Angry “Without a Cause”? An Interesting Omission in the Book of Mormon

John W. Welch’s “A Steady Stream of Significant Recognitions” is a powerful chapter in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, now available for free online at the Maxwell Institute online library. Professor Welch discusses the steady stream of new insights into the Book of Mormon that have been coming as we learn more about the ancient world, ancient texts. Chiasmus is a big part of that and is discussed in his chapter, for the highly sophisticated use of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is a strong indicator of ancient origins. But this essay, I was especially intrigued by insights into something that is missing in the Book of Mormon: the phrase “without a cause” in the Book of Mormon’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. Here is the relevant excerpt from Professor Welch’s essay (footnotes omitted):

The Absence of Without a Cause from the Savior’s Words in 3 Nephi 12:22

While studying at Oxford in the early 1970s, I became aware of an interesting textual variant in the New Testament. In a well-known passage in the Sermon on the Mount, the King James translation of Matthew 5:22 reads, “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause [eikei] shall be in danger of the judgment” (emphasis added). Yet the phrase without a cause is absent in most of the best and earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Joseph Smith could hardly have guessed that this phrase did not originally belong in this passage, because textual criticism of the Bible was scarcely in its infancy in America in 1829. And yet, significantly, the parallel text in the Sermon at the Temple in the Book of Mormon agrees with those early manuscripts, precisely lacking the phrase without a cause (3 Nephi 12:22).

While lacking unanimous consensus among the manuscripts of the Sermon on the Mount (a situation not unusual), the absence of the phrase without a cause is notably evidenced by the following manuscripts of Matthew: the papyrus fragment known as p67, Codex Sinaiticus (original hand), Codex Vaticanus, some Greek minuscules (scriptural texts written in lowercase Greek letters), the Latin Vulgate (Jerome mentions that the phrase was not found in the oldest manuscripts known to him), the Ethiopic texts, and the Gospel of the Nazarenes. Moreover, the phrase is missing in writings of Justin, Tertullian, Origen, and other early church fathers who quoted the New Testament scriptures as they knew them. In the field of New Testament textual criticism, one may generally count as compelling any reading that is supported by “the best Greek MSS—by the AD 200 p64 (where it is extant) and by at least the two oldest uncials, as well as some minuscules, [especially if] it also has some Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and early patristic support.” A survey of the manuscripts supporting the original absence of the phrase without a cause in Matthew 5:22 shows that the shorter reading meets that criterion. Yet Sinaiticus and the most important manuscripts of the New Testament were not discovered until after Joseph Smith was dead.

I also find it interesting that this textual difference in the Greek manuscripts of the Sermon on the Mount has a significant impact on this verse’s meaning. It is much more severe to say, “Whoever is angry is in danger of the judgment,” than to say, “Whoever is angry without a cause is in danger of the judgment.” The first discourages all anger; the second permits anger as long as it is justifiable. The former is more like the demanding sayings of Jesus regarding committing adultery in one’s heart (see Matthew 5:28) and loving one’s enemies (see v. 44), neither of which offers the disciple a convenient loophole of self-justification or rationalization. Indeed, as Wernberg-Moller points out, the word eikei may have been added to Matthew 5:22 in an effort to reflect a Semitic idiom that does not invite allowance for “just” anger in certain circumstances at all, but actually “echoes some Aramaic phrase, condemning anger as sinful in any case” and “alluding to . . . the harbouring of angry feelings for any length of time.” If correct, Wernberg-Moller’s interpretation offers a second reason supporting the claim that the Book of Mormon accurately reflects the original sense of Matthew 5:22.

In my estimation, this original reading preserved in the Book of Mormon since 1830 is very meaningful. The absence of without a cause has important moral, behavioral, psychological, and religious ramifications. Moreover, 3 Nephi 12:22 is the main place in the account of the Sermon at the Temple (3 Nephi 12–14) where a significant textual change from the parallel account in the King James Version of Matthew 5–7 was needed and delivered by Joseph Smith. As far as I have been able to determine, no copy of the Greek New Testament present in the United States before 1830 made any reference to this variant reading. No scholars in the world of Joseph Smith seem to have been even remotely aware of this apparently late insertion in the Greek that actually weakens the text of the Bible. Yet in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith offered the world this stronger wording, reflecting the original meaning of the Savior.

I lean toward the theory that in the translation of the Book of Mormon, in rendering passages directly related to those in the Bible (e.g., Old Testament quotations or the repeated Sermon on the Mount), the wording of the King James Version was generally used when it was adequate (good enough). The deletion of “without a cause” marks a significant doctrinal departure from the King James Version, suggesting that it would not have been appropriate to keep the language the English-speaking world was familiar with for that verse. Unlike scholars in Joseph Smith’s day, we now have reason to believe that this omission restores the original meaning of the text. It’s a subtlety, but one to appreciate.

So if you’re angry with us Mormons and our different beliefs, this would be a good time to repent, even if you felt you had a good cause. And what better way to repent than to also not be angry with the Lord for offering more of His word in the Book of Mormon? Give it a read and take a step toward a wonderful spiritual journey today.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

25 thoughts on “Angry “Without a Cause”? An Interesting Omission in the Book of Mormon

  1. Yes indeed, this is a striking example of the Book of Mormon’s authenticity.

    However, the more important message is for LDS to put away anger. Anger is one of the major barriers to receiving the Holy Ghost.

    In our day the prophets have warned us about verbal abuse in our homes. This scripture gives no wiggle room on the subject. Anger cannot be justified.

  2. Yes, this is an interesting finding, but if we are going to set early Greek manuscripts up as the standard, then how often does the BofM get it wrong? Science always requires a control. Getting it right always needs to be put into the context of the rate of error.

    I am impressed with the BofM, but NOT because of correlations (or the lack thereof) with the Greek.

  3. Sorry Jeff, not relating to th current subject. I was listening on ktalk via the web this afternoon from my house in beautiful Cedar City, Utah and suddenly you were cut off and I got network errors. I believe it was the stations side but not sure. I am looking for a podcast or an archive of your time on the show. I heard about the first 20 minutes. Thanks!

  4. Sorry again. You also mention a couple books regarding ancient temples. One was out of print. What were they? Thanks again.

  5. Jeff

    I was aware that the Codex Sinaiticus didn’t have that statement. I’d just assumed it was on its own in that. So I found your post most enlightening. Thanks.

  6. The books I mentioned were Sinai and Zion by Dr. Jon Levenson (currently at Harvard) and The Sacred and the Profane by Mircea Eliade.

    Sorry about the trouble you had. But others were able to listen to the whole show, fortunately. I did get cut off unexpectedly for news once – must have missed a cue or something.

    My first time doing a radio interview of that nature. Made plenty of mistakes, but would love to do it again.

  7. S. Faux,

    The problem of the BOM is that there is not control to compare it against…we can’t do source analysis on Mormon’s records. So we have to piece it together imperfectly…in some ways, it is quite haphazard.

    I think the idea is to show that the BOM has historical consciousness…that it wasn’t just borrowed mindlessly from the KJV.

  8. If the textual criticism is to be maintained for this verse, why not use the same consistency for all the other KJV biblical verses, regardless of how it might disagree with the BOM?

  9. This is one of those interesting little lucky guesses on Joseph Smith’s part, I guess.

  10. Just a note to say thanks for posts like this, they help to reaffirm my testimony of the TRUTH.

  11. Whoever is angry without a cause is in danger of the judgment.” The first discourages all anger; the second permits anger as long as it is justifiable.

    I’ve tried to be angry the last few days without a cause. I tell you it was impossible. How can you be angry without a cause? I have to have causes to be angry or joyous.

    Are there righteous causes to be angry? How about Jesus when he cleared the money changers from His Fathers House? Was that cause justifiable anger.

    Jeff, once again you have tried to uproot the Bible and claim the Book of Mormon as authentic.

    Just as you have with your “stood speechless” argument in Acts 9:7 where you try to argue that the guards were standing in a upright position.

  12. I have a feeling that it depends on the word being used for anger.

    anon at 5:00pm said –

    “I’ve tried to be angry the last few days without a cause. I tell you it was impossible. How can you be angry without a cause? I have to have causes to be angry or joyous.”

    While I can’t comment on the exact word used (since I don’t really know greek, hebrew, aramaic, or any other relevant language to look into the text), I do know that even in english we have many different words for anger – all of which have slightly different connotations. For example – fury, hatred, abhor, detest, etc. I have heard sometimes also of concepts concerning righteous anger, but I again I don’t have the relevant background to make any explicit claims. I think anon raises a good point. I mean, is there only one type of anger? Anyone else care to chime in on this? I believe the ommission is relevant, and was deliberate, but for what point? Do you think the prohibition on anger meant *all* anger, or specifically unjustifiable anger or even anger that may have initially been justifiable, but became less so when it was apparent forgiveness was not allowed while this anger persisted? What do you guys think?


  13. Jeff this is a good post as it may show how Joseph got more small details right than people are willing to admit. However, I can see how “without a cause” could have been added. Look at the impossible standard that Christ is asking people to live up to. A good example is…
    “I’ve tried to be angry the last few days without a cause.” If you think this is hard try not getting angry at all.
    Getting angry with out a cause might be… “racial prejudice” “other people do not believe the same as you”, “people from other religions or countries”. I think the point of the lession is if you think of people as fools, or worthless (Rach) then this can lead to anger and justify killing them. Note how Christ tied this to killing. We almost have to do this in war but in daily society this is called lack of empathy or desentizing ourselves to others feelings.
    Raca is a term of reproach used by the Jews of our Savior’s time, meaning “worthless.”
    Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. Like they may think of as gentiles or unclean. So it might be directed toward them thinking they are the choosen people and everyone else are less than them.
    First Christ starts off building people up. Then He gets down to business.
    “19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. “
    “20For I say unto you that unless your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. “
    Then you are not even allowed to be angry or say bad things about someone else. You cannot even go to the Temple with unresolved anger toward someone. Then the illision to be kept in spirit prision until one fully pays the price of repentance.

    Look further at the impossible standards set out. For me the only to trully understand any of this is to put it in the Jewish context of the day. I could go on about the rest of the impossible standards but there are a lot of good books and papers on the internet.

  14. …an impossible standard?

    This brings to mind the Savior’s words in the Sermon on the Mount. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

    …and again, to the Nephites, after his resurrection and ascension. “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (3 Nephi 12:48)

    If the standard was possible, or even easy (such as a simple verbal proclamation), then there would be no need for the infinite nature of the Savior’s atonement and the redemption from our sins and shortcomings (or reconciliation with the impossible standard).

    Rather than looking at it as an impossible standard, I prefer to see a challenge to become better, even more like Him. No strength, of body or spirit, is gained without a struggle against resistance. I acknowledge that I will continue to fall short of the standard, but that is no reason to not constantly strive for it. This apparent dichotomy is resolved in Nephi’s words “…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

    Our Father in Heaven has provided a way to meet the impossible standard, but it requires faith, humility and endurance. The blessing of grace and the miracle of forgiveness provided by the Atonement of the Savior bridges the apparent gap between the impossible standard and our best efforts.

  15. “be ye therefore perfect, even as I am perfect”

    “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven”. His listeners are astonished, – If a Pharisee, one who is separated for a life of purity, couldn’t be saved, then it was also humanly impossible for anyone to be saved!

    Now He further shocks His audience with a parable that seems to place a detestable tax-gatherer in a better position spiritually than a praying Pharisee’

    Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    Again, he makes a stark contrast with the smug Pharisee, who was so certain that all his fasting and tithing and other works made him acceptable to God.

    Remember Jesus’ statement “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” Yet now He states that this tax-gatherer—the most wicked of men—was justified! How did such a sinner obtain a righteousness that exceeded that of the Pharisee? If the standard is divine perfection “be ye therefore perfect, even as I am perfect”, how could a traitorous tax-collector ever become just in God’s eyes?

    The only possible answer is that he received a righteousness that was not his own. One that was imputed to him by faith.

  16. This apparent dichotomy is resolved in Nephi’s words “…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

    This is funny because the bible says that we are saved by grace PERIOD. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We aren’t saved by trying to reach that impossible standard, we are saved by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. God, made flesh, who became a sacrafice for our sins, died and rose again. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

    Salvation is a gift of God, not something we get after all we can do.

    The book of mormon is not true.

  17. anon 3:02am:

    I must read 2 Nephi slightly different than you for I see no difference between the words I quoted and the ones you reference from the Bible. The phrase “after all we can do” is not a condition of receiving grace, but a reminder that as we yearn to be disciples of Christ, to follow Him and do as He has done we may fall short but will still be saved by His grace.

    However, the inevitable shortcoming on our part to live up to His example still does not excuse us from trying.

    It does appear that we must do certain things to qualify for grace, such as baptism (John 3:5) and obedience to commandments (Matthew 10:22). And it appears that we can in fact, fall from grace to a point where our actions/attitudes can prevent it from being sufficient to save us. No one will be forced into salvation.

    As indicated before, I will continue to fall short of Christ’s perfect example but am eternally grateful for his Atonement which makes possible forgiveness through repentance and the opportunity for Him to change my heart.

    I know for myself that the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, is the true word of God. I know this because of the witness of the Holy Ghost that confirmed it to me. That is the only proof of its truth. If you have not read it, do so. If you have read it, read it again. Abiding by its precepts will help you get nearer to God than by any other book.

  18. Jeff,

    Do you not find it odd that Non-LDS can sometimes have Testimonies that the BOM is false? And what about religions who have powerful testinmonies that there religion is TRUE (Non LDS, obviously)
    And NO, this is NOT a loaded question!

  19. I have read a bit of the book of mormon and while I find a lot of it not “too” bad… it’s mainly the contradictions of Joesph Smith’s teachings compared to the scripture in the bible (and in the BOM itself) that makes me think he is a false prophet.. and then leads me to distrust the book of mormon.

    The bible teaches that he who trusts his own heart is a fool, so relying on feelings to justify that something is true isn’t a good way to determine truth.

  20. Lauren, By your own admission, you have only read “a bit” of the Book of Mormon. You probably have a similarly minute amount of knowledge about Joseph Smith’s teachings. And who knows how in-depth your knowledge of the Bible is. Yet you consider yourself qualified to determine that the Bible and Book of Mormon both contradict Joseph Smith’s teachings? Your opinion is based on prejudiced snippets of LDS doctrine, not on the entirety.

  21. As far as I have been able to determine, no copy of the Greek New Testament present in the United States before 1830 made any reference to this variant reading. No scholars in the world of Joseph Smith seem to have been even remotely aware of this apparently late insertion in the Greek that actually weakens the text of the Bible.

    I wonder how far the Professor went to determine the above, so that the BoM somehow knew what it seems no one else did.

    For even a quick search shows that the Rheims New Testament first published by the English College at Rheims, A.D. 1582, as well as the the A.D. 1749-1752 Challoner "Whole Revised and Diligently Compared with the Latin Vulgate" Rheims NT omit "without a cause," and i am sure that was due to a Greek mss missing it.

    Further looking reveals that phrase is missing in the Tyndale NT, first pub. 1530, and for which NT he referred to the third edition (1522) of Erasmus’s Greek New Testament.

    Nor does it show up in the Matthew Bible which was published in 1537,

    But Y seie to you, that ech man that is wrooth to his brothir, schal be gilti to doom; and he that seith to his brother, Fy! schal be gilti to the counseil; but he that seith, Fool, schal be gilti to the fier of helle.

    I also do not see the word [εἰκῆ] from which "without a cause" is translated from in 28th edition, Nestle-Aland edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece, first produced by Erasmus in 1516.

    Someone debating this in a CARM forum thread stated,

    I did the research (BibleWorks 9.0; Logos 5) to identify which early mss had εἰκῆis (without cause) or not.

    "Without cause" is not in Sinaticus A, but is in Sinaticus B. The entire verse is missing in Sinaticus C, D.

    "Without cause" is not in Alexandrius, but that is because the entire verse is missing in all three mss A,B,C.

    "Without cause" isn't in Vaticanus A, but the entire verse is missing in B,C,D! [he labels all the above as corrupt texts]

    "Without cause" is in the Sadihica Egyptian Greek Text as well as the Aramaic Peshitta.

    "Without cause" is in the Old Syriac Curetonian as well as the Old Syriac Sinaiticus.

    "Without cause" is in quotes of Matthew 5:22 in the Early Church Fathers Irenaeus and Commodianus:

    the man also who is angry with his brother without a cause- Irenaeus of Lyons. (1885). Irenæus against Heresies.

    not angry with thy devout brother without a cause-Commodianus, The Instructions LXXX, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IV, page 218.

    Cyprian, in his Epistle LIV, doesn't have "Without cause" but then he omits most of the verse, giving only a summary of it.

    the Lord says in His Gospel, “Whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool; and whosoever shall say, Raca, shall be in danger of the Gehenna of fire,”-Cyprian of Carthage. (1886).

    But of course J. Smith basically relegated all these men as being in churches damned by his evolved man-god with his multiple wives, and having "another testament" with a fantastic tale of a vast Hebrew civilization in S. America, revealed to a man with a seer stone who was the first Christian martyr to die shooting at his angry (such things as destroying a printing press) enemies.

    You can take it with to Smith who is sadly but justly in Hell.

    (Come to the Lord Jesus as a contrite damned+destitute sinner, trust Him to save you, then live 4 Him)

  22. Also, in favor of "without a cause," the absence of εικη, the qualifier rendered "without cause," among most of so-called better mss is hardly surprising since as can be seen here , hardly any even have Mt. 5 in the first place. Codex Washingtoniensis, written in Greek on vellum in the 4th or 5th century is said to contain it, but before that i only see the fragment P86 as having Mt. 5:22.

    "Only eight Greek manuscripts from before the 13th century omit εικη (p64 ℵ* B Ω 135 137* 364 371*) the qualifier. (

    The KJV reading with εικη is supported by the majority of manuscripts, being found in Aleph (second correction), D, L, W, Theta, 0233, 33, the majority of Byzantine manuscripts and other authorities (Nestle-Aland: Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th ed.). The earliest of these is W from the 4th/5th century. The omission is a minority reading, but is supported by three manuscripts that are earlier than W. These are: P64 (3rd century), Aleph (4th century) and B (4th century). However, the KJV reading is supported by Cyprian and Origen who lived in the 3rd century. –

    Other research states εικη is found in,

    Codex Sinaiticus, 7th century corrections in margin
    Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis, 5th-6th century ms.
    Codex K, 9th century uncial
    Codex L, 9th century uncial
    Codex W, 5th century uncial, known as "The Freer Gospels" because it presents a mixed type, displaying the "Byzantine" type in Matthew
    Delta, a 9th century uncial
    Theta, a 9th century uncial
    Pi, a 9th century uncial
    f1 and f13, families of miniscule mss. dating between the 11th and 14th centuries, and containing a total of 16 mss.
    28, an 11th century miniscule
    33, a 9th century miniscule
    565, a 9th century miniscule
    700, an 11th century miniscule
    892, a 9th century miniscule
    1010, a 12th century miniscule
    1241, a 12th century miniscule
    The Byzantine textual set majority
    The majority of lectionaries
    The Old Latin version
    The Syriac versions
    The Coptic versions

    Moreover, the condemnation against calling anyone a fool was conditional, as was the preceding injunctions against killing and anger, which the Lord and disciples justly manifested they had.

    Nor can Mt. 5:22 only refer to using the term "fool," as this can be expressed by other words, and is part of many invectives such as were used by the Lord and disciples, such as "vipers" and calling a ethic class of people constant "liars, evil beasts, slow bellies." (Titus 1:12)

    Furthermore, the Lord never called His enemies "brethren," and it against calling brethren fools that this injunction applies to, but which brethren Mormons are not.

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