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The Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Matthew


Introduction

The Gospel of Matthew provided much material for Smith's Book of Mormon. In particular, Jesus' parables are found on the lips of many Book of Mormon characters, most of them long before the New Testament was ever written.

John the Baptist

Matthew chapter 3 contains an account of the early ministry of John the Baptist. This passage seems to have afforded quite a lot of material for the Book of Mormon. A number of references to Matthew 3 can be found in a single passage - Alma chapter 5.

Matthew 3:2,3 Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand...The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Alma 5:28 ......for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand...
Alma 5:50 ...Repent, all ye ends of the earth, for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand...
Alma 7:9 ...Cry unto this people, saying--Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand...
Helaman 5:32 ...Repent ye, repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand...
Matthew 3:8,10 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance...And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Alma 5:35 ...bring forth works of righteousness, and ye shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire...
Alma 5:52 ...Behold, the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea...even an unquenchable fire...
Alma 5:54 ...and they do bring forth works which are meet for repentance...

Elsewhere in the Book of Alma, we find more references to Matthew 3.

Matthew 3:2,3 ...Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand...The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.. Alma 7:9 ...Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand...
Alma 9:25 ...saying: Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is nigh at hand...
Alma 10:20 ...Repent ye, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Matthew 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance... Alma 9:30 ...ye ought to bring forth works which are meet for repentance...
Alma 12:15 ...and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.
Alma 13:13 ...bring forth fruit meet for repentance...
Alma 34:30 ...bring fruit unto repentance.

Outside of Alma, references to Matthew 3 abound.

Matthew 3:4 ...a leathern girdle about his loins... Mosiah 10:8 ...and they were girded with a leathern girdle about their loins.
Matthew 3:8,10 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance...And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire...but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Jacob 5:42 ...to be hewn down and cast into the fire.
Jacob 5:46 ...to be hewn down and cast into the fire...
Jacob 5:47 ...I should hew down all the trees of my vineyard, and cast them into the fire that they should be burned...
Jacob 6:7 ...will ye bring forth evil fruit, that ye must be hewn down and cast into the fire?
Jacob 6:10 ...ye must go away into that lake of fire and brimstone, whose flames are unquenchable...
Mosiah 2:38 ...which is like an unquenchable fire...
Moroni 6:1 ...they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
III Nephi 27:17 ...the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire...
Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water...he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire... III Nephi 9:20 ...him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites...were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost...
III Nephi 12:1 ...and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost...
Mormon 7:10 ...and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost...
Matthew 3:15 ...for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness... II Nephi 31:5 ...Lamb of God...should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness...

The word 'unquenchable' is used five times in the Book of Mormon - every time in the sense of final, fiery judgement.

It is interesting to note that the Book of Mormon follows the King James Version's inconsistent rendering of the Greek phrase 'hagios pneumatos' (holy spirit). We find the phrase 'Holy Ghost' eighty-eight times, and the phrase 'Holy Spirit' fifteen times. Of course, there is only one word in Greek ('pneuma') which is variously rendered either 'Spirit' or 'Ghost' in the King James Version.

When the book of Mormon quotes Isaiah 40:3 (Alma 7:9 and I Nephi 10:8) it quotes the New Testament version of the verse, rather than the Old Testament version. (See Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4). The Old Testament text of Isaiah 40:3 reads as follows:

Isaiah 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

The Ministry of Christ

Matthew 4:24 ...and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. I Nephi 11:31 ...And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits...

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

A saying of Jesus concerning the future of Israel can also be found in the Book of Mormon.

Matthew 8:11,12 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Mosiah 16:2 And then shall the wicked be cast out, and they shall have cause to howl, and weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth...
Alma 5:24-25 ...that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob......but they shall be cast out for they are the children of the kingdom of the devil.
Alma 7:25 ...that ye may at last be brought to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...
Alma 40:13 ......and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth...
Helaman 3:30 ...at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob...

The Physician

Matthew 9:12,13 ...They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. ...for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Moroni 8:8 ...Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick...

This is the only time that the word 'physician' is used in the Book of Mormon.

Another verse from Matthew 9 appears in the Book of Mormon.

Matthew 9:22 ...thy faith hath made thee whole. Enos 1:8 ...wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.

Body and Soul

Matthew 10:28 ...but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. II Nephi 1:22 ...the eternal destruction of both soul and body.

Meek and Lowly

Jesus' invitation in Matthew 11:29 has echoes in the Book of Mormon.

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Alma 37:34 ...to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls.
Moroni 7:43-44 ...save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart...for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart...

The word 'lowly' is found six times in the Book of Mormon - every time in the phrase 'lowly of heart', as in Matthew 11:29.

Not With Me

Matthew 12:30: He that is not with me is against me... II Nephi 10:16 ...for they who are not for me are against me, saith our God.

The Parable of the Sower

Alma 32:28-43 contains a parable which likens the Word of God to a seed. The Book of Matthew (as well as the other gospels) records a similar parable spoken by Jesus (Matthew 13:3-8). There is good evidence that Alma's parable was inspired by the gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 13:6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Alma 32:38 ...when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away...

There are two other references to Matthew 13 in the Book of Mormon, which occur outside of the context of Jesus' parable.

Matthew 13:12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. II Nephi 28:30 ...for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
Matthew 13:43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father... Alma 40:25 And then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of God.

Herodias' Daughter

The book of Ether contains a story very similar to the story of Salome's dance recorded in Matthew 14:6-11 (compare with Ether 8:8-12). Jared's daughter danced for Akish; Herodias' daughter danced for Herod. Both asked for the heads of their enemies.

Peter's Confession

The pivotal verse of Matthew's gospel, the record of Peter's confession of Christ, seems to have impressed Joseph Smith as well.

Matthew 16:16,18 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Mormon 5:14 ...Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God...
III Nephi 11:39 ...whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

Beloved Son

Matthew 17:5 ...This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. III Nephi 11:7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name--hear ye him.

Little Children

A statement of Jesus concerning faith seems to have found an echo in the Book of Mormon.

Matthew 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Mosiah 3:18 ...except they humble themselves and become as little children...

The First and the Last

Matthew 19:30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. I Nephi 13:42 ...and the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
Jacob 5:63 ...begin at the last that they may be first, and that the first may be last...
Ether 13:12 ...there are they who were first, who shall be last; and there are they who were last, who shall be first.

Scourging

Matthew 20:19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again. Mosiah 3:9,10 ...and even after all this they shall...scourge him, and shall crucify him. And he shall rise the third day from the dead...

Believing and Receiving

A principle of Jesus regarding prayer can be found in the Book of Mormon.

Matthew 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. I Nephi 15:11 ...If ye will...ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive...these things shall be made known unto you.
Enos 1:15 ...Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.
III Nephi 18:20 And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name...believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto 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.

There is another reference to Matthew 26 in the Book of Mormon.

Matthew 21:44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. II Nephi 26:5 ...and buildings shall fall upon them...and grind them to powder.

This is the only time that the word 'powder' is used in the Book of Mormon.

Jesus Rebukes the Pharisees

The Gospels often record Jesus' antagonism towards the Pharisees. Matthew 23 is such an example.

Matthew 17:17 ...O faithless and perverse generation...
Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!...
Alma 10:17 ...he perceived their thoughts, and he said unto them: O ye wicked and perverse generation, ye lawyers and hypocrites...
Matthew 23:16,26 Woe unto you, ye blind guides...Thou blind Pharisee... Helaman 13:29 ...how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?...
Matthew 23:26 .., cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Alma 60:23 ...the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.
Matthew 23:30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Helaman 13:25 ...If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
Matthew 23:37 ...how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings... III Nephi 10:4 ...how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings...
Matthew 23:38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. Helaman 15:1 ...your houses shall be left unto you desolate.

The words 'hen' and 'chickens' are used only three times each in the Book of Mormon - all in the passage III Nephi 10:4-6. In fact, the word 'chickens' should be translated 'chicks'. Thus the Book of Mormon repeats a KJV translation error.

The Last Days

One of the major themes of the Book of Mormon is the final day of judgment. Jesus spoke a little on this theme in Matthew 24.

Matthew 24:6,7 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars...and there shall be...earthquakes, in divers places. I Nephi 12:2 ...and I beheld wars, and rumors of wars...
I Nephi 12:21 ...and I saw wars and rumors of wars among them; and in wars and rumors of wars I saw many generations pass away.
I Nephi 14:15 ...there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nations and kindreds of the earth.
II Nephi 25:12 ...they shall have wars, and rumors of wars...
Mormon 8:30 And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places.
Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. I Nephi 13:37 ...and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved...
I Nephi 22:31 ...if ye shall...endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day...
II Nephi 9:24 And if they will not...endure to the end, they must be damned...
II Nephi 31:15 ...He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
II Nephi 31:16 ...unless a man shall endure to the end...he cannot be saved.
II Nephi 31:20 ...if ye shall press forward...and endure to the end...Ye shall have eternal life.
II Nephi 33:4 ......to endure to the end, which is life eternal.
Omni 1:26 ......endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.
Alma 32:13 ...he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.
Alma 32:15 ...he that...endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed...
Alma 38:2 ......for blessed is he that endureth to the end.
III Nephi 15:9 ...endure to the end, and ye shall live...
III Nephi 27:6 And whoso...endureth to the end, the same shall be saved...
III Nephi 27:16 ...if he endureth to the end...him will I hold guiltless...
III Nephi 27:17 And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire...
Mormon 9:29 ....if ye...endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out.
Matthew 24:19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! Helaman 15:2 ...your women shall have great cause to mourn in the day that they shall give suck...and wo unto them which are with child...

The Parable of the Talents

Matthew 25:28-29 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Ether 12:35 ...thou wilt...take away their talent, yea, even that which they have received, and give unto them who shall have more abundantly.

The word 'talent' is used only once in the Book of Mormon - here in Ether 12:35.

The Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: I Nephi 10:18 ...and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world...
II Nephi 9:18 ...they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world...
Enos 1:27 ...and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father...
Mosiah 4:6 ...the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world...
Mosiah 18:13 ...through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world.
Ether 4:19 ...he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world...
Matthew 25:35,36,37 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me...when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Jacob 2:19 ...to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.
Mosiah 4:26 ...such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick...
Alma 1:30 ...they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick...
Alma 4:12 ...turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.
Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: II Nephi 9:16 ...they who are filthy are the devil and his angels; and they shall go away into everlasting fire, prepared for them...
II Nephi 28:23 ...and death, and hell, and the devil...must go into the place prepared for them, even a lake of fire and brimstone...
Mosiah 26:27 ...and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

The archaic word 'athirst' is used only twice in the Book of Mormon - in Alma 1:30 and 4:12. (See Matthew 25:44).

There is possibly another reference to this passage in King Bejamin's address in Mosiah. Mosiah 5:9 mentions the 'right hand of God', while Mosiah 5:10 mentions the 'left hand of God' (Matthew 25:34 and 25:41). Given that Matthew 25:35 and 36 is quoted in Mosiah 4:26, this is a strong possibility indeed.

Watch and Pray

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Alma 13:28 ...watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted...
III Nephi 18:15 ...ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil...
III Nephi 18:18 ...ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation...

The Awakened Saints

Matthew 27:51-53 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. I Nephi 12:4 ..I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes...the earth and the rocks, that they rent...
Alma 14:27 ...the walls of the prison were rent in twain...
Helaman 10:8 ...if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain...
Helaman 14:22 Yea, they shall be rent in twain...
III Nephi 8:18 ...the rocks were rent in twain...
III Nephi 28:19 ...And the prisons could not hold them, for they were rent in twain.
IV Nephi 1:30 ...the prisons were rent in twain...
Helaman 14:25 And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many.

The archaic word 'twain' is used eight times in the Book of Mormon. Once in a quote from Isaiah 6:2 (II Nephi 16:2), once in a quote from Matthew 5:41 (III Nephi 12:41). The remaining six times, it is used with the word 'rent' in the context of 'broken', as in Matthew 27:51.

The Great Commision

Matthew 28:19: ...baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: III Nephi 11:25 ...I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Sermon on the Mount

Probably the most famous part of Matthew's gospel is the so-called 'Sermon on the Mount', recorded in Matthew 5 to 7. When Jesus appeared to the Nephites, we find him quoting the same passage almost verbatim from the King James Version.

III Nephi 12:3-18 (Matthew 5:3-18)

III Nephi 12:20-28 (Matthew 5:20-28)

III Nephi 12:30-45 (Matthew 5:30-45)

III Nephi 12:48 (Matthew 5:48)

III Nephi 13:1-34 (Matthew 6:1-34)

III Nephi 14:1-27 (Matthew 7:1-27)

Significantly, these are not the only references to the Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Mormon. There are a fairly large number of quotes in the rest of the book, a significant number of which appear chronologically before the time of Christ.

Matthew 5:13 ...it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Alma 34:29 ...ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out...and is trodden under foot of men.
Matthew 5:18 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. Alma 34:13 ...then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
III Nephi 1:25 ...yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away till it should all be fulfilled...
Matthew 6:12,14,15 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors...For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Mosiah 26:31 And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor's trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation.
Matthew 6:20,21 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Helaman 5:8 ...lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away...
Helaman 8:25 ...instead of laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where nothing doth corrupt, and where nothing can come which is unclean...
II Nephi 9:30 ...and their hearts are upon their treasures...
Matthew 6:25 ...Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on... Alma 31:37 ...taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God... Jacob 2:18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
Matthew 7:2: For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged... Moroni 7:18 ...for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
Matthew 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. I Nephi 10:19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find...
II Nephi 9:42 And whoso knocketh, to him will he open...
Matthew 7:13,14 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Jacob 6:11 ...and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.
II Nephi 9:41 ...Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him...
II Nephi 31:9 ...it showeth unto the children of men the straightness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter...
Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Mosiah 26:27 And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them; and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Matthew 7:26,27 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. II Nephi 28:28 ...he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.

The word 'trespasses' is used four times - every time in conjunction with the word 'forgive'.

It seems that Smith was unaware of the meaning of the archaic word 'strait' in Matthew 7:14. It means 'difficult'. However, when Smith expanded on this verse in the Book of Mormon, he sometimes used the word 'straight' (II Nephi 9:41, II Nephi 31:9). In the light of this, it is significant that every time the word 'strait' appears in the Book of Mormon , it appears with the word 'narrow' in the sense of a path or way. The only two exceptions to this are I Nephi 21:20, a quote from Isaiah 49:20, and III Nephi 14:13, which is a quotation from Matthew 7:13. It is further significant that the 1830 Book of Mormon uniformly uses the word 'straight' where 'strait' is meant, as in III Nephi 14:13,14 and III Nephi 27:33. (And, significantly, I Nephi 21:20).

A point of interest is that scholars have long recognised that the Sermon on the Mount can be interpreted only in a particular cultural setting - that of first century Pharasaic Judaism. A number of Jesus' references can only be understood in this context. Although Joseph Smith was careful to remove explicit references to the Pharisees (III Nephi 12:20/Matthew 5:20), he was unaware of the implicit references to Pharasaic thought in the Sermon on the Mount.

A quote from Matthew 5:22, found in III Nephi 12:22 contains a reference to the local Jewish court structure, a system which came into being long after the Exile (the 'council' - sometimes translated as the Sanhedrin). While it is not impossible that the Nephites had a similar structure (the Book of Mormon does speak of a 'Judgement-Seat'), there is no explicit reference to such a council outside of III Nephi 12. In fact, the word 'council' is never used in this sense in the Book of Mormon. A similar Pharasaic expansion of the Law is found in III Nephi 12:43/Matthew 5:43. The Old Testament only speaks of 'loving thy neighbour'. The admonition to 'hate thine enemy' is a post-exilic, Pharasaic interpretation of the Law.

The use of the word 'raca' in III Nephi 12:22 is also significant. The exact meaning of the word is uncertain. For this reason, and for the fact that is is Aramaic, not Greek, it is left untranslated in the King James Version. It is significant that it is left untranslated in the Book of Mormon as well. It seems that Smith's revelatory powers were unable to divine the true meaning of this word.

Another interesting fact is that Jesus spoke of a person being compelled to 'go a mile' (III Nephi 12:41/Matthew 5:41). Although the sense of the verse is clear enough, the origin of this phrase can be found in the Roman occupation of Palestine. According to Roman law, a Roman soldier or citizen could force a subject to carry his belongings for no more than one mile.

A detailed analysis of the Sermon on the Mount with reference to it's late Jewish roots is outside the scope of this article. There are a number of reference works available on the subject.

Finally, a small point of interest is that, while Joseph Smith left the words of Matthew 5 to 7 almost completely intact, he did add several conjunctive phrases. ('Verily, verily, I say unto you...', 'Behold...', 'Therefore...', etc). It is significant that two of these conjunctive phrases (including one of the longest) appear at the New Testament chapter breaks. (Bear in mind that the original 1830 Book of Mormon had no verse numbering.) III Nephi 13:1 adds the phrase 'Verily, verily, I say unto you' to Matthew 6:1, and III Nephi 14:1 adds the phrase 'And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying...' to Matthew 7:1. The chapter divisions, of course, were only added to the Bible long after the New Testament was written. It is interesting that the Book of Mormon seems to anticipate these breaks.

Conclusion

We see in the case of the Gospel of Matthew a fairly massive amount of quoting in the Book of Mormon. We have also seen more of Smith's style of quoting - the fact that he quotes a New Testament version of an Old Testament phrase, he recycles quotes over and over again, and he clusters quotes from the same New Testament passage into the same Book of Mormon passages. We have also seen here that Smith's revelatory gift was unable to provide him with certain information, that he did not already know, or was unable to find out by purely human means. For example, he could not determine the true meaning of the words 'strait' or 'raca'. All this adds support to the theory that Smith was the sole author of the Book of Mormon.


Contents Copyright 1997 Curt van den Heuvel

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