Changed LDS Scripture/Part 21

By: Marvin W. Cowan; ©2011
Does the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible really clarify scripture and restore the “many important points touching the salvation of men” that Smith said had been “taken from the Bible or lost before it was compiled” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 10-11)? In this article, changes to the account of Jesus’ temptation and to The Beatitudes.

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Matthew 4:1-5:12

Does the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of the Bible really clarify scripture and restore the “many important points touching the salvation of men” that Smith said had been “taken from the Bible or lost before it was compiled” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 10-11)? We will consider those questions as we discuss Smith’s changes in his JST version of the New Testament. Matthew 3 in the JST contains all of Matthew 2 and 3 in the KJV and other Bibles, so Matthew 4 begins at the same place in both the JST and other Bibles. But Matthew 4:1-2 in the JST says, “Then Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be with God. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered, and was left to be tempted of the devil.” No real translation of this text says that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness “to be with God.” All real translations of this text say that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The writer of Hebrews 4:15 probably had that in mind when he said, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

Matthew 4:5 in the JST also says, “Then Jesus was taken up into the holy city, and the Spirit setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple.” But all real translations of this text state that “the devil, not the Spirit, took Jesus into the holy city and sat him on the pinnacle of the temple. Matthew 4:8 in the JST says, “And again, Jesus was in the Spirit, and it taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.” But real translations of this verse say that it was “the devil” that took Jesus up into a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. The original Greek words for “Spirit” and “devil” are very different words and couldn’t possibly be confused. The entire context makes it clear that it was the devil working on Jesus in this context, not the Spirit.

Immediately after the devil left Jesus, Matthew 4:11 says that “angels came and ministered to him.” But at the end of Matthew 4:10 in Smith’s JST it says, “Then the devil leaveth him,” but there is no mention of angels ministering to Jesus! However, the JST of Matthew 4:11 says, “And now Jesus knew that John (the Baptist) was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and they came and ministered unto him” (John). Matthew 4:12 in real Bibles simply says, “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee.” It actually looks like when Smith was “translating” this passage from his King James Version of the Bible, he put the angels in the wrong verse with the wrong person!

Matthew 4:18-19 in the JST embellishes what is in Matthew 4:19-20 in the KJV and other Bibles. It says, “And he said unto them, I am he of whom it is written by the prophets; follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they, believing on his words, left their net, and straightway followed him.” There is no original document that supports Jesus teaching this early in His ministry that He was the One that the prophets wrote about. And while one could easily assume those disciples believed His words, the text doesn’t say that. Nor does the original text of Matthew 4:23 in the KJV and other translations say that Jesus only healed those who believed on His name as the JST says in Matthew 4:22.

Matthew 5 through 7 contains Jesus’ well-known Sermon on the Mount. “The Beatitudes” are in Matthew 5:1-12 in the KJV and other translations, but The Beatitudes are in Matthew 5:1-14 in the JST because it added more content in Matthew 5:3-4. Those two verses in the JST say, “Blessed are they who shall believe on me: and again, more blessed are they who shall believe on your words, when ye shall testify that ye have seen me and that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe on your words, and come down into the depth of humility, and be baptized in my name: for they shall be visited with fire and the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.” No original Greek manuscripts support the JST of those verses in Matthew 5.

It is interesting to note that III Nephi 12-14 in the Book of Mormon also contains Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 in the JST is the same as the KJV but they are not the same in the Book of Mormon version of that Sermon. However, most of III Nephi 12:2 in the Book of Mormon is in Matthew 5:4 of the JST. Keep in mind that the Book of Mormon was completed before Smith began to “translate” the JST. Beginning in Matthew 5:5 in the JST, Smith copied his Book of Mormon version of The Beatitudes into the JST. For example, Matthew 5:5 in the JST and III Nephi 12:3 both say, “Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit, who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The italicized words aren’t in the KJV or any real translation of this verse. Every verse in Matthew 5:6-13 in the JST begins with “And” except for verse 12, but in the KJV they all begin with “Blessed.” Third Nephi 12:4-11 in the Book of Mormon has the same content as the JST of Matthew 5:6-13 and all of those verses also begin with “And,” including verse 10, which is the same as Matthew 5:12 in the JST.

There are many more changes like these in the JST of The Beatitudes. But do Smith’s additions to his JST Bible really help clarify or restore the “many points touching the salvation of men” that he claimed had been taken out of the Bible or lost before it was compiled? Smith gave those as reasons why the Bible needed to be revised or re-translated.

More can be read on this subject in Joseph Smith’s Revision of the Bible, by Richard Matthews, published by BYU in 1969. We will continue our study of the JST New Testament next time.

Read Part 22

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