Saturday, April 16, 2011

1 Thessalonians vs. 2 Thessalonians

Let's face it. There's a lot of epistles out there claiming to have been written by Paul. How do we know which ones were really written by Paul and which ones are forgeries?

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as if from us that the Day of Christ is at hand. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)

OK, so if an epistle says that the Day of Christ is at hand, it isn't really from Paul.

Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
(1 Thessalonians 4:17-18, 5:1-2)

Whoa! 1 Thessalonians just said that the end will come suddenly during Paul's lifetime. So, if 2 Thessalonians is telling us the truth, that makes 1 Thessalonians a liar!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Do the Dead Sea Scrolls prove the Book of Mormon is true?

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the earliest known copy of the Hebrew Bible (which Christians refer to as the Old Testament). Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest copy of the Old Testament written in Hebrew were the Masoretic texts (c. 1000 AD). The Dead Sea Scrolls predate the Masoretic texts by over a thousand years, with some of the scrolls dating to as early as 100 BC.

Although there are copies of the Hebrew Bible known as the Septuagint dated to as early as the 4th century, this was written in Greek, not Hebrew. The King James Version of the Bible is based on the 10th century Masoretic texts since it was thought that the  Septuagint mistranslated the original language in several places.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the entire book of Isaiah as well as parts of every canonical book in the Hebrew Bible except for Esther, along with several Apocryphal writings. While there are numerous spelling and grammatical differences, the Dead Sea Scrolls are essentially the same as the Masoretic texts for the most part. However, there are a few major differences.

For example, Psalm 145 is an acrostic poem. The first verse begins with aleph, the second verse begins with beth, and so forth all the way through the Hebrew alphabet. However, the Masoretic text is missing the verse that should begin with nun. This lost verse was found again in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Growing up as a Mormon, I heard the claim that the Dead Sea Scrolls proved that Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible was correct and that the King James Version of the Bible was translated incorrectly. There's no question that the KJV contains numerous translation errors, however, do the Dead Sea Scrolls validate Joseph Smith's Translation?

The short answer is no. Joseph Smith's version of Psalm 145 is exactly the same as the King James Version (specifically Blayney's 1769 revision of the KJV). He didn't notice that a verse was missing.

The Dead Sea Scrolls give us an extra verse before verse 1 of 1 Samuel 11, which I will call "verse 0":

Nahash king of the Ammonites oppressed the Gadites and the Reubenites viciously. He put out the right eye of all of them and brought fear and trembling on Israel. Not one of the Israelites in the region beyond the Jordan remained whose right eye Nahash king of the Ammonites did not put out, except seven thousand men who escaped from the Ammonites and went  to Jabesh-gilea" (1 Samuel 11:0)

This verse is missing from both the King James Version and the Joseph Smith Translation. Reading the following passage in the KJV or the JST makes it seems like Samuel ripped his own mantle:

And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. (1 Samuel 15:27, KJV & JST)

However, the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal that it was actually Saul who did the ripping:

And as Samuel turned about to go away, Saul laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. (1 Samuel 15:27, DSS)

In 1 Samuel 17:4, the DSS give the height of Goliath as "four cubits and a span" which is over 7 feet tall. The Masoretic text, which was written a millennium later, gives his height as "six cubits and a span" which would make him over 9 feet tall. It's only natural that some stories grow with the telling. Again, the JST is exactly the same as the Masoretic-based KJV.

As an aside for fans of Antiquities of the Jews, (Go Team Josephus!), Josephus' account of first and second Samuel matches the Dead Sea Scrolls version more closely than either the Masoretic text (MT) or the Septuagint (which is commonly abbreviated as LXX for some reason). This provides some evidence that the writings of Josephus are indeed based on an earlier version of the Hebrew Bible than we currently possess.

Next, let's go back to where it all began:

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. (Genesis 1:9 KJV & JST)

The Dead Sea Scrolls add an extra sentence:

And God said, let the waters underneath the heavens be gathered together in one gathering, and let the dry land appear. And it was so.  And the waters under the heavens gathered to their gatherings and the dry land appeared. (Genesis 1:9 DSS)

Joseph Smith didn't get this one right either, however the LXX does give the longer version of the verse, making it more accurate than the Masoretic in this case. Another instance where the LXX matches the DSS, but the Masoretic does not is Psalm 22:16 where the DSS has "they have pierced my hands and feet" while the Masoretic has "like a lion are my hands and feet" which is just crazy talk.

Another example of this can be found in Deuteronomy 32:8 where both the DSS and the LXX have "according to the number of the sons of God" while the Masoretic (and therefor the KJV and JST) have it as "according to the number of the sons of Israel" which actually doesn't make sense when put into context:

When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:8)
This verse, as the KJV and JST have it, tells us that all the nations of the world are children of Israel. The original Dead Sea Scrolls version implies the older Jewish theology that the world was divided up into different nations each with its own god who was the son of the most high God.

The paragraph where Joshua constructs an altar is located at Joshua 8:30-35 in the KJV and JST. The LXX puts the paragraph a little bit later (Joshua 9:7-8), but in the DSS, the paragraph is located at the beginning of Joshua 5. The only source that agrees with the Dead Sea Scrolls in this case is Josephus. (Go Josephus!)

Exodus 1:3 has "Joseph and Benjamin" in the DSS, but the KJV and JST both leave out Joseph. Judges 6:7-10 are not found in the DSS and are therefor a later insertion, but again the JST blindly follows the KJV.

The DSS version of Psalms is radically different from the version we have today with the psalms appearing in a different order, some psalms missing, and 15 new psalms. The JST actually differs from the KJV when it comes to Psalm 32:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1 KJV)

Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and who have no sins to be covered. (Psalm 32:1 JST)

Unfortunately, it doesn't match with the DSS version, because Psalm 32 is missing from the DSS entirely, as are psalms 70 and 90 (Joseph Smith copies the KJV exactly for these two). Joseph Smith does completely rewrite Psalms 11, 14, and 24, unfortunately, the DSS versions of these psalms are basically the same as the KJV.

There are a few minor differences between the DSS and the Masoretic text in Psalm 138:

To David, I will praise you with all my heart, before God I will make your music. (Psalm 138:1 Masoretic text)

To David, I will praise Yahweh with all my heart, before Yahweh God I will make your music. (Psalm 138:1 DSS)

If I walk in among trouble you will revive me, over the anger of my enemies you will send your hand you will rescue me, your right hand. (Psalm 138:7 Masoretic text)

If I walk in the middle of trouble you will revive me, over the anger of my enemies you will send your hand you will rescue me, your right hand. (Psalm 138:7 DSS)

Joseph Smith didn't notice these small differences, but he does rewrite the next verse.

Yahweh will end on behalf of me, Yahweh, your mercy is for eternity, the works of your hands will not sink. (Psalm 138:8, the same in both Masoretic and DSS)

The Lord will perfect me in knowledge, concerning his kingdom. I will praise thee O Lord, for ever; for thou art merciful, and wilt not forsake the works of thine own hands. (Psalm 138:8 JST)

Perhaps the most major difference between the JST and the KJV is that the JST completely removes the Song of  Solomon. However, it is included in the DSS. The DSS lack Esther, however the JST includes it.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll give a few more examples from the book of Isaiah. The Book of Mormon quotes from Isaiah quite extensively so it was obviously a very important book to Joseph Smith.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 KJV & JST, also 2 Nephi 17:14)
You can't tell from the KJV, but in the Masoretic text, the final verb in this verse is "she will call" indicating that the virgin (or young woman as it's more correctly translated) is the one who names the son. In the DSS, the verb "he will call" is used instead.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV & JST, also 2 Nephi 19:6)
Instead of "The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" the DSS has "Elgibor, the father of Ad, ruler of Hashalom." The reason this is so different is due to minor manuscript differences. The name Elgibor in the DSS gets changed to "mighty God" in the Masoretic text simply by inserting a space ("el gibor" means "God is a warrior"). Similar minor differences change "father of Ad" into "everlasting Father" and "ruler of Hashalom" into "ruler of peace".

The Masoretic text translates Isaiah 53:11 as "from the labor of his soul, he will see, he will be satisfied". The Dead Sea Scroll text translates to "from the labor of his soul, he will see light and he will be satisfied". The JST again follows the KJV.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Joseph Smith and Josephus

Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus relates the history of the Jewish people from the creation of the world up to the intertestamental period. Josephus' version of events is mainly based on the Old Testament and Apocrypha, however he departs from them often. Interestingly, Joseph Smith seems to have borrowed from Josephus in his own version of the Bible since he differs from the Bible in many of the same ways Josephus does.

1. In Genesis 5:4, Adam and Eve don't have daughters until after the birth of Seth. However, in both Josephus and the Josephs Smith Translation of the Bible (JST), Adam and Eve have daughters at the same time Cain and Able are born.

Adam and Eve had two sons...they had also daughters. (Antiquities of the Jews 1:2:1)

And Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters...and from that time forth, the sons and daughters of Adam began to divide, two and two, in the land. (Gen. 4:2-3 Joseph Smith Translation)

2. Although there's no mention of it in the Bible, both Josephus and Joseph Smith tell us that Cain became the leader of a wicked organization.

But Cain was not only very wicked in other respects, but was wholly intent upon getting...He augmented his household substance with much wealth, by rapine and violence; he excited his acquaintance to procure pleasures and spoils by robbery, and became a great leader of men in wicked courses. (Antiquities of the Jews 1:2:1-2)

And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness. And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him. (Genesis 5:16 Joseph Smith Translation, also Moses 5:31-32)

As an aside, this passage of Mormon scripture is quoted in the video game Assassin's Creed II. A later passage in the Mormon scripture called The Book of Moses makes it clear that this was the founding of a secret Satanic society:

For Lamech having entered into a covenant with Satan, after the manner of Cain, wherein he became Master Mahan, Master of that great secret which was administered unto Cain by Satan; and Irad, the son of Enoch having known their secret, began to reveal it unto the sons of Adam. Wherefore Lamech, being angry, slew him, not like unto Cain, his brother Abel, for the sake of getting gain, but slew him for the oath’s sake. For, from the days of Cain, there was a secret combination, and their works were in the dark, and they knew every man his brother. (Moses 5:49-51)

3. The Bible makes no mention of Noah's life being in danger, but both Josephus and Joseph do.

For the tradition is that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants. But Noah was very uneasy at what they did; and being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their dispositions and their acts for the better: and seeing they did not yield to him, but were slaves to their wicked pleasures, he was afraid they would kill him, together with his wife and children. (Antiquities of the Jews 1:3:1)

And in those days there were giants in the earth, and they sought Noah to take away his life...For it repenteth Noah that I have created them; and he hath called upon me, for they have sought his life. (Genesis 8:6,15 Joseph Smith Translation)

4. The Bible doesn't tell us that Abraham had astronomical knowledge, but again, both Josephus and Joseph do.

In the tenth generation after the Flood there was among the Chaldeans a man [Abraham] righteous and great, and skillful in Celestial Science. (Antiquities of the Jews 1:7:2)

And it is given unto thee [Abraham] to know the set time of all the stars that are set to give light, until thou come near unto the throne of God. (Abraham 3:10)

Also, Fascimile 3 in the Pearl of Great Price depicts Abraham instructing the king of Egypt in the "principles of astronomy".

5. In Genesis, Jacob gives a blessing to his son Joseph upon his deathbed dealing with his descendants. He does not praise Joseph himself in the Bible, but he does in Josephus' version:

Now when Jacob had lived seventeen years in Egypt, he fell into a disease, and died in the presence of his sons; but not till he made his prayers for their enjoying prosperity, and till he had foretold to them prophetically how every one of them was to dwell in the land of Canaan. But this happened many years afterward. He also enlarged upon the praises of Joseph, how he had not remembered the evil doings of his brethren to their disadvantage. (Antiquities of the Jews 2:8:1)

The Joseph Smith Translation also has Jacob praise Joseph:

And Jacob said unto Joseph when the God of my fathers appeared unto me in Luz, in the land of Canaan; he sware unto me, that he would give unto me, and unto my seed, the land for an everlasting possession. Therefore, O my son, he hath blessed me in raising thee up to be a servant unto me, in saving my house from death; In delivering my people, thy brethren, from famine which was sore in the land; wherefore the God of thy fathers shall bless thee, and the fruit of thy loins, that they shall be blessed above thy brethren, and above thy father’s house; For thou hast prevailed, and thy father’s house hath bowed down unto thee, even as it was shown unto thee, before thou wast sold into Egypt by the hands of thy brethren; wherefore thy brethren shall bow down unto thee from generation to generation, unto the fruit of thy loins forever; For thou shalt be a light unto my people, to deliver them in the days of their captivity, from bondage; and to bring salvation unto them, when they are altogether bowed down in sin. (Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 48:5-11)

6. According to the Bible, Moses died a natural death. According to Josephus, he did not die, but was taken up to God.

As he was going to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him on the sudden, and he disappeared in a certain valley, although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary virtue, he went to God. (Antiquities 4:8:48)

The Joseph Smith Translation of Deuteronmy 34 leaves the account of Moses's death as is, however, the Book of Alma tells us Moses was taken up to God. 

And when Alma had done this he departed out of the land of Zarahemla, as if to go into the land of Melek. And it came to pass that he was never heard of more; as to his death and burial we know not of. Behold this we know, that he was a righteous man; and the saying went abroad in the church that he was taken up by the Spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord, even as Moses. But behold, the scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself, therefore, for this cause we know nothing concerning his death and burial. (Alma 45:18-19)

7. In the Bible, Abraham's wife Sarai was his half-sister. In the writings of Josephus and Joseph Smith, Sarai is his niece.

Now Abraham had two brethren, Nahor and Haran; of these Haran left a son, Lot; as also Sarai and Milcha his daughters, and died among the Chaldeans, in a city of the Chaldeans, called Ur; and his monument is shown to this day. These married their nieces. Nahor married Milcha, and Abram married Sarai. (Antiquities 1:6:5)

And it came to pass that I, Abraham, took Sarai to wife, and Nahor, my brother, took Milcah to wife, who were the daughters of Haran. (Abraham 2:2, note: this scipture was changed in 1981 so current Mormon scripture does not have Abraham marry his niece.)

D. Michael Quinn tells us in Early Mormonism and the Magic World View that the Palmyra bookstore and library had copies of Josephus during Joseph Smith's time. We also know Joseph Smith read Josephus while he was in jail the night he was murdered. It's likely that Joseph Smith was influenced by the writings of Josephus, however many of the places where he diverges from the Bible could have come from other sources as well.

Main source for this post:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Was Corinthians written with the Cerinthians in mind?

If you assume Acts is history, then you'd date the First Epistle to the Corinthians to 53 - 57 AD, however, as Dennis R MacDonald has pointed out, the Acts of the Apostles actually seems to imitate the writings of Homer. Trying to find out about the historical Paul by reading Acts is the same as trying to uncover the historical Achilles by reading the Iliad.

While there is some historical truth to the Iliad (there was a city called Troy which was destroyed in a war, some of the characters were actual historical figures) that doesn't mean the Iliad is history. Likewise, while Acts contains some historical truth (many places and people mentioned did indeed exist), that doesn't mean Acts is history. Acts is a historical romance novel and we must treat it that way.

So if we abandon the chronology of Acts, when was 1 Corinthians written? The earliest papyrus of 1 Corinthians dates to about 200 AD and we know it was included in the Apostolikon of Marcion (c. 130 AD). We have no evidence of its existence before this. Turning to the text itself, 1 Corinthians mainly deals with second century gnostic ideas, especially those of the Cerinthians.

In fact, it's more likely Corinthians was written with the Cerinthians in mind than the inhabitants of Corinth. There is no archeological or historical evidence of Jews (let alone Christians) living in the Roman city of Corinth until late in the first century. It's highly unlikely for there to have been a Christian church in Corinth for Paul to have written to during his lifetime.

1 Corinthians makes a lot more sense as a second century response to the teaching of the Cerinthians, a gnostic group that practiced baptism for the dead (according to Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 28.7). Cerinthians kept the Jewish law including the practice of circumcision and distinguishing between clean and unclean food. They believed celibacy was preferable to marriage. They denied that Jesus rose from the dead, and they had no qualms about eating meat that had been used to sacrifice to idols. 1 Corinthians addresses baptism for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29), whether Jesus was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:12), circumcision (1 Corinthians 7:19), celibacy (1 Corinthians 7) and eating sacrificial meat (1 Corinthians 8, 10:18-33).

In The Pre-Nicene New Testament, Robert M. Price supposes that the title of the epistle Corinthians was meant to be a pun on Cerinthians. Whoever compiled it couldn't just title it Cerinthians since it was supposedly written before Cerinthus was born, but second century readers would know to which group it was really directed. Just like the Book of Mormon which was supposedly written in ancient times, but addresses nineteenth century issues, 1 Corinthians is a wholly second century document masquerading as a letter from the first century.