Most Christians believe that the Bible as we have it today has remained unchanged from when it was first written several millennium ago, even though it has been translated many different times. As evidence for this belief, Christians often quote the words of Jesus when He declared, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35), "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18). Many Christians interpret these words to mean that even if all of heaven and earth should be destroyed, God will not allow even one Hebrew jot or tittle of His written word to be lost, added to, or altered.
Therefore, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states as part of their doctrinal beliefs that the Bible is the word of God only so far as it has been translated correctly (8th Article of Faith) it is understandable that many Christians find this to be nearly a blasphemous statement. Then, to add insult to injury, the LDS Church also uses the Book of Mormon as additional scripture to the Bible. To most Christians, this is viewed as adding more to God's word, which to them is in direct opposition to God's command not to add or subtract anything to the Bible (see Revelation 22:18-19).
But what really bothers Christians is when the Book of Mormon prophesies that over time many plain and precious things will be taken out of the Bible (1 Nephi 13:26-29). In addition to this, it also quotes scripture from two Old Testament prophets, Zenos and Zenock, who are not found in the Bible, as well as quoting prophesies made by Joseph of Egypt (2 Nephi 4:1-2), which likewise is not found in the Bible. To many Christians, these are evidences of egregious tampering with the word of God and is in violation of the Bible's own declaration that not one jot or title of God's word will lost or changed.
However, biblical research does not validate the claims of traditional Christianity. The Bible has undergone many changes over the centuries and not all translations read the same (for a more in-depth discussion of this see "God's Word" at changes.htm). Even so, most mainstream Christians have defended these changes as not having significantly altered the word of God. Even if that were true, which it isn't, it doesn't support their claim that not one "jot or tittle" of God's word shall be lost.
Christians counter with the argument that since we still have such a large number of ancient biblical manuscripts at our disposal to study that we are able to get nearly a perfect word-for-word translation of what the ancient prophets originally wrote. Although this claim is highly exaggerated, it only pertains to the New Testament. However, when it comes to the Old Testament, they can't use that argument. To understand why we first need to understand the history of Israel.
Jacob, the grandson of Abraham had twelve sons and as these sons had children, they retained the lineage of their fathers. As such, they each became a tribe unto themselves. Since God had changed Jacob's name to Israel, his descendants became known as the twelve tribes of Jacob, or the twelve tribes of Israel. But it wasn't until they were led out of slavery from Egypt and, under the leadership of Joshua, took possession of the land that had been promised to their father Abraham (hence it is called the promised land) that they actually became a united nation.
Later, when David became king over all twelve tribes of Israel, he conquered the city of Jerusalem in battle around 1000 BC and made it his capital (see 2 Samuel 5:6-8). After his death, his son Solomon later built a magnificent Temple there. But when Solomon died, a civil ward erupted between Rehoboam, one of the sons of Solomon and Jeroboam which ended with Jeroboam becoming king over ten of the tribes of northern Israel, which became known as the kingdom of Israel, and with Rehoboam becoming king over the remaining two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) in the south which became known as the kingdom of Judah.
Since the tribe of Levi were the priests who performed their duties in the temple, and the city of Jerusalem was located within the boundaries of the Kingdom of Judah, they had no choice but to remain with the smaller kingdom. Today, we refer to those who belonged to the kingdom of Judah as the Jews while those who belonged to the Kingdom of Israel are referred to as Israelites. However, in reality, they are all Israelites.
Even though they all came from a common ancestry and had lived together for centuries as countrymen, from the very beginning of this split, the Israelites and the Jews became enemies and rivals to one another. To make matters worse, the more powerful Kingdom of Israel treated their sister nation more like a vassal state, often taking advantage of their lack of political and economic resources. On the other hand, the kingdom of Judah often sided with Israel's enemies in time of war.
However, the Jews felt they were the favored people of the Lord, especially since they were the possessors of the temple of God along with its authorized priests as prescribed in the Law of Moses. In contrast, the Israelites built their own pagan temple and appointed their own priests in violation of the law of Moses. Therefore, the Jews looked upon the Israelites as they did the heathens.
In 722 BC the Assyrian army completely conquered and destroyed the kingdom of Israel, taking all ten tribes captive and scattering them throughout the Assyrian empire. In so doing, they also destroyed the national identity of these people. In fact, to this day, the Israelites who belonged to these ten tribes have never come together again as a nation. When this event took place that left the Jews as the only nation made up of the children of Jacob.
The Bible we use today only contains the words of the Jewish prophets who spoke to the kingdom of Judah after Israel was taken captive. However, it seems certain there were Israelite prophets who similarly preached and wrote to the kingdom of Israel during their time in captivity but we have no record of who they were nor what they said. For example, Daniel, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah were all Jewish prophets who lived and wrote during the time of their captivity.
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that God had also sent prophets to the Israelites while they were in captivity. But because we do not know of any Israelite scripture written during the time of their captivity, Biblical scholars have assumed that there must not have been any such prophets. However such an assumption doesn't make sense considering that, from the time of Moses to the time of Solomon, God had sent prophets to all twelve tribes of Israel. There is no reason to think that after the kingdom of Israel had been taken into captivity that God wouldn't continue to send prophets to them as he did after the captivity of the kingdom of Judah.
There are those who argue that since we have no evidence that the Israelites had divinely sent prophets with their own set of scriptures that this proves they never existed. However, just because there is no evidence that something once existed doesn't automatically mean it never did. For example, there is no archeological evidence to prove that Moses ever existed, or that King David or King Solomon ever lived and yet all Christians and Jews accept as fact that these men not only existed but that they did the very things the Bible says they did. By the same reasoning, just because we have no archeological evidence to prove that God sent prophets to the northern kingdom of Israel after being taken away into captivity doesn't mean there were no such prophets. And if there were such messengers from God, then they certainly would have made a written record of their prophesies.
We know that after the ten northern tribes had been taken into captivity and dispersed, the Lord prophesied through Isaiah that He would someday gather all the children of Israel together and bring them back to the land of their inheritance. This would include the ten lost tribes as well as the Jews. If that is the case, then it can safely be assumed that after the kingdom of Israel went onto captivity, God would have sent prophets to call them to repentance as He did with the kingdom of Judah.
Even though the Jews possessed the temple in Jerusalem, they nonetheless had become an idolatrous people like their sister kingdom, Israel. In fact, the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying, "And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also" (Jeremiah 3:8). Isaiah complained about Judah saying, "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy one of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward…How is the faithful city (Jerusalem) become a harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it, but now murders… Thy princes are rebellious, and companion of thieves" (Isaiah 1:4,21,23).
The cause of much of this wickedness was brought about because of wicked Jewish kings who worshipped false gods and led their people to do the same. As a result, the worship of the true God, even in the temple at Jerusalem, had become horribly corrupted. However, in 640 BC a righteous man by the name of Josiah became the king of Judah and he sought through imperial decree to restore the correct teachings of the law of Moses. As part of his reform he ordered all idols destroyed and he ordered the old temple ceremonies to be reinstituted.
While cleaning out the temple in preparation for the reestablishment of these holy ceremonies, a priest by the name of Hilkiah, who was the father of the prophet Jeremiah, found an old copy of a lost book of scripture. He took this book to King Josiah and when he read it to him the king rent his clothing in anguish when he realized how far his people had departed from the law of Moses (see 2 Kgs. 22:10; 2 Chr. 34:18). Most scholars today believe this volume of scripture was the book of Deuteronomy.
As part of his reform to bring the Jews back to the worship of the one and only true God, King Josiah had a group of priests make scriptures for the people to read so they would know what the Lord expected of them. These scribes were known as Deuteronomists, however, they didn't make a carbon copy of the original scriptures they already had in their possession. Instead, what they did was to make their own condensed version of the what the prophets of old had writtens. That is to say, after reading all the records they had available to them, they then retold the ancient stories in their own words.
A clear example of this can be found in the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah. It is generally believed that Moses wrote these books, however, it is abundantly clear that the version we have in our Bible today was not written by Moses. For one thing these books are written in the third person (i.e., he, Moses) rather than in the first person (i.e. I, Moses).
Also, at the end of the book of Exodus it relates the story of the death of Moses which is something Moses couldn't have written himself. And there are many other things in these five books which today's Biblical scholars agree clearly shows that our version of the Torah was written by someone or a group of people who lived long after the death of Moses.
And the same is true of the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. These books as contained in our current Bible were not written by the author themselves but rather by someone else who is telling us the story about what these people said and did long after they had lived. That therefore raises the question of who actually wrote these books and where did they get their information for what they wrote?
The Bible itself gives us a clue. When the person who wrote 1 Chronicles ended his book he said, "Now the acts of David the King, the first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer" (1 Chronicles 29:29). Even if "the book of Samuel the seer" is referring to 1 & 2 Samuel (which is a wrong assumption because they were not written by Samuel but are books written about Samuel), where are the books of Nathan the prophet and Gad the seer? Obviously these books did exist at one time because the writer of 1 Chronicles not only had access to them but refers his readers to them for a fuller account of the acts of King David. That is also an admission that the account in 1 Chronicles doesn't contain as much prophetic scriptural information as it could have.
When telling the story of King Solomon the author of 2 Chronicles wrote, "Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat?" (2 Chronicles 9:29).
Whoever wrote the history of Israel as contained in 1 and 2 Chronicles made their narrative after reading the writings of the prophets Samuel, Nathan, Gad, Ahijah and Iddo. In addition to these books, the Bible also refers us to the Book of the Covenant, the Book of the Wars of the Lord, the books of Shemiah, Jehu and Jasher, the Acts of Uzziah, and the Saying of the Seers. Yet, today we do not have one shred of evidence to prove that any of these books ever existed yet they are referred to in the Bible.
The question that begs to be answered is: Why did these scribes retell the story of these prophets of God rather than giving us their actual words, especially since they had full access to them? For example, the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah that we have today are the actual words which those prophets wrote. Then why are so many of the other books of our Bible not written the same way? Instead of us having the actual words of many of the prophets of the Old Testament, what we have today was written by someone who is telling us what the prophets said.
Many biblical scholars feel that the historical books we currently have in our Old Testament were written somewhere around 625 BC during the reign of King Josiah as part of his efforts to return the kingdom of Judah back to the true worship of God. As such, it is believed that rather than these writings being designed as an accurate historical record, their purpose was to make the Jews aware of the promises God had made to Abraham and his children as well as teach them the importance of keeping God's commandments. Therefore, when these priestly scribes set upon their task, they did so with this specific goal in mind.
However, as they gathered all the records they had at their disposal and combined their various stories into one historic volume, they did so from their own religious perspective. Furthermore, there is no evidence that any of these scribes were a prophet of God. The significance of this is that there were no divinely appointed prophets who oversaw this work. Therefore, whatever the scribes wrote went unchallenged.
To their credit, it appears that the scribes diligently strove to write their history as accurately as they could, but they nonetheless were guided by their own religious perceptions. And one of those perceptions was that the Jews were the favored children of God, even over their brethren, the Israelites, who they considered to be heathens.
Given the fact that the larger and more powerful kingdom of Israel had indeed been taken into captivity and destroyed while they, the Jews, being smaller and far less powerful, had still remained intact as a nation (at least up to they too were taken into captivity), was further proof to them of the validity of this claim. In fact, it was because of this very mindset that the Jews didn't want to believe the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah when they proclaimed that God would someday destroy Judah like He had destroyed Israel.
Therefore, when these scribes began making an account of their history from the assembled records, they wrote it as they saw it. It wasn't so much that they were being dishonest with their accounts as it was they portrayed themselves in the best light possible. In other words, what they wrote was true but they slanted the story in their favor.
This shouldn't be surprising because all historical writers tend to do the same thing, either consciously or unconsciously. For example, a history of the United States written by an American in 1800 will tell a very different story than one written by someone from Great Britain during that same period of time. It is almost impossible for someone who has close ties to the people, places, or events spoken of to write an impartial, fair, and objective history. And the Jewish scribes in the days of King Josiah were very closely tied to the people, places, and events they were writing about. More than that, their commission was to instill within their people a certain belief system. And they did that by the things they included in their writings as well as the things they deliberately left out of their writings.
Since the Jews felt they were more highly favored of God than their Israelite brethren, whenever they came upon a favorable story or prophesy concerning one of the ten lost tribes - let's say, like Joseph or one of his two sons Ephraim or Mannasah - it would have been natural and easy for the Jewish scribes to simply ignore such prophecy and not include it in their work, feeling that it must somehow be a mistaken translation or something erroneously inserted by an earlier Israelite.
In addition to this, given the fact that these scribes probably didn't have access to the writings of any Israelite prophets who wrote during the times of their captivity, especially since they had been carried away by the Assyrians nearly a hundred years earlier, there was no way for them to include such material in their own history, even if they had wanted to.
Therefore, it was what these scribes wrote that became the basis upon which all other later Jewish scribes based their translations. If the view of history that these Deuteronomists gave us was excessively slanted or incorrect because they altered or left out important details, then there was no way for future generations to correct the record. What happened to the original records these scribes used and what was on them we don't know, but what we do know for sure is that they once did exist but have now become completely and apparently, irretrievably lost.
Forty years after this work had begun the kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. When a small remnant of Jews returned to their homeland some fifty years later in 536 BC they came with a renewed dedication to following the commandments of God. It was at this time that a council of Jewish priests, known as the Sandhedrin, was established. The purpose of this council was to oversee and insure that the Jews kept the law of God according to their written scriptures. They became, in effect, both the supreme religious and civil authority in Judah and the beliefs they strictly enforced were those that the scribes of King Josiah had given them. Thus, it was the views of the Deuteronomists that formed the basis of the official Jewish scriptures.
Somewhere around 330 BC Alexander the Great conquered the kingdom of Judah and made it a slave state and in so doing forced both the Greek language and the Greek culture upon them. Within forty years of that conquest most of the Jews were speaking Greek rather than their native Hebrew tongue. In 286 BC, Ptolemy, one of the successors to Alexander, ordered the Hebrew scriptures be translated into Greek. Seventy scribes were used in this process and their translation came to be known by the Greek word, Septuagint, meaning seventy. This was the translation that Jesus used and quoted from when He lived in mortality.
However, the Septuagint also included such books as Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, the Letter of Jeremiah, along with 1 and 2 Maccabees, all of which were retained by the Christian Church when they later translated the Old Testament from Greek into the Latin Vulgate. Today we refer to these books as the Apocrypha. In addition to these, the apostle Jude makes reference to two other Old Testament books - the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses (Jude 6, 9).
But apparently the Septuagint contained other prophecies that are no longer available to us. For example, in John 7:38 we read where Jesus said, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters" This prophecy has caused a problem for biblical scholars because there is no such scripture found in our Old Testament.
In Matthew 2:23 the author states, "And he [Jesus] came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene." Again, there is no such scripture in the Old Testament. In Luke 24:46, we read where Jesus told two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to die, and to rise from the dead the third day." There is no place in the Bible where this is written. In James 4:5 we read, "Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" Again, there is no such quote from anywhere else in our Bible.
Since, in the days of Jesus, the Jews used the Septuagint, what we see then is that Jesus and the apostles quoted scripture that apparently was in the Septuagint but in not found in our Bible. Therefore, it is clear that the Septuagint contained much more scripture than what is found in our modern-day Protestant Bible.
Although this was the official version of the Old Testament for both the Jews and the Christian for nearly nine hundred years after the death of Jesus, somewhere around 700 AD a group of Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes concluded that the Septuagint was a corrupted translation. Therefore, they set about to rewrite the Old Testament using the Hebrew version as their source. Their translation of the Old Testament came to be known as the Masoretic text. However, not only does it differ significantly in many places with the Septuagint version but it is considerably shorter. Yet it is the Masoretic text that nearly all Bibles from the King James Version to the New International Version use for their translations.
There is much debate among biblical scholars over which text is the more accurate. Some fiercely defend the Hebrew Masoretic text, pointing to how meticulous the scribes were in their translation as proof that their version comes the closest to what the original prophets wrote. They further argue that since the ancient prophets wrote in Hebrew therefore the Hebrew text is much more accurate than the Greek translation.
On the other hand, those who defend the Septuagint Bible claim that the Greek version is older than the Hebrew manuscripts the Masorites used for their translation. As proof of their claim, they point to the Dead Sea Scrolls to show that they agree more closely with the Septuagint Bible. While our oldest Hebrew text dates back only to 1000 AD, the Dead Sea Scrolls dates back to 100 BC. Therefore, since they are the most ancient Old Testament documents in existence today it is argued that they more accurately reflect what the original prophets wrote. It is further argued that since Jesus used the Septuagint this is additional proof of its authenticity, especially since it contains more of God's word than does the Masoretic text.
But to focus on whether the Septuagint or Masoretic text is the more accurate translation misses the real argument. The original alteration to the Old Testament didn't happen in 700 AD with the Masorites, nor did it happen in 286 BC with the writing of the Septuagint. It actually began somewhere around 625 BC with the Deuteronomists. While we have some manuscript fragments from both the Greek and Hebrew translations that we can study and compare to each other, we have no surviving manuscripts that will help us determine how accurately the Deuteronomists were in the writing of their version of the Old Testament. As a result, we have no way of knowing what they left out or what they altered.
However, the circumstantial evidence suggests that their motivation in writing their version of events was not to preserve historical accuracy as much as it was to promote a certain point of view. While it may very well be true that what they wrote accurately reflects God's word, there is abundance evidence in their own work that strongly suggests they did not give us everything God has said through His prophets. The fact that we have been able to document throughout history this same process of people deleting parts of the Bible they disagreed with or adding things they wanted the Bible to say further strengthens this conclusion.
The Old Testament record that the Nephites used in the Book of Mormon came from brass plates that were written before the time of the Deuteronomists. Therefore, it is only reasonable to assume they would contain prophecies and events about the other ten tribes of Israel that our Bible doesn't contain. Besides our present-day Bible not having the prophecies of Zenos, Zenock, and Joseph, neither does it contain the prophecies of Nathan, Gad, Ahijah, and Iddo, nor the sayings of the seers. Therefore, it is abundantly obvious that when Jesus said that not one jot or tittle of His words would pass away, He uttered a false statement if our interpretation of what He meant is correct.
However, since all Christians believe that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and that all men are fallible, that then leads us to only one other possible conclusion which is that the interpretation fallible men have placed on these verses of scripture must be wrong. In which case that leaves them with no biblical basis for condemning the Book of Mormon because it says that parts of the Bible are missing.
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