Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Book of Mormon's New Testament plagiarism challenge!

When I first started this blog, I felt like most of the posts would be from comments I've left on other blogs.

Ironically, I think this is the first one.

Anyways, I'm sure you're familiar with the claim that the BoM plagiarizes from the Bible. More importantly, it contains KJV-styled NT verses in the BoM's OT times.

I brought this up in a debate against someone in Mormanity (viewable here; started with the post's topic being "Amlicites = Amalekites and Joseph = Translator, Not Author" and me presenting evidences that challenge the claim that Smith was a translator and not an author (where do we even begin on that one, I know)).

So aside from the other evidences of authorship I mentioned, I definitely included NT plagiarism in OT times. For support, I gave three quick and thorough citations of plagiarism.

In response, I was given a challenge:
CF:"You discovered a total of three verses in the BoM out of 6,604 which you claim were plagarized and you make the ridiculous assertion that your argument holds weight.

If you can show me a meager 10 percent of pre-3 Nephi text was copied, I'll admit you have a point. That's just 660 verses. If you cannot even do that, we'll call your claim debunked. Sound fair?"

Oh buddy. It was time to flex my critical thinking skills a bit, and I'm kinda proud of myself.

My reply:
"To be specific, I showed three verses that were repeated almost word-for-word from a KJV New Testament that appeared in pre-NT times in the BoM, and significantly so.

I'm going to call you out on the cop-out here. This is an obvious attempt to avoid having to answer why almost exact copies of NT verses appear in OT times in the BoM.

But you're right on one point: if Smith plagiarized, he surely did it more than just three times.

I can find you more plagiarized verses, no prob. but 10%? Let's fix something first: there are significant portions of Isaiah included in your number that needs to be subtracted.

There are also verses that just carry on the story and don't need to be plagiarized from the NT (we'll call them storyline verses. Ex: nearly all of Omni and Words of Mormon, and verses that go along the styles in there).

Why not storyline verses? Because they don't hold much (if any) theological substance. NT verses do, however. And we could agree that the majority of NT verses do, because aside from some parts the Gospels and Acts, the topics these books cover are almost purely theological (and correct me if I'm wrong). And considering that Smith wouldn't want to copy the storyline of the NT into the BoM (save for the visitation of Christ), it's safe to assume that he would only plagiarize from the NT when a line about theology was needed.

I think the best places to find NT verses will be in expositions of what God is saying, what Nephi says to himself, and really anything involving dialogue/monologue or interpretations of spiritual experiences (dreams, for instance).

Also, I would subtract any verses that are copied from the OT. That's mostly Isaiah, but I'm sure there are others.

And really, those are the only places we should expect NT verses in the OT times of the BoM to be in.

So in regards to your challenge, how bout we do this: agree on the number of verses that contain theological substance rather than just pure storyline, subtract verses that already come from the OT, and I'll bump the number of verses I need to find to 15% of the new number.

Then I think we could both properly see how much weight this argument holds.

If I lose, I'll shut up about NT plagiarism in OT times. If I win, then my argument holds substance. I'll be honorable and mention when I think a verse is somewhat disputable.


I'll let you know the results. I'm really eager to do this.

EDIT: to add to the utility of this challenge, I'm going to try and catch the theological points being made as well. It'd be interesting to see what the BoM is trying to say from a theological standpoint and how much it agrees or disagrees with the NT (ha, maybe I should leave out disagreement in case the Evvies attack..).



  2. Thanks, A.J.! Almost had to use the skeptic's annotated BoM.

    I'll have to calculate the percentage with the OT and storyline verses taken out when I get the chance

  3. I'm intrigued as to what the final result will be.

  4. Ah, well. CF went off about how asking a question said a lot about my confidence, wouldn't accept the terms I offered, and went on to find (based on AJ's post) that NT verses comprise around 6% of the pre-Christ time period in the BoM.

    I'm still interested in finding out the challenge under my own terms, so I'll go through with it when I get the chance.

  5. I think Mike Marquardt found about 210 anachronistic NT quotations in the OT portion of the BoM. And that's not even counting the anachronistic use of significant chunks of Malachi and 2nd Isaiah, which weren't written yet when Lehi left Jerusalem. Even aside from direct quotation, the BoM also steals anachronistic Bible plot motifs, such as the fiery furnace story in Daniel and the Apostle Paul's Damascus Road experience.

    Who really cares whether it's 10%, 6%, or even 2%? The point is, the Book of Mormon's anachronistic use of the KJV Bible is substantial and irrefutable. Silly for CF to get caught up on numbers when he had strong examples staring him in the face.

  6. Ah, CF wasn't too far away from being a troll in the first place. The whole convo with him reminded me of the good 'ol days back at MRM with the evvies; brick walls and everything.

    The leap in logic is almost always the same with this type: "my faith is irrefutable because God can do anything," irrefutable anachronistic plagiarism be damned.

    I think a nice visualization of the plagiarism would (help) put things into perspective, though. Whenever I decide to dedicate some time to the program, I'll throw in a visual break down.

  7. A recently published a paper entitled, "New Testament Words and Quotations in the Book of Mormon," uses a computer to count phrases common to the Book of Mormon and the New Testament. The abstract is shown below.

    Abstract: This paper identifies 441 phrases that are seven words long or longer, that are common to the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, but that are not found in the Old Testament. These phrases are proposed as candidate quotations of the New Testament by the Book of Mormon. This is important because the presence of any New Testament material in the Book of Mormon would seem to be inherently anachronistic and therefore potentially problematic for those who accept the Book of Mormon as a religious text. This study defines three categories of New Testament quotations in the Book of Mormon, and identifies for each category the potential modes of transmission that would permit the appearance of a New Testament quotation in the Book of Mormon that would also be consistent with the internal structure of the book. This study shows that all potential modes of transmission either require a supernatural assumption or the conclusion that authorship of the Book of Mormon postdates the King James Version of the Bible.

    The full paper may be downloaded here: