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Wikipedia: Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible
Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, also called the Inspired Version of the Bible or the JST, is a version of the Bible dictated by Joseph Smith, Jr The work is similar to the King James Version of the Bible, but with more modernized language and some significant additions, clarifications, and revisions. It is a sacred text in Mormonism, and part of the canon of the Community of Christ. Smith considered this work to be "a branch of his calling" as a prophet.

Smith considered the translation necessary because of his view that the Bible was not always translated correctly, or contained interpolations by copyists. (See\ Smith's "Articles of Faith", stating "We believe in the Bible as far as it is translated correctly.") The work, however, was not a literal "translation" from ancient documents, but rather a purportedly inspired "rendering" or "restoration" of the Bible to its original or intended meaning. Smith's work on the volume took place from about 1830 until Smith's death in 1844 when he was preparing the manuscript for publication. The bulk of the work took place from 1830-1833, and 3410 Bible verses were in some way altered. There is some dispute among scholars as to whether Smith considered the translation to be complete and to why he made changes to the manuscript as late as May 1844, a month prior to his death.

Process of translation

Smith's translation was a work in progress. 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; 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 a gradual, developing inspiration with Smith's mind.

It is possible, but not certain, that Smith's process of receiving "revealed text" is the same for this volume as it was for his earlier work, The Book of Mormon, and his later work, The Book of Abraham; however, these other works appear to have been dictated from beginning to end with little revision, and they purportedly based on an original ancient document. To translate, he may have used a seer stone in a hat, or a purported set of seer stones set in the form of spectacles which he called the Urim and Thummim. According to most accounts, however, most of the translation took place without any physical mediums, but by direct revelation through the Holy Spirit.

Content of the translation

The majority of corrections are minor clarifying statements and language modernization. In some instances, these minor changes seem to coincide with the Septuagint, recent discoveries in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hamadi texts, other translations of the Bible, and other ancient documents not available to Smith. This fact has been used by Latter Day Saints as evidence Smith was inspired. On the other hand, skeptics suggest that Smith may have had access to traditions that would have led to some of his "correct guesswork," and point to the fact that some lengthy changes, such as the prophecies of Moses are not included anywhere in any known documents, traditions or other accounts. Some Latter-day Saint Scholars point to similarities of the prophecies of Enoch and Joseph (one of the twelve sons of Jacob or Israel) to Kabbalistic, Masonic and (Egyptian) Gnostic traditions as evidence of Smith's inspiration.

Many of Smith's revisions to the Bible led to significant developments in the doctrines of Mormonism. 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), the Three Degrees of Heaven (LDS section 76), the Eternal nature of marriage and plural marriage (Latter-day Saint) (LDS section 132), teachings on baptism for the dead (LDS section 124), various revelations on priesthood (LDS sections 84, 88, 107) 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.

For some of Smith's revisions, critics argue that the change has more to do with supporting Latter Day Saint theology, than with restoring original meaning or intent. For example, one of Smith's revisions includes a prophesy about Joseph Smith himself.

Publication and use

Smith was killed prior to the publication of the translation, and he led some early Latter Day Saint leaders to believe that he was not finished with his inspired translation. In addition, there is some evidence the Smith's wife Emma and others may have removed Smith's references to plural marriage to protect his character. This may have done by Community of Christ leaders in the 1860s, prior to their first publication of the work in 1867, however, most scholars believe the bulk of the translation is as Smith intended. However, possibly because of these uncertainties, and the fact that the Community of Christ owned the original copyright on the work, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not accept the work as part of its canon, as does the Community of Christ. However, the Latter-day Saint church does accept many of the changes as doctrinally significant. Many of the more doctrinally significant passages are included as footnotes in the current LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible.

The Community of Christ, formerly the RLDS church, has published the results of Smith's translation, called the 'Inspired Version' of the bible. As stated previously, around 1000 excerpts from the translation is included in footnotes in the current LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible. Most scholars believe that the Inspired Version as published by the Community of Christ Church is accurate in its publication of the manuscripts, although it generally does not include most of Smith’s later changes.

Additional Resources


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