Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Is the Book of Mormon “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”?

In the early 1980’s at the instigation of Gordon B. Hinckley, The Book of Mormon became The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Most people today, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, would be unaware that it was ever any other way. To Mormons at the time this marked a welcome clarification that their faith is centred on Jesus Christ. It also served to strengthen in the public mind the claim that Mormonism is restored Christianity.

‘Another Testament’ implies another of the same kind and conjures in people’s minds thoughts of the original “testaments” to which this ‘other’ testament clearly alludes. We have already seen that the Book of Mormon is described as “a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible”. It takes no great imagination, therefore, to make the connection thus, Old Testament, New Testament, Another Testament and of course this is exactly the train of thought the Mormon Church wants us to follow. But is the Book of Mormon another of the same kind?

Novum Testamentum

The word testament comes from the Latin testamentum. The Latin Bible comprises the Vetus Testamentum and the Novum Testamentum, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Greek for testament is diathéké and the Greek Bible comprises the hépalaia diathéké and the hé kainé diathéké. The Latin testamentum and the Greek diathéké in the biblical context both mean covenant, as in a solemn and binding agreement between two parties. The New Testament can then be called the collection of the books of the New Covenant. This is borne out in some key New Testament passages:

“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant [testament, KJV] in my blood” (Luke 22:20, ESV)

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant - not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor.3:6,NIV)

The new “covenant” is established in the pouring out of Jesus’ blood and those who minister the gospel are ministers of this new “covenant”. And in Galatians 4 we have a clear picture of the old covenant, which is “from Mount Sinai and bears children who are slaves”, and the new covenant whose children are “children of promise”. The Old Testament is the old covenant, which is of the law and which brings slavery and the New Testament is the new covenant which is of the Spirit and which brings freedom in Christ.

Another Covenant?

Given that we now have in The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ it seems appropriate to ask what the nature of this other covenant is.

Of course, any Mormon challenged with such a question would readily explain that they mean testimony, not covenant. The Book of Mormon is another testimony of Jesus Christ. But can testament mean testimony? Yes it can and according to Webster’s third New International Dictionary one definition of testament is, “a tangible proof or tribute: EVIDENCE, WITNESS…an expression of conviction: AFFIRMATION, CREDO…”

But given this definition of testament can we say, as we are clearly meant to believe, that The Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”, i.e. another of the same kind as the first two testaments? Having led us by that word “another” to think of the other testaments of our Christian experience, the Old and New Testaments, it seems reasonable to understand testament in the full biblical sense. In the Bible testament means covenant. The Old Testament is the old covenant whilst the New Testament is the new covenant “in my blood”. The Old Testament is not the Old Testimony and neither is the New Testament the New Testimony.

Credibility by Association

Again we have here an example of Mormon doublespeak. It is clear that the addition of “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” to the title of the Book of Mormon is designed to help people associate the Book of Mormon with the Bible, i.e. the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Another Testament. It is clear from the introduction to the Book of Mormon that this other testament is meant to be viewed as “a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible”. It is an attempt at achieving credibility by association. Yet the Mormon word testament means testimony while the biblical word testament means covenant. Once again, an attempt on the part of the Mormon Church to appear orthodox, when closely examined, shows anything but an orthodox, Bible-based religion.

In the June 2000 Ensign Gordon B Hinckley was quoted as saying of the Book of Mormon:

“Believe in the Book of Mormon as another witness of the Son of God. This book has come forth as an added testimony to the world of the great truths concerning the Master as set forth in the Bible. The Bible is the Testament of the Old World. The Book of Mormon is the Testament of the New World, and they go hand in hand in testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ensign. June 2000, pp.18/19)

But this is an abuse of the language used to describe the Bible. In consulting Vine’s Expository Dictionary we found the following simple entry under the word Testament:

For TESTAMENT see COVENANT

Easton's Bible Dictionary helpfully clarifies the NT use of the word:

Testament: occurs twelve times in the New Testament (Heb. 9:15, etc.) as the rendering of the Gr. diatheke, which is twenty times rendered "covenant" in the Authorized Version, and always so in the Revised Version. The Vulgate translates incorrectly by testamentum, whence the names "Old" and "New Testament," by which we now designate the two sections into which the Bible is divided.

Nave's Topical Bible gave the following information:

TESTAMENT: A will: Heb 9:16-18

The new: Mt 26:28; Mr 14:24; Lu 22:20; 1Co 11:25

See COVENANT

Testament occurs in the following verses in the NT:

Mat 26:28; Mar 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1Cr 11:25; 2Cr 3:6; 2Cr 3:14; Heb 7:22;

Heb 9:15; Heb 9:16; Heb 9:17; Heb 9:18; Heb 9:20; Rev 11:19 .

We will look at four key verses:

Matt.26:28 and Luke 22:20 recount how the Lord, the night before he died, “took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new Covenant (testament) in my blood”.

1 Cor. 11:25 is Paul’s account of that same event, an account he claims he “received from the Lord” (v.23) in which he repeats the words, “This cup is the new covenant (testament) in my blood”.

2 Cor. 3:6 is Paul’s account of his ministry wherein he refers to himself and his companions as “competent as ministers of a new covenant (testament)…”

In each instance the Greek word used is diatheke which commentators already quoted translate covenant. Interestingly, there is an instance in Revelation where Jesus himself uses the word testimony in its true meaning (Rev:22:16). The Greek word used here is martureo which means to testify. The Old Testament, therefore, is the Old diatheke, the New Testament the New diatheke. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand is no diatheke but a martureo, and cannot, then be another Testament. Furthermore, whatever it testifies to it is not complimentary to the Bible but clearly contradicts it.

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