11. The JST and the New Testament Epistles

By Clyde J. Williams

Clyde J. Williams, “The JST and the New Testament Epistles,” in The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Truths, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1985), 215–35.

The JST and the New Testament Epistles

Clyde J. Williams

 

Clyde J. Williams was a curriculum writer for the Curriculum and Instruction Division of the LDS Church Educational System when this was published.

 

On 7 March 1831 the Prophet Joseph Smith received the following instruction: “And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known; Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come” (D&C 34:60–61).

From this passage we learn at least two key concepts concerning Joseph Smith and his translation of the New Testament: at this time Joseph was instructed to begin the translation of the New Testament, [1] and he was told that many things would be made known to him as a direct result of this endeavor. This illustrates the important point that the Lord’s prophet needed a scripture study program, and through this process of translation the Lord would reveal many important truths. From questions and discussions held while the translation progressed, Joseph was led to inquire about and receive some of the most significant doctrine to be revealed in this dispensation.

In Kirtland, Ohio, the Prophet Joseph recorded: “I completed the translation and review of the New Testament, on the 2nd of February, 1833, and sealed it up, no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion,” [2] This would seem to indicate that the major portion of the Prophet’s work on the New Testament occurred over a two-year period from March 1831 to February 1833. During this time the Prophet made significant changes in the New Testament.

In considering the impact of the Joseph Smith Translation upon the New Testament Epistles, the following questions will be treated: How many changes did Joseph make in each Epistle? Are any of the JST changes supported by the Greek New Testament? Do modern translations support any of the JST changes? How is the character of Paul clarified by the JST? What significant doctrines have been clarified in the New Testament Epistles? Underlying all that is presented in this paper is the desire to show the divinely prophetic nature of Joseph Smith’s work in this branch of his calling. [3]

Where Are the Changes?

The accompanying chart provides a perspective on the changes the Prophet made in the New Testament Epistles. The degree of significance of each change is not reflected in the chart. One can, however, get an idea of the books which received the largest number and percentage of changes. Notice that, overall, 438 verses (16 percent of the verses in the New Testament Epistles) were changed in some degree by the Prophet Joseph.

Epistle

Nu​mber

of Verses

Number of

Verses Changed

Percent of

Verses​ Changed

Romans

433

119

27

1 Corinthians

437

70

16

2 Corinthians

257

25

10

Galatians

149

13

9

Ephesians

155

15

10

Philippians

104

14

13

Colossians

95

9

9

1 Thessalonians

89

7

8

2 Thessalonians

47

7

15

1 Timothy

113

15

13

2 Timothy

83

8

10

Titus

46

2

4

Philemon

25

1

4

Hebrews

303

50

17

James

108

20

19

1 Peter

105

24

23

2 Peter

61

20

33

1 John

105

17

16

2 John

13

0

0

3 John

14

0

0

Jude

25

2

8

Total

2,767

438

16

       
 

2,767

 

(Average) [4]

The Joseph Smith Translation and Greek

My sole purpose in discussing the changes made by Joseph Smith which are supported by the Greek New Testament is to show a further witness of Joseph Smith’s divine calling. It should be remembered that as far as we know Joseph did not study Greek in his lifetime. Furthermore, we realize how little formal schooling he acquired during his life. Though the vast majority of JST changes are not reflected in our oldest extant New Testament texts, a few of the changes are. For Joseph to make several changes supported by the Greek would seem to indicate the influence of the Lord.

This writer is not skilled in the Greek language. However, by using a Greek Bible dictionary, a word study, and an interlinear Greek-English New Testament, much was found to support changes made by the Prophet in the New Testament Epistles.

In the King James Version we are told “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1; emphasis added). In the JST, the word substance is replaced by the word assurance which “gives the true idea” of the Greek word hupostasis[5]

In another chapter in Hebrews, the JST changes the word testament to covenant (Hebrews 9:15, 18, 20) which is the appropriate translation of the Greek word diatheke[6] In several instances in 1 Peter, the Saints are told in the KJV to have honest, chaste, and good conversation (see 1 Peter 2:12; 3:1, 2, 16). The JST corrects the word conversation to conduct, which more accurately corresponds to the Greek. [7]

In the KJV, Titus 2:11 reads: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” In the JST we find this variation, which is supported by the Greek text: “For the grace of God which bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared” [8] Salvation has been made available to all men through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Other examples could be cited, but space will not permit.

The JST and Other Translations

One of the criticisms still leveled at the Prophet Joseph Smith by his enemies concerns his statement, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (A of F 8), and the statement in the Book of Mormon “that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book [the Bible]” (1 Nephi 13:28). It should come as no surprise that well over a hundred thousand changes were made from the KJV to the Revised Standard Version in an effort to correct, interpret, and render the holy writ more accurate. This effort was not the first nor the last, as numerous other translations of varying worth have appeared. In and of themselves they seem to vindicate the Prophet’s concerns with the accuracy of portions of the Bible.

Comparing the JST with other translations has nothing to do with whether the Prophet was right or wrong in his translation. His effort stands alone and independent from all the secular translations. His translation was based on the Holy Spirit as his guide and not secular learning. However, it would seem significant to find several verses changed by the Prophet in the 1830s that were later changed to the same meaning or wording by scholarly translators.

The following are a few examples from among many which could be cited where the JST rendition is corroborated by one or more of the following modern translations: The New International Version (NIV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the Jerusalem Bible (JB), and the New English Bible (NEB). Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture references are from the King James Version.

In the KJV, Paul is quoted as saying, “I know nothing by myself” (1 Corinthians 4:4; emphasis added). The JST improves the wording by replacing the word by with against. The RSV makes the same word change, and the NIV and JB carry the same meaning. In Romans 13:2 the JST changes the word damnation to punishment. The RSV and NEB conform in this wording change. Perhaps one of the most interesting comparisons is found in James 2:4. The JST renders this verse, “Are ye not then in yourselves partial judges, and become evil in your thoughts?” (emphasis added). This is contrasted with the KJV which reads “Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” (James 2:4). The JST is supported by the RSV and NIV which speak of “judges with evil thoughts.”

Other changes made by Joseph are agreed with by modern translations. Once again the main point to be made here is that Joseph Smith as an unlearned young man made corrections by the direction of the Spirit. Some of these same changes would later be made by those in the scholarly world.

The Character of Paul

Because of several confusing passages in his Epistles, the apostle Paul is perhaps one of the most misunderstood writers in scriptural history. In Romans one gets the impression that Paul is carnal and sinful (see Romans 7:14–15), and that he blames sin and not himself for his errors (see Romans 7:17, 20). Paul is cited as saying he has the will to do right but that he does not know how to perform that which is right (see Romans 7;18). The good he desires to do, he does not do and the evil he desires to avoid he does (see Romans 7:19). “These are strange statements, coming from a man like Paul so many years after he had experienced the cleansing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” wrote Robert J. Matthews. “It is even contradictory for Paul to say these tings about himself when in many other instances he declared that Christ had made him free, and that through the power of Christ he was able to walk no longer after the flesh but after the spirit.” [9] This is the message of Romans 8:1–10.

In the JST, the context of chapter 7 is changed. Paul was referring to experiences before his conversion while he was still under the law of Moses (see JST Romains 7:14). Paul went on to affirm his current spirituality and that the things he was commanded to do he did do. That which is not right he would not do; but he sought to subdue sin (see JST Romans 7:15–18). Paul then made perhaps his most significant point, that his ability to perform that which is good is found “only in Christ” (JST Romans 7:19). It is “through the assistance of Christ” (JST Romans 7:22) that Paul was able to subdue sin.

From Romans 3:7–8 one might assume Paul was not above lying or teaching that we do evil so that good will come. The SJT corrects these impressions by stating that it is the Jews who called Paul’s message a lie and others who claimed that Paul taught, “Let us do evil that good may come. But this is false.” (JST Romans 3:8).

Is everything lawful to Paul? This is the impression one gets as he reads 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23. in the earlier verses of 1 Corinthians 6 and 10, sins and transgressions are discussed. The JST clarifies that “all these things are not lawful” (JST 1 Corinthians 6:12).

One can get the impression from Romans 9:3 that it was Paul’s current wish that he be accursed and separated from Christ. Concerning this passage, Elder Bruce R. McConkie made the following statement; “Before his conversion Paul chose to be accursed, meaning that by failing to accept Christ he was choosing to be accursed, and this was so despite the fact he was born in the house of Israel.” [10] This statement sheds significant light on why Joseph Smith added the word once (JST Romans 9:3) to Paul’s wish that he was cursed from Christ, thus putting it in the past tense.

There are other statements which could be cited that reflect upon Paul’s character—for example, his views on marriage and the second coming of Christ. However, many of these will be treated later in this paper. The clarifications of Paul’s character made by the Prophet Joseph Smith are a strong evidence of the divine calling of both men.

Clarifying Points of Doctrine

Marriage and Women

Perhaps more than any other of his writings, Paul’s teachings on marriage (found in 1 Corinthians7) have been misunderstood. Reading this chapter gives the impression that Paul supported the celibate life; that marriage is inferior to the unmarried state. Robert J. Matthews offered the following helpful insights concerning the setting of 1 Corinthians 7 and the contributions to our understanding made by the JST:

Although the epistle known as First Corinthians is the earliest writing from Paul to the church at Corinth in the present Bible, it is evident from the epistle itself that he ad written to them earlier. At least part of the subject matter of that earlier epistle was about morality, marriage relationships, and how to deal with transgressors. Said Paul, in reminding the Corinthians of his earlier epistle, “I wrote to you in and epistle not to company with fornicators” (1 Corinthians 5:9). It is also evident that in response to Paul’s former letter the Corinthian church wrote to him about marriage relationships. What is now called First Corinthians was written in reply to their letter. The two earlier epistles are now lost. If we had access to them, both of which predate the present “first” Corinthian letter, we would no doubt be able to more nearly understand Paul’s teachings about marriage as presented in 1 Corinthians 7, since his instructions were a follow-up to what had already transpired between him and the Corinthian church. It is at this point that the New Translation [JST] by Joseph Smith may be the best guide available. Prophet and seer that he was, Joseph Smith placed in the New Translation of 1 Corinthians 7 some background and “bridge” material necessary for a reader to understand Paul’s instructions without having access to the two lost epistles. [11]

In the KJV the implication is that it is Paul who said, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Corinthians7:1). This is an unusual statement coming from one who was familiar with the scriptures and the commands to leave parents and become one flesh (see Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7–9). The JST clarifies this issue by indicating it was the Corinthian Saints who wrote to Paul “saying, it is good for man not to touch a woman” (JST 1 Corinthians 7:1). In verse 2 of the JST, we are told that it is Paul who then begins to give his answer at the point. Remember that what we have in chapter 7 are answers to questions which we do not currently posses. One additional point to be made is that much of what Paul wrote on this occasion, he informed us, is his opinion and not a commandment (see 1 Corinthians 7:6, 25).

The crux of what Paul was really responding to is contained in verses 26–33. In the KJV, we are told because of some present distress it is good for a man to remain single and that before too long those who have wives will be as though they had none. The person who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord but the man who is married cares of the things of the world and how he can please his wife (see 1 Corinthians 7:26–33). Now compare those thoughts with the feelings conveyed in the JST:

I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, for a man so to remain that he may do greater good.

But I speak unto you who are called unto the ministry. For this I say, brethren, the time that remaineth is but short, that ye shall be sent forth unto the ministry. Even they who have wives, shall be as though they had none; for ye are called and chosen to do the Lord’s work.

But I would, brethren, that ye magnify your calling. I would have you without carefulness. For he who is unmarried, careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord; therefore he prevaileth.

But he who is married, careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife; therefore there is a difference, for he is hindered. (JST 1 Corinthians 7:26; 29, 32–33.

Notice that the present distress is identified as having to do with missionary work. This throws an entirely different light on the remarks of Paul. He said that it is preferable for a missionary to be single. The missionary can concentrate more on his work and better magnify his calling. This counsel would only apply for the short time he served his mission. Those who had wives and were called on missions were for that period of time as though they had no wives. First Corinthians 7 is not an accurate representation of Paul’s complete concept of marriage. It is believed by most scholars that Paul was married. [12] Statements elsewhere in Paul’s letters indicate his perspective of marriage: “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11). “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4).

One additional subject which relates to women should be discussed here. Paul is quoted in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 as telling women to keep silent and not to speak in church. This misconception is in part corrected in the JST, indicating that it is not speaking in church which was in question, but ruling or leading, which is the responsibility of the priesthood.

Faith, Grace, and Works

As a former debater, this writer used to enjoy finding statements from a single author which were diametrically opposed. These statements could be used in diminishing an opponent’s argument in the event that the opponent quoted the same author. Many religious groups have done a similar thing with Paul and his statements on faith, grace, and works. (Romans 3:24) or “that a man is justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law” (JST Romans 3:28), are misunderstood when not harmonized with the whole of Paul’s writings. The deeds of the law spoken of so frequently by Paul have reference not to righteous works, with which Paul maintained we should be furnished (see 2 Timothy 3:16–17; Titus 1:15–16), but to the deeds of the law of Moses—a series of performances which were superseded when Christ proclaimed his gospel. This was a lesser law and could not lead one to exaltation.

In Romans 6:14, Paul is quoted as saying that “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” The message conveyed is that sin will not have dominion over us solely because of grace. The two verses prior to verse 14 are a list of sins to which men must not yield. With that in mind, the JST combines works and grace in saying: “For in so doing sin shall not have dominion over you for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (JST Romans 6:14).

In perhaps that most completely wedded statement on this subject in the epistles, the JST correctly ties together the three main concepts of faith, works, and grace. “Therefore ye are justified of faith and works, through grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed” (JST Romans 4:16). Like the Godhead, these three principles, though separate, distinct, and necessary, are one in their purpose. We are justified only by our faith and works as a result of the grace of God. Faith, works, or grace alone cannot save us.

One additional point on this subject of faith and works it found in the Epistle of James. The JST does much to rearrange the order of James’s eloquent discussion in chapter 2. The subject there is the question of whether one can have saving faith without manifesting righteous works. One key addition should be cited: “Thou believest there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble; thou hast made thyself like unto them, not being justified” (JST James 2:19). There is no question that the doctrine of faith without works will rob those who believe in it of eternal life.

Sin and Temptation

Several statements as they now exist in the KJV give false impressions about Paul’s and others’ teachings on sin and temptation. Following are some examples of these statements and how the JST clarified them.

In a sense, it may be correct to say that “he that is dead is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7). However, our goal to overcome sin is not to do so through death but to overcome sin while in this life. Thus “he that is dead to sin is freed from sin” (JST Romans 6:7). As one continues on in Romans 6, Paul seems to say we should thank God we “were the servants of sin” (Romans 6:17). It would seem only logical that we should never be thankful for sin but rather thank God that we “are not the servants of sin” (JST Romans 6:17).

From passages in the KJV we are told we are to be “subject to vanity” (Romans 8:20), to “endureth temptation” (James 1:12), and to be joyful when we “fall into . . . temptation” (James 1:2). Though these statements may please those who are weak, Paul would not condone vanity, nor would be encourage us to search out temptation to see how much we can endure. The Prophet Joseph Smith wisely amended these verses to clarify an important principle about tribulation and how we should respond to temptation. In the JST, we are told we are to be “subject to tribulation” (JST Romans 8:20), to “resisteth temptation” (JST James 1:12), and to be joyful, when we fall into “many afflictions” (JST James 1:2). Afflictions, as Paul knew so well, can be a refining influence in our lives and thus should be welcomed.

Peter, in his first Epistle, wrote of having fervent charity and then is quoted as saying “charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). It is certain the chief apostle knew that only by repentance can men receive forgiveness of sins. In the JST, the phrase is given, “charity preventeth a multitude of sins” (JST 1 Peter 4:8). Charity is the pure love of Christ and one who possesses it “suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (Moroni 7:45, 47). Truer words were never said; charity will prevent a multitude of sins.

In another verse from Paul which appears to be a contradiction, the JST changes the command “Be ye angry, and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26) to a thought-provoking question: “Can ye be angry and not sin?” (JST Ephesians 4:26). The KJV of the entire verse could leave one with the impression that anger is appropriate as long as it does not last for more than a day. A Final example where the doctrine on sin is clarified is in 1John where we are told that “He that committeth sin is of the devil”; and that “Whosoever is born of God . . . cannot sin.” In the JST, the concept is changed from committing sin to continuing in sin. Concerning this point Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated: “All men sin, before and after baptism, but those saints who strive to keep the commandments, and are continually repenting and returning to the Lord, no longer continue in the course of sinful rebellion against God and his laws which was their lot before they were baptized for the remission of sins. Church members who do so continue in sin are members in name only ; they do not receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost, through whose revelations alone can the Lord be ‘known’” [13] (See JST 1 John 3:6–9.)

The Second Coming and the End of the World

Thought this topic is treated in more detail in another paper, it should receive some treatment here because of its significance in the Epistles. One of the more controversial issues to intrigue mankind throughout the ages is: When will the end of the world be? Paul and Peter have both been represented as believing it would happen in their lifetime. The JST makes some interesting clarifications on this point. Christ id not appear in the “end of the world” to suffer for sins (Hebrews 9:26). The message in 1 Corinthians was not for those in Paul’s day “upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11), but the message was for those in Paul’s day and also “those upon whom the end of the world shall come” (JST 1 Corinthians 10:11). Peter is quoted as saying “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). The JST changes the tone of this statement. “But to you, the end of all things is at hand” ( JST 1 Peter 4:7). Elder McConkie has said: “As each faithful saint approaches the day of his departure to the paradise of God, it is as though he were prepared for the Lord’s second coming; it is as though the end of the world had come in his day.” [14]

In letters to the Saints in Thessalonica, one of the major questions with which Paul dealt was the time of the second coming of the Lord. The JST clarifies Paul’s message in these letters in four or five ways. The present tense of 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17 is changed to the future tense; that is, “we which are alive” to “they who are alive at the coming of the Lord” (JST 1 Thessalonians 4:15). False information may have been coming to the Saints speaking of the imminence of Christ’s second coming. In the JST, the Saints were warned by Paul not to “be troubled by letter, except ye receive it from us” (JST 2 Thessalonians 2:2). Paul then speaks of events that must precede Christ’s return. The JST, in language stronger than the KJV, affirms that “there shall come a falling away” (JST 2 Thessalonians 2:3, see also JST 2 Thessalonians 2:9). It was Satan who was working among the Saints in Paul’s time and “Christ suffereth him to work, until the time is fulfilled that he shall be” bound (JST 2 Thessalonians 2:7).

In the second Epistle of Peter, the JST gives several significant concepts that aid us in understanding Peter’s views on the end of the world. Peter speaks of scoffers who will come in the last days who will not only be questioning the coming of Christ but they will be “denying the Lord Jesus Christ” (JST 2 Peter 3:4). In verse 8 of 2 Peter 3, we are told that one day with the Lord is like a thousand years to man. The remarkable thing JST adds is a purpose of out knowing this fact about the Lord’s time frame. Its reads: “But concerning the coming of the Lord, beloved, I would not have you ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise and coming.” (JST 2 Peter 3:8–9). Peter urged his readers to not be overly anxious about the time of the Lord’s coming, for what is near to God may be a long way off in our reckoning of time.

Joseph made yet further clarifications in Peter’s account. The heavens will not pass away (2 Peter 3:10) but they will shake. It is not the earth itself which will be burned up, but “the corruptible works which are therein” (JST 2 Peter 3:10). Instead of just looking forward to the Lord’s coming we should be “looking unto, and preparing for the day of the coming of the Lord” (JST 2 Peter 3:12). Finally, the JST adds the Lord’s promise of preservation to the righteous if they will endure to the end (see JST 2 Peter 3:13).

Christ—His Character and Mission

The contributions considered in this section help define the Savior’s character and mission. The principles Christ taught and their importance in leading us to perfection is brought into question in Hebrews 6:1. The Prophet Joseph said the following about this verse:

The first principles of the Gospel, as I believe, are, faith, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, with the promise of the Holy Ghost.

Look at Hebrews 6:1 . . . “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection.” If a man leaves the principles of the doctrine of Christ, how can he be saved in the principles? This is a contradiction. I don’t believe it. I will render it as it should be—”Therefore not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” [JST Hebrews 6:1]. [15]

In striving for perfection, Paul taught, as was discussed earlier, that he found ability “to perform that which is good . . . only in Christ” (JST Romans 7:19). In Hebrews 7, Paul spoke of how high priest in Israel offered up sacrifice first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people (see Hebrews 7:27). Christ was such a high priest who did not need to follow this procedure because, as the JST adds, “he knew no sins; but for the sins of the people” (JST Hebrews 7:26). This change is certainly in harmony with other scriptural passages, for Christ “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15; see also 1 Peter 2:22).

The proper relationship between Christ and his Father is a subject which requires careful study. The JST of the New Testament Epistles contains additional scriptures which clarify that it is Christ who is the Savior (see JST 1 Timothy 1:1) and that he came to the earth and ascended into heaven “to glorify him who reigneth over all heavens” (JST Ephesians 4:10). The Prophet’s renderings in these and other verses help establish the proper understanding of the role and relationship between the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

Melchizedek

In the JST New Testament Epistles, two additions are made which have specific reference to the great Old Testament high priest, Melchizedek. In Hebrews 5:7–10, the message presented obviously refers to Christ and his mortal ministry. On the JST manuscript a footnote is found referring to verses 7 and 8. It says, “The 7th and 8th verses allude to Melchizedek, and not to Christ,” Concerning this footnote Elder McConkie has written:

Standing alone, and because it is only part of the picture, this footnote gives an erroneous impression. The fact is verses 7 and 8 apply to both Melchizedek and to Christ, because Melchizedek was a prototype of Christ and that prophet’s ministry typified and foreshadowed that of our Lord in the same sense that the ministry of Moses did. (Deuteronomy 18:15–19; Acts 3:22; 3 Nephi 30:23; Joseph Smith History 1:40.) Thus, though the words of these verses, and particularly those in the 7th verse, had original application to Melchizedek, they apply with equal and perhaps even greater force to the life and ministry of him through whom all the promises made to Melchizedek were fulfilled. [16]

Joseph Smith knew Melchizedek was a type of Christ (see Hebrews 7:3), and that Christ learned obedience by the things he suffered. [17] Given the nature of this chapter and other related passages, it seems possible that this footnote may have been “awkwardly recorded, and the meaning was intended to be that the verses could allude to both Melchizedek and Christ.” [18]

The next addition concerning Melchizedek is found in Hebrews 7:3. In the KJV this verse, in context with verses 1 and 2, presents a dilemma of Melchizedek “being without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of Life” (Hebrews 7:3). The JST makes this passage remarkably clear and adds significant understanding: “For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually,” (JST Hebrews 7:3.) It was not Melchizedek, then, who was without father or mother or beginning of days, but the Melchizedek Priesthood which was formerly called “The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God” (D&C 107:3). Robert J. Matthews has commented, “It might be thought strange that the priesthood would be spoken of as being without father and mother, since priesthood is not an organic, biological thing; but the contrast is being made with the Aaronic Priesthood, which came down by lineage. Hence, the point is that the priesthood of Melchizedek was not limited to a certain family in Israel.” [19]

Further, it was not only Melchizedek who was made like unto the son of God, but also all those who receive the Melchizedek Priesthood (see JST Hebrews 7:3). As one honors his priesthood and magnifies the callings he receives, he will be prepared to receive exaltation.

Has Any Man Seen God?

In the KJV, there are statements which can and have been used to support both sides of the issue of whether man can see God. In the New Testament Epistles, there are three passages which the JST changes to give a more accurate view of this question. There are many in the world today who say “no man hath seen God at any time” (1 John 4:12). We are told in the JST that no one has seen God “except them who believe” (JST 1 John 4:12), and in Timothy the qualifications for seeing God include those who have “the light and hope of immortality dwelling in them” (JST 1 Timothy 6:16). In a similar vein, we are told that “the things of God knoweth no man, except he has the spirit of God” (JST 1 Corinthians 2:11). These clarifications help to harmonize the statements that man can and has seen God (see 3 John 1:11, John 6:46). Moses and the seventy elders of Israel saw God (Exodus 24:9–10). Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1), John (Revelation 4:2), Stephen (Acts 7:55–56), Abraham (Genesis 18:1), and many others have recorded seeing God. These explanations and others found in the JST not only eliminate the contradictions over man’s ability to see God, but they provide essential insights into helping understand how one can merit and endure the presence of God.

Salvation for the Dead, or Sufferings?

Hebrews 11:40 has been used by members of the Church in connection with the doctrine of salvation for the dead. In the KJV, it reads: “God having provided some better things for us, that they [the dead] without us should not be made perfect.” The Prophet Joseph Smith on more than one occasion used this verse to teach the doctrine of salvation for the dead. [20] A question arises when the KJV is compared with the JST which says: “God having provided some better things for them through their sufferings, for without sufferings they could not be made perfect.” This version harmonizes well with the rest of Hebrews 11, which gives accounts of many who were faithful and suffered for the gospel’s sake. A reasonable explanation for these two different versions and Joseph’s use of them is suggested by Robert J. Matthews.

One reason may be that in either case the doctrine is true. Since the world and the Church had access to the King James Version, it may be that Joseph Smith used that familiar rendition to undergird the doctrine of salvation for the dead. Because he had obtained the doctrine of salvation for the dead by revelation and not from the printed page of the Bible, he therefore had a certain independence from the Bible and seems to have felt free to use it when it would corroborate true doctrines, even if a particular passage might have been worded differently in its original text. . . .It isn’t a matter of “correct” or “incorrect” as much as it is a matter of purpose. The nature of human language is such that there can be no “literal” translation of any extensive or intricate document. Every translation is, in effect, an interpretation. The language is not the revelation; it is the awkward vehicle by which a revelation or a concept is expressed. Thus, texts might often be enlarged or paraphrased by a prophet in order to give a certain emphasis or perspective beneficial to his hearers. [21]

Additional Doctrinal Changes

In 2 Peter 1:19, the JST changes the phrase “we have also a more sure word of prophecy” to read “we have therefore a more sure knowledge of the word of prophecy.” Whether this verse was meant to refer to the more sure word of prophecy which “means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up into eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy through the Holy Priesthood” (D&C 131:5), or that because of the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter and those with him had a “more sure knowledge of the word of prophecy: is not crucial. [22] The fact is that both concepts are true and can help us in coming to understand 2 Peter 1.

In 1 Corinthians 15:41, Paul speaks of the differing kingdoms in the resurrection. He compares them to three levels: the sun, the moon, and the stars. In the previous verse the names of the kingdoms are given. However, only the celestial and terrestrial are mentioned. In the JST, the Prophet adds the name of the telestial kingdom and thus harmonizes verses 40 and 41.

The false doctrine of predestination is mistakenly attributed to several New Testament passages. In the KJV, Romans 1:6 reads: “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.” The phrase the called gives the impression of predestination. In the JST, Romans 1:5 refers to those who through obedience and faith are called to preach the gospel. Verse 6 reads: “Among whom ye also are called of Jesus Christ.” Thus the concept of predestination is removed (see also JST 1 Corinthians 1:23). None of our father’s children are predetermined to fail or succeed. The choice is left to each individual.

The law of consecration is a doctrine of the New Testament. On at least two occasions, the JST adds insights concerning this law. In Hebrews 13:5, it is not “conversation” that should be without covetousness but “consecrations.” In Romans 13:6–7, the JST teaches that “consecrations” and not tribute should be paid to God’s authorized authorities. Tribute or taxes are to be paid, Paul teaches, so that “consecrations may be done in fear to whom fear belongs, and in honor of him to whom honor belongs.” The word fear in this case means “fright.” It may be that fear belongs to the rulers to whim tribute is paid and honor belongs to him in whose debt we will always be.

The most prominent teaching in the New Testament on Christ’s mission in the world of spirits is found in 1 Peter 3–4. The JST makes some interesting contributions. In verse 20, the point is clarified that Christ’s mission was not just to those who were disobedient in Noah’s day: “He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Some of whom were disobedient in the days of Noah” (JST 1 Peter 3:19, 20). In 1 Peter 4:6 the latte part of the verse is changed to clarify that the dead “live in the spirit.”

The concept of mediators is taught in the New Testament Epistles; however, some of the passages are vague. The JST makes at least two significant additions in this area of doctrine. In the letter to the Saints in Galatia, the discussion of a mediator is unclear (see Galatians 3:19–20), but in the JST, the concept is explained beautifully. Moses “was ordained by the hand of angels to be a mediator of this first covenant, (the law)” (JST Galatians 3:19). The JST account goes on to explain that Moses “was not a mediator of the new covenant; but there is one mediator of the new covenant, who is Christ” (JST Galatians 3:20). The verse explains that this is according to the promises made to Abraham and his seed. Abraham was told that “in thy seed after thee . . . shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the gospel, which are the blessing of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:11). At least in part, this promise was fulfilled by Christ’s mediation and atonement. The other significant change in this area, although not treated here, is found in 1 Timothy 2:4.

Conclusion

The Prophet Joseph Smith on one occasion said: “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.” [23] This being true, the JST makes significant contributions in doctrine and clarity. It will lead one to a better understanding of the New Testament Epistles. A careful analysis of the changes in comparison with the rest of the body of scripture reveals a renewed harmony and clarity in teaching. This is not to say that all corrections have been made or that all misunderstandings have been resolved in the JST of the Epistles. Revelation is an ongoing process of “line upon line,” and the Prophet continued to receive new insights concerning the Epistles after he concluded his formal work on the JST in 1833. Some of these insights were recorded in his public teachings. Nevertheless, what we do have in the Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament Epistles makes is a remarkably useful and inspired work. “It is one of the greatest evidences of the divine mission of the Prophet” Joseph Smith. [24]

Notes

[1] The Prophet did not use ancient manuscripts to derive a new translation but relied upon the Holy Ghost to direct the changes he should make. For more information concerning this point see Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 13; hereafter referred to as “A Plainer Translation.”)

[2] Joseph Smith, Jr., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1964), 1:324; hereafter cited as History of the Church.

[3] The Prophet referred to his translation of the scriptures as a “branch of my calling.” (History of the Church 1:238.)

[4] Information on the number of changes was compared and complied from “A Plainer Translation,” 418–22, and Inspired Version Study Guide, complied by Frederick M. Edvalson Jr., and William V. Smith (Provo, UT: Seventy’s Mission Bookstore, 1977), 51–62.

[5] Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 vols. (McLean, VA: McDonald, n.d.), 4:510.

[6] For a more detailed analysis of this change and particularly of Hebrews 9:16, see Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 216–17.

[7] See 1 Peter 3:1, 2 in George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 597.

[8] Compare this version with Berry, 556.

[9]A Plainer Translation,” 358.

[10] Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966–73), 2:275.

[11]A Plainer Translation,” 355–56.

[12] See Anderson, Understanding Paul, 104–5, for a discussion of the likelihood that Paul was married.

[13] McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:386.

[14] Ibid., 316.

[15] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972), 328; hereafter referred to as Teachings. For additional insight on this point, see Anderson, Understanding Paul, 206.

[16] McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:157.

[17] See D&C 93:12–14 and Teachings, 308, where Joseph indicated that to obtain the fullness of the priesthood one must do as Jesus did, which was to be obedient.

[18]A Plainer Translation,” 384; see also Anderson, Understanding Paul, 227, n. 56.

[19]A Plainer Translation,” 385.

[20] See Teachings, p. 356, and Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 1980), 424.

[21] Robert J. Matthews, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, September 1981, 16–17. This article contains several other helpful insights concerning this issue on Hebrews 11:40.

[22] For additional insight on this question see Monte Nyman, “The Sublime Epistles of Peter,” in A symposium on the New Testament (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1984), 61–62.

[23] Teachings, 327.

[24] Bruce R. McConkie, “This Generation Shall Have My Word Through You,” Ensign, June 1980, 56.