Should we trust the Bible?

.:SHOULD WE TRUST THE BIBLE? —A Response to Mormonism’s Attack Upon the Bible’s Accuracy

WHAT IS THE BIBLE?bible

The Bible is a compilation of 66 books that we call the “canon” (rule or standard) of Scripture. The Bible is divided into two sections: The Old Testament which covers the period of human history from Creation to the Hebrew prophet Malachi in 400 B.C., and the New Testament which covers the period from the Birth of Christ (4 A.D.) to the Revelation of John in 95 A.D.  The majority of the Old Testament was canonized long before Christ’s birth with two marginal books being solidified into the final Jewish canon at the Council of Jamnia in 90 A.D. Most of the New Testament books were accepted by 100 A.D. with the exception of six debatable books that were officially recognized into the Christian canon at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. 1.God is the supreme Author of Biblical Scripture.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 states: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2.  When one considers the broad range of human contributors to the Bible from different timeframes, various backgrounds, and completely different locations, writing on many controversial subjects, and yet all agreeing with one another, one can see the Divine origin of the Bible, for no book of human origin has ever accomplished this task. The following list of facts summarizes the uniqueness of this great book of Scripture:

  • Written over a period of 1500 years:
    • Old Testament = 39 Books in 3 Divisions (Written from Moses in 1400 B.C. to Malachi in 400 B.C.)
      • Law (Torah): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
      • Prophets (Neviim): Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)
      • Writings (Kethubim): Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 & 2 Chronicles
    • New Testament  = 27 Books in 4 Divisions (Written from James in 45 A.D. to Revelation in 95 A.D.)
      • Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
      • History: Acts
      • Epistles: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude
      • Prophecy: Revelation
  •  3 Languages:
  • Hebrew = Most of the Old Testament Scriptures
  • Aramaic = Daniel 2-7:28; Jeremiah 10:11; Ezra 4-7; Matthew 27:46
  • Koine Greek = The New Testament (with the occasional exception of Aramaic phrases)
  • 40 Writers from all walks of life, living in many different places and encompassing three continents:
  • Moses = Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Job
  • Joshua = Joshua
  • Phinehas or Eleazar = Portions of Joshua
  • Samuel = 1 & 2 Samuel, Judges, Ruth
  • Nathan = Portions of 1 & 2 Samuel
  • Gad = Portions of 1 & 2 Samuel
  • Jeremiah = 1 & 2 Kings, Jeremiah, Lamentations
  • Ezra = 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah
  • Mordecai = Esther
  • David = Most of Psalms
  • Asaph = Portions of Psalms
  • Sons of Korah = Portions of Psalms
  • Heman the Ezrahite = Portions of Psalms
  • Ethan the Ezrahite = Portions of Psalms
  • Solomon = Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Portions of Psalms
  • Agur son of Jakeh = Portions of Proverbs
  • Lemuel = Portions of Proverbs
  • Isaiah = Isaiah
  • Ezekiel = Ezekiel
  • Daniel = Daniel
  • Hosea = Hosea
  • Joel = Joel
  • Amos = Amos
  • Obadiah = Obadiah
  • Jonah = Jonah
  • Micah = Micah
  • Nahum = Nahum
  • Habakkuk = Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah = Zephaniah
  • Haggai = Haggai
  • Zechariah = Zechariah
  • Malachi = Malachi
  • Matthew = Matthew
  • Mark = John Mark
  • Luke = Luke, Acts
  • John = John, 1 & 2 & 3 John, Revelation
  • Paul = Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians,
    1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy,
    Titus, Philemon and possibly Hebrews (author unknown)
  • James = James
  • Peter = 1 & 2 Peter
  • Jude = Jude

ldsscriptureHOW DO MORMONS VIEW THE BIBLE?

Mormons regard the King James Version of the Bible as Scripture but they add three books that were “translated” and dictated by their founder, Joseph Smith, to complete their open canon of Scripture called “The Standard Works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” These additional Scripture books are the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.  Of these four books, the Bible is trusted the least.  Although Mormons believe the Bible is an authoritative work of Scripture, they claim that many errors have crept into the text so that one cannot be sure that what is recorded in the Bible today is truly the Word of God as written by the Jewish prophets and apostles of Biblical centuries.  The eighth Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states:

“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”—The Eighth Article of Faith, Pearl of Great Price

Notice the qualification, “as far as it is translated correctly,” placed upon the Bible while no qualification is given to the text of the Book of Mormon.  Joseph Smith declared that “ignorant translators, careless transcribers …corrupt priests have committed many errors” in copying the text of the Bible. 3.  Thus, Smith claimed that he restored and clarified the truths missing from the Bible through his publication of the Book of Mormon:

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”—History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 461

By claiming that the Book of Mormon stands apart from “any other book” as “the most correct of any book on earth,” Joseph Smith placed the Book of Mormon above the Bible as the standard by which a “man would get nearer to God.”  If one is to believe Joseph’s Smith’s claim that the Book of Mormon is “the most correct” book on earth, one cannot help but question the integrity of the Biblical text as one reads the wholesale attack upon the Bible’s accuracy found in the pages of the Book of Mormon.  Seven times in the space of seven verses quoted below from First Nephi chapter thirteen, the Book of Mormon dogmatically asserts: “there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

“And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.  Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.  And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. …Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church,that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and …because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book…because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.  …Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that awful state of blindness, which thou beholdest they are in, because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, whose formation thou hast seen. …the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb.—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.”—1 Nephi 13:24-26, 28-29, 32, 34

Although the Book of Mormon adamantly stresses that precious truths were “taken away” and “kept back” from the “gospel of the Lamb” by the “great and abominable church,” it makes no attempt to “restore” these alleged lost truths. There is not a single doctrine revealed in the Book of Mormon that is not already mentioned in the Bible.  Not only is there no sign of the so-called “plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb” that are allegedly missing from the Bible, but gone from the Book of Mormon are many of the unique doctrines of the Mormon gospel—such as baptism for the dead, the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, God having a body of flesh and bones and the Word of Wisdom (food and drink law of Mormonism). These are all requirements that the LDS Church claims are necessary for a Mormon to be exaltated into the highest degree of Heaven, yet they are missing from the “precepts” of the book that Joseph Smith claimed would get a man “nearer to God…than…any other book.”  Furthermore, Jesus in the Book of Mormon warns against adding to His doctrines when He says:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine…and whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil…”—3 Nephi 11:39-40 4.

Is the Mormon Church guilty of declaring “more…than” Jesus’ doctrine by adding “precepts” not found in the Book of Mormon?  You be the judge.  In the meantime, we must ask why the Book of Mormon not only fails to “restore” these missing doctrines of Mormonism, but it contradicts the words of Jesus Christ, the true Lamb of God, who promised:

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”—Matthew 24:35 5.

Who are we to believe? Are we to believe Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon that claim that “plain and precious parts” of Jesus’ words passed away? Or should we believe Jesus’ promise to preserve His words? Jesus wasn’t the only one in the Bible to promise that God’s words would not be lost, the Prophet Isaiah made the following promise in the Old Testament and the Apostle Peter reiterated this promise in the New Testament:

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”—Isaiah 40:8

“But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”—1 Peter 1:25

JOSEPH SMITH’S INSPIRED VERSION OF THE BIBLE

In spite of God’s promise that His Word would not be lost, Joseph Smith went so far as to produce his own version of the Bible in which he added hundreds of words to the text of Scripture without manuscript support whatsoever.  His translation is called The Inspired Version of the Bible or The Joseph Smith Translation (JST).  The Mormon Church published some of Smith’s revisions in the footnotes and appendix of its LDS version of the King James Bible and all of Smith’s revisions are currently published in the book entitled, Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible, by Herald Publishing House owned by the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or RLDS).

Although Joseph Smith claimed that he finished his translation of the Scriptures in July of 1833, 6. most Mormons think that he did not finish it because the LDS Church has never published a full manuscript of it.  Yet, not only did Joseph Smith testify to his completion of the Scriptures, he proclaimed that God commanded that his Bible translation should be printed.

“…. the second lot on the south shall be dedicated unto me for the building of a house unto me, for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures.” —Doctrine and Covenants, 94:10

“And for this purpose I have commanded you to organize yourselves, even to print my words, the fullness of my scriptures, the revelations which I have given unto you.” —Doctrine and Covenants, 104:58

“…let him [William Law] from henceforth hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph, …and publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth.” —Doctrine and Covenants, 124:89

If Joseph Smith never finished translating his Bible Scriptures as many Mormons today claim, what was Smith doing with so many revelations allegedly from God stating that he should print his Bible Scriptures?  Why would God command him to print an unfinished translation?  Despite revelations that claim that God commanded that Smith’s Bible translation should be printed, the Mormon Church has never printed a full manuscript of it. Why? The LDS Church does not own the copyright to it. When Joseph Smith died and Brigham Young took over the leadership of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith’s first wife Emma refused to give the manuscript to Young and instead gave it to a group called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints led by her son who in turn published Smith’s translation in 1867.

It is fascinating to study Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible because one will discover many changes and alterations that he made to the text of Scripture to validate his own unique views.  Some of the significant doctrinal changes Smith inserted into the text of his Bible are as follows:

  • KJV Romans 4:5: “…believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly…”
  • JST Romans 4:5: “…believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly…” 7.
  • KJV Exodus 33:20: “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”
  • JST Exodus 33:20: “Thou canst not see my face at this time, lest mine anger be kindled against thee also, and I destroy thee, and they people; for there shall no man among them see me at this time, and live, for they are exceeding sinful. And no sinful man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live.” 8.

Joseph Smith even added an entire section to his Bible consisting of 15 verses and over 800 words between Genesis 50:24-26 to create a prophecy about himself.  The following verse where he mentions himself by name is taken from this prophecy that Smith added to Genesis chapter fifty:

And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I give unto you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father; and he shall be like unto you; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation.”—Genesis 50:33, Joseph Smith Translation

Joseph Smith’s “Inspired Version” creates many difficulties for the LDS Church, not only because the Church violated the revelations of Doctrine and Covenants when it didn’t print the full version of it, but also because Smith’s version does not correct the most problematic Biblical Scriptures that condemn the heretical beliefs of Mormonism.  Verses such as Isaiah 44:6 and 8 that condemn Smith’s “plurality of gods” concept 9. and Isaiah 43:10 that condemns the Mormon idea that men can become gods 10. are left intact in Joseph Smith’s translation.  Likewise, Joseph Smith’s version makes no attempt to restore the alleged “missing books” that Mormons claim were removed from the Bible.

Finally, in the thousands of manuscripts of the Bible that have been uncovered, some dating as far back as the 2nd Century B.C., not a single manuscript supports the changes that Joseph Smith made to the text of his Bible.  If the “plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb” were truly “taken away” and “kept back” by the “abominable church” of the middle ages, as the Book of Mormon claims, 11. why is such evidence completely missing from the manuscripts that we possess today of the Holy Bible that date prior to the formation of the Catholic Church?  Why is it that Smith’s changes disagree with the manuscripts that the Book of Mormon says were pure at that time? 12.  Such discrepancies between Smith’s translation and the ancient manuscripts only suspect Joseph Smith of serious fraud and deception.

“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” —Proverbs 30:5-6

HOW THE BIBLE WAS TRANSMITTED TO OUR DAY

Since the Bible was written over a period of fifteen hundred years, two to three thousand years before the invention of the printing press, it was preserved through the process of handwriting and copying manuscripts onto a variety of materials: Papyrus (most common ancient writing material made from papyrus reeds), Parchment (prepared skins of sheep, goats and other animals), Vellum (prepared from calf skins, often dyed purple and written upon with gold or silver), Ostraca (unglazed pottery), Clay tablets (engraved when wet and dried to make a permanent record), Stones (inscribed with an iron pen), and Wax tablets (flat wood covered with wax). 13.  Due to the availability of papyrus, parchments, and vellum, most ancient manuscripts we possess of the Scriptures today consist of these materials and were prepared into either a scroll (a roll) or a codex (book form).  Although we possess thousands of copies of the ancient manuscripts of the Bible, none of the original autographs have survived to our day.

Throughout the centuries, multiple translations of the manuscripts have been made into other languages.  Thus, as noted earlier, the LDS Church’s eighth Article of Faith states that Mormons “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.”  Upon hearing the phrase “translation,” one might naïvely assume that a Mormon’s concerns about the accuracy of the Bible could easily be satisfied by utilizing the many Greek and Hebrew resources available to compare the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic text of the Bible against the modern language translations of the Bible that we posses today.  While this would be a fairly easy task to undertake with the proper tools, it would not satisfy the Mormon’s doubts about the Bible’s accuracy because their concerns stem from a misunderstanding about the process by which the Bible was transmitted from one generation to another.

Many Mormons mistakenly assume that because scholars do not possess the original manuscripts of the Bible today, they believe it is impossible to know what the original writers of the Bible wrote.  They inaccurately attribute the phase “to translate the Bible” as a process by which they think the Bible was translated from one language to another language, to yet another language and so forth from one language to the next until we come to today’s English version of the King James Bible.  With this view of Bible transmission, one can easily understand how a Mormon can become convinced that “many plain and precious”doctrines of the Mormon gospel have been “taken away from the book 14. of the Bible and apostate doctrines of Christianity substituted.

While this distorted view of Bible transmission may seem plausible, its erroneous conclusions become apparent when one considers the overwhelming manuscript evidence that proves the Bible has been preserved to 99.5% accuracy.  Although many “translations” of the Biblical manuscripts have been made over the years, the vast majority of these modern “translations” have relied upon copies made from the original language manuscripts. Thus, “translations” made intoother languages were only considered as a secondary source for understanding the meaning of difficult passages.

THE PRESERVATION OF THE HEBREW OLD TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS

The Jews took the safeguarding of their Scriptures seriously. Thus, they trained special people called “scribes” to copy the Scriptures with great care and meticulously check and recheck for errors.  Jewish scribes of the Masoretic era (500 A.D. to 950 A.D.) checked for errors in their copies by comparing the number of letters in the original manuscript with the number of letters in the copy and verifying whether the middle letter of the original document agreed with the middle letter of the copy. If the slightest discrepancy was found in the copy, it was rejected and the process of copying the original manuscript started over from scratch.  It was through this process of scribal care that the accuracy of the Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts was preserved.

The earliest complete manuscript copy of the Hebrew Old Testament that we possess today is the Leningrad Codex (L) dated at 1008 A.D.  Prior to the riots in Israel in 1947 when the Aleppo Codex of 900 A.D. was damaged, it was the oldest complete Masoretic manuscript of the entire Old Testament. These manuscripts along with partial manuscripts that we possess of the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures dating from the 8th to the 10th Centuries form the basis of the Hebrew Masoretic Text from which all Bible versions today are translated. 15.  In 1947, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the Qumran caves, about 25 kilometers east of Jerusalem, fragments of all of the Old Testaments books (except for Esther) were found in these scrolls dating back to the 2nd Century B.C.  The most significant find was a complete Hebrew copy of the book of Isaiah.  When this scroll from the 2nd Century B.C. was compared with the oldest known text of Isaiah from approximately 900 A.D., scholars were amazed to find the text of Isaiah virtually unchanged with 95% accuracy in over 1,000 years of copying!  The majority of the 5% variations between the manuscripts consisted chiefly of slips of the pen and obvious spelling errors that did not affect the message of the text. 16.  Thus, one can have confidence in the accuracy of the Hebrew manuscripts that scholars use today to translate the Old Testament portion of our Bible into the modern languages of today.

THE PRESERVATION OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT MANUSCRIPTS

While the Jews assigned the task of copying the manuscripts of the Old Testament to trained scribes, the New Testament Christian Church did not have this process for their Scriptures.  Rather, as the New Testament Scriptures circulated among the churches of the first century, individuals indiscriminately made copies for personal and congregational use.  Thus, minor discrepancies proliferated between the copies just as one would expect when precision in copying is not emphasized to the extent that it was by the Hebrew scribes.

Most of these discrepancies (textual variants) consist of minor spelling errors that are easy recognized by the scholar and the incidental addition or deletion of a marginal note that often has no bearing upon the overall message of the script.  In most cases, a comparison of multiple manuscript copies can easily determine the original author’s intent.

sinaiticusScholars today have over 24,000 partial and complete manuscripts of the New Testament from which to compare texts. 5,686 of these manuscripts are in Greek and 19,284 are ancient language translations.  Most of the Greek manuscripts were copied between the 9th to the 16th Century, several hundred copied between the 4th to the 8th Centuries, and a few ancient papyrus manuscripts date back to the 2nd and 3rd Century.  The oldest manuscript is Papyrus 52 (P52) of the Gospel of John, copied at 125 A.D.

The oldest manuscript of the complete New Testament is the Greek Codex Sinaiticus from 325 A.D. It along with the Codex Vaticanus, also from the 4th Century, form the basis of Brook Foss Westcott and Fenton John Anthony Hort’s The New Testament in the Original Greek of 1881. These manuscripts contain not only the entire Greek New Testament but a large portion of the Greek Septuagint Translation of the Hebrew Old Testament was preserved in them as well. Thus, together these manuscripts are considered the oldest manuscripts that we possess today of the entire Bible in Greek. The following charts, adapted from Josh McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, 17. provides a breakdown of the total number of surviving New Testament manuscripts available today:

Extant Greek Manuscripts:

No. of Copies

Uncials (All Capital Letters)

307

Minuscules (Upper and Lower Case)

2,860

Lectionaries

2,410

Papyri

109

SUBTOTAL

5,686

TRUE FREEDOM

Manuscripts in Other Languages

No. of Copies

Latin Vulgate

10,000+

Ethiopic

2,000+

Slavic

4,107

Armenian

2,587

Syriac Pashetta

350+

Bohairic

100

Arabic

75

Old Latin

50

Anglo Saxon

7

Gothic

6

Sogdian

3

Old Syriac

2

Persian

2

Frankish

1

SUBTOTAL

19,284+

GRAND TOTAL

24,970

Compare these manuscript totals with that of any other book of antiquity and you will discover that there are no ancient manuscripts that compare to the manuscript support we have for our New Testament text. This is demonstrated by the following chart from Josh McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict: 18.

AUTHOR

BOOK

DATE WRITTEN

EARLIEST COPY

TIME GAP

NO. OF COPIES

Homer

Iliad

800 B.C.

400 B.C.

400 Years

643

Herodotus

History

480-425 B.C.

900 A.D.

1,350 Years

8

Plato

 The Republic

400 B.C.

900 A.D.

1,300 years

7

Caesar

Gallic Wars

100-44 B.C.

900 A.D.

1,000 years

10

Livy

History of Rome

59 B.C. – 17 A.D.

4th Century (Partial)
10th Century

400 years
1,000 years

1 partial
19 copies

Tacitus

Annals

100 A.D.

1,100 A.D.

1,000 years

20

Pliny Secundus

Natural History

61-113 A.D.

850 A.D.

750 years

7

New Testament

50-100 A.D.

114 A.D. (fragments)
200 A.D. (books)
250 A.D. (most of N.T.)
325 A.D. (complete N.T.)

+ 50 years
100 years
150 years
225 years

5,686
partial and complete

THE NEW TESTAMENT PRESERVED IN QUOTATIONS FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS

Quotations of the New Testament Scriptures from seven early church fathers 19. starting with Justin Martyr (100 A.D.) to Eusebius of Caesarea (339 A.D.) number 36,289 by the time period of the Council of Nicea. As if this number of early church father quotations of the New Testament were not impressive enough, one could add the quotations of church fathers contemporary with Augustine of Hippo (354 A.D) and many subsequent fathers to come up with a total of 86,489 quotations. 20.  Josh McDowell notes:

“…the quotations are so numerous and widespread that if no manuscripts of the New Testament were extant, the New Testament could be reproduced from the writings of the early Father alone. (Geisler, GIB, 430)  In brief, J. Harold Greenlee was right when he wrote, ‘These quotations are so extensive that the New Testament could virtually be reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament Manuscripts.’ (Greenlee, INTTC, 54)” —The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p. 43

Indeed, manuscript support for the New Testament Scriptures leaves no doubt of the fact that we posses today all of the content in the original Scriptures dictated by the Prophets and Apostles of our first century faith.

HOW SCHOLARS OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT RESOLVE TEXTUAL DISCREPANCIES

Mormons often contend that textual variants (discrepancies) between the manuscripts of the Scriptures prove that the Bible is inaccurate.  This accusation is simply not correct, as we will demonstrate by our examination of the process by which textual scholars scrutinize multiple copies of the Scriptural manuscripts to determine the essential meaning behind the variants.

Our first example is Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) who studied six partial Greek manuscripts of the New Testament to create a single manuscript called the Textus Receptus (Received Text) that formed the basis of the New Testament portion of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible.  He evaluated the variants in these manuscripts to determine which renderings were most correct.  One of the passages to which he gave considerable attention was 1 John 5:7–8. The Latin Vulgate of the Middle Ages added many words to the text that is unsupported by the Greek manuscripts. This textual variant is now called the Comma Johanneum and in the Old Latin Vulgate it read:

LATIN: “testimonium dicunt [or dant] in terra, spiritus [or: spiritus et] aqua et sanguis, et hi tres unum sunt in Christo Iesu. et tres sunt, qui testimonium dicunt in caelo, pater verbum et spiritus.”

1 JOHN 5:7-8
LATIN VULGATE OF THE MIDDLE AGES

MODERN TRANSLATION (NASB)

“For there are three giving evidence on earth, spirit, water and blood, and these three are one in Christ Jesus.  And the three, which give evidence in heaven, are father word and spirit.” 21.

“For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”

Because the Latin Vulgate was the common Bible of his day, DesideriusErasmus received much criticism when his first and second editions of his Greek manuscript did not contain the extra words of the Comma Johanneum.  His critics accused Erasmus of supporting the heretical belief of “Arianism” that denied the Trinity and taught that Jesus was not God. Since Erasmus was unable to find a single Greek manuscript that supported these additional words, his note in the Annotations of his first two Greek text editions read:

“In the Greek codex I find only this about the threefold testimony: ‘because there are three witnesses, spirit, water, and blood.’ ” 22.

When Erasmus challenged his critics to present him with a Greek manuscript that supported the rendering of the Comma Johanneum at 1 John 5:7-8, they presented Erasmus with an Irish manuscript (Codex Montfortianus) that many believe was fabricated and translated into Greek at this passage from the Latin Vulgate itself. Remaining true to his word, Erasmus reluctantly inserted the Comma Johanneum into his third edition of the Textus Receptus with the following note:

“I have restored the text… so as not to give anyone an occasion for slander.” 23.

To this day, the Textus Receptus and all Bible translations based upon this manuscript (i.e., the King James Version and the New King James Version), contain the additional words of the Comma Johanneum, while all other translations exclude it based upon the evidence of thousands of manuscripts (including the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) that all exclude the Comma Johanneum from their texts.

Times have changed from the days of Erasmus’s half dozen Greek manuscripts.  Scholars now have over 24,000 partial and complete manuscripts of the New Testament from which to compare texts. Given the availability of thousands of manuscripts, it is easy for modern scholars to determine what the original authors of the New Testament manuscripts wrote in their texts. While we have discussed the Comma Johanneum which is one of the more critical textual variants of the New Testament, most variants are incidental and have no bearing upon the general meanings of the text.  Some of these variants are as follows:

KING JAMES VERSION
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE
ACTS 16:7: “…the Spirit suffered them not. ACTS 16:7: “…the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.”
ACTS 22:16: “…wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” ACTS 22:16: “…wash away your sins, calling on His name.”
PHILIPPIANS 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” PHILIPPIANS 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
1 PETER 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts…” 1 PETER 3:15: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts…”

As noted in the examples given in the above chart, most of the textual variants have to do with the addition or exclusion of the words “God,” “Jesus”, or “Christ” to the word “Lord” or “Spirit” or the substitute personal pronoun of “Him” for “Christ” in the manuscripts.  Although the majority of the oldest Greek manuscripts favor the rendering of modern translations, such as the New American Standard Bible illustrated above, none of the variant renderings change the inherent meanings of the text.  Through comparison, such as these illustrated above, one can easily determine the essential message of the original authors of the New Testament.  Thus, as Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek note:

“Textual scholars Westcott and Hort estimated that only one in sixty of these variants has significance. This would leave a text 98.33 percent pureNo ancient book is so well authenticated. The great New Testament scholar and Princeton professor Bruce Metzger estimated that the Mahabharata of Hinduism is copied with only about 90 percent accuracy and Homer’s Illiad with about 95 percent.  By comparison, he estimated the New Testament is about 99.5 percent accurate.  Again, the 0.5 percent in question does not affect a single doctrine of the Christian faith.”—I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 2004,p. 229

IS THE BIBLE MISSING BOOKS?

Mormons often point to the names of books cited in the Bible, not found in the text of Scripture, as evidence that the Bible’s Scripture is incomplete.  Some of the common books mentioned in the Bible that Mormons consider “lost” or “missing” are as follows:

  • The book of the wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14).
  • The book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18).
  • The book of the manner of the kingdom (1 Samuel 10:25).
  • The acts or annals of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41).
  • The book of Gad the Seer (1 Chronicles 29:29).
  • The book of Nathan the prophet (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29).
  • The book of Jehu (2 Chronicles 20:34).
  • The book of Enoch (Jude 14)
  • An earlier epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:3)
  • An earlier epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:9);
  • An epistle to the Colossians written from Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).

It is important to note first of all that these books were not “lost” from the Bible. These books were common knowledge to the people of their day and some have even survived down to our day, like the book of Enoch listed above.  The reason they are not found in our Bible is because they were never considered Scripture in the first place! Mormons incorrectly assume that if a book is mentioned in the text of Scripture, that book itself must also be considered Scripture as well.  This is a false assumption because most of the unscriptural books mentioned in the Bible were merely journals of the prophets and the seers or historical books, like the “book of the wars of the LORD” mentioned at Numbers 21:14.  There is nothing in the text of Scripture that indicates that God intended these unscriptural books to be preserved in His Holy Word, the Bible.  Furthermore, when one examines these books that have been preserved to our day (like the book of Enoch), one finds that these books lack divine authority and/or contain inaccuracies in the text that prevent them from being canonized into the Scriptures.  This is why none of the unscriptural books mentioned in the Bible were considered Scripture by the people of their day. However, it is worth discussing the alleged missing epistles of Paul as most of his epistles (unlike the other books in the list above) are considered Scripture.

Was Paul’s letter of mystery lost (Ephesians 3:3-4)?

At Ephesians 3:3-4, Paul makes mention of an earlier writing in which he discussed the mystery that God made known to him by a revelation.  It is important to realize that Paul’s letters did not always stay with the particular church addressed, but were often copied and circulated among other churches. This was certainly true of the book of Ephesians as Paul wrote this letter with the specific intention of circulating it to all of the churches of Asia Minor.  Thus, it is quite possible that the “revelation” of the “mystery” that Paul wrote about earlier is a reference to an earlier letter, possibly 1 Corinthians where Paul wrote about the “mystery” of God (1 Corinthians 2:7-10) “in few words” (Ephesians 3:3). Since Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from the city of Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8), it is quite reasonable to conclude that the Ephesians still had access to a copy of this Corinthian letter that Paul wrote during his stay there.

Was Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians lost (1 Corinthians 5:9)?

At 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul stated: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.”  Regarding this passage, Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe comment:

“There are three possibilities here. First, it may be that not all apostolic letters were intended to be in the canon of Scripture. Luke refers to “many” other gospels (1:1). John implies that there was much more Jesus did that was not recorded (20:30; 21:25). Perhaps this so called ‘lost’ letter to the Corinthians was not intended by God to be collected in the canon and preserved… Second, others believe that the letter referred to (in 1 Cor. 5:9) may not be lost at all, but is part of an existing book in the Bible. For example, it could be part of what we know as 2 Corinthians (chaps. 10-13), which some believe was later put together with chapters 1-9. In support of this is offered the fact that chapters 1-9 have a decidedly different tone from the rest of the Book of 2 Corinthians (chapters 10-13). This may indicate that it was written on a different occasion… They also note that Paul refers to ‘letters’ (plural) he had written in 2 Corinthians 10:10. Third, others believe that Paul is referring to the present Book of 1 Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5:9, that is, to the very book which he was writing at the time. In support of this they note …Even though the Greek aorist tense used here (‘I wrote’) may refer to a past letter, it could also refer to the book at hand. This is called an ‘epistolary aorist,’ because it refers to the very book in which it is being used.”— When Critics Ask – Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties, 1992, pp. 152-153

Was Paul’s epistle from Laodicea lost (Colossians 4:16)?

At Colossians 4:16, Paul commands the church at Colossae: “When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”  Some argue that the “epistle from Laodicea” is a lost letter of Paul because none of Paul’s letters in our New Testament bear this title.  However, the text says this letter was “from Laodicea” — not that the letter was called by that name.  There is good evidence that the letter “from Laodicea” is a reference to the book of Ephesians.  There are several reasons for this.  First, Paul wrote Ephesians at the same time that he wrote the book of Colossians.  Second, Ephesians was a kind of cyclical letter that Paul sent throughout the churches of Asia Minor, and three early Greek manuscripts do not contain the words “at Ephesus” in Ephesians 1:1 in the phrase: “to the saints which are at Ephesus.”  Thus, many believe that the letter coming “from Laodicea” mentioned in Colossians 4:16 was in fact a reference to Paul’s Ephesian letter. 24.

IS THE BOOK OF MORMON MISSING BOOKS?

While Mormons are quick to assert that cited books not included in the text of Scripture are proof that the Bible is incomplete, they fail to apply this same standard to their Book of Mormon which has no less than 10 books cited that are not included in its text. Are we to argue that the Book of Mormon is incomplete because these books are not included?  No Mormon would agree to this.

  • Book of Remembrance (3 Nephi 24:16)
  • Prophecies of Zenos (1 Nephi 19:10; Jacob 5:1)
  • Prophecies of Zenock (1 Nephi 19:10)
  • Prophecies of Neum (1 Nephi 19:10)
  • Missing Plates from Laban (1 Nephi 3:3-4)
  • Lost Teachings of Benjamin (Mosiah 1:8)
  • Lost Word of Amulek (Alma 9:34)
  • Lost Words of Alma (Alma 13:31)
  • Lost Teachings of Alma (Alma 8:1)
  • Lost Teachings of Helaman (Helaman 5:13)

We must remember that God the Father and Jesus Christ Himself promised that the Word of God would endure forever (Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:25).  Thus, if one book of Scripture were lost, we would have to question the strength of God to keep His promises.  Indeed, such is not the case for Scripture declares that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2)!

IS THE BIBLE COMPLETE OR SHOULD WE LOOK FOR NEW REVELATION?

Mormons boast in the ability of their LDS prophets to reveal new Scripture to the church today.  Thus, their canon of four Scripture books is never considered closed, but the “inspired words” of living LDS prophets become “scripture” to them as well. 25.  Just as a child boasts of his “new” toys to his playmates, so Mormons boast of their “new” revelation from the Book of Mormon that taunts Christians who cling to the “old” revelations of the Bible:

“And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.  …Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Know ye not that there are more nations than one?”—2 Nephi 29:3, 6-7

To respond to these accusations, Christians often look for a verse from the Bible that teaches that the canon of Scripture was closed at Revelation—the final book of the New Testament.  Unfortunately, this Scripture does not exist, although many often incorrectly appeal to Revelation 22:18-19:

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

In context, Revelation 22:18-19 refers to the book of Revelation, not to the Bible as a whole.  Although no Scripture speaks of the fact that the canon of Scripture was closed with writing of the last book of the Bible, Scripture does claim that “all the counsel of God” has been declared and that God has already given us “all things” that pertain to life and godliness:

“For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:27

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”—2 Peter 1:3

If “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” and “all the counsel of God” have already been declared to us through the Bible, what need do we have of new “counsel” from God in the form of additional Scripture?  As we have already proved, none of God’s words have been lost, so there is no need for a “restoration” of “plain and precious” gospel truths through a so-called “Book of Mormon” Scripture.  Furthermore, in regard to the concept of receiving latter-day revelation, Scripture gives the following strong warnings:

  • Do not to “go beyond” what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 John 1:9).
  • Do not “add” or “take away” from the words God has spoken (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6).
  • Do not contradict what God has recorded in Scripture (Isaiah 8:20; Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
  • Do not proclaim messages in God’s name that He did not give (Deuteronomy 18:20-22) 
  • Do not twist Scripture to fit your own distorted doctrines (2 Peter 3:16).

When one measures Latter-day (Mormon) “Scripture” against these guidelines, one finds that it fails on all five accounts.  Fundamentally, it is an issue of whom you trust. Do you trust Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon that claim that Jesus failed to keep His promise to preserve His Word (1 Nephi 13)? Or do you trust Jesus Christ and His promises (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33)? He warned:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.”— Matthew 7:15-16

The “fruits” of this Mormon “false prophet” are evident. One cannot have it both ways, for to believe the Book of Mormon is to call Jesus a liar.  MAY IT NEVER BE!

“For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.”—Romans 3:3-4

FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE:

bullets THE BOOK OF MORMON VS THE BIBLE AND LDS DOCTRINE

bullets MAJOR CHANGES TO MORMON DOCTRINE & COVENANTS SCRIPTURE

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1. These six books are Hebrews, 2 Peter, James, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation.
2. Unless otherwise noted, all Biblical Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.
3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1976, by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.327
4. Compare this with Galatians 1:6-9 in the Bible.
5. See also Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:33.
6. See History of the Church, vol.1, pp. 324, 368
7. Smith’s additions to the text of the Bible are noted in this and other quotations in italics. The insertion of the subtle word “not” into this text of Romans 4:5 completely changes the meaning of the passage and nullifies the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone that the Apostle Paul emphasized throughout Romans.
8. This qualification of disallowing a “sinful man” from seeing God’s face, rather than ALL mankind, was changed to justify Smith’s claim to see God the Father in his 1820 First Vision account.
9. See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 1976, by Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 370
10. See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-346
11. See 1 Nephi 13:24-26, 28-29, 32, 34
12. See 1 Nephi 13:24-25
13. See The New Evidence that Demands A Verdict, 1999, by Josh McDowell, pp. 17-18
14. 1 Nephi 13:28
15. See Old Testament Textual Criticism—A Practical Introduction, 1994,by Ellis R. Brotzman, pp. 56-57 and The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p. 73
16. See The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, pp. 70, 90
17. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p. 34
18. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p. 38
19. The seven church fathers counted in this total are: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Eusebius of Caesarea referenced in The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p. 43
20. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p. 45
21. The Latin and English translation of the Middle Ages’ version of the Latin Vulgate at 1 John 5:7-8 is taken from the Wikipedia website at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma_Johanneum as the Latin Vulgate of today has been changed to agree with the modern translations in excluding the additional words of the Comma Johanneum.
22. Quoted from The King James Only Controversy, 1995, James R. White, p. 60
23. Quoted from The King James Only Controversy p. 61
24. See When Critics Ask – Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties, 1992, by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, p. 489
25. See Gospel Principles, 1995 p. 55.

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