Mormonism and the Bible/"Adding to" or "taking away from"
Book of Mormon & Bible:
|FAIR Wiki Topical Guide|
|FAIR web site|
|FARMS web site|
Critics claim that the Book of Mormon cannot be true because nothing should be "added to" or "taken away from" the Holy Bible.
The critics misuse Revelation, misunderstand the process by which the Bible canon was formed, and must ignore other, earlier scriptures to maintain their position. Their use of this argument is a form of begging the question whereby they presume at the outset that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures are not the Word of God, which is precisely the point under debate. In its proper context, the passage in Revelation actually supports the teachings of the Book of Mormon that many plain and precious things would be taken away from the Bible. It also shows clearly the need for another book of scripture like the Book of Mormon to restore those lost and sacred teachings. If the Book of Mormon and other modern scriptures are the work of uninspired men or the arm of flesh, then of course one ought not to trust them. If, however, they are indeed the word of the Lord to prophets, then all who desire to be saved ought to carefully heed them.
The verse often cited (as by Martin, above) is Revelation 22:18-19:
- For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Critics claim that this verse states that the Bible is complete, and no other scripture exists or will be forthcoming.
However, the critics ignore that:
- The book of Revelation was written prior to some of the other biblical books, and prior the Bible being assembled into a collection of texts. Therefore, this verse can only apply to the Book of Revelation, and not the Bible as a whole (some of which was unwritten and none of which was yet assembled together into 'the Bible'). While the traditional date of the book of Revelation is A.D. 95 or 96 (primarily based on a statement by Irenaeus), many scholars now date it as early as A.D. 68 or 69. The Gospel of John is generally dated A.D. 95-100. (For more information on the dating of Revelation, see Thomas B. Slater's Biblica article).
- The New Testament is made up of first the four Gospels and then second the epistles of the apostles. Since the book of Revelation is neither a gospel nor an epistle, it was placed at the end of the canon in its own category. Therefore, John cannot have intended the last few sentences of Revelation to apply to the entire Bible, since he was not writing a 'final chapter' for the New Testament and since the Bible would not be completed and canonized for some centuries later.
- Other scriptures (such as Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, and Proverbs 30:6) likewise forbid additions; were the critics' arguments to be self-consistent, they would have to then discard everything in the New Testament and much of the Old, since these verses predate "other scripture" added by God through later prophets.
- Further evidence that Rev. 22:19 is not referring to the entire bible when it reads "words of the book of this prophecy" is found if one reads Revelation 1:3,11:
- Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand...Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send [it] unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
It is self evident that the book referred to at the very beginning of Revelation is the same book being referred to at the very end of Revelation. Everything that John saw and heard in between these two statements are the contents of that book.
- Even if the passage in Revelation meant that no man could add to scripture; it does not forbid that God may, through a prophet, add to the Word of God. If this were not possible, then the Bible could never have come into existence.
Noted Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman wrote:
- The very real danger that [New Testament] texts could be modified at will, by scribes who did not approve of their wording, is evident in other ways as well. We need always to remember that the copyists of the early Christian writings were reproducing their texts in a world in which there were not only no printing presses or publishing houses but also no such thing as copyright law. How could authors guarantee that their texts were not modified once put into circulation? The short answer is that they could not. That explains why authors would sometimes call curses down on any copyists who modified their texts without permission. We find this kind of imprecation already in one early Christian writing that made it into the New Testament, the book of Revelation, whose author, near the end of his text, utters a dire warning [quotes Revelation 22:18–19].
- This is not a threat that the reader has to accept or believe everything written in this book of prophecy, as it is sometimes interpreted; rather, it is a typical threat to copyists of the book, that they are not to add to or remove any of its words. Similar imprecations can be found scattered throughout the range of early Christian writings.
This threat was a real threat in John's eyes. Unfortunately, it appears that the threat went unheeded. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi saw the same things that John the Beloved saw, but was not authorized to write them (1 Nephi 14:21-25). He made this interesting prophesy.
- Wherefore, thou seest that after the book [the Bible] hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God (1 Nephi 13:28).
Nephi is later promised that the Lord would send forth other books such as the Book of Mormon to restore those precious and plain things that were taken away.
- These last records [The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, etc], which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [The Bible], which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and previous things which have been taken away from them... (1 Nephi 13:40)
The ancient Book of Mormon prophet Nephi understood how critics would respond to the Book of Mormon. His answer for the critics is thus:
- Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more! And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall. Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough! For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Nephi 28:26-31)
- [note] Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (HarperSanFrancisco,  2007), 54–55. ISBN 0060859512. ISBN 0060738170.