Most of you know that our church family has been studying John’s Gospel on Sunday mornings.
A number of you recognize that John’s Gospel quotes Isaiah in powerful ways.
Many of you have observed that our church family is also working through an inductive study of Isaiah on Wednesday nights.
But listen to this uncanny development where I feel like I am on a parallel Bible track with Joseph’s scripture treasure hunting around 170 years ago. As I contemplated one phrase after another of Jesus’ defense in John 5, I felt catapulted into the stratosphere. The theology ignited my imagination! The words whirl in an unfathomable depth of divine mystery, revealing a relationship of Father and Son unlike any other.
By the time I emerged from John 5, there was one section in Scripture where I wanted to head immediately with our church family. Any one with a huge dose of curiosity will be compelled to head straight back to the Pentateuch, inflamed in the hunt for strong attestation to Jesus.
So on Lord’s Day evenings, we have thus begun our study at the very beginning—Genesis, the book of beginnings.
Again: out of curiosity, I decided to read the first three chapters of the JST in Genesis. By the time I finished chapter 3 (stopping there for now), phrase recognition of the Johannine description of Jesus and even words from Isaiah popped in my mind like a string of July fourth firecrackers—all placed there by Joseph Smith.
Why did Joseph place these words in Genesis? I think he was excited as me, coming out of John 5. But here is the big problem. He sought to make Jesus more real in the inspired words of Moses than what was already so rich in biblical declaration and protoevangelium witness. Being so aroused by John 5, I tend to believe Joseph thought the opening of Genesis did not do justice to Jesus’ claims. So he took it upon himself as the prophet to alter texts in order to bring about a more clear connection.
In seeking to enrich the first chapters of our Bible with a peppering of Johannine words and then closing the case with words of finality by Isaiah (JST Genesis 3:32), Joseph Smith has in essence paved the way for millions of people to be confronted with separate deities the moment they open their Bibles.
And besides observing the can of worms opened up by how Joseph uses distinctions of LORD and Lord and Lord God and Almighty God and Only Begotten and Son, there are multitudes of other revision changes in the text that now turn on scores of light-bulbs in my head for why LDS believe the way they do.
It all starts in Genesis. But here is the eerie radical connection between Joseph and me: I, too, had been studying John’s Gospel and Isaiah whcih motivated me to turn to Genesis. But in the opening chapters of the Hebrew scriptures, I lay aside Joseph’s additions in the form of artificial prophetic utterances by Moses. Joseph simply went too far. He wanted to make his Jesus alive and real at the very beginning of Old Covenant scripture. But the unbalanced inserting of the “Only Begotten” and other phrases in Genesis has actually created more skepticism toward the text and to the Son for both Jews and Gentiles.
What does Genesis 1-3 really say?