The New Testament in the Book of Mormon: Excerpts from Laura Hales's interview of BYU Religion Professor Nick Frederick
Excerpts from Laura Hales’s interview of BYU Religion Professor Nick Frederick (last retrieved 2022-10-23).
The following are all statements from Nick Frederick (emphasis added).
Instead, what it will do is carefully weave these New Testament passages into the larger text so that you almost don’t notice they’re even there unless you’re carefully looking for them. You have places like 1 Corinthian 13, and Romans 7, or the Sermon on the Mount in 2 Nephi 12–14, but the majority of places where the New Testament appears are just at the phrasal level. It’s just four or five (rarely) consecutive words. They’ll just be four or five words that are worked into a larger sentence, that are worked into a larger paragraph. But the words will be clear enough and obvious enough that you can say, “That’s likely drawn from the New Testament.” The problem is you just have to work to find them.
Grant Hardy’s work has been great here. His chapter on allusion in Understanding the Book of Mormon, where he deals with Hebrews 6 and 11 and Ether 12, and he shows that it isn’t just Moroni just wholesale lifting Hebrews. What Moroni is doing is carefully deconstructing and then reconstructing parts of Hebrews to create an entirely new text. And that’s what the Book of Mormon does with the New Testament that’s just so remarkable and so much fun to look for.
[Discussing the criterion of dissimilarity] You could look at a phrase like “full of grace and truth” from John 1, from John’s prologue. That appears only once in the New Testament, but yet it appears in 2 Nephi 2, Lehi’s discourse with Jacob. It appears in Alma 5 when Alma is talking to Zarahemla. It appears in Alma 9 and 13 in his discourse within the city of Ammonihah. You would look at that and say, “It only appears once in the New Testament. Here it is four times in the Book of Mormon. To me, that increases the likelihood that we’re intentionally supposed to see that as drawn from the New Testament in addition to the shared terminology. Having those two criteria filled I think would say this is a New Testament passage that finds itself in the Book of Mormon.
One of the things the Book of Mormon tends to do is it tends to cluster a lot of its interactions together. For example, in Mosiah 3, King Benjamin’s speech, you have five phrases from the Book of Revelation that appear between verses 20 and verse 27. If it was just one phrase, you might look at that and say that it’s possible that is from the New Testament, but five phrases all from the Book of Revelation suggests more strongly that what we have here is a conscious attempt to bring the language of the Book of Revelation into the Book of Mormon.
You have these clustering of phrases, and sometimes they’ll just appear in random order, but other times the sequence of those proximity phrases will follow the same sequence in both the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon, which, again, suggests to me that we have a conscious attempt to draw upon the language of the New Testament in the Book of Mormon.
Alma’s discourse with the people in Zarahemla … relies heavily upon the language of Matthew 3—Matthew’s story of the baptism of Jesus, in particular, John the Baptist’s own speech. As you look in Alma 5, you’ll find that there are phrases taken from verses 3, verses 8, verse 10, verse 12, that in several places actually follow the same sequential order that they do in Alma 5 as they do in Matthew 3. You’ll see a phrase from verse 3, followed by a phrase from verse 8, followed by a phrase from verse 10.
[The Johannine influence in the Book of Mormon is] really striking. All the way through the Book of Mormon you’ll find Jesus speaking as if he is John. You’ll see prophets speaking as if they’re using the language of the Gospel of John. This applies to the D&C as well. When Jesus gives his revelations to Joseph Smith, when he identifies himself, it’s using the language of the Gospel of John. For whatever reason, when Jesus identifies himself to Joseph Smith, either through the Book of Mormon or in the D&C, it’s as the Jesus of the Gospel of John
… the Book of Mormon consciously wants to draw our attention to the story from John 11. It intentionally puts six phrases from John 11 into Alma 19. It’s not just that the story is the same. It’s that the actual language of the narrative is the same. Alma 19 wants you to have John 11 in mind when you read Alma 19.
… I’ve identified that we have about 650 phrases that I think you can demonstrate pretty clearly are from the New Testament in the Book of Mormon.
- The Bible, Mormon scripture, and the rhetoric of allusivity (Frederick’s 2016 publication containing these insights)
- Line Within Line: An Intertextual Analysis of Mormon Scripture and the Prologue of the Gospel of John (worldcat #7065968821 and #1347347376) (Frederick’s 2013 Dissertation)
- John 11 in the Book of Mormon (Frederick and Joseph Spencer)