Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Book of Mormon 16/18

Another thing that causes me to doubt the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient American document is that it quotes or alludes to parts of the Bible that were written after Lehi left the land of Jerusalem and went to America. There are far too many of them to list, so I'll only list a few. If you're fairly familiar with the Bible, I recommend reading the BOM, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

2 Nephi 6:5-8:25 (and other places, e.g. Mosiah 14:1ff) quote from Second Isaiah (i.e. Isaiah 40-55), saying, "And there are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel. And now, these are the words..." In all fairness, there's dispute about when Second Isaiah was written. The more conservative scholars will say it was written before the exile by Isaiah himself, but most people think it was written during the exile by somebody other than the Isaiah of First Isaiah (i.e. Isaiah 1-39). I'm not sure myself, but I lean toward the majority.

2 Nephi 2:5 says, "And by the law no flesh is justified," which is just what Paul said in Romans 3:20.

Alma 5:38-39 says, "Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd. And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold." This passage is a clear allusion to the parable of the good shepherd in John 10.

Alma 5:52 says, "And again I say unto you, the Spirit saith: Behold, the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire." John the Baptist said the same sort of thing in Luke 3:9.

Alma 19:10 says, "And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites." That's an allusion to Luke 7:9 where Jesus says, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith."

Alma 26:12 says, "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." Alma is alluding to Philippians 4:13 which says, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me," and 2 Corinthians 10:17 which says, "But he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord" and 2 Corinthians 12:5-10 where Paul talks about the thorn in his flesh.

Alma 38:13 says, "Do not pray as the Zoramites do, for ye have seen that they pray to be heard of men, and to be praised for their wisdom." In Matthew 6:5, Jesus said, "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full."

Mormon 9:27 says to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him," which is just what Paul said in Philippians 2:12.

In Ether 8:10ff there a story that closely parallels the story in Mark 6 about the beheading of John the Baptist.

Ether 12:6 says, "faith is things which are hoped for and not seen," which comes from Hebrews 11:1, and the rest of Ether 12 parallels the discourse on faith in Hebrews 11.

Moroni 7:45 says, "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." That comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which says in the KJV, "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."

Moroni 10:8-17 comes from 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. It says, "And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. For behold, to one is given by the Spirit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom; And to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same spirit...And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of diverse kinds of tongues. And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will."

Dagoods asked me a while back what criteria I would use to determine whether there was a dependence between sources. I didn't have a clear set of criteria, but one criteria I said I think establishes a literary dependence is the use of exact wording. But these parallels in the BOM are enough to convince me that there was a literary dependence. The BOM obviously borrows from the New Testament which, if the story is true, the authors of the BOM could not have possibly been familiar with. That leads me to believe the BOM is not a translation of an ancient document, but was a document written by somebody who was familiar with the New Testament--somebody like Joseph Smith and his friends.

Part 17


At 7/16/2009 12:34 PM , Blogger Paul said...

Well, I guess it could mean that the Holy Spirit inspired the very words and phrases of both the BoM and Bible, and that He chose to use the exact same content in each. Of course, that would mean that the Bible is pretty well preserved and thus authoritative, but it contains material that is not so friendly to Mormon theology. Also, that wouldn't explain any record of events that mirror those in the Bible.

One thing I notice when I read the work of Smith is that most everything he said was a pastiche of Biblical quotes that are repurposed for his own contexts. I would hope for more original material if latter day prophecy is necessary. As it is, he sounds more like a modern preacher with no theological training.

Another thing I notice is that the BoM can be very cliché and tiresome in its language. One can only take so much of "behold" and "it came to pass." Here is a random example. Mark Twain had this to say on the issue (which I just now discovered):

Wherever [Joseph Smith] found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as ‘exceeding sore,’ ‘and it came to pass,’ etc., and made things satisfactory again. ‘And it came to pass’ was his pet. If he had left that out, his bible would have been only a pamphlet.

At 7/17/2009 9:28 AM , Blogger DagoodS said...


Thanks for the mention! Two of MacDonald’s criteria include accessibility (as in how common the original work was—the author’s ability to access that work) and similar words. MacDonald is careful to note, similar words such as “he said” or “they went’ are not part of the criteria, but distinctive words in distinctive order.

Your example of Moroni’s recitation on love using the same words, in the same order as 1 Corinthians, is exactly what he means.


I am glad I am not the only one getting tired of “And it came to pass.” When the author starts three verses in a row that way--it gets to be too much.

And this may be a bit off-topic, but I also get tired of hearing how awful and bad and terrible the people are, without any real examples. Not that I am looking for gritty details, or a smut novel, but there seems to be no specificity, allowing a great deal of openness for interpretation. The broad, “You’ve been bad; now follow God’s law” without specificity as to what “bad” was or the specific “law” they were to follow.

At 7/20/2009 10:48 PM , Blogger Sam said...

In the article, "The Original Language of the Book of Mormon," published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/1, 1994, Royal Skousen defended the BOM's frequent use of the phrase, "and it came to pass," on the basis that the Hebrew word for it (wayehi) occurs frequently in the KJV, too, but is just not translated that way in every case because the KJV translators found it redundant and unnecessary. He claims that the BOM is a more literal translation, so it translates the word more frequently.

Thomas J. Finley, in his article, "Does the Book of Mormon Reflect an Ancient Near Eastern Background?" published in The New Mormon Challenge, responded by saying that wayehi has two different meanings, and that's why it isn't always translated as "and it came to pass" in the KJV.

At 9/10/2009 2:55 PM , Blogger Tyson said...

Didn't Paul teach one Lord and one faith.

Certainly if the Lord will reveal his words to his servants....those words should be the same or very similar to each other in comparison.

I've read through your posts and find it interesting that you don't mention much about the principals and teachings of Christ found in the Book of Mormon. Your approach seems to have been focus primarily on veracity of the Book of Mormon by means of historical, archeological, or lingusitic evidences. Both sides can obviously be argued in these terms. However, the spiritual side seems to have been ignored. This is why the "Bishop" was interested in how you felt as you read it. He was questioning if your heart burned like those on the road with the Savior after his resurection. The Holy Ghost often instructs and inspires us through our emotions. Then as an individual spiritual progresses in faith, that faith is confirmed by other means.

At 9/10/2009 4:45 PM , Blogger Sam said...

Tyson, if the BOM gave similar lessons and such, I wouldn't have a problem with the similarities between the BOM and the Bible. If it truly is the word of God, I would expect there to be similarities. The reason I think it's obvious that the BOM borrows from the New Testament is because the use of exact wording. When you read the different books in the Bible, you notice that the different authors had different writing styles and different vocabularies, which demonstrates that they were writing the Bible in their own words. So we should not expect the authors of the BOM to use the exact same wording as the New Testament when talking about the same subjects.

I didn't focus teachings of the BOM because I don't have a problem with most of them. I focused on the veracity of the BOM because it's relevant to the credibility of Joseph Smith, which in term is relevant to the credibility of the LDS Church.

I have no reason to think the Holy Spirit communicates to us through our emotions. In fact, the Bible warns us against trusting our emotions.


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