Plagiarism of the 
King James Version
of the Bible

The influence of the King James Version of the Bible on the Book of Mormon doesn’t end with the style of language. As Mark Twain mentioned on a previous page, there are countless examples where New and Old Testament phrases are grafted into the text. Again, one would not expect to find Nephite thoughts and sentiments articulated in King James language, let alone language that is found word for word in the Bible. Furthermore, anachronisms abound as Old Testament period Nephite prophets use expressions from New Testament period Jewish apostles that lived nearly six hundred years after Nephi.

 

Click here for some examples of phrases lifted from the Bible, as demonstrated in Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s book, Joseph Smith’s Plagiarism of the Bible

 

Take, for instance, the following two examples:

KJV: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12)

BofM: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Mormon 9:27)


KJV: that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3)

BofM: that ye may consume it on your lusts (Mormon 9:28)


    The first example features the words “fear” and “trembling” in place of what would otherwise likely read “work out your own salvation with humility.” Certainly, the word choice here is strange. It is inconceivable that such an idiomatic expression, clothed in 17th century English and attributed to 1st century Paul, would be echoed by 4th century Mormon on an entirely different continent. The second example also represents highly unusual wording. Again, how did such an expression, translated from the Greek into 17th Century English, find its way to a people that spoke Hebrew and wrote in Reformed Egyptian? It is much easier to conclude that Joseph borrowed these phrases from the Bible. Some may try to explain away the coincidences, but the evidence of plagiarism is overwhelming. In fact, Jerald and Sandra Tanner have identified approximately three thousand examples of plagiarism. Granted, some parallels are only a few words, but others are quite lengthy and so nearly identical as to leave little doubt that either Joseph possessed a near photographic memory as he dictated or he had his Bible open during translation.1

    Aside from using biblical phraseology, there are instances where Joseph Smith appears to borrow story lines from the Bible.

Click here to compare the respective stories of Alma and Paul/King Lamoni and Lazarus (parallels presented by the Tanners).



Click here to discover the obvious influence of Paul's letters on Alma's sermons.2

 

    Other evidence of plagiarism of the Bible has come to light as advancements have been made in Biblical exegesis. With the discoveries of early Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Coptic manuscripts, it has been determined that the later Greek manuscripts used to create the English bible in 1611 contain numerous errors in translation. Access to these older documents has allowed interested scholars to compare Book of Mormon passages with near identical counterparts in the Bible, such as the Sermon on the Mount or the prophecies of Isaiah, to like passages in the early manuscripts. It would stand to reason that the Book of Mormon, if anything, would agree more with the earlier biblical manuscripts. Instead, scholars find the Book of Mormon accounts mirroring the inferior translations found in the King James Version.

    Mormon scholar, Dr. Stan Larson, who was considered one of the foremost authorities in the church in textual analysis and was featured in the Ensign Magazine, was sorely disappointed after attempting to prove the antiquity of the Book of Mormon’s Sermon on the Mount. After careful analysis, he concluded that “its dependence on the KJV is apparent.” He sadly reported that the Book of Mormon “follows the KJV into error, echoing mistranslations or including translations of late and derivative Greek texts… A variety of examples has shown that the Book of Mormon text follows errors of the KJV, but no clear evidence shows the Book of Mormon restoring the long-lost original.”3

    This discovery suggests, of course, that Joseph Smith used his King James Bible during the translation, an idea that apparently does not bother some apologetic scholars. They aver that when Joseph came to passages on the plates that were nearly identical to those found in his Bible, he simply stopped “translating” with the seer stone and lifted passages from the New Testament. This is problematic, to say the least. Was the translation process painful? Was it exhausting? It’s suspicious that someone with the divine power of a seer would switch between translating and copying. Moreover, the idea that Joseph sometimes preferred Bible passages begs the question: How could he be sure that both texts would sufficiently agree without first checking the entire Book of Mormon passage on the plates? Only then could he determine if it were appropriate to use the Bible passage instead. Once he had made the effort to decipher the characters on the plates, why would he not simply dictate to his scribe and move on? Why would he bother to return to his Bible? Considering the length of the Book of Mormon, such redundancy is implausible, as is the entire apologetic theory.

    If, indeed, Joseph unabashedly copied passages of the Sermon on the Mount directly out of his Bible, then the text in the Book of Mormon should be identical to that in the New Testament. What the reader finds, however, are many minor textual changes. Dr. Larson noticed that differences in wording are often found where italics occur in the biblical text. Dr Larson explains: “The Book of Mormon text often reverses biblical quotations at the very point where the original 1611 editions of the KJV prints the word or words in a different type-face in order to indicate that the words are not found in the Greek... When Smith came to the KJV italics in the Sermon of the Mount, which he knew indicated that whatever was printed in italics was not in the original Greek, he would often either drop the word or revise it… On the other hand, the Book of Mormon fails to revise places where the KJV text ought to have been printed in italics but is not. In two places the Book of Mormon copies the noun ‘men’ from the KJV, where it is not in the original Greek and has been improperly added in the KJV.”4

    So while it appears conclusive that Joseph used biblical phraseology, concepts, and storylines to craft the text of the Book of Mormon, it also appears that he was concerned about being labeled a plagiarist if anyone noticed, as they surely would, that corresponding sections of both cannon matched word for word. To avoid this pitfall, Joseph slightly manipulated the text precisely in the places where he knew he could get away with it. Thus the Book of Mormon’s version of the Sermon on the Mount preserves the vast majority of the original King James wording with just enough variation to avoid the appearance of outright plagiarism.

    As Joseph later undertook the task of revising the Bible to produce an “inspired” version, scholars would have yet another account of the Sermon on the Mount to examine. One would assume that the Book of Mormon version of Jesus’ sermon, if it agreed at all with either account, would most reflect the wording of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. After all, the Book of Mormon was correctly translated, as confirmed by the angel, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible came directly by revelation. Instead, we see the Book of Mormon preferring the text in the inferior King James Version. In the example below, the reader is left to conclude that the Book of Mormon verse is as incomplete as the Bible’s:

· KJV Mathew 6:22: The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

· 3 Nephi 13:22: The light of the body is the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

· JST, Matthew 6:22: The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single to the glory of God, thy whole body shall be full of light.


1 For a couple examples of these longer passages, compare Moroni 7 and 1 Corinthians 13; Moroni 10 and 1 Corinthians 12.

2 H. Michael Marquardt, The Use of the Bible In the Book of Mormon and Early Nineteenth Century Events Reflected in the Book of Mormon [Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1979], p. 105

3 New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992) pp. 116-117, quoted in Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Joseph Smith’s Plagiarism of the Bible (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1998).

4 Ibid.

 
 

Home ] Up ] overview ] grammar ] elizabethan ] [ plagiarism ] apocrypha ] 19th Century ] More 19th ] Jewish ] key doctrines ] one god ] absurdities ] BH Roberts ] ext-preface ] archeology ] DNA ] linguistics ] geography ] witnesses ] 116 pages ] BofM closing ] testimony ] readings ]