Does the Book of Mormon Plagiarize the Bible?

Critics argue that the large number of similarities between the Book of Mormon and the Bible suggest that Joseph Smith is guilty of plagiarism. While the characters in the Book of Mormon often give credit to the Biblical authors they are quoting (see 1 Nephi 20-21/2 Nephi 7-8/Mosiah 14/3 Nephi 12-14, 22, 24-25), there are other instances where it seems significant sections of the Bible are borrowed by Book of Mormon characters without citing the original authors (see Moroni 10:8-23/Ether 12/Moroni 7:44-46/Alma 13:14-20). There are many explanations justifying the existence of Biblical passages in the Book of Mormon (click here for my take). The most common arguments are that the Holy Spirit and ministering angels are capable of revealing the same doctrines to people separated across time and location (2 Nephi 29:7-8/Alma 39:17-19), or that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are both citing from earlier source material that has been lost over time (1 Nephi 13:23-27/Jacob 5).

Regardless of how authors in the Book of Mormon were able to write passages similar to passages in the Bible, it should be acknowledged that citing another author’s work without giving credit to the original author (plagiarism) is common in the Bible. It is therefore unjustified to fault the Book of Mormon for borrowed concepts without also condemning the Biblical prophets for the same actions.

Here are just a few examples in the Old and New Testaments of prophets plagiarizing each other’s writings:

  1. Armor of righteousness = (Isaiah 59:17)/(Ephesians 6:13-17)/(II Corinthians 6:7)
  2. As sheep having no shepherd = (Matthew 9:36)/(Numbers 27:17)
  3. Babylon is fallen = (Revelation 14:8)/(Isaiah 21:9)
  4. Blot out their iniquities = (Psalm 51:9)/(Isaiah 43:25)
  5. Blot out their name in the book of life = (Psalms 69:28)/(Revelation 3:5)
  6. Both soul and body = (Isaiah 10:18)/(Matthew 10:28)
  7. Days are as a flowers of grass in the field = (Psalm 103:15-16)/(James 1:10)/(1 Peter 1:24)
  8. Day of vengeance = (Luke 21:22)/(Jeremiah 46:10)/(Isaiah 61:2)
  9. Eat, drink, be merry; tomorrow we die = (I Corinthians 15:32)/(Isaiah 22:13)
  10. Fear not what man can do = (Hebrews 13:6)/(Psalms 118:6)
  11. Feet on the mountains who publish peace = (Nahum 1:15)/(Isaiah 52:7)
  12. Feet like brass = (Revelation 1:15)/(Ezekiel 1:7)
  13. Fountain of living waters = (Revelation 7:17)/(Jeremiah 2:13)/(Psalm 36:9)
  14. Give his life a ransom = (Mark 10:45)/(1 Timothy 2:6)/(Isaiah 35:10)/(Jeremiah 31:11)/(Hosea 13:14)
  15. God is a consuming fire = (Hebrews 12:29)/(Deuteronomy 4:24)
  16. God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob = (Acts 3:13)/(Exodus 3:15)
  17. Heaven, earth, and all that in them is = (Acts 4:24)/(Exodus 20:11)
  18. Heaven is the Lord’s throne, and the earth is his footstool = (Matthew 5:34-35)/(Isaiah 66:1)
  19. Heaven rolled together as a scroll = (Isaiah 34:4)/(Revelation 6:14)
  20. Lamb to the slaughter = (Jeremiah 11:19)/(Psalms 44:22)/(Isaiah 53:7)
  21. Light to the Gentiles = (Isaiah 49:6)/(Acts 13:47)
  22. Make intercession = (Jeremiah 27:18)/(Isaiah 53:12)/(Hebrews 7:25)
  23. Mark the righteous on their foreheads = (Ezekiel 9:4)/(Revelation 7:3)
  24. Marvelous are thy works = (Psalms 139:14)/(Revelation 15:3)
  25. Meek will inherit the earth = (Matthew 5:5)/(Psalm 37:11)
  26. Mercy endureth forever = (Jeremiah 33:11)/(Psalms 106:1)
  27. Mountains, fall on us = (Hosea 10:8)/(Luke 23:30)
  28. New name = (Isaiah 62:2)/(Revelation 2:17)
  29. New heaven and new earth = (Isaiah 65:17/66:22)/(Revelation 21:1)/(2 Peter 3:13)
  30. No respect of persons = (1 Peter 1:17)/(2 Chronicles 19:7)
  31. One heart = (Jeremiah 32:39)/(Ezekiel 11:19)/(Acts 4:32)
  32. Perverse and crooked generation/nation = (Deut 32:5)/(Phil 2:15)
  33. Rock of his salvation = (Deuteronomy 32:15)/(Psalm 95:1)
  34. Rod of iron = (Psalms 2:9)/(Revelation 2:27)
  35. Seeing they see not, hearing they hear not = (Jeremiah 5:21)/(Matthew 13:13)/(Ezekiel 12:2)
  36. Signs and wonders = (Deuteronomy 28:46)/(Hebrews 2:4)
  37. Sing a new song = (Revelation 14:3)/(Psalms 144:9)
  38. Sow among thorns = (Matthew 13:7)/(Jeremiah 4:3)
  39. Sun and moon refuse to shine = (Isaiah 13:10)/(Matthew 24:29)
  40. Table of thy heart = (Proverbs 7:3)/(2 Corinthians 3:3)
  41. Tree of life = (Revelation 2:7)/(Proverbs 3:18)
  42. Triest the hearts and reins = (Psalm 7:9)/(Jeremiah 11:20/20:12)/(Revelation 2:23)
  43. Uncircumcised of heart = (Jeremiah 9:26)/(Ezekiel 44:7)/(Acts 7:51)
  44. Imagination of the heart = (Romans 1:21)/(Jeremiah 13:10)
  45. Wax old like a garment = (Psalms 102:26)/(Isaiah 50:9)/(Hebrews 1:11)
  46. Voice sounded like great waters = (Ezekiel 1:24)/(Revelation 1:15)

Why does the Book of Mormon quote the New Testament?

Members of the LDS faith believe that the Book of Mormon is a true history of an ancient people (the Nephites) that lived on the American continent from around 592 B.C. to 425 A.D. The Book of Mormon contains hundreds (if not thousands) of references to the Old and New Testaments, which include names, doctrines, symbols, idiomatic expressions, and direct quotes. In some instances, the Book of Mormon contains words, phrases, or doctrines that appear exclusively in the New Testament. This is problematic because the Book of Mormon quotes several New Testament phrases hundreds of years before Christ was born. Critics argue that these anachronisms prove that the Book of Mormon is a 19th century work of fiction. While each example of New Testament quotes appearing in the Book of Mormon is different and can be afforded its own explanation, here are some general reasons for why New Testament phrases may be found in the Book of Mormon.

  1. The Brass Plates contained writings not found in today’s Old Testament. These could have provided source material for the Apostle’s writings in the New Testament

Nephi and his brothers obtained brass plates from Laban that contained the five books of Moses, writings of the prophets up until Jeremiah, and Lehi’s genealogy (1 Nephi 5:11-14). The brass plates contained writings from at least three other prophets that are not found in the Old or New Testaments. These prophets were Zenos, Zenock, and Neum, each of whom specifically prophesied concerning the Son of God (1 Nephi 19:10-17/Jacob 5/Alma 33:3-16). They also contained revelations from Jacob of the Old Testament (Alma 46:24) and Joseph his son (2 Nephi 3:6-22). In addition, an angel of the Lord tells Nephi that the brass plates contain more writings than are found in today’s Old Testament (1 Nephi 13:23). It should also be noted that the Nephites received additional scripture from the records of the Jaredites (Omni 1:20-22/Mosiah 28:11-17) and potentially from writings on the temple wall interpreted by Aminadab (Alma 10:2). It is therefore possible that phrases found in the New Testament have their origin in other scriptures found in the brass plates but not in today’s Old Testament. One example is found in Romans 11:16-25 in the New Testament and Jacob 5 (written by Zenos) in the Book of Mormon. Both authors compare the house of Israel to an olive tree and refer to Gentiles being grafted into the house of Israel. Since the prophet Zenos is believed to have lived centuries before Paul, some argue that Paul was basing his writings on the allegory of the olive tree found in the brass plates.

  1. The Nephites received more revelations than did the Jews in Jerusalem because of their righteousness. These revelations and teachings could have been the same teachings given to the Apostles by angels and the Holy Spirit

Lehi and his family were led by the Lord out of Jerusalem because of their righteousness (1 Nephi 2:1-2). The Nephites, therefore, received more revelation than the Jews in Jerusalem (Jacob 4:12-14/Alma 9:19-23). Here are some examples of prophets in the Book of Mormon having New Testament principles revealed to them by visions, angels, and the Spirit of the Lord:

  • Lehi sees a vision of the 12 apostles and receives a book of revelation (1 Nephi 1:10)
  • Lehi predicts the date in which Christ will be born (1 Nephi 10:4)
  • Lehi sees a vision of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus Christ (1 Nephi 10:7-10)
  • Lehi prophesies that the house of Israel will be compared to an Olive Tree (1 Nephi 10:12)
  • Nephi sees a vision of Christ’s birth (1 Nephi 11:18-20)
  • Nephi sees a vision of today’s Bible. Many doctrines contained therein have been lost (1 Nephi 13:19-27)
  • Nephi sees John the Revelator and much of what he saw (1 Nephi 14:20-27)
  • Jacob learns the name of Christ (2 Nephi 10:3)
  • The Book of Mormon is a second witness of God and the Bible, to prove that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (2 Nephi 29:6-9)
  • Nephi receives a commandment from God that all should be baptized (2 Nephi 31:4-15)
  • Jacob has angels minister to him regularly (Jacob 7:5)
  • King Benjamin sees an angel who tells him of Christ’s birth and purpose (Mosiah 3:2-11)
  • Abinadi is commanded of the Lord to prophesy of Christ’s coming (Mosiah 12:1/Mosiah 15)
  • Alma is given authority from the Holy Spirit to baptize (Mosiah 18:13)
  • King Lamoni and the queen see the Savior and minister to their people (Alma 19:12-13, 29-31)
  • Alma says that it is just as easy for the Lord to send an angel to declare future events as it is for him to send an angel during or after the event (Alma 39:15-19)
  • Alma predicts the year that the Nephites will begin to be destroyed (Alma 45:10)
  • Samuel the Lamanite predicts signs of the birth and death of Christ (Helaman 14)
  • The Lord tells Nephi the day he will be born (3 Nephi 1:11-14)
  • Christ appears in the Americas and teaches them (3 Nephi 11)
  • Christ gives the Nephites scriptures they did not have previously (3 Nephi 23:6/3 Nephi 24-25)
  • The Brother of Jared sees Christ and sees unspeakable visions (Ether 3)
  • Moroni remembers the word of the Lord as found in the New Testament (Ether 12:32-37)
  • Ether sees the New Jerusalem (Ether 13:3-6)
  • Mormon receives the words of the Savior by the Holy Ghost (Moroni 8:7-9)

While unlikely to satisfy critics, the Book of Mormon provides many plausible explanations as to why it shares so much in common with the New Testament.