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Book of Moses
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Book of Moses
Summary: The "Documentary Hypothesis" is the theory that the Pentateuch (The first five books of the Bible consisting of Genesis-Deuteronomy) are the composition of four separate authors/editors. The sources are J, E, D, and P (Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, Priestly). It is claimed that the Documentary Hypothesis disproves the veracity of the Book of Moses. Usually it is claimed that the Book of Moses claims that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. The article here explains the Documentary Hypothesis and its relation to restoration scripture. Some claim that the Book of Moses cribs from the New Testament. Some critics have claimed that Joseph Smith used Adam Clarke's famous biblical commentary in the creation of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible which includes the Book of Moses. These articles answer these three claims.
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: What is the Documentary Hypothesis and what do critics of Mormonism claim about it as it regards restoration scripture?
- Question: Did Joseph Smith crib language from the New Testament to produce the Book of Moses?
- Question: What is the Adam Clarke Commentary and what do critics of Mormonism claim about it as it regards the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?
Book of Moses
Question: Did Joseph Smith crib language from the New Testament to produce the Book of Moses?
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Introduction to Question
The Book of Moses appears to use many phrases that come uniquely from the New Testament in the Holy Bible. The following occurences of New Testament language and concepts reflected in the Book of Moses were documented by Dr. 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.
|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|
This article seeks to present some views as to why the Book of Moses reflects a lot of New Testament language and concepts.
Response to Question
There are a few possibilities as to why this language appears. These possibilities are not all mutually exclusive. We'll lay out those possibilities. The strengths and weaknesses of those theories will perhaps be readily apparent.
”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 in common, everyday parlance. The language of the New Testament can be used to describe correlative theological issues.
Doctrine and Covenants 1:24 informs us that this is something that is part of the nature of revelation: to use the language of the agent receiving revelation so as to increase that agent's understanding and communicate effectively.
- 24 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.
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). David M. Calabro has recently outlined and defended this theory. Calabro theorizes that the Book of Moses can still preserve actual events from the life of the actual, ancient Moses while appropriating the story for a Christian context and fitting it with Christian language. Thus, Joseph Smith can actually be restoring lost understanding of Moses and we can easily account for the New Testament language.
One potential weakness of this theory is that it disrupts the current understanding of most Church members about the Book of Moses: that it represents 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. All the author can locate is the generic statement from Joseph that the Joseph Smith Translation represents, in some form, a restoration of "many important points touching the salvation of men, [that] had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled." Also, Dr. Calabro's theory actually does embrace the notion that the Book of Moses preserves actual events from Moses' life as well as his teachings.
What I Speak Unto One Nation I Speak Unto Another
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."
It is certainly possible that the same concepts were revealed to Moses with similar language as that used in the New Testament.
A Pre-Christian Context for the Creation of the Book of Moses
The Book of Moses could have actually been written in years preceding the coming of Christ and New Testament authors could have been echoing language first used in the Book of Moses. 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. It's at least possible that this could extend to the New Testament.
Clearly, there is no reason to immediately assume that the presence of New Testament language in the Book of Moses rules out the possibility of it being authentically ancient and a legitimate source of information about events in the life of the historical prophet Moses.
Question: What is the Adam Clarke Commentary and what do critics of Mormonism claim about it as it regards the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible?
The Adam Clarke Commentary Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments was a 19th century commentary on the Bible.
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, Professor Wayment and his undergraduate research assistant Haley Wilson-Lemmón 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.
That notice in BYU's Journal of Undergraduate Research was followed by Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon publishing the most 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 Dr. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Joseph Smith Papers researcher Dr. Mark Ashurst-McGee, and former BYU professor Dr. Brian M. Hauglid. Professor Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.
In Professor Wayment’s view, the claimed parallels did nothing to Joseph’s claim of revelation since the longer revisions never rely on the Clarke commentary. The similarities were allegedly shorter, 1-6 word revisions.
Professor Wayment outline in more detail what he and Haley Wilson 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.
Professor Wayment addressed the accusation of plagiarism directly.
In another interview with Kurt Manwaring, Professor 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.
Mark Ashurst-McGee, a member of the Joseph Smith Papers team, made similar points to Wayment
Dr. Mark Ashurst McGee of the Joseph Smith Papers team made similar points as those of Wayment at the 2020 FAIR Conference held in Provo:
Kent P. Jackson, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and expert on the JST, responded to Wayment's and Wilson-Lemmon's work on October 2, 2020 with criticisms that revealed devastating weaknesses in their theory.
Kent P. Jackson, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University and expert on the JST, responded to Wayment's and Wilson-Lemmon's work on October 2, 2020 in a journal article published with Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship with criticisms that revealed devastating weaknesses in their theory. 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." Readers are encouraged to read Dr. Jackson's paper at the link cited.
Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past, wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."
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 men. Both men are simply in academic disagreement with the conclusions of Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon.
Professor Jackson responded to the theory in more depth and directly at the 2022 FAIR Conference
At the 2022 FAIR Conference held in Provo, UT, Professor Kent Jackson responded to the theory directly and in depth. He outlines in a more user-friendly way the many problems he sees with the Clarke–JST connection.
- 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".
- Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke"
- ↑ David M. Calabro, "An Early Christian Context for the Book of Moses," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 47 (2021): 187–91.
- ↑ See also 2 Nephi 31:3
- ↑ Calabro, "An Early Christian Context."
- ↑ Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 10–11.
- ↑ 2 Nephi 29:8
- ↑ 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 (2021): 1–92; Noel B. Reynolds, "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 34 (2020): 63–96.
- ↑ Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” Journal of Undergraduate Research (March 2017) off-site
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ 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/.
- ↑ Kurt Manwaring, “10 Questions with Thomas Wayment,” From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring, January 2, 2019, https://www.fromthedesk.org/10-questions-thomas-wayment/.
- ↑ Kent P. Jackson, "Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 40 (2020): 15–60.
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ 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/