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Appropriation and Adaptation of J Material in The Book of Mormon

TitleAppropriation and Adaptation of J Material in The Book of Mormon
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsTownsend, Colby J.
Academic DepartmentLanguages and Literature
DegreeHonors Degree in Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literacy and Cultural Studies (Religion and Culture Emphasis)
Number of Pages189
Date PublishedMay 2016
UniversityUniversity of Utah
CitySalt Lake City
Thesis TypeSenior Thesis
Keywords2 Nephi; 3 Nephi; Documentary Hypothesis; Intertextuality; Isaiah; King James Bible; Sermon on the Mount; Source Criticism; Textual Criticism

This study explores the influence of the King James Bible (KJV) on the Book of Mormon (BM) by examining how the BM appropriates and adapts the text of the J source of the Pentateuch–a narrative strand from Genesis to Deuteronomy–and weaves phrases, ideas, motifs, and characters into the text. I identify the full range of influence of the J source of the Pentateuch on the text of the BM in Part II, and then analyze the use of Gen. 2-4 in its own literary context, in ancient sources, and finally in the BM. Through close reading and analysis the study highlights the gaps between the meaning of Gen. 2-4 in its own literary context and the way that the BM interprets its themes and overall message. The BM employs a thoroughly 19th century American-Christian worldview in both its use of the J source and its interpretation of that important text.

This study has important implications for BM studies broadly and for historical-critical studies of the BM in particular. Moving forward, BM studies will need to grapple with the heavy influence that the KJV had on the composition of the BM. Past studies have identified limited influence of the KJV on the text for several reasons, but whatever the reasons it is clear that there are specific ways to move the field forward. Studies have focused on the block quotations of Isaiah in the BM, and some have explored the use of Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi and other portions of the text. Unfortunately, there are very few studies that have attempted to broaden the scope and look at the influence of a larger section of the KJV and its more subtle uses throughout the entire BM.

It is my hope that this study can be a stepping-stone of sorts for future work. I have looked specifically at how the BM uses parts of Genesis through Deuteronomy, but this leaves the door open to exploring the influence of any and all of the other parts of the KJV and their influence on the text of the BM.

Appropriation and Adaptation of J Material in The Book of Mormon