Fortunately, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints move into a new curriculum year focused on the New Testament — and, indeed, into a new kind of curriculum expecting serious individual and family study at home — helpful though unofficial supplemental resources are available.
There are too many for me to comment on all of them. But here are some suggestions:
• On Saturday, Jan. 26, the BYU New Testament Commentary project will host a conference in the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni Center on Brigham Young University’s Provo campus under the title “In the Beginning Were the Words: A Closer Look at Key New Testament Terms.” It will run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. — obviously, interested people are welcome to attend whatever portions they can — and admission will be free. Afterward, videos of the conference presentations will be posted. See bookofmormoncentral.org/node/62910 for information.
• The online Meridian Magazine is posting podcasts relating to this year’s New Testament study at ldsmag.com/podcast.
• The Interpreter Foundation — full disclosure: I serve as its president — is posting (and continually expanding) a “Resource Index” for the 2019 New Testament curriculum; see interpreterfoundation.org/come-follow-me/come-follow-me-new-testament-index/.
• But the resource to which I call particular attention here is a landmark book very recently published by Thomas Wayment, a professor of classics at Brigham Young University (and, before that, of religious education) who received his doctorate from the famous program in New Testament studies at California’s Claremont Graduate School.
Wayment’s “The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints: A Study Bible” provides a modern English version that draws upon his expert knowledge of both the ancient Greek language and the best ancient manuscript evidence. Displaying the text in paragraph form while highlighting quotations, portions of early Christian hymns and poetic passages, it makes the biblical accounts more readable and accessible. Further, the book’s extensive notes are sensitive to Latter-day Saint practices and beliefs, featuring not only alternative renderings, references to manuscript variants and historical explanations, but cross-references to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.
I do not suggest that Wayment’s or any other modern translation should replace the King James Version of the New Testament in Latter-day Saint usage. It’s not my place to do so, and the King James continues to be the official English translation of the Bible for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But many readers find the often majestic early 17th-century English of the King James Version intimidating, not to mention occasionally incomprehensible. Accordingly, a modern translation such as Wayment’s can significantly increase understanding.
Moreover, even for those to whom the Jacobean English of the so-called “Authorized Version” poses little or no challenge, reading the text in a different translation — whether in a foreign language or a new English version — can provide a fresh and thought-provoking perspective on very familiar passages. And more than four centuries of scholarship on New Testament Greek since the publication of the King James Bible in 1611, to say nothing of the discovery, since then, of many important manuscripts and variant readings, has in some cases strengthened our grasp of what the ancient New Testament authors wanted to say (and wanted us to know).
Permit me to supply an example of how modern translation of a biblical passage can clarify its meaning. Latter-day Saints have long seen in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 an obvious enough prophecy of looming apostasy:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
However, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 is rather obscure in its King James translation:
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.”
Wayment’s excellent rendering of the whole chapter, however, suggests that the tidal force of apostasy is being controlled by apostolic authority — but only temporarily:
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one who restrains him will do so until he is taken out of the way.”
See deseretbook.com/p/rsc-the-new-testament-a-new-translation-for-latter-day-saints-a-study-bible for more information on the book.