Mormon Perspectives: The History and Authority of The Bible and its Translation

The Bible is made up of 66 books (King James Version) and was written on three different continents in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek over 1600 years by ~40 men claiming to be recording inspiration from God from ~1500BC to ~100AD.  It has been translated into over 1,200 languages and dialects and was first translated into English in 1388 (when it was finished).  Its purpose is to prophecy and testify of the coming of The Messiah (Old Testament), to record the fulfillment of that prophecy as Jesus Christ (New Testament) (over 3,200 prophecies have been fulfilled and over 3,100 are still open), to establish The Gospel or God’s Law among men, to proclaim and prophesy the Return of Jesus Christ and to inform man of who they are, where they came from, why we are here and what is our purpose and future.

The Bible is divided into two main parts compiling the 66 books respectively – the Old Testament and the New Testament.  These Testaments, or covenants, represent two distinct sets of time, intentions and purpose of scripture and law.

A primary part of the Old Testament is God’s Covenants with the people and Mosaic Law, or the Law of Sacrifice, which was in similitude to the Sacrifice of The Son – Jesus being crucified and the atonement, which provides forgiveness, fulfilled the Covenants.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is presented in the New Testament was a higher law than the Mosaic Law, which overrode the old law.  In this way, the New Testament fulfills and overrides the Old Testament.

The God of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ who fulfills the Covenants by coming to man and being sacrificed for the sins of man thereby providing the pathway for redemption.

The God of the New Testament is God, The Father since Jesus is on earth with men, occupying a body.

Why is The Bible important?  Christians claim The Bible to be the inspired word of God, the creator of men (it states “Thus saith the Lord more than 3,000 times).  Thus, it is claimed to be communication from The Creator of the universe to His creation.  Taken as true, this claim implies that God and His Word, through The Bible is the final authority and views contrary to The Bible are simply wrong.  The Bible therefore claims moral authority over humanity – both people and governments.

The fact we have The Bible today is a testament in itself – it is one of the oldest surviving books known to man.  Its very existence today testifies of its vital importance; along with the testimony of those martyrs and respecters who were persecuted, who suffered, were tortured, burned and died or who killed and destroyed all in the name of its preservation over several millennia.

The story of its longevity includes the domination, destruction, overthrow and supplication of Kings, Kingdoms, Cultures even Civilizations – both for and against it.

 Translations

The original text written by the authors of Biblical books are known as “autographs”.  As a whole, there are no autographs of any Biblical work in existence today.  What does exist are fragments from the 2nd and 3rd centuries and several hundred complete copies which were distributed throughout the world starting around the 4th century and beyond.

The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work.  In existence are over 5,800 partial to complete Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 in other languages including Aramaic, Ehiopic, Armenian, Slavic and Syriac. They range from c. 125 (fragments only) to the 15th century with the vast majority of them dating post 10th century.

Textus Receptus (“received text”) is the name of the 1516AD Greek language manuscripts used to translate the Bible into English becoming the King James Version.  It was compiled and translated by Erasmus who translated a Greek and Latin version simultaneously.

The third and subsequent publications of the Textus Receptus were the source for the King James Version of the Bible.  Of the productions of this text, the third is the first one in which Erasmus, under pressure from the church, included the Comma Johanneum, which he stated was not in any of his source documents.

In reference to the dual translation and in defense of his work, he stated:

“But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep.”
 “Epistle 337″ in Collected Works of Erasmus Vol. 3, 134.

Erasumus was unable to find manuscripts containing the entire Greek New Testament so he compiled 6 different sources – all dated from the 12th century and later – and was lacking a complete copy of the book of Revelation, forcing him to copy into the Greek version from the Latin version.  Due to this, most modern scholars consider his text to be of dubious quality leading them to produce entire books about it such as “The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration” by Bruce Metzger.

Biblical scholar Ehrman claims “It is true, of course, that the New Testament is abundantly attested in the manuscripts produced through the ages, but most of these manuscripts are many centuries removed from the originals, and none of them perfectly accurate. They all contain mistakes – altogether many thousands of mistakes. It is not an easy task to reconstruct the original words of the New Testament.”

“For most passages, most sentences, most words, scholars are reasonably confident that we can know—even if there are other passages that remain in doubt”

 Religious acknowledgement of the Bible

Judaism

Judaism only accepts the Old Testament, known as the Tanakh, as inspired.  A large amount of emphasis is placed up on oral tradition, which is viewed as inspired by Rabbinical authority, from the first and second centuries known as the Mishna and from the fourth to the sixth centuries known as the Talmud.

Christianity

The Bible, both the Old and the New Testament is the source of authority for Christians including Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics.  Most of them also closely follow Creeds which are summaries of belief that have been put forth as a guide over the centuries.  The most impacting of these is the Nicene Creed in which the Trinity is defined.

Catholicism uses the Old and New Testament and also view the Apocrypha as inspired and put a great deal of emphasis on the traditions of earlier fathers and popes as well as the Creeds.

Evangelicals are also Creedal Christians who use the Old and New Testament.

Versions of The Bible

Today there are dozens of translations of The Bible.  Each of them vary in interpretation, length, inclusion of verse, etc.  This essay on Bible versions does an excellent job of explaining all the differences and interpretations.  It points out that there are three basic influences on translations: textual (which sources were used), informational (in later years, more discoveries of copies had been made and more information was available) and philosophical (the philosophical viewpoints impacting the translator).

Minutiae makes a huge impact on the Bible.  Those who believe in the Nicene Creed of the Trinity find minute variations in text and context to support their theory.  That minutiae can be different across translations and by impact can either support or condemn Trinity Doctrine.

One extreme example is the inclusion or exclusion of the infamous Comma Johanneum which Trinity Doctrine considers its strongest support.

Here is a comparative example between several versions of the bible:

1 John 5:18

  • NET 5:18 We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects the one he has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him.
  • NIV 5:18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.
  • NASB 5:18 We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.
  • ESV 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
  • MSG 5:18 We know that none of the God-begotten makes a practice of sin-fatal sin. The God-begotten are also the God-protected. The Evil One can’t lay a hand on them.
  • BBE 5:18 We are certain that one who is a child of God will do no sin, but the Son of God keeps him so that he is not touched by the Evil One.
  • NKJV 5:18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.
  • NRSV 5:18 We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them.
  • KJV 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

We can see (each of these bullets are a different version on the Bible, abbreviated at the head of the bullet) that there is a distinct difference between the King James Version (KJV) and the other Modern versions (the ones at the top).

The Mormon Perspective

The 8th Article of Faith declares the Mormon Perspective on The Bible:

8 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.

Is the Bible as we currently have it translated correctly?

Given all the above history and evidence, one can easily see that the sources for the Bible only begin with copies (not autographs) that are more than a century removed from the originals.  There is no telling what corruption and philosophies might have been entered up to that point.  Going forward with translations from the fragments that have been discovered up to entire texts that have been discovered and translated, there is so much discrepancy and differentiation that absolutely nobody can claim to have translations of the original Biblical texts as written by those who received inspiration from God.

Through logical analysis, intellectual honesty requires anyone to admit that there cannot be 100% confidence in the text we now have as The Bible.

Mormons use the King James Version of The Bible and consider it the most accurate translation.  As do many non-Mormon Biblical Scholars, Mormons also consider it flawed in various areas.

Mormons do not accept any of the ancient creeds as Doctrine.

Mormon philosophies on the Bible include:

  1. The Gospel is simple and can be understood by simple reading. Anything that requires a scholarly intuition to comprehend is not scriptural based.
  2. Mormons have further Testament of Jesus Christ in their Scriptures which were given to Joseph Smith.  Given that it came from autographs (Mormon condensed multiple autographs via inspiration and the Gift of Translation into a new autograph that became the Book of Mormon) and was translated once into English via the Gift of Translation by Joseph Smith, Mormons consider it to be the most authoritative scripture on earth.  Where it is supported by the Bible, the Bible is accepted.  Where the Bible contradicts The Book of Mormon, the Bible is considered corrupted.
  3. The Book of Mormon and other LDS Scripture and revelations strongly and definitively defy the Trinity concept.

There are some who read the Book of Mormon and claim that it supports the Trinity or that Mormons are polytheistic (believing in multiple Gods).  This is an incorrect conclusion born out of many things but, Mormons believe that God is the Father, Jesus Christ is His Son and the Holy Ghost is another Spirit.  The Godhead is three separate and unique individuals, not some convoluted and schizophrenic three personalities in one being who talks to itself, prays to itself and ascends to itself.

The Bible is flawed, parts of the Gospel have been removed, corrupted and changed through the flaws of men over time.

The Gospel comes through the scriptures, not the agreed on interpretation of a group of men with questionable ethics.

Given the state of The Bible, the only way to have the fullness of The Gospel is for it to be restored to men through divine intervention.  And so it has been.

This is the Mormon Gospel according to Prepper Phil.  He has no authority to teach or explain it to anyone.  The only authority on the internet for Mormon Doctrine is http://www.mormon.org

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