On the JST of Ephesians

In honor of Joseph Smith’s birthday, I thought I would post another installment in my recent attempt to write commentaries on the JST revisions to some of the New Testament epistles. I hope you enjoy this installment, and Merry Christmas!


Kevin Barney

1. Ephesians 2:8

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: but it is the gift of God:

The author of the passage (whether Paul or someone else) makes an insertion here of a negation (“and that not of yourselves”) to rhetorically underline and emphasize a positive statement, and the JST stresses that intended contrast between the negative and the positive by inserting the word “but” as a contrasting conjunction. AMP, AMPC, CJB and GNT do the same.

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

2. Ephesians 2:11

Wherefore remember, that ye being were in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

This revision was based on the italics, which led Smith to change a participle into a finite verb. AMPC, CSP, EXB, GW, HCSB, PHILLIPS, TLB, NOG, TPT, WE, WYC and YLT all similarly use “were” here.

Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text).

3. Ephesians 3:1

For this cause I, Paul, am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for among you Gentiles,

The text of verse 1 as we have it in Greek is a sentence fragment (the Anchor Bible concludes its translation of that verse with ellipses; see Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1972), 326). Barth writes “However, the fifth-century Syriac version (the Peshitta, reedited in the sixth and seventh centuries), Chrysostom, Beza, and others consider 3:1 an asyndeton rather than a broken sentence; they presuppose that just as elsewhere a form of the verb ‘to be’ is the proper connection between the subject and a following predicate, and they translate: ‘For this reason I, Paul, am a prisoner.’” (Barth then discusses other possibilities as well.) Note how the JST provides the same “am” fix as suggested by a number of ancient writers. The CEB, CJB, ERV, GW, ICB, ISV, TLB, MSG, MEV, NOG, NCV, NLV, NMB, NRSVA, NRSVACE, TPT, RGT, TLV and VOICE all follow the same “am” solution here as does the JST. The JST also changes the “for” (meaning “for the sake of” the Gentiles) to “among” the Gentiles. The former reading suggests that Paul is suffering because of his advocacy of Gentiles in the Christian Church; the latter that Paul is suffering, although he himself is a Jew, because due to his advocacy he is experiencing the same resistance as the Gentile Christians themselves among the Jewish Christian church leaders.

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

4. Ephesians 3:2

If ye have heard of For the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

The “if” in “if ye have heard of” seems to suggest that perhaps the Ephesians had not yet heard of the dispensation of grace, which would not be a correct assumption. The Anchor Bible renders “surely you have heard that.” The Greek conjunction eige is used to introduce a justifiable assumption with a high degree of probability, not a questionable one. The initial verb “heard” was considered too weak by many interpreters, who were unable to imagine that the readers of Ephesians had only “heard” of Paul’s commission, so they understood the Greek verb akouo (“hear”) in light of the Hebrew verb shama, which also means “to hear” generally, but in the stronger sense of “to comprehend” or “to retain firmly.” Many modern translations have “assuming you have heard,” while others are even stronger with “You have heard, of course” (CEB) or “you have surely heard” (CEV).

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

5. Ephesians 3:3

How As ye have heard that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

Smith brings the “if ye have heard,” which he deleted from verse 2, to verse 3, but without the problematic conditional “if,” making it a strong declaration and not a questionable one, similar to the way modern translations handle the clause in verse 2.

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

6. Ephesians 4:4

There is In one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

This revision was influenced by the italics. The Anchor Bible begins the verse with “One body and one Spirit” with no introductory words at all. The NIMB begins the passage in a way similar to the JST with “being one body and one spirit.”

Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text).

7. Ephesians 4:10

He that who descended, is the same also that who ascended up far above all heavens into heaven, to glorify him who reighneth over all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

I see this revision as a harmonization with Ephesians 4:6, which reads “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” The notion that Jesus is “far above all heavens” seems to conflict with verse 6, which has already stated that the Father is “above all.” The JST also modernizes two instances of relative “that” to “who.” Many modern translations use “who” rather than “that” here.

Paradigm Classifications C-1 and A-3 (Harmonization within the Biblical Text and Modernization).

8. Ephesians 4:13

Till we, all come in the unity of the faith, and of all come to the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

In the KJV, “all come” governs both “in the unity of the faith” and “of the knowledge of the Son of God.” The JST makes being “in the unity of the faith” circumstantial for us all to come to the knowledge of the Son of God, perhaps suggesting that salvation is in some measure communal rather than individual.

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

9. Ephesians 4:21

If so be that ye have heard learned him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

This raises the same issue we saw at Ephesians 3:2, that mere “hearing” may be too weak a translation to convey the original intent. A number of modern translations cover this nuance by rendering “assuming you have really heard him.” (Note that the JST seems to have inadvertently omitted the word “of”; the revision should read “learned of him.”)

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

10. Ephesians 4:22

That ye put off And now I speak unto you concerning the former conversation, by exhortation, that ye put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

The KJV begins “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man.. . .,” which is quite obscure in English. The JST does not intend a different meaning here, but is simply an attempt to make the English more comprehensible. (The modern reader of the KJV also needs to remember that “conversation” here means “conduct.”)

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

11. Ephesians 4:23

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind mind of the Spirit;

The expression “in the spirit of your mind” is indeed a literal rendering of the Greek, but it doesn’t make much sense in English. On the surface it seems to be an epexegetic genitive, in which the “spirit” is the “mind.” Most translations translate literally as does the KJV, even though the meaning is obscure. Others drop the genitival relationship between spirit and mind and treat those two words separately, as in the NEB (which also reverses the two elements as does the JST): “Instead you become new in mind and spirit.” But the capitalization of JST “Spirit” suggests that Smith is taking that word as a reference to the Holy Spirit as opposed to the spirit of a human being. The Anchor Bible at p. 508 offers a number of reasons for reading the text that way, even though in the end it does not adopt that reading itself: “There seem to exist many reasons for capitalizing the word “spirit” and treating it as a reference to the “Holy Spirit of God” who is mentioned in 4:30. Among these reasons are: (a) the absence of the preposition “in” (or “by”) in analogy to 1:13; (b) the Pauline distinction between spirit (Spirit?) and mind (I Cor. 14:14) or between (God’s) Spirit and the (human) spirit (Rom. 8:16); (c) the attribution of “newness,” “regeneration,” “rebirth” to the Spirit in other NT passages and the corresponding conviction that man’s spirit and mind are too corrupt to be a means of eschatological renewal.” Although this seems to be a minority view, at least one translation takes it the same way as the JST, the CEB, which reads: “Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit.”

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

12. Ephesians 4:26

Be ye Can ye be angry, and sin not: not sin? let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

The KJV rendering is a disaster: “Be ye angry and sin not,” which seems to say anger is not a problem. The JST fixes this by turning it into a rhetorical question. The intent of the passage cannot be captured well by a literal translation. Consider instead a clearer paraphrase: “’When you are angry, don’t let that anger make you sin,’ and don’t stay angry all day.” (ERV)

Paradigm Classification A-1 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text).

13. Ephesians 4:28

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour labor, working with his hands for the thing things which is are good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

The change in the spelling of “labor is just an Americanization (a form of modernization). The passage means to say that doing honest work with one’s hands is in itself a good thing, but the KJV rendering is so obscure that the JST turns it into a reference to working to make good things with one’s hands.

Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-3 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Modernization).

14. Ephesians 5:17

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what is the will of the Lord is.

The JST moves the verb based on the italics. A number of modern translations similarly move the verb forward.

Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text).


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I should mention that only one of these 14 passages appears in the LDS Bible footnotes, so they will almost all be new to you.

  2. Robert Astleford says:

    I really enjoy reading these posts. Thanks for keeping them going!

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