Jared, Herod, their Daughters, and their Dances with Death

Most readers will be familiar with the following story:

The daughter of a king is involved in a scheme where she will dance for an audience in order to please them enough that they promise to do anything for her. The desired outcome is that one of the men in the story will be beheaded, and the audience pleased by the dancing will be the one to carry out the beheading.

Most readers will notice first that this outline describes the experience of King Herod and John the Baptist. Herod’s wife, Herodias, is angry with John the Baptist because Herodias was originally married to Herod’s brother, Philip. According to the author of Mark, John is brazen enough to state explicitly to Herod that “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18; cf. Matt. 14:4). Because of this, Herod has John put in jail, but Herod was either afraid of the people who liked John (according to Matt.) or afraid of John because he was a good person (according to Mark), and so decided not to kill him against the wishes of Herodias. But, on Herod’s birthday his daughter dances for him (and a few lords, captains, and chiefs according to Mark) which pleases him so much that he makes an oath that he will give her whatever she wants. The daughter goes to Herodias who tells her to ask for John the Baptist’s head. Herod would not rescind his prior oath, and is sorry that he decides to go along with the request. The oath is what binds him to murder John, even though it was against his original wishes.

Close readers of the Book of Mormon (BM) will notice that a similar story is found in Ether 8:7-9:6 (see the relevant texts at the end of this post). In this story the characters are slightly changed around. Here Jared (not to be confused with Jared, the brother of the brother of Jared, earlier in the book of Ether) is sorrowful because the kingdom was taken away from him after he had usurped power from his father, Omer. His daughter, noticing his sorrow, tells him how he can get the kingdom back based on an “account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory” (Ether 8:9). Jared’s daughter tells Jared that if he sent for Akish that she would dance for him. Akish would be pleased with her dancing and would desire to marry her. At that point Jared would need to tell Akish that if he wants to marry his daughter he needs to bring him his father Omer’s head.

Jared goes along with the plan, and Akish makes a secret oath with many of his family and friends to help him kill the king. Instead of being able to go through with the plan, Omer is warned in a dream about his impending death and leaves with his family into the wilderness in language similar to what we find about Lehi and his family in 1 Nephi. Because the king and his full family (besides Jared) leave the kingdom, Jared is able to easily take the kingdom back from his father. He allows Akish to marry his daughter, who  then becomes jealous of his father in law.  Akish works with his family and friends to kill Jared so that he can take the throne.  The “secret” society ends up being renown by all of the people in the kingdom, to the point that Akish and his kinsmen are able to kill King Jared openly on his throne by beheading him while he is addressing his subjects.

These two stories are closely related. Similar to many other stories in the BM, it is clear that many of the phrases and ideas in Ether 8:7-9:6 come from the New Testament (NT). The BM is aware of the story of John the Baptist, unique to Matthew and Mark, as well as others. As noted in one of my previous posts, 1 Ne. 10:7-10 is aware of and dependent on John 1:26-29, 33. The author of 1 Nephi blends materials unique to this Johannine text, not found in other gospels with a few phrases that are unique to Matt. 3, as well as other phrases that are shared between the synoptics. The author of Mosiah and Alma is aware of the NT stories about the conversion of Saul/Paul on his way to Damascus. The conversion of Alma the Younger is itself dependent on the conversion story of Paul.

In future posts I will continue to analyze ways in which the King James Bible has been used in the BM and other Restoration Scripture produced by Joseph Smith in the early years of his work. The cumulative data of the influence of the KJV on the BM and other Mormon scriptures is significant, and needs to become a dedicated area of study within Mormon Studies proper. It has the potential to effect most, if not all, areas of study in positive ways, gleaning new information on the beginnings of Mormonism and how a religion that now has 15 million members came to be.

Ether 8:7-12, 9:1-9:6 (Printer’s Manuscript) – 7 & now Jared became exceeding sorrowful because of the loss of the kingdom, for he had set his heart upon the kingdom, & upon the glory of the world. 8 now the daughter of Jared being exceeding expert, & seeing the sorrow of her father, thought to devise a plan whereby she could redeem the kingdom unto her father. 9 now the daughter of Jared was exceeding fair. & it came to pass that she did talk with her father, & saith unto him, Whereby hath my father so much sorrow? hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms & great glory? 10 & now therefore, let my father send for Akish, the son of Kimnor; & behold I am fair, & I will dance before him & will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say, I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the King. 11 & now Omer was a friend to Akish, wherefore when Jared had sent for Akish, the daughter of Jared danced before him, that she pleased him, insomuch that he desired her to wife. & it came to pass that he said unto Jared, Give her unto me to wife. 12 & Jared said unto him, I will give her unto you, if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king… 9:1 And now I, Moroni, proceed with my record; therefore behold it came to pass that because of the secret combinations of Akish & his friends, behold they did overthrow the kingdom of Omer; 2 nevertheless, the Lord was merciful unto Omer, & also to his sons & to his daughters, who did not seek his destruction. 3 & the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, & traveled many days, & came over & passed by the hill of Shim, & came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, & from thence eastward, & came to a place which was called Ablom, by the sea shore, & there he pitched his tent & also his sons & his daughters & all his household, save it were Jared & his family. 4 & it came to pass that Jared was anointed king over the people, by the hand of wickedness; & he gave unto Akish his daughter to wife. 5 & it came to pass that Akish sought the life of his father-in law, & he applied unto those whom he had sworn by the oath of the ancients, & they obtained the head of his father in law, as he sat upon his throne, giving audience to his people; 6 for so great had been the spreading of thei wicked & secret society, that it had corrupted the hearts of all the people; therefore Jared was murdered upon his throne, & Akish reigned in his stead.


Mark 6:17-29 – 17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. 18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. 19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: 20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. 25 And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. 26 And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. 29 And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.

Matt. 14:3-12 – 3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. 4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. 8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. 9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

The New Testament in the Book of Mormon: A Primer

One of the points I made in a previous post was that, besides Deutero-Isaiah, Malachi, and other post-exilic Judean writings, the New Testament (NT) was also heavily used all throughout the Book of Mormon (BM). I will share a couple of brief notes below that I think are worthy of note to take into consideration to what extent the NT influenced the BM. The reason for this should be obvious, especially for those who have read my last post: the NT was not available to any of the Nephite authors.

According to the text Jesus gives some of the Nephite leaders a version of his Sermon on the Mount (see 3 Nephi 12-14) found in Matt. 5-7. The fact that the BM version of the Sermon has such a high quantity of verbal parallels is not the only piece of evidence that the BM version is in fact dependent on KJV Matt. 5-7 (and not independent of Matt. 5-7 or dependent on the Sermon as found in Luke 6). The Sermon on the Mount, and almost every other chapter of Matthew,[1] has influenced parts of the BM that are, according to the text, chronologically prior to Jesus’s visit to the Nephites in Bountiful. These authors would not have had the gospel of Matthew in any form, so these parallels will need to be explained in future work. I will lay out some of the details in a future post on Matthew in the BM.[2]

As noted by Philip Barlow, Kenneth Jenkins’s computer analysis showed back in 1983 (although largely ignored since then except by Barlow) that over “fifty thousands phrases of three or more words, excluding definite and indefinite articles, are common to the [King James] Bible and the Book of Mormon.”[3] Among these phrases are many that are found only in the NT, and very often only in a single verse in the NT. Some of these are fascinating in the form in which they are quoted in the BM. For example, in Mosiah 16:3 we find a description of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the effects it had on mankind afterward. In the verse we find a NT phrase: “which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.” In James 3:15 we find the phrase “earthly, sensual, devilish,” and note that this language has been mixed with Gen. 3:5, “knowing good and evil.” The BM has the phrase from James 3:15 in a different form than it is found in the 1769 edition of the KJV, and has “carnal” in the place of “earthly.” This form is found in Christian literature of the late 18th and early 19th centuries as a quotation from James 3:15, evidence that this was a popular form of the verse contemporary to the production of the BM.[4]

Several other examples could be given, including the use of the titles for Satan “old serpent” (2 Ne. 2:18; Mosiah 16:3) from Rev. 12:9 and 20:2 and “father of all lies” (2 Ne. 2:18; Ether 8:25; and “father of lies” in 2 Ne. 9:9) from John 8:44, but this post is meant be a primer for other posts to come.[5]  These points are important to keep in mind when discussing the use of the KJV in the BM, and will be important to include in any future work on the Bible in the BM because they are not exceptions to the rule. In large part, this is representative of the entire text of the BM and its use of the KJV.

[1] In my analysis of the influence of the KJV on the BM I have identified at least one 6-8 word phrase in all chapters of Matthew except 14 that has influenced at least one, and sometimes several, passages in the BM.

[2] See also Stan Larson, “The Historicity of the Matthew Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi,” in Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 115-163; for a different perspective responding to Larson’s paper see Royal Skousen, “Critical Methodology and the Text of the Book of Mormon,” in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994), 121-144. My analysis of Matthew in the BM is not dependent on either of these papers, but needless to say my approach and conclusions are much nearer to Larson’s than it is to Skousen’s.

[3] Philip Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (Updated Edition; New York City: Oxford University Press, 2013), 28; citing Kenneth Jenkins, “Common Phrases Between the King James Version and the Book of Mormon” (3 vols.; 1983; housed in the FARMS Collection BYU), although there is no “FARMS collection” at BYU, either at the Harold B. Lee Library or the Neal A. Maxwell Institute (the latter would be the first place to inquire about the study).

[4] For example, “His affections became carnal, sensual, and devilish. Eh. ii. 1-3. James iii. 15,” in Anonymous, Extracts from Ancient and Modern Authors, arranged so as to form a history or description of Man, in his natural, moral, and spiritual character: embracing nearly all the most important subjects of the Christian Religion. (London: E. Bridgewater, 1828), 207; and, “As the understanding is dark, and the will perverse, so the conscience is polluted, and full of dead works; and all the affections are in sad disorder; placed upon earthly objects, being carnal, sensual, and devilish,” in Thomas Taylor, Sixteen Lectures upon the Epistles to the Seven Churches of Asia, recorded in the Second and Third Chapters of Revelations. (Bristol: R. Edwards, 1800), 65.

[5] Besides being found in the NT, both of the phrases “old serpent” and “father of all lies” are found in Christian literature of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

A General Introduction

I have received positive feedback already from this new blog from several friends and interested readers. One of my friends pointed out how the purpose and direction of the blog were not stated clearly, and suggested providing information to describe why I started it and what purpose I hope the blog will serve. First, this blog will be dedicated to analyzing Joseph Smith’s (JS) production of scripture by close comparisons of the  scriptures he produced with the King James Bible (KJV). That is the primary reason for the blog. Second, the blog is not meant to have a specific agenda or purpose other than providing detailed, and sometimes informal, analyses of the influence of the KJV on the Book of Mormon (BM), Book of Moses, Doctrine and Covenants, and Book of Abraham. As can hopefully be seen in the previous post, I do not wish to take certain theological stances in this blog. I am not interested in debating belief, but rather in discussing and describing the way that JS’s scriptures utilize and alter the books found in the KJV. I am interested in what historical persons have believed, when they believed it, how they expressed that belief, and how historians today can reconstruct those beliefs. In the previous post I made specific arguments, but those are due to the overwhelming amount of data that connects the BM to the KJV.

The blog will hopefully show that it is possible to explain a lot more about the BM than has previously been thought. Also, that historians can and should utilize methods in historical and literary criticism in order to discover new insights about how important religious figures, in this context one of the most important American religious figures, utilized the traditions they inherited from their parents and their religious communities. This will be imperative for future studies specifically on JS and the BM, but can and should be applied to other figures as well. Even modern American folk artists and activists have been studied  for their use of the bible, evidence that this is an important area of study in understanding people who have had a large impact on the world. Hopefully the analyses provided in the blog will show that this is a worthwhile approach, and that the methods can gain fruitful historical data for all areas of early Mormonism and other topics.

Deutero-Isaiah and the Book of Mormon

Students of the Book of Mormon (BM) have recognized the problem of having explicit and lengthy quotations of Isaiah chapters 40-55 since at least the days of B. H. Roberts.[1] The issue has not been known widely within Mormonism itself, and neither have the reasons been fully (or accurately) explained for a Mormon audience until only recently. In this introductory blog post I would like to explain some recent developments on the question, as well as point out some serious methodological flaws in prior, and some very recent, literature on this topic. I hope to provide ways of approaching the question of Isaiah in the BM that take more of the available data into account and shift the focus onto the wider problem of the King James Bible’s (KJV) influence on the full text of the BM.

This issue has most recently been brought into discussion because of an essay written by Dr. Kent P. Jackson of the Religious Education department at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The essay, “Isaiah in the Book of Mormon,” is included in a book that is meant to provide answers for Mormons on difficult topics in Mormonism’s history and teachings. Dr. Jackson follows those who went before him in discussing the composition of the book of Isaiah by pointing out a few of the arguments that scholars have made for the disunity of the separate sections, Isa. 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66.[2] Chapters 40-66 were written post-586 BCE, and therefore could not have been available to Nephi on his “plates of brass.”[3] The issue that has previously been pointed out since B. H. Roberts is that chapters in 40-55 (Deutero-Isaiah) have been extensively and explicitly quoted in the BM. For example, 1 Ne. 20-21 quotes Isa. 48-49, 1 Ne. 22 and 2 Ne. 6 quote some of Isa. 49 and 52, and 2 Ne. 6:16-8:25 quote Isa. 49:24-52:2. This is only a small portion of the very heavy use of Deutero-Isaiah in the BM.

One of the major flaws in past research has been to assume that the use of Isa. 40-55 is the only relevant information in determining, for a Mormon audience, whether or not one should follow the arguments scholars have made on the compositional history of the book of Isaiah. The issue is that Isa. 40-55 is not the only material found in the KJV that had a major impact on the writing of the BM. Indeed, thousands of verses had a significant impact on the BM, but in no study that I am aware of has this been taken into account.

For example, the book of Malachi would not have been available to any pre-exilic Judahites. It was likely written between 500-450 BCE, but it was used throughout the text of the BM. 1 Ne. 22:15 directly quotes Mal. 4:1 with a citation formula, and Ether 9:22 alludes to Mal. 4:2-3 in a way that betrays the author’s knowledge of later Christian interpretations of that Hebrew Bible passage. The confusion between “Sun” in Mal. 4:2 and “Son” in Ether 9:22 could only have happened by reading the English translation of Mal. 4:2. In Hebrew “sun” is shemesh and “son” is ben. The similarity between the two words is only found in the English.

The direct quotations of Mal. 3-4 in 3 Ne. 24-25 were also obviously copied directly from a bible during the production of that section of the BM. The KJV of Malachi and the BM version (the 1830 edition and earliest manuscripts) of Malachi agree 99.2%, the texts only diverge from one another in eight places. Five of these are due to variants in the versions of the BM, and of the remaining three one of them is likely not a variant,[4] another changes a singular to a plural, and the last represents a Christianized reading of Mal. 4:2. Other post-exilic (post-539 BCE) Judean literature also influenced the BM, but that will have to wait for a future post.

The BM knew not only exilic and post-exilic texts later included in the KJV, but it also shows knowledge of New Testament (NT) texts throughout the entire narrative. For example, 1 Ne. 10:7-10 the text describes a vision in which Lehi sees into the future and views the activities of John the Baptist. The verses are dependent primarily on John 1:26-29, 33, and secondarily use language from Matt. 3:3, 11 and other KJV texts. The concepts and language from KJV of John 1 are embedded into the text of the BM. Other examples could include the use of language and imagery from Matt. 8:12 in Alma 40:13:

Matt. 8:12:
“But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Alma 40:13:
“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, which are evil; for behold, they have no part nor portion of the spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works, rather than good; therefore the spirit of the Devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house; and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and this because of their own iniquity; being led captive by the will of the Devil.”

The language and imagery from Alma 40:13 is also dependent on 2 Tim. 2:26 in the last line, and the addition of “wailing” to the text of Matt. 8:12 is likely influenced by Rev. 18:15 and 19. There are literally thousands of like examples throughout the BM that need to be accounted for when discussing whether or not the biblical texts could have been available to the author(s) of the BM. Further study is needed to resolve these issues, but any study that ignores the impressive amount of influence from other KJV texts than Isaiah is not looking at the entire picture. Not only is this methodologically flawed, but this does not prepare an author or their readers for the real amount of influence that the KJV has had on the BM.

This blog post has only meant to act as a primer to future study, and a corrective to past studies. Although there have been important points made in prior research, the fact that the amount of influence (most of which is not discussed in this post at all) from other KJV texts is not included in their studies casts doubt on their conclusions. In order to provide the best answers to important questions such as these the largest amount of data needs to be included in order to present the most informed answers. Unfortunately, Dr. Jackson’s (and many others’) studies do not represent what I am calling for here, and we will hopefully see more of that line of inquiry in the future.

[1] See B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God (3 vols.; Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909), 3:449-460.

[2] The compositional history is much more complicated than this, as Dr. Jackson recognizes in his essay. The composition is much more complicated, though, than his recognition of the addition of Isa. 36-39 from 2 Kings.

[3] See especially 1 Ne. 19:21-22 and 22:1 in the BM.

[4] See Colby Townsend, “‘Behold, Other Scriptures I Would that Ye Should Write’Malachi in the Book of Mormon,” 12; accessed on May 20, 2016: https://www.academia.edu/8726590/_Behold_Other_Scriptures_I_Would_that_ye_Should_Write_Malachi_in_the_Book_of_Mormon.