Joseph Flips Paul on His Head

In his Inspired Version translation of the Bible, Joseph Smith totally rewrites the second half of Romans chapter 7. He flips Paul on his head and makes him say the opposite of what Paul actually said. And he does so with absolutely no manuscript or linguistic evidence to back him up.

Here is what Paul actually says in Romans 7:14-15 (Tom’s literal translation, or check any available Bible, even the Jehovah’s Witness Bible, which is pretty good on these verses):

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not know what I am doing! For what I do not wish, this I do, but what I hate, this I do.”

Here’s what Joseph tells us that Paul said:

For we know that the commandment is spiritual; but when I was under the law, I was yet carnal, sold under sin. But now I am spiritual; for that which I am commanded to do, I do; and that which I am commanded not to allow, I allow not. For what I know is not right, I would not do; for that which is sin, I hate.” (Read the entirety of Romans 7:14-27 in Joseph’s Inspired Version. Click on Library, then Scriptures, then Holy Scriptures Inspired Version.)

In Joseph’s version, Paul was only “sold under sin” (i.e. in bondage to sin) while he was still “under the law.” Then Joseph adds, “But now I am spiritual,” an addition that is nowhere in any ancient Greek manuscript or any early translations or quotations.

Joseph’s Paul then proceeds to tell us in the rest of the chapter that now he does whatever God says, and avoids whatever God forbids. No struggle with sin here! Joseph’s version of Paul says he only struggled against sin when he was “under the law,” but now he has Christ to help him. He says in his verses 20-21 that evil and good are actually now reversed from when he was under the law: “For the good that I would have done when under the law, I find not to be good; therefore, I do it not. But the evil which I would not do under the law, I find to be good; that, I do.”

Joseph ends this chapter by doing major surgery on Paul’s last two verses. He adds the first clause, then splices in the last line of the chapter:

“And if I subdue not the sin which is in me, but with the flesh serve the law of sin, O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, then, that so with the mind I myself serve the law of God.”

Compare to what Paul really says in verses 24-25:

“Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I myself serve the law of God with [my] mind, but with [my] flesh [I serve] the law of sin.”

The Biblical Paul is shockingly realistic about the continuing struggle of even the most saintly followers of Jesus with our sinful human natures, natures which do not go away, but continue to rear their ugly heads against us: “For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want, this I do.” (Romans 7:19) For centuries, readers have wondered whether Paul is talking about his present experience, his life before Christ, or whether he is talking hypothetically, about believers, or about those who do not yet believe. Whichever, Paul’s bottom line is that no one can obey God in the power of their old human nature (Romans 8:7-8), but only when we are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit within us.

Somehow, Joseph cannot believe that Paul would have actually written what he really wrote. So Joseph steps in and corrects the text for God (with no manuscript or linguistic evidence) by giving us a Paul who only struggled with sin when he was “under the law,” but for whom sin has now magically gone away. If one must earn salvation by obeying God’s commands and enduring until the end, one might want to believe that the task is as easy as Joseph’s version of Paul makes it sound.

The Biblical Paul is realistic not only about sin, but about grace. He says in Romans 6:23 that sin earns a paycheck that no one wants to collect (death, meaning eternal death), “BUT, the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Free gift” is the word charisma, from charis, the word for grace. When we take sin as seriously as the Biblical Paul does, grace becomes indispensible. We cannot save ourselves by our own goodness.

Not to be misunderstood, Paul answers the question, “Shall we continue in sin, so that grace may abound?” by saying, “Absolutely not! How can we who have died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) In fact, the concept of being “dead to sin” becomes part of Paul’s answer to the struggle with sin (Romans 6:11) – if you are dead to sin, sin has no power to order you around, so don’t listen to it. But here in Romans 7, we see a Biblical Paul who has walked in our shoes, and who knows the same struggle with sin and failure that we go through.

Not so for Joseph’s Paul. If I were LDS, I would not want to have to defend Joseph’s rewriting of this chapter of God’s word. He is like Marcion (140 AD), who tried to do full scale major surgery on the Bible. But Marcion could not hide the evidence for taking “plain and precious teachings” out of God’s word. Neither can Joseph hide the evidence for the way he has flipped Paul on his head.