Chapter 1: The Bible: God’s Special Revelation
According to Mormonism, the Bible is true only “as far as it is translated correctly.” If this claim means that ancient scribes intentionally corrupted the biblical text, then the word “translated” is not the correct term. Rather, “transmitted” would be more accurate. While there are no original texts of any Old Testament books, a by-chance archaeological discovery in 1947 led to the uncovering of 11 caves containing hundreds of documents called the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition, archaeological work undertaken in biblical lands supports the idea that the people, places, and events described in the Bible are historical, not mythological. All in all, the Bible has been properly transmitted and should be considered God’s special revelation to help believers understand correct doctrine and behavior.
What have past LDS leaders said about the Bible?
Discussion Questions Chapter 1
1. The eighth Article of Faith says that the Bible is true “as far as it is translated correctly.” Why is the word transmitted more precise than translated when describing how the text was passed down through the centuries? Why does making this distinction matter?
When a Latter-day introduces Article 8 into the conversation, ask, “What do you mean when you say ‘translated correctly’?” There is an important nuance between translation and transmission of the biblical text, so the Latter-day Saint should be required to help explain why the biblical text ought to be distrusted. The word transmitted refers to how the Bible was passed down from one generation to the next. Did corrupt priests really manipulate texts to change their meanings? When a Mormon uses Article 8, the idea is to show how many “plain and precious things” were changed so that the Bible cannot be trusted today. However, with multiple manuscript evidence, this allegation is not accurate. Meanwhile, as the chapter indicated, it’s possible to make a poor translation of the Bible using the translators” presuppositions or sloppy scholarship.
Articles for additional research:
- Does Scholarship Support Article Eight?
- What if the Bible was translated correctly after all?
- Why are there so many translations of the Bible?
2. What is the difference between inerrancy and infallibility?
Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible, as it was originally written in the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, contains full truth in the original copies, which we call “autographs.” In other words, the Bible—the special revelation from God—is provided to humanity as God’s very mindset. How is a Christian believer supposed to believe? Think? Live? The answers are available in the pages of the Bible. Infallibility is the idea that the original autographs were written exactly the way God intended. While God did not use “automatic” writing and instead allowed each author to use his own style, the words written down are considered inspired and are exactly what God intended to be said.
Articles for additional research:
- Crash Course Mormonism: Scripture
- Why inerrancy of the Bible is so important to Evangelical Christians?
- Why do Christians consider the Bible to be the exclusive source of truth?
3. What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? Why have these proven to be so valuable to scholars in determining the accuracy of the Old Testament?
More than 200 different biblical scrolls were uncovered in 11 caves from the area around Qumran in Israel during the mid-20th century. By finding these scrolls, scholars possessed copies of the Old Testament that were much closer in age to when the biblical books were originally written. In fact, the copies bridged the gap by about a millennium from the earliest copies possessed in that day! One of the most important discoveries was the Great Scroll of Isaiah found in Cave 1, which was composed in 125 BC. Prophecies about the Messiah were the same as what was found in the Masoretic text dated AD 900. Claims that the prophecies were added in later were put to rest.
Articles for additional research:
- The Dead Sea Scrolls: It’s time for LDS laypeople to stop using these manuscripts as support for Mormonism
- “The Land of Jerusalem” and the Dead Sea Scrolls
- The Dead Sea Scrolls Q&A
- Video: Qumran Cave 1 and the Dead Sea Scrolls
4. How can biblical archaeology support the case of the people, places, and events described in the Bible? Do you have a favorite archaeological discovery or two? (It doesn’t have to be listed in the chapter.) Why do you think that particular discovery is significant?
If history is true, it should be supported by the evidence left in the ground. After all, civilizations leave their junk behind. When archaeologists look at sites in the Near East, they can determine what they are looking at and the events that took place by looking at the historical record of the Bible. Unfortunately for the case of Mormonism, there is no archaeological evidence to support the events described in the Book of Mormon. In fact, many LDS scholars have given up trying to find sites in North America and have especially focused on Central America sites, including ancient Mayan and Aztec ruins to support the existence of ancient Lamanites.
As far as discoveries, my three top favorites are:
- Jericho–I recommend watching Jericho Unearthed produced by my friend Joel Kramer.
- Jacob’s Well–Located in Nablis near Shechem in the West Bank, there is good provenance to show this was not only Jacob’s well but also where Jesus had a conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4.
- Hezekiah’s Tunnel–built by King Hezekiah around 700 BC. I regularly take my pilgrimage groups through the 1750-foot tunnel still bringing water into the Old City of Jerusalem.
Articles for additional research
- Archaeology and the Bible
- Top 10 20th Century Archaeological Discoveries in Israel
Additional Archaeological Videos featuring Joel Kramer
- Four episodes from the February 2018 Israel trip led by Eric Johnson
- Four episodes from the February 2017 Israel trip led by Eric Johnson
- A series of 16 episodes from the February 2015 Israel trip led by Eric Johnson
- A series of 26 episodes from the February 2013 Turkey/Israel trip led by Eric Johnson
5. A critic might say there is no evidence for the Exodus led by Moses. Is that true?
As shown in the chapter, archaeology has shown good evidence that there was an exodus almost 3500 years ago. Some of the artifacts that support the biblical case include the Papyrus Brooklyn, the Tomb of Rekmire, and the Merneptah Stele. As far as evidence in the desert, we should not expect to find any physical evidence since the Israelites were nomadic and never built cities that could be later excavated.
Viewpoint on Mormonism podcasts
- What is Inerrancy? Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 March 1-5, 2021 Article
- Archaeology of Israel (interview with Chip Thompson) Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 February 26-27, 2018
- The Dead Sea Scrolls and Mormonism Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 February 19-23, 2018 Article
- James White and Article 8 (Bible) Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 July 3-7, 2017
- Archaeologist Joel Kramer Interview October 17-November 3, 2016: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Article
- Scripture Translation Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 June 30-July 2, 2016
- The Bible and Archaeology Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 March 18-22, 2013
Videos from God Loves Mormons