Joseph Smith’s ‘New Translation’ of the Bible, His Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary, and the Question of Plagiarism

Kent P. Jackson wrote the following, finding no connection between Joseph Smith and Adam Clark: Some Notes on Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke.

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Abstract below:

Authors of two recent articles believe they have found evidence that Joseph Smith, in preparing his revision of the Bible, drew ideas from a contemporary Bible commentary by British scholar Adam Clarke. The evidence, however, does not bear out this claim. I believe that none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means. The authors do not look at their examples within the broader context of the revisions Joseph Smith made to the Bible, and thus they misinterpret them. Some of the revisions they attribute to Clarke are ones that Joseph Smith had made repeatedly before he arrived at the passages where they believe he got ideas from Clarke. In addition, there is a mountain of material in Clarke that is not reflected in the Joseph Smith Translation, and there is a mountain of material in the Joseph Smith Translation that cannot be explained by reference to Clarke. The few overlaps that do exist are vague, superficial, and coincidental.

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Laura Hales interviewed Dr. Thomas Wayment several years ago on this topic:

Below is Dr. Wayment’s interview with Rick Bennett:

Clarke is not part of the long passages of expanded scripture. But Clarke can be found in the small edits. Italicized words are 70% replaced with Clarke’s interpretation, for example.

The JST was not an absolute revelation. He wasn’t commanded, as far as we know, to translate the Bible. Joseph didn’t suggest that the JST was the original bible. Joseph studied Hebrew after this translation. He was engaging the materials and learning around him. Joseph asked Anthon about his characters — and if Anthon could translate them — before Joseph translated.

Joseph Smith's New Translation Of The Bible Original Manuscr

The majority of the JST is editing the English in it. Editing the KJV. If Latter-day Saints adopt a translation other than the King James’ Version, the JST gets lost. As most of Joseph’s edits weren’t doctrinal (outside the Book of Moses, for example). They were grammatical. Removing thees and thous. So, Adam Clark and his commentary disappears from view as members shift from the KJV to the NIV, for example.

Wayment champions newer translations of the Bible. He explains that KJV scholars were not the best at Hebrew and mistranslated some Hebrew verbs. The KJV committee’s Greek scholars were better, but are still not at the level of translators today.

Wayment’s takeaway: as we learn more we can reconstruct our understanding. We don’t need to deconstruct faith.

Mark Ashurst-McGee gave this talk more recently at the 2020 FAIR conference:

Author info: Adam Clarke - Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Several points:

Joseph never wrote an introduction to the JST and had not yet published the material. Prior to publication, Joseph routinely added explanations to his revelations.

Of all the expansion Joseph added to the Bible, around 5% can be attributed to Adam Clarke’s commentary.

Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments Clarke's Commentary  Incomplete Set 5 of 6 Volumes Only | Adam Clarke

Joseph seems to have shifted from a revelatory mode to a more secular mode. This pattern is fairly obvious after Genesis 21 JST. The large expansion of material are revelatory restorations and additions to the Bible. No trace of Clarke’s influence are found in these expansions now found in the Pearl of Great Price.

Joseph “studied it out” in his mind, as he appears to have used Clarke’s resources. He sought out the best books to learn from.

10 questions with Thomas Wayment • From The Desk

Dr. Thomas Wayment took one path and one interpretation. His undergraduate student took another path and interpretation. Joseph appears to have appreciated Clarke’s expertise. Wayment reports that Joseph used words of Clarke in expanded sentences. Not copying three sentences in a row of Adam Clarke’s commentary.

The use of Clarke is very selective and is often adaptive of what Clarke writes. Creative utilization. Not massive hunks of direct borrowing.

Plagiarism has changed a lot since Joseph’s day. Standards are clear today, but taking without citing wasn’t highly thought of in 1830. Terryl Givens talks about ways in which so many in Western Civilization have taken and resued others’ materials. Sam Brown indicated ways in which Joseph repurposed Freemasonry for a higher purpose in an LDS context. Freemasonry components shouldn’t be confused with the whole of the endowment.

Robert G. Matthews: Joseph Smith’s Translation is a revision and translation of the Bible. Not a simple, mechanical process. Rather a study and thought process, accompanied by revelation from the Lord. Not ruling out the possibility of material outside of revelation.

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Moderization example: Mark 12:32. JST changed he to him. 100s of changes like this in the JST. Must we assume that this was a result of pure revelation?

Moderization example: thee to you, thou to you, ye to you (82 times), dwelt to dwell, draweth to draw, spake to spoke, gat to got, hath to has, alway to always, amongst to among, and many more. 1200 similar changes occurred. Must we assume that this was a result of pure revelation? It is more plausible that Joseph is making minor changes in the Bible.

The JST is a combination of divine revelation and Joseph’s own editorial decisions. Now, you have to evaluate Joseph in his environment. Joseph’s mind wasn’t sealed off with interactions with his scribes.

TBT: Vintage Plan of Salvation Graphics – The Gospel Home

D&C 76: scribes discussed meaning of John 5:29 (doing the JST). Joseph and the members were part of a wider culture. A wider literary of tracts, pamphlets, and books. Even Bible commentaries, such as Clarke’s. Did his scribes feel they were forbidden from looking at bible commentaries? Probably not.

Paratexts:

Book of Abraham Answers

This book may be the most difficult to get one’s head around. A few helpful videos below:

Much supporting information can be found at Pearl of Great Price Central.

Below are additional current videos and discussions on this topic:

Kerry Muhlestein shared his views on this topic in 2018:

The Book of Abraham, Revelation, and You

Brett McDonald shares his insights. Video #20 below starts its portion on the Book of Abraham at the 17:00 mark.

How Much Should Pastors and Church Employees Get Paid?

I saw this book below and thought of a few things. Church talent — if you’re paying them — should be rewarded just like talent at McDonald’s or at the doctor’s office. The book below is spot on.

Of course, 108 top LDS officials get paid $120K a year. Full-time General Authorities. But not any area authorities, stake presidents, bishops, or countless others serving within area wards and stakes.

In our Latter-day Saint tradition, we should be grateful for the many who help build up the Church by serving for no compensation.

Links for more details on how LDS leaders are paid or reimbursed:

Click here for a lengthy post about stipends for 108 LDS General Authorities.

And here for a broad discussion of Church finances .

And here for a broad discussion of the way mission presidents are reimbursed, but not paid.

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You know this better than anyone: Your church staff is crushing it. Every day they’re meeting the physical and spiritual needs of your church while engaging the wider community.

These unsung heroes rarely ask for recognition. They do what they do because they love God and love people. But even heroes have physical needs to take care of.

Missing the mark on compensation can have a major impact on your church—likely a bigger impact than you realize.

If salaries are too low, you might discover some things the hard way. Things like:

  • How the wrong compensation can weaken your team’s cohesion and enthusiasm 
  • The real cost of high turnover (and how to adjust your compensation accordingly)
  • Why you might miss out on talented individuals who might want to join your team (but have some unavoidable financial realities to juggle as well)

Making salary decisions based on hunches isn’t fair to those your hire—that’s why we created this guide. With the help of Vanderbloemen Search Group, we’ve compiled a guide for making salary decisions that not only honor your staff and their hard work but are also wise decisions for your church as a whole.

Don’t make another staff salary decision without reading this ebook first. 

Biblical Manuscripts and Changes Made to the Bible

This is a presentation of the facts. Many believe an ancient (original) English manuscript is lying around somewhere in the Middle East. It’s slightly more complicated than this.

None of this material should offend you. You should learn this if you don’t already understand this.

This debate (and evidence presented by Wallace), in my view, demonstrates that we have sufficient evidence to trust the text of the New Testament.

Though we have the fewest manuscripts from the centuries immediately after Christ, we still have more biblical manuscripts by many, many, many times than from other authors in the ancient world.

Were the scribes perfect? No. We know they made lots of mistakes. But the NT message was propagated.

LDS scholar, Thomas Wayment, shares his understanding on scripture:

Doubts

Gary has good advice on doubting. He explains that most doubt is emotional. And provides strategies.

“Train your habit of faith.” Good advice from to C.S. Lewis.

Dealing with emotional doubt:

Dealing with factual doubt:

Church of Christ – Temple Lot (Hedrickites)

Rick Bennett interviews Jean Addams, who is a former president of the John Whitmer Association. Jean tells about his family connection to Granville and John Hedrick.

The Hedrickites play an interesting part in LDS Church history. Especially at the time they were involved in a lawsuit with the RLDS Church and feuded over polygamy. The RLDS Church insisted Joseph was not a polygamist. The Hedrickites insisted Joseph had multiple wives.

Part 2 discusses the gradual gathering back to Independence and the feud over the temple lot that eventually went to the Supreme Court.