What is the alternative? Would it be more correct to say, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God whether or not it is translated correctly," or "We believe the Bible to be the word of God even if it is translated incorrectly"? It has never failed to amaze the author that someone could take issue with the eighth LDS Article of Faith, which states in part that "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." To take another view would imply that incorrect Bible translations are acceptable or that no translation has ever had an error in it. Both of these are naive positions. Joseph Smith discussed this concern when he said:
I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors (History of the Church, Vol.6, p.57).The concern, as can be seen by such statements, is not only that there be a faithful translation, but that there also be a faithful transmission of the original Biblical text. Non-LDS scholars are in agreement that the Biblical texts have undergone a variety of modifications:
The early manuscripts were all copied by hand, and in the copying, changes and errors crept in. It has been calculated that in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament there are 150,000 places in which there are variant readings (Introducing the Bible, pp.133- 34).While many of these variants are minor (spelling, word order etc.), they nevertheless pose difficulties for translators who try to deterrnine the original text of the New Testament. Complicating the problem of translation is the fact that there are no known original manuscripts of the Old or New Testament which exist today. Translators are therefore unable to compare later manuscripts with originals. Some changes in the Biblical text were not just copying errors, but intentional alterations. Noted textual experts such as Bruce Metzger have observed:
Many of the alterations which may be classified as intentional were no doubt introduced in good faith by copyists who believed that they were correcting an error or infelicity of language which had previously crept into the sacred text and needed to be rectified. A later scribe might even reintroduce an erroneous reading that had been previously corrected (The Text of the New Testament, p.195).Metzger further added:
The number of deliberate alterations made in the interests of doctrine is difficult to assess. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian and many other Church Fathers accused the heretics of corrupting the scriptures in order to have support for their special views (Ibid., p.201).Perhaps the best-known example of this is the statement in 1 John 5:7- 8:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.This is a spurious text appearing nowhere in earlier New Testament manuscripts. This fact is attested to by numerous scholars who declare that it was apparently a marginal note included as part of the manuscript text
Latter-day Saints recognize the Bible as the word of God and accept it as their foremost book of scripture. They also recognize that it has undergone a series of changes, and therefore reserve the right to believe it to be God's word as far as it has been translated and transmitted correctly.