Joseph Smith's Translation of the New Testament

Kent P. Jackson

Kent P. Jackson, "Joseph Smith's Translation of the New Testament," in New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament, ed. Lincoln H. Blumell (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2019), 707-718.

Kent P. Jackson is a professor emeritus of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.

Few non–Latter-day Saints are aware that Joseph Smith created a revision of the Bible.[1] Based on the King James translation, which was the common English Bible of his time, Joseph Smith’s revision was the result of a significant undertaking of time and effort to provide a better translation for the members of the Church. A revelation of December 1830 states in God’s words that through the Prophet’s work with the Bible, “the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect” (Doctrine and Covenants 35:20). Passages like that enabled him and his contemporaries in the Church to understand that the Bible revision was an important part of his calling. They called it the “New Translation,” but most Latter-day Saints today know it as the “Joseph Smith Translation” (JST).[2]

The New Translation plays a significant role in Latter-day Saint beliefs. In this chapter I will summarize some of the major features of the New Testament portion in an effort to help us better understand the nature of the changes the Prophet made and how those changes enhance our reading of the New Testament.

The Translation

Joseph Smith taught that we believe in the Bible “as far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith 1:8). In his day, the primary meanings of the word translate included “carry or remove from one place to another” and “transfer; to convey from one to another.” In the common American dictionary of the time, the idea of changing words from one language to another was only the sixth definition listed. Thus, the word translation fits well with Joseph Smith’s work on the Bible, which was not a rendering from other languages but a reformulation and transformation from one state to another.[3] For us as Latter-day Saints, it is one of the important evidences to the divine mission of the Lord’s prophet.

Joseph Smith began his revision of the Bible in the summer of 1830, starting at its first chapter. At Genesis 24:41 the following spring, he temporarily put the Old Testament aside and began to revise the New Testament. He worked on the New Testament until late July 1832 when he finished the book of Revelation. The Prophet rarely wrote the translation himself but dictated the text to his scribes. They recorded his New Testament revision on 217 pages of folded paper, approximately 8 x 13 inches in dimension. In addition, he made further changes in later passes through the dictated material. Working as Joseph Smith’s scribes were four of his closest associates: Sidney Rigdon, John Whitmer, Jesse Gause, and Frederick G. Williams. All four men held important positions in the Church. John Whitmer had served as scribe and copyist since the fall of 1830 and was one of the Church’s earliest leaders. Rigdon, Gause, and Williams were counselors in the First Presidency. When Gause left the Church, Williams replaced him as counselor and simultaneously as scribe for the Bible revision.

Two significantly different scribal procedures were used in the New Testament revision. For Matthew 1 through John 5, Joseph Smith dictated the text in full. For the rest of the New Testament, he dictated chapter and verse numbers and then only the changed words, simultaneously marking in his printed Bible the insertion points for those words. This method anticipated that in the typesetting process, the marked printed Bible would serve as a guide for the location of the revised wordings.

The two methods produced different results. Per verse of scripture, many more changes are found in the sections in which the Prophet dictated the text in full. Thus, for example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke each have many more changes than John.[4] The nature of the changes is different as well, with the Synoptic Gospels having many more small, clarifying, textual changes than are found elsewhere in the New Testament.


Joseph Smith named the Gospels of Matthew and John testimonies, but not the Gospels of Mark and Luke.[5] We do not know why. Perhaps he viewed the two apostolic records as having special witnessing power because they were the recollections of members of the ancient Twelve. Yet all four of the Gospels in the New Translation contain an enhanced testimony of Jesus compared to their corresponding passages in the Bible. In the New Translation, Jesus is more divine, his words are more clear, and the testimonies of the writers are more direct than in the Bible. This prompted early researcher Robert J. Matthews to see in the New Translation what he called “a greater portrayal of the Master,” and indeed it is.[6]

Providing Clarity and Understanding

We have no way of knowing exactly what Joseph Smith had in mind with any particular revision he made in his Bible translation, so we must discuss potential reasons with caution. Because the Book of Mormon teaches that after the writing of the New Testament “many plain and precious things” would be “taken away” from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:28), it seems likely that a prophetic correction of the Bible would include material that had become lost. Also, because Joseph Smith stated that “much instruction has been given to man since the beginning which we [now] have not,”[7] it is not too much to assume that a prophetic Bible translation would add such material to the restored text.

Some parts of the Prophet’s Bible revision are new revealed texts with unique content. Moses 1 and the Enoch material in Moses 6–7 are the prime examples. Most of the JST, however, consists of changes made to existing words in the King James translation, usually on the level of a verse (revising a word or two) or on the level of a short collection of verses (revising an ongoing thought in a discourse or narrative).

By sheer numbers, the majority of changes do not add new content but revise existing content to make the Bible more understandable for modern readers. Smaller changes that make it more understandable include replacing personal pronouns with names or nouns, replacing archaic vocabulary and grammar with more contemporary forms, changing the wording to add clarity, and removing italics. The example that follows illustrates the kinds of small changes the Prophet made in abundance. In this transcription, the replacement words appear in bold type, and the deleted words from the King James translation follow, inside brackets. The spelling is standardized to current usage.

Mark 9:19–21 (JST Mark 9:5)[8]

Jesus [KJV, He] spoke unto [KJV, answereth] him and said [KJV, saith], O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How [KJV, how] long shall I suffer you? Bring [KJV, bring] him unto me. And they brought him unto Jesus. [KJV, him:] And [KJV, and] when the man [KJV, he] saw him, immediately [KJV, straightway] he was torn by the spirit [KJV, the spirit tare him]; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And Jesus [KJV, he] asked his father, How long a time is it [KJV, is it ago] since this came unto him? And his father [KJV, he] said, When [KJV, Of] a child.

Easily noticed in this passage are the instances in which pronouns (he and him) are replaced with names. In addition, sometimes a pronoun is replaced with an identifying noun, as in the man replacing he, and his father replacing he. There are many pronoun replacements like these in Joseph Smith’s New Testament. In most cases, they respond to the tendency of the Gospel writers to use phrases like “And he said unto him.” Although the Prophet never explained the revisions he made, we can observe that these pronoun replacements make the text more precise and understandable. Wordings of this variety are hardly unique, and modern translators often make similar decisions in translation. The highly respected New Revised Standard Version, for example, employs this technique to remove ambiguities and make the text read better, just as Joseph Smith did.[9]

The text above shows examples of old or obsolete vocabulary being replaced with more modern words. The Prophet replaced the word straightway with the more contemporary immediately. Throughout the New Testament, he replaced many archaic grammatical forms as well, such as said in place of saith. That common change in the New Translation is more than simply modernizing the grammar, as it changes a present-tense verb to past tense, which makes the narrative flow more smoothly. A similar change was made in the same clause, with the present-tense answereth being replaced by a verb in the past tense. The Prophet’s rejection of answereth also reflects the discomfort that other Bible readers have had with the verb answer being used (instead of something like respond) when no question was asked. He replaced answereth or answered in other places in the New Testament as well. The archaic past tense tare was replaced by a passive form. Other changed archaisms in the New Testament, though not in the example above, include changing that and which to who when referring to humans and changing ye to you.

Near the end of the passage, the Prophet provided replacements for the two awkward phrases, “How long is it ago since” and “Of a child.”

Although the manuscripts of Joseph Smith’s New Testament show much effort to modernize, it must be emphasized that this process was not done universally or consistently. There are places where archaisms were not noted and revised. In some parts of the translation, editorial changes like these are more common than in other parts, suggesting that the Prophet had modernization of the text on his mind some days more than others.

New Testament scholar Thomas Wayment has examined JST rewordings and has concluded that the Prophet drew ideas in several instances from contemporary biblical scholarship.[10] Adam Clarke (1760–1832) was a believing Christian who wrote a Bible commentary that reflected the scholarship of his time. Wayment suggests that in several places, the Prophet consulted Clarke’s commentary and used textual insights from it in his New Translation. Some of the wording Clarke proposed falls in the category of “textual criticism”—examining all the available ancient manuscripts to find the most likely original wording. It is now known that the King James Bible was translated from Greek manuscripts that were not as reliable as some others. Several of Joseph Smith’s word changes correspond with Clarke’s recommendations for alternative wordings, perhaps including revising Mark 8:29 (inserting “the son of the living God”), deleting Luke 19:25, and rearranging Colossians 2:20–22. That the Prophet would appeal to scholarship that might contribute to his work is consistent with the directive he would later receive to seek both wisdom and learning “out of the best books” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).

In our example above from Mark 9, another subtle change is also visible. As the Prophet dictated the text, his scribes included very little capitalization and punctuation, simply recording his words as he uttered them. Sometime later, he and his clerks went through the text and added these features to prepare the manuscript for publication. The text above shows some differences from the King James Version that modernize the punctuation. It has a sentence-ending period where the King James has a colon, and it capitalizes two words following question marks to create new sentences. These changes make the text look more contemporary and more natural than the corresponding text in the King James translation. But it should be pointed out that the punctuation and capitalization inserted on the manuscripts is very inconsistent.

Another structural difference is not visible in the above example but is clear on the manuscript pages. Everything in the text belongs to a single verse. In fact, what we have today in Mark 9:16–27 was all one verse in Joseph Smith’s translation—Mark 9:5. When the Prophet and his scribes created the verse breaks for the JST, they rejected the short verses of the King James Bible and created long verses based on the content. This is one of many evidences for his preference for scriptures to have paragraph-length verses, rather than the intrusive verse breaks found in the traditional Bible.[11]

Italics in the Bible were a printing fashion from the sixteenth century. They were used primarily to identify words not in the original languages but necessary for the English translation.[12] Linguists and translators today recognize that including the words themselves was almost always justified, but italicizing them was unnecessary, confusing, and often inaccurate. It is clear that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries viewed the KJV’s italics with suspicion.[13] Lending evidence for this view is the fact that a disproportionate number of revisions on the JST manuscripts are found in locations where the King James translators italicized words. Although the Prophet deleted or revised many of the italicized words, in other cases he kept the words themselves by simply reading them to his scribes, intending them to be printed without italicization. No italics were to be used in Joseph Smith’s Bible translation.

It is instructive to note that our example above has more than a dozen word changes and yet none are noted in the footnotes or appendix of the Latter-day Saint editions of the Bible. The reason is that the JST revisions that were chosen for such inclusion were those that were of doctrinal or historical importance,[14] whereas the changes in our selection are restricted to adding clarity to the text. Yet because the Prophet made so many changes of this sort, it is clear that he considered the modernizing and clarifying of the text to be important, even though it was not done consistently. All of these changes—including doing away with the italics, creating larger paragraphs, modernizing words and grammar, and rewording passages to make them more understandable—lead me to conclude that although Joseph Smith loved the Bible, he did not have the kind of affection for the King James translation itself that others in the Church have had since his time.

Matthew 24

Joseph Smith’s translation of Matthew 24 provides clarity and understanding on a much larger scale. It is the only part of the New Testament translation that has been included in the Latter-day Saint canon, and it is known today as Joseph Smith—Matthew in the Pearl of Great Price.[15] Sometime between mid-April and mid-June 1831, the Prophet and his scribe Sidney Rigdon revised the chapter, which contains Jesus’s great prophecy of future events. The prophecy is often called the “Olivet Discourse,” named after the Mount of Olives where Jesus delivered the sermon to his apostles.[16] There are versions of it in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Because Joseph Smith—Matthew has a unique history textually, and because of its standing in the Latter-day Saint scriptures, it deserves special attention here.

The Olivet Discourse is distinctive in many ways and presents interpretive challenges to readers. At the beginning of the account, Jesus’s disciples ask him two questions. The first, “When shall these things be?” (Matthew 24:3), has to do with his prediction regarding the temple—“There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). The second question was, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).

In each of the Synoptic Gospels, the account of what follows seems to view the two questions as one, with Jesus answering them simultaneously. Hence the primary interpretive challenge is, did Jesus (or the early Christians who preserved and arranged the accounts) believe that the destruction of the temple and Jesus’s Second Coming would take place at the same time? Or are these two events separated by many years? Some commentators have chosen the first option, while conservative Christians, with the benefit of two thousand years of hindsight, see the events as separate. Joseph Smith’s translation does as well.

On 7 March 1831, during the time when the Prophet was still translating Genesis, he received a revelation that is an alternative narration of the Olivet Discourse. The revelation, now section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants, has much language in it that reflects the content of Matthew 24. Near the end of it, God tells Joseph Smith to set aside the Old Testament translation and work on the New Testament instead: “It shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter [Matthew 24], 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” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:60–61). The next day, he began his revision of the New Testament, and about two or three months later, he arrived at Matthew 24.

Joseph Smith’s text of Matthew 24 is a remarkable chapter-length revision that dramatically reinvents the entire chapter and does so without adding much new material. In my opinion, it is the masterpiece of revised existing text in the New Translation. In his revision of this chapter, the Prophet changed it in such a way that the two questions the disciples asked are answered in separate sections of the discourse. The questions themselves are recast so there is no ambiguity about their meaning: “Tell us when shall these things be which thou has said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews,” and “What is the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world”? (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:4). Jesus answers the two questions consecutively. The first, dealing primarily with circumstances in the first century AD, is answered in verses 5–21a. The second, dealing with the end times, is answered in verses 21b–55. The tools for bringing this about are (a) relocation, with some passages moved to new places, and (b) repetition, with some passages appearing in both sections. Thus “wars and rumors of wars,” kingdoms fighting against kingdoms, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes are moved later in the chapter in a last-days setting. Abounding iniquity and the preaching of the gospel to the world are repeated, showing them as characteristics of both time periods. The outcome is a near seamless narrative of Jesus’s words, with a text that comes alive in ways that would have been impossible without the inspired prophetic hand of Joseph Smith.

The only evidence we possess for how this text was prepared is what is preserved on the original manuscripts. The earliest text is on a document labeled New Testament Manuscript 1 (NT1), which Joseph Smith dictated in its entirety to Sidney Rigdon. In general, few editorial changes were written on that manuscript after the original dictation. Yet there were several refinements made on the pages that contain Matthew 24. This suggests to me that Joseph Smith felt that this chapter was of particular importance.

John Whitmer, in his assignment to assist Joseph Smith by “transcribing,” that is, by making copies of the translations and revelations (Doctrine and Covenants 47:1), made a duplicate of NT1, which archivists have labeled New Testament Manuscript 2 (NT2). That document became the final New Testament manuscript that would be continued through the book of Revelation and prepared for publication. The Prophet and his scribe made an additional pass through Matthew 24 on that manuscript, refining it even further.

The two rounds of refinements made to the text of Matthew 24 after its original dictation are important, but the basic text was put in place with the original dictation, including the relocation and duplication of passages. The later edits, however, brought additional clarity to help the text better communicate its intended message. Latter-day Saints can view all these efforts—from the original dictation through the final refining process—as parts of the Lord’s intended work.

The resulting text is one of the gems of the Restoration. Doctrine and Covenants 45:61 tells the Church that this chapter’s revised translation would be given to help Latter-day Saints prepare “for the things to come.” It is not the only revelation in the Latter-day Saint canon about end-time events, but no other exceeds it in its clarity. It is our most systematic and understandable prophecy of the last days. Early Church members knew of its importance, as is shown in the fact that as early as 1835 it was published separately as a broadside—a one-sheet document for posting and distribution. Included in it was the entirety of Matthew 24 from the New Translation, along with the final verse of chapter 23 which helps introduce it.[17]

While serving as president of the British Mission in 1851, Elder Franklin D. Richards apparently had a copy of the Matthew 24 broadside in his possession, or a copy of a copy. When he compiled his mission booklet that year, The Pearl of Great Price, he included it among the other selections. In 1880, when a newly revised edition was canonized, Joseph Smith’s translation of Matthew 24 was accepted with the rest of the book as scripture, and it continues as scripture in the Pearl of Great Price today.

Mark 13

Mark 13 is Mark’s version of the Olivet Discourse, considered by most scholars to have been the original from which Matthew prepared his own rendition. The two are quite similar, and Matthew’s is characteristically longer. Joseph Smith’s translation of Mark’s version illustrates a different means of providing a revised text—namely, copying it from an already existing source. The evidence shows that when he and Sidney Rigdon arrived at Mark 13, they simply copied the revised text of Matthew 24 into the place of Mark 13 rather than creating a new translation of the Mark account. This again suggests that they understood the Matthew revision to be of special importance, and the Prophet likely believed that because he already had an inspired translation of the Olivet Discourse, he did not need to retranslate the Mark account. After some introductory sentences unique to Mark, they copied all but the first and last passages of the Matthew account from NT2 into the place of Mark 13. Because this transcription was made before later revisions were added both in Matthew and in Mark, the texts are not quite identical now.

The Mark 13 text was created probably near December 1831. It would not be the last time Joseph Smith would create a New Translation text by copying from a translation he had already done. When he arrived at Isaiah 29 a year or so later, he did not provide a new rendering of it but copied 2 Nephi 27 from the 1830 Book of Mormon onto the New Translation manuscript—Nephi’s revelation and commentary on Isaiah 29.[18]

New Text

Although most of Joseph Smith’s Bible translation consists of the revision of existing words from the King James Version, as in the examples above, in some places the Prophet created what I would call “new text”—text that does not have a counterpart in our current Bible. The New Testament has some important examples. I will present two here that I consider to be especially notable because they illustrate some of the ways Joseph Smith’s translation interacts with the existing text and the existing biblical message.

Matthew 2:[24] (JST Matthew 3:9)[19]

Using the chapter designations of traditional Bibles, this text appears at the end of Matthew 2, which has twenty-three verses. But the entire passage is Matthew 3:9 in the Joseph Smith Translation.[20] In the text below, I have modernized the spelling and punctuation.

And it came to pass that Jesus grew up with his brethren and waxed strong and waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught, for he needed not that any man should teach him. And after many years, the hour of his ministry drew nigh.

This lovely little passage discreetly and cautiously fills in thirty years of Jesus’s life. It is notable for its brevity, yet it shows that even before Jesus’s ministry began, he was unlike any other human. It is a complementary narrative to the account in Luke of twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, where the Prophet revised the text to read that the learned doctors there “were hearing him and asking him questions,” rather than the other way around as preserved in the Bible.[21]

Luke 3:2–6 (JST Luke 3:2–4)[22]

In this passage, John the Baptist begins his work as forerunner by bearing testimony of Jesus and his mission. The King James text is in the left column and Joseph Smith’s translation in the right. For the New Translation, I have standardized the spelling, provided modern punctuation, and retained the Prophet’s original paragraph-size verses.[23]

King James Translation

Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Joseph Smith’s Translation

Now in this same year, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the prophet Esaias. And these are the words, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.

For behold and lo, he shall come, as it is written in the book of the prophets, to take away the sins of the world and to bring salvation unto the heathen nations, to gather together those who are lost which are of the sheepfold of Israel, yea, even her dispersed and afflicted, and also to prepare the way and make possible the preaching of the gospel unto the Gentiles.

And to be a light unto all who sit in darkness unto the uttermost parts of the earth, to bring to pass the resurrection from the dead and to ascend up on high, to dwell on the right hand of the Father until the fullness of time and the law and the testimony shall be sealed and the keys of the kingdom shall be delivered up again unto the Father, to administer justice unto all, to come down in judgment upon all, and to convince all the ungodly of their ungodly deeds which they have committed; and all this in the day that he shall come, for it is a day of power, yea, every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

This noteworthy passage inserts a Messianic prophecy from John the Baptist into the middle of a prophecy from Isaiah. Much like Nephi’s commentary and revelation on Isaiah 29 in 2 Nephi 27, this text weaves themes and vocabulary familiar from Isaiah into John’s own revelation of Jesus and his ministry—framed at the beginning and the end with the text of Isaiah 40:3–5. John prophesies that Jesus would take away the sins of the world, bring salvation to Israel and the Gentiles, be a light to the world, bring about the resurrection, ascend to the Father until the fullness of time, come again, and administer justice and judgment. The setting in the New Testament is most significant: after the birth and childhood narratives, Joseph Smith’s Gospel of Luke begins with a remarkable proclamation of Jesus’s mission that summarizes his divine work of salvation.

Pure Intelligence and Prophetic Agency

Some unique characteristics of Joseph Smith’s New Testament text can be seen in Matthew 26, which he translated twice.[24] He translated it in June 1831 with Sidney Rigdon assisting as scribe and again about three months later with John Whitmer as scribe. The translations were written on different manuscripts, and Whitmer was apparently unaware of the earlier translation. The best evidence is that Joseph Smith, due to the passage of time and other concerns during the intervening summer, simply forgot that he had translated the chapter already.

These translations are important, because they provide us with the means to evaluate how Joseph Smith’s translation process worked, at least in this particular case. When my coauthor Peter Jasinski and I examined closely the two translations, we observed that in most cases where significant content was added to the text, it was added in both translations. But what we found remarkable was that even though the same new thoughts were added to both translations, those thoughts were usually not expressed in the same words, and they were often inserted in different locations in the text, sometimes a few lines apart.[25] From that evidence, we concluded the following:

Joseph Smith taught that the Holy Ghost gives us “pure intelligence,” which serves in “expanding the mind [and] enlightening the understanding.”[26] Under “the Spirit of Revelation,” “you feel pure Intelligence flowing unto you” that can “give you sudden strokes of ideas.”[27] 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.[28]

Modern readers of Joseph Smith’s New Testament do not know how all its revisions were brought about. But to me, the conclusions we reached by examining the duplicate translations may be among the most important clues to the nature of the New Translation in general—revelation of pure intelligence coupled with prophetic agency in the selection of English words. This may not be the model everywhere in the New Translation, because elsewhere in it I see what I consider to be evidence of explicit verbal inspiration. Nor is it, in my view, the model for the English translation of the Book of Mormon, which was a preexisting text revealed visibly to Joseph Smith in English words. But the two translations of Matthew 26 suggest that in some matters relative to the New Translation, the Prophet was inspired with ideas, but it was his responsibility to provide words to express those ideas.

Further Reading

Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

---, eds. "New Testament Revision 1." The Joseph Smith Papers,

---, eds. "New Testament Revision 2." The Joseph Smith Papers,

Matthews, Robert J. "A Greater Portrayal of the Master." Ensign, March 1983, 6-13.


[1] For the Bible translation in general, see Kent P. Jackson, “How We Got the Book of Moses,” rev. ed., in By Study and by Faith: Selections from the Religious Educator, ed. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Kent P. Jackson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 136–47; and Jackson, “New Discoveries in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible,” rev. ed., in Holzapfel and Jackson, By Study and by Faith, 169–81. The original documents are published in Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible—Original Manuscripts (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004); and Scott H. Faulring and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible: Electronic Library (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2011).

[2] The title “Joseph Smith Translation” was adopted in preparation for the English Latter-day Saint edition of the Bible in 1979. The title Inspired Version is best applied only to the printed edition published by the Community of Christ (formerly, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), beginning in 1867.

[3] Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Converse, 1828), s.v. “translate” and “translation.”

[4] Robert J. Matthews, “A Plainer Translation”: Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible—A History and Commentary (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975), 425.

[5] New Testament Manuscript 2, folio 1 (NT2.1), page 1; NT2.2, pages 8, 45; NT2.4, page 105; see Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 235, 314, 359, and 442.

[6] Matthews, “A Greater Portrayal of the Master,” Ensign, March 1983.

[7] The Evening and the Morning Star 2, March 1834, 143.

[8] This passage comes from NT2.2, pages 25–26; see Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 335–36. In that publication, I identified the second word in the quote as spake, but I am uncertain now if it is spake or spoke. For the differences in the verse numbers, see the discussion below.

[9] Every one of the following examples from the New Revised Standard Version was also revised similarly by Joseph Smith. “Jesus [Greek, He] asked the father” (Mark 9:21); “Then Joseph [Greek, he] bought a linen cloth” (Mark 15:46); “Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus [Greek, him] to leave them” (Luke 8:37); and “Jesus [Greek, He] said” (Luke 22:34).

[10] Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recently Recovered Source: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects and the Making of Mormonism, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, forthcoming).

[11] Other evidence for this preference includes the long paragraphs in the editions of the Book of Mormon published in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, the lengthy paragraphs in the revelations when they were first published in the Doctrine and Covenants, the long paragraphs in the Matthew 24 broadside (see below), and the long verses in the first publication of the Book of Abraham. The biblical verse numbers were invented by a French printer in the sixteenth century. The practice of turning each verse into a separate paragraph has long since been abandoned in modern translations, in which content-based paragraphs are used with the verse numbers inserted as superscripts within the paragraphs. See Kent P. Jackson, Frank F. Judd Jr., and David Rolph Seely, “Chapters, Verses, Punctuation, Spelling, and Italics,” in The King James Bible and the Restoration, ed. Kent P. Jackson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011), 101–3.

[12] For discussion of the use of italics in the scriptures in general, see Jackson, Judd, and Seely, “Chapters, Verses, Punctuation, Spelling, and Italics,” 108–12.

[13] See the discussion and the sources cited in Kent P. Jackson, “The King James Bible and the Joseph Smith Translation,” in Jackson, The King James Bible and the Restoration, 202–3.

[14] Personal communication from Robert J. Matthews to the author.

[15] It includes Matthew 24 and the last verse of chapter 23. From the Old Testament translation, the Pearl of Great Price includes Genesis 1:1–6:13 as the Book of Moses.

[16] Matthew 25 is the continuation of the Olivet Discourse with parables about being prepared for Jesus’s coming.

[17] See Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, Volume One 1830–1847 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997), 60–61.

[18] See Royal Skousen, “Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1998), 387–88.

[19] NT2.1, pages 3–4; Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 239.

[20] In the appendixes of the Latter-day Saint editions of the Bible, this passage is identified as “JST, Matthew 3:24–26.” This is not the JST reference, however, but the reference from the 1944 edition of the Inspired Version, published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The verse divisions and punctuation in the Latter-day Saint footnotes and appendix are not from the JST manuscripts but from that RLDS printing. When preparing the Inspired Version’s first edition in 1867, the RLDS publications committee ignored Joseph Smith’s verse divisions and created their own.

[21] NT2.3, page 51; Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 371–72.

[22] NT2.3, pages 51–52; Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews, Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 372–73.

[23] Labeled “JST, Luke 3:4–11” in the appendixes of the Latter-day Saint editions of the Bible. See note 19. The text in the English Bible appendix contains a minor difference in the second paragraph (who are of the sheepfold instead of which are of the sheepfold) and an error a few words later (the dispersed instead of her dispersed). The first was an editing decision made in the preparation of the 1867 RLDS Inspired Version, and the second appears to be a typographical error made in that edition.

[24] He also translated 2 Peter 3:4–6 twice, but our discussion here will focus on the Matthew chapter. For a detailed discussion, see Kent P. Jackson and Peter M. Jasinski, “The Process of Inspired Translation: Two Passages Translated Twice in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible,” BYU Studies 42, no. 2 (2003): 35–64.

[25] Jackson and Jasinski, “Two Passages Translated Twice,” 59.

[26] 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, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), 4.

[27] Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 5.

[28] Jackson and Jasinski, “Two Passages Translated Twice,” 61–62.