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.


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Book of Moses


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The Nature of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST)

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:

First, the JST is not intended primarily or solely as restoration of text. Unimpeachably orthodox 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 the JST and the Book of Mormon translation.

Second, one of the main tendencies of the JST is harmonization. You may be 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, which is what your example does. 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 indeed 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 in a particular way.

Four Categories of Functions in the JST

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]

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.

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 about reproducing the text as it was originally written down or it may have been about reproducing the original intent and clarifying the message of the original author of the text in question. We're not entirely sure. Either way, 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 wrong to do so since 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. As stated by JST expert Kent P. Jackson:

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.[1] 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.[2][3]

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.

n 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]

Different Ways to Translate the Same Scriptural Passage

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

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

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

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

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

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

The JST changes the statement to passive voice whereas the KJV Bible and the Book of Mormon are in active voice. According to E. W. Bullinger, this particular scripture contains a Hebraism, namely, "active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said do." Consequently, Bullinger interprets the passage this way: "Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation."[6]

Adam Clarke agrees with Bullinger. He wrote this scripture means "'Bring not in,' or 'lead us not into.' (This is a mere Hebraism. God is said to do a thing which He only permits or suffers to be done)."[7]

In Barnes' Notes on the New Testament we read the same interpretation. "This phrase then must be used in the sense of permitting. Do not suffer us or permit us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God 'has such control over us and the tempter, as to save us from it if we call on him."[8]

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


Notes

  1. "History of Joseph Smith," 592; 1 Nephi 13:28; see 13:23–29.
  2. Doctrine and Covenants 1:24
  3. 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.
  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. See E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech used In the Bible: Explained and Illustrated (London: Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1898), 819-824.
  7. Adam Clark, Commentary an the Bible, abridged by Ralph Earle, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1979), 778.
  8. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, edited by Ingram Cobbin, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), 30.

Relationship between the Adam Clarke Commentary and 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, 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.[1]

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.[2] Professor Wayment then published an additional article on the subject in the July 2020 issue of the Journal of Mormon History.[3]

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.[4]

Accusation of Plagiarism

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.[5]

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:

Alternate Theories

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.[6]

Similarly, Latter-day Saint scholar Kevin L. Barney, who has published on the JST in the past,[7] wrote that the chances for the Adam Clarke commentary influencing the production of the JST are "de minimis or negligible."[8]

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.

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.

Further Reading


Notes

  1. Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” Journal of Undergraduate Research (March 2017) off-site
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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/.
  5. Kurt Manwaring, “10 Questions with Thomas Wayment,” From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring, January 2, 2019, https://www.fromthedesk.org/10-questions-thomas-wayment/.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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/

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."[1]

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

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

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

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

We have heard President Brigham Young state that the Prophet, before his death, had spoken to him about going through the translation of the scriptures again and perfecting it upon points of doctrine which the Lord had restrained him from giving in plainness and fullness at the time of which we write.[2]

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


Notes

  1. Kent P. Jackson, "New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible," in Religious Educator 6, no. 3 (2005): 149–160 (link).
  2. George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 142.

The Church and Using the JST

Why does the Church use the King James Version instead of the JST as its official Bible? The answer to this question is a complex one. There is no single reason why we don't use the JST as "our" Bible. Here are a few reasons, however:

  1. The primary reason is that there is no revelation that has directed the Church to replace the KJV with the JST. Such a change would certainly require such a revelation to be submitted at General Conference and sustained by the members of the Church.
  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 believed that the RLDS church had tampered with the JST text and that it didn't accurately reflect Joseph Smith's original translation. This mistrust — along with the fact that the LDS Church did not own the copyright to the work — kept the Utah Saints from embracing the JST. It was only through Bruce R. McConkie's interest in and use of the JST, along with Robert Matthews' research on the JST manuscripts in the early 1970s, that these attitudes were reversed.
  3. From a practical sense, adoption of the JST would be a stumbling block for converts. Not only are we asking them to accept Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, etc., but we'd also be requiring them to abandon their traditional Bible. We already do that to some extent — readers of the NIV have to learn to adopt the KJV — but we'd be asking them to go a step further and accept Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, which no other church uses. 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. 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.[1] 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

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.[2]

In 1985 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.[3]

Notes

  1. Lavina Fielding Anderson, "Church Publishes First LDS Edition of the Bible," Ensign (Oct 1979), 9.
  2. Bruce R. McConkie, "This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You," Ensign (June 1980), 54.
  3. 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.

New Testament language in the Book of Moses

Introduction to Question

The Book of Moses (the first few chapters of the JST) 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.[1]

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.


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.[2]

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.[3] 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."[4] 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."[5]

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.[6] It's at least possible that this could extend to the New Testament.

Conclusion

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.


Notes

  1. 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.
  2. See also 2 Nephi 31:3
  3. Calabro, "An Early Christian Context."
  4. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938), 10–11.
  5. 2 Nephi 29:8
  6. 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.


Notes