Saturday, September 18, 2010

Joseph Smith Translation Luke 17:6 Sycamore, Sycamine

The Prophet's scribes copied out the entire Gospel of Luke as part of the work of translation. It seems the Prophet, reading aloud, but making additions, deletions, and whatnot to and from the King James Version, dictated the text just as he wished it to read. And it's likely the scribes would not even have noticed minor variations from the Authorized Version.

Consider the sycamine tree that even mustard-seed faith can uproot and plant in the sea (Luke 17:6). The Prophet's scribes leave no trace of it; instead we find: "syc[k, struck out]amore tree," or "sycamore tree." Did the Prophet misspeak or his scribes mishear? It's possible, though I wonder. The business of translating under inspiration was a serious matter.

Let's suppose oversight. Given the nature of the Prophet's critics, such a claim to the ordinary accidents of our nature will never get him off the hook. Brother Joseph wasn't afraid of human error; the critics insist on inerrancy for prophets. And the botanists are raging: the sycamine is the Egyptian mulberry! It is not a sycamore! although related. Plus, say the textual scholars, Luke names both trees: sycamore (Luke 19) and sycamine (Luke 17). He knew what was up.

Whisking through Professor Joseph Fitzmeyer's Anchor Bible Commentary on Luke, vol. 2, 1143 n.6, we find a little peace from the supposed teapot tempestuousness that encompasseth our Prophet:

To this mulberry tree. "The Greek n. sykaminos occurs in the LXX (1 Kgs 10:27; 1 Chr 27:28; 2 Chr 1:15; 9:27, etc.) as the translation of Hebrew shiqmah, which is really the 'sycamore tree.' See Luke 19:4, sykomorea ["which occurs only here in the NT and never in the LXX, 1223 n.4"]. Luke may not have differentiated them."

Luke has a bigger problem than sycamines anyhow. For "what would have prompted Luke to change [St. Matthew's uprooted] 'mountain' into 'mulberry tree'?," 1142. Call in the geologists, call in the botanists, call the eye doctors.

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