THIRD NEPHI AND PSEUDO-GOSPELS COMPARED
The account of the ministry of the resurrected Lord in 3 Nephi has been called the Fifth Gospel of Jesus Christ. One way to appreciate this record's qualities is to compare it with several works which fabricate gospei-iike materials. By comparison, the Book of Mormon is categorically superior.
Now available as a reprint is Richard l. Anderson's 54-page study entitled "Imitation Gospels and Christ's Book of Mormon Ministry." Originally published in 1986 in Wilfred Griggs' collection, Apocryphal Writings of the Latter-day Saints, the first half of this paper examines fourteen samples from medieval and modern apocrypha and demonstrates that their language "typically displays platitudes, wordiness, or unfocused mysticism." Anderson shows that these pseudo-gospels are shallow, sensational, out of character, and contradictory when compared to New Testament gospels. For example, one records that Nicodemus kept Jesus alive for a period of time after the crucifixion. This particular "translation of a Latin manuscript" can be traced no farther than to its German publication in 1849. Another depicts Jesus as a wonderful prophet, but inferior to Muhammad. This document scrambles New Testament event,. contradicts doctrine, and repeatedly insists that Jesus is not the Messiah. This fabrication reports that Judas was mistakenly crucified in Jesus' stead and that Jesus was ultimately delivered to his disciples unharmed.
The second half of Anderson's paper focuses on 3 Nephi, showing that the Book of Mormon account compares very favorably without contradicting the Bible. The Nephite record completes, expounds, and offers new insights to familiar New Testament ideas and events. Unlike the pseudo-gospels, 3 Nephi emphasizes Jesus' divine purpose, ministry, and sonship. While spurious records show "glaring discrepancies of style and culture," 3 Nephi is historically "plausible to impressive." Fabrications sensationalize Jesus as performing "miracles of convenience," such as lengthening a too-short beam for his father Joseph. Third Nephi, however, primarily reports what Jesus said and did, recording miracles with restraint. Whereas deceitful accounts have unclear, undocumented, or questionable origins, the Nephite gospel's origin is both clearly stated and documented by many witnesses. Anderson also discusses the comments of non-LDS scholars on 3 Nephi, such as those of Edgar J. Goodspeed and Krister Stendahl. In summary, 3 Nephi has a depth, an honesty, and an elevation not found in the manufactured and oversimplified imitation gospels.