Monday, September 12, 2011

Analyzing the Joseph Smith Translation for 1 Timothy 2:4

4 [God our Savior] Who will have all men to be saved,
and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God,
and one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus; (1 Timothy 2:4-5)

[God our Savior] Who is willing to have all men to be saved,
and to come unto the knowledge of the truth
which is in Christ Jesus,
who is the Only Begotten Son of God,
and ordained to be a Mediator between God and man;
who is one God, and hath power over all men. (JST 1 Tim. 2:4)

When I was first comparing these two verses, I had a hard time seeing how they were similar and different, so finally out of desperation I started coloring the phrases that were similar to each other so that I could compare by units of thought. I have reproduced this for you before I start analyzing the differences and implications.

1 Timothy 2:5 could be read to mean that God, the mediator between men and God, and Jesus Christ were all the same person, which is not only wrong, but logically inconsistent. (Bear with me on this.) If there is only one God, how can He be the mediator between Himself and man? The JST makes clear that Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God, and Christ is the mediator between God and man. (We are to have no confusion between the identity of God the Father and God the Son.) The JST also adds that Jesus was ordained to that very purpose.

1 Timothy 2:4 says that Christ will have all men be saved. This sounds like salvation is unconditional, which we know is not the case because there is stuff everywhere that says we are only saved through faith in Christ, and some don’t have that faith. The JST clears this up by showing that Christ is willing to have all men to be saved. In other words, the salvation of all men is His desire and effort. This implies that He has no respect to persons, so anyone may come to Him and fulfill His conditions and be saved. It doesn’t imply any guarantee of results, however, since man has their freedom to choose not to be saved.

(Side note: In our church, the definition of “salvation” has several variants. Some define it as being resurrected and say that everyone is going to be saved. Some definite it as eternal life and say that only those who join the church and faithfully endure to the end will be saved. I’m not too concerned about the differences; I just think people need to explain their definitions clearly.)

1 Timothy 2:4 says that Christ wants all men to come to a knowledge of the truth (besides being saved), but leaves it wiiiiiiiide open as to what that truth is. It could be anything, even saying that I am wearing blue jeans right now. The truth of what? The JST clarifies:

“the truth which is in Christ Jesus,
who is the only Begotten Son of God [condescension],
and ordained [foreordination, priesthood]
to be Mediator [atonement, mercy]
between God [justice] and man [Fall of Adam];
who is one God, and hath power [judgment] over all men.“

I put all the implied principles in square brackets so you can see how compact this statement of gospel truth is. Further, since the truth is IN Jesus, we see that He is the embodiment of truthfulness and all virtues.

1 Timothy 2:5 makes it seem like Jesus is only a man. The JST makes it clear that Jesus was the Only Begotten Son of God. Also, because of the repeated “who is” phrases, parallel clauses are set up to infer that that Jesus is a God too.

who is the Only Begotten Son of God, and ordained to be a Mediator between God and man;
who is one God, and hath power over all men.

Clearly a dual God-man nature is meant.

This is a lot to get from a verse. I hope you haven’t gotten lost in the subtleties in this post. Joseph Smith felt these verses of 1 Timothy were important enough that he spent the time to translate them with the power of God so that they would give us a more accurate idea of Christ’s role and mission. The Lord doesn’t want us to misunderstand Him, and it is worth taking the time and effort to discriminate between false doctrine and true.