February 2016

Joseph Smith’s ‘fiery flying serpents’ error.

As every student of the Book of Mormon knows, 2 Nephi 24 is a direct and exact copy (among twenty-one chapters of Isaiah, copied complete with translation errors and Middle English words inserted into the text), of Isaiah 14, as it appears in the Bible (KJV). Joseph Smith has Nephi include Isaiah’s words: “Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken; for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.” (v.29, italics added). (Claimed to have been recorded by Nephi, about 559–545 BCE).

Isaiah also mentions a fiery flying serpent in Isaiah 30:6. “The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them.” This chapter was not copied into the Book of Mormon. Note that Isaiah’s use of the term is clearly figurative.

The following, relating to an incident involving Israelites in the wilderness, is claimed to have been written some forty years earlier by Nephi (about 592–591 B.C). “And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.” (1 Nephi 17:41. Italics added).

Joseph Smith had obviously already read, and later used, several chapters of Isaiah in his Book of Mormon, but he muddled the text when having Nephi mention the wilderness experience. Isaiah’s fiery flying serpents were not real but the Lord’s serpents were (supposedly) actual – and not once did God claim they could fly.

Deuteronomy 8:15 reviews the claimed original occurrence: “Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint.”

The record of the actual event reads thus in Numbers 21:6 & 8. “And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. …And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” God’s fiery serpents did not fly.

The ‘wilderness years’ were around 1459-1419 BCE. Isaiah lived circa 690 BCE. Nephi’s words were supposedly recorded about a hundred years after Isaiah wrote them. The usual question asked is of course: how could Smith ever have translated Isaiah from Nephi’s writings through his hat and come up with the KJV of it? Of course, he couldn’t, and didn’t; he just concocted (in this case, simply copied) everything. However, it is likewise apparent that he often got things entirely wrong, and here, ‘flying’ snakes are yet another classic example of a Smith error.

It is of course a huge mistake and further evidence of Smith’s hoax. The faithful will no doubt claim ‘flying’ to be additional information of the revelatory kind, as delusion knows no bounds. Once you choose to believe something to be the case, the brain will automatically block the truth for you. To realise the delusion, you must be brave enough to question and then only accept verified evidence in support of any and every claim. You cannot have faith in fiction.