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Chapter 50 in the book of Genesis is part of the Joseph Smith Translation, written by Joseph Smith himself.

Verses 30 and 33 of this chapter says the following (emphasis added):

30 And again, a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins, and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins; and not to the bringing forth of my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them in the last days;

...

33 And that seer will I bless, and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise I give unto you; for I will remember you from generation to generation; and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father; and he shall be like unto you; for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation.

With this passage, Joseph Smith added a prophecy to the Bible book of Genesis which was originally written thousands of years ago. This prophecy is about a future seer who was (to be) named Joseph after the name of the seer's father.

For a non-believer at least this looks like a possible attempt by Joseph Smith to retroactively insert a prophecy about himself into the Bible, considering that Joseph Smith was himself a son of a man named Joseph (Joseph Smith Sr.).

However I would assume that Mormons view this passage differently. How do Mormons view it?

  1. Is the passage viewed as a reference to some other individual named Joseph, who was also named after his father?
  2. Or is the passage viewed as something that God somehow wanted Joseph Smith to include here?
  3. Or is it viewed in some other manner altogether?
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When viewed from the belief that Joseph Smith was not a prophet and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is false, or that the Bible is perfect and unchanged from the day it was written1, the only conclusion is that Joseph was writting himself into history.

When viewed from the belief that Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, the only conclusion is that Joseph restored a portion of the Old Testament that had been lost. A portion that supports his claim of being a prophet of the Lord.

Remember that we believe the Bible is not perfect. That over the course of time information has been lost (whether deliberately or by virtue of translation, it doesn't matter). We learn from the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:25-26 (my emphasis):

Wherefore, these things [the Bible] go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God. And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

1 Nephi chapter 13 is actually a lengthy prophecy. It makes for an interesting read. But, to specifically answer your questions:

(1) No, it specifically refers to Joseph Smith.

(2) The passage is something that God wanted Joseph to include.

(3) Nope, that's it.


1 If you want to discuss how perfect the Bible is, talk to a Jew. The Jews have a strong opinion about the quality of Christianity's Old Testament, but that's an answer for another question.


EDIT: After reading Luke's comment I wished I hadn't included my footnote as it doesn't actually add anything to the conversation. But, I'm kinda stuck with it... so I popped over to Judiasm.SO and asked them what they thought.

The most voted answer begins with the statement, "KJV may give the general sense of a translation in most cases. It definitely has a Christian bend and does not always follow the Jewish traditions in translation." It then provides a number of illustrative examples, including Isaiah 7:14, which illustrates the reason I included the footnote.

The Hebrew word for "virgin" isn't used in the original text. The word that is used is most commonly translated "young girl." Does this upset my faith? Of course not. But if King James' monks, who I do not believe had authority from God to translate His word, can't be trusted not to bias their translation in favor of their preferred belief, neither can anyone else who does not have, as I believe, authority from God to do so. From Joseph's journal (today referred to as the "Documentary History of the Church or DHC) we read:

From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. (DHC, vol. 1, p. 245.)

I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors. (DHC, vol. 6, p. 57.)

I stand by my footnote, despite wishing I hadn't included it, with one exception. I should not have boldly used the word "strong."

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    @fredsbend This is a good answer, but I'm not sure how a "neutral" answer is necessarily required, given that the question is asking for how Mormons view it. – Matt Aug 12 '17 at 19:08
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    @Matt The question points out the issue itself "For a non-believer at least this looks like a possible attempt by Joseph Smith to retroactively insert a prophecy about himself into the Bible". The answer nods to the fact that it is an issue. It could have instead been far more hostile. I'm appreciating polite discourse. – fredsbend Aug 12 '17 at 19:22
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    Re: Christianity's Old Testament: the Catholic and Orthodox canons include a few more books than are in the Tanakh, but the Protestant OT is essentially identical to the Jewish canon except for book divisions and order. Of course, the translation can be faithful or not, but "Christianity's Old Testament" doesn't refer to the King James or NIV or what have you. As a Christian who reads the תנ"ך in Hebrew daily and considers it his OT, I have to take issue with your last sentence unless it were appropriately qualified... – Luke Sawczak Aug 12 '17 at 19:35
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    @LukeSawczak, I posted some more. I don't believe it will address your entire issue, but I hope it's good enough to make my point. – JBH Aug 14 '17 at 14:39
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    @JBH I appreciate the initiative! But I still reject the comparison because of this caveat: for Protestants at least, no translation, even the KJV, has ultimate authority. Reflecting a little more, I realize that the key point of dispute is actually higher up in your answer; it has to do with the degree to which we're prepared to accept that key passages might have been lost from the Bible or that any translator can restore them. A Protestant parts ways with a translation where it parts ways with the original manuscripts as we have them. Arguing this point is another question, of course. :) – Luke Sawczak Aug 14 '17 at 15:22
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From the point of view of the believing Latter Day Saint, everything Joseph Smith added was not added, but "restored", meaning that it was originally there and unnamed wicked people removed it. Mormons do not accept Joseph Smith as a prophet because of rational proofs, but because each one is encouraged to pray to God and get an individual confirmation, called a "testimony", from the Holy Spirit. Once a person has such a testimony, then additional facts don't matter because God has already spoken.

Before you condemn this world-view too roundly, consider that some Christians believe the Bible is unerring and perfect in spite of the fact that there are numerous inconsistencies, monstrous immoralities on the part of God and at least one documented false prophecy (in Jeremiah if I remember right). Most of the prophecies about Jesus mentioned in the New Testament are taken grossly out of context. Great example is the "for unto us a son is born..." passage that gets quoted in every Christmas play. If you read the entire chapter in Isaiah, that verse cannot possibly refer to Jesus because the timing is all wrong. Passage likely refers to King Hezekiah. Once you already "know" Jesus was son of God, then you start seeing prophecies about him lurking behind every verse. Muslims can't look at the inconsistencies in the Quran and spend a lot of time justifying some pretty scary verses.

Once you accept something as Holy, facts don't matter so much any more. It is only from those outside the faith community that the inconsistencies matter.

  1. My faith is sacred and holy and true
  2. If something about my faith is profane or false, refer to rule #1
  • apropos "Great example is the "for unto us a son is born..." passage that gets quoted in every Christmas play."...if this passage refers to King Hezekiah instead of Jesus then it is not a case of corruption of the Bible but rather a misunderstanding/misapplication. Although maybe you did not mean this particular one as an example of scriptural corruption per se. – SherlockEinstein Aug 13 '17 at 23:29
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The prophecy in question was actually made by Joseph of Egypt, and was first recorded in modern times in the Book of Mormon, in the third chapter of Second Nephi. Joseph of Egypt prophesied of the choice seers to come, namely Moses, and Joseph Smith:

14 And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled. Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;

15 And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation. (2 Nephi 3)

The Lord inspired the Prophet Joseph Smith to restore truths to the King James Bible text that had become lost or changed since the original words were written. These restored truths clarified doctrine and improved scriptural understanding.1

The record of this prophesy from ancient Joseph's time was preserved in the Brass Plates, and subsequently in the Gold Plates, then translated by Joseph Smith. Keep in mind that Mormons believe Joseph literally translated an ancient record. The question has been put forward by more than one speaker, as to what Joseph Smith must have felt or thought after realizing he was translating a prophecy about himself, and discovering that other prophecies in the Bible were in reference to him (see Prophecies in the Bible about Joseph Smith).

It is apparent that the prophecy in question took place during the events recorded in Genesis 50, hence why Joseph restored them to that section of scripture while completing the work of retranslating the Bible.


1 Joseph Smith Translation Appendix

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    Nice answer. So does "restore truths" mean something different than "correctly translate"? Can we rightly call these acts of restoration "interpolations that Mormons believe justified", or is there a claim that the original words of the scriptures have been restored? – fredsbend Aug 13 '17 at 22:42
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    @fredsbend The JST is more than just a translation. Scripture is the spoken and written word of prophets of God. Joseph of Egypt spoke these words, but the only surviving record of this prophecy left Jerusalem in 600BC and made it's way to the Americas where it was eventually incorporated into the Book of Mormon. There is no remaining old-world hebrew codex that Joseph would have translated these verses from. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, he had just as much authority to author newly revealed prophecy as he would have to restore old prophecies. – ShemSeger Aug 14 '17 at 1:24

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