On the JST of 1 and 2 Thesselonians

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF 1 THESSALONIANS

Kevin Barney

1. 1 Thessalonians 1:1

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, servants of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, unto the church of the Thessalonians; which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    This modification was spurred in part by the italics, but the main driver of the revision is the word “in,”; i.e., that the church at Thessalonica was somehow “in God.” Note that, apart from deleting italicized words and moving some text, the main result of this revision is to delete (and thus avoid) the preposition “in.” Saying the church is “in God” is an obscure statement; what does it mean? The exact phrase is found only here and in 2 Thessalonians 1:1. “In God” (en theo) is unusual for Paul, and may be analogous to “in Christ,” but “in God” (in the sense of the church being or existing in God) is not normal Pauline usage. It is possible that the preposition should be read in an instrumental sense; i.e., “the assembly of the Thessalonians brought into being by God.” For discussion, see the Anchor Bible volume, Abraham J. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 99. The vast majority of modern translations follow the KJV and render Greek en literally with its English cognate, “in,” thus giving the reader little help in understanding the expression. A number of modern translations render en “in union with” or “united” or “the people of” or “belonging to,” which are plausible suggestions. See CJB, CEV, GW, GNT, ISV, TLB, MSG, NIRV, NLV, NLT, and VOICE. 

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

2. 1 Thessalonians 1:2

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you all, in our prayers to God for you;

    This revision intends no change in meaning, but simply moves text to the end to make it more emphatic. In a similar way, some modern translations add “unceasingly” or “without ceasing” at the end of the verse, even through “always” already appears near the beginning of the passage; see the DLNT and DRA. 

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

3. 1 Thessalonians 1:8

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward toward God is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing anything.

The change from “to God-ward” to “toward God” is a simple modernization of a KJV archaism. The Greek has pros ton theon, which does indeed literally mean “toward God” (the definite article ton does not get translated into English, for English represents the definiteness of the word god with capitalization, “God,” as opposed to the literal “the god.”) In general, the preposition pros with the accusative (as here) indicates movement or orientation towards someone or something. Although a number of early translations follow the KJV, I count 25 modern English translations that similarly render “toward God” (or “towards God,” where “towards” is simply an English spelling variant for the same word), including the NRSV. The orientation/motion connotation of the preposition here is a bit obscure, so some translations render something like “before God” or “in God’s presence.” The change from “any thing” to “anything” is also a modernization.

Paradigm Classification A-3 (Modernization).

4. 1 Thessalonians 2:16

Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway always: for the wrath is come coming upon them to the uttermost.

    The change from “alway” to “always” is a modernization; most modern translations use the form “always” here. The verb phthano “come” is in the aorist tense. The aorist is an indefinite tense that states only the fact of the action without specifying its timing or duration. While many modern translations treat this verb as expressing an accomplished action (“the wrath of God has come upon them”), some, such as NABRE, treat the action as ongoing in a way similar to the JST: “But the wrath of God has finally begun to come upon them.”

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

5. 1 Thessalonians 4:15

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which they who are alive at and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which who are asleep.

    Paul is saying that in the resurrection it will not matter whether one is alive at the time or already dead. Those then alive will not have precedence over those already dead. The “we” Paul uses presumes that some of those then alive would still be alive at the time of the Lord’s coming. But we now know that did not happen; no one alive in the first century will still be alive at the time of the Lord’s coming in glory. So the JST is making a commentary on the text, most critically changing “we” (Christians alive at the time Paul was writing) to “they” (those alive at the time of Christ’s return in glory). The italicized “and” was also an influence, being replaced by “at.”

    Paradigm Classifications A-2 and B (Suspicion of Italicized Text and Midrashic Commentary)

6. 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Then we which they who are alive, and remain shall be caught up together with them in into the clouds with them who remain, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be be ever with the Lord.

    This revision is similar to that in 1 Thessalonians 4:15, in that it is changing “we” to “they” to reflect the historical reality that no one alive at the time of Paul’s writing will still be alive at the time of Christ’s coming again in glory.

    Paradigm Classification B (Midrashic Commentary)

7. 1 Thessalonians 5:26

Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss salutation.

This is the same change the JST made at 1 Corinthians 15:20 and so that prior revision is its source.  There we determined this revision was a cultural updating (similar to what many modern translations do), and also an assimilation to the word “salutation” in verse 21 of that chapter.

Paradigm Classification A-1 and A-4 (English Paraphrase of KJV Text and Assimilation).

A COMMENTARY ON JOSEPH SMITH’S REVISION OF 2 THESSALONIANS

Kevin Barney

1. 2 Thessalonians 1:1

Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, the servants of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Similar to 1 Thessalonians 1:1, this modification was spurred by the word “in,”; i.e., that the church at Thessalonica was somehow “in God.” The result of this revision is to delete (and thus avoid) the preposition “in.” Saying the church is “in God” is an obscure statement; what does it mean? The exact phrase is found only here and in 1 Thessalonians 1:1. “In God” (en theo) is unusual for Paul, and may be analogous to “in Christ,” but “in God” (in the sense of the church being or existing in God) is not normal Pauline usage. It is possible that the preposition should be read in an instrumental sense; i.e., “the assembly of the Thessalonians brought into being by God.” For discussion, see the Anchor Bible volume, Abraham J. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 2000), 99. The vast majority of modern translations follow the KJV and render Greek en literally with its English cognate, “in,” thus giving the reader little help in understanding the expression. A small number of modern translations render en “in union with” or “united” or “the people of” or “belonging to,” which are plausible suggestions. See CJB, CEV, GW, GNT, ISV, TLB, MSG, NIRV, NLV, NLT, and VOICE. 

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

2. 2 Thessalonians 1:9

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his everlasting power;

    This would appear to be a common-sense reaction to the idea that once something is destroyed, it remains destroyed, and so there is no need to qualify such destruction as “everlasting.” There was also a scribal tendency where possible to reuse wording rather than just excising it completely, and so “everlasting” is removed from qualifying “destruction,” where the qualification is unnecessary, and is added as a description of the Lord’s power.

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

3. 2 Thessalonians 2:2

That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, by letter, except ye receive it from us; neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

    KJV “as from us” is simply too weak a translation. It leaves open the possibility that the spirit, the word, or the letter might actually be from Paul or his associated leaders, as opposed to a forgery as the text contemplates. The JST makes it clear that the people can certainly rely on a genuine letter from Paul. A better translation would be “purporting to be from us” as the Anchor Bible suggests, which clears up the confusion about what Paul is trying to say here. Most modern translations fix this problem, as in NIV “allegedly from us,” or CSB “supposedly from us,” 

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

4. 2 Thessalonians 2:3

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there shall come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

    Five italicized words in a row are almost certain to be deleted in the JST, as here. The KJV seems to suggest that day might not come, and so the JST affirms strongly that it will indeed come by adding the word “shall.”

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

5. 2 Thessalonians 2:7

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work:, only he and he it is who now letteth will let, worketh, and Christ suffereth him to work, until he the time is fulfilled that he shall be taken out of the way.

    The meaning of this passage is obscure. Paul talks about a Man of Lawlessness who is temporarily being restrained by some other evil force (oddly referred to by a neuter participle in verse 6 but by a masculine participle here in verse 7). Paul assumes his readers understand what he is talking about, but the allusion is largely lost on us today. There are three posited possibilities for this restraining evil force, none of which is entirely satisfactory: (i) the Roman Empire or Emperor, (ii) a supernatural power, or (iii) Satan himself. Smith naturally takes the “mystery of iniquity” as the Man of Lawlessness himself rather than the restraining evil force. The JST has the Man of Lawlessness doing his wicked work in the world, Christ allowing it for now, but at the proper time the Man of Lawlessness will be removed.

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

6. 2 Thessalonians 2:8

And then shall that Wicked wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:

    The Greek has ho anomos, literally “the Lawless One” (which is indeed the Anchor Bible rendering). A number of modern translations have “wicked one” or “wicked man” with the JST, such as KJ21, DRA, GNV, GNT, JUB, TLB, RGT, and WYC.

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

7. 2 Thessalonians 2:9

Even him Yea, the Lord, even Jesus, whose coming is not until after there cometh a falling away, by the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,

    The JSt deletes the opening italicized words, but then supplies a similar reference, not using a pronoun but more explicitly identifying him as “the Lord, even Jesus. The JST also makes explicit that the working of Satan will result in a necessary falling away (or apostasy);

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

Comments

  1. I notice that in the list of modern translations to reference that you aren’t mentioning the English Standard Version. I picked up a copy of the ESV, based off of a review of different English translations. Does the ESV have shortcomings? Or is it just not in the list of the ones you reference?

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    I use the Bible Gateway, which is a Database of about 60 translations. The ESV is one of them. It’s a fine translation, it just didn’t happen to have a relevant reading this time around.

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