Skousen argues that the concerns for the Book of Mormon are more resonant with older Protestant concerns than with debates happening in Joseph Smith’s day.1 Nonetheless, he clearly points to elements which indicate a modern rather than ancient origin.
Below is an excerpt from The Language of the Original Text of the Book of Mormon, BYU Studies 57:3, 2018, by Royal Skousen. The below is point number three in answering questions that derive from his research into the language of the Book of Mormon.
(3) Is the Book of Mormon English translation a literal translation of what was on the plates?
It appears once more that the answer is no. The blending in of specific King James phraseology, from the New Testament as well as the Old Testament, tells us otherwise. The Book of Mormon is a creative translation that involves considerable intervention by the translator (or shall we say translators, since we’re in a speculative mood). There is also evidence that the Book of Mormon is a cultural translation. Consider, for instance, the interesting case of the anachronistic use in the Book of Mormon of the noun bar, which consistently refers to the bar of judgment that we will stand in front of (and hold on to) on the day of judgment. The judgment bar is not a biblical or ancient term, but instead dates from medieval times. The Bible refers to standing before the judgment seat of a judge or the throne of the king, as does the Book of Mormon when it refers to secular judgment. The Book of Mormon goes further and refers to the “bar of God” and to the future day of judgment. However, the question arises concerning how this would have been expressed on the plates. I suppose the authors of the words on the plates could have been told, by inspiration, to write a word equivalent to bar, the word that would be used in the future to refer to God’s final judgment. Note that bar is never used anachronistically within the Book of Mormon text itself to refer to a secular judgment, but is consistently used to refer to the final day of judgment. So rather than the equivalent for the word bar occurring on the plates, it is possible that the translator(s) decided to use the word bar (and even the more specific pleading bar, which clearly dates from the 1600s) to refer to the final judgment, a scene then that would have been fully understood by Early Modern English readers but not by modern readers nor by ancient readers. All of this cultural translation linking the text to Early Modern English argues that Joseph Smith was not the author of the English translation.
There are so many parallels with documents in the late 1700s and early 1800s (for example), that it seems such a statement can only be made by ignoring or downplaying all the modern parallels and favoring older parallels. ↩