“New Light on Paul’s Teachings,” Ensign, Sept. 1999, 22
Inspiration truly flowed as the Prophet Joseph Smith worked on his translation of the New Testament. He devoted a good deal of his time during the winter of 1832–33 to the project, stating that the experience, along with attending the School of the Prophets and sitting in conferences, brought him “many glorious seasons of refreshing.”1 By 2 February 1833 he and Sidney Rigdon had finished both the translation and review of the New Testament, at which point the Prophet “sealed it up, no more to be opened till it arrived in Zion.”2
The Prophet Joseph Smith placed some of the revelations he received in the course of translating the New Testament in the Doctrine and Covenants (for example, sections 77, 84, 86, and 88), but there were many he did not include. We find some of these others as we study the changes that the Prophet made in the text of the Bible. Thus, the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) provides us with an additional tool to understand important gospel insights. This is especially true of some of the Apostle Paul’s teachings. Many struggle in trying to understand the Apostle’s teachings on such subjects as the role of women in the Church and his use of the term “predestination.” Fortunately the JST makes the Apostle Paul’s teachings much clearer.
Some of that new understanding comes as we note passages in which just a word or two were changed. We will look at four examples. Even though the first comes from Luke’s book of Acts, it offers us a better understanding of Paul’s ministry. As the Apostles were working many miracles, their acts attracted many who listened to their message. Many believed and felt inspired to join the Church, but the King James Version (KJV) says, “Of the rest durst no man join himself to them” (Acts 5:13). Significantly, the JST changes “rest” to “rulers” (JST, Acts 5:13, footnote a).3
This simple change is important. Often, the KJV speaks of the “Jews” and their opposition to the Savior. The text gives the reader the feeling that the Jews in general openly opposed the Lord. What we must understand—and what the JST makes clear—is that in the New Testament the term “Jews” primarily refers to the ecclesiastical and political leadership of the people.4 It was these men, the leaders, who lacked the moral fortitude to join the cause of the Apostles.
A second example is in Romans 16:10–11 [Rom. 16:10–11]. As the Apostle Paul closed his epistle, he sent his salutation to “them which are of Aristobulus’ household” and requested that his reader “greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.” The JST changes “household” in each instance to “church” (JST, Rom. 16:10–11, footnotes 10a, 11a).
So while the KJV suggests Paul was writing to individual families, the JST shows he is writing to leaders of local church units. As the early Church spread, meetings were held in members’ homes. The Apostles assigned leaders to these “house-churches” to guide and teach the people and to administer to their needs. The JST makes it clear that Paul was addressing these local leaders and their congregations, not just their families.
We find a third example in 1 Corinthians 15:40 [1 Cor. 15:40], where the Apostle Paul speaks of physical bodies of a celestial and a terrestrial nature. He goes on to say in verse 41 that “there is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars.” It does not take much to realize the two verses are not parallel. The JST makes them parallel by adding a third element—those bodies that are “telestial,” or starlike—to those bodies celestial (sunlike) and terrestrial (moonlike) to complete the comparison (JST, 1 Cor. 15:40, footnote a).5
As a fourth example, the JST changes the word “testament” into “covenant” six times in Hebrews 9:15–20 (see footnote 15c). The change is important because some biblical scholars have said that Paul, in speaking of the Savior’s mediation of the “new testament,” was thinking in terms of a last will and testament rather than of a covenant.6 Thus, those who hold this view have said that Paul seems to be saying that the agreement comes into force only at the death of the testator (see Heb. 9:16–17). On that basis it could be said that the terms the KJV uses express the idea contained in the English “testament” or “will” better than “covenant.”
However, the JST underscores the correct concept of Paul’s teaching. God dictates the conditions of all covenants and sets the terms of compliance. The Saints’ options are either to accept or reject the conditions. Therefore, the word “covenant” accurately describes what the Apostle Paul had in mind. His intent is clearly shown in verse 18 when he states, according to the JST, “the first covenant was dedicated without blood” (JST, Heb. 9:18, The Holy Scriptures: Inspired Version ). Here the Apostle Paul refers to the Mosaic covenant and shows that no death was required for its initiation. That being the case, the concept of a covenant, or promise, is more accurate here than the idea of a “will” or “testament.” Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant, not of a new will. He fulfilled the old, or Mosaic, covenant, and this allowed Him to establish a higher covenant between God and His people.
A number of insights come as we note places where the Lord inspired the Prophet Joseph Smith merely to change the position of a single word or phrase. In Acts 13:48, again in Luke’s record of Paul’s ministry, we read that as Paul testified to the Gentiles in Pisidian Antioch, many rejoiced in his word, “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” The JST changes the passage to read, “and as many as believed were ordained unto eternal life” (JST, Acts 13:48, footnote a). The KJV suggests that predeterminism was at play, but the JST shows us that faith, not predestination, confirmed the Saints’ claim to eternal life.
Another example is in 1 Timothy 3:15–16. The KJV reads, “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” By moving one phrase, the JST shows that the pillar and ground of all truth is actually the Lord Jesus Christ, personified in the six statements of doctrine that follow: “The pillar and ground of the truth is, … God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (JST, 1 Tim. 3:15, footnote a).
A third example of how a simple shift of a phrase alters the meaning of a verse is found in Hebrews 9:28. The KJV reads, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” The JST changes the verse to read, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and he shall appear the second time, without sin unto salvation unto them that look for him” (JST, Heb. 9:28, Inspired Version). The KJV emphasizes the Savior’s appearance, while the JST focuses on the salvation the Lord will bring to those who look for Him.
Other insights come as we see how the Prophet changed entire sections to capture the intent of the original writer. For example, the JST sheds light on the Apostle Paul’s view of women and marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7:1, the KJV suggests that the Apostle Paul felt “it is good for a man not to touch a woman.” The JST reads, “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote me, saying, It is good …” Some of those in the Corinthian branch had written to the Apostle Paul asking for his feelings, indicating that they, not he, had made the statement.
The Apostle-missionary responded that for those who cannot abide “even as I”—that is, with chastity and self-control—marriage is best, for “it is better to marry than that any should commit sin” (JST, 1 Cor. 7:8–9, footnote 9a). Yet the Apostle’s statement, along with the whole of the chapter, must be taken in light of its context. The Apostle Paul is asking certain Saints called to the ministry to put off marriage, teaching that “this is good for the present distress, for a man so to remain [that is, single] that he may do greater good” (JST, 1 Cor. 7:26, footnote b), something the Church asks of its young missionaries in our time. The word “distress” points to a momentary need due to a calamity or other problem.7 The early Church was looking into the face of apostasy. To fight this, the Apostle Paul was anxious that all be engaged in missionary service, at least for the time being. The JST makes this clear, showing that Paul said, “I speak unto you who are called unto the ministry. For this I say, brethren, the time that remaineth is but short, that ye shall be sent forth unto the ministry. Even they who have wives, shall be as though they had none; for ye are called and chosen to do the Lord’s work” (JST, 1 Cor. 7:29, Bible appendix).
The JST also clarifies this statement: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak” (KJV, 1 Cor. 14:34). This statement seems odd since the Apostle Paul had already acknowledged the right of women to pray and prophesy, the latter meaning to teach under the power of the Holy Ghost (see 1 Cor. 11:5).8 The JST changes one word and in so doing clarifies the whole issue: “It is not permitted unto them to rule”; rather, they are “to be under obedience, as also saith the law [of Moses]” (JST, 1 Cor. 14:34, footnote b). From this simple change, we see that the Apostle Paul was not forbidding sisters to teach or pray, but rather correcting those who attempted to usurp priesthood authority.
The JST greatly clarifies the Apostle Paul’s testimony concerning the role the Savior plays in our salvation. To emphasize the Savior’s importance to Jewish readers, the Apostle Paul pointed out the weakness inherent within the Mosaic law. In fact, he insisted that the law did not bring salvation. Why? Because it lacked the power to change the inner man. The sacrificial system itself underscored this point by dictating that sacrifices be performed over and over again. The practice revealed that sin did not stop and that even the priests were not sanctified by the law alone.
These priests, according to the JST, “offered up sacrifice daily, first for their own sins, and then for the sins of the people”; the Savior, on the other hand, “needeth not offer sacrifice for his own sins, for he knew no sins; but for the sins of the people. And this he did once, when he offered up himself” (JST, Heb. 7:26, Bible appendix; compare KJV, Heb. 7:27). Note that the sacrifice of the Savior, unlike that of the priests, who by this time had offered up tens of thousands of lambs and goats and bulls, needed to be done but once. Why? Because there was transforming power in the Lord’s sacrifice for those who would accept it.
The Apostle Paul personally experienced that transforming power. He testified to the Roman Saints that “when I was under the law [of Moses], I was yet carnal, sold under sin.
“But now I am spiritual; for that which I am commanded to do, I do; and that which I am commanded not to allow, I allow not.
He gave full credit to the Lord for his abilities, saying: “I seek to subdue that sin which dwelleth in me.
“For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not, only in Christ” (JST, Rom. 7:18–19, Bible appendix; compare KJV, Rom. 7:17–18).
Paul knew whereof he spoke. He said: “And now I see another law, even the commandment of Christ, and it is imprinted in my mind.
“But my members are warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
“And if I subdue not the sin which is in me, but with the flesh serve the law of sin; O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, then, that so with the mind I myself serve the law of God” (JST, Rom. 7:24–27, Bible appendix; compare KJV, Rom. 7:23–25). The Apostle Paul knew that strength to live the commandments came not through the law of Moses nor through the will of the flesh, but through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The JST emphasizes a stiff warning to those who sin against the Holy Ghost: God “hath made it impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
“And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
“If they shall fall away, to be renewed again unto repentance” (JST, Heb. 6:4–6, Bible appendix). Indeed, those who “bring not forth good fruits, shall be cast into the fire; for their end is to be burned” (JST, Heb. 6:8, Bible appendix).
The following insights are available only in the full text of the JST. The Apostle assured his readers that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; who love not the truth, but remain in unrighteousness,
“After that which may be known of God is manifest to them.
“For God hath revealed unto them the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, which are clearly seen; things which are not seen being understood by the things that are made, through his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (JST, Rom. 1:18–20, Inspired Version). Indeed, those who have partaken of His power and tasted of His law and know “the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, are inexcusable” (JST, Rom. 1:32). Because God’s power transforms people, the Lord can move in His wrath against those who have received clear, divine manifestations of His will and then spurned it. God has given such people power to resist sin, so their acts reflect willful rebellion and rejection of God and His power.
In the early Church, there was constant concern that those converted from Judaism might go back to the ways of the law of Moses and lose their salvation. We see this particularly in Galatians, where the Apostle used both passion and pleading to encourage his fellow Christian Jews. He assured them that Christ fulfilled the old law and brought in a better one. He explained that the promised inheritance of eternal life did not come by the law of Moses. He used as proof Abraham, who received the promise of eternal life long before the Mosaic law was instituted. Therefore, he concluded, faith in Christ is all important because only through it will one be able to live the new law of Christ.
At this point the JST is very helpful in understanding the Apostle Paul’s testimony. According to the KJV the Apostle asks: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one” (Gal. 3:19–20; see also Gal. 3:18).
The Apostle Paul’s intent here is vague; but the JST makes it clear: “The law, was added because of transgressions, till the seed [the Messiah] should come to whom the promise was made in the law given to Moses, who was ordained by the hand of angels to be a mediator of this first covenant, (the law.)
“Now this mediator [Moses] was not a mediator of the new covenant; but there is one mediator of the new covenant, who is Christ, as it is written in the law concerning the promises made to Abraham and his seed. Now Christ is the mediator of life; for this is the promise which God made unto Abraham” (JST, Gal. 3:19–20, Bible appendix).
The JST helps us understand the Apostle Paul’s points: the law of Moses was not designed to stand for all time but until the coming of the promised seed (the Messiah); the law did contain the promises given to Abraham, including that of the coming Messiah; Moses was not the mediator of the covenant God made with Abraham; Christ alone mediated that covenant because it dealt with eternal life. It was this higher covenant that the Messiah instituted when He came.
The JST makes an important change to reveal how the Father and the Son work together in the salvation process. According to the KJV, those whom the Father foreknew “he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:29–30). This reading suggests that salvation came only to those whom God predestined to that purpose and that only those became justified and inherited eternal life.
The JST changes the subject of the scripture from those whom God foreknew to the Savior whom God foreknew. It reads, “For him whom he [God] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to his own image, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
“Moreover, him whom he did predestinate, him he also called; and him whom he called, him he also sanctified; and him whom he sanctified, him he also glorified” (JST, Rom. 8:29–30, Bible appendix).
Note how the JST teaches that Christ was foreknown to God and predestined to conform to the image and likeness of Elohim. The JST does not change the word “predestinate”; nor does it need to if we keep in mind that the English text translates a Greek word that means to “set limits beforehand” or “appointing someone to a task beforehand.”9 In other words, in the premortal world, God called Christ to His service, sanctified Him, and gave Him the necessary power to fulfill His Atonement. Jesus was to become the Father’s Only Begotten Son in the flesh (see Moses 2:26).
Further, the JST insightfully changes the word “justified” to “sanctified.” The Savior needed no justification since He knew no sin. Instead, what God gave Him was holiness with the power to remain holy. The Prophet Joseph Smith shed light on this, affirming that “none ever were perfect but Jesus; and why was He perfect? Because He was the Son of God, and had the fullness of the Spirit, and greater power than any man.”10 The power, as the JST makes clear, came through the sanctification the Father bestowed upon the Son. The act set in motion by this preappointment, this foreordination, made the ministry of the Savior possible. Out of the Lord’s ministry grew not only His glorification but also the glorification of all those who believe and follow the Son.
The examples given above by no means capture all the scriptural insights in the JST concerning the Apostle Paul. They do, however, show the importance of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s work as he sought to make “a plainer translation” of the Bible. Through it, God gave the Saints another resource by which they can better understand the Father, the Son, and Their work in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind.