LDS Perspectives #55: Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation: Part 2 with Thomas A. Wayment

Adam Clarke’s Influence on the JST
 with Dr. Thomas A. Wayment

In this second LDS Perspectives Podcast on Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, Dr. Thomas Wayment talks about the influence of Adam Clarke’s biblical commentary on Joseph Smith.

Dr. Wayment is a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and publications director of the BYU Religious Studies Center. Dr. Wayment earned a BA in Classics from the University of California at Riverside, then earned a PhD in New Testament Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Wayment’s research has focused primarily on the New Testament. But Dr. Wayment has also written extensively on the Joseph Smith Translation. He became fascinated with Joseph’s translation early in his biblical studies and he will soon have two book chapters published on new findings regarding Joseph’s Bible translation process.

In his recent studies, Wayment found an interesting connection between the JST and a biblical commentary well-known in the 19th-century, especially in Methodist circles.

Adam Clarke, a British theologian, took almost 40 years to complete his comprehensive tome, published as The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The text carefully printed from the most correct copies of the present Authorized Version. Including the marginal readings and parallel texts. With a Commentary and Critical Notes. Clarke’s commentary became a primary theological resource for nearly two centuries.

New research by Michael Hubbard Mackay has uncovered a statement indicating that Joseph Smith had access to a copy of Clarke’s Bible commentary. When Wayment compared Joseph’s translation of the KJV Bible to Clarke’s commentary, he realized that Joseph apparently used it in the translation process because of the marked similarities he found between entries in the commentary and changes in Joseph’s KJV Bible.

Dr. Wayment shares his view of what Joseph meant by “translation” and what it could mean for how we approach the KJV Bible and the JST.

4 thoughts on “LDS Perspectives #55: Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation: Part 2 with Thomas A. Wayment

  1. Was the Clarke’s commentary available to Joseph Smith prior to the JST translation? How many changes were made by Joseph Smith that were influenced by the Clarke commentary.?

  2. My impression of what happened with the translations.

    116 pages received by means of the Urim & Thummim. Lost. May have contained references to the creation and fall narrative we see in later restoration documents (Moses, Abraham, temple).

    Book of Mormon received by means of the Urim and Thummim. Extant. Contains pervasive presumption that the creation and fall were specifically redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice and that all mankind would be saved.

    “Translation” of Genesis 1-24 received by means of the Urim and Thummim. Extant. Explicitly inserts Christ into the creation and fall narrative, a relationship that had been deprecated in Christianity based on the interpretations of St. Augustine.

    Something happens. See D&C 45. Erastus Snow states circa 1883 that Joseph related having received a revelation while translating Genesis regarding the nature of the New and Everlasting Covenant (e.g., the potential for all wives of a man to be united with that man in eternity or, in other words, that every child born is to be united to the covenant family of mankind, even if the father already had a different spouse).

    As commanded in D&C 45, Joseph resumes his Bible translation work in the New Testament. He’s been burned by the implications of the Genesis revelation. He’s looking for what was promised. He is consulting the best books.

    Joseph gets to John. He and Sidney Rigdon receive the revelation of heaven (D&C 76). This is the answer.

    Joseph continues to sift through the rest of the Bible, but from this point on his Bible translation effort is desultory. Not because he is bored, but because he’s encountered the devastating implications of the lost truths (what becomes D&C 132) and the glorious heaven associated with the lost truths (D&C 76), so the rest is just denouement.

    The Egyptian paparii and mummies are acquired. This prompts revelation regarding Abraham, a narrative which returns to the integration of Christology and creation.

    Joseph attempts to fulfil the requirements of the Genesis revelation by covenanting with Fanny Alger. Something goes wrong. Too little is known to be certain that any of the lurid accusations are accurate, much less whether anything happened that could have rendered Fanny pregnant. However many intimates consider the interaction between Joseph and Fanny to be a marriage. See Don Bradley’s article.

    Kirtland fails. Missouri abuses. Joseph retreats to Nauvoo.

    John C. Bennett arrives in town and establishes an unprecedented charter, eventually creating vast resentment. Bennett also elevates mere bad behavior to the status of heresy during summer 1841.

    Joseph perceives an angel threatening him for avoiding restoration of biblical marriage and the everlasting covenant. He covenants with (the sexually unavailable) Zina Huntington in October 1841.

    Joseph learns of the heresy in mid-December 1841. He works with Emma and Hyrum to purge the heresy from Mormonism.

    As part of the retrenchment, Joseph expands the endowment to include Masonic symbols and secrecy. Both men and women are introduced to the endowment, which returns to the integration of Christology into the creation narrative.

    History occurs, Joseph dies, Brigham embraces plural marriage well beyond biblical precedent, then the Manifesto occurs.

    Joseph F. Smith receives a vision of the spirit world, which clarifies how the children of mankind are redeemed despite mortal ignorance of Christ. He dies days later.

    The modern Church moves forward aggressively, working to ensure that all who have ever been born can have access to the covenant which redeems the children of Adam and Eve from the effects of the fall. Christ is seen as the central figure for the entire human narrative.

    The Joseph Smith expansion of Genesis 24 circa 1830-1831 is key to
    all that follows.

  3. Hi Roy,

    As mentioned in the podcast, Joseph’s efforts related to Genesis 1-24 do not demonstrate any influence of the Clarke writings. It is when Joseph switches to work on the New Testament that Dr. Wayment begins to see the clear influence of the Clarke commentary. But Clarke’s commentary isn’t reasonably the cause of the doctrine that we see in D&C 76. As for other D&C sections, I defer to the scholars regarding which sections might show some influence of Clarke’s thoughts. In particular, I would be interested in an assessment of whether the summary of the Plan of Salvation in D&C 29 appears to demonstrate any influence from Clarke. I doubt it, as D&C 29 occurs in 1830, before we see Joseph leave Genesis and start work on the New Testament.

    So D&C 132, D&C 76, and D&C 29 would appear to be completely free of any influence from the Clarke commentary. The core doctrines, therefore, are not derivative of the renowned Methodist scholar. Word choices in other parts of Joseph’s Bible modification, on the other hand, may well show significant influence on the part of Clarke.

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