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A Mormon and Biblical Interpretation

The following correspondence is discussing my articles on Mormonism. In the first exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red. In subsequent exchanges, my comments to which the e-mailer is responding to are in purple and enclosed in double "greater than" and "lesser than" signs.


Exchange #1

>Gary, I have a few points to make.

First of all, I would like to point out that you made a statement directly opposite of the Church's view. We do not discount, or hold a low regard of the Bible in any way. That is why it says "another Testament of Jesus Christ" under "The Book Of Mormon." The Church has always held the position that The Book of Mormon goes along with the Bible.<

By my comments in that regard, I am referring to the fact that the Mormon church does not consider the Bible to be the FINAL authority on matters of faith and practice. It has been my experience, in dealing with Mormons, that the Book of Mormon and more especially, the writings of the various Mormon "prophets" are used to "interpret" or modify what the Bible teaches.

> When Joseph Smith said, "Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors," he was stating of other Bibles besides the King James Version, gut you did not bother to mention that.<

There is a big difference between "transcribing" and "translating." Transcription refers to the copying of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts manually prior to the invention of the printing press (c. 1450). So by using this word either J. Smith did not know what he was talking about or he was referring to "errors" having been made in the transcription of the original language manuscripts.

Now, it is true there are textual variants; but for the most part, they are insignificant. I discuss textual criticism in detail in the articles under "Greek-text" types on my Bible Versions Controversy page:

As for "other Bibles besides the King James Version" at the time Smith lived, the KJV really was the only English Bible version being used. Earlier English versions had fallen out of disuse by the early 1800's and the controversy over Wescott and Hort's Greek text and the resultant "Revised Version" didn't begin until well after Smith's death. So, given the historical context, you'll have to excuse if I find it hard to interpret his words in the manner in which you say.

Moreover, I do not ascribe to a KJV Only position. So if this is what JS was asserting, then we would still disagree.

>Next, I would like to say that if you believe in the Bible so strongly (i.e. "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets."), why wouldn't it make sense to have a church with the same principles? A prophet, apostles, evangelists, teachers, the Aaronic and Melchezidec Priesthoods, and missionaries.<

As I state on my site, the Church is being built (passive, participle) on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20). You only lay the foundation once. So the need for apostles and prophets as givers of direct revelation no longer exists.

> You stated, "The epistles of 2 Peter and Jude, among the last New Testament writings to be penned, exhort the readers to avoid false doctrines by recalling the teachings of the apostles (2Pet 1:12-15; 2:1; 3:2,14-16; Jude 3-4,17). Peter and Jude did not say "Listen to the apostles living today," but instead urged believers to 'remember what the apostles said'" (Bowman, p. 31)."

This statement is not complete. You did not mention that "recalling the teachings of the apostles" may very well include recalling teachings of modern-day apostles and prophets.<

"contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3; LITV). Such statements leave no room for new revelation to be given at later time by "new" apostles and prophets after the time of the original apostles, as the Mormon church claims.

>That is all I have to say for now.

Tyson
PS (PUT THIS ON YOUR WEB SITE AND E-MAIL ME BACK PLEASE)
12/1/1998<

Saying this in as non-confrontational manner as possible, but first, shouting is not necessary. Secondly, I will decide what e-mails I have the time and energy to answer and what I will post on my site. Right now, for various reasons that I won't go into, I am not able to respond in detail to all of the very many e-mails I receive and haven't posted anything on my site for quite a while. What little time and energy I have is going into a new project I am working on.


Exchange #2

>>By my comments in that regard, I am referring to the fact that the Mormon church does not consider the Bible to be the FINAL authority on matters of faith and practice. It has been my experience, in dealing with Mormons, that the Book of Mormon and more especially, the writings of the various Mormon "prophets" are used to "interpret" or modify what the Bible teaches.<<

>I would like to tell you that we believe in the Bible as strongly as you do, but simply have another testament of Jesus Christ to "support" the Bible, not modify. To "interpret" what the Bible teaches is not to modify it, but to clarify the meaning of it.<

On my Web site I give detailed comparisons of the teachings of Mormonism as compared to the Bible. At point after point, my articles demonstrate that Mormon teachings are in direct contradiction to the Bible.

> The Bible itself states that "And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed,. . ." (Isaiah 29:11 KJV) which says that there is yet another book to go by, a book that is sealed.<

The passage mentions nothing about there being "another book to go by." In context it is referring to Isaiah's words being "sealed" to his hearers because they reject his message.

Proper interpretation involves reading a passage in context and getting out of it what is in it (i.e. exegesis). Interpretation is not reading into a passage what you want to be there (i.e. eisegesis). Yet the latter is what Mormons must constantly do in order to "find" there ideas in the Bible.

>>There is a big difference between "transcribing" and "translating."<<

>All of these are well written and nicely put points. I am afraid that in this point it is more a question of how you feel about and interpret what he said.<

Thank you for the kind comment. I will add, the quote from Smith come from a book I bought at a Mormon bookstore titled Latter-day Prophets Speak edited by Daniel Ludlow. In most cases, the book consists of extended quotation from the first seven Mormon prophets. But, unfortunately, in this case, the particular quote is rather isolated from its context.

However, it appears in a chapter titled, "The Holy Scriptures" under the sub-heading of "We believe the Bible ... as far as it is translated correctly." In none of the other quotes in this section is the KJV or other Bible versions specifically mentioned. So there is no reason for me to assume Smith was simply referring to versions other than the KJV.

>>As I state on my site, the Church is being built (passive, participle) on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20). You only lay the foundation once. So the need for apostles and prophets as givers of direct revelation no longer exists.<<

>First of all, I don't understand your logic when it comes to this point. The foundation has to be there in the first place in order for the church to even exist. If the foundation is gone, then the fullness of the church can't exist. The Webster's definition of foundation is "the basis or groundwork of anything." You cannot have the "anything" (The Church in this case) even exist if the basis, or foundation, is not there.<

The foundation IS there, in the writings of the apostles and prophets as contained in the Bible.

>Second, there is even a scripture more specific to argue for my point. In Isaiah 60:2-3; KJV, it says, "2. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. 3. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."

This scripture tells that after the "darkness" covers the earth (the apostasy), "Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. 3. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light. . ." , in other words, the keys to the gospel shall be restored. This includes the foundation of which you speak.<

Your "in other words" is again a case of eisegesis. Nothing is mentioned about the "keys" being restored. The passage is referring to the "darkness" in the nation Israel after the final writing prophet (Malachi, c. 400 BC). The "light" came in the Person of Jesus Christ. It was with the preaching of the Gospel that the Gentiles came to God's light (Acts 13:47, 48; 26:17,18; 1Peter 2:9).

There is nothing in this passage about an "apostasy" after the time of Christ or a "restoration" 1800 years latter. Doing a study of the word "light" in the NT will show the apostles believed such prophecies were being fulfilled in their time (as the above and other references would show).

>>"contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3; LITV). Such statements leave no room for new revelation to be given at later time by "new" apostles and prophets after the time of the original apostles, as the Mormon church claims.<<

>I would like to say we only follow the King James Version.<

Which is unfortunate as it is a very difficult to understand version given its archaic language. Moreover, in a sense the sub-heading form the above mentioned book is correct: the Bible must be translated properly. Now the KJV is by and large a very good translation. But it is not perfect. Again, I pursue this subject at length in the articles listed on my Bible Versions Controversy page.

> But even that aside, that statement is irrelevant. "Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" does not say the message or principle "delivered to the saints" can't be modern revelation. It simply states that you should, in a way, ponder the messages or principles "delivered", which may very well be through a modern day prophet.<

Your statement here MIGHT be true IF the "revelations" of Mormon prophets were consistent with Biblical revelation. But again, as I detail on my site, on point after point, and not on just minor issues but on very essential ones, the "revelations" of Mormon prophets are in direct conflict with Biblical teachings (Isaiah 8:20). As such, both cannot be true. Either the Bible is true or the Mormon prophet is true. The only way to reconcile the two is to engage in the eisegesis you are demonstrating.

>>Saying this in as non-confrontational manner as possible, but first, shouting is not necessary.<<

>I did not mean to scream it, but to simply get attention to it. I am sincerely sorry if I have offended you or came off rude. I hope you do not get offended by that because I know what it is like to have a lot to do.

Sincerely
Tyson
12/3/1998<

Apology accepted. I might go ahead and post our correspondence on my site. If I do, I will only use your first name and correct any misspelled words I find. Otherwise, I will make no alterations to your comments.


Exchange #3

>>On my Web site I give detailed comparisons of the teachings of Mormonism as compared to the Bible. At point after point, my articles demonstrate that Mormon teachings are in direct contradiction to the Bible.<<

>Unfortunately to say, you use excessive eisegesis in you comparisons. I could argue almost anyone of those points that you mentioned.<

In my articles on Mormonism I quote or refer to dozens if not hundreds of verses altogether. I really don't believe I have misunderstood the Bible that much so as to misuse that many verses. If I had the time I would go over each on in its context. But I really don't have the time. All I will do is encourage you to read the verses in their contexts to see if I really am reading something into them that isn't there.

>>Proper interpretation involves reading a passage in context and getting out of it what is in it (i.e. exegesis). Interpretation is not reading into a passage what you want to be there (i.e. eisegesis). Yet the latter is what Mormons must constantly do in order to "find" there ideas in the Bible.<<

>I again, do not see any logic in this comment. Do you take parables literally. Is the message of the prodigal son that if you run away from your earthly home, waste your fathers money, and come back, everything will be just fine.<

Literal statements of Scripture should be taken literally. Metaphoric statements should be taken metaphorically. Parables should be understood as stories told to illustrate a point (usually one main point. In the case you mention the main point is God is ready to forgive us no matter how much we have sinned, if we would just repent and turn to Him).

It's not that difficult. Just a matter of understanding the different kinds of writing used in the Bible. This is basic linguistics you should have learned in high school English.

> But besides that, I am afraid that you are using the eisegesis here. When Isaiah says "is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed,. . .", he says "book", not "message in my ear." If you were to take this directly out of context (i.e. exegesis), he is speaking of another book.<

The text says "AS the words of a book that is sealed " - See the little word "as?" Do you now what that means? It means Isaiah is using an analogy, a simile, a metaphor; he is not making a literal statement.

The point of the analogy is this: Isaiah's vision is not being understood by "Ariel" (another name for Jerusalem, v.1) because "they are "drunk" (v.9) and in a "deep sleep" (v.10) and their hearts are far from God (v.13). As a result, Isaiah's vision is to them AS the words in a sealed book to someone who can read (v.11) or AS the words in a book to someone who cannot read (v.12).

Get it? God is using the analogy of a sealed book to a reader or any book to someone who cannot read to illustrate how useless Isaiah's vision is to the wayward Jews. There is no literal book being referred to in the passage. As such, there cannot even be a hint of the need for "another" literal book when there is no first literal book being discussed.

>>The foundation IS there, in the writings of the apostles and prophets as contained in the Bible.<<

>But according to the Bible, the foundation is the prophet, apostles, teachers, priesthoods and so-forth, not the writings of the ones of the past. That is not to mean that we don't obey the words and include them in part of the foundation, but modern-day prophets, apostles, and so forth are needed.<

Eph 2:20 - "having been built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone" (LITV).

The apostles and prophets are mentioned as being part of the "foundation" not the others you mention. Moreover, there is repeated mention in the Scriptures of referring to "the writings of the ones of the past" for determining truth:

Isaiah 8:20 - "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no dawn to them!"

Acts 26:11 - "And these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with all readiness, daily examining the Scriptures if these things are so."

2Tim 3:14 - "But you keep on in what you learned and were assured of, knowing from whom you learned, 15 and that from a babe you know the Holy Scriptures, those being able to make you wise to salvation through belief in Christ Jesus. 16 Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be perfected, fully furnished for every good work" (LITV).

>>Your "in other words" is again a case of eisegesis. Nothing is mentioned about the "keys" being restored. The passage is referring to the "darkness" in the nation Israel after the final writing prophet (Malachi, c. 400 BC). The "light" came in the Person of Jesus Christ. It was with the preaching of the Gospel that the Gentiles came to God's light (Acts 13:47, 48; 26:17,18; 1Peter 2:9).<<

>I am afraid that you MAY be right in this, yet so MAY I. Neither of our explanations involve exegesis. You see, it also does not say anywhere that the darkness was after the final writing prophet. It does not say that the "keys" won't be restored either.<

The NT specifically mentions that the "light" came on the form of the preaching of the Gospel. That is the important point.

>>There is nothing in this passage about an "apostasy" after the time of Christ or a "restoration" 1800 years latter. Doing a study of the word "light" in the NT will show the apostles believed such prophecies were being fulfilled in their time (as the above and other references would show).<<

>But if he truly received the revelation, which I know in my heart he did, then the event being prophesied of could happen at any point in time. Whether they wanted it to happen within their time or not.<

"they wanted" - I assume by "they" you mean the apostles. It is not a matter of what they "wanted." The Holy Spirit said through the apostles that the prophecies were being fulfilled at that time.

>>Which is unfortunate as it [the KJV] is a very difficult to understand version given its archaic language. Moreover, in a sense the sub-heading form the above mentioned book is correct: the Bible must be translated properly. Now the KJV is by and large a very good translation. But it is not perfect.<<

>With this statement you contradict yourself. You say that Mormons are the ones who discount and say the Bible is incorrectly translated, while you just said that same type of statement yourself.<

No contradiction whatsoever. The Bible to me is not the KJV. The Bible is the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. It is upon the original languages that Christian doctrine is to be based. Any worthwhile Christian leader will know at least Greek, preferably Hebrew and Greek. Translations are necessary and good for the average person to read the Scriptures for themselves. But those who teach are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). As such, it is necessary for us to have a knowledge of the original languages.

And checking the original language can often be useful in properly interpreting a passage. For instance, in Isaiah 29:11, the word "you" in the phrase "The whole vision has become to you" is plural in the Hebrew. So God is not referring to Isaiah but to the "they" of v.9, i.e. the Jews.

For those who don't know Hebrew and Greek the best way to study the Scriptures is to compare versions. For instance, the version I have been referring to is the Literal Translation of the Bible (LITV for "Literal Version").

I have been referring to the LITV for a couple of reasons. The first is a very practical one: it is the only version I have on my handheld PC, which I use for answering e-mail. Secondly, it is just what the name says, a very literal translation of the Hebrew and Greek, even more literal than the KJV (hence why I have it rather than the KJV on my H/PC). I highly recommend the LITV to people. It is especially helpful for comparison purposes.

For instance, in Isaiah 29:11, the LITV has "LIKE the words of a sealed book." The words "like" and "as" are synonyms (at least in this context). Maybe if you saw the word "like" along with "as" it would have helped you to realize Isaiah was using an analogy not making a literal identification.

Otherwise, I refer you once again to my many articles on Bible versions for my full position in this matter.

>>Your statement here MIGHT be true IF the "revelations" of Mormon prophets were consistent with Biblical revelation. But again, as I detail on my site, on point after point, and not on just minor issues but on very essential ones, the "revelations" of Mormon prophets are in direct conflict with biblical teachings (Isaiah 8:20).. As such, both cannot be true. Either the Bible is true or the Mormon prophet is true. The only way to reconcile the two is to engage in the eisegesis that you are demonstrating.<<

>Again, unfortunately to say, you use excessive eisegesis in you comparisons. I could argue almost anyone of those points that you mentioned.

Tyson
12/4/1998<

Well, again, I don't have time to "argue" every point. I will say, in my articles I always try to check the context of verses I refer to and to reference multiple verses in support of statements I make. I also will check the original languages and compare multiple versions as needed. So I make every effort to be sure I am not misusing the Scriptures.


Exchange #4

>>It's not that difficult. Just a matter of understanding the different kinds of writing used in the Bible. This is basic linguistics you should have learned in high school English.<<

>I do not see the necessity to insult me here.<

My apologies on the last sentence. I wrote my response to you late at night when I couldn't sleep. I thought of deleting that sentence in the morning but forgot to before I sent the e-mail to you. Oh well, no one's perfect.

> I will no longer argue with you. I can argue with you until I am blue in the face, and it won't do one bit of good. I instead ask that if you truly believe in God, to pray, search and ponder the truths of the Book of Mormon. If you ask God if it is true with pure intent, then he will make it known unto you in a way that you cannot deny. I believe strongly in my religion, the Book of Mormon, and the Bible. Please take this thought into your heart so that you may know if it is true, and so that God can reveal the truth to you.<

When God has already revealed in the Bible the truth on a subject there is no need for me to pray about it. For instance, the Bible teaches pre-marital sex is wrong. So I do not need to pray and ask God to reveal to me if it is alright for me to sleep with someone I am not married to. Any "feeling" I would get from praying would be irrelevant as God has already revealed what the truth is on the matter in the Bible.

Similarly, God has already revealed in the Bible what the truth is in regards to His nature, the Person and work of Jesus Christ, sin, salvation, the afterlife, and many other essential subjects. So when someone makes a claim on one of these subjects, I do not need to pray to find out if their claim is true. I need to consult the Bible and see if what they are claiming is consistent with the Bible.

Since the teachings of Mormonism disagree with the Bible on each of these subjects, there is no need to pray about whether the Book of Mormon or the Mormon religion is true or not. Any feeling I would get from praying would be irrelevant.

>>Get it? God is using the analogy of a sealed book to a reader or any book to someone who cannot read to illustrate how useless Isaiah's vision is to the wayward Jews. There is no literal book being referred to in the passage. As such, there cannot even be a hint of the need for "another" literal book when there is no first literal book being discussed.<<

>Here, again, is an unnecessary comment, treating me as though I am an infant. Just to let you know, I am not an adult. I am a freshman in High School.<

Again, my apologies if I have offended you. The middle of the night probably is not the best time for me to be writing responses to e-mail. But I am simply trying to explain as best as I can why your interpretation of the passage is not plausible. If I had known you were a teenager I would not have been so forceful. Most people who e-mail me are much older.

But since you are still in HS, then remember my comments about the importance of knowing how to interpret different kinds of literature and grammar when you study such "boring" topics in English or reading class.

>Therefore, I want you to realize that I do know about my religion and believe with all my faith that the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon and the Bible, are true. I hope that you still listen to my advice above on pondering the truth.<

As I said, I have learned the truth from studying the Bible. And since Mormonism contradicts the Bible, there really is nothing to ponder.

>> Isaiah 8:20 - "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no dawn to them!"

Acts 26:11 - "And these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with all readiness, daily examining the Scriptures if these things are so."<

2Tim 3:14 - "But you keep on in what you learned and were assured of, knowing from whom you learned, 15 and that from a babe you know the Holy Scriptures, those being able to make you wise to salvation through belief in Christ Jesus. 16 Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be perfected, fully furnished for every good work" (LITV).<<

>Ponder these scriptures also, and find there true meaning in your HEART.<

"Heart" in the Bible does not refer to just the emotions as it does in English. The Biblical definition of the word "heart" (Hebrew, "leb" and "lebed" - Greek, "kardia") refers to the entire inner person. It includes the emotions, intellect, intuition, and will.

So using the Biblical definition of heart, and thus all my faculties, these verses are rather easy to understand. If any claimed new revelation disagrees with previous, written revelation, then the new revelation is false and not to be believed. It is on the basis of "what has been written" that truth is determined.

>>"they wanted" - I assume by "they" you mean the apostles. It is not a matter of what they "wanted." The Holy Spirit said through the apostles that the prophecies were being fulfilled at that time.<<

>Again, I will not go into technical details on specific subjects. You should try talking to the missionaries and hear their message. Let your life be complete.<

I have talked to Mormon missionaries on several occasions. The conversations usually go the way this one has with you. I quote the Bible to show them the teachings of Mormonism are false. They try to use the Bible to support their claims but I show them why their interpretation is untenable based on the context, grammar, or original language of the text.

At that point they will resort to telling me their "testimony" about how they "know" Mormonism is true and that I need to "pray about it." I explain the above about not needing to pray about something God has already revealed the truth of in the Bible. And then they give up on me.

Throw in a discussion or two about supposed archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, and that's about it.

>>Otherwise, I refer you once again to my many articles on Bible versions for my full position in this matter.<<

>Same as above.<

For summary of my position on this subject and how I arrived at it, see the article My Bible Versions Experience.

>>Well, again, I don't have time to "argue" every point. I will say, in my articles I always try to check the context of verses I refer to and to reference multiple verses in support of statements I make. I also will check the original languages and compare multiple versions as needed. So I make every effort to be sure I am not misusing the Scriptures.<<

>I don't want to argue the points either, but simply to ponder and consider what I have said.

Tyson
12/6/1998<

And I pray you will ponder and consider what I have said.

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