The Historian over at The Metaphysical Elders has posted an extremely interesting letter that he wrote at the request of a non-Mormon New Testament scholar asked to participate in the production of an anti-Mormon film on LDS beliefs about the Bible. The Historian writes:
- Beliefs about the Bible are as wide-ranging within Mormonism as any other church. The most that can be said officially is the Mormons do not believe that the biblical text is inerrant. Conservative Christians object to this. The common critique of the LDS view comes from one of the Articles of Faith, a set of informal doctrinal explanations written by Joseph Smith. It says: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” There are two objections to this statement by critics. First, they object to the insinuation that the Bible is not “translated” correctly. Second, they object to the fact that the Book of Mormon does not have the same qualification, which seems to elevate its authority above that of the Bible.
These objections, however, misrepresent the issue. Word studies of 19th century usage of the word “translate” show that it was often used to mean, “transmit,” or “transform.” In this sense it does question the transmission history of the biblical text and its inerrancy. However, it would be strange to assert the opposite, e.g. “We believe the Bible to be true including transmission errors.” The LDS view here simply allows for the possibility of transmission errors, and claims that they are not binding. Yet frequently critics exaggerate this claim. Why then does this caveat not appear for the Book of Mormon? The primary reason why is that Joseph Smith claimed to translate the Book of Mormon from the autograph text. There were no “transmission” errors. Additionally, the Book of Mormon itself claims that it is subject to errors and imperfections. If one believes the Book of Mormon, one accepts prima facie that there are errors in it.
The entire letter is definitely worth reading.