Christian apologist Rob Bowman at the Institute for Religious Research’s Mormons in Transition web site has published a nine-page study of The Book of Hebrews and the Joseph Smith Translation. Mr. Bowman maintains,
“My argument here is simple: a comparison of the JST [Joseph Smith Translation] to the KJV [King James Version of the Bible] shows that the JST is neither a restoration of the original wording of the text nor a clarification of the text’s actual meaning, but instead reflects a misunderstanding of the text on the part of Joseph Smith. Thus, regardless of what theory of ‘translation’ the LDS use to explain the JST, it does not hold up as an inspired work.” (emphasis in the original)
One example Mr. Bowman discusses is Hebrews 6:1. Joseph Smith spoke about this specific passage (among others) during a Sunday sermon he delivered in October 1843:
“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….
“Look at Heb. vi.1 for contradictions—’Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to 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 to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works….’” (History of the Church, 6:57-58, emphasis in the original)
Joseph Smith apparently misunderstood the meaning of the word rendered in the KJV as “leaving.” Smith understood it to mean to abandon rather than to move ahead or, as the NET Bible translates, “…progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity…”
Mr. Bowman points out that people in the 1840s (and before) understood Hebrews 6:1 to be saying believers must go on in their faith, building upon the foundation of Christ — they were not confused about what the passage meant. However, Joseph Smith did not understand it and alleged that the biblical text had been corrupted. Smith declared his own “corrected translation” with no correlation to (or understanding of) the Greek text.
About this passage from the JST Mr. Bowman concludes,
“Smith’s failure to understand this point is clear proof that he was not inspired in his ‘translation.’ By adding the word ‘not,’ he not only failed to clarify the text’s real meaning, he actually showed that he did not understand what he was revising. This is about as clear an example of an uninspired rewrite as one could imagine.”
Could it be that the “ignorant translator” or “corrupt priest” of the Prophet’s indictment was actually Joseph Smith himself?
Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.