“A Bible!”

Brant Gardner

This theme restates Nephi’s earlier pronouncement in 2 Nephi 28:26–29:

Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
[W]o be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!

In chapter 28, Nephi speaks in his own voice; in chapter 29, Yahweh speaks. But both refer to those who have received in the past and see no need of receiving more. As Nephi indicated, they fall under condemnation because they reject the fullness Yahweh offered.

Translation: The word “Bible” is an anachronism, but a forgivable one. It comes from the Greek biblia (“books”) and refers to the collection of books that eventually formed the Christian Bible. Because that compilation of specific texts occurred seven or eight hundred years after Nephi, the underlying term on the plates certainly would not have meant the received and canonized text we now think of as our “Bible.” However, Nephi means to contrast a received text with a new text. Regardless of how that might have been designated on the plates, the function is the equivalent of “Bible,” which would have been the term most readily accessible to Joseph Smith.

An unfortunate aspect of the word’s use, however, is that it tends to replace ancient associations and meanings with modern ones. Although the conflict might be interpreted as lying between a current printed Bible and the forthcoming Book of Mormon, the real conflict is in the Gentiles’ ability to accept further information from God. In 2 Nephi 28:26–29, the lack of a term connoting “Bible” opens the interpretation to multiple forms of continuing revealed knowledge. In 2 Nephi 29:3 the context is a written form, but only because it is paralleled to the words of Nephi’s descendants that are to come forth. The force of the literary parallel requires that a written text be juxtaposed against another written text. Thus, it clearly refers to the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

Of course, the historical reality is that the Bible has been considered sufficient. The point is not that Nephi (or Yahweh, who is the speaker here) did not understand this situation, but rather than Nephi did not intend to be limited to such a narrow scope.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2