On Secondary Source Infuence in the JST


Kevin Barney

    Now that I have completed my informal blog commentary on the JST of Acts through Revelation, I feel as though I need to go back and say a few words on the topic of possible secondary source influence on the JST. I dealt with that issue to some extent in my formal article on 1 Corinthians in Dialogue. There I identified what struck me as four plausible secondary sources (the Clarke Commentary, Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, and the Campbell and Coverdale translations). When I did my first blog commentary (on 2 Corinthians) I didn’t bother with the two translations, as I saw no indication in 1 Corinthians that either of those was an influence on Joseph. Rather I just checked Clarke and Wesley and didn’t see any obvious influences from those sources there. Then when I did Galatians at the last minute I think I did a quick scan of Clarke only (not Wesley) and didn’t see anything. After that I decided to just put the issue up on Camilla Kimball’s proverbial shelf for another day; secondary source influence was rather tangential to what I was doing. But now that I have finished the commentary I feel the need to revisit this topic in general terms.

    1.    My working assumption, and I stress the word “assumption,” is that there is at least some secondary source influence on the JST.

    2.    My personal bias is that, however much secondary source influence may exist in the JST, I would prefer there be more of it. The reason is that I see the use of secondary sources as a scholarly impulse. To me consulting secondary sources would be analogous to Joseph formally and academically studying Hebrew with Joshua Seixas in 1836 Kirtland. I would view such influence as a plus, not a minus.

    3.    There seems to be a common understanding among some members of the Church that secondary source influence on the JST would be plagiarism and therefore unethical. I disagree. Years ago I taught a stake institute course on NT Greek. I asked scholarly bookseller Eisenbrauns to recommend a text, and they suggested William Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek, so that is what we used. It was a good introductory text, and Mounce is obviously an expert on the subject. He also did his own NT translation (which, if you are interested, you may find at the Bible Gateway under MOUNCE). Do I think for even a moment that Mounce didn’t frequently consult other translations to see how they resolved knotty problems? No, I do not. Did he footnote those influences? No, he did not. Do I therefore think he was engaged in plagiarism? No, I do not. The NET Bible (which was explicitly conceived as an internet-based Bible with extensive annotations) excepted, translations don’t usually provide those kinds of footnotes. To the extent Joseph consulted secondary sources in the course of preparing his translation, that consultation was minor and in my view ethical. 

    4.    The debate over this subject is largely represented by the work of Thomas Wayment on the one hand, who suggests that perhaps as much as five percent of the JST may have been influenced by the Clarke Commentary, and Kent Jackson on the other hand, who suggests that there is little if any influence of the Clarke Commentary on the JST. I don’t know either man personally or well, but I know them both through their writings and through some email correspondence I have had with them. I like them both and respect their work. When Bob Matthews died Kent became probably the most knowledgeable person on the planet on the JST. I share a certain connection with Kent, as we were both mentored by S. Kent Brown, a now retired professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, although Kent Jackson was a young professor and I was an undergraduate student who worked for Professor Brown for a couple of years as his teaching assistant. Kent Jackson and I both contributed to the Kent Brown Festschrift. Although I have had less interaction with Thom Wayment, I have read and enjoyed many of his publications, and he is obviously a fine scholar. He has the job I dreamed of having when I was a student in BYU Classics in the early 80s. I published here on the blog a positive review of his recent LDS Study NT. Kent Jackson and Thom Wayment were long time colleagues at BYU Ancient Scripture, and Kent speaks of Thom with warmth and affection. This is not a personal matter, but a scholarly disagreement, and disagreeing about stuff is kind of what scholars do. In order to lower the temperature a little I am going to refer to both scholars familiarly by their first names, “Kent” and “Thom,” and in my mind’s eye I will envision this as a friendly conversation sitting around a table in the Cougar Eat. (References to “Thom” should be read as being inclusive of his research assistant, Haley Wilson-Lemmon.)

    5.    Kent told me about the Interpreter article he was working on critiquing Thom’s work, so I knew for a long time that it was coming out before it appeared. Given my biases I describe above I quite frankly assumed that I would largely disagree with it, but when it finally came out I had to acknowledge that he did a good job of problematizing the idea that those were all slam dunk Clarke derivations. Importantly, he took the position that it would be fine for Joseph to consult and use Clarke, the only question was whether he in fact had done that, which I thought was the proper framing. I am going to go over a handful of passages as an illustration of some of the complexities involved in this issue. For those interested the link to Kent’s article follows: https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/read-offline/38073/some-notes-on-joseph-smith-and-adam-clarke.epub

    6.    Exodus 11:9 

KJV: Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you 

JST: Pharaoh will not hearken unto you. 

The Clarke commentary right out of the gate addresses this issue: 

“Though shall and will are both reputed signs of the future tense, and by many indiscriminately used, yet they make a most essential difference in composition in a variety of cases. For instance, if we translate lo yishma Pharaoh Shall not hearken, as in our text, the word shall strongly intimate that it was impossible for Pharaoh to hearken, and that God had placed him under that impossibility: but if we translate as we should do, Pharaoh Will not hearken, it alters the case most essentially, and agrees with the many passages in the preceding chapters, where he is said to have hardened his own heart; as this proves that he, without any impulsive necessity, obstinately refused to attend to what Moses said or threatened; and that God took the advantage of this obstinacy to work another miracle, and thus multiply his wonders in the land.”  

Now, if I were doing the research and saw that, I would think to myself “Slam Dunk!” But Kent uses his knowledge of the JST manuscripts to point out that the JST at least five times previously in the translation dictation sequence had already changed “shall” to “will,” and none of these was suggested by Clarke. So does this represent a Clarke influence or a JST tendency? It would seem to be the latter.

There is, however, a more specific answer to this question, which I just figured out a couple of nights ago. Thom gets partial credit, because the reason Clarke gives for the change from “shall” to “will” is exactly the reason that Joseph makes the change in this verse. But in the end Kent is still correct that Clarke is not the source for this change. Rather, Joseph made the change based on his independent knowledge of the KJV.

We cannot look at this question in isolation; rather, we must consider it in the context of the Exodus passages that talk about Pharaoh’s heart being hardened. There are ten passages that have the Lord hardening Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17). But there are also ten other passages that have Pharaoh hardening his own heart, which frankly I had not previously been aware of (7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15). I always viewed the change from the Lord hardening Pharaoh’s heart to Pharaoh hardening his own heart as a common- sense change based on the injustice of punishing Pharaoh for something the Lord did and he had no control over. If you do a google search, you’ll see lots of people raising this same issue of seeming unfairness even today. The existence of passages explicitly saying Pharaoh hardened his own heart, however, raises the possibility that the JST revisions of the Lord hardening passages was an assimilation to those Pharaoh himself hardening passages.

The JST does not alter any of the Pharaoh hardening his own heart passages, because those passages would not be considered problematic. The JST also does not alter (as to shall v. will) most of the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart passages either, because most of them are framed in the past tense and this specific issue only arises where the modal verbs will and shall are used to create a future tense. 

Most of the other passages Kent mentions are not really relevant to this specific issue. The key passage, which Kent does address, is Exodus 4:21:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but and I will prosper thee; but Pharaoh will harden his heart, that he shall will not let the people go.”

This is the first of the Exodus “hardening the heart” passages. Note that the JST makes the same change as in 11:9, from shall—> will. I believe he is making that change for exactly the reason Clarke articulates at 11:9. So I would give Thom partial credit here. But the Clarke commentary was not the source for these JST revisions. We know this because the JST manuscript was sequential, the JST makes this shall—> will change in the context of the hardening the heart passages first in 4:21, but Clarke does not mention this issue in 4:21, but only later in 11:9. Now it’s true that in 4:21 Clarke quotes the text as “But I will harden his heart,” (emphasis added) here without comment changing KJV “shall” to “will,” but his lengthy note at this point does not explain the rationale for “will” here; that will only be explained later at 11:9.

    So the way I see it what Clarke explains at 11:9 is exactly the reason that Joseph made the change, having to do with the proper use of shall and will in KJV idiom. But Clarke is not the source for that change, because the JST made the same change previously at 4:21, where Clarke uses “will” in introducing the text but without further explanation there.

If the impetus for this change didn’t come from Clarke, where did it come from? I suspect Joseph either absorbed it from his extensive reading of the KJV or perhaps learned it formally at school. A Short Introduction to English Grammar articulates the basic principle:

Will, in the first Person singular and plural, promises or threatens; in the second or third person, only foretells; shall, on the contrary, in the first Person, simply foretells; in the second and third Persons, promises, commands, or threatens.” (The text goes on to state that the reverse is true for interrogative sentences.)

To be honest, I don’t recall learning this distinction in school. But in my first job as a practicing lawyer, the senior partner and mentor to me was a brilliant guy (for the lawyers out there he had been on the University of Chicago Law Review), and had majored in English with minors in Latin and Greek (and he was in fact Greek himself). And he was a real stickler about this distinction and would always mark it with a red pen if we got it wrong. The old idea was that Joseph had barely a third-grade education, if that, but newer research suggests he had maybe a Jethro Bodine-like seventh grade education. So maybe this is a distinction Joseph had learned in school and applied that knowledge to the translation project. That of course is total speculation, but in any event, even though Clarke correctly described the principle, this change does not seem to have come from Clarke.

    7.     Isaiah 34:7 

KJV: the unicorns shall come down 

JST: the re-em shall come down 

Joseph of course had not yet learned Hebrew, and this is Hebrew, so I figured Kent would have no choice but to accept this as secondary source influence. And it turns out he does—just not from Clarke. Clarke gives the singular Hebrew word as reem. Since Joseph hadn’t studied Hebrew yet, he would have taken that as a single syllable word pronounced with a single long e sound like English “ream.” But in Hebrew there is an aleph, a guttural letter, in the middle, which would often be represented with an apostrophe, re’em (pronounced reh-AIM), in transliteration. So it was not a monosyllable but a two-syllable word (the first vowel a shewa, the second a tsere). Clarke gives no hint of this, but the hyphen in re-em seems to be a non-standard diacritic meant to represent the guttural letter aleph (or at least the fact that there are two syllables to the word). How did Joseph possibly know such a thing? That knowledge had to come from whatever secondary source Joseph got it from, but it wasn’t suggested by Clarke. As of now, the source of that transliteration is a mystery, as there are lots of examples of re’em from Joseph’s time period (representing the aleph with an apostrophe), but none that anyone has been able to yet find of re-em with a hyphen. Now on a personal note let me confess that I was long wrong on this subject myself. I assumed that Clarke was the source for re-em, but I hadn’t looked at Clarke carefully and I just never focused on the hyphen. It took me actually looking the Hebrew word up in a lexicon to grasp the significance of the hyphen. So I acknowledge that in the past I myself whiffed on this one.

    8. 1 Corinthians 15:52 

KJV: in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump 

JST: in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trump

    I had hoped to be able to consult Thom’s contribution to Producing Ancient Scripture before publishing my Dialogue article. That book was long slated to appear in February of 2020, but the pandemic changed things and as it turned out I did not have the benefit of Thom’s chapter for my article. When it finally appeared, I was chagrined to see that I had apparently missed this example of possible Clarke influence in First Corinthians. But when Kent’s article appeared, I actually read Clarke’s commentary on this verse. And I think Kent is correct that Clarke was not suggesting that “last” should be changed to “sound of the.” As Kent writes: 

“Wayment’s statement that Joseph Smith’s revision follows “a clarification first proposed by Clarke” is untrue. Clarke makes no proposal anywhere in this verse, and the words from Clarke that Wayment quotes have to do with a later clause in the verse that Joseph Smith did not revise. The Prophet removed the word “last,” but it is evident that Clarke did not want it removed, because he repeats it in his commentary. That Joseph Smith removed it shows that there is no relationship between his revision and Clarke.”

It is true that Clarke mentions “the sound of a trumpet” but that is referring to the subsequent clause “For the trumpet shall sound” and not the initial clause at issue “At the last trump.” I will quote here what Clarke writes with respect to the subsequent clause: “For the trumpet shall sound—By this the apostle confirms the substance of the tradition, there shall be the sound of a trumpet on this great day. . . .” Now, I suppose it’s possible that Joseph misread Clarke here and thought he was talking about the prior clause. I personally think the explanation I give in my article is more likely, that the insertion of “sound of the” in the first clause was an assimilation to “the trumpet shall sound” in the second clause. As I tried to make clear in my article, assimilation is a common principle of textual criticism that has been underappreciated in the JST. In my Dialogue article I found that over 7% of the revisions were based on assimilation, and in my blog commentary on the JST I have catalogued many additional examples of assimilation. So I think the revision is based on assimilation to the word “sound” later in the verse (or possibly to the expression “sound of the trumpet” that occurs 15 times in the KJV Old Testament). But I suppose it is possible that I am wrong about that and the revision was based on a mistaken reading of Clarke.

    9. 1 Corinthians 15:26

    KJV: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death

    JST: The last enemy, death, shall be destroyed

    To me there are two possible ways Joseph could have come up with this change. The Clarke Commentary begins “The last enemy – Death, shall be destroyed.” Kent correctly states that Clarke did not intend that to be a revision to the word order of the sentence; the dash indicates Clarke is commenting on the opening three words of the passage, “The last enemy.” While that is certainly true, Joseph may not have fully appreciated the intended import of the dash. The other way to get there is via the italics, by removing the italicized words and reordering the remaining words to make sense. In my blog commentary one thing that became clear was the persistence of Joseph’s concern with italicized text. I see either explanation as plausible, so this will be up to the sensibilities of the reader.

    10. Romans 11:2

    KJV: how he maketh intercession to God against Israel

    JST: how he maketh complaint to God against Israel 

    I still remember when I first read this verse. I had a fairly common experience in that my heart sank. “How in the world am I supposed to make sense of that?” I wondered. But my almost universal experience was that once I dug into it I felt as though I could visualize what Joseph was doing and seeing, and this passage turned out the same way. The Greek word rendered “make intercession” here means to approach, appeal to or plead with an official or person in authority. Think of the Bible movies you have seen; when a delegation goes to the ruler in power, sure, they’ll start by stroking his ego and flattering him, but at some point they will get around to their real reason for coming, which is to complain and petition for better things. So I thought I had an angle for making sense of this revision. But then I found something else; the end of my commentary reads: “Interestingly for the JST revision here, the UBS Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament cites as a possible meaning of the verb “to bring complaints,” citing Acts 25:24, since appeals by the people to leaders often naturally include complaints. The CEV, NIRV and NLT use ‘complained’ here and GW uses ‘complains.’” So I was pretty happy with that discovery.

    Now there were a handful of times during my commentary project where I thought a JST reading was almost too good to be true, so I would check Clarke just in case. I remember checking substance—> assurance in Hebrews 11:1 because the change seemed almost too good (and there was no Clarke influence there). So I looked this passage up in Clarke, and found this line: Elijah “in his addresses to God, made his complaint against Israel.” It is true that Clarke was not suggesting the verse be translated that way; this is just background information. But I did find it a tad suspicious that Joseph just happened to use that specific word that was attested in the Clarke commentary.

    Kent points out that what Elijah was doing in the following verse was in fact complaining, and so the “make intercession” of this verse made no sense and was replaced by the more descriptive “maketh complaint.” I actually like that resolution better than the one I first came up with myself as described above. “Maketh intercession” to me is not adequately descriptive of the Greek text.

    So, between my own reconstruction and that of Kent, you can get to “maketh complaint” without the need for Clarke. But the fact that I originally thought “complaint” was too good to be true but then saw the word in Clarke means I’m not prepared to reject that completely as a possible Clarke influence.

    11.    Conclusion

    The above is just the tip of the iceberg. My overarching sense is that many of the proposed Clarke derivations in the JST do not in fact come from Clarke. But there are other cases that are not so clear, are more ambivalent and can be argued either way. So where does that leave us?

    To me Thom’s original estimate of 5% of JST revisions deriving from Clarke is clearly too high. (In fairness to him, that was explicitly a very preliminary number.) I think Kent has succeeded in arguing that many of the posited Clarke-influenced revisions do not in fact derive from Clarke. There are others, however, that are more equivocal; to extend my “slam dunk” basketball metaphor, some of these strike me as 50/50 jump balls. So 5% is I think definitely too high, but 0% is too low (for re-em if nothing else), and something approaching an exact percentage (even at substantially less than 5%) of Clarke influence is probably indeterminable. So how should we think about and characterize possible secondary source influence (not just limited to Clarke) in the JST?

    Well, sometimes it helps that professionally I’m not an academic but an attorney. And in my area of practice we have a lot of what we call de minimis rules. So let’s say a City wants to build a new municipal building, and they want to finance it with tax-exempt bonds (which can only finance public or charitable purposes). For some reason they want to include a gift shop in the building, which will be leased to and operated by a private, for-profit entity. One option would be to find a different source of financing for the gift shop. But if the gift shop, which is private use unrelated to the municipal purpose of the building, costs less than 5% of the bond proceeds, you can go ahead and finance it with the tax-exempt bonds. Why? Because the Internal Revenue Code considers less than 5% unrelated private business use as de minimis, or in laymen’s terms “not enough to worry about.” The Latin expression de minimis literally means “concerning the least things”; a good English synonym would be “negligible.” That is, it’s not nothing, it exists, but it’s not enough to worry about.    So my suggestion is that we remain open to the possibility of secondary source influence in the JST, but that for the time being at least we think of that influence as de minimis or negligible.


  1. I am certainly no scholar of Hebrew or Greek, but I have appreciated this series. I have long held a broad definition of “translator” when it comes to Joseph Smith and the BoM and the JST. Your posts here have been enjoyable even though I have no familiarity with the original languages. Thanks for these!

  2. Aussie Mormon says:

    Thanks Kevin. I’m always a fan of reading these kinds of articles.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    This is a really excellent example of how scholarship works. Thanks for your hard work on the topic, and thanks to Thom and Kent. And like you, I’m inclined to view consultation of secondary sources as a strength.

  4. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    Thank you, Kevin, for your valued observations here.

  5. Thom Wayment says:

    Thank you, Kevin, for your thoughts and suggestions, and for your attempt to be fair in your remarks. I would like to offer some of my own perspective on this issue, and apologies at the outset for a somewhat long comment.

    As a New Testament scholar I regularly work in determining textual affiliations, i.e. how New Testament manuscripts are related to one another. This is often done by looking at test passages and comparing readings between manuscripts. Most of those passages come down to a single phrase, the word order of a clause, or to differences in syntax and grammar. New Testament manuscripts are not vastly different from one another, but they are slightly different.

    The JST is radically different from the New Testament (and Hebrew Bible) manuscript tradition, and almost all of its new readings have absolutely no support in the manuscript tradition, but a few years ago I began to see that some of them did, i.e. there is a small handful of JST readings that have some manuscript support. I began to categorize that support and found strangely that most of them represented the scholarship of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That’s the only commonality I could see between them, and that’s when I became suspicious of Joseph using a biblical commentary as an aid.

    For example, both the JST and the Book of Mormon retain the very late doxology to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 5:13, and both retain or allude to (in the case of the Book of Mormon) the late and longer ending to the Gospel of Mark (Mark 16:9–20). However, both show awareness of the problematic reading “without a cause” at Matthew 5:22. This is interesting to me because liturgical texts like the Lord’s Prayer were some of the most recent to come under the scrutiny of textual critics and the ending of Mark is a more recent point of scholarly attention.

    To make a longer story shorter, I remain convinced that Joseph used Clarke as a research aid, and I admit that it is unfortunate that plagiarism has been thrown around so easily. Jackson misses the point when he argues that Clarke doesn’t in most cases argue directly for emending the KJV text. Instead, I see Joseph reading Clarke, who raises textual and translation issues, and then makes his own emendations based on his own internal processes. I simply don’t see how, for example, two nineteenth century Bible scholars, Joseph and Adam Clarke, can rearrange two verses in precisely the same way, or choose to emend the KJV using precisely the same word. Yes, Clarke, may have done so to demonstrate meaning and wasn’t arguing for directly changing the KJV wording, but Joseph also didn’t allow Clarke to control him. He maintained his own interests and focus.

    At some point, as someone who works on the Bible, I must point out that without placing Joseph in a nineteenth century Bible culture it is going to be extremely difficult to explain why so many Byzantine readings make their way into the Book of Mormon (1 John 5:7 for example) unless Joseph was textually dependent, in part, on the Bible scholarship of his day. If the model is something akin to inspiration-only for every change, then the JST retained some highly problematic and late texts that are now recognized (and proven) to be late additions to the Greek New Testament manuscript tradition.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Thom, thank you so much for coming by and commenting here. As I indicated in the OP I am a great admirer of your work. I agree with your comment to the effect that Joseph had some knowledge of issues in 19th century Bible scholarship.

    Of course the devil is in the details. Take Exodus 11:9 for example. Clarke there seems to be directly on point for the JST revision shall—-> will. But the JST makes the same change in Exodus 4:21. How should we explain that in terms of secondary source influence? Let me lay out the possibilities as I see them:

    1. Maybe Joseph had been reading ahead in Clarke and was already familiar with the 11:9 Clarke Commentary revision in that subsequent verse.

    2. Maybe the use of “will” in 4:21 without explicit commentary at that point was enough to suggest the change there.

    3. Maybe Clarke had given a similar explanation at some previous point in the Commentary, which Joseph remembered and applied here.

    4. Maybe Joseph learned this usage from some non-Clarke secondary biblical source.

    5. Maybe this is a usage Joseph picked up from his own reading of the KJV Bible.

    6. Maybe this is a usage Joseph learned from his formal education.

    Possibilities 5 or 6 seemed most plausible to me in this specific case, but I am certainly open to another possibility.

    Again, many thanks for articulating your perspective here.

  7. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    The JST also changes “shall” to “will” in the previous instance of Genesis 4:14 (Wayment, ed., The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, 23).

  8. Stephen Fleming says:

    A great discussion, and thanks to Thom for his further thoughts.

  9. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    Also somewhat relevant to this pattern: There are at least five instances of JS changing “shalt” to “shall” (and, curiously, an instance of JS changing “will” to “wilt”).

  10. Thom Wayment says:

    I really appreciate the give and take. For some time, I’ve been convinced that if there is one example of Clarke’s influence on Joseph’s thought process and revisions, then I believe it is worthwhile to consider at least the New Testament revision in light of Clarke. I had hoped my article would be a means of exploring what it might look like if Joseph used Clarke as a dialogue partner. I believe the reordering of Colossians 2:20-22 remains convincing that Clarke (or another 19th century Bible scholar) influenced Joseph’s revision. If that is correct, then even in the more influential examples, Joseph didn’t merely copy Clarke, but adapted to his own purposes. Why this example is so interesting is that the Greek is clear (although Jackson mistakenly thinks it isn’t) while the KJV is not because it misunderstood the Corinthians slogans.

  11. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    Very interesting, Thom!

    Since this is your most convincing example, could you please explicate this for us in terms of what the original Greek does (including the Corinthian slogan business and the issue of clarity), how the KJV fumbles it, what Clarke does with it, what Joseph Smith does with it, how Clarke and Smith are similar and different, how Jackson “mistakenly thinks it [the Greek] isn’t [clear]” (if that is the case), and so forth.

    I think we are getting somewhere. This has been a much needed discussion!

  12. Thom Wayment says:

    Let me first say that I’m not claiming this is the most convincing example. It is an important one that demonstrates a particular way that Joseph drew upon Clarke. The verses in the KJV are as follows:
    20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

    As one can see, the KJV assumes that verse 21 is a parenthetical insertion, implying that it’s grammar and/or thought process are not part of the original sentence, which runs something like “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men? (verse 21 omitted)” The KJV, since it didn’t use exegetical notes, doesn’t grapple with the issue at hand, namely how verse 21 relates to the context.

    Clarke grappled with the issue as well, and noted, “After the commandments and doctrines of men? These words should follow the 20th verse, of which they form a part; and it appears from them that the apostle is here speaking of the tradition of the elders.” Clarke’s statement is simply a restatement of the obvious, namely that by reordering the verses one arrives at a continuous English sentence as I did so above as well. He then interprets the KJV parenthetical statement as “the apostle is here speaking of the tradition of the elders,” which BTW is patently wrong, but that is another issue for another day.

    Here’s what Joseph did with the verses, “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, which are after the doctrines and commandments of men, who teach you to touch not; taste not; handle not; All those things which are to perish with the using?”

    To simplify, Joseph did not simply move the verse as Clarke noted, but he added additional words to make the new transitions work. Those transitions do not alter the meaning, but they are highly interpretive and not warranted by the Greek.

    The Greek issue, however, is now considered resolved or at least it is widely agreed upon that the parenthesis is a reference by the author of Colossians to the things being said by opponents at Colossae, namely “to touch not, taste not, handle not.” Modern translations like the NRSV change the punctuation so that it is clear that verse 21 is a quotation of Paul’s (or a later author’s) opponents. The NRSV reads, “20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings.”

    The issue isn’t one of Greek as Jackson claims. This is a result of the fact that he doesn’t read Greek nor is he trained in Bible, but he has done extensive work on modern Bible translations and so he seems to be influenced by the confusion over this passage in 19th century Bible translations. In reality, scholars have now recognized that the letter is quoting or personifying the claims of opponents (hence the NRSV quotation marks). This is clear from the way the Greek is punctuated in modern editions and even in earlier editions the Greek itself wasn’t a problem, but rather how to interpret a subordinated clause. The textual variants also do not back up Jackson’s claim that the verses were difficult.

    I should further add that if I were grading the JST translation, I would note that the JST isn’t allowable for the Greek text we have. Joseph’s rendition is interpretative and I think he was guided in his interpretation by something that Clarke put into his thought process. My mention of the Corinthian slogans was a nod to the scholarship that began to see the Pauline corpus being built around responding to direct quotations from local opponents, which helped to unravel short phrases that seemed to interrupt the grammar of Paul’s letters.

  13. I honestly don’t understand the thinking of those who believe that there should be no secondary source influence on the JST. What happened to the process of revelation where one is to “study it out” in one’s own mind? Is revelation somehow from a higher source or purer if one ignores what is being said about a text or refuses to read pertinent documents?

  14. Thom, Kevin, Mark. THANK YOU for all this.

  15. Sorry for posting this here. I have a question about some language in the BOM I want to ask Kevin, but not sure how to reach him. I had an email exchange with him 10+ years ago, but can’t find it.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Mike, you may reach me at klbarney@gmail.com

%d bloggers like this: