Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Joseph Smith Translation

"Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible (JST) has received increased attention in the Church in recent years, primarily because it forms an important part of the new LDS editions of the scriptures.  The new edition of the King James Version of the Bible, published in 1979, presents hundreds of JST passages in the footnotes, includes lengthier JST passages in a seventeen-page appendix, and contains an explanatory entry in the dictionary.

"Similarly, the new edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, published in 1981, contains many references to the JST in the footnotes" (Robert J. Matthews, "Joseph Smith's Efforts to Publish His Bible 'Translation,'" Ensign, January 1983).

The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) was made as Joseph Smith studied the Bible and received and noted insights as to where important information was missing or was mistranslated.  Because of this work, we have the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, and some of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (for example, Section 91), in addition to all of the changes made to the Bible itself.

"One of the benefits of the Bible translation is that it provided the Prophet with the spiritual involvement necessary for the revelation of many important doctrines. That these revelations came as a result of intense study of the holy scriptures is a lesson in itself. Answers are found while searching the scriptures because inspiration comes from studying the Lord’s own words. They are an unfailing source of light and inspiration...

"Those familiar with the JST know that it contains important truths not available elsewhere. The desire of the early Brethren was to make these truths available by publication, but they were not able to accomplish it during the Prophet’s lifetime [due to lack of financial backing]. After Joseph Smith’s death, the manuscript was retained by his widow, Emma Smith, and later given to their son Joseph Smith III. He published the JST in book form and copyrighted it through the RLDS Church [now called the Community of Christ]. However, because of this, many in the LDS Church have been reluctant to use it" (ibid.).

When the Church scriptorians put together the "new" LDS combined scriptures (published originally beginning in 1979), they received permission from the RLDS Church to use the Joseph Smith manuscript.  They researched extensively, and chose those passages which contained the greatest doctrinal insights to include in the new edition of the scriptures.  (The author of the Ensign article noted was one of that team.)

"Present Church leaders have expended much effort to make the translation available to the members. The new LDS edition of the Bible contains hundreds of doctrinally significant passages from the JST in the footnotes and reference section. How beneficial it would have been to the Church and to the world through the past 138 years if the Prophet Joseph Smith had been able to provide an official publication in his day! How we might wish that those early Saints had been able to respond fully to the opportunity that was theirs to provide the needed financial assistance! They would have brought blessings not only to themselves, but to millions of lives for generations. After all these years, the time is right and the official scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now offer much light and truth from the Joseph Smith Translation" (ibid.).

In this blog, some JST changes are referenced which were not included in the LDS scriptures, but which are found in a complete version of the JST.  The entire JST is available to Church members.  The original manuscript, held by the Community of Christ, entitled Holy Scriptures is still available for purchase, easily found at Deseret Book or Amazon.com.  Another helpful version is the Community of Christ's Joseph Smith's 'New Translation' of the Bible, which is a side-by-side comparison compiled by Paul Wellington, only noting those verses of Bible which saw a change, and italicizing those changes.  Another version is The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, A Side-by-Side Comparison with the King James Version, by BYU professor Thomas A. Wayment.  (He also has a New Testament version.)  Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts, was published by LDS scholars Kent Jackson, Robert Matthews, and Scott Faulring.  A less expensive paperback version, The Old Testament with the Joseph Smith Translation, compiled by Julie Hite, Steven Hite, and Tom Melville is also available.  This one gives the advantage of a side-by-side harmony of the gospels as well.  The entire Joseph Smith Translation is also available online here.  (It is an RLDS website.)

It adds a great deal to the understanding of the Bible to go through the scriptures and highlight the JST footnotes to make them more easier to notice. More serious students can write into their personal scriptures important changes they find as they read a side-by-side comparison. Drawing a line through large passages which have been entirely changed by the JST (such as Romans 7:5-25 in which the original intent of the passage is completely reversed by the JST) helps the Bible reader to see the change, where simply highlighting the footnote that occurs at the beginning of the passage would not.

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