The Written Records


Jesus didn’t write any scriptures.  The apostles didn’t write the gospels down as things were happening.  They didn’t sit in that upper room during Pentecost, making sure they got everything written down so they could go out and organize the church of Christ based on the authority of their scriptures.

The point with written scriptures is that they must be understood as the product of believers in Christ organized as his church – not what believers in Christ need to use to become organized as his church.  The written records are the trail that’s left behind – not the hand guiding us through.

The scriptures are just printed ink on processed wooden pulp.  Destroy every copy of the written word of God – and it wouldn’t do a thing.  Because a group of believers in Christ would just produce more scriptures.  Only dead congregations, who have no real connection with God through the spirit of prophecy and revelation, would be scrambling – because they lack the ability to produce anything new.  They can only re-tell the stories they’ve inherited from a by-gone generation.

It’s essentially idolatry [see, Making an Image out of God] – to look at the image that’s pointing and cling to and serve it, rather than to Look, Follow, and Live [see, …and the labor which they had to perform was to look…].

The church of Jesus Christ is not established on scriptures:

A book cannot authenticate itself.  It takes an outside authority to do that.  Written records become “scripture” when the church of Christ covenants to be bound to that written record by common consent.  That means that the 66 books that make up the King James canon have authority as “the Bible” by virtue of the Catholic Church’s word alone – not by virtue of them simply being “the Bible”.

Further, you accept the English word-choice of the King James translation by virtue of the word of the Church of England alone – God did not dictate the creation story to Moses, or the epistles to Paul using 1611 English words.

The reason the King James text is also known as “The Authorized Version” is because, prior to its commission – there were many attempts by English commoners [i.e., not clergy or royalty] to translate the Bible into English [the language of the unlearned common-folk].  This threatened the power of the elites – who believed that the translations of the commoners did not, “conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy.”

So, a new state-sanctioned English translation was commissioned that would render phrases in such a way as to justify and legitimize the hierarchical authority of the crown and of the church.  And it would be the only one “Authorized” by the state and the church for use.

Joseph Smith’s view of the bible:

  • It can be ambiguous,

“The teachers of religious understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.”

This ambiguity in the meaning of revelations happens when interpreters make false assumptions about the Bible and then just start guessing away at the correct interpretation.

They’ll assume the scriptures are cryptic [that they’ll say “A”, when they really mean “X”], are relevant [that all the narratives can be applied as personal lessons], and are perfect [that there are no contradictions, missing pieces, or extraneous material].  Their guessing either takes place horizontally [applying the past to the present] or vertically [applying the physical to the spiritual].

The meaning of the word of God should not be guessed at in this way.  Guessing is what Laman and Lemuel did.  Guessing is what Judeans did with Jesus’ parables.  Guessing is what the brethren at Jerusalem did [see, And they understood me not, for they supposed].  The meaning of scripture [in a gospel context] has only one signified attached to it.  And there is only one way to “figure out” what it means –to ask God what it signifies.

  • irrelevant,

The Bible contains revelations given at different times to different people under different circumstances.”

The blessings promised in the scriptures pertain to the people to whom they were spoken.  The laws outlined in the scriptures were tailored to the conditions under which they were given.

For example, at Wheat & Tares I commented on the definition that “hot drinks” in D&C 89 means “tea and coffee”.  The standard interpretation used by the church in regards to verse 9:

and again
hot drinks are not for the body
or belly

[D&C 89:9]

says that Joseph and Hyrum Smith all told members that “hot drinks” meant “tea and coffee”.  Sounds pretty straight-forward.

But – so what if Joseph or Hyrum in fact did say that “hot drinks” meant “tea and coffee” to this-or-that member back in the 1830’s?  That’s all well-and-good because that’s what the saints were in the habit of drinking hot at the time the revelation was given.  Brigham Young reasoned:

I have heard it argued that tea and coffee are not mentioned [in D&C 89]; that is very true; but what were the people in the habit of taking as hot drinks when that revelation was given? Tea and coffee. We were not in the habit of drinking water very hot, but tea and coffee — the beverages in common use.

Now – to follow his reasoning – if the saints ended-up falling out of the habit of drinking tea and coffee hot and started drinking other things hot or started drinking tea and coffee cold — then the revelation still calls us to be guided by the general concept of avoiding the habitual drinking of hot liquids [rather than be bound to the specific conceptions of tea and coffee per se].

The revelation meant “tea and coffee” for them [because that’s what they were in the habit of drinking hot] — but it does not necessarily mean that for us today [if we get in the habit of drinking other liquids hot or drinking tea and coffee cold].

When the Lord said “Don’t drink hot drinks,” Joseph/Hyrum rightly took a look at what the saints were in the habit of drinking hot at that time — and they concluded that it was tea and coffee — so the leaders rightly taught the people to not drink tea and coffee.  But the interpretation of “tea and coffee” pertains to them – given under conditions where the people were in the habit of drinking tea and coffee hot.

  • transmitted erroneously,

I believe the Bible as it came from the pens of the original writers.  Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, and designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.”

If our understanding of some particular point of doctrine is based on a scripture that is the translation of a translation of a translation – that was taken from a copy of a copy of a copy – and somewhere along the line [there are centuries between the original and what we have extant, in many cases] a rendering was screwed-up [whether accidentally or maliciously] – then it may well reveal how weak some of our beliefs could be.

Our centuries long history and traditions of scriptural interpretation, some of Joseph’s wording choices in the Book of Mormon, and much our the temple endowment ceremony are all based on the scriptural renderings common at the time [taken from the King James English text].

I’ve heard people say that:

You’ve got to believe that God created the universe in six 24-hour periods because it says it right there in Genesis, ‘And the evening and the morning were the ____ day.’  The Bible clearly says ‘day’.

When, in reality, the Bible clearly says “yohm”, as it was recorded in Hebrew.  That’s a word that could mean a variety of things in English.

And even getting back to the original Hebrew can be more complex than it might seem at first.  The Meru Foundation found that the origin of the Hebrew characters lie in a series of ritual hand-gestures — or sign language.

Also, the Chronicle Project has found an alternate system for how the written Hebrew characters work, and publishes alternate, “original meaning” renderings of the Hebrew scriptures.

  • and incomplete.

Much instruction has been given to man since the beginning that we do not now possess […] to say that God never said anything more to man would be claiming a new revelation – because such a thing is nowhere said in that volume by the mouth of God.”

In The Concept of Race, in the Gospel, I wrote:

The best thing to do is to take it as granted that the current scriptural record we have in the Bible is a pretty incomplete picture concerning the affairs of God throughout the whole human race.  The Bible is the book that’s come by way of the Jew and is their record — and so we find that it deals primarily with Arabians [go figure].

Until the scriptural record is more complete — until we receive the prophets of the other nations, tribes, and people, with their prophetic records that will come forth from Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Pacific Islands, etc. — we cannot speak with certainty of how God has dealt with the other races and if there are promises made to them that we know that of.

Now, I’m not trying to say that we can draw no good lessons from our historical translations and traditions.  I’m not saying all current Biblical teachings should be repudiated.  Rather – it’s that any explicit meaning we’re going to gather from them ought to be accepted with the understanding that it comes skewed.  That the scriptures come to us as time-and-space artifacts of a particular culture – given in their language and suited to their circumstances.

What we have is just what we have.  It’s better to be honest about what we’ve got with our scriptural record — rather than try to pedestalize it into something it’s not meant to be.

Religions become concerned with ethical behavior and doctrine, and using the scriptures as an all-encompassing moral rule-book – instead of being concerned with changing people’s minds/hearts and how they view/experience their world, using the scriptures as a collection of stories that motivate believers to go live-out their own stories.

The problem with approaching religion as though it were a method of relaying ethics and doctrines from “the Good Book” is that ethics only teach us how to live as though you were one with your neighbor.  You learn the modes of action that imply a compassionate relationship with another person.  It offers you incentive to act in a certain way – but it cannot generate the genuine feeling of it.

While there may be certain ethical implications of having made a covenant with the fundamental Reality of existence – such things neither add to or subtract from current pool of human ethical wisdom.  It is not the domain of religion to lay down specific “hither thou shalt come and no further” guidelines for human behavior that transcendent time, space, culture, and circumstance.

Rather, religion is about providing the environment for people to experience the miraculous works of God and manifestations of the spiritual gifts.  Because once the experience is had – the very way in which a person approaches and experiences human problems/decisions will be altered.

The gospel is about that transcendent experience of a direct connection with God — one that smashes a hardened, left-brain sensation of being separate and opens a person up the fluid, right-brain awareness that all creation is a continuous and connected event that we are all a part of .

Next Article by Justin: The Revelation of God in Jesus Christ

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(What R. U. Scared Of ?)

Is the King James Version still the best?


There are now a whole lot of English translations of the Bible, much more than there were in the times of Joseph Smith.  (Evidence of this can be seen on the Bible Gateway web site.)  Does the King James Version (KJV) still hold up against all these other, newer translations?  Is this the reason why the KJV is still used in the church, or it is that we have simply become accostomed to using it and don’t want to change to a better version?  Or, is it that we don’t look or haven’t looked at the other, newer versions to compare, therefore we don’t even know what is out there now?  I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I wonder if there were a better version, if we LDS would actually embrace it, or if we are just too set in our ways to make the change.

As an example of some of the recent versions out there, I recently came across a new, literal translation called The Scriptures (TS).  Here is a comparison of the TS and the KJV using the first part of the Sermon on the Mount:

Mattithyahu 5 (TS)
Matthew 5 (KJV)

1 But when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountain. And when He was seated His taught ones came to Him. (TS)
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: (KJV)
2 And having opened His mouth, He was teaching them, saying, (TS)
And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, (KJV)
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, because theirs is the reign of the heavens. (TS)
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, because they shall be comforted. (TS)
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (KJV)
5 “Blessed are the meek, because they shall inherit the earth. (TS)
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (KJV)
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they shall be filled. (TS)
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (KJV)
7 “Blessed are the compassionate, because they shall obtain compassion. (TS)
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (KJV)
8 “Blessed are the clean in heart, because they shall see Elohim. (TS)
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (KJV)
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they shall be called sons of Elohim. (TS)
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (KJV)
10 “Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, because theirs is the reign of the heavens. (TS)
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
11 “Blessed are you when they reproach and persecute you, and falsely say every wicked word against you, for My sake. (TS)
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (KJV)
12 “Rejoice and be glad, because your reward in the heavens is great. For in this way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (TS)
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (KJV)
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt becomes tasteless, how shall it be seasoned? For it is no longer of any use but to be thrown out and to be trodden down by men. (TS)
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (KJV)
14 “You are the light of the world. It is impossible for a city to be hidden on a mountain. (TS)
Ye are the alight of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (KJV)
15 “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it shines to all those in the house. (TS)
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (KJV)
16 “Let your light so shine before men, so that they see your good works and praise your Father who is in the heavens. (TS)
Let your alight so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (KJV)
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete. (TS)
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (KJV)
18 “For truly, I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done. (TS)
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (KJV)
19 “Whoever, then breaks one of the least of these commands, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the reign of the heavens; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens. (TS)
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall by no means enter in to the reign of the heavens. (TS)
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
21 “You heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders shall be liable to judgment. (TS)
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (KJV)
22 “But I say to you that whoever is wroth with his brother without a cause shall be liable to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raka!’ shall be liable to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to fire of Gehenna. (TS)
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (KJV)
23 “If, then, you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother holds whatever against you, (TS)
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; (KJV)
24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go, first make peace with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (TS)
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (KJV)
25 “Be well-minded with your opponent, promptly, while you are on the way with him, lest your opponent deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. (TS)
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. (KJV)
26 “Truly, I say to you, you shall by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (TS)
Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. (KJV)
27 “You heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (TS)
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: (KJV)
28 “But I say to you that everyone looking at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (TS)
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (KJV)
29 “And if your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away from you. For it is better for you that one of your members perish, than for your entire body to be thrown into Gehenna. (TS)
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (KJV)
30 “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you. For it is better for you that one of your members perish, than for your entire body to be thrown into Gehenna. (TS)
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (KJV)
31 “And it has been said, ‘Whoever puts away his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ (TS)
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: (KJV)
32 “But I say to you that whoever puts away his wife, except for the matter of whoring, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery. (TS)
But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (KJV)
33 “Again, you heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to [this translation uses the four Hebrew letters that represent the name of Jehovah].’ (TS)
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: (KJV)
34 “But I say to you, do not swear at all, neither by the heaven, because it is Elohim’s throne; (TS)
But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: (KJV)
35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Yerushalayim, for it is the city of the great Sovereign; (TS)
Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. (KJV)
36 nor swear by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. (TS)
Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. (KJV)
37 “But let your word ‘Yea’ be ‘Yea,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ And what goes beyond these is from the wicked one. (TS)
But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (KJV)
38 “You heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ (TS)
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: (KJV)
39 but I say to you, do not resist the wicked. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. (TS)
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. (KJV)
40 “And he who wishes to sue you and take away your inner garment, let him have your outer garment as well. (TS)
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. (KJV)
41 “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (TS)
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. (KJV)
42 “Give to him who asks of you, and from him who wishes to borrow from you, do not turn away. (TS)
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (KJV)
43 “You heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ (TS)
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. (KJV)
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those insulting you and persecuting you, (TS)
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (KJV)
45 so that you become sons of your Father in the heavens. Because He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (TS)
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (KJV)
46 “For if you love those loving you, what reward have you? Are the tax collectors not doing the same too? (TS)
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? (KJV)
47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Are the tax collectors not doing so too? (TS)
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (KJV)
48 “Therefore, be perfect, as your Father in the heavens is perfect. (TS)
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (KJV)

(Note: The above TS translation was taken from the free PDF download of the Book of Mattithyahu (Matthew) available from the Institute for Scripture Research web site. I carefully typed by hand all the text, but there may still be typos. To assure that the text is typo-free, download the .pdf file and compare it to your KJV scriptures.)

So, what is the general opinion, is the King James Version still the best of all the translations?  And if not, are we too stuck in our ways to change to another translation?

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