Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST), also called the Inspired Version of the Bible (I.V.), is a version of the Bible dictated by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. Smith considered this work to be "a branch of his calling" as a prophet. The work is the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) with some significant additions, clarifications, and revisions. It is a sacred text and is part of the canon of the Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), and other Latter Day Saint churches, but the majority of it is not a canonical text in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

Smith considered the translation necessary because of his view that the Bible was not always translated correctly, or contained interpolations by copyists. [ See The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints's "Articles of Faith", stating "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly."] But the work was not a literal translation from ancient documents, as the term translation is commonly used by scholars. Smith's "translation" of the Bible is a purportedly divinely-inspired rendering or restoration of the Bible to its original or intended meaning. According to LDS scholar Robert J. Matthews, the modifications made by Joseph Smith fall into one of four categories:
* "Restorations of content material once written by the biblical authors but since deleted from the Bible.
* "A record of actual historical events that were not recorded, or were recorded but never included in the biblical collection.
* "Inspired commentary by the Prophet Joseph Smith, enlarged, elaborated, and even adapted to a latter-day situation…
* "A harmonization of doctrinal concepts that were revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith independently of his translation of the Bible, but by means of which he was able to discover that a biblical passage was inaccurate."Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, a History and Commentary (1975), 253.]


Smith's work on the volume took place from about 1830 until his death in 1844, when he was preparing the manuscript for publication, but the bulk of the work took place from 1830 to 1833. In total, 3,410 Bible verses were in some way altered. There is some dispute among scholars as to whether Smith considered the translation to be complete and why he made changes to the manuscript as late as May 1844, a month prior to his death.

Smith's translation was a work in progress throughout his ministry. Some parts of the translation (parts of Genesis and the four Gospels) were dictated from beginning to end, including unchanged verses from the KJV; some parts were dictated more than once, and other parts were revised one verse at a time. The manuscripts were written, re-written, and in some cases, additional edits were written in the columns, pinned to the paper or otherwise attached. Smith relied on a version of the Bible that included the Apocrypha, and marked off the Bible as verses were examined (the Apocrypha was not translated). Skeptics view this nonlinearity as evidence that Smith's translation was not inspired; however, Latter Day Saints see Smith's translation as representing a gradual, developing inspiration.

It is unlikely that Smith's process of receiving "revealed text" was the same for this volume as it was for his earlier translation, The Book of Mormon, and his later translation, The Book of Abraham. These other works were dictated much more quickly from beginning to end, with little revision, and they were purportedly based on original ancient documents — metal plates and papyrus. Smith described using a seer stone,Fact|date=September 2008 or a set of seer stones which were called the Urim and Thummim to translate hidden ancient documents written in hieroglyphics. According to most accounts, however, most of the translation of the Bible took place without any physical media, but by direct revelation through the Holy Spirit.Fact|date=February 2007


Several criticsFact|date=August 2008 and linguistsFact|date=August 2008 have noted areas where the translation appears to have been faulty. For example Smith's translation of Mark 13:22 (appearing in the JST at Mark 15:25) states: "...Golgotha, which is, (being interpreted,) The place of a burial." However, the word Golgotha is an Aramaic word which means "place of the skull". [See review of linguistic problems by Richard Packham at credibility|date=August 2008]

Doctrinal development

Many of Smith's revisions to the Bible led to significant developments in the doctrines of Mormonism.Fact|date=July 2007 During the process of translation, when he came across troubling Biblical issues, Smith often dictated revelations relevant to himself, his associates, or the church. About half of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants are in some way connected to this translation process, including background on the Apocrypha (LDS D&C [ section 91] RLDS D&C 88), the three degrees of glory (LDS section 76 RLDS Section 85), the eternal nature of marriage and plural marriage (LDS section 132), teachings on baptism for the dead (LDS section 124 RLDS Section 107), various revelations on priesthood (LDS sections 84, 88, 107 RLDS Sections 83 104) and others. In addition, many other works that have been considered canon by various Latter Day Saint faiths, including the Lectures on Faith and the Pearl of Great Price are largely the result of the translation.

Publication and use by the RLDS

Smith was killed prior to the publication of the translation. At the death of Joseph Smith Jr. the manuscripts and documents pertaining to the translation were retained by his widow, Emma Smith, who would not give them to the Quorum of the Twelve although Willard Richards, apparently acting on behalf of Brigham Young, requested the new translation from her. Consequently, when Young's followers moved to the Salt Lake Valley, they did so without the new translation of the Bible.

Following Joseph Smith's death, John Milton Bernhisel asked permission of Emma Smith to copy the notes that were made into his own Bible. He spent much of the spring of 1845 working on this project. The LDS Church has this in its offices in Salt Lake City, but it contains less than half of the corrections and is not suitable for publication. For many years the "Bernhisel Bible" was the only source for LDS Church members living in the Salt Lake Valley.

In 1866, Emma Smith gave the manuscripts into the custody of the RLDS church, to which she was a member and her son Joseph Smith III the prophet-president. In 1867 the RLDS published the first edition of the translation and obtained a copyright for it. The RLDS Church (now Community of Christ) still retain the original manuscripts and is the sole publisher.

LDS View

The LDS Church does accept many of the changes as doctrinally significant. However, over 600 [Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, Scott H. Faulring, editors, "Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts", (Deseret Book Company, 2004): 39.] of the more doctrinally significant verses from the translation are included as excerpts in the current LDS Church edition of the King James Version of the Bible.

Because the translation was published by the RLDS church, LDS have questioned whether it had been published accurately. However, research in the past few years with the original manuscripts has indicated that the Inspired Version of the Bible, published by the RLDS church, is an accurate representation of the sense of the original manuscripts prepared by Joseph Smith and his scribes. Furthermore, it seems to be increasing in use and acceptance in LDS churches today. An official editorial of the Church News, dated December 7, 1974, contained these words:

“The Inspired Version does not supplant the King James Version as the official Church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages." … [cite journal|author=Matthews, Robert J.|authorlink=Robert J. Matthews|title=Why don’t we use the Inspired Version of the Bible in the Church? Would it be helpful to me to read it?|work=Q&A: Questions and Answers|journal=New Era|date=April 1977|pages=46-47|url=]

The book "Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts" was a culmination of ten years of joint research from both Community of Christ and LDS Church scholars, showing all of the known changes, notes and marks in margins and additional notes that were pinned on the pages of the manuscripts and Bible that were used.

Regarding the Joseph Smith Translation, Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "The Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version, is a thousand times over the best Bible now existing on earth". [cite journal|author=Skinner, Andrew C.|authorlink=Andrew C. Skinner|title=Restored Light on the Savior's Last Week in Mortality|journal=Ensign|date=June 1999|pages=21|url=|accessdate=2008-09-22]



*"Joseph Smith's "New Translation" of the Bible", Herald Publishing House, 1970; ISBN 0-8309-0032-2 (all JS changes or additions to King James version shown in parallel columns - not the complete Bible)
* Robert J. Matthews, "A Plainer Translation:" Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary", Brigham Young University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8425-2237-9
* Robert L. Millet and Robert J. Matthews, "Plain and Precious Truths Restored: The Doctrinal and Historical Significance of the Joseph Smith Translation", Bookcraft 1995. ISBN 0-88494-987-7
*Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, Scott H. Faulring, editors, "Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts", Deseret Book Company, 2004. ISBN 1-59038-328-1

External links

* [ Full text of the Community of Christ's Inspired Version of the Bible]
* [ Summary of Joseph Smith Translation footnotes in the LDS Bible]
* [ Joseph Smith Translation in LDS Guide to the Scriptures] - From The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints official website
* [ The Joseph Smith Translation for the e-Sword Bible program.]
* [ "The Joseph Smith Translation: “Plain and Precious Things” Restored"] by David Rolph Seely

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