Joseph Smith’s “New Translation”of Romans 4:4-5

Post Author: Darrell

Romans 4:4-5 are two absolutely beautiful verses of scripture, for they put the gospel message into thirty-five short words. The King James Version reads as follows.

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [emphasis mine]

What a glorious message!! We don’t work to get to God. In fact, we can’t! Instead, God justifies us when we don’t work, i.e., when we seek not to justify ourselves and simply trust in God for our salvation.

The founder of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, revised portions of the Bible that he believed to be in error. His work was published by Herald Publishing House and is titled Joseph Smith’s “New Translation” of the Bible. In addition, Smith’s alterations are included in the LDS Publication of the King James Version of the Bible.

Romans 4:4-5 contains, in my opinion, one of Smith’s more startling changes. It reads as follows.

Now to him who is justified by the law of works, is the reward reckoned, not of grace, but of debt. But to him who seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [emphasis mine]

Besides the fact that Smith destroyed a beautiful piece of scripture, there are numerous problems with his “translation”. First, there is absolutely no support in the Greek for the addition of the word not after justifieth. In Greek the word for not is mē. only appears once in the original Greek version of verse 5, being applied to ergazomenō, the word that has been translated as works.

As a result, there are no grounds in the Greek for Smith applying not to justifieth. Of course, no student of Mormonism will find this surprising as Smith demonstrated little regard for his source text in most all of his translations. When the papyrus that he “translated” The Book of Abraham from was later analyzed by experts, it was discovered to be nothing more than an Egyptian Funeral Text, having absolutely nothing to do with Abraham. So much for Smith’s attention to detail!

A second problem with Smith’s addition of not is that it is counter intuitive to Paul’s entire message in Romans. In the first three chapters, Paul builds the case for how all of mankind is ungodly.

Romans 2:1 says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things.” [emphasis added]

Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one… .” [emphasis added]

Romans 3:12 says, “…there is no one who does good, not even one.” [emphasis added]

As these verses demonstrate, Paul believed and preached that all mankind is unrighteous and in need of a Savior. Therefore, the idea of him stating that God does not justify the ungodly makes no sense, for he held the view that everyone is ungodly! Unfortunately for Mormons who believe Smith to be a prophet of God, it appears that Smith’s “prophetic” ability failed him in his task of “correcting” the Bible. In reality, he completely overlooked these verses when he so willingly added the word not.

Fortunately, those who trust in Christ for their salvation need not worry about Smith’s butchery of the Bible. We are knowledgable of the fact that God does, in fact, justify the ungodly. We realize how ungodly we truly are, and we realize that our salvation is not dependent upon anything that we do. Instead, it is dependent upon Him, and He has already paid the price.

All praise be to our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ!