Saturday, September 18, 2010

Joseph Smith Translation Luke 3:4-11: "The Whole Eschatological Theater"

The New Translation of Luke has its wonders--as its readers throughout the world well know! Deeply surprising is the lengthy and complex messianic and eschatological hymn or sermon of John the Baptist, which, like the hymns of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, makes up a virtual florilegium (anthology) of scripture that in its use of the Psalms, Isaiah, and 1 Enoch is quintessentially Lucan. All these hymns bespeak both the coming of the Messiah and the ultimate Latter-day "glory which shall be revealed" (see Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 5:1; Doctrine and Covenants 121:31). A beginning to the study of JST Luke 3 might well consider its quotations from the Hebrew Bible (a very preliminary tally of which I insert in brackets) and from the ancient Book of Enoch. A comparable anthology of prophetic utterance comes to us from the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith--History 1:36-41: the sermon, four times repeated, of the angel Moroni to the young Joseph Smith.

Let's begin with the sermon or song as it is found in Joseph Smith Translation New Testament ms 2, Folio 3, and which occurs as an insertion following KJV Luke 3:4 and preceding 3:5 (I've broken up the lines in order to set off its poetic nature):

As it is written in the book of the prophet Esais [sic]; and these are the words, -saying-,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.
[The KJV has: As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying,]

For behold, and lo, he shall come as it is written in the book [Psalms 40:7] of the prophets [Luke 1:70 (Zacharias)],
to take away the sins of the world [Isaiah 53],
and to bring salvation [Luke 1:76 quoting Isaiah 40] unto the heathen nations [the goyim: Isaiah 42:1];
to gather together those who are lost, which are of the sheepfold of Israel;
yea, even her dispersed and afflicted [Jeremiah 23 and 50; Ezekiel 34; Psalms 119:176; and Luke 9:24; 17:33; and the parables of the lost and the found in Luke 15];
and also to prepare the way and make possible the preaching of the Gospel unto the gentiles [Isaiah 66:19: declare my glory to the gentiles; Ezek. 37:38, 39:21; Joel 3:1; Amos 9:12; Malachi 1:11]
and to be a light unto all who sit in darkness, unto the uttermost parts of the earth [Psalms 2:8; Isaiah 60; Isaiah 42:6-7; Luke 2:32 (Simeon)];
to bring to pass the resurrection from the dead [Isaiah 26:19 LXX]
and to ascend upon high [Psalms 68:18],
to dwell on the right hand of the Father [Psalms 110:1],
until the fulness of time [Luke 21:24: times of the Gentiles fulfilled],
and the law and the testimony shall be sealed [Isaiah 8:16],
and the keys of the kingdom [Isaiah 22; Luke 1:33; 9:62]
shall be delivered up again unto the Father [1 Corinthians 15:24 quotes the same prophecy];
to administer justice unto all;
to come down in judgment upon all,
and to convince all the ungodly of their ungodly deeds,
which they have [ungodly crossed out] committed [1 Enoch; Jude 14];
and all this in the day that he shall come,
for it is a day of power [1 Enoch 1:1: day of tribulation; 1 Enoch 100:4: that day of judgment];
yea, every valley shall be filled [compare KJV Luke 3:5-6],
and every mountain and hill shall be brought low;
the crooked shall be made straight,
and the roughf [so it reads] ways made smooth
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God [Isaiah 40:3-5; 1 Enoch 1:6].

The Baptist's prophetic epitome of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ (including His ministry to the dead) stands unmatched in all of recorded scripture for its scope and its compactness--not to mention its precise control of Hebrew prophecy. I marvel over the following teachings of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a modern Apostle: "These words inserted in the ancient record by the Prophet Joseph Smith as the spirit of revelation rested upon him, contain such a wondrous outpouring of light and understanding that they give an entirely new perspective as to how and in what manner the gospel was preached in the meridian of time." The sermon is "an inspired summary of the mission and ministry and work of the Promised Messiah as it pertained to both of his comings and as it affected all men of all nations" (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 1:390-1).

Whoever composed this hymn knew the Old Testament cold. Consider what Professor Joseph Fitzmeyer says of Luke Chapter 1: "As in the case of the Magnificat [Mary], the Benedictus [Zacharias] is a cento-like composition, built up like a mosaic from numerous phrases drawn from the Greek OT" (Joseph Fitzmeyer, "Luke 1-9," Anchor Bible, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965], Luke 1:376-7). Many observant readers will be able to tick off the quotations as they read: Why, that's Isaiah! Ezekiel! Jude!

Jude? Consider Jude 14-15:

And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

Jude, as has long been recognized, is quoting from an ancient Book of Enoch, that is, the Ethiopic or 1 Enoch:

1 Enoch 1:6 Mountains and high places will fall down and be frightened. And high hills shall be made low. He will preserve the elect. . .
9 Behold, he will arrive with ten million of the holy ones in order [to execute judgment upon all]. He will destroy the wicked ones and censure all flesh on account of everything they have done, that which the sinners and wicked ones have committed/spoken against him.

1 Enoch 100:4 And the Most High will arise on that day of judgment in order to execute a great judgment upon all the sinners.

(James H. Charlesworth (ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1)

John the Revelator, in the New Translation, also quotes these words of Enoch, but at some difference:

(Joseph Smith Translation, New Testament ms 2, Folio 4, p. 567) Revelation, Chapter 1:7 For behold he cometh in the clouds with ten thousands of his saints in the Kingdom, clothed with the glory of his Father. And every eye shall see him; and they who pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

That a book attributed to Enoch should be quoted in the New Testament--much less in the added material found in the New Translation--comes as no surprise to Latter-day Saints, who have their own account of Enoch in the Book of Moses. Readers of Hugh Nibley's Enoch the Prophet know these matters well. Brother Nibley, citing several top scholars, places great weight on the Enochic influence on the New Testament. R.H. Charles says: "Nearly all the writers of the New Testament were familiar with it, and were more or less influenced by it in thought and diction" (Hugh Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, 95). In fact many "passages of the New Testament. . . either in phraseology or idea directly depend on or are illustrative of passages in 1 Enoch" (Enoch the Prophet, 284 n.8, again quoting R.H. Charles). Luke, in particular, comes into notice: one scholar has even written an article about Luke's dependence on Enoch.

According to Ephraim Isaac, who edited the work for the Charlesworth collection, 1 Enoch "influenced Matthew, Luke, John [aha!], Acts," just for starters (p. 10). And note: "There is little doubt that 1 Enoch was influential in molding New Testament doctrines concerning the nature of the Messiah, the Son of Man [Nibley has written on the Son of Man title in the Book of Moses], demonology, the future, resurrection, final judgment, the whole eschatological theater, and symbolism."

The New Translation of the Prophet Joseph Smith is available for testing. Let me suggest one test: If the additions to the New Testament given by the Prophet Joseph Smith have any chance of being considered authentic, should not these additions also convey at least something of Enoch? And, if they do, should not at least some of such references be found in Luke?

The New Translation of the Prophet Joseph Smith passes this test. We've mentioned both Luke 3 and Revelation 1--and there are sure to be other places in the New Translation of the New Testament that cite Enoch. And what about "the whole eschatological theater" of which Professor Isaac speaks? If the new and poetic verses found in Joseph Smith Translation Luke 3 do not cover the ground, then nothing does.

Another test would be to compare the poetic and thematic structure of the eschatological anthology or song with other selections from Luke, beginning with the hymns and prophecies of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, among the most celebrated of scriptures in Christendom. Do these rely on Isaiah and the Psalms (with an admixture of the other prophets)? Then so does JST Luke 3. The New Translation cites not only Isaiah, Psalms, and Enoch, but also Ezekiel and Jeremiah, with hints of Joel, Amos, Zechariah, and Malachi--the burden of the prophets. Moroni gives a like recitation to young Joseph. Do these hymns speak of the salvation of the Gentiles and the redemption of Israel? So does JST Luke 3.

The songs of Mary, Simeon, and Zacharias, and the sermon, prophecy, or hymn of JST Luke 3 show a continuity of theme. Is the insertion in Luke 3 mere parroting? How then to explain the complexity of reference (including Enoch), the kingdom theme (which is so very Lucan), and the way in which the surprising turns of phrase remain true to theme?

Simeon's blessing reads (in part): For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou has prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel (Luke 2:30-2, quoting Isaiah 40:5 LXX; Isaiah 52:10; Luke 3:6; Titus 2:11--according to the footnotes in my Greek Bible). Turning to the last part of Zacharias' prophecy, we find: For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:76-9, quoting Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 4:2; Isaiah 9:2; 58:8; 60:1-2, all of which follow extensive quotations from the Psalms). The Song of Mary, patterned after that of Hannah, also makes up a complex chain of references to the Psalms, with one reference also to Isaiah 41:8.

And how about all those references to a "Book of the Prophets"? and what of the citations beginning with the striking phrase and these are the words--saying, which is indicative of a tradition of public preaching, or exposition? The scrolls from Qumran contain just such collections or anthologies of the prophets. Quotations from the prophets were duly followed by a pesher: an eschatological, or latter-days, interpretation of the passage. And note how the New Translation better renders the idiom of prophetic citation at Qumran than does our Greek text: "as it is written in the Book of Isaiah the prophet" ('shr ktwb bspr ysh'yh hnby': 4QFlorilegium 1:15; cf. 4QCatena), in Joseph Fitzmeyer, "Luke I-IX," Anchor BibleLuke 1:460 n. 4). Not that the Greek text is so bad either: "the book of the words of Isaiah," which recalls, "the [book] of the words of Enoch" (1QapGen 2:5), Fitzmeyer, Luke 1:117. Not only is the usage of the New Translation authentic, such variation simply blossoms into the genuine. In other words, the inserted sermon is not only Lucan, it is Luke's.

The New Translation gives us a unique scriptural anthology brim with verve and sweep, which, while sufficiently different from the songs of Simeon, Mary, and Zacharias to stand on its own, yet soars from the very same themes. The previous hymns having been building up steam, we now have the final trumpet blast: The salvational salpinx salvo of Moroni. It's the whole eschatological theater rolled into one. The little eschatological hymn is not only authentic--it's genuine Luke.


Donald J. Miles, "Preservation of the Writing Approaches of the Four Gospel Writers in the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible" (MA Thesis, BYU: Provo, UT, 1991), notes the Lucan nature of the passage about the preaching of the gospel to the gentiles, 59-60.

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