Elder McConkie and Targumim, or How to Help LDS Read Non-KJV Versions

Elder McConkie and Targumim, or How to Help LDS Read Non-KJV Versions February 26, 2007

I recently discovered that Elder McConkie was aware of Targums, translations of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic. I’ll discuss his understanding of them and a tantalizing tidbit stemming therefrom in my next post.

In the meanwhile, that discovery helped me formulate a strategy for helping certain kinds of LDS readers to understand that it’s ok to read and study non-KJV editions of the Bible. The following handout (necessarily limited due to space and audience) is what I prepared for an Institute class to make this point.

Bibles and Translations

By Jesus’ day, Hebrew was no longer the native language of the Jews, though it appears that its use was not limited to scribes and scholars. Nevertheless, in the synagogues, the traditional ancient Hebrew text would be read, followed, for purposes of understanding, by a translation into the current language of the people, i.e. an Aramaic translation or “targum.” This practice may go back to Nehemiah 8:8.

Similarly, English-speaking members of the Church should know the King James Version, but also read modern translations for understanding. The KJV is the official English Bible of the LDS Church, but not necessarily the sole Bible for individual members to read and study.

“We clearly prefer the King James Version of the New Testament, but we are not adamant about that. Any responsibly prepared version could be used and might be helpful to us.” (Elder John K. Carmack, The NT & the LDS, p. 2)

“If [the Bible] be translated incorrectly, and there is a scholar on the earth who professes to be a Christian, and he can translate it any better than King James’s translators did it, he is under obligation to do so, or the curse is upon him. If I understood Greek and Hebrew as some may profess to do, and I knew the Bible was not correctly translated, I should feel myself bound by the law of justice to the inhabitants of the earth to translate that which is incorrect and give it just as it was spoken anciently. Is that proper? Yes, I would be under obligation to do it.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:226-227)

Modern apostles have used modern translations of the Bible to supplement difficult KJV passages: e.g.

Neal A. Maxwell, (Ensign, May 1991, p. 90); RSV (Revised Standard Version)

(Ensign, Dec. 1986, p. 23); NKJV (New King James Version)

Jeffrey R. Holland, (Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 34); NEB (New English Bible)

Robert D. Hales, (Ensign, Nov. 1997, p. 26). NIV (New International Version)

Recommended Versions

New King James Version (NKJV)- For those who want a KJV with some modernized grammar and vocabulary.

New International Version (NIV) Study Bible- A very readable Bible done by conservative Evangelicals. I like it for the Old Testament notes. The NT notes may be more theologically biased.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)- The best single translation available.

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