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Simple question: non-LDS Christians believe the testimonies of the apostles, yet they reject the testimonies of the 3 & 8 witnesses to the golden plates. Why? In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every matter be established (2 Cor 13:1) -- why is this reason not enough?


EDIT: Why should they? From a Latter-day Saint perspective, because this is one of the positive arguments for the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon -- which should be of the utmost importance if it happens to be the case. See this answer and this answer for example presentations of this argument.


Related: Is there anything close to a consensus on how to assess the credibility of eyewitness accounts as supportive evidence for supernatural beliefs?


For a defense of the credibility of the Book of Mormon witnesses (the opposite view), see According to Latter-day Saints, what are the strongest arguments for the credibility of the 3 & 8 witnesses to the golden plates?

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    Bring unto me tracings of the golden plates with a chain of custody from Joseph Smith to present and I will show you why not by a test that we could run today that Joseph Smith could not himself have run. But in fact you cannot because this material is not available, and for no good reason.
    – Joshua
    Aug 19, 2021 at 21:51
  • 3
    "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed." Gal 1:8. We don't simple accept the testimonies of anyone, we consider and weight what they say for consistency. For all the reasons the others mention, BofM fails this test.
    – yesennes
    Aug 20, 2021 at 14:05
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    Non-LDS Christians generally would reject the "revelation" to Joseph Smith because it appears to contradict the revelation handed down from the Apostles. Truth cannot contradict truth.
    – jaredad7
    Jan 28, 2022 at 17:40
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Joshua
    Mar 18 at 18:08

12 Answers 12

41

For those who have 'discovered' the Jesus of the Bible, resurrected from the dead and alive today, they swiftly spot that the Jesus of Joseph Smith is not the same Jesus. He is claimed to be the first spirit-baby born to the god Elohim and his wife in some other universe. They named him Jehovah and later, his plan of salvation was superior to his brother, Lucifer's, so this Jehovah became born as a baby on earth to carry it out. No Bible-believing Christian can accept any of that, which is why the testimonies of those witnesses to the golden plates are discounted. But there are more reasons for discounting them than that.

An interesting thing about the Book of Mormon (BofM), which claims Jesus visited the Americas centuries ago to establish the start of a religion that would lead to the religion Joseph Smith proposed in the early 1800s, is that this 19th century religion is dependent on the truth of the claim that the initial BofM was completed 1190 years before the King James Bible, from which the BofM quotes extensively (though not entirely accurately). Is that not suspicious? We also have to believe that Joseph Smith was given golden plates in the early 1800s. They had been laid in a stone chest at the beginning of the 5th century, and contained "the fulness of the everlasting gospel." These plates were apparently written in "Reformed Egyptian" characters, and needed to be translated into English (by Smith who had to wait 4 years before getting angelic permission to start that work). Thus came into being the English BofM, testified to as authentic by various witnesses. Let's check them out.

I have in front of me photo-copies of the "Testimony of Three Witnesses" 1830 original edition, and of the "Testimony of Eight Witnesses" 1830 original edition. The three were, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris. Despite saying that they saw the plates and testified that the translation of them was "by the gift and power of God", later on thousands of changes had been made to the once-only translated text, thus invalidating their testimony. Further, all three of them later apostatized from the Mormon church. Joseph Smith accused Cowdery of having printed counterfeit money, and a denunciation of all three is found in the Mormon book, Doctrine and Covenants, page 232.

The eight witnesses were Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jnr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith Senior, Hyrum Smith and Samuel H. Smith. The original edition of their testimony calls "Joseph Smith Jr. the Author and Proprietor of this work" but later editions drop the "Author and Proprietor" claim, putting instead, "Joseph Smith Jr., the translator of this work." That invalidates the original testimony. Further, five of the eight later apostatized from the Mormon church.

Finally, consider evidence for where the BofM really came from. Around 1810 there was a Congregational preacher called Solomon Spaulding. He was an avid reader with a great interest in Indian folklore and archaeology. He had a master's degree and was totally familiar with the King James Bible. In his own handwriting he produced a book he called Manuscript Found. There is reason to believe this book was stolen from Patterson's Print Shop, Pittsburg. One reason is that, years later, some original, hand-written pages of the BofM were lost at the printers, at its first publication. Smith went home and came back with the missing pages, in long-hand writing. These pages are in Spaulding's own handwriting, but he was dead when the BofM was supposedly translated.

Eight people who read both Manuscript Found and The Book of Mormon have testified under oath that they are both the same. They were, John Spaulding, Martha Spaulding, John Miller, Henry Lake, Artemas Cunningham, Aaron Wright, Nahum Howard and Matilda (nee Spaulding) Davidson (Solomon Spaulding's widow).

I suggest that if you want to consider the testimony of eight people, you go by the ones who knew that Manuscript Found predated the later printed title The Book of Mormon.


Sources: The Book of Mormon - True or False? by Arthur Budvarson, pp25-28, 1959. The Facts of Mormonism are Stranger than Fiction, p13, Eric Clarke, 1986

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    This answer makes an excellent case for why we should be suspicious of the eyewitness accounts in the case of the BofM (+1 for that), but what about the testimonies of the apostles? Why shouldn't we be suspicious of their testimonies as well?
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2021 at 12:24
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    The Spaulding manuscript? Seriously? That conspiracy theory was thoroughly debunked well over 100 years ago.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Aug 20, 2021 at 1:39
  • @MasonWheeler: So much the better for we still have 8 to set against 8 and if the first 8 can lie so can the second, and if we were to put it to the test the BofM would fall as well.
    – Joshua
    Aug 20, 2021 at 1:45
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    – curiousdannii
    Mar 18 at 21:54
  • The theory that Solomon Spaulding is the source for the Book of Mormon has been thoroughly refuted. See a representative response here Apr 17 at 3:41
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Even if we accept that Joseph Smith received the golden plates as LDS describes it, neither LDS adherents nor skeptics can verify the translation.

Contrast this with Bible believing Christians, any of whom can learn Greek or Hebrew to check the translation if they so desire from hundreds of copies or manuscripts. If one reads any of the English translations available on BibleGateway or BibleHub they are incredibly consistent, meaning in agreement, with each other.

The King James Bible can easily be verified to predate the book of Mormon and anyone who desires may check the translation of the Bible. It specifically says,

"6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert[a] the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be [b]accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."

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    Verification of the translation is not a witness of the truth of what has been translated. Aug 20, 2021 at 13:12
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    @SamLiddicott Yes it is. If you cannot understand a document and there is no valid, scholarly, lexical and historic evidence of a language to translate it, it remains unverifiable. But once one can sensibly translate a document and understand what it says, it can be verified in comparison to other known documents, in the way that multiple authors (not just one) and multiple manuscripts (not just one) can be cross-referenced and cross-verified, as is the truly vast documentation of the holy bible. (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    Aug 21, 2021 at 7:51
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    @NigelJ I think maybe I wasn't clear, or we are straying from the answer as given. I can verify the translation of fragments of "Planet of the Apes" or of "The Necronomicon" independently of verifying the message. The presence of the golden plates might verify the translation without confirming the truth or falsity of the message. Consistency of the message with other messages can be done without access to the golden plates. Aug 23, 2021 at 15:07
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    @SamLiddicott, lack of verification doesn't necessarily invalidate the message, but that's also not what nickalh wrote. Having artifacts whose providence is attested with high confidence and which can be verified to say what they are purported to say lends additional credibility. Scripture was written by dozens of authors with hundreds of people, even enemies, attesting to the events recorded therein. While the original manuscripts have been lost, we have many, many copies... and anyway, no one is claiming the originals were written by other than humans. (Continued...)
    – Matthew
    Mar 19 at 15:49
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    (...continued) By contrast, TBoM purports to have been written and revealed in secret (except for John's Revelation, nothing about true Hebrew or Christian Scripture was ever secret), under circumstances that strongly contrast to how TH/CS was delivered and frankly seem bizarre. Moreover, the only supposed attestation to the same is by a small number of questionable witnesses, none of whom were examined with the rigor to which the Apostles were subjected, and there is no external substantiating evidence. Again, this is in contrast to hostile witnesses to the True Gospel.
    – Matthew
    Mar 19 at 15:54
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It is simplistic to suppose that a choice is being made by certain Christians to believe the testimony of twelve Israelites in the middle of the first century or to believe the testimony of eleven men in the early 1800s. This is not the choice being made.

The choice being made is to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the choice being made is not to follow Joseph Smith who uttered the following words :

I will preach on the plurality of gods. I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see (King Follett Discourse).

Whether a document was found, or not, whether men other than Joseph Smith saw it, or not, whether it was written in a language that required translation, or not : is all irrelevant.

That one statement is enough for me to reject everything produced by the man and his followers.

In contrast, a voice was heard from heaven on two separate occasions, thirty years apart, and was witnessed to by several holy, devout and truthful men :

This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased . . . hear ye Him.

We choose to hear Jesus Christ the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, who testified of his Father, and called him : the only true God.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.


All quotations and references are to the KJV.

Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, 2 Peter 1:17, Matthew 17:5, Luke 9:35, John 17:3.


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    The choice being made is to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the choice being made is not to follow Joseph Smith who uttered the following words - Isn't this a textbook example of begging the question though? You believe in the testimony of the apostles because they preached that Jesus is the Son of God, and you believe that Jesus is the Son of God because of the testimony of the apostles. This is circular and requires you to assume that the conclusion is already true before you even assess the evidence for it.
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2021 at 12:03
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God because God has revealed Him in me. Galatians 1:16.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 19, 2021 at 12:16
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    – curiousdannii
    Mar 18 at 22:02
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Me and my friend made an effort to read the Book of Mormon. Of the many things I could say, one is pretty strong. A miraculous translation should not produce bad grammar; neither should it produce grammar with a whiplash effect by changing through three hundred years of grammar in the same sentence.

The repeating "And it came to pass" suggests rather the printing press already existed when these were written down; nobody in the ancient world would dare to write excessively like that.

(References to the author are deliberately floating pronouns. It doesn't matter if Joseph Smith wrote it or it was dictated to him.)

But I need only go as far as 1:10 "and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament." No one who has seen from above could have written this fragment, for it is grave error. In old Hebrew, the stars are not in the firmament but rather in the heavens.

"they seek to take away thy life." Not idiomatic Hebrew.

"Laman, Lemuel, and Sam." Not named by a Hebrew speaker. There is no such name as Lemuel. It's like referring to the foundational statistics papers written by "Student" and telling me that's his name.

"Nephi" why does a Egyptian loanword used as a name and transliterated into English bear the mark of being transliterated through the Greek; except for the author had read no Egyptian.

"And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church" Impossible. Amateur error; it's like he doesn't know there were no synagogues before the fall of Jerusalem.

"And it came to pass that Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake. Now Zoram was the name of the servant; and he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth." Somebody can't be bothered to recopy and make corrections.

"And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies." Too new.

"he [father of Nephi] should baptize" before John? I don't think so.

11:13 "... white" No, you didn't. This error could only be made by one who only saw Jews from Europe after the dispersion.

"that they rent;" rent what?

Point being; how far you get depends on how much tolerance you have. It's just bad and it shows. The writing is not true; of itself we can show that it was written first in English rather than any ancient language, and by someone whose native language was neither Hebrew nor Egyptian (but the writing carries the story of itself all the same). No number of witnesses can sign it so that it can be accepted. I'm not surprised it's rejected. I'm surprised it was accepted by enough people to not get squashed within one generation.

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    Though these are all relevant criticisms of the BoM itself, I think the OP question is fundamentally about the trustworthiness of religious witnesses, to the exclusion of other pieces of evidence that the BoM is true or false. Basically, the OP argument is, in my estimation, If we trust the apostlic witnesses, we should trust the BoM witnesses. If we don't trust the BoM witnesses, we shouldn't trust the apostlic witnesses. The question of the fundamental trustworthiness of witnesses is a worthwhile one.
    – TKoL
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:45
  • @TKoL: The question bare is unanswerable. I must rather argue one way or another from what we have that these witnesses are simply unreliable.
    – Joshua
    Aug 20, 2021 at 14:12
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    – curiousdannii
    Mar 18 at 21:56
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A Christian is one who has believed the testimony of the Scriptures concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and has thus received the testimony that God has given regarding his only begotten Son. By reception of said testimony (being born again), the very Spirit of that God enters such a one and the testimony becomes an internal validation of what has been written.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him....If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. - 1 John 5:1, 9-12

This is not circular reasoning as posited in a comment above:

You believe in the testimony of the apostles because they preached that Jesus is the Son of God, and you believe that Jesus is the Son of God because of the testimony of the apostles.

But it is a fulfillment of prophesy (which itself is evidence of veracity):

For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. - Ezekiel 36:24-28

A Christian, then, is one who has crossed over from believing that the Scriptural testimony of Almighty God is true to knowing that it is true because that one has the witness within, and this witness, the Holy Spirit, is the very same one who has inspired the authors of the Scriptures:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. - 2 Peter 1:16-21

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. - John 14:16-17

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: - John 15:26

Such a one, having the witness/testimony of Christ (the Holy Spirit) within, cannot accept any witness contradictory to what has been given and received because that would constitute making God a liar. The kingdom of God would revert to a house divided against itself and could not stand because God can neither lie nor deny Himself.

The testimony of Mormon witnesses as to the divine nature of the Book of Mormon and the golden plates cannot be accepted by a born again Christian (there is no other kind) because these are witnesses to a "revelation" that is contradictory to the witness that has been given by God to mankind and which lives within the Christian by the Spirit of God.

The Spirit of Truth will not step aside and accommodate error.

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    I'm afraid Latter-day Saints would make the same appeal to the "inner witness of the Holy Spirit" to defend their views. See this question.
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2021 at 14:03
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    @Spirit Realm Investigator Certainly the LDSs claim that you should experience "a burning in the bosom" when you start to believingly read the BofM. But that is to put the BofM above believing what the Bible says about putting faith in the Jesus of the Bible and then having the Spirit of Christ and of God 'indwell' you (Romans 8:9). The indwelling Spirit of Truth would not lead you to believe in the different Jesus of the BofM. That is why the Jesus of the Bible must be believed FIRST, then the Christian calls upon the Bible as proof, not subjective experiences.
    – Anne
    Aug 19, 2021 at 14:46
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator The question is addressed to non-LDS Christians. What LDS appeal to is irrelevant. Aug 20, 2021 at 12:20
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    – curiousdannii
    Mar 18 at 22:04
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because this is one of the positive arguments for the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon -- which should be of the utmost importance if it happens to be the case.

Over and over in the Bible there are warnings against adding to the God's Word (more books, more laws, more "holy" writs, etc etc.).

Do not add to His words
Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar. Proverbs 30:6

and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Matthew 24:11

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Matthew 24:24

Therefore, if what the apostles say about Jesus is true, then the Book of Mormon isn't.

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    The main reason why this argument tends to fail is that the bible itself wasn't a single, unified, complete document when these words were written. The concept of the "new testament" wasn't known to the author who wrote "Do not add to His words", so he could not have possibly meant "Do not publish any more revelations after the New Testament". Or so the argument goes.
    – TKoL
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:48
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    Proverbs is from the Old Testament... So should we conclude that the new testament is a lie?
    – user132647
    Aug 20, 2021 at 14:17
  • Okay, maybe the Proverbs quote is undermining my point a little here :-). It seems to be talking about wicked talk generally, and is not specific to heretical talk. I'm not sure. I'll have to read it more closely. Aug 20, 2021 at 14:35
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It would be safe to conclude that both sides heartily agree that this synchronicity is by no means coincidental:

  • to the believer, it is a clear and undeniable testimony of divine providence at work, preparing the world for the eternal truth of the Prophet's timeless revelations;

  • to the outsider, they seem to resemble more a faith-based world-building exercise, similar to those of Tolkien's Middle Earth or C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, but with a distinctly Middle Eastern — rather than European — focus.

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Why do non-LDS Christians accept the testimonies of the apostles but reject the testimonies of the 3 & 8 witnesses to the golden plates?

As for Catholics and I suppose some other Christian denominations (in a similar, but not exact vein of theological thought), the response seems fairly straightforward: Public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle of Jesus (John the Apostle).

This is not a new stance within the Church, but has been made very clear since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Roman Catholic theology

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, public revelation was complete in New Testament times, but depends on interpretation and deepening understanding of this foundational or "definitive" revelation:

97 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God" in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.

66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment. Divine revelation was fulfilled, completed, and perfected in Christ, the fullness and mediator, author and interpreter, purpose and center of public revelation. Hence, public revelation is the deposit of faith and rule of faith and must be lived by all Catholics. Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that all public revelation ended with the death of Saint John the Apostle. Private revelations cannot surpass, correct, improve, fulfill, complete, or perfect public revelation.

Divine revelation, since it is contained in the Word of God and in Christ, also includes the living tradition or sensus fidelium, the magisterium, the sacraments, and Catholic dogma. Because the living tradition and the magisterium are a part of divine revelation, they both have divine authority. Because the sacraments are a part of divine revelation, their natures cannot be changed (for example, receiving Holy Communion without mortal sin) but their ways of celebration can be changed (for example, receiving Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue). Because Catholic dogma is a part of divine revelation, the saving truths of Christ are immutable. But what truths are dogmas has needed to be clarified by church councils, and the much more numerous doctrines have yielded to varied and increased understanding based on solid study of the Biblical roots and of the history of the topic. For this the work of theologians is indispensable, since the charism of the bishops is not to receive revelations but to determine what is Catholic teaching, the more so in doctrines that are more central to the faith and dogmatically taught. The Second Vatican Council of Bishops maintained a careful line between the "two source" (Scripture and the living tradition) and "one source" explanation of revelation, careful to acknowledge the ultimate priority of the original deposit of faith: "For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known."

The revelations in the Word of God – such as the apparition of the three angels to Abraham and the angel who wrestled Jacob; the burning bush; the theophany on Mount Sinai; the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire; the visions and prophecies of the prophets; Elijah's test at the cave, and his assumption; the revelation to Saint Peter ("You are the Christ"); the apparitions of the risen Christ to the Apostles, including the exceptional and unique apparition to Saint Paul; the various miracles recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles; and the entire Book of Revelation – are not private revelations but are public revelation, though their original meaning and relevance for the Church today are subject to interpretation. The apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar to Saint James the Greater is a private revelation, since it depends on facts not contained in the original deposit of faith. It, along with the canonization of saints, will never be dogmatically taught, but are taught as safe for Christian belief.

Because Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the church into every truth, the Lord leads the church into a deeper understanding of the original deposit. To suitably apply the truths of revelation to the needs of each age, the magisterium examines carefully private revelations, to assure that they are in accord with church doctrine. Christ warned that false prophets would come and that the tree will be known by its fruit.

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Part A - Why do non-LDS Christians accept the Testimony of the Apostles?

Contrast, Not Comparison It must first be considered that in this discussion we can not compare the two groups of witnesses, we can only contrast them! The differences are so great, that they are two different classes of people!

1. Appointed by Jesus First, as Xartoon noted, after a night of prayer, Jesus Himself appointed the Twelve Apostles (Matthew 10). Not an angel, nor a High Priest, but Jesus. This gives credibility from the beginning. Even Judas was picked for the purpose of fulfilling what the Apostles witnessed: the Death and Resurrection.

2. Content of Message Notice the content of the message of the Apostles: what they testified to was open and public events; nothing secret about it all! They were not relating what was done in a cave (like Mohammed), nor what was done in a secluded forest at Cumorah (like J. Smith).

They were testifying to events in the life of Jesus that the whole country of Judea was buzzing about. Open demonstration of miracles, public healings, witnessed resurrections from the dead, multiplication of food for whole crowds!

So the Apostles testimony was easily confirmed by multitudes of people. What the Apostles testified to could not be denied at all. The content of their message was known throughout the region.

Jesus answered him (high priest), "I spoke openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue and the Temple where the Jews always resort, and in secret I have said nothing. (John 18:20; Luke 21:37)

The king (Festus) knows these things before whom I also speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. (Acts 26:26)

3. Totality of Testimony Note also that the Apostles were not just accident witness of just one tragic event that they were trying to recall. Each Apostle had to have been a disciple of Jesus for 3 1/2 years! (Acts 1:21-22) They had to have been witnesses over and over again of the miraculous ministry of Jesus leading up to the Resurrection...which they also witnessed with hands on empirical verification. (Luke 24:36-43, 1 John 1:1-3)

What they testified to was not secret meetings with an angel or dead saints, on one or more occasions, but a full number of years of testimony on and on. Day after day month after month, year after year.

4. Testimony of Enemies What the Apostles testified to was known by Christ's enemies, as well. They couldn't deny it, as the Apostles pointed out. The Apostles' testimony was borne out by the rulers who hated Him. It was therefore solid testimony. Notice what Peter said to the Roman centurion:

The word you know, which was published throughout all Judea, and begun from Galilee, after the Baptism of John; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

And we are witness of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree. Him God raised up and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead! (Acts 10:37-41)

And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad; for he was desirous to see him of a long time, because he had heard many things about Him...(Luke 23:8)

And when Felix heard these things, having perfect knowledge of the Way, he deferred them... (Acts 24:22)

Paul said, I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knows of these things before whom I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him, for this thing was not done in a corner. (Acts 26:25-26)

5. Testimony Confirmed by Hundreds It is recorded that the testimony of the Twelve was confirmed by hundreds of other people. We don't just have their say so, but we have objective confirmation that makes it reasonable to accept these men's testimony. ("delivered and received" was a rabbinical saying)

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received...He was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve, after that He was seen by above five hundred brothers at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this day...After that He was seen by James, then by all the of the Apostles... (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

There were also multitudes of people all over the land of Judea, Perea, Samaria, and Galilee who would readily confirm the testimony of the Apostles concerning the miraculous power of Jesus. Jesus had healed people in almost every village He went to.

6. Cross-Examined Next, recall that these testimonies of the Apostles were cross-examined in judiciary and regal halls of government. (Acts 5:27, 12:1) The Apostles were given the third degree; and it wasn't like the modern pristine courtrooms with civil rights attorneys protecting them! Rather the Apostles were scourged, beaten and whipped to see if they would change their testimony. The Christian witnesses had stripes on their back, yet continued to present the Good News of Jesus. Some were jailed.(Acts 4:3)

...when they had called the Apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the Name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:40)
And they cast (Stephen) out of the city, and stoned him. (Acts 7:58)
At that time there was a great persecution against the Church which was at Jerusalem, and they were scattered abroad...(Acts 8:1)

7. Prophetic Witness Another reason we know that the Apostle's witness is reliable is the confirmation of the Old Testament prophets. What the testimony of the Apostles' was, lined up with what was predicted hundreds of years previous!

For David speaks concerning Him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face...thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither will you suffer thine Holy One to see corruption (i.e. the resurrection) (Acts 2:25-27)
Christ, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here beore you whole: This is the stone which was set at nought by you builders, which has become the headstone! (Acts 4:10-11; Psalms 118:22)
To Him all the prophets gave witness, that through His Name whosoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:43)
We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed...(2 Peter 1:19)

8. Miraculous Confirmation Another reason that Christians put their confidence in the testimony of the Apostles is the working of miracles to confirm their teaching and evangelism. Jesus said this would happen, and the ministry of the Apostles bear this out.

Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature...these signs shall follow them that believe... And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following. Amen! (Mark 16:15-20)
So when they had further threatened them, they let them go...for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old on whom this miracle of healing was done. (Acts 4:21-22)
And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women. Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches that at the least shadow of Peter passing might overshadow them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing the sick folks, and them who were vexed with unclean spirits, and they were healed every one! (Acts 5:14-16; see also Acts 8:4-8, 9:33-35, 10:44)

What of any of the world religions or sects ever had witnesses who gave sight to the blind, made the lame to walk, or raised the dead to life? But these miracles of Christianity are unique to the Christian religion, confirming the veracity, credibility, and authenticity of the witness to the Gospel of Christ and the Apostles. (Hebrews 2:3-4)

9. At the Place of Events Finally, note that most of this wonderful testimony of the witnessing Apostles was performed, taught, declared, right at the location where it happened: at Jerusalem.

If men were to try to commit fraud they would have taught the story in some far way land where no one could deny it occurred! Where there would be no witnesses to the contrary. Once upon a time in a far away land, there was a... But NO! The Apostles stayed for a long while in Jerusalem (until the destruction of the Temple)! And they even were boldly preaching in the Temple, right under the noses of the High Priest and rabbis, and Roman rulers. Those men could not deny that Jesus was crucified, and that the tomb was now empty...and that miracles were being done in His Name.

Part B - Why do non-LDS Christians reject the Testimony of the eleven Mormon witnesses?

Many Reasons Reasons why the Mormon witness are not accepted as reliable, and must be rejected, are many! A contrast with the Early Church Apostles demonstrates this clearly. Consider:

1. Public Revelation As was adequately mentioned by another answer, Christian theologians (both Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) realize that "Public Revelation" ended with the death of the last Apostles of Jesus (2 thousand years ago!). Mormon revelation falls far out of that time frame. Witnesses to any alleged revelation in the 1830s is therefore to be rejected.

2. Jesus Appointed The N.T. Apostles were clearly appointed by Jesus, after a night of prayer to the Father...and they were the ones who became the Christian witnesses of the Gospel. We have no verifiable evidence that the Mormon witnesses were actually appointed by Jesus.

3. Multitude Verification What the N.T. witnesses declared was easily confirmed by hundreds of hundreds of people (multitudes) who experienced the teaching of Jesus and saw His many healings (as well as experienced them). If the disciples were wrong in their witnessing the whole countryside would have confronted them.

The Mormon witnesses do not have this volume of confirmation by hundreds of people. They relate private meetings with J. Smith.

4. Continuous Witness What the N.T. Apostles (witnesses) declared was a message based on experiences over a period of 3 1/2 years. They had plenty of time to interact with Jesus...experience many spiritual events...see the miraculous deeds of Jesus on quite a few occasions.

Mormon testimony did not have nearly as much experience time. Nor could they confirm that the "alleged translation" of the alleged Golden Plates was an accurate one since they never spoke or wrote "Reformed Egyptian."

(Note: The idea that Joe Smith was able to carry off the Plates that were made of Gold is incredulous. No strong man could carry that much weight under his arm! Gold is extremely heavy!)

5. Cross Examination The N.T. Witnesses were cross examined in courts of law and in the palaces of kings (rulers). They were given the "third degree." Which means they were intensely grilled and tortured to see if it could break their testimony! None reneged.

Were the Mormon witnesses tried in a Court of Law? Were they cross-examined by attorneys and judges? As noted in other answers, Spaulding's relatives would have negated their testimony, if they ever were.

6. Supernatural Prophecy The Christian witnesses's message was confirmed by ancient supernatural prophecies, as Peter declared on several occasions. (Acts 2; 2 Peter) What they testified to was exactly what God had declared would happen.

What prophet, thousands of years ago, ever prophesied of Joe Smith and his Witnessers? What prophet ever mentioned "Golden Plates"? Like Peter said, we (traditional Christians) have a more sure word of prophecy!

7. Miraculous Healings The N.T. Apostles' message was confirmed by Jesus with "signs, wonders, healings, miracles" just as Jesus said would happen.

Which of the eleven Mormon witnesses ever "healed the blind eyes"? "Raised the dead"? "Caused the lame to walk"? Jesus NEVER confirmed the word of the Mormon witnesses, so it is reasonable to reject their alleged testimony.

8. Reformed Egyptian? We all know what printing and cursive writing is. The ancient Egyptians had the same type of writing: hieroglyphics and Demotive style. These do not indicate a "reformed" Egyptian language. In this day and age of Egyptology research, to appeal to and testify to such a language is quite suspect.

Also, the diagram and hieroglyphics that were inserted into The Book of Abraham of Mormonism, has been proven to be doctored by Smith, and shown to be fake! The ancient Sensen papyrus that Joe Smith was suppose to have translated as pictures of Abraham resurfaced in modernity. It was found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art...and accurately translated! Nothing about Abraham at all; just a piece from an Egyptian "Book of the Dead."

Conclusion For all of these reasons it is logical to reject the testimony of the Mormon witnesses. Their witness is quite suspect.

So how does the confirmed Testimony of the Twelve Apostles line up with the Mormon witnesses? It's out of the ball park! A home run for all to rejoice about! It's a winning team by any stretch of logic. The Mormon scenario doesn't even come close. We cannot "compare" the two classes of witnesses, but only "contrast" them.

This is why millions of Christian believers have confidence in their religion: it's based on irrefutable testimony that cannot be gain-said. What was testified to was not done in a corner!

See also Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testimony_of_the_Evangelists and Norman Geisler's article "David Hume's Criteria for Witnesses", Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, and Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, and the several books by Lee Strobel.

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    Nice answer 👍, not just to the Question, but addressing more generally why Christianity stands alone in terms of reliability.
    – Matthew
    Mar 18 at 22:32
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    @ray grant The Bible says nothing about 12 witnesses/Apostles being required for anything. The testimonies of the BoM witnesses are USELESS because none of them could testify to the CONTENT of the original document. Just seeing some metal plates (IF,l in fact they even did that), does not in any way even begin to substantiate their testimony as to what was supposedly written on those plates. They could not read the plates so how can one even imagine that they could tell us that what Smith translated from them is actually true? I doubt they could read Reformed Egyptian to prove their testimony
    – Mr. Bond
    Mar 21 at 23:54
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I said in my first answer that I would say no more. Therefore I will leave that answer as it stands. You may not think 46 up-votes (and 5 x down-votes) counts for anything, and I would agree. Nor will I respond further to the myriad, heated comments that my first answer engendered. You are correct to say that it was only a "half-answer". I did not deal with reasons why non-LDS Christians should accept the testimony of the apostles of the New Testament (though I showed why they disbelieve the testimony of the witnesses of "the golden plates"). So, please consider this the second-half to my answer, and that it is, by far, the most important argument.

  1. LUKE 6:12-13 Jesus Christ himself carefully selected 12 men who were to be designated 'apostles'. He did so after a night of prayer, seeking God's will as to who those men should be. After nearly 2,000 years of this testimony, nobody has disputed it. Nobody in the first century, or in the days of the rapidly expanding Church ever questioned if that was actually so. All LDS people agree with this statement in the N.T.

  2. MATT.16:13-19 The apostle Peter was given revelation from God the Father as to who Jesus Christ really is. Jesus rejoiced, saying he'd got this understand, not from men, but from the Father in heaven. All the other apostles who wrote in the NT agreed with Peter's testimony. All LDS people agree that Peter got direct understanding from the Father about this vital truth (though they may interpret who Jesus is differently to how the apostles did).

  3. ACTS 9:15 To Ananias, God directly told him that Saul of Tarsus had been converted to Christ, and that this one (then called the apostle Paul) was his chosen vessel to share the gospel of Christ to Gentiles, kings and Israelites. All LDS people agree with this.

  4. GAL.1:1-16 The apostle Paul's heavenly calling is confirmed, plus his warning about false gospels which has been proven true, even with claimed angelic messages being warned against. The need is to read all 16 verses. LDS people agree with Paul's heavenly calling, but they disagree that the angelic message to their Joseph Smith was a false gospel.

  5. REV.1:1 to 22:21 The resurrected Jesus Christ revealed to the apostle John, in his old age, what was ahead of the Church, right on into the still-future event of Christ's spectacular return. We have all of John's written testimony to this day, and those with eyes to see know how it is being fulfilled. LDS people have never disputed the authentic calling of John to be an apostle. But LDS people apparently disagree about "adding words" to that final, divine revelation.

  6. JUDE The brother of James stated that Christians near the end of the first century needed to earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (vs.3). That charge still applies, all the more-so as the return of Christ draws nearer, for there are many men who have since crept in unawares, and even angels had forsaken their place in heaven. That is why no words should be added to the last book of the N.T. Jude states, even to us today, "Beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs.17). LDS people would not disagree with Jude vs.17.

  7. REV.21:14 The foundations of the heavenly great city, the new Jerusalem, have 12 foundations, "and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Twelve apostles, no more and no less. The last apostle to die was the apostle John, and there have been no more God-appointed apostles since that time. The LDS people totally disagree with that, claiming that since the time of Joseph Smith, many modern-day apostles have been appointed to rule over their church.

But LDS people need not be surprised that non-LDS people disagree with that, sticking to all the scriptures I have already mentioned, which are but a small sample of the N.Ts own evidence for the authenticity of those twelve apostles of the Lamb. That is entirely sufficient for them, and they listen to the words of Christ, as detailed by the apostles in the N.T. and as fulfillment of the O.T. Neither the 12 apostles nor Christians who belong to Christ by faith have been, or will be detracted from following the Lamb, wherever he goes. We simply disregard all other claimants to divine apostleship, because the testimony of the N.T. is entirely united and sufficient for us.

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    @Matthew Well spotted! I was typing with woollen fingerless gloves on, as it's rather cold here. Have corrected it.
    – Anne
    Jan 30, 2022 at 10:53
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    1. "All LDS people agree with this statement in the N.T." Yup! 2. Was Peter's revelation really just a subjective experience? I invite consistency with your earlier comment dismissing the witness of the Holy Ghost of the veracity of the Book of Mormon as words of Christ. 3. Paul was an apostle also, correct. 4. Joseph Smith did indeed teach the same Gospel as the ancient apostles. 5. We agree with John's calling and we agree with John's admonition. A practically identical warning is found in Deuteronomy chapter 4, and Revelation is not John's last. 6. Not a declaration of closed canon.
    – pygosceles
    Mar 18 at 10:51
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    "there have been no more God-appointed apostles since that time. The LDS people totally disagree with that" because it is not scriptural. There is no Scripture anywhere that says there will only ever be twelve apostles through all time. You just admitted that by recognizing Paul's calling as an apostle, contradicting the assertion that no more apostles could be called. The Savior and His Apostles taught that He is not divided, yet there are some forty-some-odd thousand sects of Christendom. I will grant that most are united in their opposition to the Restoration, if on nothing else.
    – pygosceles
    Mar 18 at 10:57
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    @pygosceles: "Joseph Smith did indeed teach the same Gospel as the ancient apostles." You're just trolling. The extant records (not copies) overlap the end of John's lifetime. The record of what the apostles taught is established to AD 60 beyond all dispute. Gain also this knowledge. Written Koine Greek would be understood by Greek schoolchildren today. That language would sound odd to their ears but in writing is scarcely more difficult than KJV is to modern English readers. Or did you not know? They read Socrates in original in grade school.
    – Joshua
    Mar 19 at 1:02
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+50

Question 1 -- Book of Mormon witnesses


Far and away the most common reason given, as demonstrated by the 8 (currently) existing answers to this question, is that the testimony of the Book of Mormon witnesses is rejected because of what follows from it.

We can represent this approach via the logical proposition:

  • P => Q (if P then Q)
  • If the BoM witnesses are truthful then a variety of implications follow (for the book, for the teachings of the faith that upholds it, etc.)

The approach taken then, is to reject P by rejecting Q. If we add a second premise, we get an argument like this:

P1: P => Q

P2: ~Q

C: ~P

The proof is in the pudding: this approach is used by all 8 answers that preceded this one.

Note that only 1 of the aforementioned 8 answers endeavored to directly impeach the character of the witnesses themselves--this is not surprising, as none of the 11 ever denied the claims to which he signed his name in The Testimony of the Three Witnesses & The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses, even after multiple subsequent printings of the Book of Mormon text.

Conclusion: the testimony of the witnesses is generally rejected because it carries implications which conflict with people's existing beliefs. This approach to rejecting the witnesses does not directly engage with the arguments of Book of Mormon apologists.


Question 2 - The witness of the first-century apostles


Judas Iscariot is typically not used a character witness for Christ, but the other 11 are (plus Matthias, James the Lord's brother, Barnabas, and Paul). There are 3 common reasons given to support their credibility:

1. Their fruits

If the apostles did not sincerely believe their story, the meteoric rise of the Christian faith--in spite of intense opposition--is very difficult to explain.

Note that although a similar argument is sometimes used with respect to Islam, the early, meteoric growth of each religion occurred under very different circumstances.

2. Their willingness to die

There are 4 men, named as apostles in the New Testament, for whom we have first century attestation of their death as martyrs (others probably died as martyrs, but we lack early sources for this history):

  • James the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-2)
  • James the son of Joseph (Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.1)
  • Peter (1 Clement 5)
  • Paul (1 Clement 5)

It would be one thing to say they died for a fraud they had been misled to believe, but quite another to say they died for a fraud they knew was false. These men were in a position to know the truth (or falsehood) of what they said.

The New Testament, 1 Clement, and other early Christian writings also describe numerous additional persecutions & sufferings (not all the way to death) endured by first-generation Christians and their leaders.

3. The witness of the Holy Spirit

This appears to be the most widespread and enduring reason given for trusting the apostles: their words, preserved in the New Testament, have been ratified by the Holy Spirit in the hearts & minds of millions (if not billions).

Most Christians have probably never read 1 Clement chapter 5 (cited above); yet they believe the words of Peter & Paul based on their own personal experience engaging with the Divine.

Paul himself would doubtless be pleased:

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4)

Conclusion: the apostles' testimony is corroborated by historical records and the living, abiding voice of Divine inspiration.

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    The first century apostles insisted that there is only one God. A man in the 1800's said there are multiple Gods. The logical proposition is that both may be wrong but both cannot be true. Mar 18 at 14:14
  • A 1st century apostle wrote 1 Cor 8:5-6. Of course we may disagree on what those verses mean, but that's a disagreement based on the interpretation of scripture, not disagreement based on a logical contradiction. The widely varying conclusions people reach through their study of the Bible should prompt in us all a dose of humility that our own understanding of the Bible is incomplete. Mar 18 at 14:53
  • @pygosceles you may have better luck posting your insights on this parallel question. The OP was the same person, who kindly opened a question asking for the opposite perspective. Mar 18 at 15:10
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The apostles were hand selected by Jesus the son of God. They wrote the New Testament, created the early church, ordained the first bishops and priests and established the Sees like Rome and Antioch etc. Their disciples became the Church Fathers and wrote many books on theology etc. There is a continuous tradition called Apostolic Succession whereby each Bishops in turn ordains each successive bishop down to today. We trust the apostles and accept their testimony because we know people who know people who them back 2,000 years of continuous history.

The Book of Mormon is not part of the traditions of the majority of Christianity. The Old Testament starts with Genesis, ends with Malachi and the New Testament starts with Matthew, it ends in Revelations. The Canon is complete there is nothing more that needs to be added.

There are many books that didn't make it into the Bible, there are many Gnostic Gospels etc and then you have the Book of Enoch. While Enoch is held to be Scripture by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,it isn't considered inspired by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox.

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