The Book of Mormon and the King James Bible

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The Book of Mormon contains many linguistic similarities to the King James Bible. In some cases, entire passages of scripture are duplicated in the Book of Mormon. Sometimes the source is acknowledged, as in the book of Second Nephi, where 18 chapters of Isaiah are quoted. There exist 478 verses in the Book of Mormon which are quoted in some form or other from the book of Isaiah. Of these verses, one Mormon scholar notes that 201 of them match the King James version of the quote and another 207 show variations. In addition, 58 quotes from Isaiah found in the Book of Mormon are paraphrased versions of those found in the King James Bible.

Other significant connections between the two books include Book of Mormon words and phrases that only appear in their KJV usage, perpetuation of Bible passages considered by some scholars to have unique English reading style in the King James Version, and the possible presence of English homophones.


The presence of biblical passages in the Book of Mormon

The existence of biblical passages in the Book of Mormon is explained in the text as being the result of Lehi’s family bringing with them a set of “brass plates” from Jerusalem containing the writings of Moses, Isaiah and several prophets not mentioned in the Bible. Regarding this record, 1 Nephi 5:11 states:

And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents;

LDS scholars have compared the Biblical passages found in the Book of Mormon with other scriptural sources, with four main areas of research:

  1. The first five books of Moses (The Pentateuch)
  2. Passages from Isaiah
  3. The Sermon on the Mount
  4. 1 Corinthians 12–13.

The Pentateuch

Critics of the historicity of the Book of Mormon point to the presence of passages from the Pentateuch in the Book of Mormon. The general view of the textual history of the Torah held by contemporary secular biblical scholars dates the completion of the Pentateuch to no earlier than the Persian period (538-323 B.C.). Critics use this as an argument to suggest inclusion of these passages in the Book of Mormon indicates the Pentateuch existed in 600 B.C. However, the tradition of Mosaic authorship attributes the original authorship of the five books of the Pentateuch also known as the Five Books of Moses to the prophet Moses, who according to Jewish tradition received them on Mount Sinai around 1280 B.C. during the Exodus of Israel. Therefore, the counter to this argument by proponents of the Book of Mormon is that these passages came from copies of the original text, and not the text of the Pentateuch completed at the Great Assembly.

Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon contains 19 chapters of Isaiah in their entirety, along with parts of a few other chapters. Specifically, chapters 2-14, 48-51, 53, and 54 of Isaiah are contained in the Book of Mormon. Most of Isaiah 52 is contained in the Book of Mormon as well. Approximately 30% of Isaiah is found in the Book of Mormon.

One FARMS scholar, John A. Tvedtnes, performed comparisons of the Isaiah variants found in the Book of Mormon with the following versions of the Book of Isaiah: the Hebrew Massoretic text, the Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran, the Aramaic Targumim, the Peshitta, the Septuagint, the Old Latin and Vulgate, and the Isaiah passages which are quoted in the New Testament. He argues that some of these comparisons show support for the Book of Mormon passages as having been derived from an ancient text.

A rebuttal to Tvedtnes's conclusions was given by David P. Wright.[] In an analysis of each of the examples that Tvedtnes presented, Wright argues that the support given by Tvedtnes was “problematic as proof" and that in some cases Tvedtnes's analysis and evidence was “highly ambiguous, substantially incomplete, strained, or simply in error.” Wright had been a Hebrew Professor at Brigham Young University but was fired and subsequently excommunicated for having taken academic positions that contradicted LDS doctrine.

The Sermon on the Mount

The Book of Mormon contains a version of the Sermon on the Mount, which some authors have claimed to be “the Achilles heel of the Book of Mormon.”[] One author makes the point that certain portions of the Greek manuscripts of Matthew 5-7 do not agree with King James Version of the text, and concludes that the Book of Mormon version of the sermon should not contain text similar to the English King James Bible.[] LDS scholars also note that at least seven (out of some twenty-five thousand - see Majority text, Textus Receptus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus, Codex Bezae, Alexandrian text-type, Byzantine text-type, Western text-type and Caesarean text-type - most of which are minor, which distinguish the basis of the King James Version and its version of the Sermon on the Mount - from a mistranslation of Desiderus Erasmus's Textus Receptus of the 15th century - from more ancient and correct manuscripts) of “the ancient textual variants in question are not significantly different in meaning.”[]

Textual similarities

It has been noted that the Book of Mormon exhibits word-for-word similarities with portions of the Bible that did not exist in Book of Mormon times (both post-exile parts of the Old Testament as well as sections of the New Testament). For example, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Paul states:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

In the Book of Mormon, Template:Sourcetext Mormon states:

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Scholars who support the Book of Mormon's authenticity explain such commonalities as cases of common origin; for example, both Paul and Mormon could be quoting ideas and language from a much older text that they held in common and that is lost from present knowledge. Mormon scholars contend that such anachronisms of wording are not very compelling given that the Book of Mormon is a translation. That is, the words in the book as it exists today are an English approximation of the words written by ancient scribes. If a phrase from some source extant in Joseph Smith's day appears, that is to be expected, so long as they attempt to convey the ideas intended by the original authors. However, Joseph Smith did not mention the use of the KJV. Instead, he claimed that it was a direct translation through divine revelation.

It has also been pointed out that if, as Joseph Smith contends, he received angelic visitations by ancient prophets as a common source for his revelations, other prophets might well have had similar experiences. This is given by LDS scholars as one possible explanation of how New Testament writing came into the Book of Mormon, by angelic ministration. Christian L. Palmer notes that in Revelation 22:9 John was told by the angelic messenger that he was about to worship:

See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

Palmer and LDS scholars see this verse as an example of the use of prophets as angelic messengers to other prophets. If such a trend did exist, it would also explain the existence of similar wordings.Template:Citation needed

Latter Day Saints have further argued that God may simply not change his wording every time he sends a message to different peoples. Proponents of this idea quote Template:Sourcetext,

Know ye that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another.

The question has arisen regarding why an angel of God speaking to a 19th century American would choose to provide a translation in 17th century English. Opponents say that it is most likely that the KJV was simply used as a source for the Book of Mormon.

Some Latter-day Saints point to textual similarities and duplication of verses from Isaiah as nothing more than the equivalent of the practice of footnotes, paraphrasing and quotation. In each case, existing text is used as a means of reducing the work of the writer or translator.

Unique words and phrases

There are many words and phrases which, when found in the Book of Mormon, exist only in a KJV context, suggesting that the words were not part of the author's daily vocabulary, but were used only in borrowings from the Authorized Version. For example, "fervent" and "elements" each appear twice, both times together in the same phrase, and in the same context as Template:Sourcetext (Template:Sourcetext, Template:Sourcetext). Also, "talent" is used only once, in the same context as Template:Sourcetext (Template:Sourcetext).[]

Perpetuation of Biblical mistranslations

This is an issue where the KJV contains mistranslations perpetuated in the Book of Mormon, implying that the Book of Mormon used the KJV as a source. A few examples are Template:Sourcetext, Template:Sourcetext, and Template:Sourcetext. The Book of Mormon also references "dragons" and "satyrs" in Template:Sourcetext, matching the KJV, whereas more modern bible translations do not include these mythological beasts.

The Book of Mormon also quotes Isaiah 7, particularly: "a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Template:Sourcetext]). Some biblical scholars consider this to be a mistranslation of the Hebrew Bible into the KJV, since the Hebrew word for "virgin" is "bethulah", whereas Isaiah uses the word "almah", meaning "young woman". However, the Greek text of the Bible uses a word nearly always translated as virgin, which is used in Template:Sourcetext. See Dispute regarding Isaiah 7:14.

The quotation of Template:Sourcetext by Template:Sourcetext, "And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures" is sometimes used as evidence of an ancient source for the Book of Mormon. The KJV contains only half the phrase, while the Septuagint contains the other half. Some Book of Mormon scholars conclude that an ancient text contained the phrase intact, which the Book of Mormon used as a source, while the Septuagint and the KJV each lost a different half. However, modern scholarship suggests that Isaiah 2:16 is part of a poetic section and is a rhyming couplet; the Book of Mormon contains three phrases at this section where the meter dictates there should be only two, though which of the two is still debated.<ref>A detailed discussion of the evidence for and against is 2 Nephi 12 and the Septuagint.</ref>

Use of English Homophones

Some examples of homophones found in the English Book of Mormon are the words strait and straight, and the words sun and son.[]

A few passages in the Book of Mormon appear to use phrases from the King James Bible, but with certain words changed to English homophones. For example, Template:Sourcetext reads, "But unto you that fear my name, shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall." This is identical to Template:Sourcetext, except that the word Son is used in place of Sun. The two words are homophones in English but not similar at all in Hebrew or Egyptian. In 1959, LDS scholar Sidney B. Sperry indicated that an 'error of the ear' had occurred during the transcription of 3 Nephi 25:2, meaning that the scribe wrote a homophone of the word he heard. Sperry noted that the Hebrew in Malachi 4:2 uses the word shemesh, which means sun, rather than ben which is the word for son, and that "Sun of Righteousness" should indeed be the correct reading of the passage as found in the Book of Mormon. Sperry also points out, however, that the meaning is unchanged, since "most conservative scholars through the centuries have agreed that 'Sun of Righteousness' refers to the Savior."[] The Church has left this spelling intact while it has regularized many other spellings since the first edition.

Archaic Vocabulary

Royal Skousen, Professor of Linguistics at Brigham Young University, has suggested that the Book of Mormon uses an archaic vocabulary that seems to reflect 16th- and 17th-century usage rather than the 19th-century usage one would expect if it had been authored by Joseph Smith.[] If correct, the implication of this assertion would be that God, in revealing the text of the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith, revealed something that roughly approximated the language of the most popular Bible translation of the time, the King James Version. Skousen gives several examples, such as the use of the word require to mean 'to request' in Enos 1:18 (compare to KJV Ezra 8:22) and use of 'to cast arrows' to mean 'to shoot arrows' in Alma 49:4 (compare to KJV Proverbs 26:18).[]

Skousen's assumption should be critically noted: That one would expect a more modern 19th-century vocabulary if Joseph Smith had authored the book.

The Book of Mormon also appears, according to Skousen, to use archaic phrases that are not found in the King James Bible but were in current usage at or around the time of its first publication in 1611. For example, in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, the original text of what is now Alma 37:37 reads:

[C]ounsel the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good;<ref>Book of Mormon, 1830 Edition, p. 330.</ref>

using the word 'counsel' to mean 'counsel with.' When read in modern English, the text as originally written makes it sound as if the ‘’Lord’’ was to be the one to be counseled. When the 1920 edition of the Book of Mormon was being prepared, the preposition with was added in this passage “so that readers would not misinterpret the language.”<ref name="Harvnb|Skousen|2005">Template:Harvnb</ref> The text of Alma 37:37 now reads:

Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good;

This sense of the word 'counsel' became obsolete about 250 years prior to Joseph Smith's birth. Another example is but if in the original text of Mosiah 3:19: "but if he yieldeth" compared to the current reading; "unless he yieldeth." The use of but if to mean unless ended around the beginning of the 17th century, predating Joseph Smith by 200 years <ref name="Harvnb|Skousen|2005"/>

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