For what they're worth, my reactions to the long telegraphed, much anticipated Wayment article in Producing Ancient Scripture
, edited by Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid, University of Utah Press, 2020.
A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith's Bible Translation
Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemon
Overall summary: Clearly edited to serve apologetic interests. Much, much more could have be said, studied, and shared, but wasn't. Almost all of Wayment's JST "borrowing" data remains completely in hiding. The article, in short, is a razor blade wrapped in so much tin foil, it's good for nothing but space basketball. No critical analysis is considered which might call Joseph's prophetic gifts into question. Too much historical and apologetic filler -- more than half the paper -- like empty calories for all the hype.
The article is about 22 printed pages, comprising in rough terms:
* 1p intro
* 1p background on the JST project, incl Book of Moses
* 3p establishing Joseph had Clarke's commentary available
* 8p discrete examples of borrowing (~15 by my count)
* 3p establishing Smith's mistrust of italicized words in the Bible (I think to link Joseph's hand and study in the JST project)
* 1p on whether or not Smith used the Urim and Thummim for the JST
* 3p on definitions of "translation" and what the word meant to Smith
* 1p on some of Clarke's notable objections not adopted by Smith, suggesting a bias to follow Clarke's reliance on manuscript evidence
* 1p for conclusions
Apologetics and Signs of Extensive Editing
A clue to likely apologetic editing comes in paragraph 1:
Wayment wrote:This new evidence effectively forces a reconsideration of Smith's translation projects, particularly his Bible revision, and how he used a scholarly source while simultaneously melding his own prophetic inspiration into the resulting text.
Then this in the next paragraph, what a teaser!
Wayment wrote:This chapter begins by presenting the evidence for Joseph Smith's reliance upon Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary and showing the nature of his usage of Clarke. The chapter then investigates how Smith approached the question of the quality of the KJV translation that he was using in 1830 and what the term "translation" meant to him and his close associates. Finally, a suggestion is offered as to how Smith came to use Clarke, and the overall question of what these findings imply about Smith's other projects is assessed
The last part in italics, together with the statement prior, "a reconsideration of Smith's translation projects", it leads the reader to anticipate that this article will, in fact, culminate with an exploration of the obvious sticky questions about Joseph's personal influence on his major translation projects, eg the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham. Yet, by the end of the article, nothing of the sort is reasoned out at any length. It's as if Wayment "went there" in an original draft, but then edited out that content and forgot to modify the introductory overview.
The closest Wayment comes to considering "what these findings imply about Smith's other projects" is to apologetically extend the role of "borrowing" (aka unattributed plagiarism) to become just another instance of Joseph seeking out scholarly sources in his prophetic work, like he did with all
of his translation projects. For the BofM, Smith (and Harris) sought academic opinions. For the Bible, Smith (and Rigdon) studied Clarke. For the BofA, Smith (and associates) consulted Seixas. For Kinderhook, Smith (and associates) examined the GAEL. I summarized this way because it's written so as to impress upon the reader an unavoidable sense that none of these scholarly consultations were done by Joseph alone -- he always had a research partner. Implicit in this narrative is that the borrowing was entirely consistent and above board, nothing to see here.
All of Smith's translation efforts included some aspect of naturalistic interest in ancient language -- specifically in identifying a scholar or academic resource that could facilitate ordinary translation efforts. ... In some sense, then, Smith's translations involved scholarly inquiry, with a recognition that traditional translation skills were part of, or at least related to, the process.
That's about it for exploring implications on other translation projects -- which is really nothing at all. The points made above only serve to offer an apologetic for why the pattern of consulting "scholarly" sources was clearly part of Joseph's translation modus operandi
. And the whole line of reasoning borders on deceptive tactics for a host of reasons.
Of course, Wayment doesn't neglect the token apologetic fare, that any time Joseph incorporated his or other's ideas into an ancient translation, that was just "studying it out" as the Lord commanded. Part and parcel to successful prophecy. This argument squares every circle, and Wayment works to get the most of it, to be sure. Wayment summarizes, "He leaned into the logic of the revelation, and carried it out to its logical consequence: the informed intellect was a productive seed bed for inspiration."
Yet, Wayment avoids the "question of what these findings imply about Smith's other projects" otherwise. Which is strange, since his introduction promised just such a treatment.
Instances of Borrowing
Wayment doesn't mince words -- he is certain that Joseph borrowed from Clarke. That much isn't open for debate.
However Smith may have obtained it, it is evident that he did. The direct parallels between Adam Clarke's commentary on the Bible and Joseph Smith's revision of the Bible are simply too numerous and too close to explain as mere coincidence or happenstance.
Then a little more than 8 printed pages illustrate examples of borrowing. It's not as simple as straight plagiarism, nor as easily detected, because most of the discovered word and phrase changes which appear neatly in Smith's revision are buried in explanatory text in Clarke.
Wayment provides the following as evidentary case studies:
- Colossians 2:20-22
- Luke 19:25
- Isaiah 34:7
- Luke 23:32
- 2 Timothy 3:16
- Hebrews 9:15-17
- Song of Solomon
- Romans 11:2
- Jude 1:11
- Mark 8:29
- Matthew 27:37
- Romans 14:23
- Titus 2:11
- Matthew 22:14
- John 2:24
Smith, according to Wayment's interpretation of these case studies, was willing to follow Clarke, indeed trusted
Clarke, so far as to (a) harmonize the Gospels, (b) impose theological consequences, (c) reject a whole book of scripture, (d) interpret manuscript evidence.
As interesting and potentially controversial as some of these examples may be for scholars, Wayment left me with a "that's it?" impression with this statement:
Parallels between the two texts number into the hundreds, an amount that is well beyond the limits of this chapter's ability to analyze.
So, Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon found hundreds
of instances of borrowing, yet have only shared 15 with the public as of this printing? It's been what, a year since the abstract? How many hundreds are we talking about here? Is it 800 or 200? Assuming plural hundreds means at least 200, then the 15 examples shared here constitute less than 7.5% of the total number discovered. Is Wayment really not going to share ANYTHING more about the remainder? Why hasn't he made the full list of parallels public yet?
Wayment spends all of 3 pages exploring the meaning of "translation" for the "budding prophet". Barf.
This part of the essay is very interesting. In it, Wayment draws a framework from Philip Barlow which argues that "Smith's revisions can be sorted into five different categories."
Incredibly, in considering these five categories, Wayment concludes that "it is arguable that Clarke is the primary source Smith drew upon" for 3 out of the 5 categories of revisions. They are (3) Interpretive, clarifying additions, (4) Harmonizations, particularly the Synoptic gospels, and (5) Grammatical changes.
Wayment closes by noting that the category (1) Long insertions that interrupt the biblical narrative appear to belong "overwhelmingly to Smith's early prophetic expansions of Genesis". Strangely, Wayment says nothing about category (2) Theological corrections, which is all the more strange to me since a few of the 15 Clarke-inspired case studies explicitly point out that Joseph relied on Clarke for theological corrections.
On that last point, I am left to suppose that one of three things likely happened: Wayment forgot to consider the 4th category, or Wayment speculated that Clarke primarily inspired the 4th category too, a bridge too far for his Salt Lake City super-editors, or lastly, that Wayment found the theological corrections too muddy, eg some Clarke and some not Clarke, and intentionally avoided comment.
Wouldn't it be incredible to hear first hand from Haley Wilson-Lemmon about her experience with the editing process!