancient version of the Book of Moses the source of subsequent Christian writing. Latter-day Saint author Jeff Lindsay and former BYU professor Noel Reynolds have theorized that the Book of Moses influenced the language of the Book of Mormon via the brass plates or another source.[23]

Similar messages to different nations

Speaking in reference to the Bible, the Book of Mormon has God announce that "I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two enations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."[24]

It is certainly possible that the same concepts were revealed to Moses with similar language as that used in the New Testament.

Conclusion—New Testament and the Book of Moses

There are therefore multiple models which would explain the similarity between the Book of Moses and the New Testament. Given that the Book of Moses claims to be a translation, it is hardly strange that it would echo another translation (the KJV bible) that discusses the same ideas and issues.

Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17꞉22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

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.

Is the Church "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence

Some critics have claimed that the Church is "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. [25]

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence. The claim was made in 1977. In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work. Thus, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before the Tanners began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[26] It had multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST.

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use. Some examples of this effort published around the time the Tanners were making their claim include:

  • Robert J. Matthews, “The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration,” Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site
  • Monte S. Nyman, “Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site

The Church is not, and was not, embarrassed by the JST. In its historical context, the critics' claim is incredibly ill-informed.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

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[27] 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.[28]

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

Learn more about the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the bible
Key sources
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
FAIR links
  • Jeffrey Bradshaw, "The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden," Proceedings of the 2008 FAIR Conference (August 2008). link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
Online
  • W. John Welsh, "Why Didn't Joseph Correct KJV Errors When Translating the JST?", lightplanet.com off-site
  • Garold N. Davis, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [123–129] link
  • Kevin L. Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85–102.off-site
  • Cynthia L. Hallen, "Redeeming the Desolate Woman: The Message of Isaiah 54 and 3 Nephi 22," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998). [40–47] link
  • Matthew L. Bowen, "'They Shall Be Scattered Again': Some Notes on JST Genesis 50:24–25, 33–35," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 57/4 (23 June 2023). [107–128] link
  • Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph Smith's Translation Projects under a Microscope," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/15 (18 December 2020). [257–264] link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  • Spencer Kraus, "An Unfortunate Approach to Joseph Smith's Translation of Ancient Scripture," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 52/1 (17 June 2022). [1–64] link
  • Mark J. Johnson, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [130–138] link
  • Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4/1 (1992). [235–250] link
  • Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005). [12–25] link
  • A. Don Sorensen, "'The Problem of the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi (Review of “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone September–October 1982, 20–27)'," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [117–148] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "'Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books'," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [166–174] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Book of Mormon and the Problem of the Sermon on the Mount," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [153–165] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The 'Isaiah Problem' in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [129–152] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Isaiah Quotation: 2 Nephi 12–24," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [192–208] link
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Review of 'Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah.' in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 157–234.)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [161–172] link
  • Kurt Manwaring, “10 questions with Thomas Wayment”.
  • LDS Perspectives, Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment .
  • Thomas Wayment and Haley Wilson, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation".
Video
Video published by BYU Religious Education.

Print
  • Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985).
  • Matthew B. Brown, "The Restoration of Biblical Texts," in All Things Restored, 2d ed. (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2006),159–181. AISN B000R4LXSM. ISBN 1577347129.
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism—Discrepancies between KJV, JST, and Book of Mormon
Critical sources


Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. "History of Joseph Smith," 592; 1 Nephi 13:28; see 13:23–29.
  4. Kent P. Jackson, Understanding Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022), 34–35.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  6. Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," Journal of Undergraduate Research (March 2017) off-site
  7. Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, "A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, eds. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 262–84.
  8. Thomas A. Wayment, "Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, and the Making of a Bible Revision," Journal of Mormon History 46, no. 3 (July 2020): 1–22.
  9. Transcript of Laura Harris Hales, "Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment," LDS Perspectives, September 26, 2019, https://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/09/26/jst-adam-clarke-commentary/.
  10. Kurt Manwaring, "10 Questions with Thomas Wayment," From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring, January 2, 2019, https://www.fromthedesk.org/10-questions-thomas-wayment/.
  11. See, for instance, Kevin L. Barney, "A Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Revision of First Corinthians," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 57–105.
  12. Kevin Barney, "On Secondary Source Influence in the JST," By Common Consent, April 16, 2021, https://bycommonconsent.com/2021/04/16/on-secondary-source-infuence-in-the-jst/
  13. Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
  14. Kent P. Jackson, "New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," in Religious Educator 6, no. 3 (2005): 149–160 (link).
  15. George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 142.
  16. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  17. Robert J. Matthews, "The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration," Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site; "Plain and Precious Things Restored," Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site; "Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’," Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site; Monte S. Nyman, "Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible," Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site
  18. Bruce R. McConkie, "This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You," Ensign (June 1980): 54.
  19. Bruce R. McConkie, "https://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/12/come-hear-the-voice-of-the-lord?lang=eng Come: Hear the Voice of the Lord]," Ensign (December 1985): 54.
  20. 20.0 20.1 David M. Calabro, "An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 47/7 (20 September 2021). [181–262] link
  21. See also 2 Nephi 31꞉3.
  22. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 10–11.
  23. Jeff Lindsay and Noel B. Reynolds, "'Strong Like unto Moses': The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Related Content Apparently from the Brass Plates," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 44/1 (26 March 2021). [1–92] link Noel B. Reynolds, "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 34/5 (15 November 2019). [63–96] link
  24. 2 Nephi 29:8
  25. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 385.( Index of claims )
  26. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  27. 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.
  28. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.

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.

FAIR's 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.


Articles about Joseph Smith

Articles about the Holy Bible

What is the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST)?

Is the JST intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text?

Video published by BYU Religious Education.


The JST is not intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text.

As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on churchofjesuschrist.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible."

Two main points should be kept in mind with regards to the Joseph Smith "translation" of the Bible:

  • The JST is not intended primarily or solely as restoration of text. Many mainline LDS scholars who have focused on the JST (such as Robert J. Matthews and Kent Jackson) are unanimous in this regard. The assumption that it is intended primarily or solely as a restoration of text is what leads to expectations that the JST and Book of Mormon should match up in every case. At times the JST does not even match up with itself, such as when Joseph Smith translated the same passage multiple times in different ways. This does not undermine notions of revelation, but certainly challenges common assumptions about the nature and function of Joseph's understanding of "translation".
  • One of the main tendencies of the JST is harmonization. Readers are well aware of differences in Jesus' sayings between different Gospels. For example, Jesus' statements about whether divorce is permitted and under what conditions differ significantly. Matthew offers an exception clause that Mark and Luke do not, and this has severely complicated the historical interpretation of Jesus' view of divorce.
The JST often makes changes that harmonize one gospel with another. While one gospel says "judge not" (though this may not be as absolute as some make it out to be), John 7:24 has Jesus commanding to "judge righteous judgment." The JST change harmonizes the two gospels by making Matthew agree with John. If there is a real difference between being commanded to "Judge righteously" and being commanded to "Judge not", then it is a problem inherently present in the differing accounts of the Gospels, which the JST resolves.

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.[1]

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.[2]

What is the relationship between the JST and biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation does claim to be, in part, a restoration of the original content of the Bible. This may have been done (a) by reproducing the text as it was originally written down; or, (b) it may have been about reproducing the original intent and clarifying the message of the original author of the text in question. We are not entirely sure, but in either case the JST does claim to be, in part, a restoration.

Critics who fault the JST because it doesn't match known manuscripts of the Bible are being too hasty: we do not have the original manuscripts of any text of the Bible, nor do we know the exact nature of every change made in the JST and whether a particular change was meant to be a restoration of original text.

Kent P. Jackson, another leading expert on the JST, wrote:

Some may choose to find fault with the Joseph Smith Translation because they do not see correlations between the text on ancient manuscripts. The supposition would be that if the JST revisions were justifiable, they would agree with the earliest existing manuscripts of the biblical books. This reasoning is misdirected in two ways. First, it assumes that extant ancient manuscripts accurately reproduce the original test, and both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon teach otherwise.[3] Because the earliest Old and New Testament manuscripts date from long after the original documents were written, we no longer have original manuscripts to compare with Joseph Smith's revisions. The second problem with faulting the JST because it does not match ancient texts is that to do so assumes that all the revisions Joseph Smith made were intended to restore original text. We have no record of him making that claim, and even in places in which the JST would restore original text it would do so not in Hebrew or Greek but in Modern English and in the scriptural idiom of early nineteenth-century America. Revisions that fit in others of the categories listed above are likewise in modern English, "given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language" (D&C 1꞉24)/[4]

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". 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. As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible". 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. In general, it 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.

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.

What was the translation procedure used by Joseph Smith and his scribes to produce the JST?

Kent Jackson reports:

The original manuscripts of the JST, as well as the Bible used in the revision, still exist. They show the following process at work: Joseph Smith had his Bible in front of him, likely in his lap or on a table, and he dictated the translation to his scribes, who recorded what they heard him say. ... there are no parts of the translation in which the scribes "copied out the text of the Bible." The evidence on the manuscripts is clear that this did not happen. The Prophet dictated without punctuation and verse breaks, and those features were inserted as a separate process after the text was complete. [Some have argued that after supposedly] copying of text out of the Bible, the scribes then inserted the "numerous strikethroughs of words and phrases, interlinear insertions, and omissions," and thus Joseph Smith’s revised text was born. But the overwhelming majority of the revisions were in the original dictation and are simply part of the original writing on the manuscripts. There are indeed strikeouts and interlinear insertions on the manuscripts, but they came during a second pass through parts of the manuscripts and comprise only a minority of the revisions Joseph Smith made.[5]:20-21

Did Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary significanly influence the JST?

In March 2017, Thomas Wayment, professor of Classics at Brigham Young University, published a paper in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research titled "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation". In a summary of their research, Wayment and his research assistant wrote:

Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible has attracted significant attention in recent decades, drawing the interest of a wide variety of academics and those who affirm its nearly canonical status in the LDS scriptural canon. More recently, in conducting new research into the origins of Smith’s Bible translation, we uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s famous Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, was a mainstay for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Direct borrowing from this source has not previously been connected to Smith’s translation efforts, and the fundamental question of what Smith meant by the term "translation" with respect to his efforts to rework the biblical text can now be reconsidered in light of this new evidence. What is noteworthy in detailing the usage of this source is that Adam Clarke’s textual emendations come through Smith’s translation as inspired changes to the text. Moreover, the question of what Smith meant by the term translation should be broadened to include what now appears to have been an academic interest to update the text of the Bible. This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith’s translation projects, particularly his Bible project, and how he used academic sources while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text. In presenting the evidence for Smith’s usage of Clarke, our paper also addressed the larger question of what it means for Smith to have used an academic/theological Bible commentary in the process of producing a text that he subsequently defined as a translation. In doing so, we first presented the evidence for Smith’s reliance upon Adam Clarke to establish the nature of Smith’s usage of Clarke. Following that discussion, we engaged the question of how Smith approached the question of the quality of the King James Bible (hereafter KJV) translation that he was using in 1830 and what the term translation meant to both Smith and his close associates. Finally, we offered a suggestion as to how Smith came to use Clarke, as well as assessing the overall question of what these findings suggest regarding Smith as a translator and his various translation projects.

Our research has revealed that the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary are simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds, a number that is well beyond the limits of this paper to discuss. A few of them, however, demonstrate Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance. In presenting the evidence, we have attempted to both establish that Smith drew upon Clarke, likely at the urging of Rigdon, and we present here a broad categorization of the types of changes that Smith made when he used Clarke as a source.[6]

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon then published a more detailed account of their findings together in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity (2020) edited by BYU professor Michael Hubbard MacKay, Joseph Smith Papers researcher Mark Ashurst-McGee, and former BYU professor Brian M. Hauglid.[7] Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.[8]

Wayment outlined what he and Haley Wilson believed they had found:

What we found, a student assistant (Hailey Wilson Lamone) and I, we discovered that in about 200 to 300 — depending on how much change is being involved — parallels where Joseph Smith has the exact same change to a verse that Adam Clarke does. They’re verbatim. Some of them are 5 to 6 words; some of them are 2 words; some of them are a single word. But in cases where that single word is fairly unique or different, it seemed pretty obvious that he’s getting this from Adam Clarke. What really changed my worldview here is now I’m looking at what appears obvious as a text person, that the prophet has used Adam Clarke. That in the process of doing the translation, he’s either read it, has it in front of him, or he reads it at night. We started to look back through the Joseph Smith History. There’s a story of his brother-in-law presenting Joseph Smith with a copy of Adam Clarke. We do not know whose copy of Adam Clarke it is, but we do know that Nathaniel Lewis gives it to the prophet and says, "I want to use the Urim and Thummim. I want to translate some of the strange characters out of Adam Clarke’s commentary." Joseph will clearly not give him the Urim and Thummim to do that, but we know he had it in his hands. Now looking at the text, we can say that a lot of the material that happens after Genesis 24. There are no parallels to Clarke between Genesis 1–Genesis 24. But when we start to get to Matthew, it’s very clear that Adam Clarke has influenced the way he changes the Bible. It was a big moment. That article comes out in the next year. We provide appendi [sic] and documentation for some of the major changes, and we try to grapple with what this might mean.[9]

Accusation of plagiarism

In another interview with Kurt Manwaring, Wayment addressed the charge of plagiarism directly:

When news inadvertently broke that a source had been uncovered that was used in the process of creating the JST, some were quick to use that information as a point of criticism against Joseph or against the JST. Words like "plagiarism" were quickly brought forward as a reasonable explanation of what was going on. To be clear, plagiarism is a word that to me implies an overt attempt to copy the work of another person directly and intentionally without attributing any recognition to the source from which the information was taken.

To the best of my understanding, Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke as a Bible commentary to guide his mind and thought process to consider the Bible in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise. It may be strong to say, but Joseph didn’t have training in ancient languages or the history of the Bible, but Adam Clarke did. And Joseph appears to have appreciated Clarke’s expertise and in using Clarke as a source, Joseph at times adopted the language of that source as he revised the Bible. I think that those who are troubled by this process are largely troubled because it contradicts a certain constructed narrative about the history of the JST and about how revelation works.

The reality of what happened is inspiring.

Joseph, who applied his own prophetic authority to the Bible in the revision process, drew upon the best available scholarship to guide his prophetic instincts. Inspiration following careful study and consideration is a prophetic model that can include many members of the church.

I hope people who read the study when it comes out will pause long enough to consider the benefit of expanding the definition of the prophetic gift to include academic study as a key component before rejecting the evidence outright.[10]

Mark Ashurst McGee of the Joseph Smith Papers team made similar points as those of Wayment at the 2020 FAIR Conference held in Provo:


A rebuttal to the Adam Clarke hypothesis

In October 2020, Kent P. Jackson (Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and a leading expert on the JST) responded to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's work.[5]

Jackson's paper identified several striking weakness to the Adam Clarke hypothesis. These include:

  • "I have examined in detail every one of the JST passages they set forth as having been influenced by Clarke, and I have examined what Clarke wrote about those passages. I now believe that the conclusions they reached regarding those connections cannot be sustained. I do not believe that there is [Page 17] Adam Clarke-JST connection at all, and I have seen no evidence that Joseph Smith ever used Clarke’s commentary in his revision of the Bible. None of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have set forward as examples, in my opinion, can withstand careful scrutiny."[5]:16-17
  • "Too often Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon did not read carefully what Clarke wrote, and thus they frequently misinterpret him by ascribing intentions to him that cannot be sustained from his own words."[5]:28
  • "There is much evidence in the JST to show that when the Prophet removed or replaced words, he had a tendency to save the deleted words and place them elsewhere, and this [Psalms 33:2] is a good example. All of these revisions are the opposite of what Clarke wanted."[5]:30
  • [there are] "several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made."[5]:31
  • "In his commentary on the surrounding verses in Isaiah 34, Clarke makes several suggestions for revising the text. The fact that none of those suggestions are reflected in Joseph Smith’s translation adds to the unlikelihood that Clarke was the Prophet’s source here at all."[5]:33
  • Regarding Mark 8, "Clarke provides what he felt was better wording for four passages in this chapter. Joseph Smith’s translations contains none of them. And Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in the chapter, some of them rather extensive, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke."[5]:39
  • "There is even further reason to rule out Clarke as the source for this change [in John 2:24]. [Clarke's] commentary on John 2 has over 3,000 words, and he recommends changing the text in ten places. Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in this short chapter, but this is the only one that resembles anything in Clarke. Why, among Clarke’s thousands of words and scores of thoughtful insights, would Joseph Smith make only this one small revision of minimal consequence if he had Clarke’s commentary in front of him?"[5]:40
  • "Wayment states that Adam Clarke 'shaped Smith’s Bible revision in fundamental ways.' Even if all of the passages he attributes to Clarke were really influenced by Clarke, it seems difficult to justify such a sweeping statement, given the mostly minor rewordings that we have seen. If among the verses listed above are the best examples, as Wilson-Lemmon states,102 then the Adam Clarke-JST theory can be dismissed out of hand."[5]:53

Jackson concluded that "none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means."[5]:15

Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past,[11] wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."[12]

To be sure, neither Jackson nor Barney are opposed to the idea that there could be secondary source influence on the production of the JST. Thus, this is a faith-neutral issue for both.

At the 2022 FAIR Conference held in Provo, UT, Professor Kent Jackson responded to the theory directly and in depth.[13]


Was the JST ever completed?

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."[14]

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. Joseph was, however, collecting funds to publish the JST—which indicates that he believed it was ready for public use and consumption.

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.[15]

We again see that the JST or any other scripture is not the ultimate source of LDS doctrine—having a living prophet is what is most vital.

Why does the Church continue to use the KJV instead of the JST as its official bible?

The answer to this question is complex. There is no single reason; instead, there are many:

  1. There is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would require both prophetic instruction and a sustaining vote of the membership.
  2. The original manuscripts for the JST were retained by Emma Smith when the Saints went west. She later gave them to her son, Joseph III, and he had the first JST Bible printed under the auspices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this time there was a great deal of animosity between the LDS and RLDS churches; Brigham Young feared that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. Given that the Utah Church could not verify the translation, along with the fact that they did not own the copyright, kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. The LDS interest in the JST came much later, largely due to the scholarly work of Robert Matthews on the manuscripts in the early 1970s, and apostle Bruce R. McConkie's embrace of the JST.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST could cause a stumbling block for converts. The doctrine of Joseph Smith, modern prophets, and modern books of scripture are already difficult for many Christians to consider. In this sense, the KJV serves as a connection between the LDS Church and the remainder of the Christian world.
  4. Portions of the JST have been canonized: Our Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew are excerpts from the JST.

In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work—it included multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST. (Ironically, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before critics of the Church began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[16])

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use.[17]

Among Church leaders, Elder Bruce R. McConkie was especially vocal about the JST. In 1980, he said:

[Joseph] translated the Book of Abraham and what is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This latter is a marvelously inspired work; it is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. By pure revelation, he inserted many new concepts and views as, for instance, the material in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis about Melchizedek. Some chapters he rewrote and realigned so that the things said in them take on a new perspective and meaning, such as the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and the first chapter in the gospel of John.[18]

In 1985 Elder McConkie told members during a satellite broadcast:

As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.[19]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Why does the JST translation of Genesis (the Pearl of Great Price's Book of Moses) contain New Testament language?

The Book of Moses comes from the few chapters of the JST—it is essentially the JST of the first chapters of Genesis.

The translation includes many phrases from the New Testament. The following occurences of New Testament language and concepts reflected in the Book of Moses were documented by David M. Calabro—a Latter-day Saint and Curator of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University.[20]

Phrase Location in Book of Moses Location in New Testament
"Only Begotten" and "Only Begotten Son" Moses 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32, 33; 2:1, 26, 27; 3:18; 4:1, 3, 28, 5:7, 9, 57; 6:52, 57, 59, 62; 7:50, 59, 62 John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9
"transfigured before" God Moses 1:11 Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2
"get thee hence, Satan" Moses 1:16 Matthew 4:10
the Holy Ghost "beareth record" of the Father and the Son Moses 1:24; 5:9 1 John 5:7
"by the word of my power" Moses 1:32, 35; 2:5 Hebrews 1:3
"full of grace and truth" Moses 1:32, 5:7 John 1:14; cf. John 1:17
"immortality and eternal life" Moses 1:39 Both terms are absent from the Old Testament but are relatively frequent in the New Testament: immortality occurs six times, all in Pauline epistles; eternal life occurs twenty-six times in the Gospels, Pauline epistles, epistles of John, and Jude; "eternal life" also appears elsewhere like in Moses 5:11; 6:59; 7:45.
"them that believe" Moses 1:42; 4:32 Mark 16:17; John 1:12; Romans 3:22; 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 14:22; Galatians 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 10:39; the contrasting phrase "them that do not believe" also appears (Rom. 15:31; 1 Cor. 10:27; 14:22)
"I am the Beginning and the End" Moses 2:1 Revelation 21:6; 22:13
"Beloved Son" as a title of Christ Moses 4:2 Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17; the phrase "beloved son" appears elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 20:13; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) and in the Greek Septuagint of Gen. 22:2, but it is absent from the Hebrew and KJV Old Testament.
"my Chosen," as a title of Christ Moses 4:2; 7:39 Compare "chosen of God" in reference to Christ in Luke 23:35 and 1 Pet. 2:4
"thy will be done" Moses 4:2 Matthew 6:10; 26:42; Luke 11:2
"the glory be thine forever" Moses 4:2 Compare Matthew 6:13 - "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever;" note the proximity of this phrase to "thy will be done" both in Moses 4:2 and in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–1.
"by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that [Satan] should be cast down" Moses 4:3 Compare Revelation 12:10 - "Now is come . . . the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down"; note that the Hebrew title Satan means "accuser"
"the devil" Moses 4:4 Sixty-one instances in the New Testament, translating the Greek word diabolos
"carnal, sensual, and devilish" Moses 5:13; 6:49 James 3:15 "earthly, sensual, and devilish"
"Satan desireth to have thee" Moses 5:23 Luke 22:31 "Satan hath desired to have you"
"Perdition," as the title of a person Moses 5:24 Compare "the son of perdition" in John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the word perdition as an abstract noun meaning "destruction" (translating the Greek word apoleia) occurs elsewhere in the King James version of the New Testament (Philippians 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, 11)
"the Gospel" Moses 5:58, 59, 8:19 Eighty-three instances in the New Testament; the word gospel, irrespective of the English definite article, occurs 101 times in the New Testament but is not found in the Old Testament.
"holy angels" Moses 5:58 Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22 (singular "holy angel"); Revelation 14:10
"gift of the Holy Ghost" Moses 5:58; 6:52 Acts 2:38; 10:45
"anointing" the eyes in order to see Moses 6:35 – "anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see" Compare John 9:6–7, 11 (Jesus anoints the eyes of a blind man with clay and commands him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he "came seeing"); Revelation 3:18 (the Lord tells the church in Laodicea, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see"); these are the only passages in the Bible that refer to anointing the eyes
"no man laid hands on him" Moses 6:39 John 7:30, 44; 8:20
"my God, and your God" Moses 6:43 John 20:17
"only name under heaven whereby salvation shall come" Moses 6:52 Acts 4:12
collocation of water, blood, and Spirit Moses 6:59-60 1 John 5:6, 8
"born again of water and the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit"; "born again"; "born of water and of the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit" Moses 6:59, 65 John 3:3, 5-8
"the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" Moses 6:59 Matthew 13:11. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is absent from the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found only in Matthew (thirty-two occurrences), but it is frequent in rabbinic literature
"cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten" Moses 6:59 Compare 1 John 1:7 ("the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin")
"the words of eternal life" Moses 6:59 John 6:68
eternal life "in the world to come" Moses 6:59 Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; the phrase "the world to come" is absent from the Old Testament but occurs five times in the New Testament; other than the two just quoted, see Matthew 12:32; Hebrews 2:5; 6:5
"by the Spirit ye are justified" Moses 6:60 Compare 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:16
"the Comforter," referring to the Holy Ghost Moses 6:61 John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7
"the inner man" Moses 6:65 Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16
"baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost" Moses 6:66 Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16
"they were of one heart and one mind" Moses 7:18 Compare Acts 4:32
"in the bosom of the Father," referring to heaven Moses 7:24, 47 John 1:18 (note that JST deletes this phrase in this verse, perhaps implying that it entered the text sometime after its original composition)
"a great chain in his hand" Moses 7:26 Revelation 20:1 (here the one holding the chain is an angel, unlike Moses 7:26, in which it is the devil)
commandment to "love one another" Moses 7:33 John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5
"without affection" Moses 7:33 Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3
"the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world" Moses 7:47 Compare Revelation 13:8 – "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," as a noun phrase); the term "the Lamb" is used as a title of the Messiah only in the New Testament and is distinctively Johannine (John 1:29, 36; twenty-seven instances in Revelation), and the words lamb and slain collocate only in Revelation 5:6, 12; 13:8.
"climb up" by a gate or door, as a metaphor of progression through Christ Moses 7:53 John 10:1

Video by The Interpreter Foundation.


This language can be explained by a few possible factors, not all mutually exclusive.

"After the Manner of Their Language" – Doctrine & Covenants 1:24

The first possibility to consider is that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Moses into a vernacular that was comprehensible to his 19th century audience. Joseph's contemporaries were steeped in biblical language and used it even in everyday speech. The language of the New Testament was the natural way to discuss certain theological ideas.

D&C 1꞉24 tells us that in revelation, God uses the language of his audience to communicate effectively" Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."[21]

An early Christian context for the creation of the Book of Moses

Another possibility is that the Book of Moses was originally written in an early Christian context. That would place the composition of the Book of Moses in the 1st and 2nd century AD (about 1900 to 1800 years ago). Calabro outlined and defended this theory.[20] Calabro argues that the Book of Moses can still preserve actual events from the life of Moses while placing the story in a Christian context describing it with Christian language. Thus, Joseph Smith could actually be restoring lost understanding of Moses—but that information has already been filtered through New Testament language.

One potential weakness of this theory is that it disrupts the understanding of many Church members about the Book of Moses, since it has more traditionally been seen as a restoration of Moses' writings in Genesis. However, Joseph Smith does not seem to have left a detailed account of what the Book of Moses represents. Joseph saw the JST as a restoration of "many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled."[22]

This theory could also, in essence, be turned on its head, making an ancient version of the Book of Moses the source of subsequent Christian writing. Latter-day Saint author Jeff Lindsay and former BYU professor Noel Reynolds have theorized that the Book of Moses influenced the language of the Book of Mormon via the brass plates or another source.[23]

Similar messages to different nations

Speaking in reference to the Bible, the Book of Mormon has God announce that "I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two enations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."[24]

It is certainly possible that the same concepts were revealed to Moses with similar language as that used in the New Testament.

Conclusion—New Testament and the Book of Moses

There are therefore multiple models which would explain the similarity between the Book of Moses and the New Testament. Given that the Book of Moses claims to be a translation, it is hardly strange that it would echo another translation (the KJV bible) that discusses the same ideas and issues.

Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17꞉22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

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.

Is the Church "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence

Some critics have claimed that the Church is "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. [25]

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence. The claim was made in 1977. In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work. Thus, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before the Tanners began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[26] It had multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST.

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use. Some examples of this effort published around the time the Tanners were making their claim include:

  • Robert J. Matthews, “The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration,” Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site
  • Monte S. Nyman, “Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site

The Church is not, and was not, embarrassed by the JST. In its historical context, the critics' claim is incredibly ill-informed.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

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[27] 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.[28]

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

Learn more about the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the bible
Key sources
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
FAIR links
  • Jeffrey Bradshaw, "The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden," Proceedings of the 2008 FAIR Conference (August 2008). link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
Online
  • W. John Welsh, "Why Didn't Joseph Correct KJV Errors When Translating the JST?", lightplanet.com off-site
  • Garold N. Davis, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [123–129] link
  • Kevin L. Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85–102.off-site
  • Cynthia L. Hallen, "Redeeming the Desolate Woman: The Message of Isaiah 54 and 3 Nephi 22," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998). [40–47] link
  • Matthew L. Bowen, "'They Shall Be Scattered Again': Some Notes on JST Genesis 50:24–25, 33–35," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 57/4 (23 June 2023). [107–128] link
  • Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph Smith's Translation Projects under a Microscope," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/15 (18 December 2020). [257–264] link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  • Spencer Kraus, "An Unfortunate Approach to Joseph Smith's Translation of Ancient Scripture," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 52/1 (17 June 2022). [1–64] link
  • Mark J. Johnson, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [130–138] link
  • Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4/1 (1992). [235–250] link
  • Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005). [12–25] link
  • A. Don Sorensen, "'The Problem of the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi (Review of “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone September–October 1982, 20–27)'," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [117–148] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "'Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books'," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [166–174] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Book of Mormon and the Problem of the Sermon on the Mount," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [153–165] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The 'Isaiah Problem' in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [129–152] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Isaiah Quotation: 2 Nephi 12–24," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [192–208] link
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Review of 'Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah.' in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 157–234.)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [161–172] link
  • Kurt Manwaring, “10 questions with Thomas Wayment”.
  • LDS Perspectives, Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment .
  • Thomas Wayment and Haley Wilson, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation".
Video
Video published by BYU Religious Education.

Print
  • Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985).
  • Matthew B. Brown, "The Restoration of Biblical Texts," in All Things Restored, 2d ed. (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2006),159–181. AISN B000R4LXSM. ISBN 1577347129.
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism—Discrepancies between KJV, JST, and Book of Mormon
Critical sources


Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. "History of Joseph Smith," 592; 1 Nephi 13:28; see 13:23–29.
  4. Kent P. Jackson, Understanding Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022), 34–35.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  6. Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," Journal of Undergraduate Research (March 2017) off-site
  7. Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, "A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, eds. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 262–84.
  8. Thomas A. Wayment, "Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, and the Making of a Bible Revision," Journal of Mormon History 46, no. 3 (July 2020): 1–22.
  9. Transcript of Laura Harris Hales, "Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment," LDS Perspectives, September 26, 2019, https://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/09/26/jst-adam-clarke-commentary/.
  10. Kurt Manwaring, "10 Questions with Thomas Wayment," From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring, January 2, 2019, https://www.fromthedesk.org/10-questions-thomas-wayment/.
  11. See, for instance, Kevin L. Barney, "A Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Revision of First Corinthians," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 57–105.
  12. Kevin Barney, "On Secondary Source Influence in the JST," By Common Consent, April 16, 2021, https://bycommonconsent.com/2021/04/16/on-secondary-source-infuence-in-the-jst/
  13. Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
  14. Kent P. Jackson, "New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," in Religious Educator 6, no. 3 (2005): 149–160 (link).
  15. George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 142.
  16. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  17. Robert J. Matthews, "The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration," Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site; "Plain and Precious Things Restored," Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site; "Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’," Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site; Monte S. Nyman, "Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible," Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site
  18. Bruce R. McConkie, "This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You," Ensign (June 1980): 54.
  19. Bruce R. McConkie, "https://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/12/come-hear-the-voice-of-the-lord?lang=eng Come: Hear the Voice of the Lord]," Ensign (December 1985): 54.
  20. 20.0 20.1 David M. Calabro, "An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 47/7 (20 September 2021). [181–262] link
  21. See also 2 Nephi 31꞉3.
  22. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 10–11.
  23. Jeff Lindsay and Noel B. Reynolds, "'Strong Like unto Moses': The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Related Content Apparently from the Brass Plates," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 44/1 (26 March 2021). [1–92] link Noel B. Reynolds, "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 34/5 (15 November 2019). [63–96] link
  24. 2 Nephi 29:8
  25. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 385.( Index of claims )
  26. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  27. 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.
  28. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.

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?

FAIR's 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)

The Greek Contradicts Critics' Interpretation of the Verse

The underlying Greek of the passage contradicts our critics' interpretation of this passage. Latter-day Saint apologist Kevin L. Barney observed:

At this point Jesus corrects the mistaken understanding of the Sadducees to the effect that the resurrection is simply a continuation of mortal life as we know it. The time for entering into marriages is mortality; the nature of life in the hereafter will change from that which we are accustomed to here and now. The expressions “marry” [gamousin] and “given in marriage” [gamizontai] translate forms of the related Greek verbs gameō and gamizō, which have to do with the act of becoming married. The first verb is used here to refer to men and the second to women. If Matthew had wanted to report that Christ had said in effect “Neither are they now in a married state (because of previously performed weddings),” the Greek in which he wrote would have let him say so unambiguously. He would have used a perfect tense [gegamēkasin] or a participial form [gamēsas] of the verb. He did not, so that cannot be what he meant. Jesus said nothing about the married state of those who are in heaven. By using the present indicative form of the verb, Matthew reports Jesus as saying in effect “In the resurrection, there are no marriages performed.” Jesus goes on to compare those in the resurrection to the angels of God, for unlike mortals they will never die and, according to Jewish tradition, they do not need to eat. The key point is that, contrary to the misconceptions of the Sadducees, life in the resurrection will be different in many ways from life in mortality. (Jesus then goes on to make an additional argument in favor of the resurrection in the following verses.)

The main point of the passage is not to refute the Saducee's faulty beliefs about marriage in the resurrection, but moreso to demonstrate that their non-belief in a resurrection was faulty. Jesus quickly dismissed their question about marriage by saying that marriages are not performed in the resurrection and then launches into a masterful Old Testament case for belief in the resurrection.

Non-Latter-day Saint scholar Ben Witherington offers exegesis which agrees with Latter-day Saint understandings of this verse.[1]

Latter-day Saint apologist and theologian Robert Boylan has great thoughts on this verse in a blogpost responding to Christadelphian critics.[2]

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 (D&C 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. [3]


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?

FAIR's Response

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

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


Articles about Joseph Smith

Articles about the Holy Bible

What is the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST)?

Is the JST intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text?

Video published by BYU Religious Education.


The JST is not intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text.

As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on churchofjesuschrist.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible."

Two main points should be kept in mind with regards to the Joseph Smith "translation" of the Bible:

  • The JST is not intended primarily or solely as restoration of text. Many mainline LDS scholars who have focused on the JST (such as Robert J. Matthews and Kent Jackson) are unanimous in this regard. The assumption that it is intended primarily or solely as a restoration of text is what leads to expectations that the JST and Book of Mormon should match up in every case. At times the JST does not even match up with itself, such as when Joseph Smith translated the same passage multiple times in different ways. This does not undermine notions of revelation, but certainly challenges common assumptions about the nature and function of Joseph's understanding of "translation".
  • One of the main tendencies of the JST is harmonization. Readers are well aware of differences in Jesus' sayings between different Gospels. For example, Jesus' statements about whether divorce is permitted and under what conditions differ significantly. Matthew offers an exception clause that Mark and Luke do not, and this has severely complicated the historical interpretation of Jesus' view of divorce.
The JST often makes changes that harmonize one gospel with another. While one gospel says "judge not" (though this may not be as absolute as some make it out to be), John 7:24 has Jesus commanding to "judge righteous judgment." The JST change harmonizes the two gospels by making Matthew agree with John. If there is a real difference between being commanded to "Judge righteously" and being commanded to "Judge not", then it is a problem inherently present in the differing accounts of the Gospels, which the JST resolves.

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.[4]

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.[5]

What is the relationship between the JST and biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation does claim to be, in part, a restoration of the original content of the Bible. This may have been done (a) by reproducing the text as it was originally written down; or, (b) it may have been about reproducing the original intent and clarifying the message of the original author of the text in question. We are not entirely sure, but in either case the JST does claim to be, in part, a restoration.

Critics who fault the JST because it doesn't match known manuscripts of the Bible are being too hasty: we do not have the original manuscripts of any text of the Bible, nor do we know the exact nature of every change made in the JST and whether a particular change was meant to be a restoration of original text.

Kent P. Jackson, another leading expert on the JST, wrote:

Some may choose to find fault with the Joseph Smith Translation because they do not see correlations between the text on ancient manuscripts. The supposition would be that if the JST revisions were justifiable, they would agree with the earliest existing manuscripts of the biblical books. This reasoning is misdirected in two ways. First, it assumes that extant ancient manuscripts accurately reproduce the original test, and both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon teach otherwise.[6] Because the earliest Old and New Testament manuscripts date from long after the original documents were written, we no longer have original manuscripts to compare with Joseph Smith's revisions. The second problem with faulting the JST because it does not match ancient texts is that to do so assumes that all the revisions Joseph Smith made were intended to restore original text. We have no record of him making that claim, and even in places in which the JST would restore original text it would do so not in Hebrew or Greek but in Modern English and in the scriptural idiom of early nineteenth-century America. Revisions that fit in others of the categories listed above are likewise in modern English, "given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language" (D&C 1꞉24)/[7]

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". 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. As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible". 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. In general, it 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.

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.

What was the translation procedure used by Joseph Smith and his scribes to produce the JST?

Kent Jackson reports:

The original manuscripts of the JST, as well as the Bible used in the revision, still exist. They show the following process at work: Joseph Smith had his Bible in front of him, likely in his lap or on a table, and he dictated the translation to his scribes, who recorded what they heard him say. ... there are no parts of the translation in which the scribes "copied out the text of the Bible." The evidence on the manuscripts is clear that this did not happen. The Prophet dictated without punctuation and verse breaks, and those features were inserted as a separate process after the text was complete. [Some have argued that after supposedly] copying of text out of the Bible, the scribes then inserted the "numerous strikethroughs of words and phrases, interlinear insertions, and omissions," and thus Joseph Smith’s revised text was born. But the overwhelming majority of the revisions were in the original dictation and are simply part of the original writing on the manuscripts. There are indeed strikeouts and interlinear insertions on the manuscripts, but they came during a second pass through parts of the manuscripts and comprise only a minority of the revisions Joseph Smith made.[8]:20-21

Did Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary significanly influence the JST?

In March 2017, Thomas Wayment, professor of Classics at Brigham Young University, published a paper in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research titled "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation". In a summary of their research, Wayment and his research assistant wrote:

Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible has attracted significant attention in recent decades, drawing the interest of a wide variety of academics and those who affirm its nearly canonical status in the LDS scriptural canon. More recently, in conducting new research into the origins of Smith’s Bible translation, we uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s famous Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, was a mainstay for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Direct borrowing from this source has not previously been connected to Smith’s translation efforts, and the fundamental question of what Smith meant by the term "translation" with respect to his efforts to rework the biblical text can now be reconsidered in light of this new evidence. What is noteworthy in detailing the usage of this source is that Adam Clarke’s textual emendations come through Smith’s translation as inspired changes to the text. Moreover, the question of what Smith meant by the term translation should be broadened to include what now appears to have been an academic interest to update the text of the Bible. This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith’s translation projects, particularly his Bible project, and how he used academic sources while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text. In presenting the evidence for Smith’s usage of Clarke, our paper also addressed the larger question of what it means for Smith to have used an academic/theological Bible commentary in the process of producing a text that he subsequently defined as a translation. In doing so, we first presented the evidence for Smith’s reliance upon Adam Clarke to establish the nature of Smith’s usage of Clarke. Following that discussion, we engaged the question of how Smith approached the question of the quality of the King James Bible (hereafter KJV) translation that he was using in 1830 and what the term translation meant to both Smith and his close associates. Finally, we offered a suggestion as to how Smith came to use Clarke, as well as assessing the overall question of what these findings suggest regarding Smith as a translator and his various translation projects.

Our research has revealed that the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary are simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds, a number that is well beyond the limits of this paper to discuss. A few of them, however, demonstrate Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance. In presenting the evidence, we have attempted to both establish that Smith drew upon Clarke, likely at the urging of Rigdon, and we present here a broad categorization of the types of changes that Smith made when he used Clarke as a source.[9]

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon then published a more detailed account of their findings together in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity (2020) edited by BYU professor Michael Hubbard MacKay, Joseph Smith Papers researcher Mark Ashurst-McGee, and former BYU professor Brian M. Hauglid.[10] Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.[11]

Wayment outlined what he and Haley Wilson believed they had found:

What we found, a student assistant (Hailey Wilson Lamone) and I, we discovered that in about 200 to 300 — depending on how much change is being involved — parallels where Joseph Smith has the exact same change to a verse that Adam Clarke does. They’re verbatim. Some of them are 5 to 6 words; some of them are 2 words; some of them are a single word. But in cases where that single word is fairly unique or different, it seemed pretty obvious that he’s getting this from Adam Clarke. What really changed my worldview here is now I’m looking at what appears obvious as a text person, that the prophet has used Adam Clarke. That in the process of doing the translation, he’s either read it, has it in front of him, or he reads it at night. We started to look back through the Joseph Smith History. There’s a story of his brother-in-law presenting Joseph Smith with a copy of Adam Clarke. We do not know whose copy of Adam Clarke it is, but we do know that Nathaniel Lewis gives it to the prophet and says, "I want to use the Urim and Thummim. I want to translate some of the strange characters out of Adam Clarke’s commentary." Joseph will clearly not give him the Urim and Thummim to do that, but we know he had it in his hands. Now looking at the text, we can say that a lot of the material that happens after Genesis 24. There are no parallels to Clarke between Genesis 1–Genesis 24. But when we start to get to Matthew, it’s very clear that Adam Clarke has influenced the way he changes the Bible. It was a big moment. That article comes out in the next year. We provide appendi [sic] and documentation for some of the major changes, and we try to grapple with what this might mean.[12]

Accusation of plagiarism

In another interview with Kurt Manwaring, Wayment addressed the charge of plagiarism directly:

When news inadvertently broke that a source had been uncovered that was used in the process of creating the JST, some were quick to use that information as a point of criticism against Joseph or against the JST. Words like "plagiarism" were quickly brought forward as a reasonable explanation of what was going on. To be clear, plagiarism is a word that to me implies an overt attempt to copy the work of another person directly and intentionally without attributing any recognition to the source from which the information was taken.

To the best of my understanding, Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke as a Bible commentary to guide his mind and thought process to consider the Bible in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise. It may be strong to say, but Joseph didn’t have training in ancient languages or the history of the Bible, but Adam Clarke did. And Joseph appears to have appreciated Clarke’s expertise and in using Clarke as a source, Joseph at times adopted the language of that source as he revised the Bible. I think that those who are troubled by this process are largely troubled because it contradicts a certain constructed narrative about the history of the JST and about how revelation works.

The reality of what happened is inspiring.

Joseph, who applied his own prophetic authority to the Bible in the revision process, drew upon the best available scholarship to guide his prophetic instincts. Inspiration following careful study and consideration is a prophetic model that can include many members of the church.

I hope people who read the study when it comes out will pause long enough to consider the benefit of expanding the definition of the prophetic gift to include academic study as a key component before rejecting the evidence outright.[13]

Mark Ashurst McGee of the Joseph Smith Papers team made similar points as those of Wayment at the 2020 FAIR Conference held in Provo:


A rebuttal to the Adam Clarke hypothesis

In October 2020, Kent P. Jackson (Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and a leading expert on the JST) responded to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's work.[8]

Jackson's paper identified several striking weakness to the Adam Clarke hypothesis. These include:

  • "I have examined in detail every one of the JST passages they set forth as having been influenced by Clarke, and I have examined what Clarke wrote about those passages. I now believe that the conclusions they reached regarding those connections cannot be sustained. I do not believe that there is [Page 17] Adam Clarke-JST connection at all, and I have seen no evidence that Joseph Smith ever used Clarke’s commentary in his revision of the Bible. None of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have set forward as examples, in my opinion, can withstand careful scrutiny."[8]:16-17
  • "Too often Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon did not read carefully what Clarke wrote, and thus they frequently misinterpret him by ascribing intentions to him that cannot be sustained from his own words."[8]:28
  • "There is much evidence in the JST to show that when the Prophet removed or replaced words, he had a tendency to save the deleted words and place them elsewhere, and this [Psalms 33:2] is a good example. All of these revisions are the opposite of what Clarke wanted."[8]:30
  • [there are] "several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made."[8]:31
  • "In his commentary on the surrounding verses in Isaiah 34, Clarke makes several suggestions for revising the text. The fact that none of those suggestions are reflected in Joseph Smith’s translation adds to the unlikelihood that Clarke was the Prophet’s source here at all."[8]:33
  • Regarding Mark 8, "Clarke provides what he felt was better wording for four passages in this chapter. Joseph Smith’s translations contains none of them. And Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in the chapter, some of them rather extensive, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke."[8]:39
  • "There is even further reason to rule out Clarke as the source for this change [in John 2:24]. [Clarke's] commentary on John 2 has over 3,000 words, and he recommends changing the text in ten places. Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in this short chapter, but this is the only one that resembles anything in Clarke. Why, among Clarke’s thousands of words and scores of thoughtful insights, would Joseph Smith make only this one small revision of minimal consequence if he had Clarke’s commentary in front of him?"[8]:40
  • "Wayment states that Adam Clarke 'shaped Smith’s Bible revision in fundamental ways.' Even if all of the passages he attributes to Clarke were really influenced by Clarke, it seems difficult to justify such a sweeping statement, given the mostly minor rewordings that we have seen. If among the verses listed above are the best examples, as Wilson-Lemmon states,102 then the Adam Clarke-JST theory can be dismissed out of hand."[8]:53

Jackson concluded that "none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means."[8]:15

Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past,[14] wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."[15]

To be sure, neither Jackson nor Barney are opposed to the idea that there could be secondary source influence on the production of the JST. Thus, this is a faith-neutral issue for both.

At the 2022 FAIR Conference held in Provo, UT, Professor Kent Jackson responded to the theory directly and in depth.[16]


Was the JST ever completed?

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."[17]

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. Joseph was, however, collecting funds to publish the JST—which indicates that he believed it was ready for public use and consumption.

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.[18]

We again see that the JST or any other scripture is not the ultimate source of LDS doctrine—having a living prophet is what is most vital.

Why does the Church continue to use the KJV instead of the JST as its official bible?

The answer to this question is complex. There is no single reason; instead, there are many:

  1. There is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would require both prophetic instruction and a sustaining vote of the membership.
  2. The original manuscripts for the JST were retained by Emma Smith when the Saints went west. She later gave them to her son, Joseph III, and he had the first JST Bible printed under the auspices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this time there was a great deal of animosity between the LDS and RLDS churches; Brigham Young feared that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. Given that the Utah Church could not verify the translation, along with the fact that they did not own the copyright, kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. The LDS interest in the JST came much later, largely due to the scholarly work of Robert Matthews on the manuscripts in the early 1970s, and apostle Bruce R. McConkie's embrace of the JST.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST could cause a stumbling block for converts. The doctrine of Joseph Smith, modern prophets, and modern books of scripture are already difficult for many Christians to consider. In this sense, the KJV serves as a connection between the LDS Church and the remainder of the Christian world.
  4. Portions of the JST have been canonized: Our Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew are excerpts from the JST.

In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work—it included multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST. (Ironically, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before critics of the Church began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[19])

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use.[20]

Among Church leaders, Elder Bruce R. McConkie was especially vocal about the JST. In 1980, he said:

[Joseph] translated the Book of Abraham and what is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This latter is a marvelously inspired work; it is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. By pure revelation, he inserted many new concepts and views as, for instance, the material in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis about Melchizedek. Some chapters he rewrote and realigned so that the things said in them take on a new perspective and meaning, such as the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and the first chapter in the gospel of John.[21]

In 1985 Elder McConkie told members during a satellite broadcast:

As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.[22]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Why does the JST translation of Genesis (the Pearl of Great Price's Book of Moses) contain New Testament language?

The Book of Moses comes from the few chapters of the JST—it is essentially the JST of the first chapters of Genesis.

The translation includes many phrases from the New Testament. The following occurences of New Testament language and concepts reflected in the Book of Moses were documented by David M. Calabro—a Latter-day Saint and Curator of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University.[23]

Phrase Location in Book of Moses Location in New Testament
"Only Begotten" and "Only Begotten Son" Moses 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32, 33; 2:1, 26, 27; 3:18; 4:1, 3, 28, 5:7, 9, 57; 6:52, 57, 59, 62; 7:50, 59, 62 John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9
"transfigured before" God Moses 1:11 Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2
"get thee hence, Satan" Moses 1:16 Matthew 4:10
the Holy Ghost "beareth record" of the Father and the Son Moses 1:24; 5:9 1 John 5:7
"by the word of my power" Moses 1:32, 35; 2:5 Hebrews 1:3
"full of grace and truth" Moses 1:32, 5:7 John 1:14; cf. John 1:17
"immortality and eternal life" Moses 1:39 Both terms are absent from the Old Testament but are relatively frequent in the New Testament: immortality occurs six times, all in Pauline epistles; eternal life occurs twenty-six times in the Gospels, Pauline epistles, epistles of John, and Jude; "eternal life" also appears elsewhere like in Moses 5:11; 6:59; 7:45.
"them that believe" Moses 1:42; 4:32 Mark 16:17; John 1:12; Romans 3:22; 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 14:22; Galatians 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 10:39; the contrasting phrase "them that do not believe" also appears (Rom. 15:31; 1 Cor. 10:27; 14:22)
"I am the Beginning and the End" Moses 2:1 Revelation 21:6; 22:13
"Beloved Son" as a title of Christ Moses 4:2 Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17; the phrase "beloved son" appears elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 20:13; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) and in the Greek Septuagint of Gen. 22:2, but it is absent from the Hebrew and KJV Old Testament.
"my Chosen," as a title of Christ Moses 4:2; 7:39 Compare "chosen of God" in reference to Christ in Luke 23:35 and 1 Pet. 2:4
"thy will be done" Moses 4:2 Matthew 6:10; 26:42; Luke 11:2
"the glory be thine forever" Moses 4:2 Compare Matthew 6:13 - "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever;" note the proximity of this phrase to "thy will be done" both in Moses 4:2 and in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–1.
"by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that [Satan] should be cast down" Moses 4:3 Compare Revelation 12:10 - "Now is come . . . the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down"; note that the Hebrew title Satan means "accuser"
"the devil" Moses 4:4 Sixty-one instances in the New Testament, translating the Greek word diabolos
"carnal, sensual, and devilish" Moses 5:13; 6:49 James 3:15 "earthly, sensual, and devilish"
"Satan desireth to have thee" Moses 5:23 Luke 22:31 "Satan hath desired to have you"
"Perdition," as the title of a person Moses 5:24 Compare "the son of perdition" in John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the word perdition as an abstract noun meaning "destruction" (translating the Greek word apoleia) occurs elsewhere in the King James version of the New Testament (Philippians 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, 11)
"the Gospel" Moses 5:58, 59, 8:19 Eighty-three instances in the New Testament; the word gospel, irrespective of the English definite article, occurs 101 times in the New Testament but is not found in the Old Testament.
"holy angels" Moses 5:58 Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22 (singular "holy angel"); Revelation 14:10
"gift of the Holy Ghost" Moses 5:58; 6:52 Acts 2:38; 10:45
"anointing" the eyes in order to see Moses 6:35 – "anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see" Compare John 9:6–7, 11 (Jesus anoints the eyes of a blind man with clay and commands him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he "came seeing"); Revelation 3:18 (the Lord tells the church in Laodicea, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see"); these are the only passages in the Bible that refer to anointing the eyes
"no man laid hands on him" Moses 6:39 John 7:30, 44; 8:20
"my God, and your God" Moses 6:43 John 20:17
"only name under heaven whereby salvation shall come" Moses 6:52 Acts 4:12
collocation of water, blood, and Spirit Moses 6:59-60 1 John 5:6, 8
"born again of water and the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit"; "born again"; "born of water and of the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit" Moses 6:59, 65 John 3:3, 5-8
"the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" Moses 6:59 Matthew 13:11. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is absent from the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found only in Matthew (thirty-two occurrences), but it is frequent in rabbinic literature
"cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten" Moses 6:59 Compare 1 John 1:7 ("the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin")
"the words of eternal life" Moses 6:59 John 6:68
eternal life "in the world to come" Moses 6:59 Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; the phrase "the world to come" is absent from the Old Testament but occurs five times in the New Testament; other than the two just quoted, see Matthew 12:32; Hebrews 2:5; 6:5
"by the Spirit ye are justified" Moses 6:60 Compare 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:16
"the Comforter," referring to the Holy Ghost Moses 6:61 John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7
"the inner man" Moses 6:65 Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16
"baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost" Moses 6:66 Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16
"they were of one heart and one mind" Moses 7:18 Compare Acts 4:32
"in the bosom of the Father," referring to heaven Moses 7:24, 47 John 1:18 (note that JST deletes this phrase in this verse, perhaps implying that it entered the text sometime after its original composition)
"a great chain in his hand" Moses 7:26 Revelation 20:1 (here the one holding the chain is an angel, unlike Moses 7:26, in which it is the devil)
commandment to "love one another" Moses 7:33 John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5
"without affection" Moses 7:33 Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3
"the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world" Moses 7:47 Compare Revelation 13:8 – "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," as a noun phrase); the term "the Lamb" is used as a title of the Messiah only in the New Testament and is distinctively Johannine (John 1:29, 36; twenty-seven instances in Revelation), and the words lamb and slain collocate only in Revelation 5:6, 12; 13:8.
"climb up" by a gate or door, as a metaphor of progression through Christ Moses 7:53 John 10:1

Video by The Interpreter Foundation.


This language can be explained by a few possible factors, not all mutually exclusive.

"After the Manner of Their Language" – Doctrine & Covenants 1:24

The first possibility to consider is that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Moses into a vernacular that was comprehensible to his 19th century audience. Joseph's contemporaries were steeped in biblical language and used it even in everyday speech. The language of the New Testament was the natural way to discuss certain theological ideas.

D&C 1꞉24 tells us that in revelation, God uses the language of his audience to communicate effectively" Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."[24]

An early Christian context for the creation of the Book of Moses

Another possibility is that the Book of Moses was originally written in an early Christian context. That would place the composition of the Book of Moses in the 1st and 2nd century AD (about 1900 to 1800 years ago). Calabro outlined and defended this theory.[23] Calabro argues that the Book of Moses can still preserve actual events from the life of Moses while placing the story in a Christian context describing it with Christian language. Thus, Joseph Smith could actually be restoring lost understanding of Moses—but that information has already been filtered through New Testament language.

One potential weakness of this theory is that it disrupts the understanding of many Church members about the Book of Moses, since it has more traditionally been seen as a restoration of Moses' writings in Genesis. However, Joseph Smith does not seem to have left a detailed account of what the Book of Moses represents. Joseph saw the JST as a restoration of "many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled."[25]

This theory could also, in essence, be turned on its head, making an ancient version of the Book of Moses the source of subsequent Christian writing. Latter-day Saint author Jeff Lindsay and former BYU professor Noel Reynolds have theorized that the Book of Moses influenced the language of the Book of Mormon via the brass plates or another source.[26]

Similar messages to different nations

Speaking in reference to the Bible, the Book of Mormon has God announce that "I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two enations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."[27]

It is certainly possible that the same concepts were revealed to Moses with similar language as that used in the New Testament.

Conclusion—New Testament and the Book of Moses

There are therefore multiple models which would explain the similarity between the Book of Moses and the New Testament. Given that the Book of Moses claims to be a translation, it is hardly strange that it would echo another translation (the KJV bible) that discusses the same ideas and issues.

Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17꞉22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

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.

Is the Church "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence

Some critics have claimed that the Church is "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. [28]

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence. The claim was made in 1977. In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work. Thus, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before the Tanners began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[29] It had multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST.

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use. Some examples of this effort published around the time the Tanners were making their claim include:

  • Robert J. Matthews, “The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration,” Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site
  • Monte S. Nyman, “Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site

The Church is not, and was not, embarrassed by the JST. In its historical context, the critics' claim is incredibly ill-informed.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

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[30] 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.[31]

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

Learn more about the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the bible
Key sources
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
FAIR links
  • Jeffrey Bradshaw, "The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden," Proceedings of the 2008 FAIR Conference (August 2008). link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
Online
  • W. John Welsh, "Why Didn't Joseph Correct KJV Errors When Translating the JST?", lightplanet.com off-site
  • Garold N. Davis, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [123–129] link
  • Kevin L. Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85–102.off-site
  • Cynthia L. Hallen, "Redeeming the Desolate Woman: The Message of Isaiah 54 and 3 Nephi 22," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998). [40–47] link
  • Matthew L. Bowen, "'They Shall Be Scattered Again': Some Notes on JST Genesis 50:24–25, 33–35," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 57/4 (23 June 2023). [107–128] link
  • Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph Smith's Translation Projects under a Microscope," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/15 (18 December 2020). [257–264] link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  • Spencer Kraus, "An Unfortunate Approach to Joseph Smith's Translation of Ancient Scripture," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 52/1 (17 June 2022). [1–64] link
  • Mark J. Johnson, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [130–138] link
  • Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4/1 (1992). [235–250] link
  • Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005). [12–25] link
  • A. Don Sorensen, "'The Problem of the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi (Review of “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone September–October 1982, 20–27)'," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [117–148] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "'Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books'," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [166–174] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Book of Mormon and the Problem of the Sermon on the Mount," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [153–165] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The 'Isaiah Problem' in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [129–152] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Isaiah Quotation: 2 Nephi 12–24," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [192–208] link
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Review of 'Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah.' in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 157–234.)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [161–172] link
  • Kurt Manwaring, “10 questions with Thomas Wayment”.
  • LDS Perspectives, Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment .
  • Thomas Wayment and Haley Wilson, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation".
Video
Video published by BYU Religious Education.

Print
  • Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985).
  • Matthew B. Brown, "The Restoration of Biblical Texts," in All Things Restored, 2d ed. (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2006),159–181. AISN B000R4LXSM. ISBN 1577347129.
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism—Discrepancies between KJV, JST, and Book of Mormon
Critical sources


Notes

  1. Ben Witherington, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001), 328–29
  2. Robert Boylan, "Response to a Christadelphian Critique of Mormon Theology," Scriptural Mormonism, March 16, 2017, https://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/2017/03/response-to-christadelphian-critique-of.html.
  3. Conference Report (April 1941), 37-38.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. "History of Joseph Smith," 592; 1 Nephi 13:28; see 13:23–29.
  7. Kent P. Jackson, Understanding Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022), 34–35.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  9. Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," Journal of Undergraduate Research (March 2017) off-site
  10. Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, "A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, eds. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 262–84.
  11. Thomas A. Wayment, "Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, and the Making of a Bible Revision," Journal of Mormon History 46, no. 3 (July 2020): 1–22.
  12. Transcript of Laura Harris Hales, "Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment," LDS Perspectives, September 26, 2019, https://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/09/26/jst-adam-clarke-commentary/.
  13. Kurt Manwaring, "10 Questions with Thomas Wayment," From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring, January 2, 2019, https://www.fromthedesk.org/10-questions-thomas-wayment/.
  14. See, for instance, Kevin L. Barney, "A Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Revision of First Corinthians," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 57–105.
  15. Kevin Barney, "On Secondary Source Influence in the JST," By Common Consent, April 16, 2021, https://bycommonconsent.com/2021/04/16/on-secondary-source-infuence-in-the-jst/
  16. Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
  17. Kent P. Jackson, "New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," in Religious Educator 6, no. 3 (2005): 149–160 (link).
  18. George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 142.
  19. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  20. Robert J. Matthews, "The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration," Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site; "Plain and Precious Things Restored," Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site; "Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’," Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site; Monte S. Nyman, "Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible," Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site
  21. Bruce R. McConkie, "This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You," Ensign (June 1980): 54.
  22. Bruce R. McConkie, "https://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/12/come-hear-the-voice-of-the-lord?lang=eng Come: Hear the Voice of the Lord]," Ensign (December 1985): 54.
  23. 23.0 23.1 David M. Calabro, "An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 47/7 (20 September 2021). [181–262] link
  24. See also 2 Nephi 31꞉3.
  25. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 10–11.
  26. Jeff Lindsay and Noel B. Reynolds, "'Strong Like unto Moses': The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Related Content Apparently from the Brass Plates," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 44/1 (26 March 2021). [1–92] link Noel B. Reynolds, "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 34/5 (15 November 2019). [63–96] link
  27. 2 Nephi 29:8
  28. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 385.( Index of claims )
  29. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  30. 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.
  31. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.

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.

FAIR's 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." [1]

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.

FAIR's 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".


Articles about Joseph Smith

Articles about the Holy Bible

What is the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST)?

Is the JST intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text?

Video published by BYU Religious Education.


The JST is not intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text.

As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on churchofjesuschrist.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible."

Two main points should be kept in mind with regards to the Joseph Smith "translation" of the Bible:

  • The JST is not intended primarily or solely as restoration of text. Many mainline LDS scholars who have focused on the JST (such as Robert J. Matthews and Kent Jackson) are unanimous in this regard. The assumption that it is intended primarily or solely as a restoration of text is what leads to expectations that the JST and Book of Mormon should match up in every case. At times the JST does not even match up with itself, such as when Joseph Smith translated the same passage multiple times in different ways. This does not undermine notions of revelation, but certainly challenges common assumptions about the nature and function of Joseph's understanding of "translation".
  • One of the main tendencies of the JST is harmonization. Readers are well aware of differences in Jesus' sayings between different Gospels. For example, Jesus' statements about whether divorce is permitted and under what conditions differ significantly. Matthew offers an exception clause that Mark and Luke do not, and this has severely complicated the historical interpretation of Jesus' view of divorce.
The JST often makes changes that harmonize one gospel with another. While one gospel says "judge not" (though this may not be as absolute as some make it out to be), John 7:24 has Jesus commanding to "judge righteous judgment." The JST change harmonizes the two gospels by making Matthew agree with John. If there is a real difference between being commanded to "Judge righteously" and being commanded to "Judge not", then it is a problem inherently present in the differing accounts of the Gospels, which the JST resolves.

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.[2]

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.[3]

What is the relationship between the JST and biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation does claim to be, in part, a restoration of the original content of the Bible. This may have been done (a) by reproducing the text as it was originally written down; or, (b) it may have been about reproducing the original intent and clarifying the message of the original author of the text in question. We are not entirely sure, but in either case the JST does claim to be, in part, a restoration.

Critics who fault the JST because it doesn't match known manuscripts of the Bible are being too hasty: we do not have the original manuscripts of any text of the Bible, nor do we know the exact nature of every change made in the JST and whether a particular change was meant to be a restoration of original text.

Kent P. Jackson, another leading expert on the JST, wrote:

Some may choose to find fault with the Joseph Smith Translation because they do not see correlations between the text on ancient manuscripts. The supposition would be that if the JST revisions were justifiable, they would agree with the earliest existing manuscripts of the biblical books. This reasoning is misdirected in two ways. First, it assumes that extant ancient manuscripts accurately reproduce the original test, and both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon teach otherwise.[4] Because the earliest Old and New Testament manuscripts date from long after the original documents were written, we no longer have original manuscripts to compare with Joseph Smith's revisions. The second problem with faulting the JST because it does not match ancient texts is that to do so assumes that all the revisions Joseph Smith made were intended to restore original text. We have no record of him making that claim, and even in places in which the JST would restore original text it would do so not in Hebrew or Greek but in Modern English and in the scriptural idiom of early nineteenth-century America. Revisions that fit in others of the categories listed above are likewise in modern English, "given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language" (D&C 1꞉24)/[5]

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". 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. As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible". 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. In general, it 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.

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.

What was the translation procedure used by Joseph Smith and his scribes to produce the JST?

Kent Jackson reports:

The original manuscripts of the JST, as well as the Bible used in the revision, still exist. They show the following process at work: Joseph Smith had his Bible in front of him, likely in his lap or on a table, and he dictated the translation to his scribes, who recorded what they heard him say. ... there are no parts of the translation in which the scribes "copied out the text of the Bible." The evidence on the manuscripts is clear that this did not happen. The Prophet dictated without punctuation and verse breaks, and those features were inserted as a separate process after the text was complete. [Some have argued that after supposedly] copying of text out of the Bible, the scribes then inserted the "numerous strikethroughs of words and phrases, interlinear insertions, and omissions," and thus Joseph Smith’s revised text was born. But the overwhelming majority of the revisions were in the original dictation and are simply part of the original writing on the manuscripts. There are indeed strikeouts and interlinear insertions on the manuscripts, but they came during a second pass through parts of the manuscripts and comprise only a minority of the revisions Joseph Smith made.[6]:20-21

Did Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary significanly influence the JST?

In March 2017, Thomas Wayment, professor of Classics at Brigham Young University, published a paper in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research titled "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation". In a summary of their research, Wayment and his research assistant wrote:

Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible has attracted significant attention in recent decades, drawing the interest of a wide variety of academics and those who affirm its nearly canonical status in the LDS scriptural canon. More recently, in conducting new research into the origins of Smith’s Bible translation, we uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s famous Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, was a mainstay for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Direct borrowing from this source has not previously been connected to Smith’s translation efforts, and the fundamental question of what Smith meant by the term "translation" with respect to his efforts to rework the biblical text can now be reconsidered in light of this new evidence. What is noteworthy in detailing the usage of this source is that Adam Clarke’s textual emendations come through Smith’s translation as inspired changes to the text. Moreover, the question of what Smith meant by the term translation should be broadened to include what now appears to have been an academic interest to update the text of the Bible. This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith’s translation projects, particularly his Bible project, and how he used academic sources while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text. In presenting the evidence for Smith’s usage of Clarke, our paper also addressed the larger question of what it means for Smith to have used an academic/theological Bible commentary in the process of producing a text that he subsequently defined as a translation. In doing so, we first presented the evidence for Smith’s reliance upon Adam Clarke to establish the nature of Smith’s usage of Clarke. Following that discussion, we engaged the question of how Smith approached the question of the quality of the King James Bible (hereafter KJV) translation that he was using in 1830 and what the term translation meant to both Smith and his close associates. Finally, we offered a suggestion as to how Smith came to use Clarke, as well as assessing the overall question of what these findings suggest regarding Smith as a translator and his various translation projects.

Our research has revealed that the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary are simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds, a number that is well beyond the limits of this paper to discuss. A few of them, however, demonstrate Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance. In presenting the evidence, we have attempted to both establish that Smith drew upon Clarke, likely at the urging of Rigdon, and we present here a broad categorization of the types of changes that Smith made when he used Clarke as a source.[7]

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon then published a more detailed account of their findings together in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity (2020) edited by BYU professor Michael Hubbard MacKay, Joseph Smith Papers researcher Mark Ashurst-McGee, and former BYU professor Brian M. Hauglid.[8] Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.[9]

Wayment outlined what he and Haley Wilson believed they had found:

What we found, a student assistant (Hailey Wilson Lamone) and I, we discovered that in about 200 to 300 — depending on how much change is being involved — parallels where Joseph Smith has the exact same change to a verse that Adam Clarke does. They’re verbatim. Some of them are 5 to 6 words; some of them are 2 words; some of them are a single word. But in cases where that single word is fairly unique or different, it seemed pretty obvious that he’s getting this from Adam Clarke. What really changed my worldview here is now I’m looking at what appears obvious as a text person, that the prophet has used Adam Clarke. That in the process of doing the translation, he’s either read it, has it in front of him, or he reads it at night. We started to look back through the Joseph Smith History. There’s a story of his brother-in-law presenting Joseph Smith with a copy of Adam Clarke. We do not know whose copy of Adam Clarke it is, but we do know that Nathaniel Lewis gives it to the prophet and says, "I want to use the Urim and Thummim. I want to translate some of the strange characters out of Adam Clarke’s commentary." Joseph will clearly not give him the Urim and Thummim to do that, but we know he had it in his hands. Now looking at the text, we can say that a lot of the material that happens after Genesis 24. There are no parallels to Clarke between Genesis 1–Genesis 24. But when we start to get to Matthew, it’s very clear that Adam Clarke has influenced the way he changes the Bible. It was a big moment. That article comes out in the next year. We provide appendi [sic] and documentation for some of the major changes, and we try to grapple with what this might mean.[10]

Accusation of plagiarism

In another interview with Kurt Manwaring, Wayment addressed the charge of plagiarism directly:

When news inadvertently broke that a source had been uncovered that was used in the process of creating the JST, some were quick to use that information as a point of criticism against Joseph or against the JST. Words like "plagiarism" were quickly brought forward as a reasonable explanation of what was going on. To be clear, plagiarism is a word that to me implies an overt attempt to copy the work of another person directly and intentionally without attributing any recognition to the source from which the information was taken.

To the best of my understanding, Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke as a Bible commentary to guide his mind and thought process to consider the Bible in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise. It may be strong to say, but Joseph didn’t have training in ancient languages or the history of the Bible, but Adam Clarke did. And Joseph appears to have appreciated Clarke’s expertise and in using Clarke as a source, Joseph at times adopted the language of that source as he revised the Bible. I think that those who are troubled by this process are largely troubled because it contradicts a certain constructed narrative about the history of the JST and about how revelation works.

The reality of what happened is inspiring.

Joseph, who applied his own prophetic authority to the Bible in the revision process, drew upon the best available scholarship to guide his prophetic instincts. Inspiration following careful study and consideration is a prophetic model that can include many members of the church.

I hope people who read the study when it comes out will pause long enough to consider the benefit of expanding the definition of the prophetic gift to include academic study as a key component before rejecting the evidence outright.[11]

Mark Ashurst McGee of the Joseph Smith Papers team made similar points as those of Wayment at the 2020 FAIR Conference held in Provo:


A rebuttal to the Adam Clarke hypothesis

In October 2020, Kent P. Jackson (Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and a leading expert on the JST) responded to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's work.[6]

Jackson's paper identified several striking weakness to the Adam Clarke hypothesis. These include:

  • "I have examined in detail every one of the JST passages they set forth as having been influenced by Clarke, and I have examined what Clarke wrote about those passages. I now believe that the conclusions they reached regarding those connections cannot be sustained. I do not believe that there is [Page 17] Adam Clarke-JST connection at all, and I have seen no evidence that Joseph Smith ever used Clarke’s commentary in his revision of the Bible. None of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have set forward as examples, in my opinion, can withstand careful scrutiny."[6]:16-17
  • "Too often Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon did not read carefully what Clarke wrote, and thus they frequently misinterpret him by ascribing intentions to him that cannot be sustained from his own words."[6]:28
  • "There is much evidence in the JST to show that when the Prophet removed or replaced words, he had a tendency to save the deleted words and place them elsewhere, and this [Psalms 33:2] is a good example. All of these revisions are the opposite of what Clarke wanted."[6]:30
  • [there are] "several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made."[6]:31
  • "In his commentary on the surrounding verses in Isaiah 34, Clarke makes several suggestions for revising the text. The fact that none of those suggestions are reflected in Joseph Smith’s translation adds to the unlikelihood that Clarke was the Prophet’s source here at all."[6]:33
  • Regarding Mark 8, "Clarke provides what he felt was better wording for four passages in this chapter. Joseph Smith’s translations contains none of them. And Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in the chapter, some of them rather extensive, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke."[6]:39
  • "There is even further reason to rule out Clarke as the source for this change [in John 2:24]. [Clarke's] commentary on John 2 has over 3,000 words, and he recommends changing the text in ten places. Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in this short chapter, but this is the only one that resembles anything in Clarke. Why, among Clarke’s thousands of words and scores of thoughtful insights, would Joseph Smith make only this one small revision of minimal consequence if he had Clarke’s commentary in front of him?"[6]:40
  • "Wayment states that Adam Clarke 'shaped Smith’s Bible revision in fundamental ways.' Even if all of the passages he attributes to Clarke were really influenced by Clarke, it seems difficult to justify such a sweeping statement, given the mostly minor rewordings that we have seen. If among the verses listed above are the best examples, as Wilson-Lemmon states,102 then the Adam Clarke-JST theory can be dismissed out of hand."[6]:53

Jackson concluded that "none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means."[6]:15

Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past,[12] wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."[13]

To be sure, neither Jackson nor Barney are opposed to the idea that there could be secondary source influence on the production of the JST. Thus, this is a faith-neutral issue for both.

At the 2022 FAIR Conference held in Provo, UT, Professor Kent Jackson responded to the theory directly and in depth.[14]


Was the JST ever completed?

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."[15]

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. Joseph was, however, collecting funds to publish the JST—which indicates that he believed it was ready for public use and consumption.

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.[16]

We again see that the JST or any other scripture is not the ultimate source of LDS doctrine—having a living prophet is what is most vital.

Why does the Church continue to use the KJV instead of the JST as its official bible?

The answer to this question is complex. There is no single reason; instead, there are many:

  1. There is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would require both prophetic instruction and a sustaining vote of the membership.
  2. The original manuscripts for the JST were retained by Emma Smith when the Saints went west. She later gave them to her son, Joseph III, and he had the first JST Bible printed under the auspices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this time there was a great deal of animosity between the LDS and RLDS churches; Brigham Young feared that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. Given that the Utah Church could not verify the translation, along with the fact that they did not own the copyright, kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. The LDS interest in the JST came much later, largely due to the scholarly work of Robert Matthews on the manuscripts in the early 1970s, and apostle Bruce R. McConkie's embrace of the JST.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST could cause a stumbling block for converts. The doctrine of Joseph Smith, modern prophets, and modern books of scripture are already difficult for many Christians to consider. In this sense, the KJV serves as a connection between the LDS Church and the remainder of the Christian world.
  4. Portions of the JST have been canonized: Our Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew are excerpts from the JST.

In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work—it included multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST. (Ironically, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before critics of the Church began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[17])

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use.[18]

Among Church leaders, Elder Bruce R. McConkie was especially vocal about the JST. In 1980, he said:

[Joseph] translated the Book of Abraham and what is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This latter is a marvelously inspired work; it is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. By pure revelation, he inserted many new concepts and views as, for instance, the material in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis about Melchizedek. Some chapters he rewrote and realigned so that the things said in them take on a new perspective and meaning, such as the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and the first chapter in the gospel of John.[19]

In 1985 Elder McConkie told members during a satellite broadcast:

As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.[20]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Why does the JST translation of Genesis (the Pearl of Great Price's Book of Moses) contain New Testament language?

The Book of Moses comes from the few chapters of the JST—it is essentially the JST of the first chapters of Genesis.

The translation includes many phrases from the New Testament. The following occurences of New Testament language and concepts reflected in the Book of Moses were documented by David M. Calabro—a Latter-day Saint and Curator of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University.[21]

Phrase Location in Book of Moses Location in New Testament
"Only Begotten" and "Only Begotten Son" Moses 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32, 33; 2:1, 26, 27; 3:18; 4:1, 3, 28, 5:7, 9, 57; 6:52, 57, 59, 62; 7:50, 59, 62 John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9
"transfigured before" God Moses 1:11 Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2
"get thee hence, Satan" Moses 1:16 Matthew 4:10
the Holy Ghost "beareth record" of the Father and the Son Moses 1:24; 5:9 1 John 5:7
"by the word of my power" Moses 1:32, 35; 2:5 Hebrews 1:3
"full of grace and truth" Moses 1:32, 5:7 John 1:14; cf. John 1:17
"immortality and eternal life" Moses 1:39 Both terms are absent from the Old Testament but are relatively frequent in the New Testament: immortality occurs six times, all in Pauline epistles; eternal life occurs twenty-six times in the Gospels, Pauline epistles, epistles of John, and Jude; "eternal life" also appears elsewhere like in Moses 5:11; 6:59; 7:45.
"them that believe" Moses 1:42; 4:32 Mark 16:17; John 1:12; Romans 3:22; 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 14:22; Galatians 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 10:39; the contrasting phrase "them that do not believe" also appears (Rom. 15:31; 1 Cor. 10:27; 14:22)
"I am the Beginning and the End" Moses 2:1 Revelation 21:6; 22:13
"Beloved Son" as a title of Christ Moses 4:2 Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17; the phrase "beloved son" appears elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 20:13; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) and in the Greek Septuagint of Gen. 22:2, but it is absent from the Hebrew and KJV Old Testament.
"my Chosen," as a title of Christ Moses 4:2; 7:39 Compare "chosen of God" in reference to Christ in Luke 23:35 and 1 Pet. 2:4
"thy will be done" Moses 4:2 Matthew 6:10; 26:42; Luke 11:2
"the glory be thine forever" Moses 4:2 Compare Matthew 6:13 - "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever;" note the proximity of this phrase to "thy will be done" both in Moses 4:2 and in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–1.
"by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that [Satan] should be cast down" Moses 4:3 Compare Revelation 12:10 - "Now is come . . . the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down"; note that the Hebrew title Satan means "accuser"
"the devil" Moses 4:4 Sixty-one instances in the New Testament, translating the Greek word diabolos
"carnal, sensual, and devilish" Moses 5:13; 6:49 James 3:15 "earthly, sensual, and devilish"
"Satan desireth to have thee" Moses 5:23 Luke 22:31 "Satan hath desired to have you"
"Perdition," as the title of a person Moses 5:24 Compare "the son of perdition" in John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the word perdition as an abstract noun meaning "destruction" (translating the Greek word apoleia) occurs elsewhere in the King James version of the New Testament (Philippians 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, 11)
"the Gospel" Moses 5:58, 59, 8:19 Eighty-three instances in the New Testament; the word gospel, irrespective of the English definite article, occurs 101 times in the New Testament but is not found in the Old Testament.
"holy angels" Moses 5:58 Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22 (singular "holy angel"); Revelation 14:10
"gift of the Holy Ghost" Moses 5:58; 6:52 Acts 2:38; 10:45
"anointing" the eyes in order to see Moses 6:35 – "anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see" Compare John 9:6–7, 11 (Jesus anoints the eyes of a blind man with clay and commands him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he "came seeing"); Revelation 3:18 (the Lord tells the church in Laodicea, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see"); these are the only passages in the Bible that refer to anointing the eyes
"no man laid hands on him" Moses 6:39 John 7:30, 44; 8:20
"my God, and your God" Moses 6:43 John 20:17
"only name under heaven whereby salvation shall come" Moses 6:52 Acts 4:12
collocation of water, blood, and Spirit Moses 6:59-60 1 John 5:6, 8
"born again of water and the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit"; "born again"; "born of water and of the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit" Moses 6:59, 65 John 3:3, 5-8
"the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" Moses 6:59 Matthew 13:11. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is absent from the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found only in Matthew (thirty-two occurrences), but it is frequent in rabbinic literature
"cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten" Moses 6:59 Compare 1 John 1:7 ("the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin")
"the words of eternal life" Moses 6:59 John 6:68
eternal life "in the world to come" Moses 6:59 Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; the phrase "the world to come" is absent from the Old Testament but occurs five times in the New Testament; other than the two just quoted, see Matthew 12:32; Hebrews 2:5; 6:5
"by the Spirit ye are justified" Moses 6:60 Compare 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:16
"the Comforter," referring to the Holy Ghost Moses 6:61 John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7
"the inner man" Moses 6:65 Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16
"baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost" Moses 6:66 Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16
"they were of one heart and one mind" Moses 7:18 Compare Acts 4:32
"in the bosom of the Father," referring to heaven Moses 7:24, 47 John 1:18 (note that JST deletes this phrase in this verse, perhaps implying that it entered the text sometime after its original composition)
"a great chain in his hand" Moses 7:26 Revelation 20:1 (here the one holding the chain is an angel, unlike Moses 7:26, in which it is the devil)
commandment to "love one another" Moses 7:33 John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5
"without affection" Moses 7:33 Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3
"the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world" Moses 7:47 Compare Revelation 13:8 – "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," as a noun phrase); the term "the Lamb" is used as a title of the Messiah only in the New Testament and is distinctively Johannine (John 1:29, 36; twenty-seven instances in Revelation), and the words lamb and slain collocate only in Revelation 5:6, 12; 13:8.
"climb up" by a gate or door, as a metaphor of progression through Christ Moses 7:53 John 10:1

Video by The Interpreter Foundation.


This language can be explained by a few possible factors, not all mutually exclusive.

"After the Manner of Their Language" – Doctrine & Covenants 1:24

The first possibility to consider is that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Moses into a vernacular that was comprehensible to his 19th century audience. Joseph's contemporaries were steeped in biblical language and used it even in everyday speech. The language of the New Testament was the natural way to discuss certain theological ideas.

D&C 1꞉24 tells us that in revelation, God uses the language of his audience to communicate effectively" Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."[22]

An early Christian context for the creation of the Book of Moses

Another possibility is that the Book of Moses was originally written in an early Christian context. That would place the composition of the Book of Moses in the 1st and 2nd century AD (about 1900 to 1800 years ago). Calabro outlined and defended this theory.[21] Calabro argues that the Book of Moses can still preserve actual events from the life of Moses while placing the story in a Christian context describing it with Christian language. Thus, Joseph Smith could actually be restoring lost understanding of Moses—but that information has already been filtered through New Testament language.

One potential weakness of this theory is that it disrupts the understanding of many Church members about the Book of Moses, since it has more traditionally been seen as a restoration of Moses' writings in Genesis. However, Joseph Smith does not seem to have left a detailed account of what the Book of Moses represents. Joseph saw the JST as a restoration of "many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled."[23]

This theory could also, in essence, be turned on its head, making an ancient version of the Book of Moses the source of subsequent Christian writing. Latter-day Saint author Jeff Lindsay and former BYU professor Noel Reynolds have theorized that the Book of Moses influenced the language of the Book of Mormon via the brass plates or another source.[24]

Similar messages to different nations

Speaking in reference to the Bible, the Book of Mormon has God announce that "I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two enations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."[25]

It is certainly possible that the same concepts were revealed to Moses with similar language as that used in the New Testament.

Conclusion—New Testament and the Book of Moses

There are therefore multiple models which would explain the similarity between the Book of Moses and the New Testament. Given that the Book of Moses claims to be a translation, it is hardly strange that it would echo another translation (the KJV bible) that discusses the same ideas and issues.

Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17꞉22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

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.

Is the Church "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence

Some critics have claimed that the Church is "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. [26]

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence. The claim was made in 1977. In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work. Thus, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before the Tanners began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[27] It had multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST.

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use. Some examples of this effort published around the time the Tanners were making their claim include:

  • Robert J. Matthews, “The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration,” Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site
  • Monte S. Nyman, “Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site

The Church is not, and was not, embarrassed by the JST. In its historical context, the critics' claim is incredibly ill-informed.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

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[28] 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.[29]

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

Learn more about the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the bible
Key sources
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
FAIR links
  • Jeffrey Bradshaw, "The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden," Proceedings of the 2008 FAIR Conference (August 2008). link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
Online
  • W. John Welsh, "Why Didn't Joseph Correct KJV Errors When Translating the JST?", lightplanet.com off-site
  • Garold N. Davis, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [123–129] link
  • Kevin L. Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85–102.off-site
  • Cynthia L. Hallen, "Redeeming the Desolate Woman: The Message of Isaiah 54 and 3 Nephi 22," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998). [40–47] link
  • Matthew L. Bowen, "'They Shall Be Scattered Again': Some Notes on JST Genesis 50:24–25, 33–35," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 57/4 (23 June 2023). [107–128] link
  • Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph Smith's Translation Projects under a Microscope," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/15 (18 December 2020). [257–264] link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  • Spencer Kraus, "An Unfortunate Approach to Joseph Smith's Translation of Ancient Scripture," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 52/1 (17 June 2022). [1–64] link
  • Mark J. Johnson, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [130–138] link
  • Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4/1 (1992). [235–250] link
  • Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005). [12–25] link
  • A. Don Sorensen, "'The Problem of the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi (Review of “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone September–October 1982, 20–27)'," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [117–148] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "'Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books'," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [166–174] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Book of Mormon and the Problem of the Sermon on the Mount," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [153–165] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The 'Isaiah Problem' in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [129–152] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Isaiah Quotation: 2 Nephi 12–24," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [192–208] link
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Review of 'Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah.' in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 157–234.)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [161–172] link
  • Kurt Manwaring, “10 questions with Thomas Wayment”.
  • LDS Perspectives, Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment .
  • Thomas Wayment and Haley Wilson, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation".
Video
Video published by BYU Religious Education.

Print
  • Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985).
  • Matthew B. Brown, "The Restoration of Biblical Texts," in All Things Restored, 2d ed. (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2006),159–181. AISN B000R4LXSM. ISBN 1577347129.
Navigators

Source(s) of the criticism—Discrepancies between KJV, JST, and Book of Mormon
Critical sources


Notes

  1. "JST Bible Translation," MormonThink.com
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. "History of Joseph Smith," 592; 1 Nephi 13:28; see 13:23–29.
  5. Kent P. Jackson, Understanding Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022), 34–35.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  7. Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," Journal of Undergraduate Research (March 2017) off-site
  8. Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, "A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation," in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, eds. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 262–84.
  9. Thomas A. Wayment, "Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, and the Making of a Bible Revision," Journal of Mormon History 46, no. 3 (July 2020): 1–22.
  10. Transcript of Laura Harris Hales, "Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment," LDS Perspectives, September 26, 2019, https://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/09/26/jst-adam-clarke-commentary/.
  11. Kurt Manwaring, "10 Questions with Thomas Wayment," From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring, January 2, 2019, https://www.fromthedesk.org/10-questions-thomas-wayment/.
  12. See, for instance, Kevin L. Barney, "A Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Revision of First Corinthians," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 53, no. 2 (Summer 2020): 57–105.
  13. Kevin Barney, "On Secondary Source Influence in the JST," By Common Consent, April 16, 2021, https://bycommonconsent.com/2021/04/16/on-secondary-source-infuence-in-the-jst/
  14. Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
  15. Kent P. Jackson, "New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," in Religious Educator 6, no. 3 (2005): 149–160 (link).
  16. George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 142.
  17. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  18. Robert J. Matthews, "The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration," Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site; "Plain and Precious Things Restored," Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site; "Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’," Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site; Monte S. Nyman, "Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible," Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site
  19. Bruce R. McConkie, "This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You," Ensign (June 1980): 54.
  20. Bruce R. McConkie, "https://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/12/come-hear-the-voice-of-the-lord?lang=eng Come: Hear the Voice of the Lord]," Ensign (December 1985): 54.
  21. 21.0 21.1 David M. Calabro, "An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 47/7 (20 September 2021). [181–262] link
  22. See also 2 Nephi 31꞉3.
  23. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 10–11.
  24. Jeff Lindsay and Noel B. Reynolds, "'Strong Like unto Moses': The Case for Ancient Roots in the Book of Moses Based on Book of Mormon Usage of Related Content Apparently from the Brass Plates," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 44/1 (26 March 2021). [1–92] link Noel B. Reynolds, "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 34/5 (15 November 2019). [63–96] link
  25. 2 Nephi 29:8
  26. Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 385.( Index of claims )
  27. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979): 9.
  28. 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.
  29. Gleason L. Archer, An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1982), 31. ISBN 0310435706.
Articles about Joseph Smith

Articles about the Holy Bible

What is the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST)?

Is the JST intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text?

Video published by BYU Religious Education.


The JST is not intended primarily or solely as a restoration of lost Bible text.

As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on churchofjesuschrist.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible."

Two main points should be kept in mind with regards to the Joseph Smith "translation" of the Bible:

  • The JST is not intended primarily or solely as restoration of text. Many mainline LDS scholars who have focused on the JST (such as Robert J. Matthews and Kent Jackson) are unanimous in this regard. The assumption that it is intended primarily or solely as a restoration of text is what leads to expectations that the JST and Book of Mormon should match up in every case. At times the JST does not even match up with itself, such as when Joseph Smith translated the same passage multiple times in different ways. This does not undermine notions of revelation, but certainly challenges common assumptions about the nature and function of Joseph's understanding of "translation".
  • One of the main tendencies of the JST is harmonization. Readers are well aware of differences in Jesus' sayings between different Gospels. For example, Jesus' statements about whether divorce is permitted and under what conditions differ significantly. Matthew offers an exception clause that Mark and Luke do not, and this has severely complicated the historical interpretation of Jesus' view of divorce.
The JST often makes changes that harmonize one gospel with another. While one gospel says "judge not" (though this may not be as absolute as some make it out to be), John 7:24 has Jesus commanding to "judge righteous judgment." The JST change harmonizes the two gospels by making Matthew agree with John. If there is a real difference between being commanded to "Judge righteously" and being commanded to "Judge not", then it is a problem inherently present in the differing accounts of the Gospels, which the JST resolves.

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.[1]

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.[2]

What is the relationship between the JST and biblical manuscripts?

The Joseph Smith Translation does claim to be, in part, a restoration of the original content of the Bible. This may have been done (a) by reproducing the text as it was originally written down; or, (b) it may have been about reproducing the original intent and clarifying the message of the original author of the text in question. We are not entirely sure, but in either case the JST does claim to be, in part, a restoration.

Critics who fault the JST because it doesn't match known manuscripts of the Bible are being too hasty: we do not have the original manuscripts of any text of the Bible, nor do we know the exact nature of every change made in the JST and whether a particular change was meant to be a restoration of original text.

Kent P. Jackson, another leading expert on the JST, wrote:

Some may choose to find fault with the Joseph Smith Translation because they do not see correlations between the text on ancient manuscripts. The supposition would be that if the JST revisions were justifiable, they would agree with the earliest existing manuscripts of the biblical books. This reasoning is misdirected in two ways. First, it assumes that extant ancient manuscripts accurately reproduce the original test, and both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon teach otherwise.[3] Because the earliest Old and New Testament manuscripts date from long after the original documents were written, we no longer have original manuscripts to compare with Joseph Smith's revisions. The second problem with faulting the JST because it does not match ancient texts is that to do so assumes that all the revisions Joseph Smith made were intended to restore original text. We have no record of him making that claim, and even in places in which the JST would restore original text it would do so not in Hebrew or Greek but in Modern English and in the scriptural idiom of early nineteenth-century America. Revisions that fit in others of the categories listed above are likewise in modern English, "given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language" (D&C 1꞉24)/[4]

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". 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. As expressed in the Bible Dictionary on lds.org "The JST to some extent assists in restoring the plain and precious things that have been lost from the Bible". 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. In general, it 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.

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.

What was the translation procedure used by Joseph Smith and his scribes to produce the JST?

Kent Jackson reports:

The original manuscripts of the JST, as well as the Bible used in the revision, still exist. They show the following process at work: Joseph Smith had his Bible in front of him, likely in his lap or on a table, and he dictated the translation to his scribes, who recorded what they heard him say. ... there are no parts of the translation in which the scribes "copied out the text of the Bible." The evidence on the manuscripts is clear that this did not happen. The Prophet dictated without punctuation and verse breaks, and those features were inserted as a separate process after the text was complete. [Some have argued that after supposedly] copying of text out of the Bible, the scribes then inserted the "numerous strikethroughs of words and phrases, interlinear insertions, and omissions," and thus Joseph Smith’s revised text was born. But the overwhelming majority of the revisions were in the original dictation and are simply part of the original writing on the manuscripts. There are indeed strikeouts and interlinear insertions on the manuscripts, but they came during a second pass through parts of the manuscripts and comprise only a minority of the revisions Joseph Smith made.[5]:20-21

Did Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary significanly influence the JST?

In March 2017, Thomas Wayment, professor of Classics at Brigham Young University, published a paper in BYU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research titled "A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation". In a summary of their research, Wayment and his research assistant wrote:

Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible has attracted significant attention in recent decades, drawing the interest of a wide variety of academics and those who affirm its nearly canonical status in the LDS scriptural canon. More recently, in conducting new research into the origins of Smith’s Bible translation, we uncovered evidence that Smith and his associates used a readily available Bible commentary while compiling a new Bible translation, or more properly a revision of the King James Bible. The commentary, Adam Clarke’s famous Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, was a mainstay for Methodist theologians and biblical scholars alike, and was one of the most widely available commentaries in the mid-1820s and 1830s in America. Direct borrowing from this source has not previously been connected to Smith’s translation efforts, and the fundamental question of what Smith meant by the term "translation" with respect to his efforts to rework the biblical text can now be reconsidered in light of this new evidence. What is noteworthy in detailing the usage of this source is that Adam Clarke’s textual emendations come through Smith’s translation as inspired changes to the text. Moreover, the question of what Smith meant by the term translation should be broadened to include what now appears to have been an academic interest to update the text of the Bible. This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith’s translation projects, particularly his Bible project, and how he used academic sources while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text. In presenting the evidence for Smith’s usage of Clarke, our paper also addressed the larger question of what it means for Smith to have used an academic/theological Bible commentary in the process of producing a text that he subsequently defined as a translation. In doing so, we first presented the evidence for Smith’s reliance upon Adam Clarke to establish the nature of Smith’s usage of Clarke. Following that discussion, we engaged the question of how Smith approached the question of the quality of the King James Bible (hereafter KJV) translation that he was using in 1830 and what the term translation meant to both Smith and his close associates. Finally, we offered a suggestion as to how Smith came to use Clarke, as well as assessing the overall question of what these findings suggest regarding Smith as a translator and his various translation projects.

Our research has revealed that the number of direct parallels between Smith’s translation and Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary are simply too numerous and explicit to posit happenstance or coincidental overlap. The parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds, a number that is well beyond the limits of this paper to discuss. A few of them, however, demonstrate Smith’s open reliance upon Clarke and establish that he was inclined to lean on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance. In presenting the evidence, we have attempted to both establish that Smith drew upon Clarke, likely at the urging of Rigdon, and we present here a broad categorization of the types of changes that Smith made when he used Clarke as a source.[6]

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon then published a more detailed account of their findings together in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity (2020) edited by BYU professor Michael Hubbard MacKay, Joseph Smith Papers researcher Mark Ashurst-McGee, and former BYU professor Brian M. Hauglid.[7] Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.[8]

Wayment outlined what he and Haley Wilson believed they had found:

What we found, a student assistant (Hailey Wilson Lamone) and I, we discovered that in about 200 to 300 — depending on how much change is being involved — parallels where Joseph Smith has the exact same change to a verse that Adam Clarke does. They’re verbatim. Some of them are 5 to 6 words; some of them are 2 words; some of them are a single word. But in cases where that single word is fairly unique or different, it seemed pretty obvious that he’s getting this from Adam Clarke. What really changed my worldview here is now I’m looking at what appears obvious as a text person, that the prophet has used Adam Clarke. That in the process of doing the translation, he’s either read it, has it in front of him, or he reads it at night. We started to look back through the Joseph Smith History. There’s a story of his brother-in-law presenting Joseph Smith with a copy of Adam Clarke. We do not know whose copy of Adam Clarke it is, but we do know that Nathaniel Lewis gives it to the prophet and says, "I want to use the Urim and Thummim. I want to translate some of the strange characters out of Adam Clarke’s commentary." Joseph will clearly not give him the Urim and Thummim to do that, but we know he had it in his hands. Now looking at the text, we can say that a lot of the material that happens after Genesis 24. There are no parallels to Clarke between Genesis 1–Genesis 24. But when we start to get to Matthew, it’s very clear that Adam Clarke has influenced the way he changes the Bible. It was a big moment. That article comes out in the next year. We provide appendi [sic] and documentation for some of the major changes, and we try to grapple with what this might mean.[9]

Accusation of plagiarism

In another interview with Kurt Manwaring, Wayment addressed the charge of plagiarism directly:

When news inadvertently broke that a source had been uncovered that was used in the process of creating the JST, some were quick to use that information as a point of criticism against Joseph or against the JST. Words like "plagiarism" were quickly brought forward as a reasonable explanation of what was going on. To be clear, plagiarism is a word that to me implies an overt attempt to copy the work of another person directly and intentionally without attributing any recognition to the source from which the information was taken.

To the best of my understanding, Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke as a Bible commentary to guide his mind and thought process to consider the Bible in ways that he wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise. It may be strong to say, but Joseph didn’t have training in ancient languages or the history of the Bible, but Adam Clarke did. And Joseph appears to have appreciated Clarke’s expertise and in using Clarke as a source, Joseph at times adopted the language of that source as he revised the Bible. I think that those who are troubled by this process are largely troubled because it contradicts a certain constructed narrative about the history of the JST and about how revelation works.

The reality of what happened is inspiring.

Joseph, who applied his own prophetic authority to the Bible in the revision process, drew upon the best available scholarship to guide his prophetic instincts. Inspiration following careful study and consideration is a prophetic model that can include many members of the church.

I hope people who read the study when it comes out will pause long enough to consider the benefit of expanding the definition of the prophetic gift to include academic study as a key component before rejecting the evidence outright.[10]

Mark Ashurst McGee of the Joseph Smith Papers team made similar points as those of Wayment at the 2020 FAIR Conference held in Provo:


A rebuttal to the Adam Clarke hypothesis

In October 2020, Kent P. Jackson (Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and a leading expert on the JST) responded to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon's work.[5]

Jackson's paper identified several striking weakness to the Adam Clarke hypothesis. These include:

  • "I have examined in detail every one of the JST passages they set forth as having been influenced by Clarke, and I have examined what Clarke wrote about those passages. I now believe that the conclusions they reached regarding those connections cannot be sustained. I do not believe that there is [Page 17] Adam Clarke-JST connection at all, and I have seen no evidence that Joseph Smith ever used Clarke’s commentary in his revision of the Bible. None of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have set forward as examples, in my opinion, can withstand careful scrutiny."[5]:16-17
  • "Too often Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon did not read carefully what Clarke wrote, and thus they frequently misinterpret him by ascribing intentions to him that cannot be sustained from his own words."[5]:28
  • "There is much evidence in the JST to show that when the Prophet removed or replaced words, he had a tendency to save the deleted words and place them elsewhere, and this [Psalms 33:2] is a good example. All of these revisions are the opposite of what Clarke wanted."[5]:30
  • [there are] "several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made."[5]:31
  • "In his commentary on the surrounding verses in Isaiah 34, Clarke makes several suggestions for revising the text. The fact that none of those suggestions are reflected in Joseph Smith’s translation adds to the unlikelihood that Clarke was the Prophet’s source here at all."[5]:33
  • Regarding Mark 8, "Clarke provides what he felt was better wording for four passages in this chapter. Joseph Smith’s translations contains none of them. And Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in the chapter, some of them rather extensive, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke."[5]:39
  • "There is even further reason to rule out Clarke as the source for this change [in John 2:24]. [Clarke's] commentary on John 2 has over 3,000 words, and he recommends changing the text in ten places. Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in this short chapter, but this is the only one that resembles anything in Clarke. Why, among Clarke’s thousands of words and scores of thoughtful insights, would Joseph Smith make only this one small revision of minimal consequence if he had Clarke’s commentary in front of him?"[5]:40
  • "Wayment states that Adam Clarke 'shaped Smith’s Bible revision in fundamental ways.' Even if all of the passages he attributes to Clarke were really influenced by Clarke, it seems difficult to justify such a sweeping statement, given the mostly minor rewordings that we have seen. If among the verses listed above are the best examples, as Wilson-Lemmon states,102 then the Adam Clarke-JST theory can be dismissed out of hand."[5]:53

Jackson concluded that "none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means."[5]:15

Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past,[11] wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."[12]

To be sure, neither Jackson nor Barney are opposed to the idea that there could be secondary source influence on the production of the JST. Thus, this is a faith-neutral issue for both.

At the 2022 FAIR Conference held in Provo, UT, Professor Kent Jackson responded to the theory directly and in depth.[13]


Was the JST ever completed?

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."[14]

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. Joseph was, however, collecting funds to publish the JST—which indicates that he believed it was ready for public use and consumption.

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.[15]

We again see that the JST or any other scripture is not the ultimate source of LDS doctrine—having a living prophet is what is most vital.

Why does the Church continue to use the KJV instead of the JST as its official bible?

The answer to this question is complex. There is no single reason; instead, there are many:

  1. There is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would require both prophetic instruction and a sustaining vote of the membership.
  2. The original manuscripts for the JST were retained by Emma Smith when the Saints went west. She later gave them to her son, Joseph III, and he had the first JST Bible printed under the auspices of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. At this time there was a great deal of animosity between the LDS and RLDS churches; Brigham Young feared that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. Given that the Utah Church could not verify the translation, along with the fact that they did not own the copyright, kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. The LDS interest in the JST came much later, largely due to the scholarly work of Robert Matthews on the manuscripts in the early 1970s, and apostle Bruce R. McConkie's embrace of the JST.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST could cause a stumbling block for converts. The doctrine of Joseph Smith, modern prophets, and modern books of scripture are already difficult for many Christians to consider. In this sense, the KJV serves as a connection between the LDS Church and the remainder of the Christian world.
  4. Portions of the JST have been canonized: Our Book of Moses and Joseph Smith—Matthew are excerpts from the JST.

In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work—it included multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST. (Ironically, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before critics of the Church began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[16])

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use.[17]

Among Church leaders, Elder Bruce R. McConkie was especially vocal about the JST. In 1980, he said:

[Joseph] translated the Book of Abraham and what is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. This latter is a marvelously inspired work; it is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. By pure revelation, he inserted many new concepts and views as, for instance, the material in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis about Melchizedek. Some chapters he rewrote and realigned so that the things said in them take on a new perspective and meaning, such as the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew and the first chapter in the gospel of John.[18]

In 1985 Elder McConkie told members during a satellite broadcast:

As all of us should know, the Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version as it is sometimes called, stands as one of the great evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet. The added truths he placed in the Bible and the corrections he made raise the resultant work to the same high status as the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. It is true that he did not complete the work, but it was far enough along that he intended to publish it in its present form in his lifetime.[19]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Why does the JST translation of Genesis (the Pearl of Great Price's Book of Moses) contain New Testament language?

The Book of Moses comes from the few chapters of the JST—it is essentially the JST of the first chapters of Genesis.

The translation includes many phrases from the New Testament. The following occurences of New Testament language and concepts reflected in the Book of Moses were documented by David M. Calabro—a Latter-day Saint and Curator of Eastern Christian Manuscripts at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University.[20]

Phrase Location in Book of Moses Location in New Testament
"Only Begotten" and "Only Begotten Son" Moses 1:6, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 32, 33; 2:1, 26, 27; 3:18; 4:1, 3, 28, 5:7, 9, 57; 6:52, 57, 59, 62; 7:50, 59, 62 John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9
"transfigured before" God Moses 1:11 Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2
"get thee hence, Satan" Moses 1:16 Matthew 4:10
the Holy Ghost "beareth record" of the Father and the Son Moses 1:24; 5:9 1 John 5:7
"by the word of my power" Moses 1:32, 35; 2:5 Hebrews 1:3
"full of grace and truth" Moses 1:32, 5:7 John 1:14; cf. John 1:17
"immortality and eternal life" Moses 1:39 Both terms are absent from the Old Testament but are relatively frequent in the New Testament: immortality occurs six times, all in Pauline epistles; eternal life occurs twenty-six times in the Gospels, Pauline epistles, epistles of John, and Jude; "eternal life" also appears elsewhere like in Moses 5:11; 6:59; 7:45.
"them that believe" Moses 1:42; 4:32 Mark 16:17; John 1:12; Romans 3:22; 4:11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 14:22; Galatians 3:22; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 10:39; the contrasting phrase "them that do not believe" also appears (Rom. 15:31; 1 Cor. 10:27; 14:22)
"I am the Beginning and the End" Moses 2:1 Revelation 21:6; 22:13
"Beloved Son" as a title of Christ Moses 4:2 Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17; the phrase "beloved son" appears elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 20:13; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) and in the Greek Septuagint of Gen. 22:2, but it is absent from the Hebrew and KJV Old Testament.
"my Chosen," as a title of Christ Moses 4:2; 7:39 Compare "chosen of God" in reference to Christ in Luke 23:35 and 1 Pet. 2:4
"thy will be done" Moses 4:2 Matthew 6:10; 26:42; Luke 11:2
"the glory be thine forever" Moses 4:2 Compare Matthew 6:13 - "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever;" note the proximity of this phrase to "thy will be done" both in Moses 4:2 and in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9–1.
"by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that [Satan] should be cast down" Moses 4:3 Compare Revelation 12:10 - "Now is come . . . the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down"; note that the Hebrew title Satan means "accuser"
"the devil" Moses 4:4 Sixty-one instances in the New Testament, translating the Greek word diabolos
"carnal, sensual, and devilish" Moses 5:13; 6:49 James 3:15 "earthly, sensual, and devilish"
"Satan desireth to have thee" Moses 5:23 Luke 22:31 "Satan hath desired to have you"
"Perdition," as the title of a person Moses 5:24 Compare "the son of perdition" in John 17:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; the word perdition as an abstract noun meaning "destruction" (translating the Greek word apoleia) occurs elsewhere in the King James version of the New Testament (Philippians 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, 11)
"the Gospel" Moses 5:58, 59, 8:19 Eighty-three instances in the New Testament; the word gospel, irrespective of the English definite article, occurs 101 times in the New Testament but is not found in the Old Testament.
"holy angels" Moses 5:58 Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22 (singular "holy angel"); Revelation 14:10
"gift of the Holy Ghost" Moses 5:58; 6:52 Acts 2:38; 10:45
"anointing" the eyes in order to see Moses 6:35 – "anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see" Compare John 9:6–7, 11 (Jesus anoints the eyes of a blind man with clay and commands him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and he "came seeing"); Revelation 3:18 (the Lord tells the church in Laodicea, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see"); these are the only passages in the Bible that refer to anointing the eyes
"no man laid hands on him" Moses 6:39 John 7:30, 44; 8:20
"my God, and your God" Moses 6:43 John 20:17
"only name under heaven whereby salvation shall come" Moses 6:52 Acts 4:12
collocation of water, blood, and Spirit Moses 6:59-60 1 John 5:6, 8
"born again of water and the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit"; "born again"; "born of water and of the Spirit"; "born of the Spirit" Moses 6:59, 65 John 3:3, 5-8
"the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" Moses 6:59 Matthew 13:11. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is absent from the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found only in Matthew (thirty-two occurrences), but it is frequent in rabbinic literature
"cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten" Moses 6:59 Compare 1 John 1:7 ("the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin")
"the words of eternal life" Moses 6:59 John 6:68
eternal life "in the world to come" Moses 6:59 Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; the phrase "the world to come" is absent from the Old Testament but occurs five times in the New Testament; other than the two just quoted, see Matthew 12:32; Hebrews 2:5; 6:5
"by the Spirit ye are justified" Moses 6:60 Compare 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Timothy 3:16
"the Comforter," referring to the Holy Ghost Moses 6:61 John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7
"the inner man" Moses 6:65 Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 4:16
"baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost" Moses 6:66 Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16
"they were of one heart and one mind" Moses 7:18 Compare Acts 4:32
"in the bosom of the Father," referring to heaven Moses 7:24, 47 John 1:18 (note that JST deletes this phrase in this verse, perhaps implying that it entered the text sometime after its original composition)
"a great chain in his hand" Moses 7:26 Revelation 20:1 (here the one holding the chain is an angel, unlike Moses 7:26, in which it is the devil)
commandment to "love one another" Moses 7:33 John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5
"without affection" Moses 7:33 Romans 1:31; 2 Timothy 3:3
"the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world" Moses 7:47 Compare Revelation 13:8 – "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," as a noun phrase); the term "the Lamb" is used as a title of the Messiah only in the New Testament and is distinctively Johannine (John 1:29, 36; twenty-seven instances in Revelation), and the words lamb and slain collocate only in Revelation 5:6, 12; 13:8.
"climb up" by a gate or door, as a metaphor of progression through Christ Moses 7:53 John 10:1

Video by The Interpreter Foundation.


This language can be explained by a few possible factors, not all mutually exclusive.

"After the Manner of Their Language" – Doctrine & Covenants 1:24

The first possibility to consider is that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Moses into a vernacular that was comprehensible to his 19th century audience. Joseph's contemporaries were steeped in biblical language and used it even in everyday speech. The language of the New Testament was the natural way to discuss certain theological ideas.

D&C 1꞉24 tells us that in revelation, God uses the language of his audience to communicate effectively" Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."[21]

An early Christian context for the creation of the Book of Moses

Another possibility is that the Book of Moses was originally written in an early Christian context. That would place the composition of the Book of Moses in the 1st and 2nd century AD (about 1900 to 1800 years ago). Calabro outlined and defended this theory.[20] Calabro argues that the Book of Moses can still preserve actual events from the life of Moses while placing the story in a Christian context describing it with Christian language. Thus, Joseph Smith could actually be restoring lost understanding of Moses—but that information has already been filtered through New Testament language.

One potential weakness of this theory is that it disrupts the understanding of many Church members about the Book of Moses, since it has more traditionally been seen as a restoration of Moses' writings in Genesis. However, Joseph Smith does not seem to have left a detailed account of what the Book of Moses represents. Joseph saw the JST as a restoration of "many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled."[22]

This theory could also, in essence, be turned on its head, making an ancient version of the Book of Moses the source of subsequent Christian writing. Latter-day Saint author Jeff Lindsay and former BYU professor Noel Reynolds have theorized that the Book of Moses influenced the language of the Book of Mormon via the brass plates or another source.[23]

Similar messages to different nations

Speaking in reference to the Bible, the Book of Mormon has God announce that "I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two enations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also."[24]

It is certainly possible that the same concepts were revealed to Moses with similar language as that used in the New Testament.

Conclusion—New Testament and the Book of Moses

There are therefore multiple models which would explain the similarity between the Book of Moses and the New Testament. Given that the Book of Moses claims to be a translation, it is hardly strange that it would echo another translation (the KJV bible) that discusses the same ideas and issues.

Why does the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses describe "God" as creating, while the Book of Abraham describes "Gods?"

Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love

The scriptures affirm that there is "One God" consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great debate in Christian history has been the nature of this oneness.

Protestant critics do not like the fact that Latter-day Saints reject the nonbiblical Nicene Creed, which teaches a oneness of substance. Latter-day Saints believe that God is one, but accept the Biblical witness that this is a oneness of purpose, intent, mind, will, and love, into which believers are invited to participate (see John 17꞉22-23). Thus, it is proper to speak of "God" in a singular sense, but Latter-day Saints also recognize that there is more than one divine person—for example, the Father and the Son.

This is not a contradiction; it merely demonstrates that the Latter-day Saints do not accept Nicene trinitarianism.

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.

Is the Church "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence

Some critics have claimed that the Church is "embarrassed" by the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. [25]

This claim is contradicted by an enormous amount of historical evidence. The claim was made in 1977. In 1978, the Church produced its new version of the KJV after years of work. Thus, the JST was the focus of serious attention by the Church long before the Tanners began to insist that leaders were ashamed of it.[26] It had multiple footnote and appendix entries from the JST.

The Church magazines also launched a concerted effort to introduce Latter-day Saints to the JST material that was now easily available, and to encourage its use. Some examples of this effort published around the time the Tanners were making their claim include:

  • Robert J. Matthews, “The Bible and Its Role in the Restoration,” Ensign, Jul 1979, 41 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, Jul 1982, 15 off-site
  • Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible ‘Translation’,” Ensign, Jan 1983, 57–58. off-site
  • Monte S. Nyman, “Restoring ‘Plain and Precious Parts’: The Role of Latter-day Scriptures in Helping Us Understand the Bible,” Ensign, Dec 1981, 19–25 off-site

The Church is not, and was not, embarrassed by the JST. In its historical context, the critics' claim is incredibly ill-informed.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

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[27] 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.[28]

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

Learn more about the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the bible
Key sources
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
FAIR links
  • Jeffrey Bradshaw, "The Message of the Joseph Smith Translation: A Walk in the Garden," Proceedings of the 2008 FAIR Conference (August 2008). link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Was Joseph Smith Influenced by Outside Sources in His Translation of the Bible?," Proceedings of the 2022 FAIR Conference (August 2022). link
Online
  • W. John Welsh, "Why Didn't Joseph Correct KJV Errors When Translating the JST?", lightplanet.com off-site
  • Garold N. Davis, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [123–129] link
  • Kevin L. Barney, "The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 no. 3 (Fall 1986), 85–102.off-site
  • Cynthia L. Hallen, "Redeeming the Desolate Woman: The Message of Isaiah 54 and 3 Nephi 22," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 7/1 (1998). [40–47] link
  • Matthew L. Bowen, "'They Shall Be Scattered Again': Some Notes on JST Genesis 50:24–25, 33–35," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 57/4 (23 June 2023). [107–128] link
  • Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph Smith's Translation Projects under a Microscope," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 41/15 (18 December 2020). [257–264] link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40/2 (2 October 2020). [15–60] link
  • Spencer Kraus, "An Unfortunate Approach to Joseph Smith's Translation of Ancient Scripture," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 52/1 (17 June 2022). [1–64] link
  • Mark J. Johnson, "Review of The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban: A Comparison of Biblical and Book of Mormon Isaiah Texts by H. Clay Gorton," FARMS Review 7/1 (1995). [130–138] link
  • Stephen D. Ricks, "Review of The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon by Wesley P. Walters," Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 4/1 (1992). [235–250] link
  • Dana M. Pike and David R. Seely, "'Upon All the Ships of the Sea, and Upon All the Ships of Tarshish': Revisiting 2 Nephi 12:16 and Isaiah 2:16," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005). [12–25] link
  • A. Don Sorensen, "'The Problem of the Sermon on the Mount and 3 Nephi (Review of “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone September–October 1982, 20–27)'," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [117–148] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "'Literary Problems in the Book of Mormon involving 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and Other New Testament Books'," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [166–174] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Book of Mormon and the Problem of the Sermon on the Mount," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [153–165] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The 'Isaiah Problem' in the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [129–152] link
  • Sidney B. Sperry, "The Isaiah Quotation: 2 Nephi 12–24," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/1 (1995). [192–208] link
  • John A. Tvedtnes, "Isaiah in the Bible and the Book of Mormon (Review of 'Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah.' in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, 157–234.)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004). [161–172] link
  • Kurt Manwaring, “10 questions with Thomas Wayment”.
  • LDS Perspectives, Joseph Smith's Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations - Thomas A. Wayment .
  • Thomas Wayment and Haley Wilson, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation".
Video
Video published by BYU Religious Education.

Print
  • Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation": Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1985).
  • Matthew B. Brown, "The Restoration of Biblical Texts," in All Things Restored, 2d ed. (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2006),159–181. AISN B000R4LXSM. ISBN 1577347129.
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Source(s) of the criticism—Discrepancies between KJV, JST, and Book of Mormon
Critical sources


Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. "History of Joseph Smith," 592; 1 Nephi 13:28; see 13:23–29.
  4. Kent P. Jackson, Understanding Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022), 34–35.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04