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A Bible! A Bible! How Would Js Hide A Bible?


DonBradley

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It's long been argued, and I believe, that Joseph Smith dictated the biblical portions of the Book of Mormon directly from an open King James Bible in front of him.

This explanation is backed up by the Book of Mormon's perpetuation of a number of translation and transmission errors of the KJV, and by Book of Mormon Isaiah's apparent reaction to the KJV italics--disproportionally modifying the italicized words.

An interesting question, though, and one I might pose as a devil's (angel's?) advocate, is how would Joseph Smith have pulled this off? While it decidedly seems to me from the BoM's incorporation of KJV error and reaction to KJV italics that an open Bible was used, I'm puzzled as to just how Joseph Smith would have used one without arousing suspicion about the translation process as a whole.

One possibility is, of course, that he somehow hid a Bible and dictated from it without his scribes knowing. While this is the first possibility that presents itself to my mind, I find it extremely unlikely. An ordinary Bible would have been much too large to place in a hat, and difficult to read in the darkness of a hat as well! Smith would have also had to worry about the sound of the turning pages, which I doubt he could consistently conceal from a scribe sitting just a few feet away.

One author has suggested that Joseph Smith used notes and torn-out book pages, hiding them in his hat, into which he had conveniently cut slits to admit light. While experment might be done to test the feasibility of such a feat, I find the hypothesis unlikely from the outset. Smith would still have faced the difficulty of concealing such papers across a period of months, and of the sounds of uncrinkling paper. He would also have needed to conceal such pages, and the books from which they came from Emma, scribes and translation witnesses, and any other housemates or visitors. While all this is possible, it strikes me as quite improbable.

To pull this off, Joseph Smith would have also needed to basically have money, and therefore Bibles, to burn. Bibles were not inordinately expensive, but the Smiths were unusually poor.

If Joseph Smith didn't hide a Bible, or torn pages from one, then he would have had to use one in plain sight. The difficulty with this is the doubt it might cast on his translation claims. All sources within the first sixty years of the Book of Mormon's translation report that it was effected visually--that Joseph Smith actually saw the translation in his seerstone. Given such an understood mode of translation, it would seem very odd, to say the least, for him to have turned from reading the words on the stone to reading those in a nearby Bible every time there was a lengthy biblical quote. In the absence of a powerful rationalization for them, such actions would have raised suspicion in the minds of intelligent persons. The scribes and observers accepting such a process as a matter of course would need to be either co-conspirators or gullible bumpkins--and I don't believe they were either!

So, the only remaining naturalistic explanation I can see is that Joseph Smith did present his scribes and observers with a compelling reason why he should draw biblical material from a King James Bible instead of the seerstone. What reasons might have been compelling in the translation context? Anyone willing to hazard a hypothesis or guess?

Don

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Joseph saw everything in \"Vision\". Since that is the case, when he saw the Word of God before him, it was as he knew and could translate. Since he had already read the KJV, the KJV is how he saw much of the text. The fact that the Book of Mormon is also in KJV language style testifies that his visions came to him and were translated according to his own experience and understanding. So, the argument that the Book of Mormon resembles his surroundings and such, is one of \"like duh\".

Every scripture revealed to man was done so through the man that received it, and is thus colored thereby. Not to mention Biblical wise including all the translators/transcriber\'s etc. since the first pen to paper. Nothing is \"perfect\".

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Could he have memorized the text? I've known people who have memorized large portions of text. BTW, what exactly in Isaiah is in the BOM?

Joseph would also have needed to memorize which words were italicized, if some of the theories regarding the KJV quotes are accurate.

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While transcribing, he reportedly sat behind a curtain and looked at the plates through the Urim and Thummim, passing the written transcriptions to Emma, who was sitting on the other side of the curtain (Howe, Eber Dudley, Mormonism Unvailed, Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press. 1834, pp. 270–271).

Lehi

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Are there any diary entries from around the time of the translation of the Isiah portions?

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Lehi,

If I'm not mistaken, he only sat behind a curtain at the beginning of the process, when Martin Harris was his scribe.

I have often promoted an automatic writing hypothesis, in which case JS recalled large quantities of the KJV text that he had never consciously memorized. The trouble with this, of course, is that modifications of the KJV appear to be italics-associated, which suggests a very deliberate modification process. Perhaps he possessed a photographic memory. Can anyone think of any other evidence for JS having a photographic memory?

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Lehi,

If I'm not mistaken, he only sat behind a curtain at the beginning of the process, when Martin Harris was his scribe.

I have often promoted an automatic writing hypothesis, in which case JS recalled large quantities of the KJV text that he had never consciously memorized. The trouble with this, of course, is that modifications of the KJV appear to be italics-associated, which suggests a very deliberate modification process. Perhaps he possessed a photographic memory. Can anyone think of any other evidence for JS having a photographic memory?

Why worry about evidence? Just make up whatever story speculation leads you into. If the accounts of those who actually assisted JS with the translation process aren't sufficient to expose JS then just throw in a few maybies , mays and mights and you have all the evidence your heart could desire.

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A very interesting question. I would like to discuss the circumstances that would be necessary had Smith used a Bible during the translation without others knowing. If this were the case and he had not hid a Bible for his use (which may have been possible only with Martin Harris and maybe Emma), Smith would necessarily have done some of the translation while there was no one else present. I am not familiar enough with the details of the translation to know whether or not it is said that someone was there with Smith at every moment of the process, but whether or not this is claimed, it could still have occurred. Anyone care to comment on this possibility?

I know I may differ from many of the others on this board, but I have for a while considered those who assisted Smith most closely to be "co-conspirators or gullible bumpkins" (from the opening post of this thread). This is not simply because they went along with Smith, but because of what I have seen regarding how they lived their lives in general (leaving Smith, because they thought he had "gone astray" and another man was now the chosen prophet, etc.). I can not see any of their behaviors as intelligent. Of course, I am generalizing with a group of sufficient size that I should not generalize so, but that does not really matter in this case. What does matter is that this COULD be the case and would open up many more possibilities for explaining the current issue. So in order to answer the present question, we must address whether or not they were idiots or accomplices.

I think that the best way to address this is to look at the possibilities as a tree. Either Joseph Smith read the passages from a Bible while he was making the BoM manuscript or he did not. Each of those options, in turn can be broken down further into branches of a similar structure. In this way we can see all of the possible explanations and rule them out one by one. I have just proposed two branches that deserve extensive scrutiny. If anyone would like to propose others (although we would probably all get bored with this before any one of us actually finished researching every branch), they should do so. In the mean time, I would appreciate thoughts on behind-the-scenes translating and disciples' idiocy as discussed above.

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Why worry about evidence? Just make up whatever story speculation leads you into. If the accounts of those who actually assisted JS with the translation process aren't sufficient to expose JS then just throw in a few maybies , mays and mights and you have all the evidence your heart could desire.

Stab, stab, stab... too bad for you that nonsense can't actually hurt anyone.

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Stab, stab, stab... too bad for you that nonsense can't actually hurt anyone.

What makes you think that I have any desire to hurt anyone?

This whole thread is nothing but speculation as to how JS translated while incorporating the biblical texts. If you want to spend your time in fruitless musing , muse away. Conjure up any possiblity you might desire to bring Old Joe down to size to your heart's content. But , don't pretend that you are saying anything of genuine importance

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Nothing of importance? Really? The process by which a book that is held sacred by millions and mocked the world over came to be is not important? The very issue that caused me to stop being LDS (and, hence, make some of the most substantial changes of my life) is not important? You don't have to discuss it.

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If it was memorization he botched it badly. There are changes in far too many verses.

Yeah, but that would be reasonable with memorizing that much text. This would especially be the case if he were not inspired by God, but I know there are some who would argue that he could stil be inspired even under those circumstances. I believe it wouldn't work out though, because that would destroy any purported dichotomy between the accuracies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

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Yeah, but that would be reasonable with memorizing that much text. This would especially be the case if he were not inspired by God, but I know there are some who would argue that he could stil be inspired even under those circumstances. I believe it wouldn't work out though, because that would destroy any purported dichotomy between the accuracies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

It would also depend rather heavily on how much the Brass Plates text matched up with the much later texts from which the Bible was derived. There is a rather substantial age gap.

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Nothing of importance? Really? The process by which a book that is held sacred by millions and mocked the world over came to be is not important? The very issue that caused me to stop being LDS (and, hence, make some of the most substantial changes of my life) is not important? You don't have to discuss it.

Sir , the reasons you left are of obvious importance to you. That doesn't make them valid , as far as the question of how JS incorporated the biblical texts into the translation.

There are eyewitness accounts , by people who were actually with JS when he was engaged in the translation process. We have their accounts. What did they say about how JS used the bible in the translation process?

Their accounts are far more probative than mere speculation about how JS might have torn out pages from the bible and secreted them in his hat or how JS could have had a photographic memory or maybe he used a hidden bible he kept secreted from the scribes in the room with him. Do you see the difference between drawing conclusions about the translation process from the accounts of the scribes who assisted JS in the translation process vs. personal speculation on matters of translation where the scribes were silent or even explicitly denied that JS used a bible at all in the translation process?

While such speculation may be an interesting thought exercise it ought not be treated as anything of evidentiary value as to JS's legitimacy as a translator.

To Don's credit , after laying out his speculative proposition he questioned how such a thing could have taken place and listed some of the difficulties with the proposition.

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It's long been argued, and I believe, that Joseph Smith dictated the biblical portions of the Book of Mormon directly from an open King James Bible in front of him.

This explanation is backed up by the Book of Mormon's perpetuation of a number of translation and transmission errors of the KJV, and by Book of Mormon Isaiah's apparent reaction to the KJV italics--disproportionally modifying the italicized words.

I recently read an interview online - given by Oliver Cowdery. I just tried to find it again, but it will take more searching. In summary, Cowdery was questioned about the "translation" process. The interesting addition in this interview was that he stated Joseph sometimes dictated to him from another room.

Uncle Dale would know more about this, and I will have to search his websites to see if I read it there. But if this is true ....

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It's long been argued, and I believe, that Joseph Smith dictated the biblical portions of the Book of Mormon directly from an open King James Bible in front of him.

This explanation is backed up by the Book of Mormon's perpetuation of a number of translation and transmission errors of the KJV, and by Book of Mormon Isaiah's apparent reaction to the KJV italics--disproportionally modifying the italicized words.

An interesting question, though, and one I might pose as a devil's (angel's?) advocate, is how would Joseph Smith have pulled this off? While it decidedly seems to me from the BoM's incorporation of KJV error and reaction to KJV italics that an open Bible was used, I'm puzzled as to just how Joseph Smith would have used one without arousing suspicion about the translation process as a whole.

One possibility is, of course, that he somehow hid a Bible and dictated from it without his scribes knowing. While this is the first possibility that presents itself to my mind, I find it extremely unlikely. An ordinary Bible would have been much too large to place in a hat, and difficult to read in the darkness of a hat as well! Smith would have also had to worry about the sound of the turning pages, which I doubt he could consistently conceal from a scribe sitting just a few feet away.

One author has suggested that Joseph Smith used notes and torn-out book pages, hiding them in his hat, into which he had conveniently cut slits to admit light. While experment might be done to test the feasibility of such a feat, I find the hypothesis unlikely from the outset. Smith would still have faced the difficulty of concealing such papers across a period of months, and of the sounds of uncrinkling paper. He would also have needed to conceal such pages, and the books from which they came from Emma, scribes and translation witnesses, and any other housemates or visitors. While all this is possible, it strikes me as quite improbable.

To pull this off, Joseph Smith would have also needed to basically have money, and therefore Bibles, to burn. Bibles were not inordinately expensive, but the Smiths were unusually poor.

If Joseph Smith didn't hide a Bible, or torn pages from one, then he would have had to use one in plain sight. The difficulty with this is the doubt it might cast on his translation claims. All sources within the first sixty years of the Book of Mormon's translation report that it was effected visually--that Joseph Smith actually saw the translation in his seerstone. Given such an understood mode of translation, it would seem very odd, to say the least, for him to have turned from reading the words on the stone to reading those in a nearby Bible every time there was a lengthy biblical quote. In the absence of a powerful rationalization for them, such actions would have raised suspicion in the minds of intelligent persons. The scribes and observers accepting such a process as a matter of course would need to be either co-conspirators or gullible bumpkins--and I don't believe they were either!

So, the only remaining naturalistic explanation I can see is that Joseph Smith did present his scribes and observers with a compelling reason why he should draw biblical material from a King James Bible instead of the seerstone. What reasons might have been compelling in the translation context? Anyone willing to hazard a hypothesis or guess?

Don

Don , I found this from Michael Ash which seems to cover the matter at length.

http://www.mormonfortress.com/bible2.html

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Don , I found this from Michael Ash which seems to cover the matter at length.

http://www.mormonfortress.com/bible2.html

Ed,

Thanks for the heads up on Mike's article. He has obviously done a fair amount of "homework." It would be very convenient for me if Mike had covered the issue comprehensively, but he has not.

Here a few things I see that Mike has overlooked:

First, the notion that Joseph Smith used a Bible in the translation is not a criticism. It was proposed over a century ago by LDS General Authority B. H. Roberts.

Second, translation and transmission errors of the King James Version are perpetuated in the Book of Mormon. This has been extensively documented by David P. Wright in his paper in American Apocrypha. Some of these errors have been acknowledged by LDS scholar John Tvedtnes in his lengthy review of BoM Isaiah variants.

Third, despite disclaimers to the contrary, the italics are an obvious issue. The research papers cited by Royal Skousen show that about 40% of the variants in Book of Mormon Isaiah are at the italicized portions of the KJV text. Since only approximately 2% of the total KJV Isaiah text is italicized, variants occur at these points at a rate 20 times that expected by chance, indicating a clear relationship between italics and variants. Notably, Tvedtnes again acknowledges the BoM text's reaction to some of the KJV italics.

Fourth, none of the translation witnesses deny Joseph Smith's use of a Bible--none of them comment on it at all. The witnesses state that Joseph Smith used the seerstone, and read the translation from it. But this general method in no way precludes his having occasionally employed another. Only a fraction of the Book of Mormon text (I believe about 5%) is in the form of extensive biblical quotation, meaning that if Joseph Smith had used a KJV for these portions, he would still have used the seerstone 95% of the time. The latter method would thus be the one observed by most of the translation witnesses, and the one observed most even by those who did observe the occasional use of a Bible.

Only two of the translation witnesses comment on the possible use of a source text of any kind. Emma Smith states that her husband used no manuscript while she acted as his scribe. And David Whitmer, in response to the Spalding theory, states that Joseph Smith did not use a pre-written manuscript. Neither of these testimonies denies that Joseph Smith used a Bible. From the specifics of Emma's testimony, we learn that she was the scribe for the opening section of the lost Book of Lehi. Since we have no indication that this section included Bible quotations, there is no reason to see her testimony as precluding the use of a Bible for later portions of the manuscript dictated to other scribes. And David Whitmer explicitly addressed only Joseph Smith's use of a previously written manuscript, like the Spalding manuscript. This is unrelated to whether Smith employed a Bible in dictating the biblical sections of the Book of Mormon.

Other translation witnesses, including the scribe for the biblical portions of the Book of Mormon--Oliver Cowdery--simply left no testimony on the matter at all, leaving completely open the possibility that a Bible was used.

Given the Book of Mormon's reaction to the KJV italics, we would be driven to posit the use of a King James Bible even if the translation witnesses denied its use. But, in fact, they do not.

It's quite implausible to me that God would have so disproportionally tinkered with the KJV italics, and left in a number of KJV errors, while transmitting BoM Isaiah to Joseph Smith through the seerstone. So I, like B. H. Roberts, John Tvedtnes, and others, am stuck with Joseph Smith sometimes employing a King James Bible in the Book of Mormon dictation process. The question then becomes not if, but how. And that's the question that interests me here.

Regards,

Don

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If the scribes knew that JS was using an actual KJV Bible wouldn't they have said something? The more people you have in a conspiracy the harder it is to keep secret.

Tribunal,

I agree that large conspiracies become unmanageable. This is one reason I reject the Spalding theory. It's also a reason I don't think there was a conspiracy surrounding the translation of the plates or the Book of Mormon witness testimonies.

What I would question, though, is whether the translation witnesses would necessarily have felt they were part of a conspiracy if they didn't trumpet Joseph's use of a Bible. If they thought he used the Bible because he couldn't really translate and were perhaps sworn to secrecy, they'd plainly view themselves as part of conspiracy, and some of them would probably have eventually broken down and let out the secret. If, on the other hand, Joseph Smith had provided them a compelling rationale for his use of the Bible, even though he (reputedly) could translate, then they might not see the Bible use as a problem--and therefore not as something to either trumpet or keep "secret"--they just wouldn't talk about it unless the specific topic of Bible dependence came up.

My question is what kind of rationale would be so compelling.

Don

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Joseph saw everything in \"Vision\". Since that is the case, when he saw the Word of God before him, it was as he knew and could translate. Since he had already read the KJV, the KJV is how he saw much of the text. The fact that the Book of Mormon is also in KJV language style testifies that his visions came to him and were translated according to his own experience and understanding. So, the argument that the Book of Mormon resembles his surroundings and such, is one of \"like duh\".

Every scripture revealed to man was done so through the man that received it, and is thus colored thereby. Not to mention Biblical wise including all the translators/transcriber\'s etc. since the first pen to paper. Nothing is \"perfect\".

Familiarity with the KJV would not explain why a putative translation from ancient plates would contain KJV errors and react to KJV italics.

Don

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Could he have memorized the text? I've known people who have memorized large portions of text. BTW, what exactly in Isaiah is in the BOM?

About one third of the chapters of Isaiah are in the Book of Mormon.

While I do see evidence that Joseph Smith had a remarkable memory (hence the near constant use of biblical allusion in his sermons), I very much doubt that he had the ability to dictate from memory a few chapters of Isaiah at a time. No other evidence suggests that his memory was that good, and there is some occasional evidence in the Book of Mormon that the author forgot important information--which would seem inconsistent with this sort of preternatural memory. The memory theory also seems a poor fit for Smith's variation of the text at the KJV italics. To memorize the text and the position of the italics is a feat I cannot imagine Joseph Smith performing.

So, again, I think there must have been a Bible actually present at the biblical portions of the dictation.

Don

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