John 5:29 (JST)
And shall come forth; they
that who have done good, unto in the resurrection of life just; and they that who have done evil, unto in the resurrection of damnation the unjust; and shall all be judged of the Son of man.
How come Joseph didn’t like the word damnation in this text?
John 5:31 (JST)
Therefore if I bear witness of myself, yet my witness is
Did Joseph think John 3:31 (KJV) contained an error? Looks like it. But compare this with Isaiah 29 (JST). What’s up with this? Lots of ideas are swirling in my mind around the connected theme of witnesses.
John 5:34 (JST)
But I receive And he received not his testimony from of man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved of God. And ye yourselves say that he is a prophet, therefore ye ought to receive his testimony. These things I say that ye might be saved.
Joseph saw another error in Jesus’ words? Do you see the same alleged errors here in John 5? Each textual revision that I discover by Joseph seeks to dethrone the very things that the Spirit has been teaching me through the written record. The traditional text offers rich nuances of the absolutely unique character of Christ. What about the inseparableness of the Father and Son in verse 31? And in verse 34, it is we who need John the Baptist’s witness. Jesus, the one with inseparable communion and absolute union with the Father, does not need John to remind him of who he is. Makes me laugh just thinking about the utter contrast between Jesus and other men. There are crucial distinctions being made in John 5 of the contrast between the God-man and mankind.
Joseph Smith is a higher critic (though crude and unsophisticated) not just of the English translation but of the Greek manuscripts themselves. He is introducing ideas not found in the Greek manuscript copies but providing his own textual reconstruction. We are not talking about debate over various interpretations of the same words but a direct revising of what Joseph thinks should be in the original Gospel witness. And it is the revised messages of the historical text that easily leads many of my LDS friends to all-together different interpretations.
Is the JST, Joseph Smith critical textual theory or heavenly inspired revision? This seems debatable. BYU professors, D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner make clear it is the latter. So I assume there is a good debate over this in the LDS church, except among the devout in wards, which read mainly the publications from the Deseret bookstore and listen to General Authorities. If I believed in modern day restorative prophecy, I too, would be strongly inclined to believe that the biblical message—the recorded words of O.T. prophets, N.T. apostles, and the Savior—is packed plum full with errors and vitally missing core truths. But as you all know, I don’t.
There are higher critics (rationalists) who demolish both the biblical record and the LDS standard works. There are higher critics (compartmentalists) who point out all the textual errors they perceive in scripture, but yet they leave the BoM and D&C unscathed. That is sort of humorous. And then there are critics who unleash the fangs of higher criticism in the reverse, which is sort of a ridiculous inconsistency, too.
I choose supernatural revelation over rationalism as a higher authority for my life’s journey. This is where my presuppositional faith rests. I respect LDS who believe in supernatural revelation. But here is the problem. Biblical written words and latter-day written words by LDS prophets don’t fit hand in glove in the same measure as Old and New Testament continuity. I feel a prophet needs to come along and do some editing and revising of latter-day works (comparable to the JST action of biblical works) so that they can finally faithfully fit the Bible and the message of the one divine Author. Wouldn’t this be fair?
In retrospective, I don’t see how any devout conservative Mormons can cry foul play to other active Mormons like Blake Ostler or even TT over at Faith Promoting Rumor for their exploratory and sometimes radical textual criticism of the Bible. Why? because Joseph Smith led the way for sweeping higher criticism among Latter-day Saints in the 19th century. In front of the American public, no LDS has done more drastic measures to the Bible text than Joseph. A lot rests on this man.
Perhaps this might be one of the reasons that General Authorities will not jump into the fray on this issue as I would desire. Too bad. It makes me swing like a pendulum from madness to sadness (and please, may the Lord reign over my wayward emotions; I sincerely pray for this, a proper attitude with my friends.) The more I study the JST, the more I am seeing that biblical higher criticism is actually hip for LDS. There is a fundamental doctrinal boundary for the LDS Church. None believe in a preserved Bible today closely connected to the fundamental message of inerrant original autographs. Even among conservatives.
But we know, Lord Jesus, even in your infamous discussion on gods in John 10 that “the scripture cannot be broken”. And we know that the Father’s “word is truth” (John 17:17).