There are several very long quotations from the King James Version in the Book of Mormon. By far the most famous of these are the Isaiah quotations, some twenty-four chapters quoted almost verbatim from the King James Version. The small book of Malachi also has furnished two chapters of the Book of Mormon. Most Mormons are well aware of these quotations, supposedly given by Christ to the Nephites during his visit to the New World.
There are several smaller quotations in the Book of Mormon. Although few, these citations do serve to underscore some important points concerning Smith's use of the Bible.
Jesus and Malachi
Jesus quoted two chapters (3 and 4) from Malachi to the Nephites. These can be found at III Nephi 24 and 25. These two chapters are quoted almost verbatim from the King James Version, with very few alterations. III Nephi 24:5 omits the phrase 'from his right', which was added to the Isaiah text in italics by the King James translators. However, Smith was not consistent in removing the italicised inserts from the text. For example, III Nephi 24:10 retains the phrase 'that there shall not be room enough to receive it', even though seven of these words were interpretive additions to the text by the King James Translators.
One other alteration is of interest. III Nephi 25:2 quotes the famous phrase from Malachi 'the Sun of righteousness shall arise', but uses the word 'Son' in place of 'Sun'. This is significant, because the two words are homonyms in English only, not in Hebrew, where the words are 'Shemesh' and 'Ben'. It is hard to escape the conclusion that this mistake could only have been made by someone who was familiar with English, not Hebrew. It could be argued that Jesus Himself made the change, but this makes his statement that he was giving the words of Malachi (III Nephi 24:1) incorrect.
Shortly after presenting this quotation to the Nephites, Jesus claimed that he was correcting an omission to their scriptures (III Nephi 26:2). Since Malachi was a post-exilic prophet, who was not even born when Lehi left Jerusalem, this makes some sense. There is no way that the Nephites could have known these words of Malachi. However, Jesus was quite wrong in supposing that the Nephites did not have these words. When we look at the first and second books of Nephi, we find quotations from Malachi long before the prophet wrote his book.
Nephi and Malachi
Malachi 4:1, a fairly famous phrase, can be found in both the first and second books of Nephi.
|Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.||I Nephi 22:15
For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily
that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of
the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the
proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and
the day cometh that they must be burned.
II Nephi 26:4 Wherefore, all those who are proud, and that do wickedly, the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, for they shall be as stubble.
II Nephi 26:6 ...and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts.
This is quite a quandary for the Book of Mormon. How is it possible that a Nephite could quote Malachi before the prophet was even born? The standard defense offered by LDS scholars is to posit another source for this phrase, and older prophet whom both Nephi and Malachi quoted. Unfortunately, however, this theory will not fly, for we can find other quotations from Malachi clustered close to these already mentioned.
|Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.||I Nephi 22:24
And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be
led up as calves of the stall...
II Nephi 25:13 Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings...
II Nephi 26:9 But the Son of righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them...
Notice that the first quotation (I Nephi 22:24) appears just a few verses after Nephi quoted Malachi 4:1 in I Nephi 22:15. The word 'calves' appears only twice in the Book of Mormon - here in I Nephi 22:24, and once in III Nephi 25:2, a quotation from Malachi 4:2. Exactly the same situation applies to the word 'stall'.
The other two quotations from Malachi 4:2 (II Nephi 25:13 and II Nephi 26:9) also appear in close concert with the second quotation from Malachi 4:1 (in II Nephi 26:4). Significantly, II Nephi 26:9 repeats the confusion of III Nephi 25:2 concerning the words 'Sun' and 'Son'. In the context in which this quote appears, it affords us an opportunity to speculate on a possible origin of the confusion. Malachi 4:2 is often quoted by Christians as a Messianic prophecy, a foretelling of the risen Christ. Joseph Smith had most likely heard the verse in this context several times before, and thus unconsciously substituted the word 'Son' for 'Sun'.
It is extremely difficult to ascribe this situation to coincidence. The obvious solution is to acknowledge that these words originated in the mind of Joseph Smith, not an ancient Nephite prophet.
The above analysis shows that the Book of Mormon quotes the prophet Malachi long before he was born. This anachronism, along with many others, puts the origin of the Book of Mormon squarely in the nineteenth century, and implicates Joseph Smith as the perpetrator.
Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel
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