Some Notes on Joseph Smith
and Adam Clarke

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Abstract: Authors of two recent articles believe they have found evidence that Joseph Smith, in preparing his revision of the Bible, drew ideas from a contemporary Bible commentary by British scholar Adam Clarke. The evidence, however, does not bear out this claim. I believe that none of the examples they provide can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained easily by other means. The authors do not look at their examples within the broader context of the revisions Joseph Smith made to the Bible, and thus they misinterpret them. Some of the revisions they attribute to Clarke are ones that Joseph Smith had made repeatedly before he arrived at the passages where they believe he got ideas from Clarke. In addition, there is a mountain of material in Clarke that is not reflected in the Joseph Smith Translation, and there is a mountain of material in the Joseph Smith Translation that cannot be explained by reference to Clarke. The few overlaps that do exist are vague, superficial, and coincidental.

Recently Thomas A. Wayment, professor of classics at Brigham Young University, published an article, “A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” co-authored with his former research assistant, Haley Wilson-Lemmon.1 That article was followed by Wayment’s “Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, [Page 16]and the Making of a Bible Revision.”2 In the articles the authors present their view that Joseph Smith drew some of the ideas and language for his Bible revision — the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) — from a commentary written by British scholar Adam Clarke. The online posting of the research conclusions, as part of the student grant Wilson-Lemmon received, was the first publication of their proposed Adam Clarke-Joseph Smith connection.3 Wayment subsequently discussed the research in online interviews in 2017 and 2019,4 and Wilson-Lemmon did as well in 2018 and 2020.5 Likely the first reference to the matter in an academic publication was my own mention of it in Dennis L. Largey, ed., Pearl of Great Price Reference Companion. In an article on the JST I noted that in making revisions in the Bible, the Prophet was “sometimes drawing ideas for those changes from a popular Bible commentary.”6 I made that statement without doing the research myself but trusting the scholarship of Professor Wayment.

Since then I have studied closely the Wayment article and the Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon article and their proposed connections between Clarke’s commentary and Joseph Smith. I have examined in detail every one of the JST passages they set forth as having been influenced by Clarke, and I have examined what Clarke wrote about those passages. I now believe that the conclusions they reached regarding those connections cannot be sustained. I do not believe that there is [Page 17] Adam Clarke-JST connection at all, and I have seen no evidence that Joseph Smith ever used Clarke’s commentary in his revision of the Bible. None of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have set forward as examples, in my opinion, can withstand careful scrutiny.7

There is nothing wrong with the idea of Joseph Smith getting some ideas from an external source when revising the Bible, and I will propose some possible examples below. When I first became aware of the proposed Adam Clarke-Joseph Smith connection, I had no reason not to welcome the discovery. The New Translation begins with dramatic revelations that are now contained in the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Throughout the rest of the translation are other blocks of text, large and small, that I believe can only be explained as revelation. In between are a few thousand small changes that are simply rewordings of the language of the King James Version text (KJV) — word changes that correct, modernize, simplify, clarify, or amplify. I doubt that anyone can know if Joseph Smith required individual revelations to make each and every one of those small changes aside from a general divine mandate to make the Bible more doctrinally accurate, more clear, and more usable for the Latter-day Saints. There is no reason to think that in those revisions the Prophet could not have simply used his own common sense where needed, or that he could not have been influenced by printed sources available to him to improve the text. Indeed, three times in revelations (not related to working on the JST) we have references to seeking “words of wisdom” “out of the best books” (D&C 88:118; 109:7, 14). The only question is whether proof exists for that taking place in his revision of the Bible.

The revisions in the JST that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon attribute to Clarke’s commentary are almost all small rewordings. None of the examples they invoke are found in the Book of Moses or in Joseph Smith—Matthew, the two canonized sections of the JST. It is likely that most Latter-day Saints would not consider them to be among the JST’s most significant passages, though some of them are represented in footnotes in the Church’s English publication of the Bible. Most consist only of a word or two resembling something in Clarke’s commentary.

[Page 18]Translations and Commentaries

In Joseph Smith’s generation, several new translations of the Bible were published in the United States. Many Americans had come to see the language of the King James Version as awkward and inelegant, and above all, many realized that the KJV was not in their own spoken language and felt that its archaic vocabulary and grammar were an impediment to understanding the word of God. Thus, by 1833, when Joseph Smith finished his translation, several Americans had published new translations of all or parts of the Bible:8 Charles Thomson (entire Bible),9 Abner Kneeland (New Testament),10 Alexander Campbell (New Testament),11 George R. Noyes (New Testament, most of Old Testament),12 Egbert Benson (New Testament epistles),13 Noah Webster (revision of entire KJV),14 and Rodolphus Dickinson (New Testament).15 Only one of those translations, Campbell’s New Testament, sold in large quantities and became historically significant.

In addition to those new translations, several European Bible commentaries were widely used in America. Their authors discussed the [Page 19]text, explained it, and sometimes provided alternate wording or even new translations.16 Among the most common were the commentaries of Matthew Poole (entire Bible),17 John Gill (entire Bible),18 James Macknight (New Testament epistles),19 Matthew Henry (entire Bible),20 Thomas Coke (entire Bible),21 Adam Clarke (entire Bible),22 Philip Doddridge (New Testament),23 and Thomas Scott (entire Bible).24

Joseph Smith’s Revision of the Bible

Joseph Smith’s Bible revision was not a translation from ancient languages and was not even a “translation” by today’s definition of the word. In his day the word translate was often used in contexts closely related to its etymological meaning: “carry across.” Thus, Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, contemporary with Joseph Smith’s revising of the Bible, lists among the meanings of translate: “to bear, carry or remove from one place to another,” “to transfer; to convey from [Page 20]one to another,” and “to change.” Also included is “to interpret; to render into another language.”25 Joseph Smith and his contemporaries called the work the “New Translation,” though they clearly knew that it was not a rendering from one language to another. It was the re-creation of the Bible into a new form. Did they consider it inspired? Joseph Smith called it a “branch of my calling.”26 In a revelation the Prophet received in December 1830, God states that through the Bible revision “the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect” (D&C 35:20). At the top of the first Old Testament manuscript, scribe Oliver Cowdery wrote, “A Revelation given to Joseph the Revelator,”27 and he wrote a few pages later, “A Revelation given to the Elders of the Church of Christ.”28 At the top of the first New Testament manuscript, scribe Sidney Rigdon wrote, “A Translation of the New Testament translated by the power of God.”29

One way to look at the JST is to see it as having three categories of changes: (1) blocks of entirely new text without biblical counterpart, (2) revisions of existing text that change its function and meaning, and (3) revisions that change the wording of existing text but not the meaning. Having all three of those categories of changes, Joseph Smith’s Bible revision is radically unlike the translations in the volumes listed above, which contain only the third kind of revisions. Those works provided traditional translations or revisions of earlier texts, either from the Hebrew or Greek originals or from the King James Version. None added new text or changed the function and meaning of existing passages the way Joseph Smith’s revision did. Thus, if one were to discover that the Prophet was influenced in word changes by other published sources, it would be historically interesting but ultimately of little consequence, because the passages in the third category are not the most important parts of his New Translation.

The original manuscripts of the JST, as well as the Bible used in the revision, still exist. They show the following process at work: Joseph [Page 21]Smith had his Bible in front of him, likely in his lap or on a table, and he dictated the translation to his scribes, who recorded what they heard him say. Contrary to the repeated assertion of Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, there are no parts of the translation in which the scribes “copied out the text of the Bible.”30 The evidence on the manuscripts is clear that this did not happen. The Prophet dictated without punctuation and verse breaks, and those features were inserted as a separate process after the text was complete. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon seem to suggest that following their proposed copying of text out of the Bible, the scribes then inserted the “numerous strikethroughs of words and phrases, interlinear insertions, and omissions,” and thus Joseph Smith’s revised text was born.31 But the overwhelming majority of the revisions were in the original dictation and are simply part of the original writing on the manuscripts. There are indeed strikeouts and interlinear insertions on the manuscripts, but they came during a second pass through parts of the manuscripts and comprise only a minority of the revisions Joseph Smith made.

Wayment has stated that in Genesis Joseph Smith “likely used the Urim and Thummim,” but “by the time he comes to Matthew, he’s using the best books.”32 However, no source contemporary to Joseph Smith suggests that he used the Urim and Thummim anywhere in his revision of the Bible.33 Whether he did or did not is a historical question that does [Page 22]not have significant implications about the inspiration or value of the text, but the idea that he used the Urim and Thummim in Genesis suggests to Wayment that the translation beginning in Matthew underwent a “shift to using academic sources,”34 a transition “from a more revelatory [Page 23]mode to a more secular mode,”35 a “shift in focus to textual issues” that “may reflect the influence of Clarke’s commentary.”36 It was apparently from that point on that they believe the Prophet “was inclined to depend on Clarke’s commentary for matters of history, textual questions, clarification of wording, and theological nuance.”37 I do not believe that any of this is true. Among other reasons, the “revelatory mode” certainly continued, with Joseph Smith adding new text throughout the Gospels and then later in the Old Testament as well.

Adam Clarke’s Commentary

There are individual phrases in the JST that share common vocabulary with some of the contemporary translations or with passages in contemporary commentaries. That is because the translators and commentators often had a goal that Joseph Smith apparently also had — to make the Bible more clear and understandable.38 The question is whether the Prophet obtained any of his ideas for revising the Bible from printed translations or commentaries. Was he influenced by the word choices that others had made when he prepared his own Bible revision? In almost every case, I believe that the answer is no. There are, however, some very rare passages in the New Translation where he made changes that could have been influenced by the published work of others. He could have been made aware of the passages by reading about them, or perhaps his associates brought them to his attention, or perhaps he came to a passage that he wanted to look up. In no case, however, is there evidence to suggest an ongoing consultation of a printed source, as Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon maintain.

An example of possible influence from a printed source may be at 2 Chronicles 22:2, where the JST revises the age of King Ahaziah from forty-two to twenty-two, which is the age given in the parallel account in 2 Kings 8:26. The number in 2 Chronicles is undoubtedly incorrect, as is pointed out in the commentaries of Clarke, Thomas Scott, John Gill, Matthew Henry, and Matthew Poole.39 Another example is at Nehemiah [Page 24]7, where there is a list of families with their numbers. The same list is found in Ezra 2, but some of the names and numbers are different. Joseph Smith edited the Nehemiah list to be consistent with the list in Ezra. In their commentaries, Poole, Henry, Clarke, and Scott mention briefly that the lists are different. Scott views the differences to be the result of scribal error, but Clarke argues that both lists are correct, and thus he is not inclined to make Nehemiah’s list consistent with Ezra’s. Joseph Smith’s solution — significant for the subject at hand — was the opposite of Adam Clarke’s.

I am not persuaded that the age of an unimportant king and the precise numbers in an obscure Old Testament name list are the kinds of subjects that bring forth divine revelation, though I may be wrong. I cannot rule out the possibility that the Prophet and his scribe, Frederick G. Williams, noticed the discrepancies and looked them up, or were made aware of the matters from some printed source — one of the commentaries or something similar. The source may even have been the cross-references in the margins of the Prophet’s printed Bible. In the margin at 2 Chronicles 22:2, “2 Kings 8, 26” appears twice, and at Nehemiah 7, references to “Ezra 2” appear nineteen times. Also, a table in the back of the Prophet’s Bible points out that the Ezra and Nehemiah lists are not the same.40

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon set out to find sources for the revisions that Joseph Smith made to the King James text, and they settled on Adam Clarke’s commentary as the source for many of them. They suggest that in the spring of 1831, probably under the influence of Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith began turning to Clarke’s commentary for assistance in revising the biblical text.41 He “studied” Clarke’s commentary,42 and “if it wasn’t on the table” he at least “had read it thoroughly before he did his Bible translation.”43 Surprisingly, the two published articles on the subject do not lay out evidence to argue for the [Page 25]theory but simply announce it, take its truth for granted from that point on, and provide illustrations. None of it is convincing.44

The intentions and the content of the printed commentaries available in Joseph Smith’s day varied. Some were theological, others were oriented toward family devotional reading, and several had Christian living as an emphasis. The commentaries of Scott, Henry, and Doddridge had elements of all of these. Adam Clarke’s was a fairly recent academic commentary when the Prophet was working on the New Translation. It was large. In the printing that I have cited in the notes, it contained over 5,200 pages. Wayment is correct in stating that “typically the KJV text takes up only about one-fourth of each page while the commentary [Page 26]he offered was often three-quarters of each page or more.”45 Like the other commentaries, Clarke’s contained much sermonizing, but it was by far the most philological commentary in popular use. It placed a great deal of emphasis on words, on their meanings, and on their use in the biblical text. Clarke understood the principles of text criticism and made frequent reference to manuscripts, versions, and alternate readings. He was uninhibited in his analysis and freely made critiques of the King James Version. Much of his commentary responds to the King James text and its word choices, and thus it offers many paraphrases in the process of discussing the verses. A significant number of passages in it include Clarke’s own translations or rewordings, often preceded by “that is …,” “or …,” “rather …,” or “meaning ….” His numerous rewordings, paraphrases, and wordy comments on the verses often provide more accessible language than is found in the KJV. Because many of the word changes Joseph Smith made had the same effect, there are indeed occasional convergences between words in Clarke and the revised wordings of Joseph Smith. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon mistake those similarities for the Prophet copying Adam Clarke, but that is not what they are. They are random occurrences that coincide with only a fraction of the comments, rewordings, and restatements that Clarke provides and with only a fraction of the word changes that Joseph Smith made. I have found similarities between Joseph Smith’s wording and other translations and commentaries as well, but they are likewise random and insignificant. There are far more with Clarke, but that is because the sheer bulk of Clarke’s philological commentary provides a massive amount of vocabulary in which to find coincidental connections with Joseph Smith.

Examining the Evidence

In the two articles and in their public announcements about their research, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have presented over thirty passages in which they believe that Joseph Smith was dependent on Adam Clarke. According to Wilson-Lemmon, they “put the best ones” in “A Recovered Resource,” though over a third of them are discussed in both articles.46 I have decided to address each of the passages that they have proposed, even though I realize that doing so makes this article long [Page 27]and sometimes technical.47 My conclusions, which follow the discussion of the individual passages, will summarize some of my concerns.

As a believer in the mission of Joseph Smith, I accept as true that he was both commissioned by God to revise the Bible and inspired in the work. With respect to the individual word changes in the following passages, I do not pretend to know the balance between revelation, Joseph Smith’s prophetic agency, and his common sense. I can only describe the mechanical process and the resulting text, not the nature or level of inspiration in that process. My attempt will be to explain, based on the Prophet’s observable methods for revising biblical passages, how he arrived at the readings which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon want to attribute to Adam Clarke. When I reference or quote from Clarke’s commentary and other early sources, I will draw from the editions cited in the notes I have provided. Because various editions differ in pagination, references will be to the Bible passages and not to page numbers in any particular print edition. I have standardized the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation of the JST verses.48

[Page 28]The burden of proving the Adam Clarke theory falls on Wayment, Wilson-Lemmon, and anyone else who espouses it. They need to show (a) clear examples of Joseph Smith’s revisions being dependent on Clarke’s commentary and (b) a consistent pattern of such revisions dependent on Clarke. In my opinion, they have not succeeded in doing so. Random isolated similarities are not sufficient to prove their theory, particularly if those similarities can be explained by simpler means. Too often Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon did not read carefully what Clarke wrote, and thus they frequently misinterpret him by ascribing intentions to him that cannot be sustained from his own words. In almost every one of their examples, far simpler explanations are available that are based on the nature of the JST text and on Joseph Smith’s demonstrable patterns of revising it. In my view, their lack of examination of the passages in the context of the Prophet’s other revisions blinded them to what was actually happening in the translation. For example, some of the convergences they propose are revisions the Prophet had already made multiple times before arriving at the passages where they think Clarke influenced the change. I do not believe that the justifications they set forth for any of the individual passages are compelling, nor that the cumulative total of them is compelling.

Exodus 11:949

KJV: Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you

JST: Pharaoh will not hearken unto you

For linguistic reasons, Adam Clarke criticized the King James translators for their use of “shall” here instead of “will.”50

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon suggest that Joseph Smith followed Clarke in making this change, but there is no reason to think that this is the case. The manuscripts show that the Prophet dictated both “shall” and “will” when revising texts. Prior to arriving at this verse, he had already changed “shall” to “will” in several places, including Genesis 23:9, Romans 3:30, and Revelation 19:15. In a passage similar to the one [Page 29]here, he had already changed “he shall not let the people go” to “he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). In a passage identical to this one, he had already changed “Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you” to “Pharaoh will not hearken unto you” (Exodus 7:4). Clarke suggested none of those changes, and thus, because Joseph Smith made them prior to arriving at Exodus 11, the connection that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon make with Clarke is unfounded.

The Prophet made other significant changes in this verse and in surrounding verses, but Clarke’s commentary cannot explain any of them. This is something we shall see repeatedly.

Exodus 22:28

KJV: Thou shalt not revile the gods

JST: Thou shalt not revile against God

That Adam Clarke disliked the KJV here is understandable, because its wording is indefensible. Joseph Smith’s change is different from Clarke’s paraphrase, but both replace “the gods” with “God,” as do virtually all modern translations.

Wayment suggests that the Prophet was dependent on Adam Clarke here, but there is a much better explanation.51 One of his guiding instincts in revising Bible passages was to correct errors, particularly doctrinal errors. There are no “gods,” and why would the law of Moses want to protect “the gods” from ridicule anyway? This is a common-sense revision that is predictable and consistent with many other changes Joseph Smith made.

Psalms 33:2

KJV: Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery, and an instrument of ten strings.

JST: Praise the Lord with thy voice, sing unto him with the psaltery and harp, an instrument with ten strings.

Adam Clarke’s commentary expresses displeasure with the KJV of this verse and argues that the words represented as “psaltery” and “an instrument of ten strings” are a single instrument. His reconstruction of the Hebrew removes the “and” between them.

[Page 30]Joseph Smith’s revision is not at all what Clarke had in mind, but Wayment misreads Clarke here and wants to attribute it to Clarke.52 The Prophet reinvented the verse. He retained the “and” and relocated “harp” following it, equating the harp, not the “psaltery,” with the ten-stringed instrument. He inserted “thy voice” in the place of the harp in the first clause of the sentence. There is much evidence in the JST to show that when the Prophet removed or replaced words, he had a tendency to save the deleted words and place them elsewhere, and this is a good example.53 All of these revisions are the opposite of what Clarke wanted.

Psalms 119:20

KJV: My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times

JST: My heart breaketh, for my soul longeth after thy judgments at all times

King James’s translators rejected the sensible reading of the Geneva Bible in the first clause, “Mine heart breaketh.” Clarke does not call for a revision of the text but merely comments in the course of his discussion, “We have a similar expression: — it broke my heartthat is heart-breakingshe died of a broken heart.”

With no more evidence than that, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon believe that those words from Clarke influenced Joseph Smith to change “soul” to “heart.”54 They have no case here, and there are other changes in the passage that cannot be attributed to Clarke. Many examples in the manuscripts and Joseph Smith’s Bible show that he viewed italicized words with suspicion. Because this verse contains a string of three italicized words, it invites a change. The unidiomatic nature of the first phrase is obvious. We do not say “My soul breaketh” in modern English, so Joseph Smith changed it sensibly to “My heart breaketh,” consistent with revisions he made to other unidiomatic phrases. But he may also have been especially sensitive about the meaning of the word “soul.” Shortly before he made this revision in Psalms, he received a revelation stating that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man. And the [Page 31]resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul” (D&C 88:15–16). With those words in mind, the phrase “my soul breaketh” makes no sense at all.

True to his frequent pattern of preserving KJV words when changing the meaning of a verse, he saved the word “soul” and moved it to a different location in the verse, certainly not anticipated by Clarke. He revised the grammar of the sentence further by replacing the noun “longing” with a verbal phrase, “longeth after,” likewise not anticipated or desired by Clarke. The combined changes make the passage read very nicely and are a significant improvement over the KJV.

This is one of several examples in which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon isolate one small similarity to something Clarke wrote in his commentary, but it is in a Bible passage where nothing in Clarke can account for the other changes Joseph Smith made.

Song of Solomon

JST: “The Songs of Solomon are not inspired writings”

There is no justification for Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon’s attribution of this statement to the influence of Adam Clarke.55

Clarke opposed interpreting the Song of Solomon as an allegory for Christ and the Church, as some Christians did. Indeed, he opposed interpreting it as anything other than what the words in it actually say, and he advised ministers not to preach from it. With no more evidence than that, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was influenced by Clarke to reject the book as scripture. Their only attempt to support this idea is to point out that Clarke in his introduction called the book by a traditional Latin title that is a plural noun, “Canticles,” and Joseph Smith’s scribe, Frederick G. Williams, wrote a plural noun, “Songs.” Reasoning like this does not work at all, and the argument is misleading anyway. Clarke never uses the word “songs” for the book. He uses the plural “Canticles” a total of three times in his introduction, but elsewhere he refers to the book over ninety times with singular titles, nouns, and pronouns.56 We may never know why [Page 32]the Prophet or his scribe chose “songs,” but nothing suggests that it was because of Adam Clarke.

Many readers, starting centuries ago, have concluded that the Song of Solomon is “not inspired writings,” so the conclusions of Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke were not unique to them.57 But there is something else to consider — not only here but elsewhere as we look at the Adam Clarke theory. By the time the Prophet came to this book in his Bible revision, probably in the spring of 1833, he had already dictated every word of the Book of Mormon and every word of what would later be called the Book of Moses. He had also already received about eighty of the revelations now in the Doctrine and Covenants. I believe that he was in a unique position to discern the nature of inspired writings, and I don’t believe he needed suggestions from anyone else to do so.

Isaiah 34:7

KJV: the unicorns shall come down

JST: the re-em shall come down

Clarke provides the Hebrew word that underlies “unicorns,” ראמים, and also the singular form and its transliteration: “ראם reem.” Joseph Smith’s revision of the word, according to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “demonstrates fairly direct borrowing from Clarke,”58 and “Clarke appears to be the obvious source.”59 This is highly unlikely.

Scholars and lay readers in Joseph Smith’s day and earlier viewed “unicorns” as an unfortunate word choice in the King James Bible. Thus, standard commentaries had explanations for it. Noah Webster’s Bible has a note, “or rhinoceros,” and George Noyes translates it “wild buffaloes.” John Gill’s commentary proposes rhinoceroses or buffalos, and Clarke mentions wild goats and rhinoceroses.

Based on other revisions he made in his Bible, it seems unlikely that Joseph Smith would have needed an outside motivation to replace an infelicitous word like “unicorns.” But how he arrived at “re-em” is another question. He likely got the word from some printed source, or from someone who had learned of it from a printed source. Perhaps [Page 33]when he and Williams came to “unicorns” in Isaiah 34:7, they looked it up somewhere. Several factors argue against Clarke’s commentary being the source. Clarke does not suggest replacing the English word with a transliteration of the Hebrew word but with an English noun. If Joseph Smith had followed Clarke, he would have inserted the name of an animal, as Clarke proposes. Clarke transliterates the singular as “reem,” which suggest a one-syllable word to untrained eyes and does not explain why Joseph Smith or his scribe inserted a hyphen in the middle of the word. Had they looked at Clarke, they would have had no reason to assume a two-syllable word. The hyphen had to come from somewhere, but Clarke’s commentary does not include it anywhere, and nothing in Clarke suggests the need for it.

The Prophet’s two-syllable “re-em” is the Hebrew singular form, but we do not know if he knew that it is the singular or intended it to be singular. It replaces a noun that is obviously plural in a passage full of plural animals.

The word unicorn appears six times in the King James translation, and unicorns appears three times. Clarke addresses each of those but one, and this is the only one that Joseph Smith addressed. At the first occurrence, Numbers 23:22, Clarke discusses the animal at length, but Joseph Smith made no change there. At Psalm 22:21 Clarke discusses it again. In this case the Prophet revised the verse substantially, but he did not remove the word unicorns, and his revision to the verse cannot be explained with reference to Clarke.

In his commentary on the surrounding verses in Isaiah 34, Clarke makes several suggestions for revising the text. The fact that none of those suggestions are reflected in Joseph Smith’s translation adds to the unlikelihood that Clarke was the Prophet’s source here at all.60

Matthew 5:22

KJV: whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause

JST: whosoever is angry with his brother

[Page 34]Adam Clarke’s commentary points out that the Greek word translated “without a cause” is not found in Vaticanus nor in some other manuscripts, and “it was probably a marginal gloss originally, which in process of time crept into the text.” This was not a revolutionary discovery, because even the translations of Martin Luther and William Tyndale did not include the clause.

Wilson-Lemmon states that the absence of this clause was the first discovery she made that linked Joseph Smith’s translation with the commentary of Adam Clarke.61 But Clarke is not the source for the Prophet’s rendering of this verse, the Book of Mormon is. The evidence is clear that when he revised Matthew 5, Joseph Smith edited the KJV text against 3 Nephi in the 1830 Book of Mormon, pages 479–81. He did not copy the Book of Mormon text exactly, but he inserted into Matthew 5 about thirty wordings of it that differ from the KJV. The Book of Mormon is the source for the absence of “without a cause” in the JST, not Adam Clarke. In addition to those revisions, Joseph Smith’s translation of Matthew 5 also contains over ten other changes that cannot be accounted for with reference to Adam Clarke.

Matthew 6:13

KJV: And lead us not into temptation

JST: And suffer us not to be led into temptation

Adam Clarke paraphrases this passage as follows: “Bring us not into sore trial.”

Wayment attributes Joseph Smith’s revision of this phrase to Clarke, even though Clarke’s restatement of the Greek differs entirely from the Prophet’s revision.62 Clarke points out, however, in the middle of a commentary of about 200 words, that God “only permits or suffers” some things to happen, and those words are the very thin basis for Wayment’s connection. But Clarke was making a theological point, not a lexical one, and he was certainly not suggesting that the verse be revised. This JST revision is a predictable Joseph Smith change based on doctrinal instincts: God does not lead people into temptation. The word suffer, meaning “allow,” was not foreign to the Prophet’s vocabulary and appears many times in the King James Bible and the Book of Mormon.

[Page 35]Matthew 19:19

KJV: Honour thy father and thy mother

JST: Honour thy father and mother

Wayment’s attribution of this JST edit to Clarke is unconvincing.63 Here and elsewhere he and Wilson-Lemmon obscure the discussion by failing to italicize the words that appear in italics in the King James translation. In this case Wayment neither italicizes the “thy” nor even mentions that it is italicized. To make this distinction is critical, and not to do so is a serious error when dealing with the JST, because it has long been known that Joseph Smith focused on italicized words when revising the text. There are many examples of him revising text by deleting italicized words or by deleting and replacing them.64 Thus, reasons internal to the JST provide a better explanation for the change than reliance on Adam Clarke.

Matthew 20:21

KJV: the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left

Clarke: the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left

JST: the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left

Adam Clarke changed “the” in “on the left” to “thy,” resulting in “on thy left.”

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon state that Joseph Smith, “apparently reflecting Clarke, changed the verse in the same manner: ‘The one on thy right hand and the other on the <thy> left.’”65 The trouble with this assertion is that the Prophet did not change this passage at all. He dictated the words exactly as in the King James translation, “on the left,” and that is how they were recorded by his scribe Sidney Rigdon. When John Whitmer later made a transcription of the dictated manuscript, he made a scribal error here and miswrote “the” as “thy.” The argument of Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon here is based on Whitmer’s transcribing error, not on a Joseph Smith revision of the verse. Thus, it has nothing to do with Adam Clarke.

[Page 36]Matthew 22:14

KJV: many are called, but few are chosen

JST: many are called but few chosen, wherefore all do not have on the wedding garment

Clarke simply comments on the story, universalizing the wedding story to represent dwelling with God in glory. Because his comments include the words “marriage garment,” Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon believe that Joseph Smith’s addition to verse 14 was somehow influenced by him, even though Clarke does not suggest revising the verse, makes no attempt to add to it, and does not even restate it.66

It is difficult to see how someone could come to the conclusion that this insertion has anything to do with Adam Clarke, unless one had already decided in advance that Joseph Smith necessarily borrowed from Clarke. Part of this parable is about someone showing up at the wedding without the wedding garment. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon do not account for the fact that the words “wedding garment” appear twice in the preceding verses. Verse 11 says that the man came to the event without wearing a wedding garment, verse 12 says that the host was not pleased that the man did not have a wedding garment, and verse 13 says that the man was therefore thrown out of the event. There are thus ample suggestions already in the text for Joseph Smith to add those same words to bring the story to its conclusion, so why would someone look outside the text for an explanation? Clarke, by the way, does not even use the words “wedding garment.” He says “marriage garment.” Nothing in Adam Clarke suggests this revision.

Matthew 27:37

KJV: And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

JST: And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew. And the chief priest said unto Pilate, It should be written and set up over his head his accusation: This is he that said he was Jesus, the king of the Jews. But Pilate answered and said, What I have written I have written. Let it alone.

[Page 37]Commenting on this verse, Adam Clarke wrote, “Both Luke, chap. xxiii. 38, and John, chap. xix. 20, say that this accusation was written in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.” On the basis of that statement, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon write that the Prophet’s revisions at Matthew 27:37 may “be explained in terms of him imitating Clarke’s commentary on this verse, which addresses the languages of the sign fastened to the cross.”67

The Prophet’s revision is extensive, and nothing in it looks like Clarke’s commentary except the mention that the sign was written in three languages, something Joseph Smith already knew. His revision adds to this text elements found in the accounts of Luke and John, but much of the language is unique to this revision. The best explanation is that it is a harmonization, in the sense that it draws Matthew’s text closer to those of Luke and John. The intent seems to have been a general one to flesh out Matthew’s terse account with information that Joseph Smith and other Bible readers already knew from previous readings of other Gospels. Further evidence against an Adam Clarke connection is the fact that the Prophet revised Mark’s account (Mark 15:26) in about the same way, also with no relation to anything in Clarke. It is difficult to understand why Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon propose Adam Clarke to be the source of this revision rather than the more obvious parallel texts in Luke and John.

Mark 8:29

KJV: Thou art the Christ

JST: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God

Wayment states that Clarke “argued directly for this addition.”68 That is not true, though Clarke does point out that some manuscripts and versions have it.

There is a much simpler explanation for this revision than reliance on Clarke. As with the example from Matthew 27:37 above, it is far more likely that the Prophet simply felt that Peter’s statement was incomplete as it stood, and thus he fleshed it out to make it consistent with the more familiar reading in Matthew 16:16. Part of the evidence for this is that earlier on the same manuscript page, at Mark 8:12, he had already revised Mark’s words to match Matthew 12:39, without any suggestion [Page 38]from Clarke. Further evidence for conscious harmonization of this verse is that he also rewrote Luke’s version of this passage to match Matthew’s, though Clarke makes no such suggestion there.

Clarke provides what he felt was better wording for four passages in this chapter. Joseph Smith’s translations contains none of them. And Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in the chapter, some of them rather extensive, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke. Thus, we have, as we see again and again in the passages with supposed Adam Clarke connections, numerous rewordings proposed by Clarke, many changes made by Joseph Smith, and only random and inconsequential similarities between the two.

Luke 19:25

KJV: (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)

JST: Deleted

Adam Clarke mentions that some manuscripts omit this verse, but he believed it was an original saying and that it should be retained. He even provided a very wordy alternate reading for it. Joseph Smith removed the verse entirely.

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon believe that Clarke is the source for this revision, but I find this idea to be without merit.69 To have Joseph Smith dependent on Clarke here, who believed that the verse was authentic, they argue, unfairly, that though the Prophet or Rigdon got the idea from Clarke, they did not understand what he was saying and thus got it wrong. Clarke’s analysis of the verse, however, is only two sentences long, his intent is clear, and to suggest that Joseph Smith misunderstood Clarke is indefensible. Additional changes made to nearby text at the same time this verse was revised show no resemblance to anything in Clarke’s commentary, and revisions proposed by Clarke are not found in the JST.

While we do not know why Joseph Smith deleted verse 25, it should be noted that in the text it is clearly intrusive. It is a quotation that appears in the middle of a quotation from a different speaker. A reasonable reader could easily conclude that it is out of place. This is perhaps why the King James translation has it in parentheses, and it is perhaps why it was deleted in the JST.

[Page 39]Luke 23:32

Clarke’s KJV: there were also two other malefactors led with him to be put to death

Joseph Smith’s KJV: there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death

JST: there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death

Adam Clarke’s edition of the King James Bible reads as noted above. He states that this verse “should certainly be translated two others, malefactors. … As it now stands in the text, it seems to intimate that our blessed Lord was also a malefactor.” Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon state, “Apparently in deference to Clarke, Smith rendered the problematic line in precisely the same way,” that is, by inserting the letter s to change “other” to “others.”70

But there is nothing here “in deference to Clarke,” and the lack of care with which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon treat this example is troubling. Unlike Clarke’s Bible, the edition of the KJV that Joseph Smith used in preparing his revision already has “others.” Joseph Smith did not change this verse at all. He simply read it as it appeared in his Bible, and his scribe wrote it down.71

John 2:24

KJV: because he knew all men

JST: because he knew all things

Clarke prefers a different Greek word than the one that underlies “all” in the KJV, which translates, according to Clarke, as “every man, or all things.” For theological reasons, he prefers “all things.”

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon again cloud the discussion by failing to italicize the words that appear in italics in the King James translation.72 In this case they do not mention that the word “men” is italicized. It invites a change. Because revisions often started with the removal of italicized words, that is likely what happened here. Without the italicized “men,” the English clause ends with an adjective that does [Page 40]not have anything to modify, and the insertion of “things” completes the thought consistent with Jesus’s omniscience. There is thus no need to look for an external influence.

There is even further reason to rule out Clarke as the source for this change. His commentary on John 2 has over 3,000 words, and he recommends changing the text in ten places. Joseph Smith made over thirty changes in this short chapter, but this is the only one that resembles anything in Clarke. Why, among Clarke’s thousands of words and scores of thoughtful insights, would Joseph Smith make only this one small revision of minimal consequence if he had Clarke’s commentary in front of him? This example illustrates the fundamental weakness of the Adam Clarke-JST theory.

Romans 9:25

KJV: Osee

JST: Hosea

The King James translators chose to use the Greek New Testament forms of Old Testament names rather than using the more familiar Old Testament forms. In this verse the KJV uses “Osee” for the name of the prophet Hosea. Clarke points out that “Osee” was “Hosea.”

This is an obvious place for Joseph Smith to make a sensible change, and he did not need influence from any other source, though other translations and commentaries make the identification. “Osee” is unrecognizable and unhelpful and is found nowhere else in the scriptures. If the Prophet did not know who “Osee” was, the printed Bible he used has a side note here directing the reader to “Hos 2, 23.” Wayment attributes this change to Clarke, but he does so without consideration of the Prophet’s other name changes.73 In revising the New Testament, the Prophet generally retained the New Testament forms of the names when he came to them, but he occasionally dictated the more recognizable Old Testament forms. By this point in his New Translation he had already changed “Esaias” to “Isaiah” in Mark 7:6, and “Sem” and “Noe” to “Shem” and “Noah” in Luke 3:36. Clarke mentions none of those.

Romans 11:2

KJV: how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying

JST: how he maketh complaint to God against Israel, saying

[Page 41] gives a theological commentary on this verse and in the process states that Elijah, “in his addresses to God, made his complaint against Israel.” He simply uses those words in his own discussion of God’s relationship with Israel and of the conditions that prevail in modern times. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon misrepresent Clarke by saying that changing the wording of the verse was “a suggestion that was made by Clarke.”74 Clarke makes no such suggestion.

Clarke’s commentary on the verse is almost 200 words long, and in it he cites three other passages of scripture and two earlier authors, and he includes five Greek words and one Hebrew word. After all that, the word complaint appears in his retelling of the story. I believe there is a better explanation for the JST’s use of the word than reliance on Clarke. First, it is clear in the next verse that what Elijah was doing was complaining. Thus, I suspect that the phrase “maketh intercession to God against” caught Joseph Smith’s eye and invited a change. Elijah was not making intercession, he was complaining. More particularly, the words refer to Elijah speaking against people. In modern revelation, “make intercession” is used only with respect to the saving work of Jesus Christ, and it is always followed by the preposition for (e.g., 2 Nephi 2:9–10; Mosiah 14:12). In this case at Romans 11:2, Elijah is pleading against Israel, and the words “make intercession” in that context look unnatural to Christian eyes. This seems to me to be a predictable correction of an unidiomatic phrase that Joseph Smith felt was wrong.

Romans 14:23

KJV: And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith

JST: And he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because it is not of faith

Adam Clarke retranslates these words as follows: “But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith.” Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon believe that the change of “damned” to “condemned” was influenced by Clarke and “may have influenced later Mormon thought regarding the doctrine of the judgment of the wicked,” though they do not explain how.75

It is true that Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke both replaced “damned” with “condemned” here, but there is no similarity in the [Page 42]other revisions each made to the verse, suggesting that the one common change was coincidental. The reason for the Prophet’s revision is actually quite clear inside the JST itself. This passage is one of several in which he softened, or ratcheted down, the level of condemnation in the KJV text. One of the instincts that guided him was the instinct to soften words like “damned” when discussing God’s judgments. Some examples include the change from “damnation” to “punishment” (Matthew 23:14), “hell” to “prison” (Acts 2:27), “worthy of death” to “inexcusable” (Romans 1:32), and “damnation” to “punishment” (Romans 13:2). The Prophet made all of those revisions before making this one at Romans 14:23, and he continued to make similar revisions afterward.76 In seeking isolated word similarities out of context, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon are missing important information like this and are drawing conclusions that cannot be sustained.

1 Corinthians 11:10

KJV: For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head

JST: For this cause ought the woman to have a covering on her head

Clarke provides a commentary of over 1,300 words on this verse and concludes that he does not know what it means. Wayment attributes to Clarke words that Clarke quotes from another author, a “Bishop Pearce,” who says that the power mentioned is “the power of the husband over the wife. The word power standing for the sign or token of that power which was a covering or veil.” Wayment says that the Prophet and Clarke “change the verse in precisely the same way.”77 This is not true. Nowhere does Clarke (or Bishop Pearce) propose a change for this verse. But why look outside of Paul’s own words for the origin of the word “covering”? Wayment does not consider the immediate context of the preceding verses, which are in part about people wearing coverings on their heads. The chapter synopsis in the Prophet’s Bible mentions head covering, and Paul mentions head covering in verses 4, 5, 6, and 7. Thus, when Joseph Smith came upon the nonsensical phrase in verse 10 that a woman should wear “power on her head,” he made a rational and predictable change. There is no reason to look outside the text itself to explain the revision.

1 Corinthians 15:26

KJV: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death

[Page 43]JST: The last enemy, death, shall be destroyed

Clarke provides a paragraph in which he says that the general resurrection will put an end to death, but nowhere does he talk about the wording of the verse. Wayment’s statement that Joseph Smith’s revision is “the exact word order suggested by Clarke” is simply not true.78 Clarke does not suggest a word order.

There is a better explanation for how the Prophet came to revise this verse. This short sentence has two italicized words in it, not mentioned by Wayment. Removing them yields, “The last enemy shall be destroyed death.” The Prophet’s rewording is a predictable fix for the verse that is consistent with how he revised many other verses in the JST.

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

Clarke gives a 200-word commentary on “at the last trump,” drawing from rabbinic tradition to explain it.

Wayment’s statement that Joseph Smith’s revision follows “a clarification first proposed by Clarke” is untrue.79 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.

Colossians 2:20–22

KJV: [20] 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?

JST: 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?

[Page 44]In this passage, Joseph Smith, among many changes, moved the second half of verse 22 to the end of verse 20. The Alexander Campbell and Rodolphus Dickinson translations reorder the verses in the same way. Clarke writes, “These words should follow the 20th verse, of which they form a part.” Without rearranging the words, the translations of Abner Kneeland and John Palfrey insert extra words in attempts to make better sense of the existing text.80 These examples show that others in Joseph Smith’s generation observed that the awkward passage was in need of repair. But had the Prophet done as Clarke advised, it would still be very awkward, and it would not look much like how he actually revised it. If there were a printed source that influenced the JST, Campbell’s translation, because it was widely available and known, would be a better candidate than Clarke’s six-volume commentary.

There is no way to tell if the Prophet was influenced by any printed source to make this revision. Campbell, Clarke, Dickinson, Kneeland, and Palfrey were not drawing from superior Greek manuscripts, nor from special academic knowledge, in wanting to revise the passage. They simply observed that in its current state — in Greek as well as in English — the text was cumbersome. The awkwardness of the text itself was sufficient to invite a change, and Joseph Smith could see this as well as anyone else. Verses 20–23 constitute a single sentence — both in Greek and in the King James translation — with a parenthetical phrase inserted in the middle that spreads over a verse and a half (verses 21–22a). The insertion interrupts the grammar of the sentence and makes the whole passage awkward and difficult to comprehend. Joseph Smith’s revision places the parenthetical phrase in a clause at the end of a sentence, and it makes the whole passage read very nicely. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon write that “the change does little to smooth out the flow of the English translation, and nothing to clarify the meaning.”81 This is manifestly untrue, because the revision certainly does smooth out the flow and clarify the meaning, and thus it is startling that they would be so condescending about it. With several carefully selected additional words (not suggested by Clarke or Campbell), the revision creates the clearest reading of this passage that I have found. It makes the sentence grammatically whole, and the insertion of “who teach you to” changes [Page 45]the overall meaning significantly and makes sense of the “touch not, taste not, handle not” sequence. This JST revision is a gem.

Joseph Smith made other changes in the surrounding text (in verse 23, for example) that cannot be explained with reference to Clarke, suggesting even more that Clarke was not the source for any changes in this passage.

Clarke recommended reordering verses in other passages. He believed, for example, that verse 13 of Matthew 23 should come after verse 14, but Joseph Smith did not make that change. Joseph Smith, in turn, moved text in other places. He placed John 1:28 after 1:34 and Mark 14:10–11 after 14:28, moves not suggested in Clarke. He moved verse 23 of 1 Timothy 5 to after verse 25, even though Clarke (in a small mention in a large commentary on other topics) stated that the verse was in the correct place and should not be moved. The Prophet also put Philippians 1:22 in front of 1:21 and moved Hebrews 7:21 to after 7:22, changes not reflected in the commentary of Clarke. He moved a piece of Exodus 33:3 to 33:1, also not noted in Clarke. And he reversed the order of verses 49 and 50 in John 6, also not noted in Clarke. Examples like these show Joseph Smith’s independence as a reviser of the text, something readily apparent in the more dramatic changes he made in Genesis and elsewhere.

2 Timothy 3:16

KJV: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable

JST: And all scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable

Clarke states, “This sentence is not well translated,” and he renders it “Every writing divinely inspired, is profitable.” The primary issue in the English translation is whether there is an implied is before “given by inspiration of God,” as the KJV translators assumed, or whether “All scripture given by inspiration of God” is the subject of the sentence.

I can think of two reasons why Joseph Smith might have wanted to revise this verse, and neither of them suggests reliance on Adam Clarke. To begin with, the verse as it stands in the King James translation is not true. One of the Prophet’s guiding instincts was to remove errors, and it is an error to state that everything in the Bible is inspired and profitable. As we have seen, in revising the Old Testament he rejected a whole book as “not inspired,” and he later taught, “[There are] many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelation of the [Page 46]Holy Ghost to me.”82 Perhaps it was the false idea expressed in this verse that led to the revision.

But there is also a textual issue here. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon again distort the matter by not showing the italics in the KJV passage.83 They believe that Joseph Smith was “apparently persuaded by Clarke’s reading of the verse,”84 but instead the change reflects the Prophet’s instinct to focus on italicized words. This is another example in which he deleted italicized words and then adjusted the remaining words to make sense of what remained. In this case, the deletion of the first italicized word, the verb “is,” makes almost inevitable the other changes he made. Clarke argued that the “and” should be omitted, but the Prophet kept it and moved it to the beginning of the sentence. Altogether, the only words that the revisions of Joseph Smith and Adam Clarke have in common are the two words that neither of them changed.

Titus 2:11

KJV: the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men

JST: the grace of God, which bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared

In his lengthy commentary on this verse, Adam Clarke mentions the two possible readings, and it appears that for theological reasons he favors the same reading that Joseph Smith used.

In revising the passage the Prophet was not alone. The King James translators rejected the superior reading of the Tyndale and Geneva translations to place “to all men” after “hath appeared,” but Coke’s commentary argues for the same revision, and Kneeland translated the verse in the same way. Most modern translations do as well. According to Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, the Prophet apparently arrived at his revision “by reading Clarke,”85 but a better argument can be made that he was not influenced by a printed source at all. This is a very simple revision that is invited by the KJV text itself. Many examples exist of [Page 47]Joseph Smith revising text that he felt was in error. The KJV makes the revision predictable because it is simply not true that God’s salvation had already appeared to everyone (a point that Clarke makes as well). In addition, Joseph Smith’s text does not match any of Clarke’s suggestions in surrounding verses, making it unlikely that he was aware of Clarke’s comments here. This appears to be a common-sense correction on Joseph Smith’s part to correct a passage that he believed was inaccurate.

Hebrews 9:15–18, 20

KJV: testament

JST: covenant

In Hebrews 9:15–20, Joseph Smith changed “testament” to “covenant” in all six occurrences. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon attribute the revisions to him following Clarke’s lead.86

Kneeland and Macknight use “covenant” here in their translations, Coke and Clarke clearly prefer it, and Thomson’s translation had the subtitle “Containing the Old and New Covenant.” Even Dickinson, with a preference for obscure and grandiose vocabulary, uses “covenant” in some of the verses in Hebrews 9 in his translation. These examples show that the natural evolution of the English language had made “testament” no longer a desired term in passages like these. Joseph Smith had produced texts containing the word “covenant” on many occasions prior to arriving at Hebrews. His revision of Genesis has over forty occurrences of the word. Clarke likewise argues for “covenant” to replace “testament” in the sacrament accounts in the Gospels and 1 Corinthians, but Joseph Smith did not revise those.87 Whether he was influenced here by an outside source or not, he concluded, as most modern readers will, that “testament” is an awkward and unidiomatic word choice for what elsewhere in the scriptures is called “covenant.”

Perhaps a strong argument that this revision was not dependent on Clarke is something that we see in many other places with supposed Adam Clarke connections. The Prophet made significant wording changes on the same manuscript page, but none of those changes resemble anything in Clarke’s commentary.

[Page 48]James 1:2

KJV: count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations

JST: count it all joy when ye fall into many afflictions

Adam Clarke writes that the word translated “temptation” means “affliction, persecution, or trial of any kind.” Of his three alternative English words to replace the one in the KJV, he noted his preferred choice, “trial,” by italicizing it.

It may be tempting to see Joseph Smith being influenced by Clarke here, but it certainly cannot be demonstrated.88 And again, there is a simpler explanation. I suspect that it was the meaning of the English word that suggested to the Prophet to make the revision. Perhaps we should rejoice in our trials and afflictions, but rejoicing over temptation is something else. The word has a very specialized meaning in modern English, and the context of the passage (verses 2–4) suggests that it is not the right choice here. Joseph Smith was aware of what the verse was supposed to be communicating, and he knew that a revision was in order. He made revisions like this in many places.

1 John 2:7

KJV: I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning

JST: I write a new commandment unto you, but it is the same commandment which ye had from the beginning

Clarke points out the obvious contradiction between this verse (“no new commandment”) and the following verse (“a new commandment”), but his discussion is theological, not lexical.

Again there is no reason to view Joseph Smith’s revision as being dependent on any printed source, as Wayment believes.89 Clarke does not call for a change and likely would not have liked what the Prophet did to this verse. The rewrite simply harmonizes it with John 13:34, 1 John 2:8, and 2 John 1:5. This seems to be a case of him feeling that the wording was inaccurate and thus in need of revision to reflect the more familiar wording in other verses. Joseph Smith was as capable of concluding this as was anyone else.

[Page 49]1 John 3:16

KJV: Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us

JST: Hereby perceive we the love of Christ, because he laid down his life for us

Adam Clarke restates this verse as follows: “We have known the love of God, because he had laid down his life for us.” Joseph Smith did not make any of the changes Clarke proposed, and Clarke does not propose the one change that Joseph Smith did make. Clarke notes that the italicized “of God” “is not in the text,” but he points out the obvious that either God’s love or Christ’s love “is necessarily understood.” He mentions that an “Arabic” manuscript has “of Christ,” and a Syriac manuscript has “his love to us.”90

That Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon include this example as a connection with Clarke is puzzling, but that they disguise the problem in the verse by failing to mention that “of God” is in italics is indefensible.91 They state that “the word ‘Christ’ inexplicably appears” in the JST of the verse, but its appearance is not inexplicable at all. Two of Joseph Smith’s translating instincts are at work here — focus on italicized words and desire for doctrinal purity. The two italicized words are an obvious invitation for the Prophet to make a change, not only because they are a hypothetical insertion on the part of King James’s translators but also because they are imprecise to the point of being doctrinally wrong. God the Father did not lay down his life for us, Jesus did. An italicized insertion that is doctrinally weak provides a predictable location for a change, for which Joseph Smith provided a revision without reference to a printed source.

1 John 5:13

KJV: that ye may believe

JST: that ye may continue to believe

The word “believe” appears twice in this verse. Joseph Smith changed the second one to “continue to believe,” as did the translations of Campbell and Macknight. Clarke likewise prefers “continue to believe” and gives theological reasons why Christians must continue to believe.

[Page 50]Wayment states that “Clarke was clearly the source for this altered translation,” but the evidence shows that this is not the case.92 The Prophet had already made this change repeatedly before arriving at this verse, and thus there is no justification for attributing the change to Clarke. Wayment does not take into account that Joseph Smith had already added the word “continue” four times only inches earlier on the same manuscript page, at 1 John 3:6, 8, and 9 (twice). None of those are suggested by Clarke, and Clarke explicitly argues against making the kind of change in verse 9 that Joseph Smith made. The idea of continuing in sin as opposed to sinning was clearly on the Prophet’s mind, and he again added “continue” in a revision on the next line of the manuscript, at 1 John 5:18. Clarke does not mention that one either. In addition, Joseph Smith had already added “continue” to verbs in similar situations in Matthew 13:12 and Mark 4:24–25, neither of which was suggested by Clarke. Also, the Prophet’s text does not match any of Clarke’s other thoughts in those or surrounding passages.

Wilson-Lemmon says that there is “a strike through” at 1 John 5:13. There is no strike through on the manuscript, so it is unclear what she means.93

Jude 1:11

KJV: ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core

JST: ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and shall perish in the gainsaying of Core

Jude was writing about apostates in his time and likening them to apostates in the Old Testament. Concerning them, Clarke writes, “It appears that these persons opposed the authority of the apostles of our Lord, as Korah and his associates did that of Moses and Aaron: and St. Jude predicts them a similar punishment.” From those words, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon conclude that Joseph Smith’s revision is “a change that is directly noted by Clarke.” 94 It is difficult to follow their reasoning here, but in addition, Clarke does not propose a change to the text at all. He simply restates the obvious that the apostates Jude contended with would suffer the same fate as others in the past, which was Jude’s point.

[Page 51]Joseph Smith’s revision is a clear improvement on the meaning of the English text. Even though the Greek verb is translated in the past tense in most translations, Jude’s intent in using it was to foretell what was yet to come.95 Joseph Smith’s revision from the past tense to the future tense better reflects Jude’s purpose by making the analogy more coherent and understandable.

Revelation 12:9

KJV: the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan

JST: the great dragon, who was cast out, that old serpent called the devil and also called Satan

Adam Clarke does not comment on this chapter but quotes instead the lengthy commentary of one J. E. Clarke.96

The reason for Joseph Smith’s revision is quite simple. In the KJV there is a comma after “the Devil” that makes possible the interpretation that Satan is someone different from the devil. The Prophet’s change simply does away with the ambiguity, but it also identifies the terms “great dragon,” “old serpent,” “devil,” and “Satan” as referring to the same being. Wayment makes leaps in reasoning when he states that the revision was “argued for by Clarke.”97 He says this because in the course of the 400-word commentary on the verse, J. E. Clarke mentions the obvious fact that the terms “devil” and “Satan” both refer to the same thing. But he writes that all of those terms refer not to that being whom Latter-day Saints call Satan but to the Roman Empire, the “heathen power” that persecuted early Christians. J. E. Clarke’s commentary is not about Satan but about Roman emperors and the triumph of Constantine and his family. Wayment’s interpretation would have us believe that Joseph Smith waded through all of that to learn something very simple that he already knew.

Needless to say, Joseph Smith’s interpretation has nothing to do with the Roman Empire, and he did not follow Clarke’s commentary here in any way. The revisions in this verse are part of an important reinvention [Page 52]of the text, spanning through verses 7–9, telling the story of the war in heaven and the casting out of Satan and his followers, who continue to make war against God’s children.98 Depending on how one counts, the Prophet made about ten significant changes in those three verses, and none of them resemble anything in Clarke’s commentary.

Revelation 19:15 (and 21)

KJV: out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron

JST: out of his mouth proceedeth the word of God, and with it he will smite the nations, and he will rule them with the word of his mouth

Joseph Smith also changed “sword” to “word” later, in verse 21. Wayment believes that Joseph Smith’s revisions “were argued for by Clarke.”99 This is not true. Clarke does not argue for anything at all, but like Joseph Smith he did realize that the sword going out of Jesus’s mouth was a metaphor that represents speech. The Prophet was no less able to come to that conclusion than was Clarke. The connection between the two is unconvincing, and the Prophet’s wording, “the word of God,” is different from the explanations Clarke provides: “the word of the Gospel,” “his word, the unadulterated Gospel.” Those are the phrases Wayment invokes to argue that Joseph Smith’s revisions were dependent on Adam Clarke. In the second metaphor, Clarke equates the “rod of iron” in this verse with “the severest judgment on the opposers of his truth,” but Joseph Smith’s change tells us nothing about “severest judgment.”

These revisions are easily explained within the context of Joseph Smith’s recognizable patterns of revising biblical passages. Many examples in the JST show that he was often uncomfortable with letting metaphor go without explanation.100 Jesus does not have a sword in his mouth, and he does not rule the nations with a rod of iron. Nothing about those two changes is surprising, and neither change can be shown in any way to be dependent on Adam Clarke.

[Page 53]Conclusion

Wayment states that Adam Clarke “shaped Smith’s Bible revision in fundamental ways.”101 Even if all of the passages he attributes to Clarke were really influenced by Clarke, it seems difficult to justify such a sweeping statement, given the mostly minor rewordings that we have seen. If among the verses listed above are the best examples, as Wilson-Lemmon states,102 then the Adam Clarke-JST theory can be dismissed out of hand. I see no smoking guns here, no examples that show real evidence of being influenced by Clarke. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon speak and write with complete certitude about their theory, but to their credit they sometimes include words like “may have,” “likely,” and “seems to” when referring to individual examples. Those modifiers only underscore the fact that their case has little to stand on. Wayment argues regarding several examples that the revisions took careful deliberation on Joseph Smith’s part and that producing them was a “labor-intensive” effort.103 To me, this seems to be a confession that the connections are not there. If it takes hard effort to find connections between JST revisions and Adam Clarke, as Wayment admits, then why would one pursue that option when much simpler and transparent explanations exist? Consider again the revision of 1 John 3:16, which Wayment believes “required some deliberation to make sense of what Clarke intended.”104 Which of the following options is more reasonable? Joseph Smith (a) reads the verse and says, “God didn’t lay down his life for us, Christ did. Let’s make a change here,” or he (b) digs through Clarke’s 200 words of ambiguous commentary before he comes to that same conclusion — something he already knew. And consider again the Prophet’s revision at Revelation 12:9, which Wayment states “required careful reading of the textual commentary.”105 Which of the following options is more reasonable? Joseph Smith (a) sees that the text can be misunderstood, so he makes it clear that the devil and Satan are the same, or he (b) pores through hundreds of words of dense commentary about the Roman Empire persecuting Christians, in the course of which he sees the words “also called Satan,” something he already knew, and makes the change. Questions like these can be asked of most of the revisions attributed [Page 54]to Clarke. The Adam Clarke-JST theory starts with the given that Joseph Smith borrowed ideas from Adam Clarke, and then it searches through Clarke for words that can be invoked as evidence for it. The real explanations are almost always much easier and much more intuitive than the explanations that involve Adam Clarke.

Indeed, if Joseph Smith borrowed from Adam Clarke, the evidence would be obvious. There would be direct, recognizable uses of distinctive words of Clarke, and there would be a clear and repeated pattern of them. As we saw earlier, in 1 Corinthians 15:26, Paul writes, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Clarke’s paraphrase for “shall be destroyed” is that death “shall be counter-worked, subverted, and finally overturned.” Had Joseph Smith used any such distinctive vocabulary in his revision, there might be a case for influence from Clarke. We saw how Clarke paraphrased the beginning of 2 Timothy 3:16 as “Every writing divinely inspired.” Had the Prophet used that phrase, there might be a case for Clarke’s influence there. We also saw Clarke’s words “sore trial,” at Matthew 6:13. Had the Prophet used a phrase as distinctive as that, there might be a case. Had he used even less distinctive words, but words that could actually be identified as coming from Clarke’s commentary, there might have been a case. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon cannot produce convincing corollaries between Clarke’s words and the JST, and that convinces me that there are none. Instead, the selective choosing of vague, distant resemblances out of large blocks of Clarke’s wordy text in which nothing else resembles the JST, coupled with misinterpretation of Clarke’s words and lack of analysis of JST revisions in context, produced a theory that does not hold up.

As a control for the Adam Clarke thesis, I examined a list of over 260 verses with JST revisions that are representative of other revisions Joseph Smith made.106 I did not find in any of those verses revisions that I would attribute to dependence on Clarke’s commentary. Of course there are overlaps, like these: Clarke takes note of the archaic word wot, but Joseph Smith had already discarded it before Clarke ever made mention of it in his commentary. Some JST changes are at passages where Clarke makes observations that any reasonable reader could have made, such as at Matthew’s odd account of Jesus riding two animals in the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:6–7). Clarke’s anti-Calvinist instincts coincide with Joseph Smith’s in two passages that the Prophet revised, one of which Clarke argues against revising (Isaiah 63:17; Acts 13:48). And Clarke [Page 55]comments on passages in which God is said to have hardened people’s hearts. Joseph Smith required only common sense and knowledge of the gospel, not access to commentaries, to know that those verses needed to be revised, and Clarke did not recommend revising them anyway. Those few overlaps are inconsequential and in no way suggest dependence by Joseph Smith on the ideas of Adam Clarke. More telling is the fact that almost all of the revisions in my control sample do not coincide in any way with Clarke’s thoughts, and a sizable number of them include word changes Joseph Smith made that go against Clarke’s views as expressed in his commentary.

There is an insurmountable mathematical problem associated with the idea that Joseph Smith relied on Adam Clarke. The Prophet made changes in about 3,600 verses of the KJV (in addition to the thousands of words of new text he added that have no KJV counterpart). In some of those verses he made multiple word changes. Clarke’s commentary provides hundreds of thousands of bits of data that the Prophet could have drawn from in the JST had he used it. The convergences that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon propose are individually unconvincing, but they are also tiny and random and statistically negligible compared with the massive amount of data available in Clarke. On the other side of the equation, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon cannot account for the thousands of changes Joseph Smith made that do not resemble in any way Clarke’s commentary. And they do not explain why Joseph Smith would pay attention to one isolated comment from Clarke in the midst of scores of others, nor why he would look to Clarke to make revisions of little consequence while Clarke was proposing many reinterpretations of significance. The numbers do not work at all. The idea that Joseph Smith “either read” Clarke’s commentary or “has it in front of him” or “reads it at night,” as Wayment maintains,107 cannot be sustained.

Could any of the thousands of revised wordings in Joseph Smith’s New Translation have been influenced by written sources that he became aware of? As noted earlier, I see no reason to rule that possibility out. The changes he made at 2 Chronicles 22:2, Nehemiah 7, and Isaiah 34:7 may have resulted from him becoming aware that there were issues in those passages. But those examples are themselves random and disconnected. Nothing suggests any kind of systematic effort to consult a commentary or translation in preparation for, or during, the revising of the text.

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon try to link the Prophet with Clarke’s commentary by citing an 1843 article in which the story is told that [Page 56]Nathaniel Lewis, Emma Smith’s uncle, asked if he could borrow the Urim and Thummim. The setting is 1828 or 1829, when Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon. Because Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon misrepresent and embellish the story, it is presented here:

And when the story came out about the “gold plates,” and the “great spectacles,” he (Lewis) asked Joe if any one but himself could translate other languages into English by the aid of his miraculous spectacles? On being answered in the affirmative, he proposed to Joe to let him make the experiment upon some of the strange languages he found in Clarke’s Commentary, and stated to him if it was even so, and the experiment proved successful, he would then believe the story about the gold plates.108

Almost two decades later, the same author included the story in a book. In that version, Lewis states, “I’ve got Clarke’s Commentary, and it contains a great many strange languages; now, if you will let me try the spectacles, and if by looking through them I can translate these strange tongues into English, then I’ll be one of your disciples.”109

A careful reading of this hearsay account shows that it proves nothing except that the author was telling a clever story at the expense [Page 57]of the Latter-day Saints. There is nothing in the story, even if it did take place exactly as reported, to suggest that Joseph Smith knew what Lewis was talking about when he made reference to Clarke’s commentary, nor that he had ever seen a volume of it. That was not even the point of the story. Without citing a source, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon write, “The story is retold in several later accounts, some of which report that Lewis pulled Clarke’s commentary from his own bookshelf and then questioned Smith.”110 This is simply not true. No such “later accounts” are known to exist, let alone “several,” except for the 2003 account by Evangelical scholar Ronald V. Huggins, who added considerable rhetorical embellishment when he wrote that “Lewis lifted down a large volume from its place on the shelf and opened it.”111 Huggins’s modern words are Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon’s “later accounts” for the story. Wayment states, “There’s a story of his brother-in-law presenting Joseph Smith with a copy of Adam Clarke.” This is not true, and there is nothing in the story that suggests Lewis was “presenting” the Prophet with anything but a snide proposal.112 Further, “We do not know whose copy of Adam Clarke it is, but we do know that Nathaniel Lewis gives it to the prophet.” This is not true, and there is no hint of it in the story.113 Then Wayment adds, “We know he had it in his hands.”114 None of this is true.115

Why do Joseph Smith’s revisions so often look so unlike those of Adam Clarke? In some of the passages that Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon invoke, the Prophet actually changed the text in ways very different from those favored by Clarke. It did not take me long to find other examples of the same phenomenon. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon have not presented evidence that Joseph Smith drew ideas from Adam Clarke’s commentary, and I do not believe that they have provided evidence to [Page 58]suggest that he had ever even heard of it. In repeatedly asserting that he did, they are not even acknowledging two other possibilities — that Joseph Smith was inspired in changing those passages, or that he had the intelligence or common sense to make the revisions on his own.

Joseph Smith had supreme confidence in his prophetic calling and believed that his authority even exceeded that of the Bible. That is why he so freely revised it and reinterpreted it.116 He was not prone to care what other religions taught, and we have no record of him turning to others to obtain ideas on doctrinal or scriptural matters. His Bible-based sermons, like the revisions he made to the Old and New Testaments, show that he and the religion God founded through him truly stood “independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world” (D&C 78:14). While it is not impossible that he learned from books about textual issues such as those examples I have listed, it does not fit his life’s pattern for him to seek outside of his own prophetic instincts to try to find answers to scriptural questions.

Consider the following: Before Joseph Smith started revising the Bible, he had already produced a new volume of ancient scripture — the Book of Mormon — with thousands of words that correct, reinterpret, and redefine almost every aspect of how we view the teachings and text of the Old and New Testaments. As for his Bible revision specifically, prior to arriving at the point at which Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon believe he started using Adam Clarke, Joseph Smith had already reinvented the Bible itself. He had announced that Christianity was revealed from the beginning of the world, and he had identified Adam, Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses as Christians. He had redefined the nature of God. He had announced the scope of God’s work to cover the universe, with myriad worlds throughout the cosmos inhabited by God’s children. He had explained God’s plan for human salvation in terms better than any found in the New Testament. He had revealed the nature and motives of Satan. He had explained the fall of Adam and Eve in ways that far eclipse any understanding of the topic in the Bible. And he had redefined the purpose of animal sacrifice. It does not seem likely to me that someone as confident of his prophetic calling as Joseph Smith was, who had already revised the biblical text so dramatically, would be inclined to search for suggestions in someone else’s book.

1. Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, eds. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 262–84.
2. Thomas A. Wayment, “Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, and the Making of a Bible Revision,” Journal of Mormon History 46, no. 3 (July 2020): 1–22.
3. Haley Wilson and Thomas Wayment, “A Recently Recovered Source: Rethinking Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” Journal of Undergraduate Research, March 16, 2017,
4. Thomas A. Wayment, “Joseph Smith’s Use of Bible Commentaries in His Translations,” LDS Perspectives Podcast, Episode 55,; Kurt Manwaring, “10 Questions with Thomas Wayment,” January 2, 2019,
5. Haley Wilson-Lemmon, “The Joseph Smith Translation — Revelation or Plagiarism,” Mormon Discussions,; “Haley Wilson-Lemmón — the BYU Undergrad who Discovered Joseph Smith’s Plagiarisms in his Bible ‘Translation,’” Mormon Stories, When citing these sources, I will reference the time of the recorded words.
6. Kent P. Jackson, “Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible,” in Pearl of Great Price Reference Companion, ed. Dennis L. Largey (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2017), 187.
7. The suggestion that Adam Clarke’s commentary was a source for readings in the JST is not new. An early example is Ronald V. Huggins, “Joseph Smith’s ‘Inspired Translation’ of Romans 7,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26, no. 4 (Winter 1993): 159–82.
8. See Kent P. Jackson, “The King James Bible in the Days of Joseph Smith,” in The King James Bible and the Restoration, ed. Kent P. Jackson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011), 138–61. Some of the translations cited in the following notes were in multiple editions, thus those cited here are representative. I have not included any translations that were first published after 1833, when the JST was finished, though three of them (Noyes, Webster, and Dickinson) were published that year and thus likely could not have been consulted by Joseph Smith during his Bible revision. In the following notes I have only included the first lines of the lengthy titles.
9. Charles Thomson, The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Covenant, 4 vols. (Philadelphia: Jane Aitken, 1808).
10. Abner Kneeland, Hē Kainē Diathēkē. The New Testament, in Greek and English (Philadelphia: William Fry, 1823); and The New Testament; Being the English only of the Greek and English Testament (Philadelphia: William Fry, 1823).
11. Alexander Campbell, The Sacred Writings of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ (Buffaloe, VA: Alexander Campbell, 1826).
12. George R. Noyes, An Amended Version of the Book of Job (Cambridge, MA: Hilliard and Brown, 1827); A New Translation of the Book of Psalms (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1831); A New Translation of the Hebrew Prophets (Boston: Charles Bowen, 1833).
13. Egbert Benson, A Manual. The Apostolic Epistles (New York: Egbert Benson, 1830).
14. Noah Webster, The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments (New Haven, CT: Durrie and Peck, 1833).
15. Rodolphus Dickinson, A New and Corrected Version of the New Testament (Boston: Lilly, Wait, Colman, & Holden, 1833).
16. All of these were published multiple times and by different publishers, and thus the examples in these notes are representative.
17. Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, 3rd ed. (London: Thomas Parkhurst, et al., 1696–).
18. John Gill, ed., An Exposition of the Whole Old Testament, 6 vols. (London: 1748–); An Exposition of the Whole New Testament, 3 vols. (London: 1746–).
19. James Macknight, A New Literal Translation from the Original Greek, of all the Apostolical Epistles, 6 vols. (Boston: W. Wells and T. B. Wait, 1810).
20. Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute, 1790–91).
21. Thomas Coke, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, 6 vols. (London: G. Whitfield, 1801–1803).
22. Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, vol. 1 [Genesis to Joshua] (New York: J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1832); vol. 2 [Judges to Job] (New York: N. Bangs and J. Emory, 1828); vol. 3 [Psalms to Isaiah] (New York: N. Bangs and J. Emory, 1826); vol. 4 [Jeremiah to Malachi] (New York: J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1832); The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, vol. 1 [Matthew to Acts], vol. 2 [Romans to Revelation] (New York: J. Emory and B. Waugh, 1832). When I quote from Clarke in this article, I quote from these editions in the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
23. P. Doddridge, The Family Expositor, vol. 1 [the Gospels, part 1], 4th ed. (London: J. Buckland, et al., 1763); vol. 2 [the Gospels, part 2], 3rd ed. (London: J. Waugh and W. Fenner, 1761); vol. 3 [Acts] (London: J. Waugh, 1748); vol. 4 [Romans, 1–2 Corinthians] (London: J. Waugh, 1753); vol. 5 [Galatians to Philemon] (London: J. Waugh and W. Fenner, 1756); vol. 6 [James to Revelation], 7th ed. (London: T. Longman et al., 1792).
24. Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, 6 vols. (Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong and Crocker and Brewster, 1824–31).
25. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. “translate.” These definitions remained the same in the second edition of 1844.
26. See Joseph Smith, “History of Joseph Smith (Continued),” Times and Seasons 5 (May 1, 1844): 513.
27. Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004), 83.
28. Ibid., 86.
29. Ibid., 159.
30. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 276.
31. Ibid., 276, and note 45.
32. Wayment, “Joseph Smith’s Use of Bible Commentaries,” 7. The Prophet’s use of Clarke’s commentary, Wayment believes, is tantamount to him saying, “I went to these sources, I looked at them, I deliberated with those, and I made changes to the Bible based on what they said” (7).
33. In support of their case for the use of the Urim and Thummim in Genesis, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon cite a man named Lorenzo Brown (1823–1902) supposedly quoting Joseph Smith talking about revising the Bible. (“A Recovered Resource,” 278–79.) They call Brown’s statement “remarkable,” but it is actually very problematic, and its uncertain provenance renders it unusable. Despite the fact that the year 1880 is written on the report of the statement, Wayment says that it is “a journal reference” of a contemporary of Joseph Smith (“Joseph Smith’s Use of Bible Commentaries,” 7; “Making of a Bible Revision,” 21). Instead, the statement is found in a five-page document called “Sayings of Joseph by Those Who Heard Him at Different Times,” perhaps produced around the beginning of the twentieth century. The document contains an unnamed compiler’s collection of statements attributed to Joseph Smith, as reported by several earlier informants. The document does not say when it was produced, how the compiler obtained the statements, what the criteria were for inclusion, or whether he or she compiled them from memory. There is no indication that the compiler was a witness to the informants writing or uttering the quotes. We know that the document is not the original, because a note on it identifies it as a copy. These are Joseph Smith’s purported words according to the Lorenzo Brown statement:

After I got through translating the Book of Mormon, I took up the Bible to read with the Urim and Thummim. I read the first chapter of Genesis and I saw the things as they were done. I turned over the next and the next and the whole passed before me like a grand panorama and so on chapter after chapter until I read the whole of it. I saw it all! … (This was spoken at the House of <Benj> Brown N.Y. 1832 Sidney Rigdon being along. Related by Lorenzo Brown 1880). (“Sayings of Joseph by Those who heard him at different times,” page [2], Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.)

Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon copied the words of the statement from a secondary source.

Brown was nine years old in 1832 when Joseph Smith supposedly said these words, and Brown supposedly related the story 48 years later. In his autobiography Brown first mentions meeting Joseph Smith in 1837, and Brown did not join the Church until 1838. (“Lorenzo Brown Diary and Autobiography,” page [2], L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.) Perhaps Brown remembered the date wrong and a conversation with Joseph Smith took place in 1837, when the Prophet visited his family and Brown was fourteen. If Brown remembered the wrong date in 1880, that gives us even more reason to doubt the reliability of the quoted words.

No sources from Joseph Smith or any of his scribes mention the use of seer stones or the Urim and Thummim during the Bible revision. In a recent collection of over 160 early statements regarding Joseph Smith’s use of those devices, Brown’s statement is the only one that mentions them in the context of the Bible revision. (See Michael Hubbard MacKay and Nicholas J. Frederick, Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones [Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2016], 181–232.)

Another problem with Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon’s use of the Brown quote is that it does not say what they want it to say. The quote never says that it has only to do with Genesis. The Prophet picked up the Bible, started with its first chapter, turned to the next and the next, and the whole passed before him and so on, chapter after chapter, until he read the whole of it. Wayment’s interpretation of this as referring only to Genesis does not come from the text but is imposed on it in support of the idea of a revelatory Genesis revision followed by an academic revision that drew ideas from Adam Clarke. In addition, Brown’s comment is incompatible with the evidence on the manuscripts.

34. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 3.
35. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 278.
36. Ibid., 277.
37. Ibid., 267.
38. Rodolphus Dickinson’s strange New Testament translation was an exception, with its apparent purpose of using as many obscure words as possible.
39. Wayment includes this example in “Making of a Bible Revision,” 5. It is impossible to know how the contradiction between Kings and Chronicles was brought to Joseph Smith’s attention. The commentaries of Clarke, Scott, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, and John Wesley all point out the contradiction. The Prophet’s printed Bible has a note that directs readers to 2 Kings 8:26, which provides the correct age. That the order of the numbers is reversed to match 2 Kings exactly (“two and twenty”) rather than the wording of Clarke and most other contemporary sources (“twenty-two”) is evidence that 2 Kings 8:26 is the ultimate source, even if the Prophet learned of the discrepancy in some other way.
40. “Index to the Holy Bible,” 760.
41. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 266, 284; Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 4–5.
42. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 280.
43. Wilson-Lemmon, “The Joseph Smith Translation,” at c. 49:22.
44. Errors in “A Recovered Resource” are disappointing. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon’s idea of Joseph Smith’s scribes copying text from a printed Bible, for example, shows a lack of familiarity with the documents. Several of the quotations in “A Recovered Resource” contain transcription errors, and several are cited from secondary sources when the authors could have examined accessible originals. The authors state that Joseph Smith revised Genesis 1:1–6:13 “working with John Whitmer as his scribe” (“A Recovered Resource,” 264). Whitmer was the scribe for parts of only four of the twenty pages in that section, and the authors left out Oliver Cowdery, Emma Smith, and Sidney Rigdon. Similarly, in a previous article, Wayment provided a list of Joseph Smith’s scribes and left off Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, the two who between them were responsible for the writing on two-thirds of the manuscript pages. (“Intertextuality and the Purpose of Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible,” in Foundational Texts of Mormonism Examining Major Early Sources, ed. Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin Scott Jensen, and Sharalyn D. Howcroft [Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2018], 74.) Twice in that same article Wayment misidentified the scribe of the second Matthew 26 translation (93, 94). Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon state, “Once Smith and Rigdon had finished revising the New Testament, they returned to the Old Testament” (“A Recovered Resource,” 264). This is not correct. The final scribe for the New Testament was not Sidney Rigdon but Frederick G. Williams, who continued on as the scribe for almost all of the Old Testament from that time on. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon state that “excerpts of the translation were published in early church newspapers” and then in 1851 the Church “republished the Bible revision for the early chapters of Genesis as the ‘Book of Moses’” (“A Recovered Resource,” 264). This is not correct. The Genesis material in the 1851 Pearl of Great Price was in two sections, titled “Extracts from the Prophecy of Enoch …” and “The words of God, which he spake unto Moses. …” The title “Book of Moses” did not appear until half a century later, in the edition of 1902. They misidentify the publisher of the 1851 Pearl of Great Price and list instead the printing company (ibid., 264n6). In a footnote they write that “the marked-up Bible used by Smith includes a notation at the end of Malachi: ‘Finished on the 2d day of July 1833’” (ibid., 275n44). That notation, however, was not written in the Bible but on the last page of the final Old Testament manuscript.
45. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 14.
46. Wilson-Lemmón, “BYU Undergrad,” at c. 37:20.
47. I will assume throughout that the examples given by Wilson-Lemmon in her interviews represent the conclusions of both her and Wayment, because that is how she presents them.
48. In “A Recovered Resource,” two sizable quotes from Clarke lack source references (273–74). Most of the Clarke quotations have transcription errors (usually the omission of his frequent italics) and give the impression that they were copied from an electronic text rather than from early printings of Clarke’s volumes. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon’s first citation of Clarke’s commentary is as follows: “Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (London: Butterworth, 1815; Nashville: Abingdon, 1977)” (263n2). This is not correct. The 1977 Nashville reprint that they used is a reprint of an 1837 edition published in New York. It contains internal dates from the 1820s and 1830s. The 1977 Nashville printing places two of Clarke’s six volumes within each binding, so it consists of three books. Internally the six volumes are paginated separately because they are reprints of separate nineteenth-century volumes. On the spines of the Nashville volumes are misleading labels: “Clarke’s commentary: Genesis–Esther,” “Clarke’s commentary: Job–Malachi,” and “Clarke’s commentary: Matthew–Revelation.” Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon cite the volumes by those modern spine labels and not by the titles of the actual books (which are never called “Clarke’s commentary”). And because there are two independently paginated volumes within each of the three bindings, when they cite page numbers, they do not realize that they are citing from two different volumes. For example, footnote 18 reads “Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary: Matthew–Revelation, 525,” and footnote 19 reads “Ibid., 478.” These two page numbers do not belong to the same numbering system because the first is in Clarke’s volume 6, Romans to the Revelations, and the second is in Clarke’s volume 5, Matthew to the Acts. The authors give no indication that they noticed any of this. The quotes in Wayment’s “Making of a Bible Revision” correctly include Clarke’s italics.
49. In her interview, Wilson-Lemmon (“The Joseph Smith Translation,” at c. 15:22) gives the reference as Exodus 9, but it is clear that she means Exodus 11:9, because that is where the phrase is that she discusses, and that is where Clarke’s commentary is located as well.
50. Clarke’s insightful argument is that the two verbs are not synonymous but that shall suggests inevitability while will implies the use of agency.
51. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 5.
52. Ibid., 5.
53. This is particularly visible in the passages in which God is described as repenting or hardening someone’s heart, e.g., Genesis 6:6; Exodus 9:12; 2 Samuel 24:16.
54. Wilson-Lemmon, “The Joseph Smith Translation,” at c. 17:40.
55. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 270–71; Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 6.
56. “Song of Solomon,” “Song of Songs,” “a song,” “the Song,” “this Song,” “this poem,” “it,” “this book,” “the book,” “an ode,” “the ode,” etc. Yet Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon write that in Clarke’s introduction, “several places referred to ‘odes’ or ‘songs,’ in grammatical agreement with the plural title ‘Canticles’ rather than with the singular title ‘Song of Solomon’” (“A Recovered Resource,” 271). Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon should have known that this is not true.
57. For various interpretations over the centuries, see Marvin H. Pope, Song of Songs: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977), 89–229.
58. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 268.
59. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 6.
60. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon mistranslate the singular “re-em” with the plural English word “unicorns”: “‘Re-em,’ which is readily recognizable as a transliteration of the Hebrew word translated into English as ‘unicorns’” (“A Recovered Resource,” 268). Wayment provides three transliterations of the Hebrew words, and all of them are incorrect: rǝ’ēmêm (Ibid., 269), reim, and re-im (“Making of a Bible Revision,” 6). It is unclear whether he intends the latter two to represent the singular or the plural.
61. Wilson-Lemmon, “The Joseph Smith Translation,” beginning at c. 6:25.
62. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 8–9.
63. Ibid., 9.
64. Examples can be seen in revisions at Genesis 21:29; Psalms 11:6; Mark 2:1–2; 3:13.
65. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 272.
66. Ibid., 274.
67. Ibid., 273.
68. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 6; Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 272–73.
69. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 268; Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 7–8.
70. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 269.
71. This could have been checked against an 1828 H. & E. Phinney Bible. Wayment misquotes the KJV of this verse in “Making of a Bible Revision” (9).
72. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 275; Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 9.
73. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 9–10.
74. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 271.
75. Ibid., 273; also Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 10.
76. Examples include 1 Corinthians 11:29 and 2 Peter 2:3.
77. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 7.
78. Ibid., 10.
79. Ibid.
80. John Gorham Palfrey, ed., The New Testament in the Common Version, Conformed to Griesbach’s Standard Greek Text (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1830).
81. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 268; see also Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 7.
82. “Discourse, 11 June 1843–A, as Reported by Willard Richards,” p. [245], The Joseph Smith Papers,, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization standardized.
83. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 269; Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 11.
84. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 270.
85. Ibid., 274; see also Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 10.
86. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 270; Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 8.
87. Clarke argues for the change explicitly at Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20. At Mark 14:22 and 1 Corinthians 11:25 he refers readers to his discussion at Matthew 26.
88. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 10–11.
89. Ibid., 12.
90. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon misstate Clarke’s comment about a Syriac manuscript; “A Recovered Resource,” 271–72.
91. Ibid., 271; Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 11.
92. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 8.
93. Wilson-Lemmon, “The Joseph Smith Translation,” at c. 17:05.
94. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 272.
95. “The aorist απώλοντο is equivalent to a ‘prophetic perfect,’ i.e. it views the future judgment of the false teachers with the certainty of an event which has already occurred.” Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 50 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), 84.
96. Wayment makes no mention of this.
97. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 12.
98. According to the commentary, “heaven” in the passage means “the throne of the Roman empire, the war in heaven consequently alludes to the breaking out of civil commotions among the governors of this empire.”
99. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 13.
100. Other examples include Exodus 7:1; Joel 1:6; and Matthew 3:11.
101. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 22.
102. Wilson-Lemmón, “BYU Undergrad,” at c. 37:20.
103. Wayment, “Making of a Bible Revision,” 6, 11–15.
104. Ibid., 11. Notice how this sentence starts with the assumption that the revision comes from Clarke’s commentary.
105. Ibid.
106. The list was not made with the Adam Clarke question in mind and thus serves as a good control sample. Many of the verses contain multiple revisions.
107. Wayment, “Joseph Smith’s Use of Bible Commentaries,” 6.
108. [George Peck,] “Mormonism and the Mormons,” Methodist Quarterly Review 25, 3rd series, vol. 3 (January 1843): 113. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon include this quote but do not tell us the source for their transcription of it, so it is not clear whether the minor errors in it are theirs or if they obtained the quote from a secondary source. They introduce the story with “Lewis reportedly stated,” whereas the story is clearly in the words of someone other than Lewis (“A Recovered Resource,” 266). Wayment states that in this quote the Prophet “was asked to translate a passage from Clarke’s commentary,” but it was Lewis who wanted to do the translating (“Making of a Bible Revision,” 5). The author of the story is not listed but was George Peck, editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review. The hostile nature of the article is evident throughout, including in the comment that though Emma Smith was a good cook, “she was of decidedly moderate intellectual caliber” (“Mormonism and the Mormons,” 112).
109. George Peck, Early Methodism within the Bounds of the Old Genesee Conference from 1788 to 1828 (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1860), 332–33. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon cite this account, but from a secondary source instead of examining the original. Peck’s story is quoted in Emily C. Blackman, History of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen, & Haffelfinger, 1873), 104–5. Lewis was clearly not impressed by Joseph Smith. He called him a “lying impostor” (Blackman, History of Susquehanna County, 579) and “not a man of truth and veracity; … an impostor, hypocrite and liar” (E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed [Painesville, OH: E. D. Howe, 1834], 267).
110. Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 266.
111. Ronald V. Huggins, “‘Without a Cause’ and ‘Ships of Tarshish’: A Possible Contemporary Source for Two Unexplained Readings from Joseph Smith,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 36, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 173. Huggins’s embellishment was based on his belief that the accounts suggest that the commentaries were nearby (Ronald V. Huggins to author, October 30, 2019).
112. And Nathaniel Lewis was Emma Smith’s uncle.
113. And in the story the book is clearly identified as Lewis’s copy.
114. Wayment, “Joseph Smith’s Use of Bible Commentaries,” 7.
115. In a later publication, Peck mentions Joseph Smith and Emma Smith’s family (misnaming her father “Jesse”) but does not retell the Nathaniel Lewis story. See The Life and Times of Rev. George Peck, D.D., Written by Himself (New York: Nelson & Phillips, 1874), 67–68.
116. That is the point I argue in Kent P. Jackson, “Joseph Smith and the Bible,” Scottish Journal of Theology 63, no. 1 (2010): 24–40.

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About Kent P. Jackson

Kent P. Jackson retired in June 2017 as a professor of religion at Brigham Young University, where he had taught since 1980. He has a BA in Ancient Studies from BYU and MA and PhD degrees in Near Eastern studies from the University of Michigan. His research interests include the Near East and the intersection of the Latter-day Saint faith and the Bible. He has authored or edited Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible; Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts; and A Bible Reader’s History of the Ancient World. Jackson is a former associate dean of religion and former associate director of the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.

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