Does God publish books besides The Bible?
Jerry Jenkins, author of the blockbuster Left Behind Series, can’t walk away from a rich deal. He has raked in millions with his dramatic series of novels that purport to prepare believers for the imminent end of the world. Jenkin’s publisher had announced that the Left Behind narratives had run its course. Then Jenkins proposed a “prequel” and sequel to the series. “Prequel” is a word meaning an introductory volume.Authors often make a similar move when their best-selling hardcover books are re-issued in paperback. An author might add new chapters to the paperback edition, along with a revised, expanded preface.Does God, the divine hand shaping the Bible, engage in a similar publishing venture?Does God edit additional holy books that may occasionally offer information not tucked in the Bible?Joseph Smith, founder of the 19-century religious sect known as “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints” believed God tapped him on the shoulder. Smith argued that he received new revelations directly from God, his editor.2005 marks the 100th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s birth. Latter-day Saints believe that God wrote a sequel or two to the Bible. One of these, The Book of Mormon, they claim, is the word of God. It is a freshly revealed scripture that came to the Mormons through Smith, on par with the Old and New Testaments. Was Smith really God’s literary agent?Smith claimed he met God and Jesus Christ in a grove in upstate New York at 14 years when he was 14. He recounted this revelation in 1820 when he wrote that the Lord sat him down and had his listen to a divine sequel, rivaling the Bible’s authority. Smith also wanted to find true religion, but God warned him to run from corrupt Christian tradition. God wanted Smith to start his own faith, anchored purely in Jesus’ ministry on earth.Smith dubbed The Book of Mormon “another Testament of Jesus Christ.” This subtitle makes clear that for Smith God did not end his series of revelations with the Bible. God kept on writing sequels through his scribe Joseph.The direct revelations to Smith proved stirring, never straining his gullibility. In 1820 he wrote of his vision, “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell on me. When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other, ‘This is my beloved Son, hear him.'”Smith believed the Bible is not complete or sufficient in divine authority. The Book of Mormon reveals new chapters in the story of God’s work on earth. Jesus, Smith wrote, leaped from Jerusalem, landing on the American continent.The Book of Mormon spins a tale of a small tribe of Jews who sailed west from Jerusalem and finally dropped anchor in the Americas in 600 BC. Mormon theology posits that from this line of Jews American Indians evolved.Mormon scriptures, functioning as God’s sequel to the Bible, also describe how Jesus played tourist in America about a year after his death. The story tells how he supposedly he baptized the Hebrew remnant on the continent, repeated his Sermon on the Mount, and started his church, ushering in 200 years of peace.Christians are quick to point out how God showed lapses of judgment if He indeed edited what Smith transcribed as a Mormon sequel to the Bible. Readers notice textual expressions that smack of the King James Bible, issued centuries after Smith’s timeline.Informed readers find obvious anachronisms in The Book of Mormon. Reverences are made to a seven-day week, corralled horses, cows and sheep grazing, silk, plus splendid chariots and steel.What wrong with this picture? None of the items listed above had been introduced into America at the time of Christ’s alleged visit to the Jews The Book of Mormon records.Whether or not God has written sequels to the Bible stands as a great divide between Mormon belief and Christianity. Mormons swear by Smith’s writings that God has opened a new revelation, The Book of Mormon, which is the Divine’s authoritatively supreme effort at expanding the Bible’s story of salvation.The Christian tradition counters that the Bible’s way of salvation is complete, adequate and sufficient. God doesn’t have to second-guess Himself by adding future chapters to the story of salvation or by sending Jesus as His ambassador to primitive America.Though God continues to lead the Christian community into deeper understanding of the Bible’s books, what is called the “canon” the Bible as delivered, is closed. The Bible is God’s complete, distinctive, one-of-a-kind revelation. It doesn’t need Smith’s add-ons.The premier Christian scholar of the transmission of the biblical text is Bruce M. Metzger, under whom I studied at Princeton Theological Seminary. Metzger chaired the translation team that introduced the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Metzger’s crisp, clear writing answers why God has not written any sequels to the Bible.”In traditional Judaism and Christianity, the Bible has been more than a historical document to be preserved or a classic of literature to be cherished and admired; it is recognized as the unique record of God’s dealing with people over the ages.” God didn’t sign a deal with Joseph Smith to write a biblical sequel. God has done more than adequate work with the Bible as is, uniquely revealing His way with us. Doc: mormonThe Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads Creative Growth Ministries, enhancing Christian worship through storytelling and dramatic presentations. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores for $7.95.Vail, Colorado