"I told the brethren," Joseph Smith said in l84l, "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."(1) Smith's attitude toward the Book of Mormon has been reiterated by Mormons ever since its initial publication in 1830. Many Mormons make extravagant claims in its support, and even assert, though quite erroneously, that its historical accuracy has been archaeologically demonstrated.(2)
If the Book of Mormon is a divine record, then God would naturally have provided attestation for it in the Bible. Mormons claim that such a prophecy is found in Eze. 37:15-20. Latter~day Saints interpret Ezekiel's vision of the stick of Judah and the stick of Ephraim as having reference to the Bible and the Book of Mormon respectively. The joining of these two sticks signifies the Bible and Book of Mormon coming together as complementary scriptures. Thus, according to the Mormon interpretation, we have a direct prophecy of the coming forth of revelation additional to the Bible.
A basic rule of Biblical interpretation, generally ignored by Mormon exegetes, is to explore the context of any portion of scripture before determining its meaning. Vss. 11-14 of Eze. 37 is the famous "dry bones" passage. The resuscitation of these dry bones ("the whole house of Israel") is a symbol of the future reunification of Israel in its own land. The second half of chapter 37 describes this same event in a different manner, adding that the restoration of Israel will be effected by a union between the divided kingdoms of Judah and Joseph. Ezekiel is told to take two sticks, inscribe them with different names, and make them "one in thy hand" (i.e., hold them in such a manner that their ends meet in the prophet's hand and thus appear as a single staff).(3) As in other symbolical actions, the interpretation immediately follows:
And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all (21-22).
Ezekiel is not talking about books, but rather about the future reconstitution of Israel.(4)
An incredible amount of ink has been spilled by Mormon apologists in attempting to show that "sticks" in this passage means "books," which they then attempt to identify with the books of the Bible and Book of Mormon. Against this interpretation stand the following facts. First, granting the improbability that Ezekiel may have been referring to wooden writing tablets rather than sticks or rods, the passage still does not warrant any other interpretation than that outlined above. The two sticks, if viewed as scrolls or wooden writing surfaces, contain only the phrases "For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions," and "For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions." Neither of these statements contain any hint that the sticks represent such comprehensive histories as the Bible and Book of Mormon. To interpret them as doing so is to force upon the text a meaning which cannot be derived from the text itself, which even on the Mormon view only pictures Ezekiel holding two tablets inscribed with the names of Judah and Ephraim. The meaning of these two tablets is still determined by what Ezekiel himself says about them in vss. 21-28, which is the same whether "sticks" stands for books, staves, or cows.
Ezekiel's allegory of the two sticks as representing the joining of divided Israel is not only the most probable interpretation of this passage, but it is the only one which the text itself will sustain. The explanatory words added by Ezekiel not only specifically identify the two sticks as the two major divisions of Israel, but the allegory itself leaves no doubt as to which nations Ezekiel had in mind. The sticks inscribed with the names of Judah and Joseph would have been understood by Ezekiel's audience as a reference to the national division that had occurred under Solomon's son Rehoboam, when l0 ½ tribes withdrew from Jerusalem and formed a separate nation at Mount Ephraim. The only tribes that remained loyal to Rehoboam were Judah and part of Benjamin, who were thereafter referred to collectively as Judah. The tribes that revolted were simply called Joseph or more commonly Ephraim, again after the name of the leading tribe. When Ezekiel took two sticks, one inscribed with the name of Judah and the other with the name of Joseph "which is in the hand of Ephraim" and joined them together so that they became one in his hand, he therefore created a perfectly appropriate image with which to represent the joining of divided Israel. Because his symbolic action might be misconstrued, however, he added an explanation which perfectly elucidates his meaning. The stick of Joseph which is in the hand of Ephraim "and the tribes of Israel his fellows" will be united with the stick of Judah and "the children of Israel his companions" so that they form a single stick or nation. The dispersed of Israel will be restored to their own land, "and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel;...and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all" (vs. 22).
There is nothing about this interpretation which strains the language, grammar, or context of the prophecy, and for this reason has been called "Ezekiel's explanation" even by some Mormon commentators.(5) To those who still insist upon finding in Ezekiel's words a prophecy of the Book of Mormon, however, there are a number of factors which require considerable manipulation. First, the Bible text represents Ezekiel as writing upon "sticks," the generally accepted translation in this passage of the Hebrew word etz (literally, "a piece of wood"). The exposition offered here does not depend upon defining etz at all, but the Mormon explanation demands that etz be rendered as book, thus introducing a meaning found nowhere else in the Bible.(6) Second, if meant to represent histories, Ezekiel's image calls for one stick to represent the history of' Joseph's lineage through Ephraim, whereas the Book of Mormon describes itself as the history of Joseph's descendants through Manasseh (Alma 8:3). Thus, even if referring to a book, it is improbable that the stick of Joseph in the hand of Ephraim represents the Book of' Mormon. Further, if applied to the Book of Mormon, which represents itself as the history of two families which fled Jerusalem shortly before the Babylonian captivity, the stick representing Ephraim "and the tribes of Israel his fellows" must be interpreted not in the sense of' tribes (shebet) but of families (mish-pachah), an entirely different word in Hebrew). Third, the Mormon interpretation, if true, not only makes the passage incomprehensible to Ezekiel's original readers, but is couched in such words as to almost assure that they would misunderstand it. The message of national restoration expressed in chapter 36 and 37:1-14, 21-28 would naturally have suggested to the reader that Ezekiel was talking about the future return of Israel to its own land in vss. 15-20, which is worded in such a fashion as to confirm this impression. Without additional explanation, the sticks of Judah and Ephraim with the tribes of Israel their companions could not but have suggested to Ezekiel's hearers the division of Israel into Judah and Ephraim, while the explanatory words appended to the passage virtually guarantees that they would so understand it. On the Mormon view, however, Ezekiel must be understood as either intentionally or unintentionally obscuring his message, so that what was actually a pantomime representing the joining of two books would read as a representation of the future reunion of the Southern and Northern kingdoms of Israel. The only way Mormons can defend such an interpretation is by gratuitously supposing that the two sticks in Ezekiel's hand were actually the Bible and Book of Mormon, which only assumes the rightness of their own position.
Chief among supposed prophecies of the Book of Mormon is Isa. 29:1-14,
Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices. Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel. And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
Mormons interpret this passage as having reference to the manner and conditions under which the Book of Mormon would come forth. That it refers to the new world instead of the old is found in the phrase, "and it shall be unto me as Ariel." Ariel is a nickname for Jerusalem, "the city where David dwelt." Isaiah's prophecy concerning the impending siege of Jerusalem carries him in vision to the similar conditions that would prevail in the new world toward the close of the Book of Mormon period. The voice speaking "out of the ground" refers to the discovery of the original golden plates of the Book of Mormon.
This interpretation is suspect for a number of reasons, not the least being the assertion that "it shall be unto me as Ariel" removes the scene from Jerusalem to the Americas. Ariel literally means a burning altar-hearth, and was applied to Jerusalem because the altar of sacrifice was located there. Its dual meaning as a common appellation for Jerusalem and as an altar-hearth enabled Isaiah to make a forceful play on words in vs. 2. The city of Ariel will become a place of lamentation, a veritable Ariel or altar of burning. J. B. Phillips captured the sense of this passage well when he translated,
Jerusalem, God's hearth and altar,
Where David set up his camp!
Let year follow year,
Let the round of festivals continue;
Yet I will bring trouble upon this hearth and altar,
And there will be groaning and grief,
And she shall truly be an altar burning for me!
The speech "out of the dust," which Mormons believe is prophetic of the manner in which the Book of Mormon would be discovered, is a pictorial representation of the future abasement and degradation of Israel. Jerusalem will be "brought down" (humbled or abased), and shall whisper from the ground with a feeble, twittering voice, "as one that hath a familiar spirit." The verb translated "whisper" actually means to chirp or peep, and is applied to the mutterings of necromancers in 8:19 and the twitterings of birds in 10:14; 38:14. If literally applied to the Book of Mormon, Isa. 29:4 would imply that its words would be hollow like the voice of a ghost, its message composed of indistinct if not inarticulate gibberings.
Another portion of Isa. 29 supposedly foreshadowing the Book of Mormon are vss. 10-12,
For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
Mormons believe this passage is prophetic of Martin Harris' visit to Professor Charles Anthon. Harris, an early follower of Smith, secured a copy of the "reformed Egyptian" script of the Book of Mormon, and took it to Charles Anthon, a professor of Greek and Latin at Columbia College. Dr. Anthon, according to Smith's report, declared the translation correct, "more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian." He then gave Harris a paper which certified the correctness of the translation. As Harris was about to leave, however, Anthon asked how Joseph Smith had obtained the golden plates. Harris answered that an angel of God had revealed their whereabouts. Anthon promptly asked for his certificate and tore it up, declaring that "there was no such thing now as ministering angels, and that if I [Martin Harris] would bring the plates to him, he would translate them." Harris told him that part of the plates were sealed, whereupon Anthon replied, "I cannot read a sealed book."(7) Thus was fulfilled, in a most remarkable manner, this prophecy from Isaiah.
There are many reasons for doubting the truthfulness of this story, not the least being that Anthon himself later denied having certified the accuracy of the translation.(8) Even if we were to grant the essential reliability of Smith's account, however, there is still no reason to regard the event as a fulfillment of Isa. 29:10-12. Vss. 9-10 describe a state of spiritual topor and blindness. Israel's obduracy has made it oblivious to Isaiah's message, so that it has become a nation totally lacking in spiritual discernment. The comprehensiveness of this situation is described in vss. 10-12, where Israel's insensibility to prophetic vision is likened, in the form of a simile, to a tightly sealed book or document. The educated of Israel cannot read a book incapable of being opened, while the uneducated or illiterate simply cannot read. There is no indication that the latter mentioned class will succeed where the learned have failed, but that all alike are ignorant of God's word.(9)
The cause of Israel's blindness is stated in vss. 13-14,
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
Israel's worship is here pictured as having degenerated into formalism. The people's reverence for God, instead of being the result of inner conviction, is taught by rote. God will therefore proceed to deal wonderfully with his people by withdrawing their wisdom and darkening their understanding. The phrase, "a marvellous work and a wonder," which Mormons apply to the establishment of their own Church, is here used in the sense of unusual or extraordinary, and means "to act wonderfully with anyone in a bad sense."(10)
Two other verses from Isa. 29 which supposedly foreshadow the Book of Mormon are 17-18, "Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness." Mormons interpret these words as pertaining to the period when the Book of Mormon, "the words of the book," should appear. After that time, Orson Pratt wrote,
Lebanon and all the land of Canaan is again to be blessed, while the fruitful field occupied by the nations of the Gentiles, "will be esteemed as a forest;" the multitude of the nations of the Gentiles are to perish, and their lands which are now like a fruitful field, are to be left desolate of inhabitants, and become as Lebanon has been for many generations past; while Lebanon shall again be occupied by Israel, and be turned into a fruitful field. These great events could not take p1ace until the Lord should first bring forth a book out of the ground.(11)
This, again, is not an interpretation but a travesty. As has already been shown, the image of the sealed book is a simile of Israel's blindness to prophetic vision, not a prediction of a useless book which no one can read. The statement of vs. 18, that the book will someday be read by the blind and heard by the deaf, reinforces this interpretation, for clearly only a metaphorical book can be read and heard by those lacking the requisite senses. Understood in this sense, vs. 18 simply means that Israel's spiritual insensitivity will someday be removed, and that the "spirit of deep sleep" which God has poured upon Israel (symbolized by the writing which no one can read) is not a permanent condition. Before this condition can be removed, however, a radical transformation must occur. Israel is now like clay which disputes with the potter who turned it, but the time will come--and that not far off--when God will transform the present perversity and things will be reversed: Lebanon will become garden-land and garden-land a wilderness; those who are now spiritually deaf and blind will hear and see; and Israel's "turning of things upside down" will be righted at last (vss. 16-18). Viewed within this larger context, Pratt's prattling about a book which must appear before the gentiles perish and Israel be reclaimed by the Jews is irrelevant to the text used to support it, which speaks not of a literal book and uses the image of Lebanon only as a metaphor for change.
Another passage often adduced as a prophecy of the Book of Mormon is Gen. 49:22, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall." Mormons interpret the word "branches" as meaning Joseph's descendants, and the word "wall" as signifying the sea crossed by Lehi and his company. This at best is entirely gratuitous. The image is that of a flourishing vine located near a spring or fountain, its tendrils spreading over the surrounding wall. The vine's proximity to water guarantees its continued growth, while the wall provides it with both protection and support. Every detail of the passage evokes an image of prosperity and fruitfulness, indicating the future strength and number of Joseph's descendants. All of this was fulfilled in the following centuries, when Ephraim became the most prosperous and powerful of the twelve tribes.
As an evidence that "wall" can mean "sea," Mormons adduce Nahum 3:8, where the city of Thebes is described as surrounded by a wall of water. It is wholly arbitrary, however, to deduce from this that the "wall" of Gen. 49:22 represents the sea. It might be argued, with equal plausibility, that "wall" means virginity, salvation, iniquity, national boundaries, or God, all of which are figuratively identified in scripture with walls. Even if it should somehow be demonstrated that the wall of Gen. 49:22 signifies the sea, this in itself would not make the Mormon explanation more tenable. We might then view it as meaning that Joseph's progency will cross the Euphrates or Nile rivers, both of which are also called seas. If, however, we wished to avoid the idea of a literal sea altogether, we might view Gen. 49:22 as a proof that Joseph's descendants will assist in conquering God's foes, for the sea is often represented as a power hostile to God. Any of these purely fanciful explanations could be defended with as much cogency as the Mormon interpretation.
Another supposed prediction of the Book of Mormon is Ps. 85:10-11, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven." The phrase "Truth shall spring out of the earth" (more accurately, "Faithfulness will spring up from the ground") Mormons interpret as referring to the Book of Mormon and its discovery by Joseph Smith. }Here again, however, the Mormon method of exposition only succeeds in obscuring an otherwise clear passage. The structure of Ps. 85 is divided into three sections: a retrospective view of Israel's past greatness, a prayer for divine help and leniency at the present time, and a confident hope for future restoration. Vss. 10-11 describe the conditions of this restoration as the meeting of Mercy, Faithfulness (emeth), Righteousness, and Peace, conceived here as personified beings. When Mercy and Faithfulness, Righteousness and Peace, meet together in an affectionate embrace, and Faithfulness springs up among men as a natural growth in response to the revelation of God's Righteousness, then will Israel be restored to her own land, and "the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps" (vss. 12-13). To find in this an allusion to the gold plates Smith allegedly dug from the ground in Western New York again illustrates how far the success of Mormon "exposition" depends upon imposition.
The Mormon exposition of Ps. 85:10-11 also illustrates the arbitrary and excessive literalism which characterizes so much of their exegesis. The literary form of Ps. 85 is obviously poetic: its lyric cadence, synonymous couplets, and figurative expressions making it one of the most artistic of the Psalms. Yet Mormons arbitrarily interpret half of one line as if it were prose. Such a procedure is entirely without warrant, and clouds rather than clarifies the meaning of scripture.
A final prediction of the Book of Mormon is contained in Jn. 10:16, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." These "other sheep" Mormons regard as the ancient inhabitants of America; Jesus' promise, "and they shall hear my voice," they interpret as referring of his appearance in the new world as recorded in the Book of Mormon. All commentators agree, however, that Jn. 10:16 does not refer to any specific group other than non-Jews or gentiles. While it is true that Jesus was not initially sent "but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt. 15:24), he commanded his disciples to preach to all nations (Mt. 28:19). That Jn. 10:16 alludes to these other nations is confirmed by 1 Pet. 2:25, "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Peter's image of the sheep and shepherd presupposes Jesus' saying in Jn. 10:16, while the fact that his words apply to gentile Christians is clear from 2:10 of the same epistle, "which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God."
Mormons object to this interpretation by pointing out that the phrase "they shall hear my voice" is inapplicable to gentiles, as they never received the gospel from Christ's own lips. This objection can be answered in either of two ways. First, Jesus on numerous occasions spoke to gentiles. He commended the Roman centurion and the Samaritan leper for their faith (Mt. 8:10; Lk. l7:l9), and even preached for two days in a Samaritan village, "and many more believed because of his own word" (Jn. 4:41). The doors of the gentile mission were thus initially opened not by Peter or Paul but by Jesus himself. Second, in Lk. l0;16 Jesus promised his disciples, "He that heareth you heareth me," by which he meant that they were to be emissaries of him even as he was of the Father. In this sense the gentiles heard Christ proclaim the gospel whenever they listened to his chosen representatives.
In addition to disposing of all supposed "prophecies" of the Book of Mormon, the Bible also belies the claim that it and the Book of Mormon are harmonious documents. Examples demonstrating the truth of their mutual antagonism are both numerous and obvious; yet one instance stands out as a clear exhibition of their fundamental incompatibility. Its pervasive character quite eclipses any other doctrinal or historical discrepancies.
According to the Book of Mormon, it was common knowledge among the pre-Christian Nephites that the wall of partition between Jew and gentile would be removed by Christ's death. The New Testament, however, consistently teaches that the admission of gentiles into the church "in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Eph. 3:5). Paul alluded to this same subject on two other occasions, calling it "the mystery which was kept secret since the world began" (Rom. 16:25), and "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations" (Col. 1:26). The use of such comprehensive phrases excludes the suggestion that this "mystery" was concealed only from the Old Testament saints, while Paul's statement that it was hidden from the "sons of men" means generic man or men generally.
Some Mormons have attempted to avoid this objection by referring to Isa. 42:6-7; 49:6, where Israel is described as a light to the gentiles. From this they conclude that Paul could not have meant what he said, since Isaiah was obviously aware that the gentiles would be admitted to the Messianic kingdom. Such a suggestion, however, entirely misses the meaning of Paul's words. While the Old Testament does allude to the gentiles' admission within the kingdom of God, it invariably assumes that entrance is granted only through the portals of Judaism. Israel, as the custodian of God's special revelation, mediates salvation to the gentiles, and fellowship is granted only after those outside the covenant have submitted themselves to its ordinances. Paul, on the contrary, declared that Christ's death had abolished all distinctions between Jew and gentile, and that salvation was now available wholly apart from the requirements of the law. This is the mystery "which in other ages was not made known...that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. 3:5-6). Paul rightly claimed that this knowledge had not been revealed prior to his own time; yet the Book of Mormon, over 500 years before Christ, declared that "all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile" (2 Nephi 26:33).
Mormonism not only teaches that certain aspects of the gospel were known long before Christ, but that the earliest prophets were as familiar with the plan of salvation as were Christ's apostles. God commanded Adam, for example, to
repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask it shall be given you (Gen. 6:53, Inspired Version).(12)
This same wonderful foreknowledge permeates the Book of Mormon, making the prophetic attempts of the Old Testament writers appear as poor blunders by comparison. Nephi, writing about 580 B.C., tells us of Christ's virgin birth, his baptism, his rejection by the Jews, his choosing of the twelve apostles, his miracles, and his crucifixion "the sins of the world" (1 Nephi 11:18, 27-34). He names the coming redeemer as Jesus Christ, inform us of his resurrection, and repeats John the Baptist's testimony concerning Christ (1 Nephi 10:8-10; 2 Nephi 25:13, 19). The Book of Mormon outlines the major events of Christ's life in detail, and quotes his exact words scores of times.
Against this representation stands 1 Pet. 1:10-12,
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
Here we are informed that the salvation revealed by Christ was not known in past ages, but was reserved exclusively for Christians. God's prophets (the absence of the article in Greek implies prophets generally) indeed prophesied of the coming Messiah, but they did not understand the import of their own words. God responded to their perplexity by revealing that what they had written was applicable "not unto themselves, but unto us." However diligently they inquired about the time of Messiah's advent and the nature of his work, their questions went unanswered until the advent of the Christian era, when the preaching of the gospel revealed things "the angels desire to look into."
This objection to the Book of Mormon, although originally made as early as 1831, has never been satisfactorily answered by Mormon apologists. Their usual method of avoiding a difficulty by claiming either textual corruption or mistranslation is inapplicable in this instance, as Smith's "Inspired Version" of the Bible left the relevant passages intact. Their only recourse is to either ignore the subject altogether, or to argue that the New Testament itself teaches that the gospel was known in pre-Christian times. Such an argument, however, simply disregards those New Testament passages already cited, and at most seeks to prove a contradiction between the remarks of Peter and Paul and the remainder of the Bible. It overlooks, moreover, the apostolic teaching that the gospel was only dimly and imperfectly foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The author of Hebrews referred to the law as a "shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things" (10:1).
There are three passages Mormons commonly adduce to prove that the gospel was known in ancient times: Lk. 24:27; Gal. 3:8; and 1 Cor. 10:1-4. The Lukan passage speaks of' the resurrected Christ as expounding "in all the scriptures the things concerning himself," and simply means that Jesus interpreted those Old Testament prophecies regarding his own person and work. A brief analysis of the messianic proof-texts recorded in the New Testament will at once dispell any notion that the scriptures Jesus expounded were even remotely comparable to the Book of Mormon's "prophecies" of the coming Christ. The passage from Galatians speaks of "the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, "In thee shall all nations be blessed." The word translated "preached before the gospel" (proeueggelisato, "preach good tidings beforehand") is explained by "In thee shall all nations be blessed," which Paul saw as an anticipation that the gentiles would also be justified by faith. There is absolutely no indication that the entire gospel message was proclaimed to Abraham. The third passage is an allegory based on the Jewish legend that the rock smitten by Moses followed the Israelites throughout their desert wanderings. Their passing through the Red Sea and under the theophanic cloud typified baptism, while the rook which followed them was an allegorical expression of Christ's spiritual presence. The fact that Paul found it necessary to allegorize a Jewish myth in order to illustrate his theme indicates the absence of any comparable Old Testament passage, a fact which discounts rather than confirms the Mormon contention.
There is still another way in which the Book of Mormon is illuminated by the Bible. Within the Book of Mormon are numerous quotations from the Bible, including twenty-one entire chapters from Isaiah. If the Book of Mormon is the ancient record it pretends to be, its value in determining the exact text of these passages is incalculable, and at minimum we should expect it to avoid the more glaring errors of the Authorized Version. Yet in virtually every instance where the Authorized Version is incorrect, that same mistake is paralleled in the corresponding section of the Book of Mormon. Some random examples taken from Isa. 3-13 (cf. 2 Nephi 13-23) are as follows. In Isa. 3:2 the Authorized Version rendered qusam as "prudent," an interpretation which J. A. Alexander has justly termed "arbitrary, contrary to usage, and entirely superfluous."(13) The word means to divine or as use divination, and is translated as "diviner" in all translations subsequent to the Authorized Version. In 3:3 the phrase translated "eloquent orator" in the Authorized Version literally means "one skilled in whispered incantations," a meaning now recognized by every lexical authority. In 5:25 the Hebrew suchah appears as "torn," whereas the word actually means "dung" or "refuse," being derived from the Hebrew noun meaning "to sweep." In 13:22 the Authorized Version's rendering of iyyim as "wild beasts of the islands" is at best unfortunate, and should instead be translated as "howling creatures." The Hebrew original contains no mention of "islands." To suppose that a truly ancient manuscript would reproduce the errors of a translation made over 2,200 years later is not so much credulous as it is cretin.
Not only does the Book of Mormon reproduce the translation errors of the Authorized Version, but it also incorporates passages from that version which are now recognized as interpolations. In 3 Nephi 13:13, for instance, Jesus quotes the doxology of the Lord's prayer exactly as it occurs in Mt. 6:13. Unfortunately for the Book of Mormon, however, Mt. 6:13 is not a part of the original text, but is a later gloss due to liturgical usage. It is not found in the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Bezae, and Dublinensis codices, and is missing from at least five early cursives. It is omitted by all Greek and Latin commentators on the Lord's prayer except Chrysostom and his followers, and is absent from the corresponding sections of both Luke and the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. While various endings were added to the Lord's prayer as early as the second century, it was not until the fourth century that the doxology became fixed in its present form. For these reasons, among others, Mt. 6;13 is regarded as spurious by virtually all modern commentators.
Recognizing that the Book of Mormon could not be the ancient record it pretends to be if Mt. 6:13 is not genuine, many Mormons have attempted to defend the doxology by arguing that it contains nothing doctrinally or morally objectionable, and that certain ancient versions include it. Whether or not the doxology contains anything unworthy of Jesus, however, is entirely irrelevant to its textual genuineness, and the simple fact that it is included in some versions in no way assures its authenticity. The manuscripts in which it is found are generally of a later date than those which fail to include it, and are considered by scholars to reflect a less pure state of textual transmission. Joseph Fielding Smith's contention that the doxology is authentic because it is found in the "Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Spanish and German translations" does not merit serious consideration.(14)
Another instance of the Book of Mormon having plagerized spurious scripture occurs in Mormon 9:22-24 and Mk. 16:15-18. The section of Mark in which this passage occurs, however, is now recognized as foreign to Mark's original gospel, having been added sometime during the second century. While the literature establishing the truth of this conclusion is too bulky and recondite for even a summary statement here, a few major considerations can be briefly noticed. First, the two earliest codices presently available omit the disputed verses altogether, and many important manuscripts of the Armenian, Sinaitic Syriac, Georgian, and Ethiopic versions show no trace of the pericope or longer ending of Mark. A significant number of manuscripts that include the section have scribal notations indicating its absence from earlier copies. Second, the church historian Eusebius (followed by Jerome and Victor of Antioch, who quote him with approval) stated that the disputed verses were not current in all copies of Mark, and that the more accurate copies ended with vs. 8. Earlier writers, such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian, show no acquaintance with the text at all, even when dealing with the same subjects contained in Mk. 16:9-20. Third, the style of the pericope is radically different from the remainder of Mark's gospel. There is a noticable lack of continuity between vss. 8 and 9, words and phrases occur which are either not elsewhere found in Mark or are used in a non-Markan sense, and the sentence structure is far more intricate than Mark's normal style. These and other considerations are decidedly unfavorable to the contention that the pericope was written by Mark.
By including these two interpolations in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith unwittingly provided future critics with all the materials necessary to successfully refute his claims. If it is admitted that either of these two texts have no place in our present Bible, then the modern origin of the Book of Mormon is demonstrated. If, however, it is argued that these two texts are an integral part of scripture, a claim is made that is contradicted by a mountain of textual evidence. There is no half-way house between the two alternatives.
Many other evidences of the Book of Mormon's modern character are provided by its uncritical use of the Bible. The supposedly pre-Christian authors of the Book of Mormon, for example, quoted freely from the New Testament, usually in the language of the Authorized Version. Though allegedly possessing only those Old Testament books that had been written up to the time of their migration, these ancient Americans showed considerable more intimacy with the New Testament than with the Old, and alluded to the words of Paul and the other apostles with the easy familiarity of long acquaintance. "For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?," the prophet Mormon asked, apparently having forgotten that the only place where he or his audiance could "read" such words was in a book they purportedly did not have (Mormon 9:9; cf. Heb. 13:8; James 1:17). Not being bound by the restrictions of space and time as regards the New Testament, it should not be considered surprising that the supposed authors of the Book of Mormon should also transcend the limitations imposed by Old Testament chronology. Thus the prophet Nephi, writing in 545 B.C., quoted from the book of Malachi which would not be written until nearly a century later; and, as if to compound the absurdity, identified his quotation with "For behold, saith the prophet," when the prophet he quotes had not at that time even been born (cf. 1 Nephi 22:15; Mal. 4:1). Anacronisms of this type are sufficient to discredit the Book of Mormon in the eyes of all but its most fanatical adherents.
Click here for X: Conclusion
1. Smith, History of the Church 4:461.
2. For a brief but effective refutation of this claim, see Hal Hougey, Archeology and the Book of Mormon (Concord, Calif.: Pacific Publishing Company, n. d.). An older but more detailed analysis is found in Charles A. Shook, Cumorah Revisited (Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Company, 1910).
3. Walther Eichrodt, Ezekiel: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970), 512.
4. Zechariah later alluded to this same image when he broke his stave named "Union" is order to signify the severance of Judah from Israel (11:14).
5. Snell, "The Bible in the Church," 62.
6. For evidence of how far afield one must travel in order to smuggle in the meaning of "book" into this passage, see the articles by Hugh Nibley in the Improvement Era 56 (Jan., Feb., March, April, May 1953):16-17, 38-41, 90-91, 123-127, 150-152, 191-195, 250, 266-267, 331-344, more succinctly summarized in Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1964), ch. 24.
7. Smith, History of the Church 1:20.
8. For Anthon's account of the interview, see his letters in E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio: By the Author, 1834), 270-72, and J. A. Clark, Gleanings by the Way (Philadelphia: W. J. & J. K. Simon, 1842), 232-38.
9. The details of Isa. 29:10-li make it all the more inappropriate as a prediction of Joseph Smith and Charles Anthon. Isaiah represents the book as first being presented to the learned and then to the ignorant, whereas the order of events must be reversed if Smith and Anthon are the objects of Isaiah's prophecy. Second, the phrase translated "I am not learned" does not accurately represent the Hebrew. A more accurate translation is "I know not writing" or "I cannot read," and implies that the recipient of the sealed book was illiterate. Smith, however little official education he may have possessed, could both read and write with minimal difficulty.
10. Gesenius's Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, trans. S. P. Tregalles (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1857), 674.
11. Orson Pratt, A Series of Pamphlets, 300-301.
12. Like many other Mormon scriptures, this quotation from Genesis is actually a concatenation of snippets picked at random from the New Testament. How Adam, millennia before Christ, could cite from Christian books not yet written is one of the unsolved mysteries of Mormonism.
13. Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah, 2 vols (1875; reprint ed. in one vol., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953), 1:110.
14. Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1957-1966), 3:134.