Missionary Chat: Origins of the Bible

I’ll admit up front, this chat was basically just an attempt to show that Mormon missionaries are ignorant.  I wanted to know what they knew about the origins of the Bible.  Here we go:

Bailey: hi how are you?

Bart (me): I’m good. How are you?

Bailey: good

Bailey: what can we do for you?

Bart: I have a question.

Bailey: ok. go ahead.

Bart: What can you tell me about the origins of the bible – particularly the New Testament?

Bailey: Well we know that the new testament testifies of Christ’s life in Jerusalem. It was in that part of the world. The middle east.

Bart: Right. But how did those specific writings come to be considered canonical books in the Bible?

Bailey: Christ’s apostles where with him all the time and so they wrote the things that Christ did. They were special witnesses of Him.

Bart: And do you know who finally compiled them into the modern Bible.

Bailey: It was a man by the name of William Tyndale. It was in the early 1500’s I believe. He translated the Bible.

Bart: Okay. Thanks.

Bailey: Do you have any other questions?

Bart: Nope. That was it. Thanks for your help.

So, Bailey is clearly unaware of the fact that the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – were not written by apostles of Jesus.  Of the books that bear the names of apostles, the authorship is in question for most of them (e.g., epistles of Peter, James, and John).  Bailey also didn’t answer my actual question but instead told me who translated the Bible into English, William Tyndale. This probably means that Bailey, like so many of my students, has no idea where the New Testament actually came from other than believing erroneously something like: the apostles wrote what they saw then bound it together in a nice little book when they were done, oh, around 32 CE – you know, right after Jesus was crucified.  I know this is kind of mean to do, but I think it’s interesting to note that Mormon missionaries are pretty oblivious about the origins of Christianity and the Bible that they are trying to convince people to believe in.


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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4 Responses

  1. Parker says:

    Since the AofF state that the Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, it could be interesting to see if they can identify the mistranslations. Also the *word of God,* is that literally God’s words?

  2. profxm says:

    My guess is they wouldn’t even attempt it. As this conversation illustrated, these Mormons know very little about the Bible. I’d love to see how good data on how much Mormons know about Bible scholarship.

  3. chanson says:

    Sure, but I don’t think this is a particularly Mormon thing.

    Mormons believe that modern revelation trumps the Bible, so (maybe?) they have a bit of an excuse for not focusing too much on its precise origins. But I doubt that those who profess sola scriptura do much better on average….

  4. Parker says:

    #2, I’m sure they can’t address it, because even with JS *translation* they really do not have anything to go on. Still, it would be interesting as to how they handle something that is plainly stated in the AofF.

    They may not know much about Bible origins, but there is evidence that the average members knowledge of Bible content is superior to that of protestants and Catholics.

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