Lost Books Of The Bible? - 1

As many of our readers know, the Mormons claim the Book of Mormon was needed because "many plain and precious parts" had been removed from the Bible (See Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:26). On page 501 of the Mormon "Articles of Faith", James E. Talmage presented a list of 20 allegedly "missing books" which are mentioned in the Bible. If this list does, in fact, accurately refer to books originally in the Bible, but have since been lost, then it admittedly would be difficult to have much confidence in the Bible as a complete revelation from God. What about the so-called "Lost Books of the Bible?"

The Mormon Obligation

Before looking at the list in any detail, let me point out that Mormons bear the burden of proof in establishing the following 

  1. That these books are indeed inspired of God and 
  2. That if they are inspired, they contain revelation from God in addition to that contained in existing scripture.

Keep it in mind that the bare citation of a book does not prove anything other than the work was known at the time. There should be something in the context or in the manner of citation that implies divine authority. In place of LDS assumptions and assertions that these books are inspired, we need to see some proof!

But an even more grievous obligation rests upon Mormon assertionists: They are obligated to produce these missing books! In the same Book of Mormon chapter mentioned above, it states that when the Book of Mormon was to be revealed, it was to "make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away" from the Bible. Where are those 20 "missing books" to be found in LDS literature? Their inability to produce them is a tacit admission of the failure of the Book of Mormon and its promises.

Examining the List of "Missing Books"

A careful examination of Talmage's 20 citations indicates that not a single one of them refers to a book that should be in our Bible. All of them can be accounted for by one of the three following categories:

I. A misunderstanding or misapplication of the text. The alleged "lost book" is either not a book at all or is not lost.

II. A historical and/or poetical work cited only for corroborative purposes, but with no evidence of inspiration.

III. A work that, if granted to be the product of inspiration, is with no evidence that it contained revelation other than that in a known book of the Bible.

Let us look at those on the list that fall into Category #1:

Book Of The Covenant (Exodus 24:7). Reading from the beginning of chapter 24, even the most casual student can see that "book of the covenant" is merely the Law of Moses, a copy of the contract or covenant that God made with Israel. Read verses 3 and 4, in particular. This same covenant is spoken of in Deuteronomy 4:13 and also 1 Kings 8:9. Reference is also made to it in Hebrews 9:18-20. We have the words of this covenant recorded clearly in the very book (Exodus) where the citation is given. All Mormons succeed in establishing by this citation is their lack of careful study in the context of the passage.

Another Epistle To The Ephesians (Ephesians 3:3). The passage reads, "How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words..." Mormons jump to the unwarranted conclusion that Paul refers to another letter. But a thoughtful glance at Ephesians 1:9 will reveal that Paul wrote, "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will..." Paul had indeed "written afore in few words" concerning God making known to him the "mystery", but not in another book - in the very same letter!

Epistle To The Colossians From Laodicea (Colossians 4:16). The passage in question states: "...and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." Very few thorough students of the Bible today hold that this refers to a missing epistle. Even liberal scholars, whose position would be bolstered by such a finding, affirm that this is not true. The most widely accepted view is that the epistle we know as "Ephesians" is, in reality, the epistle from Laodicea. Space will not permit rehearsing all the evidence for this conclusion. But here are four points that we need to consider:

  1. Textual study seems to support this view. In the two most important uncial Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus, the words translated "at Ephesus" are omitted. Also, Marcion, of the 2nd Century, recognized the epistle to the Ephesians and the epistle from Laodicea to be one in the same. Likewise, Origen of the early 3rd Century and Basil (about a century and a half later) affirmed the same. From this evidence the majority of scholars have concluded that the Epistle to the Ephesians was originally a circular letter sent first to Laodicea and designed to be circulated throughout the churches in Asia. It would be understandable how it could have come to be known as Ephesians, if its final repository was in the capital city of Asia.
  2. This view is further supported by the nature of the material in the book of Ephesians. The subject matter has a universal ring to it. The only exclusive matter in it is addressed to gentile converts, of which the churches in Asia primarily consisted. These facts are entirely consistent with the view that it was originally meant to be applied to several churches as a circular letter.
  3. A rather remarkable feature of the book of Ephesians is its impersonal tenor. In no other of Paul's letters is this found. When we recall that Paul spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31), it is incredible to believe that he wrote a letter meant for them alone, yet neither refers to his sojourn with them, nor so much as mentions one familiar name. Contrast these facts with his letters to Rome, Colossae, Philippi, etc. If it is true that this book was meant to be a circular letter, this apparent difficulty disappears and all is made clear.
  4. In Ephesians 3:2, Paul wrote, "...if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward..." If language means anything at all, this infers the possibility that those to whom he was writing might not have heard. But such could not be so, if written exclusively to the Ephesians, because of Paul's long stay with them and his affirmation that he had not "shunned to declare the whole counsel of God" to them (Acts 20:27). But, if the letter was a circular letter meant for other churches and sent originally to Laodicea, this passage is made clear, as well as the one found in Colossians 4:16.

But, in the face of this and other overwhelming evidence, if one still wishes to assert that there is a "lost epistle from Laodicea," evidence must be produced that it contained revelation absent in other scripture. And, again, the Mormon (who believes his own book) is obligated to produce the epistle itself!

Missing Epistle of Jude (Jude 3). "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you to earnestly contend for the faith..." It is difficult to understand how anyone could read this passage and come up with a "missing letter." "Earnestly contending for the faith" is an important element of the "common salvation" about which Jude gave diligence to write. Where's the missing book here? 

We shall continue examine the Mormons' list of "lost books" next month.