The JST and the Hebrew Bible

Hello Faith Promoting Friends,

Well, despite a glorious introduction as a new contributor, I’m afraid I’ve not done much more than put up a few thoughts critiquing the way we, as Latter-day Saints, traditionally use Job 19:26 as a proof text for the resurrection.

Alas, not very exciting,or productive, I know.

Yet friends, it’s the New Year, and time therefore for Yours Truly to repent and set a goal to participate more fully in this worthwhile forum.

So here we go!

Recently, I was especially interested in the December 11th post by my friend G. Wesley who raised some interesting points by drawing our attention to the issue of what to do with the JST and the GNT.  G. Wesley finishes his intriguing post with a question, i.e. “what of [the JST] and the Hebrew Bible”?

I would like to use that question as a springboard to share my conviction that despite my appreciation for the JST, I cannot accept the work as a restoration of an original biblical text.  Whatever we do with the JST, we cannot employ the Book of Moses in an effort to restore the earliest form of Genesis. When all is said and done, the Book of Moses is a 19th century revision of the KJV of the opening chapters of the Bible.

Taking the first two chapters of the book as a guide, Genesis begins with an amalgamation of two separate versions of creation, the second, which commences in Genesis 2:4b, actually predates and appears to have directly influenced the version that now opens the Bible with the famous clause, “In the beginning…”

The Book of Moses attempts to bridge the obvious literary gap between these two disparate sources by identifying the creation story in Genesis 1:-2:4a as purely “spiritual” in nature (see Moses 3:5).  This attempt to reconcile two historically distinct sources reveals that Moses does not predate Genesis 1-2.

End of story.

Yet even adopting a traditional view that ignores the observations of contemporary biblical scholarship, it is clear via the Prophet Joseph himself that whatever the Book of Moses does, it does not restore what Joseph himself identified as the original version of the text.

Towards the end of his ministry, the Prophet Joseph declared that prior to the days of uninspired tampering, the earliest version of Genesis 1:1 read: “The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods” (Teachings, 348).

Now, if we consider Moses 2:1 in light of this teaching, a verse which would, if the Book of Moses contained a restored original text, reproduce the earliest version of Genesis 1:1, we gain the following insight:

“And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth; write the words which I speak. I am the Beginning and the End, the Almighty God; by mine Only Begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest” (Moses 2:1)

And there we have it.  No mention of heads, or of gods, or even of councils.  Moses 2:1 revises Genesis 1:1 to simply read as a first person divine narrative.  So clearly even if we ignore the implications of biblical scholarship and simply rely upon the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith himself, when it comes to the Book of Moses, the JST does not restore an original text.

Hence, if we cannot use the JST to recreate the earliest biblical manuscripts, what can believing Latter-day Saints do with the JST?

Well, I don’t pretend to have all of the answers.  Heck, I don’t even assume to hold the best answers.  But I do have a few ideas that have worked for me personally that I’ve gained while pondering the matter.  I’ll share these ideas in part two.

In the meantime,

Happy New Year to all!!

14 Replies to “The JST and the Hebrew Bible”

  1. How can we have any confidence that we know what was in the original creation story? The Alter translation of Genesis that I am reading through notes/posits that there was a very early poetic version that was used by an unknown redactor, along with other material, in about 1,000 BCE to create our current version of Genesis. Perhaps it was this earlier creation story that Joseph was referring to, or something even before that. Moreover, who knows how many times the Lord described the creation to a mortal and used different words or a unique perspective in the account? Moses and Abraham certainly received two distinctly different views of the process.

  2. That is really interesting David, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of this teaching by Joseph Smith. Another layer of the onion for me to explore.

    Here is an interesting side-by side version. A quick search in the book shows the JST actually removes a couple references of “Gods” from the KJV and changes them to “God” but I suppose those are just minor corrections.

  3. Hello Ricke:

    “How can we have any confidence that we know what was in the original creation story”?

    I can’t answer that question until I know what was “the” original creation story. The version in J beginning in Genesis 2:4b predates the Priestly version in Genesis 1-2:4a. They are two separate, often contradictory versions of the creation story. If we factor in the accounts of creation that include references to a type of divine combat or theomachy witnessed in places such as Job and the Psalms that present an entirely different view of creation, I don’t think we can begin to speak in terms of “the” original creation story in the singular. The Bible contains a variety of distinct creation accounts.

    What I am arguing is that whatever the Book of Moses does, it clearly does not restore an original historic text and I’ve presented two pieces of compelling evidence to support my position:

    1: The fact that the Book of Moses responds to and attempts to answer the challenge created by the amalgamation of the two separate creation stories once they were combined by a redactor,


    2: The fact that the Prophet tells us via inspiration that the original version of Genesis 1:1 reads differently than Genesis 1:1 appears in the Book of Moses. In other words, based upon the Prophet’s own teachings, if the Book of Moses restored the original version of the text, we would have the words “the head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods” in Moses 2:1.


  4. Thanks for the post Happy Sheep.

    In my estimation, you’ve pointed out one of the interesting issues we face as Latter-day Saints in terms of the JST. In truth, the theological view isn’t nearly as advanced in the JST as was Joseph’s thinking towards the end of his ministry, which is why the JST oftentimes “corrects” some of the beautiful theological statements concerning the biblical gods and the divine council that the Prophet was only beginning to grasp in the Ohio period.


  5. Interesting points all around. But as long as we are in this deep, we would be remiss if we did not discuss the very similar account in Abraham, which presumably would predate Moses.

    I think we first need to understand what Heavenly Father means by translate, because it certainly isn’t the straightforward way we would expect it.

  6. David, re: your point, if you haven’t seen it there’s a fascinating article in BYU Studies by Kent Jackson. Joseph had translated one section of text, and some time later he must have forgotten and translated the same section over again. It’s really interesting to compare and contrast the two translations of the same material.

  7. What’s more interesting, while not directly related to the JST, is the expansion of Genesis in Abraham. Abraham 3 is the discussion of the council which then continues into the regular Genesis text.

  8. Kevin thanks for drawing our attention to the piece. I’m not familiar with the article. Could you provide the full reference? This sounds like something worth considering.


  9. David B.

    I look forward to your next post.

    As it turns out, mine was unlcear (and badly titled). To repeat one of my own comments(!), I guess what I was trying to say in the post without necessarily saying it is that the biblical scholar, even at his/her most ’scientific,’ can be difficult to distinguish from the p/Prophet.

    Or in other words, there is a lapse in scholarship in the critical edition of the New Testament at Romans 5:1. Metzger’s commentary aside, from the GNT and Nestle-Aland, there is no indiciation or warning that suddenly we are reading Paul’s mind rather than the text.

    That bothers me. Does it bother you? Anyone else?

    When I asked about the Hebrew Bible I was wondering whether there are similiar lapses in the critical edition.

  10. Re: #6
    This is the link to that paper on a doubly translated section.

    Perhaps the reason we were never given the original text of the Gold Plates, is that we still have a lot to learn about what God means by ‘translate’. It is almost as if, God cares primarily about the ideas in a text, (in varying detail) and secondarily about the actual words.

  11. Kevin’s excellent article is here: Kevin Barney, The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19:3 (Fall, 1986): 85-102}

  12. I haven’t reread it for a few years, Jared. Though I may agree with him in parts, I’m loathe to align myself, even rhetorically, with Hutchinson.

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