Question: Did Joseph Smith create the story of Nephi and Laban by plagiarizing concepts and phrases from the story of Judith and Holofernes in the Apocrypha?


Question: Did Joseph Smith create the story of Nephi and Laban by plagiarizing concepts and phrases from the story of Judith and Holofernes in the Apocrypha?

Oliver Cowdery purchased a Bible containing the Apocrypha in October 1829, after the Book of Mormon was already at press

In order to support these claims, it would have been necessary for Joseph to have obtained a Bible containing the Apocrypha during the period of translation. It is known that Oliver Cowdery purchased a Bible in October 1829, however, the Book of Mormon was already at press by this time, with the copyright being registered on 11 June 1829.[1] We do know that Joseph had a Bible containing the Apocrypha in 1833 during the time he produced the "Joseph Smith Translation." Doctrine and Covenants Section 91 was given to Joseph specifically in response to his question as to whether or not he ought to revise the Apocrypha.

The story of Judith and Holofernes and the story of Nephi and Laban actually have more dissimilarities than parallels

The two stories actually have more dissimilarities than parallels, with the similarities being very superficial.[2]

The story of Nephi and Laban The story of Judith and Holofernes
Laban resides in Jerusalem and has possession of the brass plates. Holofernes is sent by King Nebuchadnezzar to conquer the rebellious Jews. The city of Bethulia is under siege by the Assyrians.
Nephi tells his father that he will return to Jerusalem to obtain the Brass plates of Laban. Judith, a Jewish resident of the city of Bethulia, tells the people that she will deliver them from their oppressors.
Nephi enters Jerusalem under cover of darkness. He does not intend to kill Laban. Judith enters the camp of the Assyrians with the intent to kill Holofernes.
Nephi finds Laban drunk and lying in the street. Nephi resists the idea of killing Laban even after he is told to do so. Judith impresses Holofernes with her charms and gets him drunk. He passes out on his bed.
Nephi holds up Laban’s head by the hair and cuts if off with his own sword. Judith holds up Holofernes’ head by the hair and cuts it off with his own sword.
Nephi leaves Laban lying in the street, but takes and puts on his armor and sword. Judith takes Holofernes’ head with her back to the city to prove what she has done.
Nephi obtains the records from Laban’s house and leaves the city. The Jews, upon learning of the death of Holofernes, leave the city and plunder the Assyrians camp.

The relationship between the story of Laban and the story of Judith is superficial at best. It has even been pointed out by LDS scholars that if one were to look for potential parallels with the story of Nephi and Laban, that the story of David and Goliath would be a much better fit than the story of Judith.[3]


Notes

  1. John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, "Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha: Shadow or Reality? (Review of Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 326–372. off-site
  2. James B. Allen, "Asked and Answered: A Response to Grant Palmer (Review of: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins)," FARMS Review 16/1 (2004): 235–286. off-site
  3. John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, "Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha: Shadow or Reality? (Review of Joseph Smith's Use of the Apocrypha by Jerald and Sandra Tanner)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 326–372. off-site