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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My First Doubt- The Book of Mormon and the Bible

Search, Ponder and Pray

Growing up in the church, I was always taught to read the scriptures every day and study them. Ironically, it was studying the scriptures that casted the first doubts about the validity of the Book of Mormon.

I remember reading in the Book of Mormon certain chapters in 3 Nephi that were very similar to verses I had read in the New Testament. My initial reaction was that it was a testament of how both the Bible and the Book of Mormon are inspired works that Jesus would teach the same thing on the American continent that he did in Palestine.

Beginning of the End

However, when I cross referenced the chapters, I realized that the chapters were not just similar, they were exact word-for-word replicas. For example, 3 Nephi chapters 12-14 are word-for-word copies of the King James version of Matthew chapters 5-7.

As I read and compared the 2 books, I found it quite disturbing, as we are led to believe in the church that the Book of Mormon is a direct translation with the divine help from God from the Gold plates. In the LDS church, we are also led to believe that the Bible has all kinds of translation errors and the the Book of Mormon is there to clarify plain and precious things that have been removed from the scriptures as stated in 1 Nephi 13:28.

However, it was evident to me that Joseph Smith used sections of the King James version of the Bible and inserted them into the Book of Mormon. He didn't even try to hide this apparent plagiarism as the verses were pretty much all identical.

Joseph Smith Translation

According to the LDS church regarding the Joseph Smith Translation:

The Lord inspired the Prophet Joseph Smith to restore truths to the Bible text that had become lost or changed since the original words were written. These restored truths clarified doctrine and improved scriptural understanding.
Joseph Smith felt it necessary to re-translate parts of the Bible. The term 'translate' is used loosely by the church and can have various meanings, but keep in mind that this transpired years after the the Book of Mormon was published. The Joseph Smith translation is not canonized in the LDS church, but is footnoted in LDS published versions of the King James Bible. The Joseph Smith Translation is also known as the "Inspired Version" of the Bible and is canonized as scripture by the Community of Christ, formerly known as the RLDS.

Matthew 6:13

One example of these "re-translations" is found in Matthew 6:13, where the King James Version reads:

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..."

The Joseph Smith translation reads:

"And suffer us not to be led into tempation..."

It is also footnoted in the LDS bible that the Syriac translation reads

"Do not let us enter into temptation."

This is a very important doctrinal change, as explained by the JST contents that the Lord does not lead us into temptation and therefore the King James version had a translation error.

Book of Mormon Equivalent

However, 3 Nephi 13:12 reads the same as the KJ version:
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"

Book of Mormon: The Most Correct Book?

Now how is it that we are to believe that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book and that the Bible is flawed with translation errors, when parts of the Book of Mormon are exact copies, even including the translation errors from the King James version of the Bible. Then, after that, Joseph Smith is able to further clarify biblical passages by re-translating the verses to conform with the teachings, meanwhile, the Book of Mormon, which was supposed to be the most correct book still contains the exact same errors.

Discovering this shocked me and scared me and I stopped cross-referencing the scriptures from that moment on. I made myself believe that if I just kept reading the scriptures, praying and feeling the "confirmation from the spirit" that it was a much better way for me to know the truthfulness to the scriptures. I guess that I was simply following the first 2 of 6 ways that people deal with cognitive dissonance, as I talked about in a previous post.

Looking back, this discovery did not stop me from going on my mission, but it was the first Jenga piece as described in a previous post that ultimately led to my disillusionment.

Disillusioned Mormon

11 comments:

Soy Yo said...

Zelph,
you have pointed out some very interesting inconsistancies. I think I need to take a closer look at 3Nephi. Have you done the same thing for the parts that quote Isaiah?

Zelph said...

soy yo,

This was just one example, and yes, there are similar instances where the King James version is identical to the Book of Mormon, and yet the Joseph Smith Translation is changed.

The main purpose of this post was to encourage people to look into the subject further.

Gospel of Christ said...

The number of passages in the Book of Mormon that directly quote Bible verses are still a minority of the total Book of Mormon text and hardly account for the Book of Mormon itself. If heavy quoting bothers you, please remember that hundreds of verses in the New Testament are quotes from the Old Testament, some with attribution and many without. In spite of many passages being similar between those two testaments, the New Testament truly is new and offers valuable sacred scripture about Christ, as is the case for the Book of Mormon.

Interestingly, New Testament writers quote the Old Testament in the language of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament that came long after the original Hebrew scriptures. This point is important to understand:

"When Jesus and the Apostles and, for that matter, the Angel Gabriel quote the [Hebrew] scriptures in the New Testament, do they recite from some mysterious Urtext? Do they quote the prophets of old in the ultimate original? . . . No, they do not. They quote the Septuagint, a Greek version of the Old Testament prepared in the third century B.C. Why so? Because that happened to be the received standard version of the Bible accepted by the readers of the Greek New Testament."
(Hugh W. Nibley, "Literary Style Used in the Book of Mormon Insured Accurate Translation," in The Prophetic Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 8, p. 215.)

If New Testament prophets, apostles, and angels were allowed to quote what was then an accepted modern version of ancient scripture, we shouldn't be outraged that Joseph Smith would do the same (or be guided to do the same) in translating the Book of Mormon. (For more information on the nature of the modern Bible and its origins, see my LDSFAQ page on the Bible.)

I'd like to briefly return to the issue of differences between related passages in the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Some of the variants provide insight into Book of Mormon origins. For example, consider 2 Nephi 12, which quotes Isaiah 2. Verse 16 in the King James version says that the day of the Lord will be "upon all the ships of Tarshish." The Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament says that it would be upon the "ships of the sea" but does not mention the ships of Tarshish. The Book of Mormon version has both phrases: "upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish...." I suggest that the version of Isaiah that Nephi had in 600 B.C. had both phrases on it, but the later Hebrew scriptures would lose one phrase while the Septuagint version would lose the other. In translating 2 Nephi 2:16, Joseph Smith still relied heavily on the King James version but had to add a phrase to properly follow the text he was translating. Several other variants in Isaiah passages find corroboration in recently discovered ancient Hebrew documents, while others do not. The issue of Isaiah variants is actually fairly complex and interesting, making it a hot topic now for scholars. The idea of a simple-minded copying of Bible passages has to be rejected, though it is clear that the King James Bible was used in many cases to facilitate translation.

Some questions remain, of course. In several cases, for example, King James language is used that some scholars now say stems from old translation errors. In the Sermon on the Mount, for example, one critic has identified 11 places where the King James version may be in error, based on comparison with recently discovered ancient manuscripts, and where the Book of Mormon allegedly preserves the error. John Welch carefully considers these challenges in his book, The Sermon at the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount, pp. 147 ff. In no case is it clear that the Book of Mormon translation is actually incorrect. The differences are so minor as to really make no serious difference in meaning. For example, early Greek manuscripts speak of the body "going off into hell," while the Book of Mormon and the KJV speak of the body being "cast into hell." Is there really a difference here?

It is extremely difficult to reconstruct an original text from multiple conflicting variants. Sometimes several manuscripts may agree, yet they all depart from what may have been the original. Relying on the dates of multiple surviving manuscripts as an indicator of accuracy is also inadequate, for sometimes a later manuscript preserves a newly discovered and correct original reading that was lacking in earlier manuscripts. It is speculative at best to argue that the Book of Mormon is not valid because some verses closely follow the King James text while departing from some manuscripts that are earlier than the ones used by the KJV translators.

The best thing is that we have the Book of Mormon and can read it for ourselves and decide if it is true by feeling the holy ghost.

I know that the Book of Mormon is true because I have read it many times and I have prayed about it and I feel the holy ghost in my heart and I feel that I draw closer to God every time I read it. This I testify to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Zelph said...

GoC-

It appears that you have simply copied and pasted your comments from one of the apologist websites. You forgot to remove "For more information on the nature of the modern Bible and its origins, see my LDSFAQ page on the Bible"

None of that answers my specific questions, and I hope for more of a dialogue than just copying articles from fairlds.org. Come on, you can do better than that.

Bishop Rick said...

Zelph,

Your latest couple of posts have given me an epiphany.

Essentially the Jewish sects had the priesthood authority right up to the time that Jesus came on the scene. In fact, that is where Jesus officially received his authority.

He then passes that authority on to the apostles who (if we are honest) start a Christian sect of the Jewish faith.

Why did the priesthood authority disappear when the leaders of the Christian sect were killed? Didn't it still reside with the other sects?

Was there no apostasy at all, but rather the authority still remains to this day with Jewish sects?

How can there be a restoration, when there was no apostasy?

Rich Gitschlag said...

GoC: "I know that the Book of Mormon is true because I have read it many times and I have prayed about it and I feel the holy ghost in my heart"

How do I know that it isn't a stirring of last night's pizza?

Nowhere in either the Old or New Testaments is this test encouraged. Mainline Christians are taught to trust God's Word because it is TRUE, not by their feelings - holy or otherwise.

I think zelph raises some good points, and sorry, you missed them.

Jeremy said...

Zelph,

So this is a long after thought on the topic which really isn't on topic at all... I was thinking about how much Jesus is written about and how many people follow the teachings etc....

Well here is my thought in a nutshell, what if Jesus turned out to be just another religious zealot who truly believed he was the son of God? One who we would assume now a days is just plain crazy?

Anyway that's just a thought.

Jake said...

THIS DID'NT STOP YOU FROM UR MISSION??!! HOW RUDE!!!

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