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Jackson Article Preview — Did Joseph Smith Use Adam Clarke?

Did Joseph Smith Rely on Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary? Forthcoming Article Says “No.”

There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding whether Joseph Smith used scholarly references as practical resources as he translated the Bible. In two articles, Thomas A. Wayment has argued recently that Joseph Smith, in preparing his revision of the Bible, drew ideas from a contemporary Bible commentary by British scholar Adam Clarke.[1]

A forthcoming article by Kent P. Jackson to be published in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship argues that the evidence does not bear out this claim. Jackson argues that none of the examples Wayment provides can be traced to Clarke’s commentary, and almost all of them can be explained straightforwardly by other means.

Jackson, a prolific scholar of the Joseph Smith Translation history and manuscripts, looks at the proposed examples of borrowing within the broader context of the revisions Joseph Smith made to the Bible. As one example of Jackson’s findings, he discovered that some of the revisions that are attributed to the influence of Clarke are identical to ones that Joseph Smith had already made repeatedly in earlier portions of the Bible, all without reference to Clarke. He states that Wayment did not examine the revisions in the context of Joseph Smith’s other revisions, thus missing important clues within the Joseph Smith Translation itself. In addition, he observes that there is a significant amount of material in Clarke that is not reflected in the Joseph Smith Translation, and there are many revisions in the Joseph Smith Translation that contradict what Clarke wrote in his commentary. Jackson concludes that the few resemblances that do exist are vague, superficial, and coincidental.

Significantly, Wayment and his co-author in one of the articles, Haley Wilson-Lemmon, note that none of the “significant expansions” in the Joseph Smith Translation (e.g., excerpts from JST Genesis found in the the Book of Moses, Joseph Smith—Matthew) drew on Clarke’s commentary.[2]

Jackson is quick to note that there is nothing wrong with the idea of Joseph Smith getting some ideas from an external source when revising the Bible and proposes some rare possible examples, none of which, he believes, come from Clarke.

Look for Jackson’s article in the next few weeks in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship.

[1] See Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation,” in Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith’s Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity, ed. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2020), 262–84; Wayment, “Joseph Smith, Adam Clarke, and the Making of a Bible Revision,” Journal of Mormon History 46, no. 3 (July 2020): 1–22.
[2] Wayment and Wilson-Lemmon, “A Recovered Resource,” 283.

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