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The Book of Mormon and the Gospel of John


Introduction

The fourth gospel has long been recognised as standing out from it's three counterparts, Matthew, Mark and Luke (collectively known as the 'synoptic' gospels). John's gospel was written some time after the other three, and displays a deeper development of the Christ myth. The gospel reveals a strong Hellenistic influence, especially in it's presentation of Christ as the 'Word' (logos) of God.

Joseph Smith made extensive use of John's gospel, using it both as a narrative source, and as a textual source. Words and concepts unique to John's gospel often show up in the Book of Mormon.

Introducing Christ

When Christ first appeared to the Nephites, he made a number of pronouncements about himself that are very similar to those found early in John's gospel.

III Nephi 9:15 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name. John 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
John 1:3 All things were made by him..
John 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?...
John 17:1 ...glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee...
III Nephi 9:16 I came unto my own, and my own received me not... John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
III Nephi 9:17 And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God...and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled. John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God...
John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses...

Note that most of these pronouncements are taken from the same New Testament passage (John 1), and follow roughly the same order as the Bible.

A number of other allusions to the prologue of John's gospel are found in the Book of Mormon.

John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
John 10:20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
Mosiah 3:9 And lo, he cometh unto his own...and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.
John 1:12 ...even to them that believe on his name...
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Alma 5:48 ...I know that Jesus Christ shall come, yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name.
II Nephi 2:6 ...for he is full of grace and truth.
II Nephi 25:12 ...and when the day cometh that the Only Begotten of the Father...shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh...
Alma 9:26 ...and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth...
Alma 13:9 ...after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father...who is full of grace, equity, and truth...

John the Baptist

I Nephi 10 records a vision of Lehi in which he foresaw the coming of John the Baptist.The language he uses to describe this vision seems to have been taken from the first chapter of John's gospel.

I Nephi 10:8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing. John 1:23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord...
John 1:26 ...there standeth one among you, whom ye know not...
John 1:27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
I Nephi 10:9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water. John 1:28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John 1:31 ...therefore am I come baptizing with water.
I Nephi 10:10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world. John 1:34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

It is instructive to note that most of the attributes that Lehi records about John the Baptist come from the same New Testament passage, and are recorded in almost the same order. In addition, the Book of Mormon names Bethabara as the place of John's ministry. In fact, the oldest Greek copies of John's gospel have Bethany for Bethabara.

Other references to this passage of John's gospel can be found in the Book of Mormon.

John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. II Nephi 31:4 ...that should baptize the Lamb of God, which should take away the sins of the world.
Alma 7:14 ...that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world...
John 1:32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. I Nephi 11:27 ...and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.
John 1:34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. I Nephi 11:7 ...and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.
John 1:38 ...Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,)... Alma 18:13 ...Rabbanah, which is, being interpreted, powerful or great king...
John 1:51 ...Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. I Nephi 11:30 ...I beheld the heavens open again, and I saw angels descending upon the children of men...
I Nephi 12:6 And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven...

Born Again

A concept found only in John's gospel is that of being born again. This concept appears in the Book of Mormon too, long before the Christian era.

Alma 7:14 ...ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven. John 3:3 ...Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Mosiah 27:24,25 ...behold I am born of the Spirit...Marvel not that all mankind...must be born again... John 3:5 ...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
John 3:7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again

Other references to the third chapter of John appear in the Book of Mormon.

John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: Helaman 8:14 Yea, did he not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come.
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. II Nephi 26:10 ...for because they...choose works of darkness rather than light...
Helaman 13:29 ...how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?

In Spirit and Truth

The fourth chapter of John contains the story of Christ with the woman at the well. At least two verses from Jesus' discourse can be found in the Book of Mormon.

John 4:14 ...but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Alma 32:41 ...behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
Alma 33:23 ...behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life...
John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Alma 34:38 ...and worship God...in spirit and in truth...
Alma 43:10 ...whosoever should worship God in spirit and in truth...

The word 'springing' is used only twice in the Book of Mormon, both times in the phrase 'springing up unto everlasting life'.

Passed from Death to Life

John Chapter 5 contains a long discourse by Jesus on various subjects, occasioned by his healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. A few quotes from this discourse appear in the Book of Mormon.

John 5:24 ...is passed from death unto life. II Nephi 9:15 ...when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life...
John 5:29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. Mosiah 16:11 If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation...
III Nephi 26:5 If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation...
John 5:30 ...as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just... Mosiah 3:18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just...
John 5:37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me.
John 7:16 ...My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
III Nephi 11:32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me...

Raised Up

A phrase that appears with some frequency in John's gospel is that of being 'raised up' in the context of a resurrection. Jesus spoke at length about this concept in the sixth chapter of John's gospel. This same phrase is used in the Book of Mormon in the same context.

John 6:40 ...and I will raise him up at the last day. I Nephi 13:37 ...and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day...
I Nephi 16:2 ...and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day...
Alma 26:7 ...and he will raise them up at the last day.
Alma 36:28 And I know that he will raise me up at the last day...
III Nephi 15:1 ...therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day.

Another famous verse from Jesus' discourse in John 6 can be found in the Book of Mormon.

John 6:37 ...and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. II Nephi 25:29 ...and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.
Mormon 9:29 ...ye will in nowise be cast out.

The Light of the World

Another unique phrase found in John is his assertion that Christ is the light and life of the world, an assertion made in the prologue of the gospel, and repeated occasionally.

John 8:12 ...I am the light of the world...the light of life. Mosiah 16:9 He is the light and the life of the world...
Alma 38:9 ...Behold, he is the life and the light of the world...
III Nephi 9:18 I am the light and the life of the world...
III Nephi 11:11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world...

Die in Your Sins

John 8:21: ...ye...shall die in your sins... II Nephi 9:38 ...wo unto all those who die in their sins...

The Father of Lies

John's gospel is the only one which refers to Satan as the Father of Lies, an appellation found also in the Book of Mormon.

John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil...he is a liar, and the father of it. II Nephi 2:18 ...the devil, who is the father of all lies...
II Nephi 9:9 ...and to remain with the father of lies...
Ether 8:25 ...for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies...

The Night Cometh

John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. Alma 34:33 ...for after this day of life...then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
III Nephi 27:33 ...until the night cometh, wherein no man can work.

The Good Shepherd

The tenth chapter of John contains a fairly famous discourse of Jesus on the subject of shepherding. John presents Christ as the good shepherd of his flock. This chapter also contains a verse (vs 16) often quoted by Mormons to support their contention that the Book of Mormon is 'another testament of Jesus Christ'. Not surprisingly, this verse appears almost verbatim in the Book of Mormon.

I Nephi 22:25 ...he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture. John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them...
John 10:16 ...and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
John 10:9 ...and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Alma 5:38 ...the good shepherd doth call you... John 10:14 I am the good shepherd...
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice...
III Nephi 15:17 That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
II Nephi 2:8 ...the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit...
II Nephi 26:24 ...even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him...
Ether 12:33 ...even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again...
III Nephi 9:22 ...for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again...
John 10:17 ...I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
John 12:32 And I...will draw all men unto me.
Mosiah 26:21 And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep... John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice...
III Nephi 11:27 ...and the Father and I are one.
III Nephi 28:10 ...and the Father and I are one;
John 10:30 I and my Father are one.

King Lamoni

The book of Alma, chapters 18 and 19, records the story of King Lamoni, who was struck comatose by the power of God and mistaken for dead. Lamoni was healed by the prophet Ammon. The story of Lamoni's healing has much in common with the story of Jesus raising of Lazarus as recorded in John 11.

In both cases, the man had been dead (or comatose) for a period of time. (John 11:39/Alma 19:5). Both stories record a woman, related to the stricken man, who asked for help. (John 11:21,22/Alma 19:3,4). In both cases, the afflicted man was healed. (John 11:44/Alma 19:12).

The most striking correspondence between these two stories, however, is in the similarity of phrasing. Both woman express concern over the stench of corruption, using similar words. ...but others say that he is dead and that he stinketh... (Alma 19:5) Compare this statement with that of Martha's ...Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. (John 11:39 ) This is, in fact, the only place in the Book of Mormon that the word 'stinketh' is used.

In both stories, the prophet claims that the man is not dead, but simply asleep. ...He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God... (Alma 19:8 ) Jesus said the same thing of Lazarus ...Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. (John 11:11 ) Again, this is the only place that the word 'sleepeth' is used in the Book of Mormon.

Both prophets us the term 'rise again', even though Lamoni was not dead. ...and on the morrow he shall rise again... (Alma 19:8 ) Compare with Jesus' statement ...Thy brother shall rise again. (John 11:23 ) The phrase 'rise again' is used a total of three times in the Book of Mormon. Both of the other two occurrences appear in the context of resurrection from the dead. (Alma 33:22 and Helaman 14:20). It seems a little strange that Ammon would explicitly claim that Lamoni was not dead, and yet use a phrase which in every other case presupposed that the victim had died.

Finally, both prophets inquire about the faith of the woman. ...Believest thou this? (Alma 19:9) Jesus asked exactly the same question of Martha ...Believest thou this? (John 11:26 ).

We see then that there is not only a rough similarity between the narrative elements of the two stories, but also that the Book of Mormon uses at least two words found in John's gospel which appear nowhere else in the Book of Mormon. We find also that the Book of Mormon uses a phrase ('rise again') in a sense which fits better in a resurrection story than a mere healing.

Hardened their Hearts

A quotation from Isaiah, recorded in John's gospel seems to have inspired a few quotes in the Book of Mormon.

John 12:40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. I Nephi 7:8 ...how is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds...
I Nephi 13:27 ...that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
III Nephi 9:13 ...be converted, that I may heal you?

John has in fact made a paraphrase of Isaiah. The original source reads somewhat differently -

Isaiah 6:9,10 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Thus we see once again that the Book of Mormon has quoted a New Testament paraphrase of an Old Testament passage.

Another verse from John 12 can be found in the Book of Mormon.

John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. II Nephi 26:24 ...even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him...

Mansions

The fourteenth chapter of John records a discourse of Jesus in which he touches on a number of subjects. A few quotes from this discourse also appear in the Book of Mormon.

John 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. Enos 1:27 ...there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father...
Ether 12:32 ...thou hast prepared a house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father...
Ether 12:34 ...except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.
Ether 12:37 ...even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
John 14:11 ...I am in the Father, and the Father in me...
John 14:13 ...that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
III Nephi 9:15 ...I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name.
III Nephi 11:27 ...and I am in the Father, and the Father in me...

The word 'mansions' is used four times in the Book of Mormon, every time in the phrase 'mansions of thy father'.

The Vine and the Branches

John 15:1 I am the true vine... I Nephi 15:15 ...at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine?...
John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. Jacob 5:7 ...we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned.
Jacob 5:9 ...and these which I have plucked off I will cast into the fire and burn them...
John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. II Nephi 9:18 ...and their joy shall be full forever.

The Comforter

In the fourteenth chapter of John's gospel, Jesus begins a discourse during which he mentions the coming of the Holy Spirit. This discourse is picked up again in the sixteenth chapter.

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost... Moroni 8:26 ...the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love...
John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away... III Nephi 18:35 And now I go unto the Father, because it is expedient that I should go unto the Father for your sakes.
John 16:23 ...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Moroni 7:26 ...Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you.

The word 'Comforter' is a late English translation of the Greek 'parakletos'. The exact meaning of this word is unknown, but the sense is clear enough. Other modern English translations use the word 'counsellor', or some equivalent. The Vulgate leaves the word untranslated in the Latin. It is strange that the Book of Mormon uses a term which only came into being with the publication of the King James Version.

The Master's Prayer

The seventeenth chapter of John contains a very famous prayer of Jesus, often called the Master's Prayer. This prayer has a number of echoes in the Book of Mormon, mostly centered in the same passage.

III Nephi 11:11 ...and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world... John 17:4: I have glorified thee on the earth...
III Nephi 19:20 Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world. John 17:6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
III Nephi 19:23 And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one. John 17:20,21 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
III Nephi 19:29 Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them. John 17:9,10 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
I Nephi 6:5 ...and unto those who are not of the world. John 17:14 ...because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Other Quotations from John

John 7:26 ...this is the very Christ? II Nephi 26:12 ...that Jesus is the very Christ...
John 8:6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him... Mosiah 12:19 And they began to question him, that they might cross him, that thereby they might have wherewith to accuse him...
John 11:50 ...that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. I Nephi 4:13 ...It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. III Nephi 27:14 ...I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me...
John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe... Mormon 7:9 For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe...
John 21:22 ...follow thou me. II Nephi 31:10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me.

Conclusion

Joseph Smith's mode of textual borrowing is again exemplified by his use of the gospel of John. A number of words and concepts unique to John's gospel are found throughout the Book of Mormon. In addition, events from the gospel are used as structural material for several Book of Mormon passages. We also see that in at least one instance, the Book of Mormon has quoted a Johannine paraphrase of an Old Testament passage.


Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel

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