January: Matthew 2; Luke 2
As we read the New Testament, other scripture will bring additional insights and revelations to our knowledge and understanding of the life and ministry of the Savior. The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is a particularly helpful resource. The eighth Article of Faith, it states: “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.”
Joseph Smith was commanded to re-translate the New Testament. In section 45 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord describes the earth during the Second Coming and then interrupts the vision to tell the Prophet Joseph: “And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known; wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come.”[i]
This Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament would bring revelations of the celestial world and further revelations of the Second Coming of the Messiah. For example, in the 76th section, the Prophet wrote: “For while we were doing the work of translation, which the Lord had appointed unto us, we came to the twenty-ninth verse of the fifth chapter of John…”[ii] The Prophet and Sidney Rigdon’s questions over this verse and the teachings of the resurrection of the just and unjust has given us the latter-day revelation of the kingdoms of glory.
Look for the Joseph Smith Translation Changes
While reading the New Testament, we can look to the footnotes for the Joseph Smith Translation or JST changes to gain additional insights. Longer excerpts from the JST can be found at the back of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publication of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.
For this Come Follow Me lesson, there are a few interesting JST additions – some minor and some major. The most significant insight we receive can be found in Matthew. We have very little written about Jesus’ childhood. Luke mentioned: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”[iii] But that is all we have in the KJV. The Prophet Joseph Smith adds this scripture: “And it came to pass that Jesus Grew up with his brethren, and waxed strong, and waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come. And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he need not that any man should teach him. And after many years, the hour of his ministry drew night.”[iv]
We also gain smaller insights by looking at the footnotes. In Luke 2:46, the KJV has the boy Jesus “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.”[v] But in the JST version of this verse, the Savior is the one teaching the learned men: “and they were hearing him and asking him questions.”[vi] This change accentuates the point found in the JST Matthew verses that the young Jesus did not need to be taught by any man for no man could teach the Creator of men.
In Luke 2 verse 1, the JST changes the text “that all the world should be taxed” to “his empire should be taxed” since Caesar Augustus was not the ruler of the whole world. In verse 7, the JST adds an “s” to the phrase “there was no room for them in the inns.”
In Matthew 2:2, the wisemen come to Herod asking the question: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” The Prophet Joseph Smith changed the question to: “Where is the child that is born, the Messiah of the Jews?” This change focuses on the fact that this child was the Anointed One of Israel who should bring salvation to the world.
The Book of Mormon as Another Testament of Christ
During our reading, we should also focus on additional insights from the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Christ. We have another nativity story through the words of the Nephites of the Savior’s birth and the signs and witnesses that they received. When the sign of a day and a night and a day without darkness came to the Nephites, “…they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear, yea, in time, all the people upon the face of the whole earth…were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth. For they knew that the prophets had testified of these things for many years and that the sign which had been given was already at hand, and they began to fear because of their iniquity and their unbelief.”[vii]
As we read the New Testament, let’s look to these additional resources to strengthen our own testimonies and witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
[i] D&C 45:60-61
[ii] D&C 76:15
[iii] Luke 2:52
[iv] JST Matthew 3:24-26
[v] Luke 2:46
[vi] Footnote Luke 2:46c
[vii] 3 Nephi 1:17-18