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Rob Bowman

JST: Restoring the original text, inspired commentary, or what?

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All,

I am curious to know what sorts of changes you think the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) makes to the text of the Bible. Are the changes:

* restorations of the original text

* clarifications of the original meaning

* commentaries that goes beyond what the original said or meant (a la "midrash" or "targum," as some have suggested)

* revisions or alterations of the text that depart from what the original meant

* something else (please specify)

* some combination of these types of changes (please specify which ones you think are included)

If you wish to cite examples that would be very helpful, especially if you think the JST includes more than one type of change.

I would also like to know if you think Joseph Smith intended to make these kinds of changes, or if he might have thought (at least at times) that he was making one sort of change when in fact he was making another.

Of course, I'd like to know if you think all of these changes were divinely inspired.

Finally, it's my understanding that the LDS Church has no official position as to what sort(s) of changes there are in the JST. Is that correct?

Thanks!

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On this topic, I have shared the following views on another site:

I cannot accept the work as a restoration of an original biblical text. Whatever we do with the JST, we cannot employ the Book of Moses in an effort to restore the earliest form of Genesis. When all is said and done, the Book of Moses is a 19th century revision of the KJV of the opening chapters of the Bible.

Taking the first two chapters of the book as a guide, Genesis begins with an amalgamation of two separate versions of creation, the second, which commences in Genesis 2:4b, actually predates and appears to have directly influenced the version that now opens the Bible with the famous clause,

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JST is inspired, but probably wasn't finished. Since Joseph didn't have any ancient manuscripts of the Bible, it would seem that he didn't actually do what we usually think of as translation. His definition of tranlation was quite a bit different. He was restoring lost truths that may or may not have been in originals and getting rid of errors. Some passages in the Old Testament (Moses 1, Enoch stuff) seem to be revealing things that actually happened but we did not know and may have never actually been written down in Genesis. That's my understanding anyways.

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I think all of those listed were a part of it.

My opinion is that it is, for the most part, an inspired Targum/Midrash, based on revelation and divine insight, intended to place new doctrines and practices into a familiar Biblical context, and to replace in some instances cultural elements and references that had no applicable meaning for the saints who would not understand without access to lots of ANE research (most of which wasn't even available then). In some cases, Joseph appears to attempt to clarify and expand an original unclear concept, and in others there was an unrelated teaching 'superimposed' on the context of ancient narrative. While in some cases literal ancient narratives and text may have been inserted, I think this is the exception rather than the rule. As David said above, the JST is not a place to look for the original autographs of the scriptures.

In some cases, where a scripture as presented contradicted current revealed understanding, it was revised to make it clear, in some cases stripping it of the historic ANE symbolism, and making it clear for the present day what was going on (such as the change the the Lord didn't harden Pharoah's heard, but he made the choice himself; The change of the covenant between Abraham and his servant being not hand on thigh, but hand in hand, etc, Satan not physically whisking the Savior away to the Temptation sites, but the spirit of the Lord doing so, etc)

When a new doctrine or paractice was introduced in the Church, a narrative concerning it found its way into the JST as a literay example of prescedence. (thus in the same month the Saints recieved the Law of the United Order, we find an expanded JST of Melchizedek acting in the role of High Priestly Keeper of the Storehouse (Bishop) , and Abraham obediently giving his tithing surplus to him).

In addition, Joseph also attempted to regularize/update grammar, to make the scriptures more 'reader friendly'.

I understand (and use) the JST not as a replacement for the Bible and its original texts and context, but as an inspired 'update' or companion to it - a work of Modern Revelation. Which is why it is published as footnotes and commentary to the official LDS version, and not as a replacement as the Official Bible (a la RLDS/Community of Christ).

It's a case where I agree with Elder McConkie's assertion in speaking of the differences between the early Genesis chapters in the Biblem and the JST: "both of them are true." He stated that John 1 in the Bible "is true," yet the JST gives it "an entirely new perspective."

This BYU paper has a very good discussion of the types of changes perceived.

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All,

I am curious to know what sorts of changes you think the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) makes to the text of the Bible. Are the changes:

* restorations of the original text

I believe that is the correct explanation of the JST. The Book of Mormon informs us that the New Testament in particular has had many of its "plain and precious" parts deliberately removed by evil persons with malicious intent. See 1 Nephi 13. The purpose of the JST was to restore many of those "plain and precious" parts. The JST is described throughout the Doctrine and Covenants as a "translation" (see D&C 37:1; D&C 41:7; D&C 45:61; D&C 73:3; D&C 93:53). So we have to take the Lord's words for it that that is exactly what it is.

* clarifications of the original meaning

* commentaries that goes beyond what the original said or meant (a la "midrash" or "targum," as some have suggested)

* revisions or alterations of the text that depart from what the original meant

* something else (please specify)

* some combination of these types of changes (please specify which ones you think are included)

A certain element of that is always involved in any translation. It is impossible to do a translation without some of those elements involved in it. If you look at the KJV, you will find many words printed in italics. Those were all words which were added by the translators which did not exist in the original text. So you can't do a translation without some of that being involved in it. But I beleive that the JST is essentially and primarily an (inspired) translation.

If you wish to cite examples that would be very helpful, especially if you think the JST includes more than one type of change.

I think the text bears witness that it is a translation. For example, there are many quotations in it direct from the Lord, which are not found in the New Testament. If those quotations were just inventions then it would be a falsehood. They are either literal translations or they are falsehoods. I believe they are translations.

I would also like to know if you think Joseph Smith intended to make these kinds of changes, or if he might have thought (at least at times) that he was making one sort of change when in fact he was making another.

That is out of the question! He knew what he was doing throughout the translation process.

Of course, I'd like to know if you think all of these changes were divinely inspired.

Absolutely! I have no doubts about that.

Finally, it's my understanding that the LDS Church has no official position as to what sort(s) of changes there are in the JST. Is that correct?

That is probably correct. I haven't come across any official statements that specifically answer your question.

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nackhadlow,

Thanks for your input. You wrote:

This BYU paper has a very good discussion of the types of changes perceived.

The link didn't work for me.

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I am curious to know what sorts of changes you think the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) makes to the text of the Bible. Are the changes:

* restorations of the original text

* clarifications of the original meaning

* commentaries that goes beyond what the original said or meant (a la "midrash" or "targum," as some have suggested)

* revisions or alterations of the text that depart from what the original meant

* something else (please specify)

* some combination of these types of changes (please specify which ones you think are included)

The Lord tells us in Heb 11:5 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death;

Was Enoch translated from Hebrew to English? Or does "translate" have more than one meaning. Perhaps translate means to bring from one level to a higher, more perfected level. Enoch was not resurrected, but changed into a more perfected state.

Thus, the JST is moving the text to a higher level of accuracy.

This does not answer you questions, but gives some context on what may be going on here. I think it was a combination of commentary and direct revelation. Perhaps I will be able to give specific examples in a later post.

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I'd really be interested in getting some additional responses from the LDS participants here. So far, the few that have responded have offered quite different answers.

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So far, the few that have responded have offered quite different answers.

Seems to me that Zerinus' response is the only one that differs in any substantial way.

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(merriam-webster.com)

Main Entry: trans

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I join those who suggest an "all of the above" approach. For the most part, though, I think it was mostly brand new material. And while I think Joseph was generally inspired as he did it, I don't necessarily believe all of it was inspired.

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I'm genuinely interested in the responses so far, but I would like to comment on two of them.

First, cdowis wrote:

The Lord tells us in Heb 11:5 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death;

Was Enoch translated from Hebrew to English? Or does "translate" have more than one meaning. Perhaps translate means to bring from one level to a higher, more perfected level. Enoch was not resurrected, but changed into a more perfected state.

Thus, the JST is moving the text to a higher level of accuracy.

Second, Vance wrote:

(merriam-webster.com) Main Entry: trans

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What both cdowis and Vance are doing here is selecting a definition or usage of the word translate or translation that is not normally associated with texts and applying it in that context in order to circumvent the obvious understanding of the word in such a context. This maneuver is linguistically fallacious. One cannot simply rifle through a list of definitions of a word and pick one that seems appealing or that gets you out of a jam.

Well, the truth is now out. You are not interested in the JST, but in an argument over apologetics.

I was not aware that I was "in a jam". I have a few ideas and specific examples, but that's not really what you are looking for. You want me to defend against some imaginary argument that you have concocted.

Well, Rob, if you want to conduct an apologetic argument -- attack and defend, then please let us know up front instead of some sneak attack.

My goodness, you really blind-sided us with that fake sincerity routine. Very skillfully done. You have learned your lessons well from your mentor, Hank. Perhaps he will take you back someday.

Hank, I hope you're watching. Your student is now becoming the teacher.

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It is interesting to note that one of the definitions in Webster's 1828 dictionary is simply "to explain". Which is exactly what Targums did. Yes, they changed the text from Hebrew to another language - like Aramaic - but with some fascinating independent interpretive emendations to 'explain' or 'make known the hidden meaning' , or simply just 'application' of the text. Such is the Talmudic view of what was going on in Nehemiah 8:8.

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What both cdowis and Vance are doing here is selecting a definition or usage of the word translate or translation that is not normally associated with texts and applying it in that context in order to circumvent the obvious understanding of the word in such a context. This maneuver is linguistically fallacious. One cannot simply rifle through a list of definitions of a word and pick one that seems appealing or that gets you out of a jam.

I gave you a valid definition of the word "translate" and why I think it applied. If you don't like it, feel free to translate yourself to where you can pound sand. :P

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THe JST is an inspired revision of the bible. I don't beleive it be a restoration of the text.

And the Joseph Smith Tranlsation is not a translation in the traditional sense, as what was the origianl source of what he translated. He didn't look at some old hebrew scrolls and try to translate them in the traditional sense of the word.

Therefore the word Translate does have a different deffition than that of the normal use of the word.

Conext does matter and the context does not suggest a normal usage of the word. Of course I am all open to the idea that you think it should be defined as such, Rob.

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I am also in the "all of the above" camp. Some portions are restorations of a narrative that was one time extent, others are clarifications, and some are simplifications of the text.

I think that Joseph knew what he was doing in each instance, but wasn't too concerned with making that clear to the reader. After all, he was being guided by the Spirit on all counts.

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I'm genuinely interested in the responses so far, but I would like to comment on two of them.

First, cdowis wrote:

Second, Vance wrote:

What both cdowis and Vance are doing here is selecting a definition or usage of the word translate or translation that is not normally associated with texts and applying it in that context in order to circumvent the obvious understanding of the word in such a context. This maneuver is linguistically fallacious. One cannot simply rifle through a list of definitions of a word and pick one that seems appealing or that gets you out of a jam.

For example, one of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of translate (1.b.) is "to convey to heaven or to a nontemporal condition without death." This is the meaning of the word as it is used in Hebrews 11:5 KJV. This clearly cannot be what is meant by Joseph Smith "translating" the Bible. Smith did not convey the Bible to heaven. The explanation that cdowis gives, "to bring from one level to a higher, more perfected level" is not an actual meaning or usage of the word translate. Definition 1.b. has reference specifically to something done to human beings, not to texts.

Vance commits the same fallacy when he quotes Merriam-Webster definition 1.a., "to bear, remove, or change from one place, state, form, or appearance to another." The synonyms the dictionary gives here are "transfer" and "transform," and its example is the expression "translate ideas into action." This definition also has nothing to do with translating texts.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary does give a definition pertaining to texts, under definition 2:

All of these closely related definitions have to do with language, whether oral or written, and are therefore all applicable to texts. But the other definitions are not applicable to texts.

Regrettably I am going to have to agree with you on that. Mormons are sometimes their own worst enemy when trying to "prove" their own religion.

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Charles,

There is no excuse for your comments. This is the "Mormon Apologetics & Discussion Board." I have already posted on this board a good many times, so no one here is unaware of the fact that I am an evangelical Christian apologist who is critical of the JST. You have known about me for years and so also were under no illusion. I am here using my real name and being quite transparent about what I believe and why.

Also, as you should know, Hank Hanegraaff was in no sense my mentor. I was involved in Christian apologetics for about fifteen years before I met Hank in 1990. I had been on the staff of the Christian Research Institute (CRI) for over six years before I met Hank, who had assumed the presidency of the organization in 1988 while I was living out of state but still on staff. When I met Hank, I had a Master's degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and was ABD in my PhD studies, had written numerous articles and other resources for CRI, had published two books with a third book at the publishers being processed, and had debated the best-known apologists at that time from the Jehovah's Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals. I was on staff after meeting Hank for only about a year and a half, when he terminated my employment at CRI via a fraudulent layoff.

I know it goes with the territory, but I tire of people making unfounded accusations instead of addressing the substantive issues.

Well, the truth is now out. You are not interested in the JST, but in an argument over apologetics.

I was not aware that I was "in a jam". I have a few ideas and specific examples, but that's not really what you are looking for. You want me to defend against some imaginary argument that you have concocted.

Well, Rob, if you want to conduct an apologetic argument -- attack and defend, then please let us know up front instead of some sneak attack.

My goodness, you really blind-sided us with that fake sincerity routine. Very skillfully done. You have learned your lessons well from your mentor, Hank. Perhaps he will take you back someday.

Hank, I hope you're watching. Your student is now becoming the teacher.

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I would now like to ask a follow-up question. Do you think that what Joseph Smith did when he "translated" the Bible (whatever you think that meant) is the same thing that he did when he "translated" the Book of Mormon?

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I would now like to ask a follow-up question. Do you think that what Joseph Smith did when he "translated" the Bible (whatever you think that meant) is the same thing that he did when he "translated" the Book of Mormon?

No.

Why do I say that?

Becuase the BoM was comming from an unknown script or a langauge that was, well.... unknown. From my understanding JS would see words appear on the "peep stone", and that would lead me to believe that it was word for word "translation".

The JST seems to be an inspired revision were he did not use an U&T or a peep stone during any of the so called translation. That to me suggest there is a difference.

Also I don't beleive that JS was using a text in Hebrew to translate the Bible.

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I think it's similar, actually. I think the BOM as we have it contains not only an ancient text, but also interpolated commentary and modern revelation interspersed within it. See here for an exploration of this concept.

Whereas Joseph has the physical KJV already in front of him for the JST, for the BoM, the source text was given fully and solely by inspiration. It may have been hard to discern what was 'new' revelation in response to questions as he 'read', and what was the original source text.

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Charles,

There is no excuse for your comments. This is the "Mormon Apologetics & Discussion Board." I have already posted on this board a good many times, so no one here is unaware of the fact that I am an evangelical Christian apologist who is critical of the JST.

You have known about me for years and so also were under no illusion. I am here using my real name and being quite transparent about what I believe and why.

I actually thought you were sincerely interested in what we thought about the JST.

Can you believe it?! What a fool I was!

Won't happen again. We can expect a fierce attack from you on anything that we post here, and to be prepared for a an argument on every point, regardless of how friendly your post appears on the surface.

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I would now like to ask a follow-up question. Do you think that what Joseph Smith did when he "translated" the Bible (whatever you think that meant) is the same thing that he did when he "translated" the Book of Mormon?

((You are going to try the "I am sincerely interested in what you think" trick again? Amazing!))

You have made it clear that you do not believe that Joseph Smith translated anything, and that he just made the whole thing up. We disagree.

You say "translate", we say translate.

OK, now start blasting away!

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