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Were many plain and precious things taken away from the bible?

Were “many plain and precious things” taken away from the Bible?

Responses to Mormon Claims

 

     We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God.” (The Eighth Article of Faith, part of the Pearl of the Great Price - one of  scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

     

     1 Nephi 13:28  “Wherefore thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abdominal church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.”

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nicknamed the Mormon Church, charges the Bible with two points; corrupt translation and incompleteness.   Evangelicals believe that the Scriptures came from God through men of God who recorded these scriptures faithfully in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 3:15,16).  Mormon missionaries agree with this point but go on to say, “Yes, the original manuscripts penned by biblical authors were the Word of God, but the Bible has been changed.  The Bible has been translated over and over again.  We can’t know exactly what the Bible said originally, because it has been translated many times!”  This statement puzzles me because my Gideon Japanese - English New Testaments says that each translation (The New King James Version and Shinkaiyaku Version) is translated from (a) Greek manuscript(s) independently and is not a translation of the other.  Translation means a rendering from one language to another.  What the Mormons really mean is transmission. So when the Mormon Church top leaders teach the Bible being mistranslated in the terms of the Eight Articles of Faith, they do nor refer to actual translation, but claim that there have been errors in the process of transmission of the text.1   I believe there are bad translations of the Bible, the New World Translation by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible are two examples.  There more than likely are more.

 

The Mormons’ charge against the Bible is very serious.  When Mormon missionaries introduce the Book of Mormon to Christians, some refer to Revelation 22:18-19 to show that nothing should be added to the Bible.  Mormon missionaries usually say that these verses only apply to the book of Revelation, and they often quote Deuteronomy 4:2 and Proverbs 30:6, saying these OT verses teach the same as Revelation 22:18,19. How can we understand Revelation 22:18-19? 

 

Let’s me answer Mormon claims of the Bible being corrupted and incomplete in the light of manuscript evidence and testimony of Jesus Christ.  Then see what Evangelicals think about Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible (JST).  Before I deal with these issues, we should start what the Bible teaches about tampering with the Word of God.

 

1.  What does the Bible teach about tampering with the Word of God?

 

God’s words are our life (Deuteronomy 32:47, Matthew 4:4).  A Bible teacher Wayne Grudem says, “To add to or subtract from God’s Word would be to prevent people from obeying him fully, as commands that were deleted would not be known to people and words that are added might require extra things which God had not commanded.” 2

 

Moses warned the people of Israel not to add to the word, nor take from it (Deuteronomy 4:2) (See Proverbs 30:5,6).  In Revelation 22:18,19 the apostle John warns against tampering with the old revelation.  It does not mean that they could not receive new revelations.3   It was customarily for ancient writers to protect their work against mutilation and interpolation by adding anathema.4   John warns of judgement and loss of the kingdom of God for those who tamper with the old revelation. 

 

Moses himself wrote additional words (Deut. 31:24-26).  Joshua added to the collection of written words of God (Joshua 24:26) (See 1 Samuel 10:25, Jeremiah 30:2).  How can we understand Moses and Joshua adding to the Word of God in the light of Deuteronomy 4:2?   God himself must have authorised such additional writing, as He did to Samuel and Jeremiah.5   Does this imply that God authorised Joseph Smith’s additional writings such as the Book of Mormon to the Bible and rewriting the Bible?  This issue is going to be answered later.  Now we should see how accurate are today’s copies of the Bible.

 

2.  How accurate are today’s copies of the Bible?

 

The Mormon Church teaches that large portions of the Bible have been lost through centuries   and remaining portions of the Bible have become corrupted because of faulty transmission.

See what official Mormon Church teaching manuals teach about the Bible:

     

      1 Nephi 13:28  “Wherefore thou seest 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.”

     

      “Joseph Smith declared ‘I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers.  Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.” (Teachings of Prophet Joseph Smith quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual-Religion 121 and 122,p.14).

             (See The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, Religion 327, p.76).

   

The Book of Mormon claims “a great and abominable church” “has taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have been taken away” (1 Nephi 13:26). The current official Mormon Church teachings do not say what a great and abominable church is, but some Mormon missionaries imply that the great and abominable Church is the Roman Catholic Church and that the Roman Church took away the gospel of Lamb during the Middle ages.  Did it really happen?   We should start with how the OT scriptures have come to us.

 

The Old Testament

 

Firstly, the Bible tells us that the Hebrews were special custodians of the Old Testament Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:8, Psalm 147:19, 20, Romans 4:8).  Scribes treated the Word of God with great respect and care and accuracy.  Biblical manuscripts wore out after years of use; other copies had to be made.  Hebrew scribes developed special methods to ensure that each copy was accurate.  A Christian Bible teacher, Luke P. Wilson says;

 

“One such method was to determine the exact number of verses, words, and letters in each book of Scripture, and identify the verse and word at the exact middle of each book….. Here’s an example of how it worked.  At the end of Deuteronomy there appeared a scribal note stating that the book has 955 verses,  that the midpoint occurs at Deuteronomy chapter 17 verse 10 with the words “according  to the sentence,” which in Hebrew is one hyphenated word.  When Jewish scribes made a new copy they would check to make sure it matched all those standards.  Such precise and careful measures safeguarded the text from error.”6

 

Secondly, Jesus and his apostles used the OT with complete confidence in the integrity of the Scripture as it had been preserved in their day.  Jesus shows confidence in the smallest details of the Scriptural text.  In Matthew 5:18 Jesus says, “For verily I say unto you, Til heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”  Jesus and the NT writers quote various parts of the OT as divinely authoritative over 295 times.7

 

The OT text was transmitted with great care and accuracy up to the time of Jesus Christ.  The next questions to be asked are: Have the OT texts been transmitted accurately after the time of Christ?  Are the OT texts we have now the same as in Jesus Christ’s days?

 

In 1947 a Bedouin goat herdsman discovered ancient jars containing scrolls which are now called the Dead Sea Scrolls (hereafter the DSS) in caves in the valley of the Dead Sea.  The DSS date back to 100 to 200 years before Christ.  The DSS include one complete OT book, Isaiah, and thousands of fragments, which together present every OT book except Esther.8

 

What did we learn from this discovery?   The Dead Sea Scrolls gives compelling evidence for the accuracy of the transmission of the OT books of the Bible.  The discovery of DSS enabled scholars to check against the fidelity of the Hebrew Masoretic text (a collection of Hebrew OT manuscripts which dated from around A.D. 900) and proved that no significant change had taken place in the OT over 1,000 years of copying.

 

Jesus and his apostles used the Septugiant (LXX) to quote passages from the OT.  The LXX is an early Greek translation of the OT Scripture which was produced about three centuries before Christ.  This text closely parallels the Masoretic text and confirms the fidelity of the tenth-century Hebrew text.9

 

These three sources provide strong foundation for our English translation of the OT.  Our present OT texts are the same as those used by Jesus and his apostles.10  Then is the NT we have now accurate?

 

The New Testament

 

Evangelicals are confident to say that large quantity of NT manuscript evidence proves the completeness of the New Testament.  We have 25,000 hand written manuscripts and 5686 Greek manuscripts, containing all or part of the New Testament. 11   We have manuscripts of the whole NT that date from A.D. 250-350 (Chester Papyri, Sinaiticus, Vaticanus).  These texts agree in all major and important points.  As a result, more than 90% of the original text can be reconstructed from the manuscripts we have.12

 

Second, the NT has more manuscript evidence than any other pieces of secular literature.  For example, Homer’s Illiad, the most documented ancient secular work, had 643 manuscript copies.  What’s more, the earliest surviving copy of the Illiad was made 500 years after the original, but the earliest surviving copies of the NT were made 100 years after the original (and fragments of the NT found were made within 40 years of the original).13

 

There are many variant readings in the NT readings in the NT manuscripts available for comparison and correction in order to arrive at the correct one.  Minor variation has been restored in our modern versions like NIV, NASB, NRSV and ESV.  The majority of textual variants involve spellings and grammar and when they significantly affect the meaning of a verse modern English translation of the Bible has alternate renderings in their footnotes.14

 

The official Bible of the Mormon Church is the King James Version.  Many Mormons still respect the KJV despite claims of the Mormon Church.  Some Christians still cherish that version.  In fact, the King James Only Movement people are zealous about this version.  The King James Version was not a translation of another Bible translation, but of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (completed in A.D. 1404).   But many of the oldest and most reliable Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible were discovered after the KJV was published in 1611.15

 

Earlier I said that some Mormon missionaries imply that the Roman Catholic Church took away the gospel of Lamb during the Middle Ages.  A Bible teacher, James R. White says, “…what is obvious is the fact that such a task of editing would have been impossible to do!  Why?  There are thousands of copies of Scripture, spread out all cross the Roman Empire, from Spain to Egypt.   How could any one man or any one organization, gather up all these copies, including many buried under the sands in Egypt, and then replace of them?”16

 

Moreover, predating the Middle Ages we have a large quantity of NT manuscript evidence, which proves that biblical manuscripts have been transmitted faithfully.  This flatly denies the above Mormon claims.  The reliability of copies proves no loss of major doctrines.  Every important truth of scripture has been preserved intact in the OT Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

 

We conclude that from ancient manuscripts and the testimony of Jesus, evangelicals can be confident that the copies of the Bible we have today have reproduced the original faithfully and accurately

 

3.    Are there “lost scriptures”?

 

The Mormon Church top leaders teach that there are lost scriptures.

A late Mormon apostle Bruce R McConkie teaches in the “Mormon Doctrine” (pp. 453, 455 - a non official Mormon publication);

 

Many passages and even whole books of scripture have been lost through the carelessness or wickedness  of the record keepers…There is no more false or absurd doctrine than the sectarian

claim that the Bible (or any other book for that matter) contains all of the word of God”

 

Mr. McConkie gives the list of “lost scriptures” in the same book.  Some examples are as follows: 

 

     The book of the Covenant  (Ex.24: 4,7)                

    The book of the Wars of the Lord (Num.21: 14)

    The book of Jasher (Jos.10: 13, 2 Sam. 1:18)

    A Book of Statues (1 Sam.10: 25)

 An epistle of Paul to the Corinthians(1 Cor.5:9)

 An epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans (Col.4: 16)

 An epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:3)

 

 

Firstly, these books were never part of the canon.  These books are rightly called “lost books,” as none of them have survived to the present, but they are not “lost scriptures.”  The books mentioned in the OT were historical records used by the biblical authors, as they contain some truth in them.17   Likewise, the inspired Biblical authors in the Bible make mention of uninspired books.  In Titus 1:12 the apostle Paul quotes a Cretan writer to make some points that Titus’ ministry and leadership were needed as some Cretans had bad reputations and were known for lying.18  You would not think that the pagan writer was inspired.  They quote secular books, not because they are inspired books, but they can be used to illustrate some aspects of truth. Paul quotes from pagan poets and philosophers for purposes of illustration (Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 15:32, 33, Titus 1:12).

 

         Again to claim an earlier letter mentioned in 1 Cor. 5: 9 as lost scripture, is false, for not everything written by Paul would be considered as inspired scripture.  Colossians 4:16 actually says  “epistle from Laodicea” not to Laodiceans. This letter may be The Epistle to the Ephesians, as it was written at the same time and had not reached Laodicea.19

       

        Secondly, Jesus himself testified the completeness of the OT.  He says in Matthew 23:35, “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zachariahs son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.”  The Hebrew Bible books are divided into three groups: “the Law” (Genesis - Deuteronomy), “The Prophets,”  and “The Writings”.

         2 Chronicles is the last book in the Jewish Old Testament.  So the phrase  “from the blood of the righteous Abel (Genesis 4) to the blood of Zachariahs (2 Chronicles 24) was the Jewish equivalent of the Christian phrase “from Genesis to Revelation”, which means the completeness of the OT Scripture.20   

 

   Protestants believe that the canon of Scripture (normative collection of scriptures) was closed by the end of the first century and 66 books of Scripture are inspired by God.  In 1546 at the Council of Trent The Roman Catholic Church officially declared 11 Apocryphal books to be part of the canon.  The Roman Catholic Church’ addition of the Apocrypha is rejected by Evangelicals.21     Jesus quoted from every section of the OT, from “The Law,” “The Prophets” and “The Writings”, but he never cited books in the Apocrypha.22   Moreover, we see no record of disagreement over the extent of canon between Jews and Jewish teachers.  So-called “lost scriptures” or the Apocryphal books were never recognised by Jesus and his apostles.  No books are missing from the original text of both Old and New Testaments.

 

                        What would happen if one more epistle of Paul’s were discovered?  Would we add it to scriptures?  Three hurdles must be cleared.  There are three qualifications for scripture? 23                    

                            (1) Authorship attributed to an apostle

                      (2) Recognition of a book by a leading church or majority of churches

             (3) Consistency with the previously revealed scripture.

       

         Yet, the fact that it was not preserved as part of the canon means it did not come up to the standard of scripture.  Consider that the early Church had universal respect for writings for Paul and that early church Fathers quoted extensively from Paul.  Does the Book of Mormon meet these standards?  While the answer is no, I will not discuss it in this paper.

 

        The author of the Letters to Hebrews declares the finality of the revelation of God in Christ.

    

     Hebrews 1:1-2   1GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets. 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath

     appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;”

 

God has spoken.  God revealed himself in diverse ways in the OT times.  He spoke in a storm and thunder to Moses (Exodus 19:19, Deuteronomy 5:22f) in a small voice to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12). He spoke to Isaiah in a vision (Isaiah 6).  But all successive acts and diverse ways of revelation did not live up to the fullness of what the Son had to say.24   Divine revelation was progressive but partial, leading up to its consummation in the revelation of Christ.25  His revelation and redemption is said to be eternal (Hebrews 5:9,9:12,15) and once-for all (9:26,10:12-14).  Jesus was the full and final revelation of God to mankind. In him the fullness of God dwells (Colossians 1:9).  There is no progression of revelation beyond Christ and there is no need for any scriptures other than those already given by God.

 

4.  The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

 

The Mormon Church has not officially canonised the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, but in The King James Version of the Bible of the Mormon Church includes some of Smith’s variations in the footnotes and others in the appendix. The Mormon Church teaches that he was murdered before completing his work. 26

 

The Mormon Church teaches that Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible helped restore many of the plain and precious things.  See the following:

 

     “The Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers.  Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.’ (Teachings of Prophet Joseph Smith. P.327) Joseph’s Smith’s translation of the Bible helped restore many of the plain and precious things’ (1Nehpi 13:28) which were lost. ” (Book of Mormon Student Manual-Religion 121 and 122, p.14 – An official teaching manual of the Mormon Church)

 

Smith did not examine original manuscripts, but “translated” it under divine inspiration. The Mormon Church redefines the word translation again, here translation means “a revision of the Bible by inspiration” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, Religion 324-325). He took the King James Version and added to and subtracted from it.

      

      “In consequence, 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.” (Mormon Doctrine, p.383)

 

One charge by the Mormon Church against the Bible is “lost scriptures” in the Bible.  Has Smith restored them?  No.  The Inspired Version does not contain any of alleged lost scripture like The Book of the Covenant and Books of the Wars of the Lord.  Where are the many plain and precious things which are allegedly restored?

 

Second, The Inspired Version has 65 books, as Smith deleted the Song of Solomon.  He added a passage in Genesis 55 (Genesis 50:24-33 in The Inspired Version), which predicted his own coming.  He also made changes in the book of revelation.  See the changes.

 

     Revelation 19:15(KJV) “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron…

 

 

Revelation 19:15 (JST) “And out of his mouth the word of God, and with it he will smite the nations; and he will rule them with the word of his mouth, goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with the word of his mouth.”

 

Smith tampered with the older revelation of God despite repeated warnings in the Bible.  God’s word is eternal and unfailing.  Jesus says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).   Isaiah 40:8 tells us “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of God.” 27  Jesus submitted to the OT scripture.  Jesus says, “ Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).

    

Conclusion

From ancient manuscripts of both Old and New Testaments and the testimony of Christ we conclude that the Bible has been accurately and faithfully transmitted. The reliability of copies proves no loss of major doctrines.  Any student of the original language of The Bible can check the accuracy of the translation against the original manuscript.  So called “lost scriptures” were never recognised by Jesus and his apostles. The Bible teaches the finality of the revelation of God in Christ, and once this revelation has been completed, no more revelations are to be included in the canon.  Joseph Smith tampered with the Word of God and he put himself above Christ, changing the word of God.

 

 

ONE FURTHER COMMENT: Why is it that God was capable of giving the Mormons a reliable Book of Mormon, but did so poorly with the Bible?  In John 17:20, the prayer from Jesus for us says, "Neither pray I for these alone [His apostles and disciples] but for them [us] also which shall believe on me through their wordNote the "their word" refers to the words of the apostles and disciples.  Mormonism would have one believe that this prayer by Jesus Christ was ignored for 1,700 years until Smith came along.   We find this idea incredible. They would have one believe that the Holy Ghost and God did a dismal job of protecting His words for us. This is also incredible.28

 

NOTES

 

1. James R. White, Letters to Mormon Elders, (Minneapolis, Bethany House Publisher, 1993) p.25

2. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Leicester, IVP, 1994) p.54 

3. Norman Geisler, “Scripture” in “The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism” (Oregon, Harvest, 1998) p.13

4. George R. Beasley-Murray, “Revelation” in the “New Bible Commentary” (Leicester, IVP, 1994) p.1445

5. Wayne Grudem, p.55

6. Luke P. Wilson, “Transcript Message#2; Text of the Old Testament- Part 2” in the “Recorded Message on Mormonism”(Grand Rapids, Institute for Religious Research, 1994)

7.  Grudem, p.57

8.  Norman Geisler, “Dead Sea Scrolls” in the “Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p.187

9.  Luke P. Wilson, Transcript Message #5- Text of the New Testament 

10.  Geisler, “Dead Sea Scrolls,”p.533 .

11.  Luke P. Wilson, Transcript Message#1; Text of the Old Testament- Part 1

12.  Geisler, “Scripture” in “The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism”(Eugene, Harvest House,1998) p.14

13.  Geisler, ”New Testaments Manuscripts” in the “Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics”, p.537  

14.  Craig Blomberg, How Wide the Divide? A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation (Illinois, IVP, 1997)  p.35

15. Craig Blomberg, p.38

16. James White, p.29

17. Geisler, “Scripture” in “The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism”, p.22

18.  Life Application Bible, New International Version(Grand Rapids, Zondervan,1991)p.2209

19.  Geisler, “Scripture” in “The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism”, p.23

20.   Geisler, “Scripture” in “The Counterfeit Gospel of Mormonism”, p.17

21. The Apocrypha is rejected for several reasons.

(1)    These books do not claim to be inspired

(2)    They were never accepted into the Jewish canon.

(3)     Jesus and the NT authors never considered these writings as Scripture.

(4)    They contain teachings which are inconsistent with the rest of the Bible (prayer for the dead and justification by faith plus works (Grudem, p.59)

22. Jude 14-15 includes 1 Enoch 60.8 and 1.9.  This is used “for purpose of illustration than proof.”  Grudem says ,“Never are the word introduced with a phrase like, “God says” or ”Scripture says” or “it is written,” phrases that imply the attribution of divine authority to the words cited.” (Grudem, p.57)

23.  Paul Little, Know Why You Believe (Downers Grove, IVP, 1988) p.83       

                24.  F.F Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans,1994) p.45

                25.  Craig Blomberg, p.45

                26.  See David A. Reed and John R. Farkas, Mormons Answered by Verse by Verse, (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1992 pp. 28-29

27.   Ron Rhodes, The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Mormon(Eugene, Oregon,2001).p.42

28.     John Farkas, editorial comment.

 

 

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