In 1 Nephi 13:24-29 of The Book of Mormon, the writer states that – “many plain and precious things have been taken away from the book.” The “book” in this case is referring to the Bible. The official position of the LDS Church on the Bible is clearly stated by Mormon “Apostle” M. Russell Ballard in his book Our Search For Happiness – An Invitation to Understand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is in their Missionary Reference Library.
While discussing the 8th Article of Faith of the LDS Church, which says: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God,” Ballard writes on page 95 –
…the Bible has been through countless translations from the time its chapters were originally penned…there have been changes and alterations that have diminished the purity of the doctrine…it would be unreasonable to assume that it [is] intact.
This is also in agreement with the founder of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, who is quoted in the Bible Dictionary put out by the Church as saying: “ ‘ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.’ (HC 1: 245; 6: 57.)”
Then after those “many plain and precious things” were taken from the Bible, the LDS Church maintains, the Gospel message was substantially changed. On page 30 of his book Ballard writes:
The beautiful simplicity of Christ’s gospel was under attack from an enemy even more destructive than the scourges and crosses of early Rome: the philosophical meanderings of learned–but–uninspired men, which resulted in doctrine based more on popular opinion than revelation.
The LDS position is that although the Bible should to be “revered”, the Mormon Church teaches that there is simply no way of knowing what the texts originally said, or of telling just how many books were “lost” from it.
Notwithstanding the promise of Jesus of Nazareth (see-Matthew 5:18), up until the middle to late 1800’s it was more difficult to verify or disprove the assertions of the LDS Church. But with the advent of modern archaeology we now have a much better source of information from which to draw our conclusions. In fact, there are some 25,000+ complete or partial copies of New Testament manuscripts alone that have been found and analyzed by textual critics.
And you should know that these experts are not necessarily religious people at all; they simply analyze these texts just as the same as they would any other piece of literature to see whether or not they are accurate. While I don’t agree with all he teaches, Dr. Ron Rhodes is helpful here are he points out that along with these manuscripts from the New Testament:
There are also some 86,000 quotations from the early church fathers and several thousand Lectionaries (church-service books containing Scripture quotations used in the early centuries of Christianity). Bottom line: the New Testament has an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting its reliability.
And some parts of these books date back to as early as 125 AD. As such, it would then make them copies done by some of the disciples of the first Apostles themselves. For example, among the men Jesus of Nazareth taught was a man named John. Following the example of His Lord Jesus, and adhering to the biblical command of 2 Timothy 2:2, the Apostle John then taught other men, one of which was named Polycarp.
The manuscript scrap that dates back to 125 AD puts it during Polycarp’s lifetime, who as Bishop of the Church at Smyrna, was one of those “early church fathers” mentioned by Rhodes. These godly men–who were not “corrupt priests” as Smith alleged–were leaders in the early churches and their writings have been preserved for us down through the years. As a matter of fact, the teachings of the early Christians were far removed from being merely “philosophical meanderings.” The truth is that these men of God quoted so copiously from the Scriptures as they taught, that it is possible to reconstruct virtually the entire text of the New Testament–save for 11 verses – from the writings of these early Church Fathers alone!
Space does not allow a detailed discussion on the science of textual criticism. However, Dr. Norman Geisler, regardless of what he else he might teach, is correct here as he sums up this section on the amazing reliability of these New Testament manuscripts for us when he writes:
No other book is even a close second to the Bible on either the number or early dating of the copies…The New Testament, however, has a fragment within one generation from its original composition, whole books within about 100 years from the time of the autograph [original manuscript], most of the New Testament in less than 200 years, and the entire New Testament within 250 years from the date of its completion.
And finally, Dr. Rhodes once more – “it becomes overwhelmingly clear that no other ancient piece of literature can stand up to the Bible. Manuscript support for the Bible is unparalleled!”
As reassuring as that information is, there is even more reason to trust the canon of the Old Testament, and its accuracy. This is how the Old Testament as we have it in the Christian Bible came together. The world religion of Judaism has always used the Hebrew Scriptures which were extant in the days of Christ. And then following the Master’s own use of those Jewish Scriptures, the early Church also accepted them as the Word of God.
The Protestant Bible today consists of those same Hebrew Scriptures as the Old Testament, while adding the writings of the New Testament. A group of books known as the Apocrypha is contained in some editions–though they are not considered as Scripture; rather these books are thought to have some historical value, and are possibly good for edification. The Protestant church has never accepted the Apocrypha as canonical because the historic record of the New Testament shows that Jesus Himself never used these books in His teachings.
The Roman Catholic Bible contains the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Apocrypha. The Church of Rome has authoritatively treated the Apocrypha as Scripture since their Council of Trent in 1546. It must be noted that this collection of writings has never been considered to be inspired by God as Holy Scripture by the majority of Protestant Christianity. And the reason for that is actually fairly simple. Judaism has never judged the Apocrypha as inspired by God, nor did Jesus of Nazareth. And while these writings did exist at the time that the Master was on the earth, Jesus never once appealed to them as Scripture when He taught, and as a result neither did His Apostles.
The Hebrew Bible used by the Jewish religion consists of 24 books. However, the writings contained within are exactly the same ones as found in the Christian Bible. The reason that the Protestant Bible, as well as those used by the Church of Rome, contains 39 books in the Old Testament is due to those books being divided differently. The “minor” prophets are each counted separately and Samuel, Kings, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah are divided into two books each, which is in accordance with the Greek Septuagint translation (LXX), and the Latin Vulgate.
There is very strong evidence that this group of Old Testament writings–just as we have them today–are to be considered Scripture by the way they were accepted and quoted by Jesus in His teachings while He was on the earth. It is shown quite clearly by the primary resource material that we have in the Gospels of the New Testament that the Master regularly appealed to these Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament). He used them to validate His mission and to show the authority of His Words and His actions. By the way, this would have been pointless had not Jesus, and the Jews to whom He was appealing, both found these Hebrew Scriptures to be inspired by God.
Let’s look at just a couple of specific instances of how Jesus appealed to the Scriptures, and how this shows that the canon (means “code or rule”) of the Hebrew Bible was already fixed during His lifetime. Luke 24:44 – He [Jesus] said to them, “This is what I told you when I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.”
One of the greatest Bible scholars who ever lived, the late Dr. F.F. Bruce, explains what this means on page 96 of his classic book The Books and the Parchments :
Here Jesus indicates the sections into which the Bible [at that time] was divided–the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, probably called “the Psalms” here because the Book of Psalms is the first and longest book in this third section.
As was stated earlier in this work, the Scriptures that were in the “Bible” of Christ’s time are the exact same writings that are contained in the Old Testament that we have today. And further it should also be noted that neither Jesus, nor His Apostles, ever made mention of any “lost” books.
In John 5:39 and 10:31-36 Jesus refers to “Scripture” while disagreeing with the Jewish leaders. Certainly the Master disagreed with the oral traditions of the Pharisees, this is particularly evident from Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-23, but it must be understood that this disagreement was not concerning their concept of the Hebrew canon of Holy Scripture–just their misuse of it. To the unbiased person who is interested in discovering the actual truth, the facts are clear, as Edward J. Young writes in his book The Authority Of The Old Testament, p. 62 –
There is no evidence whatever of any dispute between Jesus and the Jews as to the canonicity of any OT book.
And finally, in Matthew 23:35, during His scathing rebuke of the Jewish religious leaders Jesus tells them – “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”
By citing Abel and Zechariah, Jesus confirms His witness to, and acceptance of Judaism’s canon of Scripture, which is now our Old Testament. Abel, was the first martyr, in the very first book of those Hebrew Scriptures – Genesis 4:8. Zechariah is the last martyr to be named – 2 Chronicles 24:21 – in the Hebrew Old Testament order where Chronicles is the last book. By referring to Abel in Genesis first, and Zechariah in Chronicles last, Jesus was saying to those religious leaders – “You are responsible for your actions from the very beginning of, until the very end of, God’s revealed words as you have them now.”
So despite the claims of the LDS Church to the contrary, the actual witness of historical fact far out weighs the mere philosophical speculations of Mormonism’s “learned–but–uninspired men.” The absolute truth is there are no “lost books,” the Bible is intact, and we do know with certainty what God has revealed.
However, whether or not one believes what the Lord has said is another matter entirely.