Mormon Scriptures and the Bible
"130,000 Different Readings"
Orson Pratt proclaimed in a discourse delivered in 1859: "All the most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament known to the world differ from each other in almost every verse.... The
learned admit that in the manuscripts of the New Testament alone there are no less than one hundred and thirty thousand different readings .... No one can tell whether even one verse of either the Old or New Testament conveys the ideas of the original author. Just think, 130,000 different readings in the New Testament alone!" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, pp. 27-28).
In his book The World and the Prophets, page 188, Mormon apologist Dr. Hugh Nibley charges that "there are more than 8,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, no two of which read exactly alike!" Now, while it is true that there are many different readings in manuscript copies of the New Testament, Mormon writers have greatly exaggerated the importance of this matter. Gleason L. Archer, remarks:
But what about the text of the Bible as we now possess it? Is that text necessarily free from all mistakes of every kind? Not when it comes to copyists' errors, for we certainly do find discrepancies among the handwritten copies that have been preserved to us, even those which come from the earliest centuries. Some slips of the pen doubtless crept into the first copies made from the original manuscripts, and additional errors of a transmissional type found their way into the copies of copies. It is almost unavoidable that this should have been the case. No man alive can sit down and copy out the text of an entire book without a mistake of any kind (A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 18).
F. F. Bruce further clarifies the matter:
It is easily proved by experiment that it is difficult to copy out a passage of any considerable length without making one or two slips at least. When we have documents like our New Testament writings copied and recopied thousands of times, the scope for copyists' errors is so enormously increased that it is surprising there are no more than there actually are. Fortunately, if the number of MSS increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as might be feared; it is in truth remarkably small (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? p. 19).
In a footnote on page 55 of the book, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, we find this illuminating comment:
Dr. Hort, whose authority on the point is quite incontestable, estimates the proportion of words about which there is some doubt [in the New Testament] at about one-eighth of the whole; but by far the greater part of these consists merely of differences in order and other unimportant variations, and "the amount of
what can in any sense be called substantial variation ... can hardly form more than a thousandth part of the entire text" (Introduction to The New Testament in the Original Greek, p. 2).
Mormon leaders claim that the Catholics conspired to alter the Bible. In the Book of Mormon we read:
... thou seest the foundation of a great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
Wherefore, thou seeth that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
... because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:26-29).
Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., son of the tenth president of the church, said that "The early 'Apostate Fathers' did not think it was wrong to tamper with inspired scripture. If any scripture seemed to endanger their viewpoint, it was altered, transplanted or completely removed from the Biblical text" (Religious Truths Defined, p. 175).
Apostle Mark E. Peterson casts doubt on the reliability of the Bible: "Many insertions were made, some of them 'slanted' for selfish purposes, while at times deliberate falsifications and fabrications were perpetrated" (As Translated Correctly, p. 4). "It is evident then that many of the 'plain and precious' things were omitted from the Bible by failure to choose all of the authentic books for inclusion, and by deliberate changes, deletions and forgeries ..." (p. 14).
While it is true that there are various readings in the original handwritten manuscripts of the Bible, the Book of Mormon's charge that the Catholics deliberately conspired to remove "many plain and precious things" out of the Bible is proven false by the Dead Sea Scrolls and other important manuscripts which have been discovered.
Anthony A. Hoekema observes:
The Mormon contention that "after the book [the Bible] hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable
church ... there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book...." (I Nephi 13:28), is completely contrary to fact. The many copies of Old Testament manuscripts which we now possess do vary in minor matters—the spelling of words, the omission of a phrase here and there—but there is no evidence whatsoever that any major sections of Old Testament books have been lost. The manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, generally dated from about 200 to 50 B.C., include portions of every Old Testament book except Esther; studies have revealed that these documents—older by a thousand years than previously discovered Old Testament manuscripts—are substantially identical to the text of the Old Testament which had been previously handed down. As far as New Testament manuscripts are concerned, the oldest of which go back to the second century A.D., the situation is substantially the same. The variations that are found in these manuscripts ... are of a relatively minor nature. There is no indication whatever that any large sections of material found in the originals have been lost. Most of the manuscript variations concern matters of spelling, word order, tense, and the like; no single doctrine is affected by them in any way (The Four Major Cults, [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963], pp. 30-31).
The Book of Mormon plainly states that the changes in the Bible were made after the time of Christ and after the formation of the Catholic Church:
The book ... is a record of the Jews ... when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the plainness of the gospel of the Lord ... these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles ... thou seest the foundation of a great and abominable church ... they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb ... after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church ... there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book ... (Book of Mormon, I Nephi 13:23-28).
In 1832 the Mormon publication The Evening and the Morning Star (vol. 1, No. 1, p. 3), said that the changes in the Bible were made "by the Mother of Harlots while it was confined in that Church,—say, from the year A.D. 460 to 1400."
The "great Isaiah scroll" found at Qumran provides important evidence to show that the Catholics did not take away "many plain and precious things" from the Bible. This scroll is dated at about 100 B.C., and therefore could not have been touched by the Catholics. Also it should be remembered that this scroll is a Jewish production, and the Book of Mormon claims that the Jews had the Scriptures in their "purity." Why, then, does this scroll fail to support the text of Isaiah as found
in the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith's "inspired revision" of the Bible?
The Catholic Church certainly was not in existence prior to the time of Christ, and even President Joseph Fielding Smith, had to admit that the Catholics did not become the "ruling power in religion" until after "the beginning of the fourth century" (Essentials in Church History, p. 10).
In 1887 Rev. M. T. Lamb queried:
Have a great many of the best things in the New Testament been taken out of it by a great and abominable church since the Apostles' day, as the Book of Mormon tells us?...
Such a piracy of Holy Scripture could not have occurred later than 350 A.D., because there are now in existence copies of the Bible that are between fifteen and sixteen hundred years old, copies written out by hand not later than 350 years after Christ—250 years after the death of the Apostle John (The Golden Bible, p. 329).
At the time M. T. Lamb wrote the above statement there was still a substantial gap between the original manuscripts and the earliest copies known to scholars. Consequently, Mormons would not accept these fourth-century manuscripts as evidence against Joseph Smith's works. Since the turn of the century, however, the situation has entirely changed, for papyrus fragments have been found which virtually close the gap and prove that the Scriptures have not been rewritten by a "great and abominable church."
Floyd V. Filson says that "the text of the Gospels previously known from manuscripts of the fourth century and later agrees substantially with the text which we find in these third and second century fragments (second century fragments are admittedly rare and small)" (The Biblical Archaeologist, February 1961, p. 3).
Sir Fredric Kenyon, who was the director of the British Museum and a well known authority on Bible manuscripts, concludes that "The interval then between the dates of original composition and earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established" (The Bible and Archaeology, 1940, p. 288, as quoted in The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? p. 20).
Because of recent discoveries of papyrus manuscripts Mormon
writers are faced with a serious dilemma. It is no longer possible to maintain Joseph Smith's teaching that the Catholics conspired to change the Bible in light of these discoveries. Dr. Richard L. Anderson, of Brigham Young University, is undoubtedly one of the top authorities on Bible manuscripts in the Mormon church. In a paper read at the "Fourteenth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures," Dr. Anderson seemed to be warning his people against the idea that the New Testament has been drastically altered:
In studying a particular author in antiquity, the classical scholar typically works with a few principal manuscripts, together with a few more extensive fragments or portions of manuscripts. The New Testament scholar, however, faces the wonderful but impossible prospect of attempting to comprehend a text preserved in about 3,000 manuscripts.... Nor is sheer quantity most impressive, for the antiquity of his manuscripts should be the envy of all ancient studies....
This process of uncovering the major papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament has largely taken place not only in our own century, but in our own generation.... Almost the whole New Testament is represented in the papyrus fragments. The only two exceptions now are I and II Timothy. The real achievement, then, is that the antiquity of the text has now been pushed back almost another century... the gap now separating the time of the writing of the New Testament and the oldest preserved manuscripts is now generally no more than 200 years, and as we shall soon see in the case of the letters of Paul and two Gospels, that gap has been narrowed by at least another fifty years. To underline the extent of the findings, let us stress that some part of every book of the New Testament is represented by papyrus dated as early as the third century with the present exception of Philemon, I Timothy, II Timothy, I, II, and III John.... the Rylands fragment,... shows that the Gospel of John had been written and also had been disseminated in Egypt before the middle of the second century... a copy of the Gospel of John made not very many years after the writing of that Gospel, is a dramatic confirmation of the essential claim of Christianity, as it relates in fragmentary but clear form the question of Pilate, "Are you a king?"—and Jesus' affirmation, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." ... the most impressive of the Beatty papyri are the extensive portions of what originally was a collection of Paul's letters,... thought by leading papyrologists to be no later than 200 A.D. This means that the oldest collection of Paul's letters now dates from a maximum of 150 years after Paul wrote. With such an early collection, the question naturally arises how the
text is different from the traditional one. Differences lie in numerous details, but the outstanding conclusion is that there is little, if any, significant change....
Only within the last decade have come what are in many ways the most important papyrus discoveries yet for New Testament study...
Among the Bodmer Papyri, the greatest treasures are the copies of the Gospels dating back to the end of the second century. The original publication took place in 1956 of a manuscript enumerated P66. It is a practically complete copy of the Gospel of John, which the editor dates about 200 A.D. ... the most impressive contribution of the new manuscripts of Luke and John is not the few differences, but the extent of their agreement with the life and teachings of Christ as preserved in other manuscripts.
It is easy to get lost in debate on details and fail to see the overwhelming agreement of all manuscripts to the historical record of the New Testament.... For a book to undergo progressive uncovering of its manuscript history and come out with so little debatable in its text is a great tribute to its essential authenticity... no new manuscript discovery has produced serious differences in the essential story. This survey has disclosed the leading textual controversies, and together they would be well within one percent of the text. Stated differently, all manuscripts agree on the essential correctness of 99% of the verses in the New Testament.... There is more reason today, then, to agree with him [Sir Frederic Kenyon] that we possess the New Testament "in substantial integrity" and to underline that "the variations of text are so entirely questions of detail, not of essential substance."
It is true that the Latter-day Saints have taken the position that the present Bible is much changed from its original form. However, greatest changes would logically have occurred in writings more remote than the New Testament. The textural history of the New Testament gives every reason to assume a fairly stable transmission of the documents we possess....
Joseph Smith said that 'many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled.' (Documentary History of the Church, I, 245, 1832.) Major losses might occur by elimination of whole books rather than alterations of those admitted as canonical. Nor do subsequent changes have to be based on open changes of the writings. The forces of evil are more effective at changing the meaning of true terms and concepts than removing them (Fourteenth Annual Symposium of the Archaeology of the Scriptures, Brigham Young University, 1963, pp. 52-59).
These statements will probably come as a surprise to Mormon
writers who claim that the Catholics conspired to change the Bible, especially since they come from the pen of one of their most noted scholars.
Before Mormon writers accuse Christians of altering the Bible they should take a serious look at some of their own revelations published in the Doctrine and Covenants. If the churches that preserved the Bible these many centuries had altered it at the same rate that Joseph Smith changed his revelations, we would be lucky to have anything the same as it was originally written.
Mormon writer William E. Berrett admits: "In the spring of 1831, Joseph Smith began what has come to be known as 'The Inspired Translation of the Bible.' It was in large part not a translation at all. It was rather a revision of the King James Bible" (The Restored Church, 1956, p. 134).
Bruce R. McConkie claims:
... at the command of the Lord and while acting under the spirit of revelation, the Prophet corrected, revised, altered, added to, and deleted from the King James Version of the Bible to form what is now commonly referred to as the Inspired Version of the Bible.... the marvelous flood of light and knowledge revealed through the Inspired Version of the Bible is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of Joseph Smith (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, pp. 351-52).
Actually, the Inspired Version of the Bible has been the source of much embarrassment for Mormon church leaders. It was never published during Joseph Smith's lifetime. Joseph Smith's wife Emma retained the manuscript and would not give it to Willard Richards, who was sent by Brigham Young to obtain it. In 1866 Emma gave the manuscript to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and it was published the following year by that church. Since Brigham Young was unable to obtain the manuscript from Emma, he tried to play down the importance of Joseph Smith's inspired translation: "That made us very anxious, in the days of Joseph, to get the new translation; but the Bible is good enough just as it is, it will answer my purpose..." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 116).
This statement by Brigham Young seems to throw in question the revelations given by Joseph Smith, for Smith claimed that he was commanded by God to make this revision of the Scriptures. In a revelation given January 10, 1832, we read: "Now, verily I say unto you my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney
Rigdon, saith the Lord, it is expedient to translate again;
"And, inasmuch as it is practicable, to preach in the regions round about until conference; and after that it is expedient to continue the work of translation until it be finished" (Doctrine and Covenants, 73:3-4).
Mormon scholar Reed C. Durham, Jr., informs us concerning this matter:
... God had commanded him to make that Revision. The command from God was reason enough, the knowledge gained from the above revelation conditioned his soul to better understand that command.
There are eighteen sections in the Doctrine and Covenants wherein the Lord gives commands and specific instructions relating to the Revision ("A History of Joseph Smith's Revision of the Bible," Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1965, pp. 23-24).
To the early Church members this work was considered to be an important and an essential part of the restoration work, whereas, in the present day, the Revision work is too often thought to be a lesser work not essential to the work of the Lord (p. 72).
Though it was clear to the Church that it was the Lord's will that the Revision should be published, the lack of sufficient time and money, prevented its publication during Joseph Smith's lifetime (p. 83).
When the Reorganized Church printed the "inspired revision" in 1867, Brigham Young was very much opposed to the idea of members of his church receiving it from an "apostate" organization. Apostle Orson Pratt, on the other hand, wanted to accept it and this caused some conflict between the two men.
Although the Mormon church has never printed the Inspired Version, the Reorganized Church's printing is now available at the Mormon-owned Deseret Book Store, and Mormon scholars use it freely in their writings.
Apostle John A. Widtsoe affirms:
Joseph Smith accepted the Bible as far as it was translated correctly but felt that many errors which should be corrected had crept into the work of the copyist and translators.... he endeavored through inspiration from on high to correct those many departures from the original text. This was not fully completed when he died, but his manuscript exists in the original and in copies, and has been published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is a remarkable evidence of the prophetic power of Joseph Smith. Hundreds of changes make clear many a disputed text (Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, p. 251).
Dr. Truman G. Madsen, of the Brigham Young University, has assured that "the recent 1944 New Corrected Edition of the Reorganized Church, which book many interested Latter-day Saints have acquired, is faithful to the original manuscript and a most accurate printing.... this edition is worthy of trust" (Improvement Era, March 1970, p. 70).
Before Joseph Fielding Smith became president of the church he claimed that he wanted the church to publish its own edition of the "inspired revision." He finally became president in 1970, but the church still did not make any move toward publishing Joseph Smith's "inspired revision." On November 20, 1974, the Mormon church obtained microfilm copies of the original manuscripts of the "inspired revision" from the Reorganized Church. We do not feel, however, that any president of the church will allow this book to be printed because it would tend to embarrass the church and to show that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God.
The Mormon church is faced with a peculiar dilemma with regard to Joseph Smith's "inspired revision." They cannot reject it entirely without admitting that he was a deceiver. On the other hand, if they were to print the revision and fully endorse it, they would be faced with equally unsurmountable problems. The contents of the "inspired revision" actually contradict doctrines that are now taught in the Mormon church. Therefore, the Mormon church can neither fully accept nor fully reject the Inspired Version of the Bible. They claim that Joseph Smith was inspired to translate, and then turn right around and use the King James Version. Joseph Fielding Smith stated: "The Church uses the King James Version of the Bible because it is the best version translated by the power of man" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 191).
Since the Mormon leaders cannot come right out and say that Joseph Smith made mistakes in his Inspired Version, they have devised another excuse to keep from fully endorsing it. They claim that Joseph Smith never finished the translation. Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
The revision of the Bible which was done by Joseph Smith at the command of the Lord was not a complete revision of the Bible. There are many parts of the Bible in which the Prophet did not change the meaning where it is incorrect. He revised as far as the Lord permitted him at the time, and it was his intention to do more, but because of persecution this was not accomplished (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, p. 191).
Reed Durham says that "the Revision was incomplete because
after it was finished it still contained errors and contradictions" ("A History of Joseph Smith's Revision of the Bible," p. 128). While we certainly agree that Joseph Smith's "inspired revision" still contains "errors and contradictions," there is evidence to show that at one time the early Mormons considered it to have been complete. In fact, in the Doctrine and Covenants 73:4, Joseph Smith was commanded to "continue the work of translation until it be finished."
In the History of the Church, under the date of February 2, 1833, we find this statement by Joseph Smith: "I completed the translation and review of the New Testament, on the 2nd of February, 1833, and sealed it up, no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion" (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 324).
In the Church Chronology, by Andrew Jenson, we find the following under the date of February 2, 1833: "Joseph Smith, jun., completed the translation of the New Testament." Under the date of July 2, 1833, this statement appears: "Joseph the Prophet finished the translation of the Bible." In a letter dated July 2, 1833, signed by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and F. G. Williams, the following statement is found: "We this day finished the translation of the Scriptures, for which we return gratitude to our Heavenly Father ..." (History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 368).
Mormon writer Arch S. Reynolds says that "the scriptures at that time were considered finished. This is proved by revelation from the Lord commanding the printing and publishing the same ... the Lord felt that the Bible contained his word and also was given in fulness" ("A Study of Joseph Smith's Bible Revision," typed copy, p. 17).
In the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph Smith was definitely commanded to print the Inspired Version:
... I have commanded you to organize yourselves, even to shinelah [print] my words, the fulness of my scriptures ...(Doctrine and Covenants, 104:58).
... the second lot ... shall be dedicated unto me for the building of a house unto me, for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures ... (94:10).
... let him [William Law] from henceforth hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph,... and publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth (124:89).
These commandments were never obeyed. Arch Reynolds confesses: "Why the Bible was not published is still an enigma; of course the Saints were unsettled: they were persecuted, but
A photograph of the History of the Church, vol. 1, page 368. Joseph Smith says he finished the translation of the Bible on July 2, 1833.
many other works were published so why not the Holy Scriptures?... The Lord gave Joseph a commandment to publish the Bible to the world, and the Lord prepared the way to accomplish this but it was not fulfilled" ("A Study of Joseph Smith's Bible Revision," p. 32).
Even with all the money the Mormon church has today, it still has not obeyed the command to publish the Inspired Version of the Bible to the world.
Perhaps the strangest thing of all concerning the Inspired Version of the Bible is the fact that Joseph Smith himself did not take it seriously. For instance, he ignored his own "inspired" renderings concerning the Godhead. Mr. Reynolds remarked:
At times Joseph Smith ignored his own renderings of the Inspired Bible and quoted the King James version in his letters, sermons, etc....
In twenty-six different quotations to different parties in and out of the Church ... in the first six volumes of the History of the Church, they are like the King James Bible although he had given previous varied renderings in the Inspired Bible. These passages are pertaining to all the principles of the gospel.... The above various renderings as given by Joseph differing in essential parts from both the King James and his previous revision show that he had grown in doctrine and had broadened in learning German, Greek, and Hebrew ("A Study of Joseph Smith's Bible Revision," typed copy, pp. 20, 21, 25).
While it took many scholars, who were authorities in Greek and Hebrew, years to complete the King James Version of the Bible, Joseph Smith began his work without any knowledge of these languages and completed it in three years. Arch S. Reynolds clarified the matter:
We know that Joseph Smith was not at that time familiar with either the Greek or Hebrew language; therefore it would be impossible for him to have translated the Bible from the original tongues. Later, however, the need of the knowledge of these languages was seen by him, so he studied those languages and became quite proficient in reading the holy scriptures in those tongues. But in 1830, he was unlearned in those ancient languages. So, technically speaking, he did not translate the scriptures in his Inspired Bible ("A Study of Joseph Smith's Bible Revision," p. 61).
Although some Mormon scholars now hesitate to call Joseph Smith's Inspired Version a translation, Robert J. Matthews points out that "every reference to it in the Doctrine and Covenants
and the History of the Church calls it a translation" (BYU Studies, Autumn 1968, p. 3).
R. C. Evans registered this comment about Joseph's Inspired Version:
Those who wish to read this marvellous work, the new Bible translated by Joseph Smith, by direct revelation, will discover that he has not translated a single word, that he had no manuscript of any kind, that he was an ignorant young man, is admitted. There is no evidence that he compared any originals with each other, nor could he have done so if the originals were before him. The claim is that it was all done by direct inspiration from the Almighty, but to call it a translation is the height of impudence and nonsense....
Here is the secret of Smith's power to translate. He read the Bible, thought that such and such a change should be made, either by adding a few verses, or taking away a few verses. If he had the burning sensation in his bosom it was right, and so he cut and slashed away at the Word of God to his heart's content, and the result is the Mormon Bible (Forty Years in the Mormon Church—Why I Left It! Toronto, Canada, 1920, pp. 111-12).
Joseph Smith not only made many unnecessary changes in the Bible, but he also failed to see the places where the text of the Bible really needed correction. There is one statement in the King James Version, 1 John 5:7 and 8, which scholars are certain is an interpolation. In modern versions of the Bible this statement has been removed to conform with the ancient Greek manuscripts. Following is a comparison of the text in the King James Version and that found in the Revised Standard Version:
King James Version: 1 John 5:6-8: "6. This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."
Revised Standard Version: 1 John 5:6-8: "6. This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. 7. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 8. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree."
In Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, page 258, we learn that "the text is found in no Greek MSS. except a few of very late date in which it has been inserted from the Latin. It is a purely Latin interpolation of African origin, which, beginning as a gloss, first found its way into the text of Spain, where it appears in the Freising Fragments, and later in the Vulgate codices Cavensis and Toletanus. Thence it spread over Europe as an unequivocal Scripture 'proof' of the doctrine of the Trinity."
Even in Joseph Smith's time this portion of 1 John was rejected by many scholars. Adam Clarke wrote: "Though a conscientious advocate for the sacred doctrine contained in the disputed text, and which I think expressly enough revealed in several other parts of the sacred writings, I must own the passage in question stands on a most dubious foundation" (Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 929).
An examination of the writings of Mormon scholars reveals that they also question the authenticity of this verse. Arch S. Reynolds stated: "The extraneous matter added in the Authorized Version is clearly an interpolation ..." ("A Study of Joseph Smith's Bible Revision," p. 169).
Richard L. Anderson, of Brigham Young University, agrees: "One of the few major additions that seem apparent is I John 5:7.... The text of the fifth century did not speak of the heavenly Trinity, and the fact that very few Greek manuscripts add the heavenly Trinity makes it probable that this comment was not an original part of John's letter" (Fourteenth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures, BYU, 1963, p. 53).
Now, if Joseph Smith was inspired at all in his work on the Scriptures we would expect to find this interpolation removed in his "inspired revision." Instead, however, we find that it appears exactly as written in the King James Version:
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.
"And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one" (Inspired Version, by Joseph Smith, 1 John 5:7-8).
In our book Mormon Scriptures and the Bible we presented more evidence to show that Joseph Smith relied so heavily upon the King James Version of the Bible that he failed to see some of the real textual problems found in the Bible. While this is certainly a serious defect in Joseph Smith's work, even more objectionable is the fact that he made changes which cannot be supported by any evidence. For instance, John 1:1 in the King
James Version reads: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Joseph Smith, however, changed this verse to read: "In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God" (Inspired Version, John 1:1).
To our knowledge Joseph Smith's rendition of this verse is not supported by any evidence. In fact, in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 384, we show that "Papyrus Bodmer II," dated about 200 A.D., reads exactly like the King James Version.
Mormon writer Robert J. Matthews admits that "in the main the passages revised by Joseph Smith are not supported by the three great parchment manuscripts that now enjoy popularity, nor by the thousands of Papyrus manuscripts and fragments, nor by the Dead Sea Scrolls. In some few passages there is a type of similarity but these are the exception rather than the rule" ("Joseph Smith's Revision of the Bible," by Robert J. Matthews, 1968, typed copy, p. 17).
Dr. Sperry, of Brigham Young University, made a similar admission with regard to the text of the Sermon on the Mount found in the Book of Mormon:
The divergent readings of the Nephite text are all interesting and thought-provoking, but lack the confirmation of practically all ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Nor do the ancient versions lend much support, a fact which might well be expected....
The remainder of 3 Nephi 12 differs in a marked degree from the parallel readings in Matthew 5.... We point out here also that the Greek manuscripts of the Gospels, as well as other ancient versions offer little support to the divergent Nephite readings (The Problems of the Book of Mormon, 1964, pp. 105-6).
The best Dr. Sperry can offer his people is a hope that some day supporting evidence in the Greek manuscripts will be found: "A Latter-day Saint textual critic would be thrilled to find Greek manuscripts of the New Testament with readings like some of those in the Book of Mormon. And who knows but someday some will be found!" (Book of Mormon Institute, BYU, December 5, 1959, p. 7).
In his "inspired revision" Joseph Smith even indicated that the book of Genesis originally contained a prophecy concerning the Book of Mormon and that his own name was mentioned there. Over 800 words were added into Genesis 50:24. In this
large interpolation we find the following: "And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I give unto you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father...."
The reader will notice that the "choice seer" was to be "called Joseph.... after the name of his father." Joseph Smith was obviously referring to himself, for his father's name was Joseph. Apostle Mark E. Petersen claimed that "one of the most interesting parts of the Old Testament as it should have been, ... were the predictions pertaining to Joseph Smith, through the writings of Joseph who was sold into Egypt" (As Translated Correctly, p. 64).
The Septuagint—a Greek version of the Old Testament said to have been translated from the Hebrew before the time of Christ—offers no support for Joseph Smith's "inspired revision" of Genesis 50:24, but instead is almost identical with the King James Version.
It is almost impossible to believe that this prophecy could have been dropped from both the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts without being detected. Mormon writer Merrill Y. Van Wagoner admits the difficulty but suggests that such changes were planned by the "Spirit of Darkness" (see The Inspired Revision of the Bible, pp. 33-34).
Besides adding his own name to the Bible, Joseph Smith added many of his own views. For instance, his bias against Blacks is apparent in several interpolations he made in the book of Genesis. In the "inspired revision," Genesis 7:10, 14 and 29 we read: "And there was a blackness came upon all the children of Cainan, that they were despised among all people.... Enoch continued to call upon all the people, save it were the people of Cainan, to repent.... the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them."
In the King James Version, Genesis 9:26 reads: "And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant." In his Inspired Version, Joseph Smith changed this to indicate that a "veil of darkness" came upon Canaan: "And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant, and a veil of darkness shall cover him, that he shall be known among all men" (Inspired Version, Gen. 9:30).
Joseph Smith's rendition of this verse is not supported by the Septuagint.
One of the most unusual things concerning Joseph Smith's "inspired revision" is that he put New Testament quotations and practices into the Old Testament. For instance, the "inspired
revision" indicates that Adam was baptized and received the Holy Ghost:
And he called upon our father Adam ... he also said unto him, If thou wilt, turn unto me and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask it shall be given you (Inspired Version, Genesis 6:52-53).
Mormon leaders have always had a great deal to say about apocryphal books and claim that many books were removed from the Bible. Since Joseph Smith was supposed to have been "inspired" in his work on the Bible, we would expect to find the missing books restored in his Inspired Version. While he did make some interpolations in the Bible, he did not restore any of the "lost" books. Robert J. Matthews admits: "Apparently he attempted to make an ammended or amplified version rather than a literal translation. Nor did he attempt to restore any of the so-called 'lost books' of the Bible" (Joseph Smith's Revision of the Bible, p. 18).
Dr. Matthews refers us to the History of the Church, (vol. 1, p. 363). This is a letter written by Joseph Smith and his counselors, in which was stated: "We have not found the Book of Jasher, nor any other of the lost books mentioned in the Bible as yet; nor will we obtain them at present."
Instead of restoring the "lost books," Joseph Smith actually in the end had one less book than we have in the King James Version. He claimed that "The Songs of Solomon are not inspired writings" and removed this book from his Bible (see "A History of Joseph Smith's Revision of the Bible," pp. 64-65).
Robert J. Matthews, director of academic research for the department of seminaries and institutes in the Mormon church, has done a great deal of research on Joseph Smith's Inspired Version. In an article published in Brigham Young University Studies, Dr. Matthews admits the possibility that Joseph Smith may have added material which was never contained in the original manuscripts of the Bible:
The question might be raised whether the Prophet actually restored the text as Matthew wrote it, or whether, being the seer that he was, he went beyond Matthew's text and recorded an event that actually took place during the delivery of the Sermon, but which Matthew did not include. This cannot be determined with certainty; ... it is unlikely that he would "add or take
from" unless he did it by the authority of divine revelation.... The how of the Prophet's revision of the Sermon on the Mount calls for an expression of inspiration and could represent either a restoration of material that was once in Matthew's account of the Sermon, or could go beyond Matthew and reiterate an event immediately behind the text which took place during the Sermon but which Matthew did not record.
Another example of direct discourse found only in the Inspired Version is Matthew 9:18-21 which tells of a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees and relates an exchange of information about the subject of baptism that is not recorded in the King James Version.... As with the earlier example the question may again be asked whether this encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees actually took place as recorded in the Inspired Version. It is either historical or it is not. If not historical then it would simply be a literary device used by the Prophet to convey a doctrine; but since the Prophet is not known to use devices of this kind ... there is considerable reason to believe that the Prophet regarded this passage as a statement of historical fact. It seems reasonable to conclude that the Inspired Version at this point represents either a restoration of Matthew's original record or an addition of an event that took place in the ministry of Jesus which Matthew did not record but which is, nevertheless, germaine to the discussion in Matthew's account.... It is probable that the Inspired Version is many things, and that only portions of it represent restorations while other portions may be explanations, interpolations, enlargements, clarifications and the like.
The science of textual criticism offers an objection to the Inspired Version being a restoration of the original text on the basis that the Prophet's work is not extensively supported by the many ancient manuscripts and fragments of the Bible that are now in common use by scholars. However, this may possibly be accounted for in two ways. First, no original manuscripts of the Bible are available, and even the earliest available documents are removed from the originals by many decades. Corruption of the texts could have taken place in the intervening years. Second, many of the passages in the Inspired Version may be reiterations of events which were either not recorded by the Biblical writers or were lost before the Bible was compiled, in which case even the original Bible manuscripts would not contain the information....
My analysis leads me to conclude that the Inspired Version is many things. There are passages that are strongly persuasive of being restorations of the original text, or even of historical events beyond the text. There are other passages that may be inspired explanations, but not necessarily restorations (BYU Studies, Winter 1969, pp. 170-74).
Mormon scholar Dr. Hugh Nibley has stated that "Whatever translation comes by the gift and power of God is certainly no translation in the ordinary sense.... In every case in which he has produced a translation, Joseph Smith has made it clear that his inspiration is by no means bound to any ancient text, but is free to take wings at any time" (BYU Studies, Autumn 1969, p. 71).
Dr. Nibley and other Mormon scholars would, no doubt, like to prove that Joseph Smith carefully followed the ancient texts which he claimed to translate, but since the evidence is so clearly against such an idea, they are forced to say that Joseph Smith's inspiration went beyond the written texts. We feel that this is an extremely compromised position and comes very close to rejecting Joseph Smith's entire work. The question comes to mind: Where do you draw the line between "inspiration" and "imagination"?
While the Mormon church has not printed the Inspired Version in its entirety, a few chapters are printed in the Pearl of Great Price under the title, "Book of Moses." Joseph Smith's "inspired revision" of Matthew, chapter 24, is also included in the Pearl of Great Price. The Mormon church accepts the Pearl of Great Price as Scripture, and it is one of the four standard works of the LDS church.
When we compare the text of the "Book of Moses" as it was first printed in 1851 with the way it reads today we find that some serious changes have been made. James R. Harris, who was a student at Brigham Young University, wrote a thesis in which he stated:
Orson Pratt was the Editor of the first American edition of the Pearl of Great Price. This publication became available to the public about the 21st of June 1878.
The American edition was more drastically changed than any previous publication by a member of the Church ("A Study of the Changes in the Contents of the Book of Moses From the Earliest Available Sources to the Current Edition," M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1958, typed copy, p. 226).
From the standpoint of omissions and additions of words, the American Edition is the most spectacular rendition.... There were 147 words omitted in the American edition, 113 of those omissions are sustained in our current edition. Some of the words added to the American edition had impressive doctrinal implications (pp. 224-25).
Although Dr. Harris admits that changes were made in the Pearl of Great Price, he feels that Joseph Smith himself made the changes in manuscripts before his death. In other words, he feels that when the Mormon leaders changed the text of the Pearl of Great Price in 1878, they were bringing it into conformity with changes Joseph Smith made in the manuscripts during his lifetime. Richard P. Howard, church historian for the Reorganized Church, has recently released new information which gives some support to Dr. Harris' idea. He shows that there were a number of different manuscripts involved in the production of the inspired revision and that Joseph Smith often revised his own revisions and left the manuscripts in a very confused state:
Many texts reveal that the process was not some kind of automatic verbal or visual revelatory experience on the part of Joseph Smith. He often caused a text to be written in one form and later reworded his initial revision. The manuscripts in some cases show a considerable time lapse between such reconsiderations.
A considerable number of places in NT #2 [as Mr. Howard now numbers the manuscripts] show that initially Joseph Smith considered certain texts in the King James Version to be either correct or in need of slight revision, but that on latter consideration he decided to amend them further. Since the manuscript pages were already written and filled to the extent that the later corrections could not be included, the problem was solved by writing the text out on a scrap of paper and pinning or sewing it to the appropriate manuscript page (Restoration Scriptures, pp. 93, 96).
... OT #3 represents a third draft manuscript of Section 22 and Genesis 1-7, a second draft manuscript of Genesis 8-24:42a, and a first draft manuscript of the remainder of the Old Testament, although revised considerably by interpolations written in later years between the lines and on separate scraps of paper pinned to the manuscript pages (p. 106).
When one turns to nearly any page of OT #3 containing substantial initial revision of the King James Version, different colors of ink appear, showing later revisions, written between the lines or on separate scraps of paper and pinned to the manuscript pages (p. 122).
... the manuscripts indicate rather clearly that Joseph Smith, Jr., by his continued practice of rerevising his earlier texts (occasionally as many as three times), demonstrated that he did not believe that at any of those points of rerevision he had dictated a perfectly inerrant text by the power or voice of God.... It is thus unnecessary and could be misleading to appear to claim 'direct'
revelation in the determination of the entire text of the Inspired Version as the preface written for the 1867 edition apparently implied (p. 151).
Richard P. Howard's admission that Joseph Smith rerevised his earlier texts "occasionally as many as three times" is certainly a serious indictment against Joseph Smith's work and plainly shows that his "inspired revision" is anything but "inspired." The fact that he could not make up his mind shows that he was tampering with the Scriptures according to his own imagination rather than receiving revelation from God. Mormon writer Truman G. Madsen admitted that Joseph Smith "often revised a passage, later added to or amended it, and then, in a third attempt, clarified it further" (Improvement Era, March 1970, p. 70).
The many changes in the "inspired" renderings tend to undermine confidence in Joseph Smith's work on the Bible. Earlier in this chapter we quoted Apostle John A. Widtsoe as saying that the "inspired revision" is "a remarkable evidence of the prophetic power of Joseph Smith." We cannot accept this statement, for a careful examination of his work reveals unmistakable evidence that it is merely a human production and contains many serious errors.
Mormon writer Milton R. Hunter made a fantastic claim concerning Joseph Smith's works: "The Prophet Joseph Smith produced for the world three new volumes of holy scriptures, ... and, in addition, he revised the Bible. No prophet who has ever lived has accomplished such a tremendous feat. There are only 177 pages in the Old Testament attributed to Moses, while Joseph Smith either translated through the gift and power of God or received as direct revelation from Jehovah 835" (Deseret News, Church Section, July 18, 1970, p. 14).
While we must agree that Joseph Smith produced a great deal of material that purports to be Scripture, it does not appear that this material bears any evidence of divine inspiration.