The Process of Inspired Translation

Two Passages Translated Twice in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

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Contents

Since 1996, researchers from Brigham Young University—with the assistance of new photographs, scanned images, and much hands-on examination of the documents—have been engaged in a careful study of the text written on the original manuscripts of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. The work has yielded the publication of a large facsimile transcription of all the original manuscript pages and much new information about how Joseph Smith prepared the text.1 Among the many new discoveries resulting from this research is an enhanced understanding of the sequence and chronology of the Prophet’s work.

A Brief History of the Joseph Smith Translation

Not long after the Church of Christ was organized in spring 1830, Joseph Smith began a revision of the King James translation of the Bible, a process that would engage hundreds of hours of his time and much of his energy over the next three years. This New Translation, as he and early Church members called it,2 would be the source of much new revelation that would come to the Church in the form of improved and restored biblical texts. The process of translation began in June 1830 when the revelation now known as Moses 1 was received—a preface to the book of Genesis and thus to the entire Bible. Over the course of the following months, Joseph Smith continued to translate the Old Testament (Genesis 1–24, June 1830–March 1831). It is likely that he intended to go through the Bible from cover to cover, but a March 7, 1831, revelation instructed him to interrupt the Old Testament work and translate the New Testament (D&C 45:60–62). Upon completion of the New Testament (Matthew–Revelation, March 1831–July 1832), he translated the rest of the Old Testament in order (Genesis 24–Malachi, July 1832–July 1833).

Aside from the cessation of translating the Old Testament while the New Testament was revised, the translation was a systematic process that took Joseph Smith from one end of the Bible to the other. The books and passages, chapters and verses were revised in sequence. But even while the original translation was under way, the Prophet made a second pass through many of the pages, often revising his earlier dictation with expanded or clarified meanings. Those later revisions were probably completed not long after the first revision was dictated. Both processes—the original dictating and the later revising—have become increasingly clear through recent research into the original manuscripts.3

Two New Testament Passages That Were Translated Twice

In light of what we know now about the creation of the New Translation, it is interesting to observe that, in two places in the Bible, Joseph Smith provided two original translations that vary from each other. The passages, one quite long (Matt. 26:1–71) and the other very short (2 Pet. 3:4–6), were translated twice, most likely because Joseph Smith had forgotten that he had produced the original translations and thus translated the material anew. In this article, we present the two versions of the translations, here published together in edited format for the first time, and we examine them to see what can be learned from them. In what ways are they different, and in what ways are they the same? What do the differences and similarities mean? From this unique situation—two prophetic revisions of the same biblical texts—we can learn much about how the Prophet fulfilled his calling to create his New Translation of the Bible for the Church.

Joseph Smith’s New Translation of Matthew 26:1–71

When Joseph Smith began the translation of the New Testament in spring 1831, he translated most of the Gospel of Matthew without major interruption. The manuscript produced by that original translation (figs. 1–2) has been designated by modern archivists as New Testament Manuscript 1 (NT1). John Whitmer later made a back-up copy of most of the NT1 material. That copy begins what would later be known as New Testament Manuscript 2 (NT2, in four folios), which became the working copy on which the rest of the translation of the New Testament was continued. To understand how Joseph Smith made two original translations of Matthew 26, it is necessary to understand in more detail the genesis of NT1 and NT2 and how the two manuscripts relate to each other.

New Testament Manuscript 1 (NT1) is the original dictated text of Joseph Smith’s New Translation of Matthew 1:1–26:71. It was begun on March 8, 1831, and probably was finished in June of that year. It was written in Kirtland, Ohio, in the hand of Sidney Rigdon, who served as the Prophet’s scribe, recording his dictation. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon left Kirtland for Missouri on June 19, 1831, and it is likely that they finished NT1 before their departure.4 The text ends at Matthew 26:71 in the middle of a sentence and clearly not at a predictable stopping place. The abrupt ending suggests a date for Matthew 26 shortly before their departure, when they ran out of time. The NT1 text of Matthew 26 shows only minimal editing after its original writing. All of it appears to be in the hand of Sidney Rigdon, who corrected his own scribal and spelling errors at the time of the original dictation. There was not a second pass of revisions in this text.

Matthew 26 on NT1 differs in several places from the text of the King James translation. Most of the changes appear to be clarifications or rewordings of the existing English text, but there are also significant new insights.

On March 8, 1831, John Whitmer was appointed by revelation to transcribe for Joseph Smith (D&C 47:1). He first copied the Old Testament translation that had been revealed to that point. Then, as pages of the New Testament manuscript (NT1) became available, he transcribed them also. His copy of NT1 is identified as New Testament Manuscript 2, Folio 1 (NT2.1). It does not reproduce all of NT1, however; it ends in the middle of verse 1 of Matthew 26.

How the Duplications Occurred

After spending most of summer 1831 in Independence, Missouri, Joseph Smith returned to Ohio and to his work on the New Translation. The Prophet reported that “the forepart of September was spent in making preparations to remove to the town of Hiram [Ohio], and [re]commence the translation of [the] bible.”5 From then “until the fore part of October,” he “did little more than to prepare to recom<m>ence the translation of the bible.”6 John Whitmer was now the scribe for the Joseph Smith Translation, recording the Prophet’s dictation on a new manuscript, today labeled New Testament Manuscript 2, Folio 2 (NT2.2).

However, instead of recommencing the translation at Matthew 26:71, where he had stopped his translating before traveling to Missouri, the Prophet began at Matthew 26:1. Whitmer had made his copy only to the first verse of the chapter, and it appears that both he and the Prophet had forgotten that the translation had already progressed farther. Thus NT2.2 contains a second translation of Matthew 26. This translation was begun on September 26 and was probably completed within a day or two7 (fig. 3). The earlier translation appears to have been forgotten altogether, perhaps because NT1, the original dictation, had already been set aside and replaced by the folios of NT2 as the live text to which later material was added and on which later corrections and revisions were written. When the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now the Community of Christ) prepared to publish Joseph Smith’s Bible translation in 1867,8 they drew their text of Matthew 26 from the NT2.2 translation, and thus it is the one contained in the published Inspired Version today.9

The NT2.2 translation of Matthew 26, unlike that of NT1, shows a great deal of editing after the original dictation to prepare it for publication. While John Whitmer was serving as scribe, he corrected some of his own recording errors at the time of the dictation. In addition to those corrections, Joseph Smith undertook a later review of parts of NT2.2 with Sidney Rigdon as scribe. Corrections on the Matthew 26 pages that resulted from that review are few, and most are small clarifications and word rearrangements. Later hands added punctuation, although Whitmer had included some during the original dictation. Capitalization changes were made as well, and Whitmer’s ampersands (&) were spelled out to “and” in most instances. Verse divisions and verse numbers were then added. The verses assigned in the JST manuscripts were not the short divisions we have in modern Bibles but paragraph-length verses that are less interruptive of the scriptural text.10 We cannot say when the changes in punctuation, capitalization, and versification were inserted. Our best suggestion is that they were inserted by clerks working under Joseph Smith’s direction. This work may have been done in the 1830s after the translation was completed, but perhaps it took place in the early 1840s, when the Prophet was preparing his New Translation for publication.11

Earlier historians have disagreed as to why there are differences between NT1 and NT2.2. In his early research on the Joseph Smith Translation manuscripts, RLDS Church Historian Richard P. Howard attributes the differences between Matthew 26 in NT1 and NT2.2 to John Whitmer’s “copying and emending” of NT1.12 He believes that as Whitmer was producing NT2.2, he “saw the need to clarify some passages in Matthew.”13 Then, Howard suggests, Whitmer’s emendation was revised further by Joseph Smith. Howard assumes that Whitmer was assigned not only to copy but also to emend, yet the JST manuscripts show that Whitmer was a faithful copyist whose transcriptions diverged intentionally from the originals only in very rare cases when he corrected what he apparently felt were grammatical or writing errors in the originals.14 Robert J. Matthews explains that NT2.2 is missing “two phrases that were actually a substantive part of the revision” in NT1.15 He proposes two possible explanations for their omission: they were either “carelessly transcribed” or “deliberately rejected” when NT2.2 was made.16

Our recent research has enabled us to obtain a clearer picture of the history of the New Translation and to reconstruct more accurately the generation of the two texts of Matthew 26. As we have described above, the NT1 text was translated by or in June 1831, and it appears that its existence was overlooked when Joseph Smith began anew the translation over three months later. There is every indication that he made each translation of Matthew 26 with the intent of having it be part of the New Translation. Thus Latter-day Saints can welcome both readings as valued contributions to the Restoration, even if one was later forgotten and supplanted by another. Such a memory lapse is understandable. The process of translation was interrupted for at least three months between the two translations by the Prophet’s first trip to Missouri and all the events associated with it: the rigors of travel in the 1830s, the dedication of land for building the city of Zion, the consecration of property for building a temple, and the preparations for gathering the Saints to that location.

The King James Version and
the Two Joseph Smith Translations

Following, in parallel columns, are the King James Version text, as found in the current English Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible, and the texts of Joseph Smith’s two translations of Matthew 26:1–71.17 The King James translation below includes all the italics that appeared in the 1828 H. and E. Phinney Bible that Joseph Smith used when preparing the New Translation.18 To the Joseph Smith Translation texts, we have added punctuation, capitalization, and spelling modeled after the King James Version. We have highlighted in bold type the changes that Joseph Smith made to the texts.19 Our commentary appears below the relevant verses.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,

And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,

And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,

2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

You know that after two days is the passover, and the Son is to be betrayed and crucified.

Ye know that after two days is the passover, and then the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

Verse 2. In the NT1 account, the Prophet changed the archaic pronoun “ye” to “you,” which he did a total of thirteen times in that account. In three other instances, he added new material that contains “you” where the King James translation would have used “ye.” In the NT2.2 account, only once did the Prophet add “you” where the King James translators would have used “ye,” and he did not change “ye” in any existing occurrence. This shows that on his second translation of Matthew 26, the modernizing of the pronouns was not as high a priority as it had been some months earlier.

In both translations, the Prophet removed the “the feast of” and made other editorial adjustments that make the text read more easily. These are typical of most of the changes in the two texts of Matthew 26, and they are typical of the majority of individual changes the Prophet made throughout the New Translation. NT1 changes “Son of man” to “Son.” This is the only such change in the chapter, and thus we cannot tell if it was a deliberate or an inadvertent omission.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

3 Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,

And then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who is called Caiaphas,

Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,

4 And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.

And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him, that they might put an end to his work.

And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.

5 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.

But they said, Lest there be an uproar among the people, let us not do it on the feast day.

But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.

6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,

Verse 4. This verse contains a significant revision in the NT1 narrative, an addition that provides a motive for the leaders of the Jews who opposed Jesus’ ministry: “that they might put an end to his work.”

Verse 5. The rewording for clarification in NT1 is typical of many other JST changes.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.

There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat in the house.

There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat in the house.

8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?

But when his disciples saw her, they had indignation against her, saying, To what purpose is this waste?

But when some saw this, they had indignation, saying, Unto what purpose is this waste?

9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.

And when they had thus reasoned among themselves and understood not—Jesus, knowing their hearts, he said unto them, Why trouble you the woman? And from whence is this evil in your hearts? For verily I say unto you, she hath wrought a good work upon me.

When they had said thus, Jesus understood them, and he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.

Verse 7. Both versions change “at meat” to “in the house.” The Greek participle anakeiménou, “was reclining,” is used often in the context of eating but does not necessarily mean that the event occurred at a meal.

Verse 8. The NT2.2 version changes “his disciples” to the less definite “some,” and both accounts supply an antecedent to the italicized it. The NT1 account provides an object to the “indignation.”

Verse 10. This is one of several instances in which Joseph Smith made parallel content changes in both of the JST narratives. The NT2.2 translation rewords the introductory clause of the verse and makes it clearer (see fig. 2). The NT1 translation provides a much fuller revision and adds significant new insights. Among other things, it changes the subject of the verb “understood” from Jesus to his companions. The first part of the verse (“And when . . . their hearts”) provides a window into the thinking both of Jesus and of the others. The revised verse also provides additional dialogue, as Jesus asked his hearers, “And from whence is this evil in your hearts?”

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

For the poor you have always with you; but me you have not always.

For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.

12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.

This woman hath poured this ointment on my body for my burial.

For she hath poured this ointment on my body for my burial.

13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, shall this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. For in that she hath done for me, she hath obtained a blessing of my Father.

And in this thing that she hath done, she shall be blessed. For verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, this thing, that this woman hath done, shall also be told for a memorial of her.

14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

And said, What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

And said, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

And from that time he sought opportunity to betray Jesus.

Verses 11–12. NT1 revises the syntax of both of these verses, making the reading clearer. NT2.2 does the same with verse 12.

Verse 13. The two translations insert the same addition to this verse, although not in identical words. It is a sentence spoken by Jesus promising a blessing for the woman who anointed him. The earlier translation places it at the end of the verse, and the later translation places it at the beginning of the verse.

Verse 15. The Prophet deleted “unto them” in both translations, thereby causing the readings to reflect more closely the earliest Greek texts.

Verse 16. The change in NT2.2 from “him” to “Jesus” is typical of other similar revisions in the Joseph Smith Translation in which pronouns are replaced by names to make antecedents clearer.20

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

17 Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?

Now on the first day of the unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?

Now on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came unto Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?

18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.

And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.

And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.

19 And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.

And the disciples did as Jesus had commanded them; and they made ready the Passover.

And the disciples did as Jesus appointed them; and they made ready the passover.

20 Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.

Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.

Now when the evening was come, he sat down with the twelve.

21 And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

Verse 17. Both narratives insert the preposition “on” in the beginning phrase. NT1 deletes feast of, but NT2.2 includes it in the text.

Verse 19. Grammatical adjustments like the change in NT2.2 from “as Jesus had appointed” to “as Jesus appointed” are not unprecedented in the Joseph Smith Translation. In several such places, the Prophet selected a simpler grammatical form than that used by the King James translators. The change to “commanded” in NT1 more accurately reflects the semantic range of the Greek verb suntássō.

Verse 20. In the NT2.2 account, as in many other instances in the New Translation, Joseph Smith supplied a more contemporary term than that used in the King James Bible.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

23 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.

And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.

And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.

24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if [he] had not been born.

But the Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

25 Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said truly, for thou art the man.

Then Judas, who betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat of it. And a commandment I give unto you, and this is the commandment which I give unto you, that as you see me do, you shall do likewise in remembrance of my body.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and brake it, and blessed it, and gave to his disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body, which I gave a ransom for you.

Verse 25. The change of relative pronouns from “which” to “who,” as here in NT2.2, is very common in the Joseph Smith Translation. NT1 expands on the last sentence to make Jesus’ response to Judas more emphatic.

Verse 26. The changes made in this verse are among the most significant of the chapter, and both translations make important contributions. In the four Joseph Smith Translation accounts of the sacrament at the Last Supper (NT1 Matthew, NT2.2 Matthew, Mark, and NT2.4 Luke),21 only NT2.2 Matthew corrects the order of events with regard to the bread: “Jesus took bread, and brake it, and blessed it.” This correction brings the order into harmony with Jesus’ pattern in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 18:3). Both NT1 and NT2.2 add words to show that the bread was not Jesus’ body but “in remembrance” of it, something otherwise absent in the Matthew account.22 The words “which I gave a ransom for you” in NT2.2 provide the doctrinal foundation for the passage. In the NT1 narrative, Jesus commands his Apostles to do as they had seen him do—to bless and pass the sacramental emblems to others.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and blessed the cup, and gave to them, saying, Drink of it all of you;

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

For this you shall do in remembrance of my blood, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name for the remission of their sins.

For this is in remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins. And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall observe to do the things which ye have seen me do, and bear record of me even unto the end.

29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I shall come and drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

Verse 27. NT1 restores the information that Jesus not only gave thanks for the wine but also blessed it.

Verse 28. The changes in this verse do to the account of the wine what the changes in verse 26 do to the account of the bread. Both NT1 and NT2.2 replace “my blood” with “in remembrance of my blood.” Both accounts replace “shed for many” with “shed for as many as shall believe on my name.” And most significantly, the Prophet added to the NT2.2 narrative a commandment of Jesus to his disciples that they do as they had seen him do with respect to the sacrament. The NT1 narrative contains the same instruction, but there Joseph Smith inserted it into the account of the bread, not into the account of the wine.23

Verse 29. The small change here in NT1 adds important information to Jesus’ promise that he will yet participate in the sacrament with his disciples. The insertion that he “shall come and” drink with them brings the doctrine into harmony with what we know from elsewhere in modern revelation. That event will take place not in heaven but “on the earth” (D&C 28:5).

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.

Then saith Jesus unto them, All you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.

Then said Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.

32 But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.

But Peter answered and said unto him, Though all my brethren should be offended because of thee, I will never be offended.

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, I will never be offended.

34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Verse 30. The change in both texts from “an hymn” to “a hymn” is typical of other modernizations in the Joseph Smith Translation. Joseph Smith’s 1828 H. and E. Phinney Bible, the default King James Version text for the Joseph Smith Translation, has “a hymn” in this verse, and he read it as such to his scribes.24

Verse 31. In many places in the New Testament, Joseph Smith changed the King James present tense “saith” to “said,” as he did here in the NT2.2 account.

Verse 33. Again the italicized words are changed in the New Translation. NT1 identifies the indefinite “all men” of the King James translation with the Twelve—“all my brethren.” The Prophet deleted the “yet” of the last clause in both translations. It is found in some Greek texts but not in the earliest manuscripts. The word order is changed in both translations to “I will.”

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet I will not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit you here, while I go yonder and pray.

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and said unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.

37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry you here, and watch with me.

Then said he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Verse 35. As in both translations of verse 33, verse 35 of NT1 changes the archaic syntax “will I” to “I will,” another indicator that much of the work of the Joseph Smith Translation is modernization of the biblical language.

Verse 36. The changed syntax in NT1 reflects the word order of the Greek text more closely than does the King James Version.

Verse 39. In both translations, the Prophet dictated from his own Bible the more contemporary word “farther,” which differs from “further” as in the current Latter-day Saint edition. The NT2.2 translation (here and in verse 42) replaces the vocative “O” with the exclamatory “Oh.” This may simply be John Whitmer’s spelling and may not reflect a change in meaning.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could you not watch with me one hour?

And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he said unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation. He said unto them, The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Watch and pray you, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, Oh my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take rest; and they did so. And when they awoke, Jesus saith unto them, Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Then cometh he to his disciples, and said unto them, Sleep on now, and take rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Verse 41. The insertion of “He said unto them” in NT1 suggests that the Prophet viewed the following sentence as not necessarily connected with the preceding sentence.

Verses 45–46. In the King James text, Jesus instructs his disciples to sleep and then immediately instructs them to rise and “be going.” The Joseph Smith Translation supplies the missing continuity. In NT1 we read, “and they did so. And when they awoke, Jesus saith unto them.” NT2.2 expresses it differently: “And after they had slept he said unto them, Arise.” Again, it is interesting to see that the Prophet inserted the same thought into each account, although not in identical words and not in the same location.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Arise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

And after they had slept he said unto them, Arise, and let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.

And while he yet spake, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, having authority from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.

Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, the same is he: hold him fast.

Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.

49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.

50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

And Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? And Jesus also said unto the captain, Friend, wherefore art thou come? And then they came, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

And Jesus said unto him, Judas, wherefore art thou come to betray me with a kiss? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

Verse 47. NT1 changes the more arcane “lo” to “behold.” The multitude came not only “from” the chief priests and elders but “having authority from” them.

Verse 50. Both accounts add to Jesus’ words an acknowledgment that Judas was betraying Jesus with a kiss: “Judas, betrayest thou the son of man with a kiss?” (NT1), and “Judas, wherefore art thou come to betray me with a kiss?” (NT2.2). Both translations disassociate the word “friend” from Judas. The NT1 translation assigns “friend” to the captain of the force, and the NT2.2 translation removes it and replaces it with the name of Judas. NT1 continues the process of modernization of syntax, changing “then came they” to “then they came.”

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.

And, behold, one of them who was with Jesus drew his sword, and stretched out his hand, and struck a servant of the high priest, and smote off his ear.

And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, and smote off his ear.

52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up thy sword into its place: for all they who take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more then twelve legions of angels?

54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? And he put forth his hand and touched the servant’s ear, and it was healed.

But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.

In that same hour Jesus said to the multitude, Are you come out as against a thief with swords and staves to take me? And yet when I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, you laid no hold on me.

In that same hour said Jesus unto the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye laid no hold on me.

Verses 51–52. In NT1, modernizations are seen in the changes from “which” and “that” to “who” and in the change from “his place,” referring to a sword, to “its place.” Both narratives change “a servant of the high priest’s” to “a servant of the high priest.”

Verse 54. In the King James text, only Luke records Jesus healing the ear of the high priest’s servant: “And he touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:51). In the Joseph Smith Translation, both the NT1 Matthew and the NT2.2 Mark add that event, but not in the same place in the narrative.

Verse 55. Clarification and modernization seem to be the Prophet’s intentions in this verse, with revised syntax (“Jesus said” instead of “said Jesus”) and usage (“to” instead of “for to”) in NT1. Both translations revise the last sentence to make it flow more readily, the NT2.2 revision reflecting more closely the Greek word order.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

57 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.

And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.

And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.

58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.

But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.

But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.

59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;

Now the chief priests, and elders, sought counsel against Jesus, to put him to death;

Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;

60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,

But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet they found none to put him to death. At the last came two false witnesses,

But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, they found none that could accuse him. At the last came two false witnesses,

Verse 59. The NT1 narrative changes the meaning of the verse to highlight the conspiracy and plotting against Jesus on the part of the rulers.

Verse 60. Both accounts clarify the ambiguous King James reading, “yet found they none,” but not in identical words.

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

And said, This Jesus said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

And said, This man said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?

And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Seest thou what these witness against thee? What sayest thou for thyself?

And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? knowest thou what these witness against thee?

63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.

But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? But he answered nothing. And the high priest said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.

But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.

64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Jesus said unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now you have heard his blasphemy.

Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.

Verse 61. Each narrative replaces “fellow.” NT2.2 inserts “man,” a word that is implicit in the Greek demonstrative pronoun houtos, a masculine singular. NT1 makes the matter clearer with the insertion of Jesus’ name.

Verse 62. Both revised accounts seem to result from the apparent incomplete sentence in the King James translation, with its string of three italicized words. The NT1 account adds a sentence at the end of the verse: “What sayest thou for thyself?”

Verse 63. Only NT1 changes this verse, and it does so significantly. A sentence removed from verse 62, “Answerest thou nothing?” is placed in the middle of verse 63, to which is added, “But he answered nothing.”

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

66 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

67 Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

68 Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is it that smote thee?

69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

Verse 66. The Community of Christ Inspired Version revises the awkward “guilty of death” to “guilty, and worthy of death.”25 The revision is included in a footnote in the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible. This insertion, however, does not come from the Prophet Joseph Smith or his scribes. It is a rare change written in pencil on the NT2.2 manuscript by the 1866–67 publication committee of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in preparation for the printing of their original Inspired Version. The change is in the handwriting of Joseph Smith III.

Verse 68. In his NT2.2 account, the Prophet replaced “Who is he” with the more idiomatic “Who is it.”

King James Version

NT1 (ca. June 1831)
Scribe: Sidney Rigdon

NT2.2 (September 1831)
Scribe: John Whitmer

70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

But he denied before all the people, saying, I know [not] what thou sayest.

But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him,

And when he was gone out into the porch, another saw him,

And when he was gone out into the porch, another saw him,

Verse 70. NT1 replaces “them all” with “all the people,” removing the italicized word.

In the second half of the verse, the NT1 manuscript reads, “I know what thou sayest.”26 Although we cannot be certain, we are confident that Joseph Smith intended “I know not what thou sayest,” and thus we have inserted “not” in brackets in the edited text, above. Without the “not,” the sentence, which begins with “But he denied,” makes little sense. Unlike most of the other New Translation manuscripts, NT1 never underwent a later pass by Joseph Smith to make additional corrections, and it was not subjected to the scrutiny of later clerks who reviewed the manuscripts to insert verse breaks, punctuation, and revised capitalization. It seems likely that in those processes, the sentence would have been corrected with the insertion of “not.”

Verse 71. Both translations delete “maid.” The Greek indefinite pronoun állē is a feminine singular form, indicating that the referent was a female.

Joseph Smith’s New Translation of 2 Peter 3:4–6

A second, much shorter, translated text in two versions is found in New Testament Manuscript 2, Folio 4 (NT2.4). This manuscript spans from Luke 19 to the end of the New Testament. Sidney Rigdon was the scribe for most of the manuscript, including both translations of 2 Peter 3. NT2.4 contains no internal dates, but related evidence places the translation of 2 Peter sometime between February 16 and March 24, 1832.27 On page 145 of NT2.4, the Prophet translated 2 Peter 3:4–6, the only three verses in the chapter that he revised at that time (fig. 4). Later, when he was working on the following page, he decided to translate the entire chapter. He dictated a new full text of all eighteen verses (on pages 146–47). The new dictation includes a second translation of verses 4–6. In both cases, the handwriting is that of Sidney Rigdon, except for a few insertions of punctuation, capitalization, and verse numbers made by later editors. It is not certain in this case whether the Prophet forgot the first translation when he made the second one. It may well be that, when Joseph decided to retranslate the entire chapter, his scribe simply forgot to cross out the translation of the three verses already on the previous page. But because the second translation does not seem to rely on the first as its “rough draft,” we suggest that there probably was some passage of time between the two and that the earlier translation had been forgotten. The second translation is the one found in the printed Community of Christ Inspired Version.

Following are the King James Version and the texts of Joseph Smith’s two translations of 2 Peter 3:4–6, in parallel columns. The King James text shows the italics of the current Latter-day Saint English Bible.28 To the Joseph Smith Translation texts we have added punctuation, capitalization, and spelling modeled after the King James translation. We have highlighted in bold type the changes that Joseph Smith made.29

King James Version

NT2, Folio 4, page 145

NT2, Folio 4, page 146

4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

And saying, Where is the promise of Christ’s coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as at the beginning of the creation.

And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things must continue as they are, and have continued as they are from the beginning of the creation.

5For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

For they are willingly ignorant of this, that by the word of God the heavens, and the earth standing in the water and out of the water, were of old:

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that of old the heavens and the earth, standing in the water and out of the water, were created by the word of God.

6Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

And by which word the world that then was, being overflowed by water, perished:

And by the word of God, the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

Verse 4. The first account clarifies the wording by replacing “his” with “Christ’s.” Both translations make changes at the location of the two italicized words in the King James Version. The first does so by making the phrase more succinct, but the second expands on the phrase.

Verse 5. Both translations rearrange the word order of the verse considerably, but in different ways. The second translation follows the word order of the Greek text more closely than does the King James Version. The second translation includes “were created” in place of “were.”

Verse 6. Both accounts replace the word “whereby” with a clause that tells the power by which the world perished, namely the “word of God” alluded to in verse 5. This is an important change. Most Greek texts have the plural di’ hōn, “whereby (pl.)” or “through which (pl.),” although the singular di’ hón is a possible reading also.30

Duplicate Revelations

The duplicate translation of JST material provides a unique opportunity to examine how Joseph Smith prepared his translation of the Bible. To a certain extent, we have in this situation the necessary components of a controlled test on how this kind of revelation worked—two independently produced prophetic revisions of the same texts. As we examine the changes that Joseph Smith made in those texts, we see three broad categories of revisions: rewording for clarity, modernizing of archaic King James translation language, and introducing new content.

In several cases, the Prophet reworded or rearranged the existing content in verses to make the text more easily understood. Examples include Matthew 26:5 and 51 in NT1, Matthew 26:12 and 55 in NT2.2, and both translations of 2 Peter 3:5. In some cases, he inserted new words to strengthen or clarify a passage, as in Matthew 26:25 and 29 in NT1 and in the second translation of 2 Peter 3:4. It is difficult to know in these instances whether the corrections represent the restoration of original biblical ideas or words or some other means of making the text more meaningful for modern readers.

Many of the changes in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible are modernizations of the grammar, vocabulary, and syntax of the King James Version. Throughout the manuscripts, the Prophet made frequent changes of this kind, replacing old forms of language with words and constructions that reflect more current usage. Most Latter-day Saints are unaware of this aspect of the Joseph Smith Translation because the footnotes in the Latter-day Saint Bible are generally restricted to those changes that make doctrinal or historical contributions. In many places in the manuscripts, the Prophet changed “ye,” “thee,” and “thou” to “you,” with plural forms being changed more frequently than singular forms. In many other places, however, those changes were not made. In the Matthew 26 translations, for example, he changed most archaic pronouns in the NT1 text but apparently did not have the same interest in the matter when he prepared the NT2.2 translation. The Prophet made frequent changes in archaic vocabulary and word usage also. In Matthew 26, the old word “even” is changed to “evening” (NT2.2 Matt. 26:20), and archaic word order is modernized in a few places (for example, NT1 Matt. 26:35, 50, 55). Joseph Smith followed his H. and E. Phinney Bible to use “a” instead of “an” before words that begin with a pronounced letter h (“an hymn,” Matt. 26:30). That he frequently changed “which” and “that” to “who” for the relative pronoun referring to humans is reflected in Matthew 26 (for example, NT1 Matt. 26:51–52).

But the most important changes in the Joseph Smith Translation are those that introduce new content or change a verse’s meaning. In several passages in the duplicate translations, we see the introduction of new content into the text—new thoughts that alter the meaning or expand the scope of the passage. A few of these content additions are found in only one of the translations:31

“that they might put an end to his work” (26:4, NT1)

“Why trouble you the woman? And from whence is this evil in your hearts?” (26:10, NT1)

“Jesus took bread, and brake it, and blessed it” (26:26, NT2.2)

“which I gave a ransom for you” (26:26, NT2.2)

“and gave thanks, and blessed the cup” (26:27, NT1)

“And he put forth his hand and touched the servant’s ear, and it was healed” (26:54, NT1)

Perhaps the most significant discovery in the duplicate translations is the fact that in the majority of cases in which substantive content was added to the text, similar information was added in both of the new translations. In the following passages, we see that in both translations the Prophet added the same thought, yet he rarely expressed that thought in the same words, and sometimes it was not even inserted at the same location in the text.

NT1

NT2.2

And when they had thus reasoned among themselves and understood not—Jesus, knowing their hearts, he said unto them, Why trouble you the woman?” (26:10, NT1)

“When they had said thus, Jesus understood them, and he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman?” (26:10, NT2.2)

“Wheresoever . . . a memorial of her. For in that she hath done for me, she hath obtained a blessing of my Father.” (26:13, NT1)

And in this thing that she hath done, she shall be blessed. For verily I say unto you, Wheresoever . . . a memorial of her.” (26:13, NT2.2)

And a commandment I give unto you, and this is the commandment which I give unto you, that as you see me do, you shall do likewise. . . . And he took the cup, and gave thanks” (26:26, NT1)

“And he took the cup, and gave thanks, . . . And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall observe to do the things which ye have seen me do, and bear record of me even unto the end.” (26:28, NT2.2)

“Take, eat . . . in remembrance of my body” (26:26, NT1)

“Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body” (26:26, NT2.2)

“For this you shall do in remembrance of my blood, which is shed” (26:28, NT1)

“For this is in remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed” (26:28, NT2.2)

“which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name” (26:28, NT1)

“which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name” (26:28, NT2.2)

“Sleep on now, and take rest; and they did so. And when they awoke, Jesus saith unto them, Behold, the hour is at hand, . . . into the hands of sinners.” (26:45, NT1)

“Sleep on now, . . . behold, the hour is at hand . . . into the hands of sinners. And after they had slept he said unto them, Arise, and let us be going” (26:46, NT2.2)

“And Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the son of man with a kiss?” (26:50, NT1)

“And Jesus said unto him, Judas, wherefore art thou come to betray me with a kiss?” (26:50, NT2.2)

And Jesus also said unto the captain, Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (26:50, NT1)

“And Jesus said unto him, Judas, wherefore art thou come “(26:50, NT2.2)

“though many false witnesses came, yet they found none to put him to death.” (26:60, NT1)

“though many false witnesses came, they found none that could accuse him” (26:60, NT2.2)

And by which word” (2 Peter 3:6, first translation)

And by the word of God” (2 Peter 3:6, second translation)

The Lord stated with regard to the Joseph Smith Translation: “And the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect” (D&C 35:20). In several revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, God endorsed the translation work and encouraged the Saints to assist with it and embrace it (for example, D&C 43:12–13; 73:3–4; 90:13; 93:53; 94:10). Yet Joseph Smith never told the Church the means by which he prepared the translation, other than that it was “translated by the power of God.”32 It appears that the duplicate translations are telling us more about that process.

These manuscripts confirm that part of the Prophet’s calling was to modernize and clarify the text of the scriptures, something that is evident throughout the Joseph Smith Translation. The model of “plainness” that is presented in the Book of Mormon (see 2 Ne. 25:4, 7; 31:2–3) sometimes contrasts sharply with the language and style of the Bible, particularly the King James translation. Many individual Joseph Smith Translation changes are specific to the King James Version and are not suited to, or needed for, other Bible translations, whether in English or in other languages.

The changes made in Matthew 26 and 2 Peter 3 also suggest that Joseph Smith’s calling to modernize and clarify was a general mandate. It is our impression that God delegated the details of how to meet that objective to the Prophet’s own judgment and discretion, so he did not necessarily require unique revelation in individual cases. Thus the manuscripts show that his rewording of passages for clarification was not done with great consistency. He took greater interest in this work of modernizing and clarifying on some occasions than on others, and this can be seen not only in the two translations of Matthew 26 but elsewhere in the manuscripts as well.

But there are many changes in the Joseph Smith Translation that we firmly believe the Prophet was inspired to make in a much more specific way. A careful examination of the two texts of Matthew 26 and the historical circumstances in which they were produced leads us to rule out the possibility that either text influenced the writing of the other. Given that, we find most remarkable the clear evidence that Joseph Smith inserted parallel changes in both translations in most instances where substantive changes were made. Responding to spiritual promptings both times he translated Matthew 26, the Prophet’s thoughts frequently rested upon the same matters or concerns, and impressions came to him that passages needed to be revised or reinforced.

So why, then, were the changes usually not made in the same words and sometimes not inserted in the same locations? Joseph Smith taught that the Holy Ghost gives us “pure intelligence,” which serves in “expanding the mind [and] enlightening the understanding.”33 Under “the Spirit of Revelation,” “you feel pure Intelligence flowing unto you” that can “give you sudden strokes of ideas.”34 Perhaps it would be reasonable to propose that as Joseph Smith worked his way through Matthew 26, dictating the text to his scribe Sidney Rigdon in spring 1831 and again to his scribe John Whitmer the next fall, impressions came to his mind in the form of pure intelligence, enlightened understanding, and sudden strokes of ideas—but not necessarily in exact words. Responding to those impressions, the Prophet himself supplied the words that corrected the problem or emphasized the point or otherwise caused the verse to express the ideas that the Lord wanted it to communicate. This suggestion may explain why the duplicate translations are verbally different.

We do not see this process as the model by which to understand the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants or the text of the Book of Mormon. In those cases, the Prophet was not beginning with another translation that needed consideration and possible revision, so the process was different. Nor do we suggest that this is the model for all the material in the Joseph Smith Translation. We see evidence in other parts of the translation where whole texts were revealed in English in verbal completeness with little or no influence from the mind of Joseph Smith (for example, Moses chapter 1).35 But the duplicate translations of Matthew 26 and 2 Peter 3 provide an opportunity to see the hand of the Lord at work in a different way—in a way that may shed light on the genesis of other parts of the Joseph Smith Translation as well.

 

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About the author(s)

Kent P. Jackson is Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Peter M. Jasinski is an editor at Covenant Communications and has an M.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

Notes

1. See Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, forthcoming); see also Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: A History and Commentary (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975).

2. See Doctrine and Covenants 124:89; “Books!!!” Times and Seasons 1 (July 1840): 140. See also Joseph Smith Jr., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2d ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), 1:341, 365; 4:164.

3. See the introductions to the various manuscripts in Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation.

4. For the dates, see Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989–92), 1:356, 362.

5. Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:363.

6. Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:363.

7. The date is written at the top of the page, immediately before the translation of Matthew 26.

8. The Holy Scriptures, Translated and Corrected by the Spirit of Revelation, by Joseph Smith, Jr., the Seer (Plano, Ill.: The [Reorganized] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1867), commonly called the Inspired Version. The most recent edition was published in Independence, Missouri, in 1991.

9. The 1944 edition of the Inspired Version incorporated two NT1 readings into the text: “when I shall come and drink” (Matt. 26:29; Inspired Version 26:26) and “go yonder and pray” (Matt. 26:36; Inspired Version 26:33). They remain in the most recent edition (1991).

10. The verse numbers in modern Bibles were created by printer Robert Estienne in the sixteenth century. Versification in the printed Community of Christ Inspired Version follows the biblical model rather than the verse divisions that are written on the manuscript pages.

11. See Robert J. Matthews, “Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible Translation,” Ensign 13 (January 1983): 57–64.

12. Richard P. Howard, Restoration Scriptures: A Study of their Textual Development, 2d ed., rev. and enl. (Independence, Mo.: Herald, 1995), 71.

13. Howard, Restoration Scriptures, 71.

14. For example, Whitmer corrected “These words was spoken” to “These words were spoken” (OT1, page 3, line 12; OT2, page 3, line 36).

15. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 204.

16. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation,” 205.

17. Joseph Smith’s KJV Bible was published in 1828 by the H. and E. Phinney Company of Cooperstown, New York. See Kent P. Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s Cooperstown Bible: The Historical Context of the Bible Used in the Joseph Smith Translation,” BYU Studies 40, no. 1 (2001): 41–70. Oliver Cowdery purchased this Bible on October 8, 1829, at E. B. Grandin’s Palmyra Bookstore. The Bible is now housed in the Library-Archives of the Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri. The Phinney Bible differs in only a few words from that used in the current English Latter-day Saint edition. See note 24 below.

18. Italics in the King James Bible generally are used to identify words that are not found in the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible but are helpful or even necessary to create complete sentences in English. The identifying of filled-in words in this manner was first done systematically in English Bibles by the translators of the Geneva Bible, and the process was followed by the King James translators. Some in Joseph Smith’s day, including some early Church leaders and probably the Prophet himself, viewed these insertions generally as unnecessary or as interpolations on the part of translators. Thus the Joseph Smith Translation manuscripts show that the Prophet sometimes made revisions at the locations of italicized words. See expressions of disdain for italics in the King James Bible in the Evening and the Morning Star 1, January 1833, 2; Not the Prophet, S. T. P, “To the Editor of the Times and Seasons,Times and Seasons 4 (September 1, 1843): 318.

19. The NT1 text is from NT1, pages 59–63. The NT2 text is from NT2.2, pages 1–4. Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation, 224–28, 305–9, used with permission.

20. See, for example, Genesis 18:32 (KJV “And he said. . . . And he said” = JST “And Abraham said. . . . And the Lord said”) and 2 Peter 3:4 (KJV “his coming” = JST “Christ’s coming”).

21. The Gospel of John does not have an account of the sacrament at the Last Supper.

22. The idea of remembrance is found also in Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24–25; 3 Nephi 18:7, 11; and JST, Mark 14:22.

23. On the manuscript, verse 28 of NT1 reads as follows: “for this you shall do in remembrance of my blood—this is the new testimony which you shall unto all meny of my blood which is shed for ma<as> many as shall beleive on my name for the remission of their sins.” Our best judgment is that the words “—this is the . . . my blood” were replaced by what follows but that the scribe failed to cross them out.

24. The H. and E. Phinney Bible has a before words that start with a pronounced letter h in virtually every instance. In this it differs from the edition of the King James Bible used by English-speaking Latter-day Saints today. See Jackson, “Joseph Smith’s Cooperstown Bible,” 55–56, 65. This and farther in verse 39 are the only differences in Matthew 26 between Joseph Smith’s Phinney Bible and the Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible.

25. Inspired Version, Matt. 26:67.

26. NT1, page 63, lines 11–12.

27. By February 16, 1832, the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon had arrived at John 5:29 (D&C 76:15–18, chapter heading). By March 24, they had completed the translation through Revelation 11:4, when the work ceased due to the attack at the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio, and the subsequent travel of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to Missouri. See Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:374, 378–79, 382–84. At that point, Sidney Rigdon was replaced as the Prophet’s scribe for the translation, and his handwriting ends.

28. In these verses, the italics in Joseph Smith’s 1828 Phinney Bible are identical to those in the Church’s current printing of the Bible.

29. The originals are on NT2.4, pages 145–46. Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation, 557, 559, used with permission.

30. See Richard J. Bauckham, Word Biblical Commentary Volume 50: Jude, 2 Peter (Waco, Texas: Word, 1983), 296–302.

31. See the discussion of these and the following passages in the commentary under the relevant verses, above.

32. NT1, page 1.

33. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), 4.

34. Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 5.

35. Old Testament Manuscript 1, pages 1–3.