On the JST of Philippians and Colossians

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF PHILIPPIANS

Kevin Barney

1. Philippians 1:4

Always in every prayer of mine, for the steadfastness of you all, making request with joy,

    The KJV is ambiguous in the second half of the verse as to who is doing the praying. Does “for you all making request with joy” refer to a prayer Paul is making or a prayer the people themselves are making? In the English of the KJV it is not clear. The JST adds commas to clarify that this is Paul’s prayer on behalf of the people. Further, is Paul’s prayer one of petition or thanksgiving? The JST suggests it is both. Adding “the steadfastness of” makes it clear this is a prayer of thanks for the people and all the good they have done, while “making request” are words of Paul’s petition on their behalf. Note how the AMPC expresses this more clearly than the KJV: “In every prayer of mine I always make my entreaty and petition for you all with joy (delight).” (Emphasis in original.)

Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

2. Philippians 1:21

For to me to live, is to do the will of Christ, and to die is my gain.

    Paul here is musing whether it would be better to die and be with Christ immediately or remain in the flesh and pursue his productive work among the people. (In verse 24 he will opt to remain and continue the work.) The expressions in this verse are quite sparse, as one can see from the very literal rendering of the Anchor Bible: “For to me to live, Christ, and to die, gain.” John Reumann, Philippians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008): 209. Also, the italicized “is” may have suggested to Smith the need for a revision. Accordingly, the JST fills the text out a little to convey more clearly Paul’s meaning. What does “to live is Christ” mean? The expression is obscure and needs to be fleshed out. The CEB takes a similar tack to the JST with “Because for me, living serves Christ.” And a number of translations flesh out the “gain” as being personal gain as the JST takes it. ERV has “even death would be for my benefit” and EXB has “dying would be profit for me.”

Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-2 (Paraphrase of KJV Text and Suspicion of Italicized Text)

3. Philippians 1:22

But if I live in the flesh, this is ye are the fruit of my labour labor: yet what I shall choose I wot know not.

    Here Paul continues his musing on whether it would be better for him to live or to die. In the KJV, the “this is” has no clear antecedent for what the nature of Paul’s work is. The JST makes it clear that the substance of Paul’s work is the people themselves. The changes from “labour” to “labor” and from “wot” to “know” are simply modernizations.

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

4. Philippians 1:23

For Now I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

    Here Paul is continuing his musings on whether it would be better to live or to die. The conjunction gar is commonly translated as “for,” “since,” “then,” “indeed,” or “certainly,” suggesting a development in an argument or a train of thought. Some translations indeed use “for”; others use “but”; many omit the conjunction altogether. PHILLIPS like the JST begins the verse with “Now” suggesting a summing up of the prior argument and a transition to a final decision.  

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

5. Philippians 1:26

That your rejoicing with me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ, for me by my coming to you again.

    As the NET Bible annotation explains, there are two possible ways to read the Greek here. The first is “your boasting may overflow in Christ Jesus because of me,” (where “me” comes near the end) and the second is “Your boasting in me may overflow in Christ Jesus” (where “me” is moved forward in connection with “boasting/rejoicing.”). The JST revision moves the “me” forward similar to the second reading, as do a number of modern translations. The NIV has “so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” The KJV “for me by my coming” seems to pile up the first-person singular pronouns almost on top of each other, and so it is possible that was a motivation to move the first such pronoun forward in the sentence to create some separation between them.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

6. Philippians 1:27

Only Therefore let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

    The neuter of the adjective monos is used as an adverb, “only,” and is a qualification of what has gone before. The JST suggests a different adverb, “therefore,” making this verse a consequence of what has gone before. CEB is close to this usage with “Most important”; CEV has “above all else”; GNY has “Now, the important thing is” and NLT has “Above all.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

7. Philippians 1:28

And in nothing terrified by your adversaries:, who reject the gospel, which is to bringeth on them an evident token of perdition destruction, but to you who receive the gospel, of salvation,; and that of God.

    The JST makes four changes here: (i) the gloss “who reject the gospel” is a definition of who their enemies are; (ii) the gloss “who receive the gospel” is a definition of who they and their own people are; (iii) the replacement of “is to” with “bringeth on” suggests a more forceful and active process; and (iv) “an evident token of perdition” is replaced by the single word “destruction,” which is a more common and less technical synonym of “perdition.” Most modern translations use the word “destruction” here.

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

8. Philippians 1:30

Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear know to be in me.

    It is true that the Greek text has akouete “hear.” But the JST is making a common-sense correction, because Paul just got done telling them about his struggle, so this isn’t rumor or idle gossip, they know of Paul’s struggle because they now have the details directly from the man himself. In effect the JST is emphasizing the word “now”; i.e. “you now hear [and thus know].” One translation that takes a similar tack using the word “know” is the TPT: “For you have been called by him to endure the conflict the same way I have endured it—for you know I’m not giving up.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

9. Philippians 2:17

Yea, and if I be offered a upon the sacrifice and upon the service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.

    To be “offered upon the sacrifice” doesn’t make sense; Paul is talking about being offered (metaphorically) as a sacrifice, as correctly reflected in the JST. The Greek verb used here, spendomai, has specific reference to being poured out as a drink offering, and most modern translations take it that way as a metaphor, such as the NIV: “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

10. Philippians 3:1

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but and for you it is safe.

    This is an example of the Greek men…de construction. The word men is a particle, usually untranslated, that introduces one clause, which is then followed by a second clause introduced by the conjunction de (meaning but, to the contrary, rather, and, now, then), often to be translated “on the one hand . . . on the other hand,” in which the first point contrasts with and sets up the second point, which is to be emphasized. The transition between the two clauses may be made by “but,” but it also may be made by “and,” depending on context. Here modern translations are split pretty much 50/50 between “but” and “and” (as in the JST). For instance, the GNT has “I don’t mind repeating what I have written before, and you will be safer if I do so.” (The Anchor Bible also uses “and.”)

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

11. Philippians 3:11

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead just.

    Inasmuch as all will be resurrected from the dead, both the just and the unjust, the JST specifies the resurrection of the just. Some translations similarly reflect this nuance with something like “raised to life” in lieu of “resurrection of the dead.”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

12. Philippians 3:18

(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are as the enemies of the cross of Christ:

    This revision is based on the italics. Three italicized words in a row are almost certain to be revised in some fashion in the JST. The change is not intended to change the meaning of the passage in any way.

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

13. Philippians 3:19

Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose who glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

    The JST changes “whose glory is in their shame” to “who glory in their shame.” The JST assimilates the “whose” to the “who” of the following clause to make it clear that they do not receive objective glory in that case, but that they are the ones who glory in their shame.

    Paradigm Classification A-4 (Assimilation)

14. Philippians 4:6

Be careful afflicted for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

    This is a case where the KJV is a poor translation due to linguistic drift over time. In Jacobian idiom “careful” means “full of care or concern,” whereas in modern idiom that word means to be “cautious.” As being cautious is often a laudable and prudent quality it seems odd to have Paul warn against it, and so the JST supplies another (clearly) negative condition. A modern translation would be “Do not be anxious about anything.” (NET).

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF COLOSSIANS

Kevin Barney

1. Colossians 1:4

Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the your love which ye have to all the saints,

    This revision is based on the italics. Smith regularly scrutinized the italics for possible revision, but when there are at least three italicized words in a row, as here, the likelihood of revision increases markedly. This revision is not intended to change the meaning of the verse in any way. CEB, CEV, GNV, GW, GNT, MEV, NOG, NKJV, NLV, NLT, RGT and VOICE all similarly render “your love.”

    Paradigm Classification A-2 (Suspicion of Italicized Text)

2. Colossians 1:6

Which is come unto you, as it is in all generations of the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

    The deletion of “it is” is of course based on the italics. The text seems to speak of “all the world” geographically, but the JST adds the concept of “all the world” temporally by adding “generations of.” The Anchor Bible takes the modal estin (“is”) as belonging to the immediately following participle karpophoroumenon (“bearing fruit”) as a periphrastic construction reflecting Semitic influence, emphatically suggesting continuous action: “continuously bringing forth fruit,” which thus suggests a temporal as well as a spatial reach of the expression. See Markus Barth and Helmut Blanke, Colossians, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 158. AMP, NASB1995, and PHILLIPS have “constantly,” and MSG has “The Message . . . doesn’t diminish or weaken over time.”

    Paradigm Classifications A-1 and A-2 (Paraphrase of KJV Text and Suspicion of Italicized Text) 

3. Colossians 2:2

That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, who is of God, even the Father;

    There is a bewildering array of variant textual readings for the end of this verse. The KJV is following the Textus Receptus, which is a late and certainly incorrect form of the text. The KJV awkwardly seems to suggest that God and the Father are two separate beings, and so the JST revises the text to make the references to God and to the Father as more clearly being to the same being. The likely original text is tou musteriou tou theou, christou “of the mystery of God, (namely) Christ (the Messiah).”

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

4-6. Colossians 2:21-23

Which are after the commandments and doctrines of men, who teach you to  (Touch touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all those things which are to perish with the using;)? after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour as to the satisfying of the flesh, not in any honor to God.

Although the JST appears to make substantial revisions to these verses, in reality it is simply reorganizing the material to avoid confusion. KJV verse 21 sparsely and without introduction gives three negative imperatives: “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” Without introduction, those commands could be misconstrued as commands of God rather than of men, so the explanation of the nature of these commands is moved forward from following the words of verse 21 to preceding those words. The KJV tries to make the human nature of these commands clear by using parentheses, but the parentheses are inadequate for the task and are not used in modern translations, which use quotation marks here. Of course, quotation marks were not an option for the KJV, as it does not use quotation marks at all. Similarly, some text in verse 23 is moved to the end of the verse to make it more emphatic and to make it clear that it governs all the preceding text of verse 23. The JST does not intend to alter the meaning of the passage, but simply to make it clearer and avoid confusion and misunderstanding. (Note that “will worship” is a an archaic rendering of ethelothreskia, meaning “self-imposed piety.”)

    Paradigm Classification A-1 (Paraphrase of KJV Text)

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Correction: in the second Philippians passage (1:21), the italicized “is” should be struck through.

  2. Geoff-Aus says:

    So you have a new president being inaugerated, after his confirmation was stopped by an insurrection was organised by the outgoing president trying to hold onto power.
    Half the members of the church support the insurection, or deny it happened, and the last 3 posts ignore all this, and get minimal comments.

    What is going on, how are you relevent?

  3. I for one love these posts

  4. Aussie Mormon says:

    Geoff-Aus : “What is going on, how are you relevent?”

    The blog title is “By Common Consent – A Mormon Blog”, not “By Common Consent – Mormons are right wing A-Holes”

    I for one am glad that not every post is about US political topics that will do nothing other than cause the comments to be closed in less than a day.

  5. Geoff, I understand your point.  It’s been a rough go with politics here in the US.  There has been so much division among friends and families over politics that I think most of us just want it to be over.   
    I will say that it’s disturbing to me that so many members of the church seem to be flexible with  truth.  Many members do believe that the election was a fraud and stolen from Trump.  The facts say otherwise.  So where is the disconnect?  When did we step away from facts and embrace conspiracy?  As members of the church we love to tout about truth and standing for the right.  That’s why it’s disheartening  that we are divided about what the “right” is.  How can we be divided over truth when there is only one truth?

  6. Geoff-Aus says:

    Mary, Totally agree, and added to that members seem to express hatred for Democrats and particularly the new president and vice president. This seems to be more than previously acceptable. (Trumps influence?) Lies about communists, china owns Biden, baby killers etc.
    Like yourself I find this very disturbing, on so many levels.
    Have these members considered that their facebook could be reviewed by potential employers?
    By potential church members?
    That they are a terrible example of a member let alone a christian?

    There is a picture of the prophet wearing a mask, and getting vacinated, within a few responses, the antivaxers take over. They are corrected, but persist. As you say there are truth, and there are lies, the vocal members seem to be on the lies team.

    Then I come here and the present realities are being ignored. Perhaps it is a conscious decision?

  7. lastlemming says:

    A vote for Kevin to continue these posts without political interruptions.

  8. Geoff, your statistics are crap. You have no idea what members of the church, American, Utahan, or otherwise think. Misinformation was a big part of the problem with Trump, so stop spreading it.

    And if you actually care about peace, read this: Anne Applebaum, “Coexistence is the Only Option”
    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/01/seditionists-need-path-back-society/617746/

    Now more than ever, we need blog posts about the JST.

  9. C Keen, 70% of members voted for trump, 70% of trump voters believe he won 49% of members. I am struggling with whether I want to associate with, or be associated with people who are still repeating trump lies.

    I agree the atlantic article is very helpfull. Those are the kind of ideas I think we should be discussing for church members.

  10. Um, yeah, no, that’s not how statistics work. The first figure is based on a survey of unknown quality conducted in Utah and can’t be simply expanded to church members in the U.S. as a whole. And you can’t assume that church members who voted for Trump are clinging to belief in his victory at the same rate as the average Republican; Trump was the last-place choice in Utah in the 2016 primary election. If your own bad math is leading you out of the church, that’s on you. It would help if you stopped being so resolutely determined to see only the worst in your neighbors in the pews.

  11. Sidney Carton says:

    Considering the frequency with which you post Geoff, I can only conclude that Australia is an untroubled wonderland of progressive comity, where everyone is guided by their better angels and strife is a thing for other, lesser nations. Were this not the case, I could hardly concieve of how you would have the time or leisure to opine so vehemently and so often on events occurring 9,000 miles away.

    Seriously man, are there no causes, no crusades, no struggles for justice for you to occupy yourself with in your own vast and beautiful land?

    Yes things are a mess here in my wretched homeland. Half of us went collectively mad in 2016, and elected an inept wannabe fascist who did the political equivalent of hosting a riotous party in our collective home, trashing everything, ruining our relationships with our neighbors, and ultimately leaving us in a wreck to clean up after ourselves. This is painfully evident to at least 81 million of us, and appears to have dawned on many more after watching Qanon the Barbarian and his merry lynch mob sack our capitol. Frankly and honestly, your wearysome, sanctimonious and annoyingly regular pratings on this topic are neither helpful, nor all that impressive. In fact, it has long been a game of mine as I’ve lurked on BCC to “see how Geoff-Aus manages to politicize this particular random topic.”

    As to the Church, clearly the Brethren are worried about the membership being swayed by conspiracy theories and nonsense. Handbook one now includes guidelines about using information from reliable sources, and recent talks from President Oaks among others have emphasised the need for discretion. The sources being used when making decisions and avoiding speculation in matters on which we have no information.

    That said, this is a cultural problem, and ingrained cultural traits don’t change on command. Short of excommunicating everyone in the Church to the right of Senator Romney, what would you suggest?

  12. Geoff-Aus says:

    Appearently my comments annoy people, because I am from Aus. The politcs, and culture of Utah come with the church, which is why I am concerned. Many Australian members accept the Utah extreme right wing politics, and are trump disciples, but others like myself separate the church from conservative politics, which makes for a big gap, because even our conservative party believes in universal healthcare, and is closer to the Democrats. I vote Labor which is furthur to the left. Probably closer to Bernie.
    CK it is not mathematics I that are upsetting me it is the lies and hatred from the right.
    Sidney, No Australia is not perfect, we have a conservative federal government at present. But there is little hate in our politics, (we don’t have trump) and we have handled the virus better. We can not travel overseas, but inside Aus pretty good. Biden and Kamala looks good, well done. Sorry you see my contributions as sanctimonious that is not my motivation.
    My suggestion. I think the church is going to have to put a lot of effort into truth, v trump, and conspiracies. Respect for institutions, particularly Washington. They tend to make plausably deniable statements that trumpers apply to other people. The guidelines in the handbook have to become very clear talks by senior Apostles/prophet. Perhaps emphasising consequences of repeating trump lies, for future employment, and even FBI investigation. And alsonthen9th commandment.

  13. Sidney Carton says:

    It’s not your being Australian that rankles, it’s your fixation on American politics, and the self-righteous, sanctimonious tone you take with us.

    Also, spare me the racism lecture, all you and the Canadians have learned to do is portray your own abominable treatment of your first nations/aboriginal peoples behind a facade of politeness and gentility. Don’t I recall reading about your government contracting with a pacific Island nation to detain immigrants your nation didn’t want in horrific conditions?

    There is much we do that is inexcusable, disgusting and frankly downright evil. Believe it or not, many of us are aware of this, and are doing our best to fix things (many of the posters on this site do far more than I can claim) but just as generations of prejudice, bigotry and inequality have warped and stunted the development of your nation, ours is similarly deranged and what has been the work of generations to ruin will surely be the work of further generations to correct.

    So see to your own political dumpster fires Geoff, and we shall see to ours.

  14. Paul’s musings about whether it would be better to die or continue to toil are fascinating. They call to mind similar musings of mine. I sometimes wonder if it would have been better for me to die on my mission. (I was seriously injured and made what some called a miraculous recovery.) I appreciate Paul’s suggestion that dying is the somewhat selfish choice, while continuing to toil is the will of Christ.

    By Phil. 1:27 Paul has shifted the conversation to the most important thing (and I appreciate this post, because the alternate translations really emphasize that this is Paul’s most important point), which is to let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ…and stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.

    It’s a really hopeful message for what was surely a very imperfect collection of individuals trying to be disciples of Christ.

  15. Kevin,
    I’m impressed by how often JS changes are consistent with other modern translations. Were most of the other translations that you cite concurrent, preceding, or subsequent to JS translation?

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    RobL, thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    Charlene, the other translation s I cite are all modern, so post-JST.

  17. Then I’m even more impressed. Not only with the consistency, but that he saw the need to take on this task in the first place.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    I have now done commentaries on six of the New Testament epistles covering about 150 modified verses. And I just want to reiterate how impressed I have been with the effort. Here’s one way to think about it. I have had callings teaching adults in the church for something like 25 years of my life (including four tours in GD and a long stint as a stake institute instructor.) If I remove maybe a dozen academics or professionals who happened to be in my classes, I can confirm that Joseph was a more careful reader of the Bible than any of my students, and it’s not even close. He is seeing and reacting to anomalies in the text that most people do not even notice.

  19. J. Stapley says:

    That is a really interesting observation, Kevin. Thanks.

  20. I think the reason why most people don’t see the anomalies is because most people are struggling enough with the KJV language that they miss a lot of the flow from verse to verse. Plus we’re supposed to be reading the Bible, and if somethings wrong, we’re supposed to be the one that’s changing, not the Bible. It is the word of God after all. Whereas when translators and Joseph Smith are pouring over each verse, they’re trying to figure out how to best express the message in the verses.
    Given that we have Book of Mormon verses talking about corruptions in the Bible I’m surprised that we don’t have some class time dedicated to hypothesizing what some of those verses might be. Scholars can trace changes and differences in early copies of the books/epistles of the Bible. We can probably find some good examples of where certain books were “corrupted”. If we did that I believe more people might read an anomaly and start to think “Wait a second, something’s not right here.”