3. Insights into the Book of Genesis

By George A. Horton

George A. Horton Jr., “Insights into the Book of Genesis,” 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), 51–70.

Insights into the Book of Genesis

George A. Horton Jr.

 

George A. Horton Jr. was an associate professor of ancient scripture at BYU when this was published.


One afternoon, shortly after the “new” King James Version, LDS Edition came out, I boarded the Wasatch Boulevard bus going south on State Street in Salt Lake City and found that there was only one seat vacant—right in the middle of the back row. After the bus had gone a few blocks, I noticed the person next to me was reading his Bible. All I knew about him was where he got on and off the bus. His well-worn Bible appeared to be one of the old black-covered Cambridge missionary editions, and he was reading Genesis 14. He finished the chapter, slowly closed the book, and began to gaze out the window.

Risking the possibility that he might not be LDS, I said, “Pardon me, do you mind if I ask you a question?” Looking a little surprised, he said, “No, go ahead.”

“Do you mind telling me why you are reading the old Bible when the new one is available?” Again he looked a little shocked at the challenge, but as he searched for words, he almost unconsciously pulled his book close to him and said, “I just like my old Bible, that’s all.” Then he added, “And besides, I guess it’s the money.”

“You can buy a new Bible at the Distribution Center for about seven dollars,” I suggested. After a pause, he said, “What’s so good about the new one?”

“Well, I happened to notice that you just read Genesis 14. Did you know that you skipped over sixteen complete verses of scripture that you didn’t even read?”

“What do you mean?” he questioned.

Reaching into my briefcase, I pulled out my new KJV, LDS Edition. Opening to Genesis 14, and holding the book over where he could see, I pointed to the little superscript “a” at the end of verse 24. “See that little ‘a.’ Now let’s look down to the cross-references. It refers us to JST, Genesis 14:25–40. If we go back to the Joseph Smith Translation [hereafter referred to as JST] in the appendix, we will find sixteen more verses of scripture which you did not read.” The questioning look on his face was obvious, but before he could even finish his next question, “What does it say?” I had already closed my book and was putting it back in my briefcase. Just then the buzzer rang for his stop, and as he started for the door, he looked back and grinned as if to say “Thanks!”

The man who studies the stories and message of Genesis without the aid of the Joseph Smith Translation is like unto the captain of a ship who, while viewing the tips of many icebergs (doctrines), tries to estimate their true size and shape without considering all information available and the underlying currents which affect their movement. His ship (the good ship Private Interpretation) will surely be on a collision course—he will miscalculate, and if he does not make the proper corrections may, like the Titanic, sink unto the depths of faulty interpretation and misunderstanding from which it is difficult to return.

How Is the Book of Moses Related to JST, Genesis?

Most of us probably don’t fully appreciate or have a true perspective on the value of the JST because we have been using part of it for such a long time (i.e., the book of Moses). We are much like a person who often has steak or some other delicacy for dinner—he probably won’t fully appreciate it unless he is suddenly without it.

To gain valuable insights into Genesis, the place to start is with the book of Moses—in fact, chapter 1. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the experience Moses had when he (Moses) “was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain, And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him” (Moses 1:1–2). This revelation to the latter-day prophet came at the time when he was being instructed to begin the inspired study, translation, or revision of the Bible. [1]

Our current book of Moses (2:1–8:30) is an almost verbatim copy of the JST, Genesis 1:1–8:18 (covering King James Version Genesis 1:1–6:13). It was prepared by Orson Pratt in 1878 as he edited the Pearl of Great Price to be presented in the general conference of the Church. [2] Therefore, when we read the book of Moses we are in reality reading the first chapters of JST, Genesis. The title of the former seems appropriate since the first book of the Bible in some editions is given as “The First Book of Moses Called Genesis.” (See title of Genesis in the King James Version.)

Approaching the study of the JST is a lifetime endeavor to which we each bring different levels of gospel scholarship. Since our individual insights usually come according to the level of spiritual maturity which we bring to the task, you may be able to add to the following basic questions:

  1. What is the fundamental message of Genesis?
  2. What great gospel themes are better clarified in the JST?
  3. What other unique textual contributions are given?
  4. What related extratextual sources are available?

What Is the Fundamental Message of Genesis?

When discussing the Genesis creation story, what teacher has not been pressed with questions such as: How was the earth created? How long did it take? Were there dinosaurs before Adam? Were there pre-Adamites? Did God just place a spirit in man at one point in his evolutionary development from lower forms? What about organic evolution? Was Adam brought from another planet? Where did God come from? Did God’s father’s father have a father? What is an intelligence? Where did it all begin? And numerous others that you can think of. Is it possible that most of these questions totally miss the mark?

If the Lord intended to reveal the specific details of creation there seems to be a great defect in the present record. In this regard, Elder James E. Talmage said, “The opening chapters of Genesis, and scriptures related thereto, were never intended as a textbook of geology, archeology, earth-science, or man-science.” [3]

Instead of trying to squeeze out information that doesn’t seem to have been in the Genesis account in the first place (indeed, may not yet be revealed—consider Doctrine and Covenants 101:32–34), let us ask the following: What is the source of the book? Who was the prophet-scribe? When did he write? Where was he at the time? To whom was he writing? What seemed to be the intent of his book?

The Divine Author is easy to recognize, especially in the first part—the premortal Lord Jesus Christ is speaking as the Father by divine investiture of authority. [4] He is the Almighty of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the great I Am—and Jehovah of the Old Testament. Moses, the eighty-year-old shepherd of Midian, spoke to him “face to face” (Moses 1:2), beheld the world and the end thereof (1:8), was instructed at the time of the burning bush (1:17), received the call to deliver Israel from its long Egyptian bondage (1:6, 26), and was commanded to “write the things which I shall speak” (1:40). That these writings were not only for the Hebrew slaves is revealed in the added note that “in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe” (1:41). The translation of the Bible through Joseph Smith must be a major part, if not the direct fulfillment, of this prophecy.

Judging from the more complete revelation to Moses (found in JST, Genesis), could not ancient and modern Israel conclude that among the most important things they were to know are the following:

  1. The Lord God (Jehovah) was their God. (A great contrast to Osiris, Ammon Re, Ptah, Horus, Anubis, Hapi, Sobek, Khnum, Atum, and hundreds of other false deities in the Egyptian Pantheon, not to mention the Canaanite Baal, or the later trinitarian God of the current Christian creeds.)
  2. He was their creator and all of creation was good.
  3. The Creation was planned and orderly.
  4. Every person was created in the image of his Eternal Father and the Only Begotten Son.
  5. A gospel of redemption was taught from the beginning.
  6. Through personal righteousness, man could gain eternal life.
  7. Israel had a great patriarchal lineage going back to Adam.
  8. Israel was the covenant people with a divine destiny and the promises made to their fathers would all be fulfilled.
  9. They were to receive special blessings.
  10. As custodian of the covenant, Israel had the responsibility to share it with all of Adam’s other children.

Because Genesis covers a period of history over twice as long as all the other thirty-eight books of the Old Testament combined, obviously it was not intended as a detailed history, but contains things the Lord felt were vital for Israel to know.

Before considering the great gospel themes which become plain in the JST, one other preliminary observation could be made to emphasize the large amount of additional scripture that it makes available. If we organized all the scriptures chronologically (in parallel columns) so the scriptural story could be read as completely as possible, we might be mildly shocked at Genesis 5:21–24 (the Enoch material), when instead of five or ten or even twenty-five additional verses in the JST, there are 111 consecutive verses with no counterpart in the common edition of Genesis. 

What Great Gospel Themes Are Better Clarified in JST, Genesis?

One who is familiar with Genesis in the King James Version (hereafter KJV) is excited when he discovers some almost obscure gospel themes suddenly coming into focus in the JST. Let us consider eight which are either obscure or completely missing in the KJV:

  1. The role and mission of Jesus Christ.
  2. The role of Satan.
  3. The fall of Adam.
  4. The nature of man.
  5. The gospel of Jesus Christ taught in the beginning.
  6. God’s ways versus man’s ways.
  7. The priesthood.
  8. Covenants.

The Role and Mission of Jesus Christ

The single most important concept to grasp in a study of Genesis is the role and mission of Jesus Christ (known in his preexistent state as Jehovah). Unfortunately, the KJV adds to the obscurity of this idea because the translations generally rendered the Hebrew tetragrammaton (i.e., Jod He Vav He) representing Jehovah (or Yahweh) to read Lord (i.e., large capital L and small capitals ord). Therefore, one can read Genesis without recognizing that Jehovah (or Jesus Christ) is on almost every page.

Some of the major facts which cannot be overlooked in the JST are:

  • He is the Only Begotten Son—creator of heaven and earth.
  • He was prepared before the foundation of the world—chosen to suffer for men if they would repent.
  • Men are created in his image.
  • Men were to make offerings in similitude of his atoning sacrifice.
  • They are to believe in him, hearken to his word, be baptized in his name, and pray to the Father in his name.
  • He was the Lord God who spoke to Adam and all the prophets.
  • With his Father, it is his work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

In short, Adam knew of the mission of Jesus Christ, received instruction from him, understood the necessity of exercising faith in him, bore witness of him, and taught these things to his descendants for several generations.

The Role of Satan

To appreciate the contribution of the JST on the adversary’s role, we remind ourselves that the word Satan occurs only nineteen times in the KJV Old Testament, and its first occurrence does not appear until 1 Chronicles 21:1. The word Lucifer occurs only once, at Isaiah 14:12, and the word devil does not occur at all. Thus, we see that none of them occur in the common version of Genesis. [5]

We recognize the work of Satan as represented by the serpent in the story of the Fall, but his presence or influence seems to be practically nonexistent in the rest of the Genesis story. Consider the JST, Genesis contributions:

  • Satan wanted to save all mankind and receive God’s honor.
  • He rebelled and sought to destroy man’s agency.
  • He was cast down and became the devil, the father of lies, to deceive, blind, and lead men captive.
  • He spoke by the mouth of the serpent.
  • He knew not the mind of God.
  • Because of his sophistries, many loved him more than God.
  • Cain’s unacceptable offering came only after Satan commanded it.
  • Satan agreed to submit to Cain’s commands in return for Cain’s entering into the secret oaths to commit murder.
  • Thus Satan became the author of secret combinations of darkness.

The Lord Jesus Christ and Satan represent the two great forces vying for man’s allegiance in this life—(1) the power of life, truth, love, service and salvation offered by Jesus Christ, or (2) the power of death, error, darkness, and damnation which come by following Satan. We can only wonder to what extent the seeming systematic failure of these topics to be found in the common version of Genesis represents a calculated effort to obscure Satan’s struggle for souls. Did Nephi see this in vision? “For behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord” (1 Nephi 13:26).

The Fall of Adam

In Genesis, the Fall is mentioned primarily as an event only. Most of the Christian world, with the help of a few assumptions, reaches the following conclusions: Adam and Eve both openly rebelled against God and committed a wicked, evil sin—undoubtedly breaking the law of chastity. Also, that by this sin they doomed all mankind to be born already stained with original sin upon their souls into a world of grief, sorrow, and suffering.

By way of contrast, the JST says:

  • “The sins of the parents [e.g., Adam and Eve] cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world” (JST, Genesis 6:56/Moses 6:54).
  • Man’s nature is not fallen to begin with, but “they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.” (JST, Genesis 4:13/Moses 5:13.)
  • The consequences of partaking of the fruit are given and then qualified by “nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself” (JST, Genesis 2:20–22/Moses 3:17).
  • After the Fall, Adam and Eve were taught “the plan of salvation unto all men, through the blood of mine Only Begotten” (JST, Genesis 6:65/Moses 6:62).

Contrary to the traditional Christian view of being dejected, conscience-smitten, beaten, hanging their heads in shame, and in a general state of hopelessness, when they comprehended the implications of the Fall, Adam and Eve sort of jumped up and clicked their heels.

  • “Because of my transgression,” said Adam, “my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (JST, Genesis 4:10/Moses 5:10).
  • Eve “heard all these things, and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (JST, Genesis 4:11/Moses 5:11).

The Nature of Man

According to the generally accepted Christian doctrine, man is born with the taint of original sin upon his soul; therefore, his nature is automatically evil. It would be hard to overestimate the negative psychological impact this false doctrine would have on a person’s life when trying to overcome individual weaknesses and gain eternal perfection. Would this not make it possible to rationalize bad behavior by assuming that by nature, man is bad to begin with?

The JST clarifies these fundamental aspects of the nature of man: “The Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world” (JST, Genesis 6:56/Moses 6:54; emphasis added). But, if the children are born whole, then how does one account for the wickedness in our society? The scriptures explain by saying that “when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts” (JST, Genesis 6:56/Moses 6:55).

“Adam and Eve . . . made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish” (JST, Genesis 4:13/Moses 5:12–13.) Enoch reaffirms this teaching: “Behold, Satan hath come among the children of men, and tempteth them to worship him; and men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God” (JST, Genesis 6:50/Moses 6:49).

It is clear that “every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning” (D&C 93:38), and can remain that way unless there is failure to yield to “the enticings of the Holy Spirit” (Mosiah 3:19). In most of the passages there is an emphasis on the fact that man becomes that way, clearly implying he was not so to begin with.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ Was Taught From the Beginning

The fact that the gospel of redemption was taught from the beginning has to be one of the most exciting insights we encounter in our gospel study. “The Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost” (JST, Genesis 5:44/Moses 5:58). Thus we see the perfect justice of God in working with his children for their salvation. This reinforces the apostle Paul’s statement that “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). The principles that will sanctify, save, and exalt men today are the same that applied in every age or dispensation.

Jesus Christ (the Only Begotten Son) was called before the foundation of the world to be the Savior and Redeemer. Therefore, even though men sin, through faith in Christ, true repentance, and baptism, they can be given the gift of the Holy Ghost, and by living in the Lord’s way, be justified, sanctified, sealed up to eternal life, and eventually dwell in his presence. Since these blessings are contingent on man’s overcoming his personal sins, it is no surprise that the most persistent single injunction in the early record is for men to repent. This is in contrast to the KJV where there is no direct call to repent in the entire book of Genesis. In no other place in scripture is the need to repent more consistently emphasized than in the JST.

  • Adam was told to repent, and he in turn called upon his sons to repent.
  • The Lord called on men everywhere by the Holy Ghost to repent.
  • All men must repent.
  • One must repent to inherit the kingdom.
  • Christ suffered for sins and we will return to him if we repent.

God’s Way Vs. Man’s Way

The big choice placed before Adam and Eve, their children, and grandchildren is identical to ours. Will we choose to serve the Lord, or, by deliberate choice (or default), serve Satan? The early record provides ample examples of the consequences of such a decision. Adam and Eve taught their children in the ways of the Lord, but Satan prevailed “and they [the children] loved Satan more than God” (JST, Genesis 4:12–13/Moses 5:12–13). At Cain’s birth, Adam and Eve were filled with great anticipation. Eve said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord” (Genesis 4:1). “But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? . . . And Cain loved Satan more than God.” (JST, Genesis 5:4, 6/Moses 5:16, 18.)

However, not all was lost; his younger brother (Abel) “walked in holiness before the Lord” (JST, Genesis 5:11/Moses 5:26), yet another (Seth) offered an “acceptable sacrifice” (JST, Genesis 6:4/Moses 6:3), and they began “to call upon the name of the Lord” (JST, Genesis 6:5/Moses 5:4). Undoubtedly there were others who chose the path of faith and obedience, but the sacred records reflect that many in Adam’s generation did not enthusiastically lean toward spiritual things.

Righteous patriarchs did teach their children “in the ways of God” (JST, Genesis 6:12, 22, 43/Moses 6:13, 21, 41), and those who learned to “walk with [the Lord]” and “abide” in him (JST, Genesis 6:36/Moses 6:34) became the sons and daughters of God. Those who would not hearken became known as the sons and daughters of men. The JST clearly provides the reason why Noah, his sons, and their wives boarded the boat and were saved, while the rest of their family, friends, and neighbors all went to a watery grave. The JST says: “And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God” (JST, Genesis 8:1/Moses 8:13). This also explains why the Lord was grieved when Noah’s daughters accepted marriage proposals from the sons of men (i.e., those who would not hearken) (JST, Genesis 8:3/Moses 8:15.)

Lest the value of the JST be missed, consider the conclusion reached in a popular Bible dictionary about the nature of the sons of God and daughters of men referred to in Genesis 6:2: “The text seems to imply that the gods married existing gigantic earthly women and that these marriages produced the mighty men . . . [or] Nephilim (i.e., giants). . .” [6] Thus the story is further dismissed as simply “saga and legend.” [7]

The Priesthood

The only direct reference to priesthood in KJV Genesis is to Melchizedek, priest of the most high God (see Genesis 14:18–20). From this, who could possibly reconstruct the history or operation of the priesthood for approximately twenty-five hundred years—from Adam to Moses?

To Enoch it was revealed that after Adam was baptized and received the Holy Ghost, the Lord said, “And thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity” (Moses 6:67), thus referring to the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, now called the Melchizedek Priesthood (cf. JST, Hebrews 7:3; D&C 107:3). After mentioning that Seth was appointed in his murdered brother’s stead, the record continues, “Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also” (JST, Genesis 6:7/Moses 6:7). The Lord ordained Noah (see JST, Genesis 8:7/Moses 8:19 and cf. D&C 107:52). Melchizedek also, “having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God” (JST, Genesis 14:27–28). Priesthood functions are also mentioned: “He [Melchizedek] blessed Abram, being the high priest, and keeper of the storehouse of God; Him whom God appointed to receive tithes for the poor” (JST, Genesis 14:37–38).

At least one other allusion to priesthood includes the three messengers at the time of Sodom’s impending destruction, “which were holy men, and were sent forth after the order of God” (i.e., the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood) (JST, Genesis 18:23.)

Covenants

When priesthood is mentioned covenants most assuredly will be there also. References to covenants do appear in Genesis, particularly in chapter 17, but the details are vague.

After mentioning that the gospel had been preached, the JST continues: “And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance” (JST, Genesis 5:45/Moses 5:59). Those covenants mentioned directly or indirectly include tithing (Genesis 14:20), priesthood (JST, Genesis 6:7/Moses 6:7), and baptism (Moses 6:52). The Lord also covenanted to preserve the patriarchal lineage of Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, and Abraham (JST, Genesis 7:58/Moses 7:51; 8:2; JST, Genesis 8:23; 9:14, 17, 21–25). However, the covenant is best elaborated in connection with Abraham wherein it is called an “everlasting covenant” (JST, Genesis 13:13). He was not the first to receive it, but was counseled that he “should observe to keep all my covenants wherein I covenanted with thy fathers” (JST, Genesis 17:12).

Also promised is that one would be raised up in the latter days to once again bring Israel to a knowledge of the covenants (JST, Genesis 50:31).


It is clear that reading Genesis without the benefit of the JST would be something like chewing on a T-bone with much of the steak already cut off, or reading the New Testament parables, never realizing that they had a dual meaning and that the one we missed was the most valuable.

Having sampled the main course, let’s go back and pick here and there at the relish plate.

What Other Unique Textual Contributions Are Given?

Before considering many unique changes, it might be observed that Joseph Smith’s work anticipates some of the very elements and themes emerging from recently discovered apocryphal texts, including segments about Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, Abraham, and Joseph, thereby providing additional evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. [8]

There are over two hundred changes or added verses in JST, Genesis, which in itself suggests the monumental impact that it would have on an understanding of its message. Following are a few small but critical corrections that add to the beauty of the scriptural account:

1. Genesis 1:26–27 (JST, Genesis 1:27, 29; Moses 2:26–27). The antecedent given to us in “Let us make man” is the Father and the Only Begotten Son in whose image man is made.

2. Genesis 1:30 (JST, Genesis 1:32; Moses 2:30). “Every green herb” becomes “every clean herb.”

3. Genesis 2:5 (JST, Genesis 2:5; Moses 3:5). To the expression “every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew” is added, “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth . . . for in heaven created I them.”

4. Genesis 4:1–8 (JST, Genesis 4:2–5:13; Moses 5:2–28). Several additions are given: A popular commentary says, “The first son of this [Adam and Eve’s] union is named Cain.” [9] Not so, for Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters prior to the birth of Cain and Abel. The sons and daughters divided two and two in the land and had children of their own. When commanded to offer sacrifice, Adam did so in complete faith. Adam and Eve mourned because of Cain’s rebellion. Another commentary says Cain’s wife was a daughter of Adam, “and consequently was a sister to Cain.” [10] But it is recorded in the JST that Cain married one of his brother’s daughters.

5. Genesis 5:1 (JST, Genesis 6:5; Moses 6:5). A book of remembrance was kept with which Adam’s children were taught a language which was pure and undefiled.

6. Genesis 5:22–23 (JST, Genesis 6:21–7:78; Moses 6:21–7:69). This includes writings of Enoch, some of which have already been cited. Additional information includes: Enoch’s speech and vision; the translation of the city of Zion; that many others were later translated before the flood; the great wickedness of Enoch’s time surpassed that among the Lord’s other creations; the city of Zion and the New Jerusalem are to be joined together; and a millennium of peace is foretold.

7. Genesis 6:6 (JST, Genesis 8:15; Moses 8:25). It was Noah, not the Lord, who was sorry (repented) that the Lord had made man.

8. Genesis 14:24 (JST, Genesis 14:25–40). Additional details not referred to heretofore (and missed by the man on the bus) include the faith of Melchizedek who had great power to perform many miracles; that men having such faith (including his people) were translated and joined the city of Enoch; Melchizedek was appointed the keeper of the storehouse of God and henceforth was the appropriate one to whom tithes were paid.

9. Genesis 17:17 (JST, Genesis 17:23). Abraham “rejoiced” rather than “laughed” when told that Sarah would have a child.

10. Genesis 19:8 (JST, Genesis 19:11). The order of events in Lot’s interaction with the wicked men of Sodom is changed. “We will have the men, and they daughters also.” The latter was their idea, not Lot’s, contrary to the Genesis account.

11. Genesis 19:31–33 (JST, Genesis 19:37–39). Lot’s incestuous daughters “did wickedly.”

12. Genesis 21:33 (JST, Genesis 21:31). It was Abimelech and his captain, not Abraham, that planted a grove in Beersheba.

13. Genesis 24:2, 9 (JST, Genesis 24:2, 8). The “hand” was involved in making the covenant rather than the “thigh.”

14. Genesis 28:22 (JST, Genesis 28:22). Instead of the “stone” being the house of God, it is the “place” of the house of God.

15. Genesis 48:5–6 (JST, Genesis 48:5–11). Grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh were adopted like sons to Jacob with the same standing as his own twelve sons. Jacob acknowledges that Joseph was to save the house of Israel, and Joseph’s children were to be blessed above those of his brethren. They also were to bring salvation to the rest of Jacob’s house at a time when they were all bowed down in sin.

16. Genesis 50:24 (JST, Genesis 50:24–36). Joseph’s prophecies to his children just prior to his death included: the mission of Moses; the calling of a latter-day Joseph and the Restoration; writings which Joseph would be instrumental in bringing forth to be joined with those of Judah to the “confounding of false doctrine,” and bringing Israel to a knowledge of their fathers and their covenants.

There are many more exciting contributions to be found, each worth a diligent search.

What Related Extratextual Sources Are Available?

One of the most significant dimensions of this quest for insights is represented by sources that are not actually in the JST itself, but which might be considered an extension of it. Robert J. Matthews has pointed out that “most of the revelations dealing with doctrinal subjects [found in the D&C] were revealed to Joseph Smith . . . from June 1830 to July 1833, which was exactly the time he was working on the Bible translation. While engaging in such a concentrated study of the scriptures, it was natural for him to ask questions and ponder on various subjects, inquire of the Lord, and receive divine revelation in answer to his inquiry.” [11] Of what consequence could this be to a greater understanding of Genesis? Consider two examples:

1. The Prophet was working on the Genesis portion of the translation on and off during the period of June 1830 to June 1835—the latter date including a period when an additional review was specifically made of Genesis 1 through 5. One will note that Genesis 5 gives the patriarchal line from Adam to Noah, indicating little more than the age of the patriarchs when the sons in the patriarchal line of succession were born. In this regard, we can see a similarity to eighteen verses in Doctrine and Covenants 107.

The section summary for Doctrine and Covenants 107 indicates that portions of that particular revelation were received as early as November 1831 and that remainder is dated 28 March 1835. Compare verses 40 to 57 with Genesis 5 (or Moses 6) about the Patriarchs: “The order of this priesthood [i.e., Melchizedek] was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made. This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner: From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth; Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age” (D&C 107:40–43). Then the revelation continues to indicate at what age and by whom each of the patriarchs was ordained, down to and including Noah (see D&C 107:44–52).

Continuing further, the revelation states that “Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing. And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel. . . . And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation” (D&C 107:53–56). None of the foregoing information is found in either Genesis or JST, Genesis directly, but “These things were all written in the books of Enoch, and are to be testified of in due time” (D&C 107:57).

2. The section summary for Doctrine and Covenants 132 indicates that it was recorded on 12 July 1843, but “it is evident from historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in the revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.” [12] It is also well known that after his review of Genesis in June of 1835, Joseph continued to make changes in the translation for almost nine additional years, when finally his work was cut short by martyrdom.

The wording of section 132 and its doctrinal nature reflect its connection with JST, Genesis. “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob . . . as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines. . . . I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter” (D&C 132:1–2). Then follows an explanation of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. The indications that at least part of this revelation was received while Joseph was studying the lives of these ancient patriarchs is very persuasive. Continuing, the revelation says, “Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment” (v. 29), which brings us back to Genesis.

When introducing the covenant to Abraham, in the King James Version Abraham is instructed to “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). In the JST this is considerably strengthened: “I, the Almighty God, give unto thee a commandment; that thou shalt walk uprightly before me, and be perfect” (emphasis added). This seems a most appropriate place to conclude.

Summary

In summary, to gain insights into the book of Genesis, it has been suggested that:

  1. Our current book of Moses is taken from JST, Genesis.
  2. Genesis was given to help raise a benighted people (ancient and modern) from their bondage to a renewed sense of who their creator is, who they are, what their blessings and responsibilities are, and the potential of their divine destiny.
  3. Great gospel themes are better clarified in JST, Genesis.
  4. It provides many unique textual contributions.
  5. There are extratextual sources available to give us additional insights.

However, the search of the dedicated student or teacher will not end here. He will continue to look for valuable insights wherever they may be found, and be persuaded that the most valuable commentary on the scriptures are the scriptures themselves (e.g., Lehi on the fall of Adam, Alma on the tree of life, Paul on a variety of topics relating to the early patriarchs and covenants). Other sources highly relevant to a greater understanding of Genesis include the book of Abraham, Lectures on Faith, doctrinal expositions of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve (e.g., “The Father and the Son”), statements of the First Presidency (e.g., “Origin of Man”), and the sermons and writings of the latter-day prophets (e.g., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Conference Reports).

The man who studies Genesis with the aid of the JST is like unto a ship’s captain who, while viewing many majestically beautiful icebergs (doctrines) floating in a vast ocean (the everlasting gospel), seeks all the information available (from the standard works and teachings of the modern prophets) as to their true size, shape, and direction. If he applies his knowledge properly, his ship (the good ship Inspired Interpretation) will surely sail safely through difficult waters to the blissful shore.

Blessed Savior, [wilt thou] guide us,

Till we reach that blissful shore.

(Hymns, no. 188)

Notes

[1] Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932–51), 1:97.

[2] The book of Moses excerpts in the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price (1851) were taken from the Evening and Morning Star and the Times and Seasons.

[3] “The Earth and Man,” 9 August 1931, reprinted in Deseret News, 12 November 1931.

[4] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 1:27. “The Father and the Son,” Doctrinal Exposition of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve,” June 30, 1916, quoted in Talmage, Articles of Faith, 465–73.

[5] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1955).

[6] The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1971), 7.

[7] Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary, 7.

[8] S. Kent Brown, “The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible: A Panel,” in Scriptures for the Modern World, ed. Paul R. Cheesman and C. Wilfred Griggs (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 81–83.

[9] The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible, 6.

[10] C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, 25 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. G. Eerdmans Publishing Company, n.d.), 1:116.

[11]A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 257; also cf. D&C 76:15ff.

[12]A Plainer Translation”, 257.