Sunday, March 6, 2011

LDS Symposium on the Bible

An annual religious symposium at Brigham Young University focused on the reverence Mormons show for the Bible, and the King James Version (KJV) in particular which turns 400 this year. Three of the talks referenced by the Church News stood out to me.

Prof/Brother/Mr. Millet discussed the issue of errors in transmission of the Bible:
"The question is not whether there have been scribal errors through the centuries; there have been," he said. "The question is not whether the Bible is the word of God; it is. The question is not whether the Bible can be relied upon with confidence if, in fact, there have been errors in the text; it can."
He said, "We do not believe the Bible must be translated perfectly to be spiritually normative and eternally valuable. ... For that matter, while we accept the Book of Mormon [and other LDS cannon] as holy scripture, we would not rush to proclaim their inerrancy. The marvel is the greater that an infinite and perfect God can work through finite and imperfect humans to deliver His word to His children."...
"Clearly, many factors impacted the prophetic message: personality, experience, vocabulary, literary talent," Brother Millet remarked. "The word of the Lord as spoken through Isaiah is quite different from the word of the Lord as spoken through Luke, and both are different from that written by Jeremiah or Mark. ... The LDS concern with the ancients is not the perfection with which such messages were recorded, but with the inspiration behind the message. ...
"In other words, knowing that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and the fact that He spoke to them at all, however well or poorly it may have been recorded, attests that He can speak to men and women in the here and now. After all, the Bible is only black ink on white paper until the Spirit of God illuminates its true meaning to us."
 Prof/Bro/Mr Belnap discusses the use of King James language and prose in the Book of Mormon. Other cultures and languages do not use the KJV but because the Book of Mormon was written using KJV cadence, syntax, vocabulary, and often quotations (though several witnesses attest Joseph Smith never had a copy of the Bible with him while translating) the language of the KJV becomes the Church standard throughout the world. He also talked about Nephi's vision of the Bible in America and the probability that it was the KJV specifically to which he referred. The article closes with his suggestion that one reason the KJV was popular with the colonists was that, unlike the Geneva Bible that preceded it, it did not contain numerous annotations telling people what they were supposed to think about each verse, leaving them free to independent study and prayer.

Prof/Bro/Mr Tanner provides evidence that the KJV was written specifically in order to sound authoritative and scriptural, to have an ancient veneer about it, and was translated in part with its aural qualities in mind. The KJV was deliberately assigned to become the official church Bible of the time, to be read from the pulpit and give added authority to the preacher. While he points this out as a contrast with the Tyndale Bible which was intended for personal study, the KJV translators retained such enormous portions of the Tyndale translation (~90%) that it would be easy to overstate the contrast.

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