Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Thou fool, that shall say: We have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible"

2nd Nephi 29:6 is usually interpreted to mean that there are some who will reject more of the Lord's words (ie: The Book of Mormon) because they're simply content with those which they currently have (ie: The Bible as we currently know it). Nevertheless, I'd like to suggest an alternate interpretation, just for the Latter-day Saints: We shouldn't ignore other versions of the Bible simply because we're content with the (King James) version we have.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that the Church collectively should replace the King James Version as the authorized version. I'm merely wanting to share, from personal experience, that we can gain additional insight by incorporating another version into our personal study, along with the King James Version. Latter-day Saints have a great reverence for the Holy Bible, there's no doubt about that.

However, we don't really have much of a collective track record with other versions of the Bible aside from the KJV. True, there is the JST, but that's not really a "translation" in the conventional sense. It's more of an inspired commentary, some corrections, but mainly alternative ways of looking at verses that are quite correct. I hope that individually and collectively we continue to correct false ideas and tell the truth about the Holy Bible.

In the past year I've come across a couple of posts that have opened my eyes a bit. Perhaps others not quite as open minded to trying something new (or a more modern version) might find out that they do like green eggs and ham. Here was my food for thought:

Update the LDS Study Bible — Please!

Why the KJV?

After reading that first post I went out and bought a NIV (New International Version) bible and it’s been really enlightening. I’ve learned a lot–mostly from the additional resources it includes. But I found that I still actually enjoy reading the KJV better. I love the older language. It’s poetic, intellectually stimulating, and promotes thinking and revelation that I don’t get when it’s in common and ordinary English. So although I think we can be open to other translations of the Bible, I think I’m just personally biased with what I grew up with and I'll probably always prefer the KJV over the others.

I know that Elder Neal A. Maxwell read from at least the Revised Standard Version because I recently read a talk of his entitled “In Him All Things Hold Together” which is based off the text in Colosians 1:17 of the Revised Standard Version. The KJV says “by him all things consist”. Despite Elder Maxwell's example, there are probably still many LDS who are hesitant to pick up another version of the Bible. When I was younger, I think I was probably a little biased against other versions feeling that they were somehow less inspired. I’ve since come to know that great care was done to make the newer versions as perfect as possible based off the available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. I'm convinced the Lord blessed their efforts.

It's now my standard practice to compare seeming obscure verses with those from another translation. There are even online sites that pull up multiple versions of the same verse side by side, which is truly a modern opportunity to enhance biblical scholarship. Again, I don’t feel we necessarily should or even ever will adopt another version of the Bible, but that shouldn’t keep us from expanding our horizons a bit. (Elder Maxwell did it).


NM said...

The Book of Mormon says "Bible" to refer to the collection of Old Testament and New Testament manuscripts? When were the books of Nephi written? This seems slightly odd...

I grew up with the KJV, so that's the version I tend to stick to now. Plus, all the archaic words makes memorization much easier! In addition to the KJV, I also like to read the New American Standard and the ESV. Hmm, I have a friend who has recently made some interesting comparisons of some of the available versions of the Old and New Testament documents, in relation to the word, 'propitiation'.

Clean Cut said...

Hi NM, I know what you're thinking--somewhat anachronistic right? Remember, however, that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon into English words that would have been somewhat familiar to him.

Anonymous said...

We LDS really have no idea what the history of the bible is. It's not taught in seminary or sunday school with any academic honesty, we blindly accept that our leaders were inspired in making "corrections" and we've been wrong since day one. Take a close look at how a historian views biblical origins.

Mormon Heretic said...

Unlike you all, I'd really like to dump the KJV--especially when studying Isaiah, Amos, and other OT prophets. The KVJ is terrible there.

I want to mention a wonderful site for comparing versions of the bible. It's and is my favorite!

NM said...

Yes. 'Anachronistic', that's the word. I read the chapter as a prophecy about the future generation's perception of the Bible (vs. 1). I assume Nephi was a prophet, right? And that those who held this Bible as the only one, as fools? This is the only interpretation, in my mind, that I can make sense of Nephi 29. Plus, if we follow his argument in verses 7-13, he is obviously trying to promote the idea that the Jews, having their own Scriptures, the same will be said to the Nephites; and that these two scriptures will one day come together... Hence: the Book of Mormon and the LDS church?

According to the mighty wiki, Nephi was written around 600BC. Is that right?

Clean Cut said...

"Anonymous", while I think you're over-generalizing, there's some truth to what you say--hence my post on "Are you telling the Truth about the Bible?", in which I share some of my notes from New Testament scholar Stephen E. Robinson. I was actually well taught at BYU!

By any means, I wonder if you recognize that your very same comment could be said of certain "scripture alone, inerrantist evangelicals" when they encounter Bart Ehrman's ideas for the first time.

Personally, I find his presentation (which you've linked to) completely fascinating. But his book, "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" apparently opens the eyes a lot of miotic mainstream Christians who view the Bible as the fully inspired, inerrant word of God--completely perfect and without error. However, Mormons have never felt this way. Are we ahead of the curve?

Mormons probably have less of a quibble with Professor Ehrman than Evangelicals do! So I wouldn't be so quick to condemn (in general terms) just one faith group who may be "less than informed" concerning the history of the Bible.

Having said that, and in fairness to our Christian neighbors, I haven't yet read the book "Misquoting Jesus" (although I want to), but I have read the reviews, as well as a response by Craig Blomberg from the Denver Seminary. I get the feeling that mainstream Christians are having to face the facts about imperfections in the Bible (that Professor Erhman very clearly presents) in the same way that some "less than informed" Mormons are having to face up to the facts/imperfections about Joseph Smith in Richard Bushmans's "Rough Stone Rolling".

Clean Cut said...

NM, yes, Nephi was a prophet who lived in "B.C." times. The Book of Mormon actually begins with a narrative written by Nephi, who lived in Jerusalem. He explains that his father Lehi was a prophet (who lived about the time of Jeremiah in the Old Testament), and his family, along with others, left Jerusalem about 600 B.C. on a journey that led them to the Western Hemisphere, somewhere in the Americas (we don't know exactly where). But before they left, they were commanded to obtain a copy of the "brass plates", which contained what we would describe as the Old Testament writings up until that time. So they were not completely without scriptures.

They also continued to write and keep sacred records. Since the word "bible" comes from the word for "books", or simply a divine library of sacred books, Nephi was keeping his own "bible". Obviously the Bible that we currently use was not existent (nor called "the Bible") until much, much later than Nephi. Nevertheless, he knew of the sacred collection of writings that would be preserved and come forth to future generations. He prophesied of that in other places of the Book of Mormon, even mentioning the future books which would be written by the disciples of the Lamb of God--which we today recognize as the Gospels.

I understand that the skeptic in you will think this is all too convenient, especially when I tell the amazing thing is that Nephi had even more detailed visions of Christ and his birth to Mary--hundreds of years before that event took place. But that is the testament we are given in the Book of Mormon. And you either believe in the ability to have things revealed unto prophets--things even in the future--or you do not. Now as a believer in the Bible, you of course wouldn't be quick to reject a prophet's ability to have visions and prophecy of things to come, but perhaps you might object to such exact detail. I've heard critics say that there is "too much Christ" in the Book of Mormon. I'm actually okay with that accusation. :)

But concerning that word "Bible", appearing in the Book of Mormon, either it was known what it would be called or another word was used to describe that divine collection of books which they knew would come forth and Joseph Smith took the liberty to use "Bible" in the translation. Perhaps there are other possibilities I haven't thought of, but I obviously maintain a belief that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.

If you're interested, there is a list here of other seeming anachronisms in the Book of Mormon with responses for the critics.

NM said...

Great links! Thanks Clean Cut.

Anonymous said...

Clean Cut,
While I agree with the intent of the post, I think I need to correct a little bit about the context of the quote:
The verse is specifically about people who rejected God's ability to portray new information, not those who don't correctly interpret the information they already have.

I firmly recommend Misquoting Jesus. It is good to see where the assumption "God wrote the Bible inerrantly" leads to atheism once one learns of the errors portrayed in it. If one doesn't make that assumption, there is no chance of that happening based on that assumption.


Clean Cut said...

Yeah, well I meant for the verse to be used kind of tongue-in-cheek. (I'm not REALLY saying we should interpret it that way). Just trying to think differently here. :)

I am the Clay said...

Great to hear you have enjoyed the NIV version. I just picked up you may find interesting too:

How We Got The Bible , a Visual Journey by Clinton E. Arnold. It's published by Zondervan.

Excellent book to understand how the bible was translated and came to be. There is so much evidence that supports the authenticity and reliability of the Bible. It's truly amazing!

As for translations -- I have a few here at home, although I study mostly from the KJV study bible( Thomas Nelson Publishers). Although I love the KJV, I find it helpful to have other tranlsations available too.

Have you tried a parallel bible? That is a few versions printed side by side. Excellent!

I have been learning a lot about modern versions of the bible and "why" they have come to be. I personal appreciate the "word-for-word" or Formal equivalence Bibles best for study ( NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV) and the "dynamic" equivalence or "thought for thought" translations for pleasure reading ( NIV, NLT, NCV, The Message, LB)

I think it's really helpful especially for children to read a 'though by thought' translation with every day understandable language.

I also found out in my studies that the KJV language "thee, thine," are not found in the Hebrew or Greek or Aramic, and thus were not used in the time of Christ. So now I feel much better about dropping those very old English words. The NKJV does a great job on that.

I think it's great you are reading another translation and second your thoughts that LDS should also perhaps pick up a more modern translation for easier reading and understanding.

God bless,

CJ Douglass said...

CC, I barely read the KJV anymore. The NRSV, ESV and NKJV are so much better and maintain the literal integrity. My love for the Bible was renewed by these modern versions.

While you're at it - I would recommend a good study bibles:

-New Oxford Annotated Bible
-Harper Collins Study Bible
-ESV Study Bible (done by Evangelicals but absolutely beautiful to look at with some great insights from a conservative view point)

I am the Clay said...

I agree with the last comment made - the ESV study bible is a great study bible! I am encouraged to read that LDS are picking up other translations and reading God's word! Good for you!!


In Christ alone,