Bit it IS Translated Correctly! (MORMONISM)
An Examination Of Common LDS Beliefs
About The Bible
"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
So says the 8th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. But what does this mean? Why do Latter-day Saints understand the 8th
Article in so many different ways? Below we will examine this topic, and hopefully
direct the reader to a proper understanding of the authority, inspiration,
and accuracy of the Word of God, the Bible.
Bible claims to be a very special book. In fact, the Apostle
Peter, when describing the process whereby the Scriptures
were written, said, "Knowing this first of all,
that no Scriptural prophecy ever came about by the prophetís
own personal explanation, for no prophecy ever was borne
by the will of man; rather, while being carried along by
the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God" (2 Peter
1:20-21). Peter was saying nothing new when he gave this
high view of Scripture, for the prophets of the Old Testament,
too, had presented their words not as the words of men,
but the very words of God. The Apostle Paul summed up the
entire Bibleís teaching when he wrote, "All scripture
is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof,
for instruction, for training in righteousness, in order
that the man of God might be complete, fully equipped for
every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul taught
that the Scriptures themselves were "God-breathed";
their very origin was to be found in God Himself. These
are not just menís writings about God, but Godís revelation
to man. Since this is so, the Bible is able to make the
man of God "complete, fully equipped for every good
work." Nothing needs to be added to the Bible, nothing
needs to be changed. The Scriptures come from God, and
are sufficient to their task.
Yet, when discussing with LDS people the Bibleís teaching that there is but
one God, or that Jesus Christís work on the cross brings about full and complete
salvation outside of the works of man, often the conversation immediately turns
to the accuracy and trustworthiness of the Bible. Why is this? What does the
LDS Church teach about the inspiration of the Bible? Why do so many modern
LDS distrust it?
far as it is translated correctly..."
commenting on this Article, Mormon scholar James Talmage
"The Latter-day Saints believe the original records to be the word
of God unto man, and, as far as these records have been translated correctly,
the translations are regarded as equally authentic. The English Bible professes
to be a translation made through the wisdom of man; in its preparation the
most scholarly men have been enlisted, yet not a version has been published
in which errors are not admitted. However, an impartial investigator has cause
to wonder more at the paucity of errors than that mistakes are to be found
at all." (Articles of Faith, pp. 236-237).
A little later, however, Talmage makes this comment:
"The New Testament must be accepted for what it claims to be; and though,
perhaps, many precious parts have been suppressed or lost, while some corruptions
of the texts may have crept in, and errors have been inadvertently introduced
through the incapacity of translators, the volume as a whole must be admitted
as authentic and credible, and as an essential part of the Holy Scriptures." (p.
Most LDS people, when speaking of the Bible, are not as reserved as Dr. Talmage.
Mormon missionaries have often been heard to say, "But, the Bible has
been translated many times, and whole sections have been removed, so we donít
know what it originally said!" Few can even begin to substantiate
the claim that whole books have been removed from the Bible, yet the same thread
runs throughout the common LDS view of the Bible: it is a good book, but not
nearly as trustworthy as the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, or
the Pearl of Great Price. When faced with a Biblical passage that contradicts
Mormon teaching, it is very common to hear the 8th Article of Faith quoted
along with some comment saying that the Bible is full of contradictions and
has in some way been "changed" over time.
How are the above statements of Dr. Talmage, as well as the common beliefs
of LDS people today, to be reconciled and understand? Is the English Bible,
whether we speak of the King James Version or other more modern versions, full
of errors? Do we know what the Bible originally said? Have whole sections been
removed from Scripture? To answer these questions, a few definitions are required.
8th Article of Faith really only addresses the translation of
the Bible. There is a very important difference between
the translation of the Bible and the transmission of
the text of the Bible over time. These two terms are often
confused by LDS people. Translation is simply the
rendering of a written word, sentence, or document, from
one language into another. The Bible was written in Hebrew
and Greek, with a very small amount of Aramaic as well.
When one translates the Bible, one simply takes
the original Hebrew or Greek passage and renders it in
English. For example, the citations of 2 Peter 1:20-21
and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 above were not taken from an English
text, but were translated directly from the Greek
text. Psalm 119:89 says, "Forever, O LORD, Your Word
is settled in the heavens." I did not read that passage
from an English Bible, but rather translated it
anew from the Hebrew text. Here is another passage, Matthew
24:35: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words
will never pass away." Again, this was translated from
the original Greek language, not simply read from an English
Bible. Hence, strictly, the Bible is translated hundreds
of times every day by people who know the Biblical languages.
Each English Bible, such as the King James Version, or
the New American Standard Bible, is simply a different translation of
the Greek and Hebrew texts. They are not, as many LDS seem
to believe, "different Bibles." There is only
one Bible, but many translations of that Bible into other
Now, the 8th Articles of Faith says that the Bible is the word of God "as
far as it is translated correctly." As far as that is understood correctly,
we agree. That is, an obvious, gross, purposeful mistranslation of the Bible
would not be binding upon someone as the word of God. If someone set out to
change the message of Scripture by willfully and knowingly mistranslating the
original tongues, the result of their work would not be the Word of
God but a deception, a falsehood. An example of this is the Jehovahís Witnesses New
World Translation. This "bible" is purposefully mistranslated
so as to provide some basis for the Jehovahís Witnesses unique doctrines and
teachings. It is not, therefore, truly "the Word of God." If this
was all that most Mormons understood by the 8th Article of Faith, there would
be little grounds for objection. But, sadly, most Mormons do not interpret
it in that way. Most confuse the term translation with a totally
different concept: that of transmission.
Transmission refers to the process whereby the text of the Bible, in
Greek and Hebrew, has been preserved and passed down through the centuries
to this present time. This process involved hand-copying the texts of the Bible
up until the middle of the fifteenth century, when printing became available.
Most of the time, when Mormons speak of the Bible being "changed" over
time, or of its being incorrectly "translated," they are referring
not to translation but to an alleged error in the transmission of
the text. That is, many LDS believe that the Bible, during those many centuries
of hand-copied transmission, was corrupted by those who did the writing, either
intentionally or by accident, so much so that today we do not know exactly
what Paul or Peter actually wrote, let alone someone who lived much earlier,
like Samuel or Moses. Therefore, for many LDS, the 8th Article of Faith is
better understood, "we accept the Bible as the word of God as far as itís
text has been transmitted correctly."
With these definitions in mind, letís examine some of the most common claims
made by Mormons about the accuracy and integrity of the Bible.
are many different Bibles, each contradicting the other!
is a very common belief of Mormon people. Since each translation
of the Bible does not provide the exact same rendering
of the English text word-for-word, then it is believed
that no one knows what the Bible actually says. However,
anyone who is the least but familiar with more than one
language knows that this objection carries no weight at
all. There is more than one way to translate a phrase from
one language knows that this objection carries no weight
at all. There is more than one way to translate a phrase
from one language to another, and in the vast majority
of the cases, the differences between on translation and
another have to do with word-choice on the part of the
translators themselves. Some translations are more "literal" than
other. Letís look at some examples.
German speaking people have a saying that in German is, "Morgen Stunden
hat golden Munden." Literally this is translated into English
as "morning hours have gold in their mouths." But, this literal translation,
while "accurate," does not say much to an English speaking person.
Rather, the proper translation of the meaning of the phrase would involve
using the English saying that corresponds to the German one, in this case, "the
early bird catches the worm." Both translations are "accurate"--one
is literal, but does not convey meaning well, the other is not literal, but
conveys the meaning. Another example. The French say, "jíai le cafard" which,
if literally translated, means "I have the cockroach." However, a
Frenchman who says "jíai le cafard" is not referring to insects
at all--the phrase is an idiom of the language that means "I am depressed" or "I
have the blues." As you can see, there is simply more than one way to
correctly and accurately translate from one language into another.
Many Mormons have asserted that the existence of different translations means
that the Bible has been "changed." Yet, if they were to be shown
two or three different translations of the Declaration of Independence in German,
none of which agreed word-for-word with the others, would they then conclude
that the Declaration of Independence itself had been "changed"? Of
course not. In the same way, just because there are numerous different translations
of the Bible in English (and many other languages) does not mean that the Bible
itself has been changed.
and precious truths" have been removed from the
the Book of Mormon makes this claim in 1 Nephi 13:26ff.
The main objection of Mormons to the final authority of
the Bible as the Word of God is their belief that parts
are missing from the Bible, and that those parts that remains
have been altered. As evidence of this, various references
to written books that are not a part of the Bible are cited,
such as the book of Nathan the prophet (2 Chronicles 9:29)
or the book of Jasher (2 Samuel 1:18), etc. What of these
references, and the claims made about changes in the Bible?
First, there have never been books that were a part of the "Bible" as
we know it that are now "lost." There were a small number of writings,
such as the Epistle of Clement or the book of Barnabus, that were considered
by a minority of Christians at one time or another to be part of the Bible.
These books are not "lost" as they still exist and can be readily
consulted and read. We know of no Mormons who believe that these, or other
books such as the Apocryphal books accepted by Roman Catholics as part of the
Bible, should in fact be in the canon (list) of Scripture. So where are these
other books that were supposedly "removed"?
What of other book of Jasher or the others mentioned in the Old Testament?
Where are they? Are they not "missing" from the Bible? We may
not have all of these books, but we must ask why anyone thinks that they were
part of the Bible in the first place. Why is it that the Bible cannot even
mention the existence of any other written record without automatically making
those records Scripture? Is there anything in the Bible that should convince
us that the book of Jasher was Scripture? The Bible does not say it was. So
why consider it "missing"? God has promised many times that His Word
would never pass away (Isaiah 40:8). Either God has made an error in "losing" these
books, or they were never a part of Scripture in the first place.
Some Mormons are utterly convinced that the Roman Catholic Church has somehow "edited" or "changed" the
Bible to suit their own doctrines and beliefs. The fact is, nothing of the
sort has taken place, nor could it have. Why? Because of the massive number
of manuscripts of the Bible that we have. No one man, or group of men, could
have possibly changed all those manuscripts that were scattered all across
the known world. It is simply an impossible task. Wholesale changes in the
text of the Bible never took place--books, chapters, verses, etc., are not
missing, are not "lost" as so many people have been taught. The facts
simply do not support such an idea.
the Bible must have been changed, since it now contradicts
one of the most common allegations against the inerrancy
and accuracy of the Bible is that of supposed contradictions.
When in a discussion of those issues that separate Mormonism
from historic Christian faith, one often hears the LDS
person say, "but, what you have just quoted is
contradictory to other statements in the Bible, so you
need some other source of revelation to know for certain." These
allegations normally fall into two categories: supposed
contradictions in teaching and supposed contradictions
of historical fact, etc.
In response to the first category, we might point out that an all-too-clear
reason for thinking the teaching of one passage to be contradictory with another
might just be that the person making the allegation does not properly understand
the teaching of one or both of the passages. For example, many Mormons
find Jamesí teaching in James 2:20-24 to be "contradictory" to Paulís
teaching in Romans 3:24 and Ephesians 2:8-10. Yet, a close examination of these
passages reveals this thinking to be in error, for James is speaking to Christians
about the results of true and living faith, while Paul is speaking of how
a man is to be justified before God. In each instance where a supposed
contradiction in teaching is presented, a close examination of the next reveals
that no contradiction exists.
The second category, that of alleged contradictions of fact, history, etc.,
requires more in-depth study of the issues to properly address. Obviously,
in this short space, we cannot even begin to address each and every "contradiction" that
has been proposed through the ages. History shows that many of those "flaws" in
the Bible that men have touted at one time or another have fallen before further
archeological or textual study; many "pet problems" with the Bible
are based upon ignorance rather than upon fact. Be that as it may, we can truly
say, having examined entire volumes of these supposed "contradictions," that
we have yet to find one that could be proven beyond question to be a contradiction
in the original manuscripts of the Bible. If you honestly feel that you know
of such a contradiction, and this contradiction keeps you from truly believing
in the accuracy and authority of the message of the Bible, please write and
allow us to correspond with you on the subject. If God has truly spoken in
His Word, the Bible, we feel there is no reason to hesitate to examine any
objection that could be raised to His Word. We do not claim to have all the
answers, of course, but we offer to be of assistance to you If we possibly
Why did we write this? We feel that if any honest Mormon would examine the
full and complete teachings of the Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
of God, they would find that its teachings are very far removed from those
of the LDS Church. They would find that there is but one God who draws men
to Himself, having provided salvation through Jesus Christ solely on the basis
of His grace and mercy, not upon any actions of man. We hope you will "search
the Scriptures" as the Bereans of old (Acts 17:11) and "prove
all things" as the Scriptures command (1 Thessalonians 5:21).